Thursday, October 30, 2008

Three Garys

My Gary doesn't like you.

There was an article in the back of THE about these fellas called the Beez that make weird skateboard videos. I mentioned to someone that I wanted to see them. While I quietly forgot about the Beez videos, the person I mentioned them to, mentioned them to someone who knew the Beez. Then a Bee, named Russ Clark, emailed me. “Someone told me that you wanted a copy of the Beez DVD,” he wrote. “If so, how can I get one to you?”

I’m currently waiting for my Beez DVDs. In the meantime, I decided to tell Russ about my friends Chris Reed and Caleb who do weird shit that reminded me of what I think the Beez are all about. To illustrate, I sent him a link to Reed’s blog where their Mortiis karaoke video is:

“Funny,” he wrote, “I hadn't thought about Mortiis since the Big Brother days. There was always a major disconnect for me between Mortiis visually and vocally: how could THAT come out of THAT? Sort of like witnessing soft serve ice cream descending from any variety of anus.”

It’s been four years since Big Brother died. “You haven’t thought of Mortiis in four years?” I asked. “Four years? What the fuck is wrong with you.” I can’t go a day without the Depeche Mode of black metal blaring out of my little computer speakers.

“From the Big Brother days,” Russ continued, “I also recall that you had a cat named Gary. One my friends involved in Beez also has a cat named Gary (an absolute bastard), and we made this bullshit for Fuel TV involving him:” Click here to watch the funny.

It's almost as funny as Gary in a hoody.

But here’s the thing: this new bit of information brings the total number of cats named Gary to three. THREE GARYS! That’s craziness. It’s baffling because I chose the name “Gary” for Gary because it’s one of the stupidest names I’ve ever heard. (“Mitch” is on the podium as well.) Probably because every Gary I’ve ever met—and I think I’ve only met two—was sloppy and stupid. So naturally I wanted to name my cat Gary. It’s my opinion that cats should have stupid names. Also we thought Gary was a girl. Worst male name for a female cat, that’s what I was going for. But I think Gary got wind of his name’s gender and made the appropriate adjustments to his under carriage because he’s male now. So that’s my Gary cat. And then there’s the Beez Gary cat. And I bet you don’t know who the third cat named Gary is? Birdo, of Consolidated Skateboards, has a cat named Gary. And, apparently, Birdo’s Gary came before my Gary. Three Gary cats? Are there any more? Again: craziness.

I relate all this Gary nonsense to you as a preface to Gary’s recipe for mouse. It’s delicious.

1 mouse (alive)

Pounce on the mouse and bite its neck. Carry the mouse around in your mouth. Fling the mouse in the air and then pounce on it again, kind of like tossing pizza dough. Repeat until tender. Take mouse into the house and make weird throaty noises. This marinates the mouse and lets everyone know that you’re making mouse for dinner. Take mouse back outside and toss it around some more if necessary. When it’s dead, you’ll know that it’s ready to eat. Bite off the head first, and then continue eating the rest of its body. Never finish an entire mouse, always leave its bloody carcass in a conspicuous location inside the house, such as the middle of a hallway.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Cafe Carrera

Check out Skatepark of

Maybe we can get Mic-E to do "Battle Meat in a Can"?

When I lived with Mic-E Reyes in San Francisco, my room was a large closet off the kitchen. The floor was only slightly larger than a futon mattress. So I built a loft for my futon mattress. I had a desk, a chair and a typewriter under the loft. Although I had created some room below, I had to sleep only about a foot from the ceiling. I would often burn my ass on the light bulb in the socket in the middle of the ceiling. Mic-E was part of the SFPD at the time. Mic-E was kind of a “bad lieutenant.”

One night in the wee hours of the morning, I was unceremoniously pulled out of bed by my ankles by Mic-E. I fell six feet off the end of the bed and awoke crumpled in a naked ball at Mic-E’s feet. He had the look of the devil in his eyes. He was down to a wife beater and a switchblade. His beige Dickies had slipped lower than usual and were around his knees. He took a couple swipes at me with the knife, but quickly ran off in search of other prey. That’s when I saw the back of his tighty-whiteys were stained a dark brown.

In the living room, the Anti Hero team slept: Julien, Andy Roy, Cardiel, Sean Young, etc.. I was wide awake and alert enough to realize something bad was about to happen, so I grabbed my camera and gave chase. Mic-E attacked the group with his switchblade. And as he spun and swiped, everyone was able to see, and smell, that Mic-E had a full load in his pants. Panic spread through the group. How does one defend oneself against ole Mr. Poopy Pants with a knife? It’s a method of attack that is not only diabolical, but nearly impoossible to defend against. (I swear “impoosible” was a natural typo.) I continued snapping pictures, but, fortunately, the attack only lasted a short while because Mic-E was really drunk and didn’t have the stamina to go very long. He collapsed laughing and eventually passed out. The next day we learned that when he got off duty he went to an after hours bar and drank heavily for a few hours. He drank so much that on the BART ride home he shit his pants. This, I learned, was perfectly normal cop behavior.

Ever since I moved out (read: “kicked out”… according to the mother of Mic-E’s child—more on her in a moment—I was the cause of all of Mic-E’s bad behavior… hm-mh, right… ), I haven’t seen Mic-E very often. In fact it’s probably been a few years even. So I was really surprised when we arrived at Nieratko’s semi-regular supper at Carrera’s restaurant to find Mic-E in attendance. We hugged, bro hugged, shook hands, waved at each other, said hello, etc.. And then Mic-E directed my attention to the teenage girl at his right. “Dakota, this is Dave. Dave, Dakota.”

Apparently it was Dakota's 21st birthday?

“Holy shit,” I said. Dakota was Mic-E’s baby when I lived with him. I used to fart on her head. No, she didn’t remember me—she was just a baby—but Mic-E remembered all kinds of weird stuff. Besides farting, we made other kinds of music together. Apparently when I’d play guitar, she’d curl up in front of the amp and kind of bounce along. We even recorded a song with her on the mike. I only vaguely remember these things, but I remember that that house was good times. Just like Carrera's which has also become synonymous with good times.

From left to right… uhhh… fuck it. A bunch of retards drinking and smoking at Carrera's.

It hasn’t always been. Nieratko has always loved Carrera's and I’m not sure why. The food is decent, but there’s nothing exceptional about it. In fact, there was a time when we pretty much hated Carrera's. It’s across the street from the Flynt building in Beverly Hills where we used to work. So it was a natural lunch destination. You could get a small pizza or a bowl of pasta, and the beer and wine flowed easily, and it was relatively cheap. The price one paid about an hour after a lunch at Carrera's, however, was was not cheap. Everyone, except Nieratko, experienced extreme symptoms of fatigue. It wasn’t your normal sluggish, drunk on food fatigue either, it was “I’m in a fucking coma” fatigue. I’ve never felt anything like it before or since, and I wasn’t the only one who got it. So despite the allure of a good pizza and some beer (and Chris’ incessant whining about going there for every lunch), we stopped going to Carrera's.

Chris, however, continued to dine at Carrera's. Even after he moved back to New Jersey, he somehow managed to eat lunch at Carrera's every day. And now, every time he returns to LA, a Carrera's dinner is scheduled. I suspect that this last visit was for Carrera's and Carrera's only.

“It gives me a chance to have Carrera's,” he said when I asked him the purpose of his trip. “I mean, to see you guys. See yous guys. That is what I meant.”

Armando with Chris.

There is one reason that Carrera's stands out, however: Armando. Armando has been working the floor at Carrera's since we started going there in ’97. He’s a dick. But he’s an awesome dick. Kind of like Don Cherry, “The Most Loveable Racist.” Although Armando has been nothing but a gentleman to Chris and I. He seems to be able to smell fear and weakness, though. And when he does, he pounces on it. The story I always tell is the time Jordan the Intern came to lunch with us and ordered a pizza. Armando started out gently enough, accusing Jordan of being a homosexual, poking him in the ears, that sort of thing. When Jordan’s pizza arrived, Armando offered to sprinkle some crushed red pepper on it for him.

“Yeah,” Jordan said, “but only on that slice, not on any of the others.”

Armando just kind of stared at him without moving. His face said, “Really?” Jordan let out an uncomfortable giggle. So Armando dumped the entire bowl of crushed red pepper in the middle of his pie and walked away.

Armando and Chris seem to have some sort of weird “Good Fellas” relationship. And our dinners there seem to have this gangster flavor to them because of it (I’d say “gangsta flav” but that would imply we were sipping on gin n juice, nahsayin’?). It’s “gangster,” I guess, only in the sense that it’s a lot of people being really loud and getting drunk while eating Italian food. Which is what I imagine Italian mobsters do all day. Plus, Armando hooks us up. The wine flows freely. And when everyone’s gone, he locks the door and we get to smoke cigarettes in the restaurant. Breaking the law is total gangster shit. And on top of all that, it’s free! That is if you go with someone who works at a shoe company like our friend Robin. Nike paid for one a little while back, but I think Vans has footed (ha!) the bill for the last two dinners? Thank you Robin. But even if you have to pay for it, Carrera's is worth the trip, if only to meet Armando.

Oh, maybe this explains why they're such good friends?

Out on the curb, we smoked cigarettes and said our goodbyes. Mic-E and his young daughter Dakota were the first to leave. As they walked off towards their car, he said, “We gotta get out of here. We got a bunch of bars to go to.” Okay, bye Mic-E, we all laughed.

“What’s funny,” Robin said, “is he’s not kidding.”

Cafe Carrera
235 S La Cienega Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
(310) 652-5992

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Battle Pastrami

Pastrami was invented by Turkish horsemen in the 11th century. Because they were too busy storming around the Byzantine Empire, spreading Islam, looting, and pillaging, they rarely had time to sit down to eat a proper meal. So after they sacked a Byzantine village and slaughtered all the animals, they’d stuff the meat between their old musty saddle and their sweaty horse. And then off they’d go singing traditional Turkish songs about sacking the Byzantine Empire. What would come out of their saddles a few weeks later the Turkish horsemen called “pastrami.” This is how pastrami is still made to this day.

Pastrami was, also, the unlikely source of the very first food battles. When wandering Turkish tribes would meet on the steppes of Asia Minor, they would often have a pastrami battle. The tribesman with the best pastrami in his saddle would be selected from each side. Then the two would try to make the most fantastic dishes they could using only pastrami. A panel of impartial judges, selected from each tribe (a confusing process laden with politics and infighting), would then judge the dishes based on taste, presentation, and originality. You may recognize this format from the hit TV show, Iron Chef, which, in fact, was based on the ancient pastrami battles on the steppes of Asia Minor.

The winner of the pastrami battle would be hoisted onto his comrade’s shoulders, the whirling dervishes would arrive, and someone would bust out a “saz,” or a “sipsi,” and they’d jam some world music and eat pastrami all night long. The losers would feel shame and lament upon their loss until sunrise; at which time they would kill the horse that made the loser pastrami. And then they’d make pastrami out of it.

So in the spirit of the ancient Turkish pastrami battles on the steppes of Asia Minor, Tania and I decided to have a pastrami battle of our own. The “Iron Chef” in our battle was “The Hat” in Pasadena. The challenger was the up and coming “Oinkster” restaurant in Eagle Rock. “ALLEZ CUISINE!”

The Hat steps into the ring with a picture perfect pastrami sandwich. Even without the chili cheese fries in the background, it looks like Oinkster has its work cut out for it.

(Canter’s, and other Jewish delicatessens, were not invited to our challenge for a number of reasons. First, there is only room for two contestants in a pastrami battle. Second, they’re Jews and you can’t invite any Jews to a Turkish-themed pastrami battle, no matter how fictional. Turks hate Jews! Jews hate Turks! Lastly, they suck. Well, I actually like them, but as Tania points out, they’re so thick you “need another two slices of bread so I can share it with a friend,” and they’re a drier variety of pastrami. Perhaps their horses don’t sweat as much?)

Unfortunately, there really wasn’t much of a contest. The judges have spoken, and the winner is… … … … (really long pause, cameras go from The Hat, to Oinkster, back to The Hat, to that weird little Asian dude with one eyebrow up all the time… ) … … … “THE HAT!”

Well, what do you expect? The Hat has been doing it for 51 years. The Hat hugs the Oinkster.

“I thought Oinkster was a close second, though,” I said to Tania last night.

“No you didn’t,” she said. “You took the meat out of the bun and ate it by itself and you said it didn’t taste like anything.”

“Oh yeah,” I said, “that’s right.”

“Oinkster’s pastrami tastes like wet paper towels in a bun,” Tania said.

It looks right, but unfortunately Oinkster's pastrami didn't come out of a Turkish saddle.

Yeah, Oinkster’s is a little on the bland side. And it’s been written that their pastrami is the thing to get there. I think it’s the mustard, actually. I love their creamy mustard. (Tania hates that as well.) But their pulled pork sandwich is good. Plus they have beer (unlike The Hat). It’s really a pretty good joint, we’ve been a number of times, but it’s on the verge of being a little too hip and cool for it’s own good. You know how when you meet someone and there’s really nothing wrong with them, but they’re just a little too nice and too friendly and they’re overly concerned about how you’re doing even though you’ve only known them a short time? Oinkster gives me that feeling. But Tania really doesn’t like Oinkster.

“The Hat rules, Oinkster’s for FOOLS!” she wrote. “Mmmm, I want The Hat. And I officially denounce Oinkster. That place is so whatevs and janky. The d├ęcor is sloppy, the food is unimpressive and they try to come off as hip and cool, but it’s full of old people, nerds, and fat lesbians. BORING. If I want plantains, roasted chicken, Chinese chicken salad, and a pulled pork sandwich I’ll just put on a jacket because it’ll be cold from Hell freezing over and whatnot.”

Hipster kooks can have Oinkster. This is what we call "cool."

Tania's last sentence was a reference to the peculiar list of items on Oinkster's menu that have no rhyme or reason being next to each other. We marvel at it every time we go. “Yeah, I’ll have some chili, some plantains, a rootbeer, and a cupcake?” But apparently I’m never going again. Oh well.

So The Hat wins and Oinkster has to kill their horse.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Battle Cheese Steak

"Philly's Best" attempt at a Philly cheese steak in California.

Tania and I have a saying, “The further you get from Mexico, the worse the Mexican food gets.” I dare you to get a burrito in London. Or even Portland for that matter. We’ve even reduced our saying/rule to two words: “black beans.” (Peters and I, in high school, used to have a similar code that meant, “THIS DUDE IS AN IDIOT”: we would just tug on an ear lobe and stick out our tongue—equals “idiot.” We still do it to this day.) Same thing with Mexican food, only Tania and I say, “black beans.” “Black beans” means, “SUCKS.” Because once black beans are in the mix, so are wheat tortillas, fuckin’ fruits and vegetables, and all kinds of other crap that’s NOT MEXICAN! We looked at the menu yesterday at “Frida Mexican Food,” an upscale Mexican restaurant at our new outdoor mall, “The Americana,” (which is curiously crowned with a miniature Eiffel tower?), and Tania found black beans on the menu immediately, “Black beans.” It’s a good indicator of crappy food. We actually sat down at the bar to have a couple margaritas and check hockey scores and drink off the “juicy couture” crap that had stained our brains, and, sure enough, we discovered their food was complete crap. The chips and salsa looked good—there was a green one and a red one, and they each came in their own individual serving boat with a little spoon—but I couldn’t make salsa that bad if I tried. The red one was straight up Spaghetti-O sauce and the green was, well, green. It didn’t taste like anything. I blame this on the black beans. And it’s unfortunate that this kind of Mexican food—Frida started in Beverly Hills… which, as you know, has a large Hispanic community—has infiltrated the outdoor malls of Glendale, California.

We have a similar philosophy when it comes to Philly cheese steaks: if you’re not in Philly, it’s not a “Philly cheese steak.” “Cheese steak”? Maybe. But do not preface it with the word “Philly,” because it’s an entirely different thing out there. I don’t even like Philadelphia. Every time I’ve been there, bad things have happened. The first time I visited I opened up Thomas Campbell’s head with a beer can to his face. The next time we visited we got thrown out of our hotel room in the middle of the night. Bad times in Philly. City of brotherly love? My ass. But I will go back again and again because of the cheese steak. That’s how good it is.

I’ve never been to Geno’s. I always go to Pat’s. One can only eat so many cheese steaks, and so why waste your time on an experiment? Our first time in Philly, our friends said, “Pat’s.” And they were right. It was amazing. So we go to Pat’s. I refuse to believe that Geno’s is better. It’s probably amazing also, but I don’t even want to fuck with the Pat’s experience. If it aint broke, why fix it? So every time we visit, we go to Pat’s. (We’ve been to “Jim’s,” incidentally, and while it was great, it doesn’t match the taste and the experience that is Pat’s.)

So, a Philly cheese steak in California—or anywhere really—is like a burrito in London: just totally and completely wrong. We were surprised, then, when we read in Los Angeles Magazine that “Philly’s Best” won the “Best cheese steak award” in Los Angeles. “Really?” I said. “Philly cheese steaks near my house?” I had to have one.

Apparently there’s one coming to Glendale, but at the moment the closest one is in Burbank. Not far. Strangely, as we were driving there, we came upon another cheese steak house, “South Street Cheese Steaks.” “What the fuck?” we said. That’s weird, two Philly cheese steak places right next to each other in Burbank?

South Street Cheese Steaks. And here is more evidence that Philly is just bad luck: our cameras died when we visited both "Philly" restaurants. So the only photos we have of South Street are camera phone pictures.

We made note of it, and kept driving. It took us a few minutes, but we eventually found “Philly’s Best.” It was in a strip mall and closed. Despite the fact that it was only 7 pm and they were, according to their website, “open.” “Fuck it,” we said and went back to “Geno’s.” They’re so close to each other (only a couple blocks away) that we’ve declared a cheese steak war between the two—our own Pat’s vs Geno’s—if they haven’t already done so themselves.

“Geno’s,” aka “South Street,” isn’t very good. It’s kind of like a Shakey’s pizza parlor, but with cheese steaks instead of pizza. Their cheese steak was totally whatever. The bread was good, but the meat was dry. The one thing they do have going for them is beer. It’s too bright and too friendly and there’s too much goddamn Philly memorabilia on the walls (Eagles, Phillies, Flyers, Rocky), but they have big screen TVs and beer. Philly cheese steak? No. But Philly Shakey’s? Yes. Meh.

The South Street steak (camera phone). Tania gets it with Wiz and provolone.

…and she doesn't like it.


A couple weeks later we found our way back to “Philly’s Best” and ordered a couple of cheese steaks. It is not only not in Philly, but it is not it’s “best.” I wouldn’t say “Philly’s Best” sucks, but they make only a close approximation of a Philly cheese steak. Both of thems says theys use the same bread theys uses in Philly, but it’s just not the same. (I fell in love with Guinness here in California, but it’s just not the same as a pint poured in Ireland… some things just aren’t good at traveling.) The cheese steaks here aren’t as juicy, they’re not as greasy. Good buns at both, but the meat is dry. And no amount of Wiz can fix that. There is something fundamentally missing, and I think it’s “Philadelphia.”

The fries at Philly's Best weren't bad. A little Wiz didn't hurt them either. I'll be happy when the Glendale one opens. Plus they have a full menu of hoagies that look pretty good as well.

In the end, both “Philly’s Best” and “South Street” tie for last. Or they tie for second place. (The first loser.) Neither won us over. “Philly’s Best” came closer to making an actual cheese steak, but they don’t serve beer—and that’s just bullshit. The real winner is Philadelphia when it comes to Philly cheese steaks. (I’m tugging on my earlobe and sticking my tongue out.)

Next up: Battle Pastrami.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sharks, Tax Cuts, and a Cutting Board

Tania and I got in a fight last night. It was over the blue, plastic, cutting board. I took the cutting board out of the dishwasher, cleaned it with a sponge, soap and water, and quartered a chicken on it. Tania was not pleased with this arrangement. In her opinion, I should have left the board in the dishwasher and used a clean board.

“But I cleaned it when I took it out,” I said.

That wasn’t good enough for her. “There was raw meat on that thing,” she said. She argued that no matter how well I cleaned the board by hand, I wouldn’t get all the raw meat bacteria out of the porous cutting board. Only a dishwasher could do that.

“You know there was a time, not long ago,” I said, “when the world didn’t have dishwashers. People cleaned things by hand. And they ate chicken then, too.” Somehow the species survived.

“Well we live in a world where there are dishwashers,” she said. She insisted that I was doing it wrong and that the old, raw, meat bacteria hiding inside the porous cutting board was contaminating the raw chicken. This coming from a woman who would eat carpaccio (raw meat) every meal if she could.

The fight escalated and it went off in some other direction that had nothing to do with cutting boards, and we went to bed in silence. Never a good idea.

I awoke in the wee hours of the morning. On the radio was a story about a woman who had been stranded in the middle of the ocean for days. I wasn’t quite awake, so I’m a little fuzzy on the details, but I remember her talking about having to fend off the sharks while treading water. It was a harrowing tale of survival. Then the announcers began questioning her on the subject of Bush’s tax cuts for the rich and they wondered whether or not she would repeal those cuts if she were the next president. In hindsight, I’m not sure what that had to do with her experience in the ocean?

Tania crept over to my side of the bed during all this and wrapped her arms around me. “I love you, Dave,” she said in my ear. I could tell by her tone that she was saying “sorry.” Apologies often come in the middle of the night between us. “I love you too, Tania,” I said. I was accepting her apology. Then she wrapped her legs around me and we cuddled. I do not fart during these occasions for fear of scaring the lady off. The cuddling escalated and we began to steer the ship out of the harbor and into the open seas of love. Presumably near where that poor lady had been floundering in the waves, kicking sharks in the face. When Tania became aware of where we were going, she got up to go to the bathroom, to freshen up I suppose. When she got back in bed, I scooted over to her side and began caressing her body again. She suddenly turned her back to me and retreated even further to her side of the bed.

What the—?

A strange response given where we were going moments before. It didn’t smell like I had farted? I was about to give chase when I suddenly realized there was classical music on the radio. There was no lady talking about sharks and tax cuts. And it suddenly dawned on me that there never was a lady on the radio talking about sharks and tax cuts. And that Tania had never gotten up to go to the bathroom. Nor had she been snuggling with me with her legs wrapped around me. She had never said a word.

The strangest thing about it was how real it all was. It took me quite a while to sort it all out and decide that, yeah, it was a dream. “As real as the invisible meat,” I chuckled. Still, if believing in imaginary meat would make the dream reality, then I'll believe in imaginary meat.

The next day while poking around on the internet, my meat wish came true. Or, in other words—in reality—Tania was right: there is raw meat bacteria hiding in our blue, plastic cutting board. From the article I read:

“Research has shown that bacteria, such as the salmonella often found on raw chicken, will thrive and multiply if not removed from plastic boards (because germs that cause food poisoning can hide out in the knife-scarred nooks and crannies that develop on the surface of a plastic cutting board). Hand scrubbing with hot water and soap can clear microbes from the surface of new or used wooden cutting boards and new plastic ones, but knife-scarred plastic boards are resistant to decontamination by hand washing.”

I stand corrected. My apologies to Tania who I’ve apparently been trying to kill with my reckless cutting board washing habits. Jesus, I have a better chance of surviving a shark attack in the middle of the ocean than winning an argument with that lady. For your health!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Iron Curtain and Our New Kitchen

"Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall... plaze."

We’ve had a few contractors come by and give us quotes on remodeling our kitchen, but all of their estimates are well into the tens of thousands of dollars. We don’t have that kind of money. So we’ve just learned to deal with our shitty kitchen. Until now.

I can’t believe those assholes were trying to charge us so much money because our brand new kitchen cost only $130. Yeah, all we did was go down to Bed, Bath and Beyond and we bought a new trashcan for $130, and now we have a brand new, totally remodeled kitchen.

As you can see in the diagram, our old kitchen was a total mess and completely outdated. First of all, there was the Berlin Wall. You couldn’t even get into our crappy kitchen without first having to hurdle the Beckett barrier. Beckett, like most dogs, enjoys cat food. Cat food, I understand, is higher in fat than dog food. So we had to install the Beckett Barrier to keep him away from Gary’s food. It works, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tripped over that damn thing. Then there was the old garbage can. Not only did the old can not work (the springs on the lid were broke), but it was in the way of everything. It was usually in constant movement, dancing around the kitchen wherever we weren’t working. The cat food wasn’t too bad where it was, but Gary’s mess would tend to spill out into the kitchen proper. And then of course there was the recycling pile back by the washer and dryer. What a mess that was. After a good weekend, you couldn’t even get in that room.

But since we bought our new garbage can, that kitchen is no more. As you can see, the new garbage can fits snugly beside the refrigerator and while it’s convenient to reach, it’s also now out of the main traffic corridors. The old trashcan is now the recycling bin between the new trash can and the wall, thus eliminating the recycling dump that tended to overrun the laundry room. The laundry room, then, has become Gary’s domain with both his food and litter box safely sequestered from the rest of the world (Beckett) by the Berlin Wall.

Gary wonders why there's a brand new, giant stainless steel trashcan where his food used to be. "What the fuck?" Gary cusses, incidentally. Beckett is a good Christian dog who enjoys slow jamz, scripture, and barking at Devil Rats (squirrels).

Probably the greatest benefit we received from moving the barrier, besides not having to trip over it, is that Beckett is now allowed to explore the Magical Food Land that he has wanted to visit since the day he was born. Actually it’s kind of annoying having those pathetic brown eyes staring up at me whenever I’m making food, but he does act as a third garbage can and eats anything that falls to the floor.

"KYHAFSUM?" That's "Can I have some?" in Beckett speak. "Plaze?"

I highly recommend remodeling your kitchen. If you cook and spend as much time in the kitchen as Tania and I do, it’s the best investment you’ll ever make. We cherish the time we spend together cooking, and it just got 100 times more enjoyable. For just $130, you too can enjoy a newly remodeled kitchen. It’s expensive for a garbage can, but cheap for a new kitchen.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Gentleman's Beer Drinking Club and Palate

That's me, second from the right.

The NHL season has started, and the Gentleman’s Beer Drinking Club had their draft last Friday night, and I just finished the Gentlemen’s official membership cards for 2008-09 season the other day. As you can see from the list of our picks on the back of the card, I didn’t do too bad: OTT, NYR, BOS, COL, NSH, LAK. I’m usually really heavy in the East, but I’ve learned from watching Wes win the President’s Cup every year, that it’s best to diversify one’s portfolio. So I made a point of snatching up three Western Conference teams, two of which I absolutely loathe: Colorado and Nashville. Bleh! I decided I wanted to try new things. I wanted to be adventurous like Andrew Zimmern. Because, seriously, taking Colorado and Nashville, to me, is like chewing on a giant cow eyeball and then sucking on a durian fruit. Still, I’m looking forward to the season.

Unfortunately Doug doesn't have a cat. He just has a baby.

What does this have to do with food? Well the draft went down at our house and our house is right up the street from the new Los Angeles restaurant sensation: Palate. This place has been written up in every magazine and paper and it’s received rave reviews. Except that it’s not in Los Angeles, it’s in Glendale. Yes, we finally have our very own gourmet restaurant and it’s less than a mile from our front door. And it’s good. I wouldn't say it's great, but we've had nothing to complain about and we look forward to localizing the fuck out of that place.

What did we have… uhhh… I stopped taking pictures at the beginning of our dinner (I liked it so much I couldn’t be distracted), so I don’t remember. (This is a great review.) I kid, I kid. It's a simple menu and if you enjoy the complexity that a simple dish can afford you, well then you'll enjoy Palate. You can't get a burger, but you can order a bowl of cauliflower soup with a tiny little crab cake in the middle. Simple, but delicious. Or you can get gnocchi with braised ox tail. Or a plate of cheese. Everyone brags about the pork belly; it's good, worth ordering, but I've had better. In fact we visited Gordon Ramsay's "London" in New York last year and I told the waiter to tell the chef to put it on the menu (I was told it was a special and they were considering making it permanent). "My entire meal sucked," I said (and it did… kitchen nightmare?), "but I would come back for that pork belly." Anyway, before we went to Palate we knew we were getting the lovely charcuterie plate with the funny name, “The Porkfolio.” Oh such a sense of humor. But the humor—mind you—and the attitude, was one of the best things about Palate.

They have good wine at Palate. This is what it looks like when it comes out of my dick hole.

After we finished our meal, we decided to take a look around. It’s in a very weird space. We were told by a friend when we first moved to Glendale that the building, some ten stories high, is used almost entirely for storing wines. Ten stories of wine? I have been trying to figure out a way to steal the building and put it in our backyard, but the plan just hasn’t come together. And now, on the bottom floor, is Palate, which is much more than just a restaurant: it's a wine and cheese bar, and a wine shop. As we were wandering around checking out the rest of the space, we met the chef, Octavio Becerra.

Tania and Chef Octavio. You only get that face out of Tania if you're me, or Chef Octavio.

Octavio was a very friendly fellow and he offered to give us a personal tour of the place. It was quite fun, actually. We got to meet a lot of the staff and the other owners. We saw a boar's leg that had prosciutto in it.

We saw the cheese room.
Tania almost divorced me for this lady. I cut the cheese, but this lady HAS the cheese.

And Octavio loved Tania. And I think Tania loved him, if only because he had the keys to the temperature controlled cheese room. But he was indeed a very charming fellow. And I didn’t once get the feeling that our tour was some sort of a “it’s good for business” thing. He seemed to genuinely enjoy showing us around his restaurant.

We’re definitely going to localize the fuck out of that place. We've had two good dinners there (we ate at the bar on the second one...great choice, except it was a Friday night and the service was a little slow, but still, totally acceptable on a slammed Friday night) and we got a personal tour by the chef himself. I wonder if they’ll show hockey games at the bar? I also wonder if Tania's "imaginary boyfriend" has changed his name from "Joe Thornton" to "Octavio Becerra?"

"Dear Octavio, I wish you were here smoking cigarettes with me and shoving cheese in my mouth..."

Friday, October 3, 2008

Joel Robuchon's L'Atelier

The other night I made an omelet for dinner. It was the most perfect omelet I have ever made, and I might even go as far as to say that it was the best omelet that I have ever had. Ever. Really, it was that good. The outside was not quite browned, but the exterior was almost crisp. Well, not really crisp, but it had bite. It was the perfect texture to enclose the velveteen, custard-ey goodness of the eggs and the filling. Nom, nom, nom. I had it next to a small, mixed green salad with Dijon, shallot, and red wine vinaigrette (that I swiped from my "French Laundry" cookbook and whip up weekly to keep in the fridge for my usual salads that I take to work for lunch) and it was the perfect little dinner.

ANYWAYS. Making that omelet gave me a weird sense of pride. After I sat back, with my content little (har har) belly all full of yummy goodness, I thought about what it must feel like to hit that kind of culinary home run all the time. I’m a pretty good cook, but I’m not that consistent. I make an omelet like that once a year, maybe. The rest of the time I usually over cook it a touch, which is fine because I like scrambled eggs and all, but it’s never that satisfyingly perfect dish that I set out to make. Oh lord, what must it feel like to be Thomas Keller or Joel Robuchon? Or just one of the chefs at Joel Robuchon’s L’Atelier… just making awesome dish after awesome dish. Perfectly prepared and presented and laid out on pristine plates, night after night.

Because Dave took me there for my birthday last month and every dish we had was utterly fantastic. It was so good that it felt naughty. No, not naughty, beyond naughty. It was lascivious (probably my favorite word in the English language and I never get a chance to use it enough). I can’t imagine what it must be like to be one of those chefs, nailing every dish they put out so perfectly. All of the sexually suggestive adjectives and comparisons floating around in my head right now are overwhelming. I could probably write gastronomic erotica (gastronomic erotica sounds awful, no?) about the appetizers alone. But I’ll save you the flowery text and get right to the pictures of the food. FFWD to the money shots, right dudes?

The dining room at L'Atelier is bad ass. It's sushi bar style so you can see all the chefs plating the food. There are exactly 36 stools around the kitchen and the peasants who don't make reservations have to sit at the crap-o tables along the wall. LAME.

I can't get enough of of looking at these chefs tenderly plating each dish. I focused on it all night. Fuck a titty bar, I will happily sit along this rail and ogle these guys all night long. The eye candy's better and the drinks aren't as watered down.

We got to see all the bad ass cooking/plating action from the bar. this is all the dressed up, flashy, sexy part of the cooking process. Obviously, there's a lot of prep work behind the scenes, but you don't watch porn to see the fluffers, do you?

Well, except for this part: Shooting bread lasers at the executive chef from my sweet seat at the bar. I've got him in my scope. PEW! PEW! PEW! PEW!

So yeah, the food was about to come out. Yay. But don't fill up on bread! It is sooo hard when it's so gooood. And it's served on a golden platter? What the fuck dudes? I would take that bread out to a dinner and a movie if it would let me get to second base with it.

The amuse bouche (which means "mouth amuser." Um, try and tell me that's not naughty in the best way). It was cucumber gelee with mint and something else that I can't remember. I just gulped that shit. I've always been a swallower.

Some big eye tuna tartar with lemon infused olive oil and a quail egg on top. Nummy num nummers.

I think this was the lobster in a vegetable gelee with chilled leek soup over it, but I have forgotten. I was basically just closing my eyes and putting stuff into my mouth by then anyways. I think there should be food glory holes for culinary perverts like me.

Some luscious salmon, next to Monseiur Robuchon's famous pomme puree. the consistency is beyond description... and it was kissed ever so lightly with a touch of basil infused oil.

The absolute most decadent, wonderful thing you can put on a plate (or anywhere else, for that matter): Pork Belly.

A bit of quail. I never knew I liked quail so much. Sometimes, you just have to be talked into something, no matter how odd it might seem. It's good to be open minded though.

Some fish. I guess it was John Dory, but any fish is pretty much just fish to me: Fishy and whatevs. This fish, however, was actually good... so I guess I should call it by its proper name. Mr. Dory, don't stop now. Just a little bit more.

The cheeeeeeese! Finally the cheese! Yes, yes, yes!!!! Oh god, yes!

Ahhh, and finally the come down. Now I need a cigarette and a nap. Mmmm mmmm. There's money on the counter for you, L'Atelier. Can I call you again sometime?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A Lizard's Tale

Our pets, Gary and Beckett, are foodies too.

(Make sure you crank your teeny weeny little computer speakers so you can bask in the teeny weeny soundtrack.)

Bacon Hockey

The 2008-9 NHL season is set to begin on Saturday. And when hockey season begins, my thoughts turn to bacon.

Like most sports fans, I developed the idea that my actions could influence the outcome of the game on the TV. “If I wear this hat and this shirt, [blank] will win.” And then when that doesn’t work, I blame it on the hat. “Shit, I should have worn the shirt and the yellow socks, I knew it.” Of course when something works, I do it the next game. And then when it doesn’t work on the second attempt, I blame it on the dog for pissing behind the couch earlier in the day. Or something like that. Something was out of alignment. Anyway, it’s a series of trials and errors, and, while it doesn’t work all the time—or even some of the time—I know deep in my heart that it will work if I can just discover the right combination. It’s like breaking into a safe. And a few years ago, I thought I had cracked the code: bacon.

Yes, I started cooking bacon for my TV a few years ago after it’s remarkable effect on a Bruins game. I don’t remember who Boston was playing, but they were losing towards the end of the third period. Frustrated, I got up to make a BLT in the kitchen. I put a skillet on the stove, cranked up the heat, and gently laid a strip of bacon in it. Just as the bacon hit the pan and started to sizzle, the Bruins scored.

“HE SHOOTS, HE SCORES!” BOOOOOONNNNNNNNGGGGG! [that’s the goal siren] WOO WOO WOO WOO! [that’s the red light spinning around].

“What’s this?” I said. I looked at the pan with the strip of bacon in it, and then back to my Li’l Teddy Bears celebrating on the ice. “They like bacon?” I thought. “Of course,” I said hitting myself on the head, “they’re Bruins, duh? BEARS LOVE BACON!” So I filled the pan with bacon and cooked the shit out of a whole pack. I kid you not, the Bruins scored three goals before the bacon was even done, and they went on to win the game. Bacon, I decided, was the answer.

[Would I be biting Emeril and his li’l “Pork Fat Rules” nonsense if I made shirts and aprons that read, “BACON IS THE ANSWER.” Because it is, isn’t it?]

Without bacon…

…with bacon.

I cooked bacon for the next three Bruin games and, believe it or not, they won every one of them. All I had to do was cook bacon, and then they’d smell it through my TV, and it would give them all the motivation they needed to put more points on the board than their opponent. Which, I’ve found, is often the key to victory: the team that has the most points on the scoreboard at the end of the game is usually the team that wins.

It wasn’t long, however, before the Bruins lost a bacon-inspired game. I had thought they were going to go undefeated the rest of the season. I even began trying to figure out how to bet on them. “Well, they’ll catch on at some point, but if I start placing bets now…” I was heartbroken when they lost, but I soon convinced myself that it would have happened eventually. “Bacon is awesome, but who wants to eat it every meal?” Plus, I was the one eating it. So I devised a new method of presenting bacon to the Bruins that was more, let’s say, ritualistic. Naturally there were some rules.

I would cook exactly three strips of bacon, one for each period. The bacon had to be cooked and on the plate before the drop of the puck. If the bacon wasn’t on the plate before the puck drop, I could just forget about winning. And then I’d place the plate with the three strips of bacon on it in front of the TV. It was like an offering to the hockey gods. Or like leaving cookies out for Santa. Probably more like the latter, because I’d eat the bacon. At the end of each period, I’d eat one strip of bacon. I was like the high priest accepting the sacrifice for the hockey gods… or maybe I was like your parents drinking the milk and cookies they put out for themselves on Christmas Eve.

It's obvious this picture was shot during the third period of an Ott/Bos game. As you can see, Boston is charging the net hard because the bacon is giving them strength. Picture proof that it works.

This, of course, proved itself to be almost as unreliable as any previous methods I had employed to influence the outcome of the games I was watching. “ALMOST as unreliable,” I say, because when I do it—I don’t do it for every one of the 82 games they play during the regular season. Are you crazy? Jesus, I love bacon, but not that much. When I lived with Tobin in San Francisco, the recluse across the street from us died. Now that was a man who loved bacon. We eventually got to sneak into his abandoned house. What we discovered was horrifying: his walls were covered in bacon fat. The whole house. But near the kitchen the walls almost looked like bacon. Apparently he had been cooking bacon several times a day for years. Having learned a valuable lesson from that incident, I decided to, you know, kind of chill on the “Bacon for Bruins” thing. But when I do it—and I still swear by this, the odds of the Bruins winning are much better. They go up even more when I use good bacon. Have you ever gotten bacon of the month club from the Grateful Palate?

That’s some good bacon. I highly recommend it. I love receiving packages in the mail. And there’s not much that’s better than a package full of bacon. For $150, you get one package of bacon delivered to your house each month. Out of the twelve packages we got, I can’t say there was one we didn’t like. It’s also a great gift. But make sure the recipients eat meat. We got it for the Nieratkos as a wedding gift after we learned that New Jersey is the only (?) state in the Union that won’t allow wine to cross over its border. What year is it again? So the Grateful Palate was like, “What about Bacon of the Month?” Alright, sure. But, it turns out Mrs. Nieratko is a vegetarian. Oops.

I’m looking forward to a great Bruin season. I’m expecting them to pick up where they left off last season and keep moving forward. And with my bacon at their backs, I don’t think there’s anything that can stop them.