Sunday, August 30, 2009

Musing about musings

Yesterday was blistering hot in Los Angeles. 105 in Studio City where I live. The sky was filled with smoke from fires raging in the hills east of us. It was not a day to go out and play. So we didn’t. Instead Richard and I spent the day watching Ted Kennedy’s funeral mass, wondering what to have for dinner and musing on our computers. I posted another food essay on one of my blogs and worked on another for someone else’s blog I write for.

Now I’m musing about my musings. Why write a blog or blogs if no one comments? I’ve been writing my MySpace blog for a couple of years and though I seem to get a fair amount of ‘hits’ – I have nary a comment on any of my essays. Are they being read? The same holds true for the “someone else’s” food blog I write for. But there I don’t even know if I get any hits, though the “owner” of the blog seems to like my pieces and always publishes them.

Last week I finally saw “Julie & Julia.” I loved it! I laughed and had a great time. Meryl, Amy, Nora and food – what could be bad? Years and years… and years ago when I was just starting to write professionally, a friend who knew both Nora and me thought we had similar ‘styles’ as I wrote my rock’n’roll pieces for magazines like Teen Beat and she wrote for Rolling Stone. I was younger by a few years and looked up to her even though she hadn’t become “Nora” yet. Then she became “Nora.” I was happy for her. Who am I kidding… I was just jealous.

Now Nora has given me another object of jealousy. Julie. Julie is young (well, that’s enough to be jealous of already, right?) and, we all know her story by now… she wrote a food blog and became famous. Not an irreverent blog on food and life as mine can be, but a “reverence” blog about cooking her way through Julia Child’s first cookbook. That’s when she became “Julie.” Great idea! Why didn’t I think of it? Oh, I know – I love writing about food, but would rather Richard cook (he’s way better than I) or just have some chef in a restaurant make my meal. So I’m not really jealous of her idea. What got me jealous and now has me musing is – how did her followers find her? How do people find someone’s blog? When I search for my own blog on-line, the key words that I think should bring it up don’t. Besides my MySpace blog and the “someone else’s” blog, I also started posting again on my own Google ‘dashboard’ blog… one I had set up some years ago and then abandoned. I have no idea how anyone finds that one even though the blog name is the same as my MySpace blog which does pop up in a search on occasion, yada, yada, yada… Soooo, why do I continue?

No, I’m not a masochist (well, maybe I am just a little). What I am is a writer and when I’m not working on my latest book or a screenplay, I love writing essays about food and random moments in my life. Blogs are the 21st century’s diary or personal journal, but definitely not the diaries and personal journals people kept in the past. The ones you needed a key to unlock. The ones you wanted to keep private. Today, everyone wants the world to know who we are and what we think. Especially writers. We write to be read. But we also write because we have to. I just wish someone out there was reading…

By the way, in case you’re wondering, we figured out what we wanted for dinner. Richard has this great Barefoot Contessa recipe for grilled salmon nicoise with anchovies (I love anchovies!), along with the olives and hard boiled eggs, etc… but I’m sick of salmon, so he got some lovely Ahi tuna to sear as a substitute. Delicious.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


It wasn't that long ago that I waxed poetic about The Village Idiot’s smoked cheddar burger, kvelled over its mussels steamed in ale or lauded its brussel sprouts with bacon, but I’m here to praise this gourmet pub again… not the fish & chips with its malt vinegar dipping sauce or its oak grilled bangers & mash (been there - done that – still yummy), but their duck eggs. Yup – duck eggs.

Recently The Idiot (its affectionate nickname) started serving brunch and, of course, I had to find out what gourmet delights I would find at a pub. I’m thinking fancy hash & eggs or a twist on steak & eggs, but that would be taking the easy way out. Food-wise that is. Instead, I found a menu filled with wonderful culinary concoctions. Everything from homemade breakfast bread to cherry-cashew granola… from whiskey cured ocean trout with toasted brioche, crème fraiche and pickled beets to fried duck eggs, chorizo, tomato, chiles & yellow corn grits… from tomato ricotta tart with poached eggs and herb salad to lemon ricotta pancakes with sliced bananas and honeycomb butter. Blimey!

The Richard and I sampled was the large, wonderfully gooey sticky bun. I wanted to take a dozen home, but if did, I’d have gained a dozen pounds.

Then came my order of cinnamon orange French toast with bacon and maple syrup… thick slices of toast that were sweet, yet tangy, mixed with the smokey, salty flavors of bacon…. a taste combination made, if not in heaven, at least in Lindsay Kennedy’s heavenly kitchen.

Richard ordered the full English breakfast which included eggs (he had his scrambled) & beans on toast (again a nice thick slice of homemade bread), rasher & banger, roasted tomatoes and mushrooms. The rasher was not your ordinary ‘rasher’ of plain smoked bacon, but a ‘bacon’ made of thinly sliced pork loin. Of course, I had to taste everything and everything was divinely, deliciously English – gourmet style.

The Idiot’s brunch menu also has, among other items, a selection of English pies; sandwiches, including “Breaux & Sheftell” filet-o-fish, butter lettuce, house tartar sauce & slaw; my favorite burger; salads; stuffed bacon wrapped dates with a roasted pepper tomato sauce and those incredible steamed mussels.

To top things off, the rich ‘intelligentsia’ expresso, coffee and tea are served in adorable mugs that would go so well with my collection of Buffalo china…

So, if you’re looking for a place for brunch – I, once again, heartily recommend The Idiot. Why? A duck! Or at least duck eggs. You’d be an Idiot not to try it.

The Village Idiot
7383 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA

Thursday, August 27, 2009

BURGER NAZI (Father's Office bar/restaurant)

As I reviewed previously, I finally found the ‘perfect’ LA burger at The Village Idiot on Melrose, but a friend heard that the “in” burger in LA was now at the Father’s Office bar/restaurant and suggested we try it. I say “bar,” because when he called to make a reservation, “they” told him that “they” didn’t take reservations because “they’re” a “bar.” No problem… how busy could a “bar” be at 12:30?

Richard and I arrived at the “bar” on Helms Street at 12:00 and the line behind a rope was out the door and down the block. A rope! At noon! Get a grip. And, who knew so many people in LA started drinking that early in the day.

Standing in line while waiting for our friend we noticed that many of the tables were empty. We heard someone ask the guy “controlling” the rope why we had to wait in the hot sun when so many tables were empty. His reply: “Father’s Office is a ‘bar.’ The kitchen needs time to prepare the food for those already sitting and as soon as it caught up on the orders, I’ll let more people in.” Reasonable solution? Hire another cook!

By 12:20 the kitchen had “caught up.” We had already exceeded our blazing sun exposure for the day and opted for a table for three inside the “bar.” There we found out you have to order your own food, get a number and put it on your table so the busboys (there’s no waitstaff) can find you. Just like Carl’s, Jr! A “restaurant!”

For a “bar” the menu included some pretty fancy entrees, including a huge gourmet beet salad someone was eating at the next table. But I was there for the latest “in” burger and since there was only one offered, that’s what I would be ordering as soon as our friend arrived. However, when he did arrive, the keeper of the rope sent him to the end of the line (which had grown in leaps and bounds). My friend explained that his party was already seated but was still refused entrance. When we went to talk to this “Burger Nazi,” he told us that he was “just following orders.” We countered that he should not have seated us until our party was complete as is the policy of other restaurants. “We’re not a restaurant!” he whined. “We’re a bar!” I laughed as I watched more than 50 people at tables eating and eating and eating very “non-bar” gourmet-presented food… most without any alcoholic beverage.

When my friend tried speaking with the “bar’s” manager, security approached him as if he were Al Qaeda. The manager listened to him and a few people waiting on the line who agreed with my friend, then repeated the “bar’s” policy. My friend had to go to the end of the line. At that point, several people waiting on line, left.

First of all, none of us has a problem with waiting our turn. But we’d done that -- for more than twenty minutes.

Second, besides the obvious PR problem this generates, it makes no sense economically. It’s ridiculous to let half a party (in our case 2/3’s) sit at a table for more than a half-hour without ordering when the establishment could be turning over the table. But, hey, maybe good service and turning a profit on food isn’t a concern. This is a “bar.”

So… did I want to sit at the table for yet another 20-30 minutes or so (by now it was 12:45) to have this “in” burger… the only choice being one with caramelized onions, gueryere cheese, maytag blue cheese and arugula... for 12 bucks!?!? The mix of flavors sounded gross. Way too ‘over-the-top” trendy without thinking what tastes would actually blend together to make a good burger. Nah. I didn’t.

So… sad to say, I can’t review LA’s “in” burger. But, I can review the self-serving, “we’re so hot we don’t give a damn attitude.” However, if you find yourself in LA and want a great gourmet burger (with a choice of cheeses and toppings) in a hip restaurant and “bar” with fabulous service and a terrific selection of beers, wines and a great martini, may I suggest you run as fast as you can away from Father’s Office and head straight for The Village Idiot.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


I love hamburgers. Not skimpy, fast food hamburgers, though they have their place… not even those so-called ‘six dollar’ burgers at Carl’s Jr. that drip more sauce than meat juice. When I lived in Manhattan, my non-fast food choices were numerous – each with its own signature ‘taste.’ One favorite was the landmark tavern, PJ Clarke’s burger… but my personal favorite was at Prime Burger, the coffee shop featured in the movie “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” on E. 5lst, directly across the street from St. Pat’s… I salivate just thinking about them.

When Richard and I moved to LA I searched for a comparable culinary burger experience, but never found one until a little over a year ago when The Village Idiot opened on trendy Melrose Ave at the corner of Martel. When I walked through its doors, I immediately fell in love with the room with its high-beamed ceiling, a substantial bar smack in the center of the restaurant, the exposed brick, the raised booths along a wall of expansive windows, dark wooden floors, dark wooden tables and chairs and open kitchen… OK, not everyone would care about all these things – but I love it when I find a space that’s as beautifully designed as this large room. The place was jumping and I said a little prayer that the burger wouldn’t disappoint. To cheese or not to cheese was now my big question. Should I have my burger plain or with melted gruyere? Or should I try the maytag blue… or the smoked cheddar? I decided to cheese with the cheddar. And when I bit into my thick, juicy burger it was cooked to perfection, dripping with ‘real’ beef juices… and the smoked cheddar just punched up the smoky grilled flavor. I tried my next bite with the fresh balsamic red onion relish that comes with the burger. More perfection.

But I soon discovered that The Village Idiot isn’t just about burgers – this 21st century take on an English pub serves a rock shrimp and scallion fritter that I’d write songs about if I could write songs. The mussels steamed in ale are mussels I dream about, and an order of Brussels sprouts with bacon is a must every time I eat there. Among its other dishes, the menu includes fish and chips with a malt vinegar dipping sauce, miso-glazed salmon, an angus rib eye, braised pork shank, cornmeal crusted catfish, steak and potato pie (a personal favorite of Richard’s), a leek and goat cheese tart, savory oak grilled half-chicken, and, of course, bangers and mash - well, not just your ordinary bangers and mash – but oak grilled pork sausage and Yukon mash with carmelized onions and a port sauce… delicious! As you would suspect, the bartenders make a helluva martini and the ale list is impressive. But, what you might not expect is its short but intriguing wine list.

The Village Idiot is a great neighborhood place where you can drop in for lunch (no reservations), bring a book, your baby or your computer and hang out, then stay for dinner (again, no reservations). Or drop in and have a drink, maybe some fritters or a three course meal at the bar. It’s all cool.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009



Well, it’s that “over the meadow and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go” time of year or in Richard's and my case it’s a “hop a Southwest shuttle, drive the 101, creep along the PCH white cliffs of Big Sur, or meander up the “meadow and woods” of the Interstate 5. Yeh, the I-5. A straight line of boring. An ugly, barren desert landscape that dulls the senses. But beauty is in the eye of the imagination. For us, this road is never boring or ugly because we plan our journey as if it were a drive through the hills of Tuscany or the south of France, complete with a picnic in a beautiful vineyard.

For our latest I-5 trip north to the Sacramento/Bay area for a family pre-holiday reunion, I went to my favorite LA gourmet market (partly because Andy Garcia shops there --- be still my heart) and bought the makings for our picnic: Black Forest ham, sliced aged Jarlsberg, heirloom tomatoes, arugula, an Edmund Fallot imported mustard and freshly baked wheat rolls (fiber) for sandwiches, a couple of bottles of Pelegrino and some lovely champagne grapes. However, not everything in my shopping cart was gourmet. You see, I have this guilty food pleasure that I indulge only on these interstate treks: Reduced Fat Cheez-Its. Why reduced fat? Less “lard,” more cheese, hence – more cheese flavor.

Before we even hit the I-5, I tore open the Cheez-Its box and shoved a handful of these tasty little tidbits into my mouth. I rationalized this barbaric food behavior as one of these trip’s little perks. Not until I’ve had 2 - 3 fists full did I even consider sharing these morsels with Richard. By the time we reached the Grapevine (the mountain ‘pass’ that leads to the San Joaquin Valley) half the box was gone. By the time we reached the pristine lake reservoir atop the Grapevine the Cheez-Its were gone.

As we drove out of the mountain terrain, I once again marveled at the endless miles of moonscape on both sides of the road… distant brownish gray hills and mountains… parched flatland dotted with a few green walnut and citrus groves fed with water stolen from who knows where. Our mouths, already dry from the salty Cheez-Its, got drier. We guzzled down half a bottle of the sparkling Pelegrino as we passed the occasional cow or two grazing on a single tuft of straw-like grass. We drove by the few lonely houses miles apart and made up movie scenarios about who lived there and why. And even after driving this straight “ribbon of highway” over and over again, the sight of sagebrush blowing across the road still sparked my imagination and I pretended to be in an old John Ford western as I pictured Indians on horses atop a distant hill. Little dust cyclones swirled every so often over the sun-baked land. But recently, a few more patches of landscape have become greener. There on the left was a vineyard. There was another one. And, yet another as we eased on down the road. The baby boomers had discovered wine and the valley has jumped on the ‘grapewagon’ turning “The Searchers” into “Sideways.” I yearned for a chilled bottle of chardonnay.

Just as my stomach started to growl we saw the tall palm trees indicating the exit to the Harris Ranch. The Ranch is a major watering hole in the midst of this desert valley… the half-way mark between LA/San Francisco-LA/Sacramento. We parked by the Ranch’s inn/restaurant complex and were pleasantly surprised that the “scent” of the cows corralled just a few miles away wasn’t wafting in the air, allowing us to picnic outside the car.

Inside one of the Ranch’s adobe-esque buildings are three restaurant/bars: the Ranch Kitchen restaurant, The Steakhouse, and the Horseshoe Bar. Famous for their beef (this is a cattle ranch after all!) we often eat at one of the restaurants on the way home to LA. If we feel financially flush, we eat at the Steakhouse and I almost always have the filet tenderloin (rare) with a Jack Daniels wild mushroom sauce… a little less flush and we eat in the ‘kitchen’ where I’ll have either the horseradish flank steak salad (rare, of course) or the Ranch Burger, savory “juices” oozing, dressed with the special house sauce and my choice of cheese. But the trip up is always picnic time.

Also housed in this desert oasis building are a gift shop/butcher/bakery combination and very pretty, clean bathrooms. We hit the loos then bought some baseball steaks (a rare classic cut that’s mouth-wateringly delicious very, very rare) packed in dry ice to bring as a ‘hostess’ gift. We grabbed a huge fresh-baked chocolate chip cookie from the bakery for later and headed back to the car and our gourmet sandwiches. We spread a blanket under a nearby tree and remembered the time we sipped wine sitting under a thousand-year old olive tree in Provence.

Back on the road, we put on the Eagles. Bugs continued to meet their makers on our windshield as we sang along to “Hotel California.” When we reached the fork in the road… one tine leading to Sacramento, the other to the Bay area (today it was tine #2) we shared the cookie as we passed the fields of energy windmills scattered over the rolling, tan landscape that looked like a set from “Thelma & Louise.”

As we approached our destination, the ground became greener and the homes got closer together. I thought about the moonscape we just traveled and the picnic we shared under California’s “Tuscan” sun as we exited the freeway and headed to my cousin’s just in time for chilled martinis – shaken, not stirred.

So, for all of you out there who are about to take a holiday road trip, even if it’s a road you’ve often traveled… make it a picnic! Keep your eyes open. Let what you see and eat fill your senses… you’ll never know what movie you could be in, what country you might find yourself… what simple joys you could be missing. Or, rent a book on tape.

Monday, August 24, 2009


From the “France The Beautiful Cookbook”

“In Provence, where it is called the poor man’s truffle, garlic is the basis of the local cuisine. Braised en chemise (“in a shirt” – in other words, unpeeled), the garlic cloves become soft and creamy making a delicious puree that enhances the flavor of poultry.”


Two years ago Richard and I started a Gourmet Group with three other couples who love to cook as much as he does. We alternate houses. The host couple chooses the “theme,” makes the entree and assigns the remaining courses to the other couples. “Themes” have been as diverse as “white food below the Equator,” “a taste of Julia Childs,” and “Tuscany.” The last dinner was at our house. The theme – Provencal.

I staged the dining room table with antique white tea cloths layered on our old pine farm table, then piled some Richard’s freshly baked French baguettes next to a carved stone chicken rescued from our garden along with some sprigs of rosemary and voila!... a no cost centerpiece.

We greeted everyone with a champagne flute of “Pernod Moulin Rouge” (Pernod and cranberry juice), then enjoyed the “appetizer couple’s” dishes: baked trout with Provencal seasoning... goat cheese gratin of olives, cheeses and tomatoes… anchovy toasts with roasted garlic... white asparagus spears with a turnip and cumin dip... shrimp with a sauce verde of basil & spring onion. Their Parigot rose champagne complemented their dishes.

Edith Piaf wafted from the ipod as we took our seats in the dining room for the first course: a light salad made with heirloom tomatoes from the “first course couples” garden, grilled sweet peppers, melon, Buffala mozzarella and grilled shrimp with a pesto dressing drizzled on the side. The wine: E. Guigal Rose.

Then it was time for Richard’s roast chicken. Roast chicken for Gourmet Group!!?? Well, this was not just any ol’ roast chicken, but the traditional Provence dish of roast chicken with 40 cloves of garlic which he served with "Asparagus on Asparagus,” a Michel Richard recipe he found on the net. The cooked asparagus had an asparagus sauce topped with poached eggs and black truffles. We spread the creamy roasted garlic on toasted baguette slices made from the bread not used for the centerpiece. The wine was an amazing Pomerol bequeathed to us from wine-loving friends.

Dessert was next. First, the “dessert couple” served a cheese plate of Brillat-Savarin, a Laguiole, a port salut and a roquefort whipped with walnuts. The beverage: a Chateau Bernadou Muscat. Then came their spectacular flourless chocolate cake served with a Banyuls port.

To end our evening in Provence, we made a dark, rich coffee and served it in demitasse cups as everyone helped themselves to more cake.

It took me three days to clean up. Five dishwasher loads, over forty glasses washed by hand, linens spotted and laundered and a zillion plates and platters put away.

For a meal like that, I’d do it all over again tomorrow and I didn’t have to cook a thing!


The chicken with 40 cloves of garlic recipe can be found in “France The Beautiful Cookbook.”

Saturday, August 22, 2009

It's been awhile...

Right now Richard is baking 'friendship' breads and our home smells like heaven - or what I believe heaven should smell like. When they're finished, he plans to deliver them to friends w/ a starter so that those friends can bake friendship breads for their friends and pass them on w/ starters and so on and so on...

I haven't posted here in a long time and have no idea if anyone will read this blog, but I now have a body of food reviews and essays that appear on my MySpace blog and on the RoobiesFood blog and thought I'd come back here and see if anyone's still around. Hopefully you are because I plan to post more often about food and other musings.

ONE 53 -Rocky Hill, NJ - review

I love vacations. Everybody loves vacations. Some people like to camp out in the mountains or on a riverbed, cooking stew or the ‘catch of the day’ over a campfire. Others like to sail the high seas and rustle up rations on a butane burner and still others love to stay in four star hotels and order room service at the end of the day. But when it comes to eating on vacation, I like finding wonderful new restaurants that surprise me with its food whether I’m in a quiet small town or a noisy big city.

Last summer Richard and I ventured from our Los Angeles home and headed to Princeton, New Jersey to attend the wedding of our own wedding’s flower girl… It was during our time in Princeton we discovered No ONE 53 a wonderful bistro in a quiet neighborhood in the “wilds” of Rocky Hill a/k/a Princeton “adjacent.” The restaurant’s décor is minimalist, accented by modern lighting. The bare tables sport crisp white linen napkins. Yet the feeling you get when entering the dining room is warm and welcoming. This was greatly enhanced by the greeting we received from the owner, Joe McLaughlin, who led us to our table and handed us menus that appeared to be printed on a single sheet of plain brown ‘grocery bag’ paper.

Before we ordered, our waitress told us that the wines on the special Captain’s List were all half price – music to our ears. We decided on the ’06 Cakebread chardonnay, a Napa wine we normally can’t afford. It came perfectly chilled in all its buttery glory.

For starters, I chose a grilled Caesar salad… a stalk of grilled romaine lettuce with a creamy anchovy dressing that was so delicious I wanted seconds, and I don’t even like salads. Richard had the caprese salad… fresh mozzarella and New Jersey tomatoes. What’s not to love, even for me?

Though I didn’t want to give up sipping Cakebread, I decided to get a glass of cabernet sauvignon,Vina Robles to go with the char-grilled flat iron steak I ordered. The steak was tender and grilled to perfection. The hand-cut shoestring fries were golden and crispy. Richard stayed with the chardonnay as he dove into his stuffed poussin with caramelized red onions, cherries and shitake mushrooms. If he had to pick a “last meal,” I think this would have been it. Sated and happy, we passed on dessert as we sipped our decaf cappuccinos.

So, here’s my advice. If you’re ever in Princeton (or Princeton adjacent), dial 609-924-1019 and make a reservation at this wonderful American bistro perched on a quiet, tree-lined street. You won’t be disappointed.

Address: 153 Washington Street
Rocky Hill, New Jersey