Friday, April 29, 2011



You know that commercial where the guy is talking about recommended retirement investments and says incredulously:  “Come on – a vineyard!?”  Well, Jim Witte did just that.  He packed up his suitcase, left LA and the “glamour” of “showbiz,” moved to Oregon and bought a vineyard outside of Portland.  There, as in a fairytale for “the young at heart,” he re-met Holly, a woman he’d known for 40 years, when a mutual friend urged them to “do lunch.”   They fell in love, married, moved into their ‘castle’ and have cats, dogs, horses and pigeons – oh, and a winery.

Just before Richard and I left for our recent winery adventure in Sonoma (yes, I’ll be blogging all about it), Jim and Holly came to LA and reunited some of his old TVbiz workmates for a tasting… Of course we went.  What a perfect way to see old friends and to kick-off our own wine adventure.

The tasting started w/ a lovely dry 2009 Riesling ($15) and segued into a 2009 chardonnay ($12) which has a nice crisp, fruity taste.  The 2009 pinot gris is a perfect summer wine w/ salads or hors d’oeuvres.  The 2008 Mingle ($12) is a refreshing blend of pinot gris, chardonnay and Riesling and was a bronze star winner at the NW Wine Summit.

Next was a smooth 2008 pinot noir ($20) - a silver award – NW Wine Summit winner, and a 2008 Oregon Wine Awards Outstanding Award winner.  The new 2009 pinot noir ($15) is the youngest of their wines and leaves you w/ a hint of chocolate.  This was my personal favorite.

What I also liked about Jim and Holly’s wines was that no wine had more than a 13.5% alcohol content and no bottle cost more than $20.00.

So cheers to Jim & Holly.  Who says fairy tales don’t come true?


A Blooming Hill wines can be bought in some selected stores, online and at the winery’s
tasting room.

A Blooming Hill Vineyard & Winery
5195 SW Hergert Road
Cornelius, Oregon
Phone:  503-992-1196

Wednesday, April 27, 2011



One of my favorite lunches as a kid was my mom’s “cheese dreams” – a grilled cheese sandwich made w/ Velveeta and wonderfully wonderful white Wonder Bread.  She’d slab butter on the outside of the bread and ‘grill’ it in the frying pan, pushing down on the sandwich w/ her trusty spatula, squashing it so the cheese would begin to ooze out of the edges.

I’ve never forgotten those lunches and have never stopped loving grilled cheese whether my mom’s way or a ‘gourmet’ way…

My friend Michael knows this - so, this year for my birthday, he took me to LA’s popular grilled cheese truck for lunch.  Yup – a truck…a truck that travels to different locations around town each day.  This day it was in my ‘hood.’  Now, you’ve probably read about the latest trend of food trucks in various cities, but I had yet to eat at one… so I put on my best baggie linen trousers, All-Star sneakers and white tee and off we went.

Parked on a Toluca Lake side street adjacent to a main ‘business’ drag – we arrived shortly after noon to find that a long line had already formed…  

I’m not a “wait-on-line-for-anything” kind of person, but it was a beautiful, sunny day and we were determined to keep on truckin’ - so we got in line and did the "wait" thing til it was our turn to order… a half-hour later we were at the truck’s window pondering our choices on the “Melty Menu:”

Plain and Simple Melts made w/ your choice of cheese from American to brie to cheddar to Habanero Jack (prices ranging from $3.00 to $5.50 depending on the cheese)… or

a Cheesy Mac Melt on French bread - mac & cheese w/ sharp cheddar, or the truck’s “signature” sandwich – mac & cheese w/ the addition of BBQ smoked pork & caramelized onions… $5.50 and $7.50 respectively… or

what about a Brie Melt on black pepper potato bread w/ fig paste and smokehouse almonds for $6.50? (Add turkey or bacon for $7.75) … or

a Veggie Melt on 6-grain bread w/ gruyere, shaved fresh fennel, smoked tomatoes, fresh arugula and balsamic syrup for $6.50…  and

of course, there are the Dessert Melts on sweet brioche bread – a S’more Melt w/ marshmallow cream, nutella and crumbled graham crackers on brioche for $5.00 or Mom’s Apple Pie Melt w/ sharp cheddar, caramelized cinnamon apples and candied walnuts for $6.50…  then

there’s your customized melt w/ a list of ingredients (and breads) to build your own sandwich (even peanut butter)…

And they didn’t forget the sides:  homemade tomato soup (how many moms used to give their children grilled cheeses AND Campbell’s tomato soup?  Mine did), mac & cheese, homemade chili, tater tots, dipping sauces and homemade B&B pickles…

My mouth was watering.  Michael decided on the Veggie Melt w/ fennel (he loves fennel) – but I opted to ‘customize’ mine… sharp cheddar w/ arugula and smoked tomatoes on rosemary potato bread. 

Let the sandwich making begin...

Twenty minutes later our sandwiches were ready.  We had planned to eat our delicacies in the car, but all the outdoor tables for a restaurant across the street were empty, so we hijacked one of them… and

as I bit into my oozy, melty “cheese dream,” I asked myself was it worth the wait.

Say cheese!!!

Thanks, Michael.

"Chef driven grilled cheese. 'cause that's how we roll..."
Michele Grant, Cheese Executive Officer
Twitter:  @grlldcheesetruk

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Chicken Parmesan

How do I love, thee?  Let me count the ways…

I love you roasted, broiled, stir-fried, picatta’d, marsala’d, stuffed, stewed, fricassee’d – in salads, sandwiches, pastas and soups – and a million other ways…  The other night, I loved you parmesan’d.

After searching through our library of cookbooks and finding no recipe for this dish so common in Italian restaurants, Richard decided to make the veal parmesan recipe in our newest cookbook – “Williams Sonoma Cooking At Home” – substituting the veal w/ boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

I can’t imagine the dish being any better.



4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
¾ cup all-purpose flour
salt & ground pepper
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
8-12 thin slices fresh mozzarella
1 cup all-purpose tomato sauce
   (either homemade or your favorite bottled red sauce)


One at a time, place the chicken breasts between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and flatten w/ a meat pounder til an even ¼ inch thick.  Put the flour in a shallow bowl and season w/ salt and pepper and a few tablespoons of the Parmesan.  Coat the chicken w/ the seasoned flour, shaking off the excess.

In a large frying pan (or two) over medium-high heat, warm the oil.  Working in batches if necessary to avoid crowding, add the chicken and brown lightly on the first sides, about 2 minutes.

Turn the chicken, brown the second sides for 1 minute, and top with the mozzarella slices.  Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until the cheese softens, about 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, warm the tomato sauce over medium-high heat.

Divide the veal among warmed individual plates and spoon the sauce evenly over the top.  Sprinkle w/ the remaining Parmesan and serve.  Richard chose to complement the chicken w/ sauteed lemon and garlic spinach.

Makes 4 servings

If you wish to make this veal parmesan – you need 1-1/2 lb. of veal scallops, about a ½ inch thick – the rest of the recipe remains the same and also makes 4 servings.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Not One-Note

It’s almost the end of tax season (yay!) which means summer’s approaching.  Long hot days at the beach or just playing outdoors, Dodger dogs, barbequing in the backyard, sipping tall, iced drinks, wearing flip flops, and driving w/ the top down…

Well, before that mindset takes over completely, I wanted one more ‘winter’ meal.  I wanted Nigella Lawson’s one-pan chicken, sausage and sage dinner.  Since Richard loves it as much as I do and there’s always plenty leftover for another meal or two, he made it one last time before the weather retires the dish till the leaves start to change color.

Oh, and to go with?  The best roasted Brussels sprouts EVAH from the Barefoot Contessa.

Nigella Lawson’s
One-Pan Chicken, Sausage
& Sage Bake

Active:  15 min; Total: 1 hr., 45 mins

PLUS: overnight marinating

1 lemon, halved
2 small onions, peeled and quartered through the root ends
½ cup pure olive oil
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 tablespoon dried sage
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
freshly ground pepper
one 4-pound chicken, cut into 10 pieces
Kosher salt
12 sweet Italian sausages (Richard used chicken sweet Italian sauages)
2 tablespoons fresh sage

Squeeze the lemon halves into a large, resealable plastic bag.  Cut each lemon half into 4 pieces and add to the bag along w/ the onions, olive oil, mustard, dried sage and Worcestershire sauce; season w/ pepper.  Seal the bag and squish the ingredients together until well mixed.  Add the chicken pieces to the bag and coat thoroughly.  Refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Let the chicken stand at room temperature in the marinade for 30 minutes.  Pour the contents of the bag into a large roasting pan.  Turn the chicken pieces skin side up and season w/ salt. 

Arrange the sausages around the chicken and sprinkle all over w/ the fresh sage.

Bake for 1 hour, until the chicken and sausage are browned;  turn the sausages halfway through cooking.

Transfer the chicken, sausages, onions and lemons to a platter, drizzle w/ some of the pan juices and serve.

Perfect Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Slice off the end tips then toss in extra virgin olive oil and lots of salt.

Put in a 400 degree oven and bake/roast for 40 minutes.

That’s it.

Note:  Because Richard was baking the chicken at 425 degrees, that was the temperature he roasted the Brussels sprouts at, but took them out a bit sooner than 40 minutes.

The Contessa was right when she said that roasted this way, eating these Brussels sprouts is almost like eating French fries… crispy on the outside and soft and tender on the inside.

I loved them!!!

Monday, April 11, 2011



Remember the days before Baskin Robbins and Ben & Jerry’s?  The days when ice cream stands and parlors dotted the American landscape?  No?  Well, I do.   I remember summers spent on a lake in rural Connecticut and my parents taking me for homemade peppermint ice cream at a little stand that was nothing more than a shack on an old country road.

Not far from my house in Bayside, Queens, Long Island, New York was another shack.  It sold newspapers and comic books, cigarettes, tall “2 cent” pretzels and loose (not hard) ice cream.  Everyone called it “The Shack.”  My dad bought his daily Herald Tribune there.  I bought my love comic books there.  And we all bought our ice cream there. Big scoops of soft creamy vanilla or rich chocolate, fresh peach or strawberry ice cream plopped on top a crunchy sugar cone then dipped in chocolate sprinkles.  No “store-bought” or “pre-packaged” ice cream has ever replicated the taste.

Not until a recent Sunday brunch.

Friends were dropping by on their way home to Ojai and we decided to ‘do’ a brunch.  Of course, we could have done lunch (maybe make fancy ‘Nancy Silverton’ grilled cheese sandwiches, or a grilled chicken Caesar salad), but since they were to arrive before noon, but after ten, we did brunch.

Richard planned his menu that started w/ a thick chunk of smoked salmon (not lox) w/ butter and crackers and bloody Marys.  Then came a baked bread, sausage, red pepper and asparagus egg strata, served w/ a chilled 2006 House of Nobilo Icon sauvignon blanc, followed by some French pressed coffee or tea and his homemade lavender cookies and homemade gelato.  I pulled out my 4 Limoge luncheon plates (bruncheon plates?), polished the sterling luncheon (bruncheon) silverware, put linen napkins in silver rings and set our old pine farm table.

Brunch was a hit – but nothing prepared us for just how delicious homemade strawberry gelato is.   The creaminess coupled w/ the amazing taste of fresh strawberries.  Not since I licked a strawberry cone at The Shack have strawberries tasted better.

(From Italy’s Carpigiani Gelato University
as reported by Sherri Jennings in the LA Times)

1 1/2 cups milk
2 T. skim milk powder
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
2 -3 cups cleaned strawberries
1 1/2 pounds ice
1 pound ice cream salt

In medium saucepan, combine milk, milk powder, cream and 1 cup sugar.
Heat over medium heat, stirring, until it reaches a strong simmer (7-8 mins.)
Remove from heat, store in fridge at least 3 hours, up to 2 days.

In blender, combine the cooled milk base with strawberries and remaining 3/4 cup sugar.
blend until smooth.

Place mixture in small metal bowl over a larger bowl containing ice and salt.
Whip w/hand mixer ten minutes or so to lighten texture.

Freeze for about 1-1/2 hours before serving.  (Per Richard, it never freezes well enough in that short a time... four hours maybe – but gelato should have a soft consistency – just like that ‘loose’ creamy homemade ice cream)

Thursday, April 7, 2011


A Musing


What if you saw that headline tomorrow?  Unemployment would skyrocket, people would lose their homes and homeless families would flood the streets, the economy would falter and life as we know it would be over.  Oh, right – that’s already happened because of the greed emanating out of Wall Street and corporate America.   

But what if, during this year’s Federal budget debacle, that headline really did appear in the news media around the country.  Anarchy?  I know, I know, if anarchy couldn’t take hold in the ‘60s, it certainly couldn’t happen in today’s climate.  Right?  Wrong. 

Times are hard for those not in the top 2% of income earners, and unemployment is higher than it’s been in decades.  Anger at government has become a national pastime.  So no one’s going to throw more than a million people out of work!  Right?  Wrong!  Just ask some members of Congress. 

More than one million Americans work for the “not-for-profit” arts industry and Congress wants to fire them as it stubbornly clings to that tax break for the wealthiest Americans.  Why?  Because the arts don’t help the economy, they say.  The arts don’t create jobs.  Rich people create jobs. Wrong!  History has proven over and over (and again during the last ten years of the Bush tax cuts) that the rich really just want to get richer. They don’t relish the idea of ‘sharing’ with the workers who made them rich.  If they did we wouldn’t have needed child labor laws, labor unions, work place safety laws, minimum wage laws… the EPA, the FDA, the SEC, etc., etc.   And the rich don’t believe they should share their riches with the country whose principles allowed them to get rich in the first place. Just ask G.E. They claim that living under the tax rate they had during the Reagan or Clinton administration would be a hardship. Ha!  But, I digress…

The truth is our deficit has ballooned and we do need serious budget cutting… So why care if the NEA is shut down?  NEA opponents state that they’re not taking away ‘life threatening’ services here.  It’s only some music, a little dancing, maybe paint.  Wrong!  Besides the more than one million people who would make unemployment skyrocket, making more families lose their homes, adding to the legions of homeless, that music, that dance, that paint helps create a person’s soul.  Without a soul, we aren’t human.  If we aren’t human, we won’t behave as humans.  If we don’t behave as humans…  anarchy! 

Critics say we’ll get all that stuff on TV or in school.  I don’t know where these critics live, but it’s not in the United States of America.  After the NEA is eliminated, PBS, the only non-cable network that consistently highlights the arts, would soon be unable to fund those programs even if they managed to stay on the air.  And forget about school arts programs unless you're in that favored 2% and can afford to send your kid to a private school.  Since most Congressmen/women graduated high school, art and music programs have all but disappeared from our public school system.  Budget cuts.

So what’s the bottom line?  If we cut off funding to the arts, then art will truly become the property of the elite – not the cultural elite or the intellectual elite, but the money elite – those men and women wealthy enough to buy subscriptions to the opera or the symphony or who can afford expensive theater and ballet tickets.  Those with that big tax break. 

The chasm between the haves and have nots, already escalating, will grow even wider and deeper.  With more and more children not being uplifted by the arts, challenged to think about the arts or soothed by the arts, crime will rise, membership in militias and gangs will go through the roof and the need to escape into a drugged stupor will become an American way of life. More and more money will be needed for more and more police and more and more jails.  But we won’t have the money and if we don’t have the money… anarchy.

Ah, but that’s what this budget cut will give us, right – more money?  Wrong!

The NEA’s yearly budget is less that 2/100th of 1% of the Federal budget (about 54 - 64 cents per American every year, depending on the spin).  Putting over a million people out of work will cost the tax payer a helluva lot more in unemployment benefits, tax revenue and healthcare, and will stifle economic recovery.  Frankly, 64 cents a year is a cheap price to save our country and our souls.

Friday, April 1, 2011

WAIT 'TIL NEXT YEAR - An Ode to Gil Hodges


An Ode to Gil Hodges

Yesterday was opening day and baseball is again on my TV screen.  Spring is in the air (well, summer here in LA – it was 90 degrees!), but it was cold and damp in New York and, as the Yankees played the Tigers, you could see the pitchers’ breath…

Ah, baseball in New York.  The game’s not the same for me since I moved to LA.  I no longer live minutes away from Shea (yeh, I know, Shea’s gone… but NuShea is right next door) and it’s harder to walk down memory lane and cling to the Mets as a substitute for Brooklyn in a town where baseball fans leave the stadium in the 7th inning to ‘beat the traffic’...even if it’s a tie game!!!  Really!!!  The LA Dodgers just don’t cut it for me.  I know the Dodger players didn’t betray me – the owners did – but it ain’t Dodger blue unless it’s Dodger blue in Brooklyn.

If you grew up in NY in the ‘50s and rooted for Brooklyn, “Wait ‘til next year” was your mantra.  It was a heartbreaking agony as I sat on my father's lap while he read aloud the sports pages … the pain of being a fan relived through the vivid prose of the sportswriter, back when sports writers still dabbled in “vivid.”

Finally, in l955, we were vindicated.  A miracle had happened!  “Next year” had come.  The aging Bums, led by Robinson, Snider Campanella, Reese and Hodges beat the Bronx Bombers.  My father’s Bums – my Bums – were champions of the world!  We Brooklyn fans went nuts.  We danced in the streets (literally), threw block parties (literally) and swam in ticker tape (not literally).  The sportswriters around the country vividly captured the glory and I was so enraptured by their writing, I didn’t know if I wanted to be a Dodger or write about them.  I wanted to run like Jackie and write like Red Smith.

Years later, after my father died, I thought how proud he would be to know that his beloved Duke, Pee Wee, Jackie, Roy and Gil were immortalized in the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Wait.  No Gil!!!  How frustrated he’d be that the quiet, talented, steady, solid, loyal Gil Hodges – the player who was NEVER booed in Ebbets Field – wasn’t with his teammates in the ‘Hall.’  I can still hear him whispering in my ear, “Don’t worry about first, honey, Gil’s there.  Like Coop in 'High Noon,' he’ll stand tall and never let you down.”

Now, I was a mere child when the Bums abandoned its fans for palm trees, but my love for the team has never subsided.  The Boys of Summer were my heroes.  I had all their baseball cards.  They were living legends – and every year after he was eligible, I waited for Gil to enter Cooperstown but, like so many baseball seasons of my childhood (except ’55), I re-entered a “wait ‘til next year” existence.  Am I ever going to see a ‘55 miracle again? 

A couple of years ago my hopes were heightened when Roger Kahn wrote about this injustice… but, as a Nathan’s hot dog was steaming on my stove that year, its spicy Coney Island smell making my mouth water as the new inductees’ names were announced, it became apparent that not even Kahn could convince the voters to let Gil in the “Hall.”  I was so heartbroken, I lost my appetite.

And here we are in 2011 and Gil is still forgotten.  Where was the man who revolutionized play at first base and, during his 18 year career, averaged 30 home runs and 100 RBIs for TEN consecutive years, had a lifetime batting average of .273, w/ 370 home runs--  the man who turned the “Amazin’ Mets” into world champions… the man who has schools named after him – even a bridge!!!  Where was Gil Hodges?!  It’s not fair!  How often does a girl have to say, “Wait ‘til next year?”

The Baseball Hall of Fame rules state that “voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”  Gil Hodges had all those qualities.  He was a man of character who exemplified what’s good about America – what’s good about us.  How can a player w/ so much ability to inspire such faith NOT be in the Hall?  As debates over Peter Rose still wage and debates that I’m sure will arise when all the ‘steroid-ed up’ home-run record breakers become eligible, I can only hope that next year’s voting panel remembers how much talent, class and integrity Gil Hodges brought to the game of baseball as a man and as a player.

Wait ‘til next year!