Monday, August 29, 2005

THIS is no joke

OK, the drinking game was for fun, but the potential doomsday reality of this hurricane isn't. If you believe in a higher power, now is the time to make contact and pray for all of the people in the path of Katrina.

And on a less spiritual plane, you might just want to make a contribution to the American Red Cross and specify that it's for "disaster relief" or BY calling them at 1(800)HELP NOW.

To read what New Orleans area bloggers are posting about Katrina click HERE. Also: That Which We Feared Is At The Door

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Anderson Cooper Hurricane Drinking Game

With thanks to the No offense to the good people of Florida, but we sure are getting tired of CNN's Anderson Cooper becoming a fixture at the state's annual hurricane disasters and capitalizing on the misery of Floridians. So in an effort to help beat Anderson Cooper fatigue this time around we have come up with the Anderson Cooper Hurricane Drinking Game. Here's how to play:

Drink two swigs every time someone sitting comfortably at the CNN studio tells Anderson to stay safe.

One swig every time they switch to Anderson braving a 60 mile per hour wind.

Two swigs every time they switch to Anderson in a 70 mile per hour wind.

Three swigs every time they switch to Anderson in a 80 or higher mile per hour wind.

One swig every time Anderson says devastate, devastates, devastation, devastating, or devastated.

Five swigs every time Anderson says “Whoa. We haven't seen anything like this since Ivan.”

One swig every time Anderson provides the obligatory warning for people along the Florida coast to be extremely cautious while he is getting hammered by wind and rain.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Life and Loves of a She-Devil

Julie T Wallace as "Ruth"--the She-Devil (BBC, 1986)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Shelley aka Shirley Celebrates a Birthday!

My favorite columnist for the New York Observer, Simon Doonan, related this little anecdote about one our favorite film stars, the legendary Shelley Winters, in the August 29, 2005 issue:

"[O]n Aug. 18, Shelley Winters celebrated her 85th birthday with an Italian-themed blowout in honor of her two gorgeous ex-husbands, Tony Franciosa and Vittorio Gassman. No, I wasn’t invited, nor would I expect to be … not after what I once did to Shelley.

"Twenty years ago, when Shelley was 65 and I was young and stupid, I clocked Shelley Winters in a Hollywood store buying a size-12 pair of leather pants. Being the world’s No. 1 Shelley fan, I could not restrain myself from eavesdropping. I overheard Miss Winters tell the sales gal she was buying the pants to hang on her refrigerator as a dietary incentive.

"That evening at my aerobics class—I was a committed squat-battler, even back then—I blabbed the story of Shelley’s new dieting trick to a friend of mine who just happened to work for The National Enquirer. A week later, the tidbit appeared in her column. A week after that, I received a check from the Enquirer for $50, marked “for Shelley Winters item.” I was riddled with guilt. I felt as if I had betrayed the great two-time Oscar winner at a vulnerable point, i.e., in her battle against squatness.

"I toyed with giving the money to charity or framing it. As far as I can remember, I ended up spending it on a brand-new pair of legwarmers.

"Shelley, I hope you had a fab birthday and ate masses of prosciutto. Your longevity is a testament to the healthful properties of animal fat."

MiG: the Man from Oz

MiG on Rock Star:INXS playing Peter Frampton's Baby, I Love Your Way

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Girl with a Pearl Earring

My love affair with Vermeer goes back to 1990 when I first saw the independent film, All the Vermeers in New York, on an old PBS series called American Playhouse. Ironically, I remember little about the story (and was startled to read an review which mentioned "The best scenes in the film involve Stephen Lack as Mark. All of his scenes just crackle, and he does some excellent ad-libs. His scene on one of the World Trade Center towers, as he talks about death while a jet plane can be heard over head (this was shot in the early 1990's) is creepy and fascinating.")

While the film itself was slow-moving and static, the characters seemed almost frozen and self-contained emotionally. What made them tick; what secrets were buried under their chilly exteriors? And that's part of what attracted me to the people who were depicted in the paintings Vermeer produced. Ah, the stories they could tell.

On my next visit to Manhattan, I decided that my mission was to try to see "all the Vermeers in New York"--that would be 7 out of his known surviving output of 35 paintings. I had, in my somewhat obsessive-compulsive way, relentlessly researched the subject and discovered that there were three Vermeers in the collection of the Frick Museum on East 70th Street (near Fifth Avenue): Officer and a Laughing Girl; Mistress and Maid, and Girl Interrupted at Her Music. The Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection contains four more: Woman with the Lute, The Allegory of the Faith, A Woman Asleep, and Portrait of a Young Woman. Unfortunately, only two of The Met's were on exhibit during that visit; the other two were on loan. But, mercifully for me, the Frick does not allow it's collection to be lent, so all three of theirs were on view! They were smaller than I had expected, and little jewels of chioroscuro.

Monday, August 15, 2005

The Devil's Advocate, Mortimer's Unofficial Biography, Smarts!

I was surprised to see this article from The [U.K.] Independent yesterday about one of my favorite writers, John Mortimer. I've always loved his Rumpole series; been devoted to his lesser known works, such as Summer's Lease; and been moved by his autobiographical work about his father, Clinging to the Wreckage. But, until now, I had no idea what a wild man he really is!

"John Mortimer, wit, raconteur, man of letters and creator of Rumpole of the Bailey, had his famously affable mood shattered yesterday by revelations in a new biography.

" 'Oh God,' he said, on learning that the book will expose salacious details of his private life, including claims that he liked to spank and be spanked. 'But what can I do? I can't stop it. It's a rather unpleasant book.'

"...Mortimer is known to the public as a brilliant figure who, aside from his work as a judge and QC, wrote the Rumpole series, the script for the classic television series The Jewel in the Crown and numerous books and plays.

"But Lord paints a very different picture, portraying him in The Devil's Advocate as a ruthless charmer and egotist who treated his first wife Penelope cruelly for the 22 years of their marriage during which he is said to have had numerous affairs. It is also claimed that he embellished many of the stories of his triumphs.

"...actress Shirley Ann Field,... who, the book alleges, was 26 when she had her affair with Mortimer, is quoted as saying: 'He was fun, enormously charming, and made me feel so special and safe. However, he had this thing about spanking with hairbrushes. I thought, God, what a strange one we've got here. I just thought the spanking was a public school sort of thing.'

"...Lord does concede that Mortimer's 'close friends, however, are unswerving in their admiration'. 'We all adore him,' said [the writer] Kathy Lette. 'He's just God's gift to womankind.' On another occasion she said Mortimer was 'a total babe magnet'.

"Mortimer said yesterday that he was dismayed that the book will be serialised, and said that an authorised biography by The Times columnist Valerie Grove, to be published by Penguin next year, would set the record straight."

Read the entire story: Mortimer smarts at book's claims he was Rumpy-Pumpy of the Bailey

A Day in the Life: John Mortimer

Buy Summer's Lease here.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Pretty in Pink

What could be lovelier in the summertime than a frosty pink drink. Whether it's Carrie Bradshaw's Sex and the City Cosmopolitan martini or a glass of rose wine, there's something frivolous and festive about drinking pink!

I confess that my earliest wine-drinking memory is of a glass of Gallo Rose. Way too sweet for my taste now, it paved the way to learning more about wines: to a picnic in a park with a chilled dry Tavel rose from southern France -- a perfect summer wine -- and finally on to Bonny Doon's fruity, but oddly named Vin Gris de Cigare (look for the flying saucer or cigare on the label). A friend's ex-husband once made an incredibly fragrant and very dry homemade strawberry wine. And for several years now, I have been enamoured of a pretty salmon pink sparkling wine from New Mexico called Gruet Methode Champenoise, Blanc de Noirs. It, along with a video of Enchanted April and some salty snacks, has been my companion on more than one cold New Year's Eve!

On a spring visit to New York several years ago, I decided to go in search of the perfect Cosmopolitan. I must have had them at four different places -- including a memorable visit to the legendary literary hangout Elaine's where I was accompanied by an old flame, a notoriously cheap rock writer. We were seated in Siberia (the dining room behind the bar--it was a dead night!), my friend, the big spender, ordered water and I chose the Cosmo. EIGHT bucks! It almost glowed with a deep garnet red hue and, as soon as I put my arm down on the table to try to steady the glass, which was dangerously full, the table went tilt and it spilled all over the white tablecloth. I must say, in his defense, that my friend immediately got some righteous NYC attitude, calling the waiter over to replace my drink. It hadn't been our fault that the table was uneven, he demonstrated in my defense. The waiter came back with another and moved to take away the first, but my friend waved him away. Upon getting the check, I was happy to find that I had only been charged for one drink. Of course, my friend insisted that I give him the receipt so he could write my drink off on his taxes!!!

(slightly altered from and with acknowledgement to its original by Dale DeGroff)

1 1/2 oz. Citron Vodka
1/2 oz. Cointreau or Triple Sec
1/4 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
splash Cranberry Juice

Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an
orange peel.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Paris Ice Cream Wars!

Louisa Chu, one of my favorite food bloggers, writes eloquently of the rivalry between Amorino, the Italian gelateria and relatively "new kid in town" when it comes to creamy frozen treats, vs. longtime favorite Berthillon in her post Cold War - Amorino.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Muslim Beurger King Opens in Paris

Muslim-Themed 'Beurger King' Opens

The Associated Press
Friday, August 5, 2005

PARIS -- Muslims in France are having it their way with "Beurger King" - a new fast-food restaurant that caters to the country's large Islamic population.

The bright and colorful eatery was launched in July in an eastern Paris suburb crowded with immigrants and dilapidated housing projects. Its name plays on the French word "Beur," meaning a second-generation North African living in France.

The menu at Beurger King Muslim, or BKM, is standard fast-food fare: burgers, fries, sundaes and doughnuts, and prices are comparable to those at major chains. But the beef and chicken burgers are halal - meaning made with meat slaughtered according to Islamic dietary laws.

Waitresses wear Islamic head scarves, as do many of their customers.

Mouna Talbi, 24, traveled 55 miles to Clichy-sous-Bois with her husband and two small sons to try it out.

"I was so happy to come here that I had tears in my eyes when I walked in," she said, watching her sons climb on colored blocks in the play area as she ate a halal burger.

After the success of Mecca Cola, a soft drink marketed to French Muslims, it was perhaps only a matter of time before a Muslim-themed, fast-food restaurant opened in the country with Western Europe's largest Islamic population.

Talbi's children always clamor for fast food, but this was the first time they've been able to order something other than fish, she said.

"A woman in Muslim dress feels at home here," she said, sitting in a red tunic and matching head scarf.

Three Muslim friends from the Paris suburbs set up the restaurant after seeing similar restaurants in Thailand and Algeria.

They saw a demand for a clean, family-oriented halal fast-food restaurant that would offer an alternative to the big non-halal chains and the many downscale halal street vendors.

One of the founders, Morad Benhamida, 33, said he and his partners worked for almost two years on a business plan to convince French backers.

"I was shocked when my bank manager believed in the project straight away," he said, sitting under an umbrella on the restaurant's terrace.

He said the business plan showed the halal meat came from reputable wholesalers and was inspected twice daily. But he had not anticipated how successful the idea would be.

"I was very surprised because people really liked the restaurant, so much so that we have tripled stocks since opening a month ago," he said. "It seems like magic."

He is planning to hire eight new employees in fall, expanding his staff of 28.

In an area with high unemployment, people are grateful to find work. Some female employees said they took the job because they were allowed to wear head scarves, unlike workers in other French fast-food restaurants.

Female customers also seemed happy. Cherifa Halimi, 19, sat in a booth sipping drinks with four friends, all dressed in black flowing gowns covering all but their hands and faces.

"There are a few changes they could make to give the place a completely Muslim image," Halimi said. "The television is OK, but there shouldn't be any music.

"But I'd like to work here."

Muslim diners said they felt more misunderstood in France since last month's terror attacks in London.

"Even the media demonizes the image of Islam in this country," Ahmed Talbi said, sitting in a booth opposite his wife. "People are afraid of terrorist attacks here, too."

Customers, including non-Muslims, said the restaurant was not segregating Muslims but showing a normal, peaceful Muslim activity that was open to all.

"Both Muslims and other people feel at ease here," Talbi said. "Maybe this kind of place will help to correct the bad image of Muslims and tell the world to stop talking nonsense about us."

Alsop and Ramsay: Separated at Birth?

Private Eye has just given us some "food for thought" thanks to an observant reader. As if the beleagered maestra didn't already have enough troubles, now this:


"The resemblance between TV chef Gordon Ramsay and Marin Alsop, the controversially appointed musical director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (right), is striking. Chef d’orchestre, indeed.

London SE1."

Memo to copy editor: Despite your captions, Alsop's photo is at left and Ramsay's is at right!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Iced Tea in the Summer Time

In the throes of a hot and humid summer, there is nothing more refreshing than a bracing glass of southern sweet iced tea. I never order it when dining out for fear it will be some nasty variation of instant Nestea, with or without lemon. I also have a dislike of having to add sugar to already cold tea since it never seems to fully dissolve.

Ergo, to satisfy my heriditary craving, I have, after much experimentation, come up with my own magical recipe for the perfect pitcher of iced tea!

Fill the bottom half of a Pyrex glass double boiler pot with cold water to just over the metal band around the top. Place the pot on its metal bracket over the stove burner and add 1/3 cup of sugar and 4 orange pekoe black tea bags. Bring just to a boil and turn off, allowing the tea/sugar mixture to steep overnight or until cool. Pour into a large pitcher and refrigerate. Serve to taste, with lemon and ice, or not.

Properly made and chilled ahead of time in the fridge, unadorned sweet iced tea is my summertime choice of drink.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Le canicule est ici!

Ah, yes. That's right. The "dog days of summer" have arrived in the Ohio Valley. Alas, there's no temporary plage along the Serpentine Wall to loll around on and few breezes blowing.

In light of this and in need of a treat, I foraged my fridge for a reward and came up with this: a colorful treasure trove of summer fruits at their ripest. Rinsing, peeling and chopping, I create a sumptuous melange: an emerald green kiwi flecked with peppery black seeds; a juicy white fleshed donut peach; its cousin, the fragrant nectarine; berries of a midnight blue hue; and that most luxurious of fresh summer fruits, the raspberry. Coddling them all together, drizzled with heavy cream, in a Provencal blue bowl, I dip my silver spoon into the heady mix.

The air is sultry and so is the scent of my tuberose candle. I can drift off now to visit Paris After Sunset via DVD!