Monday, August 22, 2011

Mixed media: Dance and food

Down the alley, behind Jose’s Rotisseria, 17 chickens marinated in rum, brown sugar and lime juice turn slowly on a spit and begin to drip, the juices sizzling on a bed of red hot BBQ coals. A sweet rumminess rises up, catches the air and wafts 3 blocks east through the open window of Anton’s nightclub, flutters round the dressing room curtain and into the flaring nostrils of Ricardo Perez, tango dancer. Perez snaps to attention, his appetite alive; he reaches for one of the spicy empanadas on his dressing table, bites down, his lips and tongue slowly burning as the meaty filling and buttery crust melt in his mouth.

On the other side of the curtain, Lucinda straightens her bodice, checks her makeup and takes one last sip of her Pisco Sour. Salivating, her tongue is prickled by lime juice and her cheeks pucker from the alcoholic Pisco. She smells the charring chicken and stamps her strappy black heels.

The strains of the tango music start; Ricky and Lucinda swirl out onto the dance floor plastered against each other, thigh to thigh, hip to hip, nose to nose, moving sinuously to the torrid tempo. As they swoop past the birthday table Lucinda’s little finger, dangling, scoops up icing from the tres leches birthday cake. Gracefully, her hand passes her mouth and she laps up the milky icing. “Sweet”, she sighs. 

Another a low dip and over Luncinda's raised bosom, Ricky sees the remains of a large platter of grouper in lime sauce on the table while a limoncello bottle is being passed around. Bowls of deep yellow pineapple chunks sprinkled with cilantro are scattered around the stained table cloth red blotched from splashes of the house salsa picante. Half eaten plates of flan swimming in caramel sauce are piled at the table's end. The diners have pushed their chairs from the table and lean back, sipping their mojitos, toothpicks at work. The dancers hear a belch of satisfaction as they make another pass. 

As the last few squawks wheeze from the ancient accordion, Ricky and Lucinda assume the classic tango pose, her leg draped over his thigh, her stretched back arched outward, arm raised high in the air; as if mimicking the tortured tango melody, their two taut young stomachs begin a yearning growl . 


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Hot nights in Cincinnati

Cincinnati was hot and humid..a typical summer evening - throngs of people dressed in bright red t-shirts and hats walking to the downtown stadium for a Cardinals game. In the Hilton Hotel a couple of hundred people gathered for the Acoustic Neuroma Association meeting. Eh? What's that? Sorry I can't hear you? Could you speak louder? - these were the kind of comments floating in the air. As we waited for the elevator's arrival heralded by a ding,  all 12 people in the lobby started circling around, looking at the lights, having no idea where sound is coming from. Richard was the only person with sound localization and he shouted out, "Walk this way!!". We followed him like a line of chicks following their mother.

Over the weekend, we listened (ha) to lectures and presentations learning a lot. Surgeons, radiologists, epidemiologists, public health professionals and audiologists made presentations. Highlights of general interest from the causation front: childhood radiation is linked to development of brain tumors in adults, radiation from thyroid treatments in particular. There's a huge Israeli study on-going.  N. African children emigrating to Israel in the early fifties were irradiated to treat head lice..lots of data available for study. Smoking may protect against certain kinds of cancer, although nobody is suggesting you risk lung cancer for protection from other cancers. Another development is that is that people who have allergies have less cancer...they speculate that developments in the immune system might have something to do with it.

Just what everyone wants - plastic brains
Cruising the exhibits, we picked up a couple of plastic squeezable brains - I'm thinking of making them into giant earrings - and we saw demonstrations of surgical apparatus that was being sold to the physicians in attendance - cool new cutting, sawing, boring stuff for brain surgery that they demonstrated on a grapefruit, cutting the segments out carefully. Actually, I can do as well with my saw toothed, curved grapefruit cutter (ha). Because everyone has wonkiness and dizziness to some degree we bumped into each other frequently. It was pretty funny watching people veer off into walls or miss a doorway. When the whole community shares a problem like this, it is not longer the problem. The unaffected people are the ones who stick out like a sore thumb.

Met a few poor bastards with NF2...with this condition, tumors- usually benign, spring up everywhere. One fellow had nine in his brain and twenty or so on his spinal cord. These people have as much surgery as they can stand but eventually they are just overwhelmed and things stop working because the neural pathways (and other things) are crowded out by the tumors.

Many of the people attending were "watch and wait" - they have slow growing small tumors and the luxury of time. They can wait until the tumor starts causing symptoms or decides to bolt, like mine did, then get to decide between three kinds of micro-surgery and three or four kinds of radiation. Every procedure has advantages and disadvantages. There are constant improvements in the treatments. In the two years since I was irradiated they are apparently modifying dosage. I received 18 grays and now they are delivering closer to 14 grays during the same procedure. Obviously the lower the better.

It was encouraging to hear that there's hope on the horizon for tinnitus sufferers. Because tinnitus is in the brain - it's actually the brain creating noise to replace the stimulation of sound, the only thing that really works now is a kind of retraining where the brain is conditioned to ignore the sound. Interesting that tinnitus can take so many forms - some people just hear a whooshing, others clanging, others sirens - I have a whistle and a buzz and can mostly ignore it except when I can't.

tinnitus sounds


Friday, August 12, 2011

Lake Arrowhead - a short break

I'll always remember the next to last time I was in Lake Arrowhead. It was July 20th, 1969 and Apollo 11 landed on the moon. My girlfriend and I pulled off the road so we could listen to the historic broadcast on the radio. The place has changed a tad since then. In fact they burned the whole village down rebuilt it and now it looks ready for still another face lift.

As we drove up the mountain, we found the price of gas going up along with the elevation....
Right after we got out of the car at The Oaks, two cabs from the Santa Monica Cab company pulled up. Out jumped five guys speaking Arabic, smoking cigarettes and drinking beer. They huddled around talking for a while ignoring the friendly remark from a local who asked, "Took a wrong turn did you?" They soon jumped back into the cabs and off they went.

Just after we met our friends and sat down to lunch, twenty-two County Sheriffs pulled up on motorcycles. They lined up on the side of the road and we thought perhaps a personage of importance was coming up. No -  turned out they wanted lunch. One of them came into the small restaurant and the hostess asked "How many?". "Twenty two", the sheriff answered without blinking an eye.

Shortly behind the sheriffs, a few beautiful antique cars starting pulling in. There's a car show in Big Bear over the weekend.

After all this excitement, a few hours sitting by the river at our friend's tiny cabin in Benton Flats was very relaxing.

The darling cabin
You can let your hair down here

We went on to the Resort at Arrowhead and checked into a comfortable room. The resort has been updated and looks pretty good. A couple of perplexing policies make you feel ripped off - the first is the compulsory resort charge of $19.00 per room which basically gives you access to the amenities??? the spa, services like dry does include valet parking (but you've still got to tip) and free Internet access (too complicated to set up). You must pay the resort charge - it's not included in the room charge. Seems like a stupid policy to me...just charge $19 more for each room and avoid the controversy of having a posted charge for the room and the extra charge for having common-place amenities available. It's only a matter of time before hotels start adding charges for items like upgraded sheets, pillows, towels, hair dryers. Once I stayed in a Red Lion Inn hotel where everything in the room was pointed out...."Extra large bathroom mirror!", "Super sucker commercial grade toilet!" "EZ Glide closet doors!". They assaulted the guest with senseless chest beating (does anyone care about the glides on the closet doors?) and exclamation marks.  I could hardly wait to get out of there!!

In the interest of protecting the environment they only serve bottled water - still or sparkling. And of course they charge you for it.
Hallway lighting
Birch room dividers
The bar with birch wall paper
Private dining at the Resort

The beach at the Resort

  On the way from Arrowhead to Twin Peaks for dinner, we passed a Jensen's market - a rare sight and we decided to stop and look for a favorite ice cream topping they carried years ago. Didn't find it but we did stumble on the Tabasco Seven Spice Chili Starter, a product I developed for them 20  25 years ago and haven't seen for a decade - they sell it in the company store or on their web site. I thought the packaging still looked good. 

Parking in Twin Peaks is like parking in Manhattan. Every available space is restricted for some reason or another. Sign after sign reminds you that towing might occur. We finally stashed the car in a business designated space hoping the dire warnings applied only during normal business hours.

Remarks on "yelp" about The Grill were very encouraging and the place was a surprise. The menu offerings were creative -  I can't rave about the food but it was definitely a cut above what we were expecting. Richard had the citrus and rosemary marinated chicken with truffled macaroni and cheese. The chicken was over-cooked but the truffled mac and cheese was excellent. I had lime tequila fettucine, a riff on the dish made famous by California Pizza Kitchens. It was satisfactory. We got there about 6:30 and the place was full at 8:00 when we left. Bar does a pretty decent business - biker types, young couples pouring down shooters and a few martini drinkers.

At the resort the next morning, we had breakfast on the patio overlooking the lake. Delightful experience - perfect weather and excellent service. A pleasant short break.
Hers: Bacon and Eggs

His: Poached eggs on spinach and sausage
Breakfast View

Two Million Applications

Entrance to El Bulli (
Two million people applied for reservations for Adria Ferran's El Bulli last supper July 30th. Talk about quitting while you're ahead!

El Bulli

El Bulli recipe catalog 

From "The Guardian",

"I never said I wouldn't feed people," Adrià smiles when I ask what he will miss when he closes his door at the end of this, his last season. "After July, El Bulli won't be a restaurant, not open every day. But I will still need feedback." Adrià's plan is for a nonprofit centre for "culinary creativity" opening in 2014, with a stream of new recipes posted on the internet. "We are excited," he says through an interpreter (Adrià doesn't trust his English to be precise enough for our purposes). "Bulli has always been about change. Why does Madonna with all her money need to earn more? She could share, not her money but her creativity. The young share, and we at the top should, too.

"When we started there were eight of us, all bachelors; now we have families, kids. I don't have children but I am very happily married, with a wonderful wife. With the foundation I can give something back – my talent, my luck. I have created 1,846 dishes – 80 per cent of new cookery techniques come from here – but no one can be number one for ever. Even those that love us get tired" – though this may be news to the two million people who desperately tried to book when the news of El Bulli's closure was announced.

"I will be 50 soon, with maybe 25-30 years left," he laughs. "I want to be happy like I have always been, and I can do this  by taking away the things I don't like. Do what I want, when I want, for who I want."

Chef Ferran will now be establishing a kind of think tank for food. From the El Bulli web site, here are a couple of views of the envisioned space. Personally my best ideas about food were inspired by being surrounded by food - aromas, textures, colors, kitchen activities. Sitting in this spare space, sort of like the inside of a gourd, staring at a screen doesn't turn me on - but I'm sure I don't have to worry about getting an invitation.  Ferran is an acknowledged genius - I'm sure there's more to this than meets my eye.
Exterior of the gourd-like structure

Cave like interior

A spare space dedicated to brain work

Getting the last supper together at El Bulli (photo by Howard Sooley)
The last supper at El Bulli
beetroot and yoghurt meringue
tomato cookie
air baguette
mojito - caipirinha sugar cane
mojito and apple baguette
gin fizz
spherical olives
mimetic peanuts
pistachio ravioli
parmesan cheese "porra"
parmesan cheese "macaron"
gorgonzola balloon
olive oil chip
flowers paper
golden egg
steamed shrimps with tea
roses with ham wonton and melon water
ham and ginger canape
Japanese ravioli
soy matches
nori ravioli with lemon
asparagus with miso
oysters and bone marrow tartar
parmesan frozen air with muesli
carbonara tagliatelle
caviar cream with hazelnut caviar
pine nuts shabu shabu
"perrechico" cake
polenta gnocchi with coffee, safran, skin milk and capers
tender almonds perfumed with truffle
barnacle with caviar
two cooking prawns
lulo "ceviche" and mollusk
clam "ceviche"
Oaxaca "taco"
"gazpacho" and "ajo blanco"
peas 2011
sea cucumber
Shanghai lobster
hare fritter
game meat cappuccino
blackberry risotto with game meat sauce
hare ravioli with bolognese and blood
yoghurt blini
"coca de vidre" – crystal cake
mini donuts
apple rose
The box - final course at El Bulli (photo from

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

FX Francois Xavier

Swiss apple roesti - makes you want to run into the kitchen and cook something.  I love Francois Xavier's videos and his blog. There's a homey quality to the presentations - some of it is his delightful accent. The cooking techniques are sometimes great, sometimes a little dicey sort of like Julia was at the beginning. I don't know what happened to him...his blog is almost inactive and he only made a few of these charming videos.

Swiss Apple Roesti

Here's more about Francois, his interests and how he does his food photographs:

About fx cuisine

Pressing Business