Saturday, October 29, 2005

...and the hits just keep on coming.

Dear Internet,

It's official, I've come down with something. Last night my sinuses began to act up to the extent my teeth hurt. So I was all stuffy and coughy and I began to run a fever. Silver lining: When you have a fever and start getting chills and start shivering and chattering your teeth (which already have that weird reflected-sinus pain thing) you don't notice the a/c is not working. So that was good.

Things are monumentally tedious ovah heah, but at least we saw some trucks from Duke Power (one of the borrowed crews) inching closer to us. So that could be good.

That's it for now,

-Joke

Posted by Joke at 4:29 PM 2 comments

Friday, October 28, 2005

Things, they sucketh mightily

Well, here it is, Friday. By today we were supposed to have landed at O'Hare, lunched with clients (while TFBIM shopped), had clients sign on the proverbial dotted line, had dinner with Poppy & TSMSM, had a great breakfast, gone shopping and maybe lunch with Poppy & TSMSM, gone to the Joffrey thing, had dinner with Poppy & TSMSM and her stellar pals and returned for a nightcap.

Instead, I am sitting in my car, idling in my driveway with about 50' of phone cord going from my laptop (conveniently connected to the cigarette lighter) to the phone jack in the kitchen. Having a so-so sandwich and wondering if, to top it all off, I'm coming down with something.

Fortunately, we have a generator so our food doesn't spoil, and enough gasoline and batteries and boxed milk and water and canned food and stuff. Yes, we're those people. Also fortunately, the malls are mostly open. Like during Katrina, the Nordstrom was hit and they were having yet another sale. So I grabbed a lot of Ike Behar (3) and Robert Talbott Protocol (4) shirts for a fraction of their $250 MSRP, and Robert Talbott (4) ties for a fraction of their $100 price tag. I nearly made off with a pair of killer Via Spiga for-real crocodile (or was it alligator?) opera pumps, but even at 75% off these weigh in at $650 and alligator (or was it crocodile?) is a bit too casual for opera pumps. They were also a D and not the E or EE I'd like. But still, a good day at the stores to partially make up for the doldrums.

The point is that even in spite of the amazing shopping, I'd rather be hanging out with Poppy in Chicago and having clients throw money at me.

Color me weird,

-J.

Posted by Joke at 8:52 PM 2 comments

Monday, October 24, 2005

Updated annoyances

Well, folks...the percentage of people w/o electricity in the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale stands at 98%. Miami International & Ft. Lauderdale International Airports are shut down at least through tomorrow (putting an important-ish bidnez trip in jeopardy). I had to grill pasta for dinner.

Fortunately the generator keeps the fridge running and the TV & DishNet satellite up so we can find out how 3rd Worldly we are. Normally, I'd pack up and head off to another chunk of the state (Naples, Key West, etc.) but there is nowhere to run to, at least for now. Blah. At least I have this blog to let people we're all safe and sound.

The damage from Wilma is on a much lower scale of intensity than from Katrina...BUT this covers 20x the area. Basically, a few trees down, a few houses damaged (mobile homes are targeted for abuse, yet again) and lots of branches and things on the road, and of course no power. Anywhere. It's evident how blacked out we are when you can see ALL the stars.

Blah.

-Joke, OK but astonishingly inconvenienced.

Posted by Joke at 9:06 PM 12 comments

Remain calm, all is (sorta) well

Wilma's come and gone. No major structural damage that we've noticed. Relatively dry hurricane, but WAY more windy than "our version" of Katrina. Fortunately, 90% of the things which would have gone ass over teakettle, already did during Katrina. Of course, power went out around 7:15am, and so did the DSL. Still windy and drizzly, so I can't quite get outside to get the generator a-generatin'. Which sucks. But it shan't suck forever. However 76% of Florida Power & Light's customers are without power and I have a nasty feeling most of those are in line ahead of us. Guesstimate for total power restoration is not pretty.

Still, we're all safe ovah heah.

-Joke, he of the Dark Ages.

Posted by Joke at 2:14 PM 4 comments

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Rebuttal

Poppy, whom I adore enough to put on the VERY restricted list of people who get a kidney or bone marrow no-questions-asked, has just posted a screed or diatribe on the matter of black tie events. Poppy and I may be (very) incompatible on politics, (mildly) incompatible on religion, (somewhat) incompatible on geography or music, but I can't get used to her blasphemous philippics.

Black tie events are, simply, the pinnacle of all human activities. They are only surpassed, in theory, by white tie events. The latter, in SoFla, means consular balls (oh, SHUSH Badger) so that is statistically insignificant.

To what extent do I love black tie? Ponder the numbers:

1 full-on tuxedo (DB)
1 dinner jacket (DB ivory linen)
1 pleated wing collar shirt
2 piqué front wing collar shirts
2 herringbone weave spread collar shirts
3 pleated spread collar shirts
1 pleated straight collar short (linen)
2 black bow ties
1 silver/black micro houndstooth bow tie, batwing shape
1 blackwatch tartan bow tie (these two are for"creative" black tie)
1 pair black patent bluchers
8 pairs of formal suspenders
3 sets studs/cufflinks
1 white piqué vest
1 charcoal nailhead vest
X formal socks
4 pocket watches (two inherited)

To say nothing of the black patent leather oxfords I am eyeballing, or the sterling stud/cufflink set, or the dark blackwatch dinner jacket or the black linen "formal" trousers I covet. So, basically, any event which allows me to give these raiments some airtime is to be applauded.

I specifically enjoy the summer SoFla events, because I can give the DB ivory linen dinner jacket some play. The contrast between the cool white of the shirt, the jet black of the silk tie and the creamy ivory of the dinner jacket is, simply, a killer look for me. Since the dinner jacket is the breakout item of the ensemble, I go simple with the trimmings. Plain gold disc studs with plain double-sided monogrammed gold disc cufflinks and plain gold pocket watch is just about the ideal look for me.

-J.

P.S. In the 20 min. it took to write this, we've had three serious wind gusts. Creepy.

Posted by Joke at 10:06 PM 3 comments

Oy.

I think I know what it feels like to be 80. It feels like I feel right now. For the last 36 hours I have been doing the hurricane schlep. Load up the generator and the auxiliary gas containers with fuel, shutter up ALL the windows (figure each window has several aluminum sheets weighing 40 lb each covering it) and do the same at my parents', since they are off on a trip to Santo Domingo.

Since this is autumn in SoFla, it means the temperatures and humidity were only in the high 80s. This means it took me well over 45 minutes to start sweating like OJ Simpson under oath. But the house is all boarded up and we have all our stuff and now we wait. Me, I'm waiting in a fully recumbent position, muttering under my breath at every slight muscular twinge and popping a cocktail of ibuprofen, acetaminophen and aspirin. pretty soon I'll start telling my kids how bad it was during the Depression.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 3:09 PM 6 comments

Just some random things

Dear Internet,

Very rarely do I do something truly, spectacularly boneheaded. I did last night. After a long episode of boarding up, I was--once again--trying to convince That Fabulous Babe I Married that we have the fancy schmancy "impact resistant windows." During the boardin' up process, I had POUNDED the panes with a hammer at full force and nothin'. So, anyway, to make the point I rapped (far less forcefully than one would with, say, a hammer) on a pane on the kitchen window as I was mentioning this to her and...you guessed it, it shattered into eleventy gazillion shards. The drawback to this is not only the cleanup and needing to fix the windowpane, but TFBIM now thinks of me as having the IQ of a medium-sized bucket and every pronouncement I have ever made, from our first meeting at a Halloween party in 1986 until last night, is held in the deepest suspicion.

We're almost done with hurricane prep heah. We have fuel for the generator, we have the impact resistant windows all boarded up and now all we have left to do is put up the aluminum shutters.

Which leads to monumental boredom. So I go off on eBay to look for the things I want for Christmas and nobody seems to figure out. Part of the problem of being me is that the sorts of things I like are rarely found in the Anglosphere part of eBay. This means a lot of time spent at freetranslation.com since, invariably, most of the sellers who have what I want are in Austria or France. Then, of course is begging these sellers to ship to the USA, something which averages 20 euro and, as a consequence, is thoughtto be utter madness by the Franco-Germanic eBay community.

The nice thing about the European eBayers is that they almost never, ever, ever have a reserve price. The bad thing is that, UK eBayers aside, they hardly ever take payment other than a wire transfer, which automatically adds $49 to the price of something, and sometimes more, as a banks in Italy routinely take an incoming transfer fee, so you have to pile on more than you meant. It's OK if you got a steal in the first place (like, say, a super-rare solid mahogany steering wheel in mint shape that ends up costing 1/3 of what it should, even after you add these bizarro charges) but all the nickel-and-dime stuff gives me a headache.

The only thing about eBay that drives me mental is the stuff that you didn't realize lived so far upslope on the supply/demant curve. A couple of sports cars ago, I wanted a new gas cap, since the one I had had a slight, nearly invisible, hairline crack. Someone on eBay had such a thing, mint-in-box, with keys. The starting price was $1. So, to make sure I'd win the auction I set my bidding software (the kind that logs in to eBay and bids for you at the last second) for a sum I thought was completely ridiculous:$100. After all, the price for this part, back when it was being sold at dealerships everywhere not that long ago, was $12. So I went to bed, all smug. When I woke up to check up on my triumph, I was crestfallen to see the hammer price was $376. For a GAS CAP. Not that I was willing to pony up that kind of coin, but still, damn.

So that's what I do when I have to wait day after day for a hurricane that may or may not hit us.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 7:02 AM 4 comments

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Thanksgiving 101 - The Salad

To get my mind off the fact I spent an entire morning boarding up, here is the next episode in a stress-free Thanksgiving.

Watercress/Bacon/Granny Smith salad

As usual, do not obsess over exact measurements and times unless otherwise directed.

4-6 strips really good bacon (as usual, I like Nueske's)
4 large bunches watercress, about 2 lb. total, stemmed and separated
1/2 tsp. salt, plus more as needed
3 Tbs. apple cider vinegar and/or lemon juice
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper, plus more as needed
3 small, ripe but firm Granny smith apples

1- Julienne the bacon. In a small saucepan cook over low heat until VERY crisp but not burned. Remove to drain and reserve 5 tbsp. of the bacon drippings (if you need to augment, you should use peanut oil) and allow them to cool somewhat; you want the drippings to be "warm to the touch."

2- Peel and core apples. Dice or julienne (big or small, depending how rustic or frou-frou you want this to be) them and put in a bowl with a bit of extra lemon juice or vinegar and JUST enough water to cover (this will prevent discoloration).

3- In a large bowl, place the watercress and drizzle with the bacon drippings and toss. Sprinkle the 1/2 tsp. salt over the watercress and toss again. Add the bacon and vinegar/lemon and the 1/2 tsp. pepper and toss well. Add apple bits and toss again. Taste and correct the salt and pepper.

OPTIONAL: Sprinkle some crumbled blue cheese (I like Maytag blue) and/or crushed nut (walnut/hazelnut/almond, etc.) bits.

You may also substitute frisee or mache for the watercress.

-Joke

Posted by Joke at 4:43 PM 2 comments

Thursday, October 20, 2005

What Poppy is missing from her playlist

Rob Zombie & The Ghastly Ones - Halloween (She Gets So Mean)
The Busboys - Cleanin' Up The Town [Ghostbusters Soundtrack]
The Reverend Horton Heat - The Devil's Chasing Me
Gene Vincent - Race With The Devil
The Reverend Horton Heat - The Halloween Dance
Oingo Boingo - Dead Man's Party
Southern Culture On The Skids - Sinister Purpose
Los Straitjackets - Munsters Theme
Danse Macabre
B-52's - Devil in My Car
Ramones - Pet Sematary
March to the Scaffold (from Symphonie fantastique)
Bomboras - A Fistful Of Terror
Southern Culture On The Skids - Werewolf
Satan's Pilgrims - Gravewalk
Frenchy - Ribcage Mambo
In the Hall of the Mountain King (from Peer Gynt)
Rocket From The Crypt - I Drink Blood
Amazing Crows - Little Demon
Pandemonium (from The Damnation of Faust)
Swingin' Neckbreakers - No Costume, No Candy
Born Losers - Werewolves On Wheels
Deadbolt - Psychic Voodoo Doll
Ghastly Ones - Banshee Beach
Theme from Psycho (Bernard Herrman)
Dead Elvi - The Creature Stole My Surfboard
David Allan and the Phantom Surfers - Extrasensory Deception
Legendary Invisible Men - Spooks Night Out
Funeral March of a Marionette

Now you know.

-Joke

Posted by Joke at 1:24 PM 10 comments

Thanksgiving 101 - The Soup

This here is the world-famous "Endless Carrot Soup." I posted a more overview-ish recipe a while back, but this will likely be the variation--of the endless variations, hence the name--possible with this soup. As you pore over the measurements and times keep in mind this is pretty freehand, measure-by-eyeballing stuff, so don't get all hung up on the exact thing written.

1 large onion or two medium leeks (white & pale green parts only)
2T butter or rendered bacon drippings (or a combination)
2t smoked paprika
2 cloves garlic
1 lb. carrots
2 c. chicken stock

Sauté the (roughly diced) onion or leeks (cleaned well) in the butter or bacon drippings. Cook for a long time (15 minutes at least) over medium heat, just to "sweat" then slightly caramelize. Add paprika and garlic and cook for a couple minutes longer. Add carrots, peeled and sliced. Continue to saute for another 5 minutes (ideally, you want to caramelize a bit of the carrot). Add stock to cover by an inch, and cook for 20 minutes at a steady simmer, until carrots are tender.

Here is the tricky bit! This soup tastes better made a 2-3 days before so you should stop here, and allow it to cool. Cool soup will be much easier to puree in a regular blender (pureeing hot soups in blenders will be slow or explosive or both) until the soup is smooth. You can, of course, use a food mill, food processor, or a hand blender but nothing beats the regular blender for smoothness. After pureeing, which can be a couple of days before, bring back to a simmer and season with salt--be careful if you used commercial chicken stock!!!--and pepper to taste.

Ladle into bowls or tureen and finish soup with some creme fraiche (or cream or sour cream) swirled all pretty-like to the tune of about 1T per bowl and a sprinkling of crumbled bits of bacon and/or minced leek tops (the medium green parts, the "ashy" green parts are mostly useless) or chives.

There ya go. Stress-free, make-ahead and stunningly delicious. Good for ya, too.

-J.

P.S. You can use scallions or shallots in place of the onions and SHARPLY seasoned, homemade croutons are also good. (Croutons in the box are best left there.)

Posted by Joke at 8:02 AM 2 comments

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Thanksgiving 101 - The Syllabus

OK.

To get my mind off this dumbass Hurricane Wilma thing, I hereby begin my series on Thanksgiving--my absolute fave holiday, in case you missed it--by running down my menu. Be warned. This is a foodie menu. For foodies, by as inveterate a foodie as can be found. There will be no tolerance for stuffing from boxes, broth from cartons, condiments from cans or vegetables from the freezer. If your idyllic, mind's-eye Thanksgiving calls for Tater-Tots(R), cranberry jelly still holding the shape of the can in which you purchased it, or some indifferent, particleboard, factory-raised turkey riddled with hormones and phosphates...if that's what you prefer, then go on to the next blog.

You have been warned.

The Menu this year is:
1- "Endless carrot" soup
2- Watercress/bacon/Granny Smith salad
3- Herbed roast turkey
4- Whipped Yukon Gold potatoes
5- For Real turkey-roast garlic gravy
6- Sausage & cornbread dressing/stuffing (I prefer it as dressing, you salmonella whores do whatever you want)
7- Cranberry-orange chutney
8- Sauteed pearl onions with green beans
9- Pecan-maple pie
10- Pumpkin creme brulee

To drink: Sam Adams Cranberry Lambic and/or 2002 Rosenblum "Contra Costa" Zinfandel (red, not that unspeakably vile and saccharine pink stuff)

Everything, save for the turkey, can be made ahead (or substantially so), so there will also be little drama here.

I might even dredge up pictures to show you how and what.

As you were,

-J.

Posted by Joke at 6:48 PM 4 comments

His 15 minutes of fame are up

Well, Numbah One Son just saw his picture on the blog and said:

"I don't want to be famous."

Then he came back and said: "When I grow up I want to be rich, but not famous." Pause. "Well, maybe medium-famous. Like on a magazine, but not on the internet."

-J.

Posted by Joke at 3:37 PM 0 comments

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

As you can see, Poppy was right.

Here is Numbah One Son, at his 1st Holy Communion in May (amazing how much he has changed in only 5 months). Notice the snazzy DB blazer and the pocket square. The white tie and crucifix are school issue stuff, so there was not much choice there. Not pictured are the RL Polo suspenders (dark burgundy with jacquard-woven "Polo Bears" wearing little blazers and that sort of thing.

The trousers? Cuffed and forward pleated. Black tassel loafers, too.

I'll try to find more mini-me pix of me and those whom I've begotten, resplendent in classic gentlemen's finery.

-J.

P.S. Look at the picture on the right. The hand on NOS's shoulder belongs to Sister R., who is telling our young hero to get--and keep--his hand out of his pocket.

Posted by Joke at 9:22 AM 8 comments

Monday, October 17, 2005

Hear me now and believe me later.

Dear Internet,

As you all know full well, Thanksgiving is nearly upon us. For those of you who have been around me a while you will know that Thanksgiving is my absolute, tippy-top, hands-down favorite holiday.

So, because I am grateful for you guys* reading my random musings, I will post my absolutely foolproof, flawless, grand slam, utterly stressfree Thanksgiving recipes. I might even share with you my ultra-secret source for the Numbah One Turkey to roast.

You're totally welcome,

-Joke

* Well, those are not the only things for which I thank God, but you get the idea.

Posted by Joke at 2:31 PM 3 comments

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Intensive Retail Therapy [REVISED]

Well, today my lovely and gracious wife had yet another meeting at which she is indispensable. Having come off a rough week and with an ache to burn off excess adrenalin and shake off the parasympathetic hangover. I took the lads and went shopping. There were several end-of-summer sales, and I went through them like a scythe.


First, Nordstrom. All the Tommy Bahama shirts were 75% off, so I grabbed 4 of them. The pic on the left shows the pattern better, the one on the right is more accurate, colorwise. For the record, it was Mr. Poppy who got me started on Tommy Bahama shirts, not that he knows he did. Then we hit Brooks Brothers. Linen blue-on-white check camp shirt and a brick silk camp shirt with a nautical blueprint thing.
Bass boys' white bucks were EIGHT bucks. One pair per kid, in the size they'll be next summer.
Yes, I know. Still, this is my ABSOLUTE favorite Christmas special, and the CDs were $5 each.
Williams-Sonoma (my private toy store) was having a serious clearance. Above is a Wusthof knife rollup for carrying, some knives in discontinued sizes, a Microplane "fine" grater, a for-real sushi knife and cutting board protector mats.
Here are several Calphalon bits (omelet pan, saucepot, stockpot with pasta strainer) as well as some sauces (China Blue sesame-soy-chile and "something scallion") and oils (O lime infused EVOO and lemon infused EVOO) and junk (sherry vinegar and balsamic vinegar). (Not shown: Calphalon pie plate.) All on sale. The O infused oils normally go for $20 a bottle! (These were $4.99)
Bisetti salt mill (left) and pepper mill (right). Silicone trivets/potholders.

Not shown: Boys jeans (1 pr.ea.) from the Polo store.

More later,

-J.


Posted by Joke at 11:58 PM 4 comments

Friday, October 14, 2005

Retail therapy

People of the Internet,

As I was taking inventory of my suitings and shirtings and the like, I was struck--as I often am--by the things which I am missing. The one thing I currently recall I am desperately missing is a dressy pink shirt.

I ask for little: modest spread collar of moderate length, double french cuffs, diamond-shaped monogram (in the same pink) above the left elbow and the cuff joining the sleeve via a near-endless arrangement of teeny-tiny pleats, as opposed to the more prosaic tapering or the merely adequate two-or-three larger pleats.

Having the sort of mentality that abhors a gap in the wardrobe, I pulled the trigger. Taking an extended lunch, I sauntered to The New Shirt Place (name withheld pending review), was treated to a pretty decent espresso and handed a pleasingly hefty book of swatches.

I opted for a MTM* shirt for the following reasons:
1- I'm just trying this place out for the first time
2- The coin for MTM was a lot more reasonable than the price of custom
3- Delivery time was shorter (no baste fitting or patternmaking required)
4- Minimum order size is one vs. three for custom

At any rate, I chose a light-ish sort of pink royal oxford (120s on the warp and 140s on the woof, IIRC). The measurement process was simple enough.
  • Neck
  • Both sleeves (natch)
  • Yoke
  • Chest
  • Shoulder drop
  • Torso
  • Cuffs and
  • "Sweep."
Stylewise, it's a spread (lower neckband than the "British spread") collar, double french cuffs, proper monogram (suitably hidden as per above), regular placket, no pocket and back side pleats. Should be ready in 3 weeks and should look like this:

(Ignore the hideous tie knot and cufflinks)

Stay tuned. -J.

*Made To Measure, for you new kids

Posted by Joke at 11:45 PM 6 comments

Back on a foodie kick

Dear Internet,

Since yesterday sucked--and it sucked because it sucked, not because I was busy accomplishing nothing for 10 hours--I had to vent and the way I release stress is by Stress Cooking. More on that in a second.

First, you simply must know about this website, just the very thing for hip, semi-urban foodies. Yes, it's very NYC-centric, but still, click here: http://www.gothamist.com/archives/food/eating_in/index.php

Okay, having gotten that out of the way, here is what we had for dinner last night, just the three of us, since TFBIM was at yet another of the meetings at which she is indispensable.

Mind you, this sort of thing has become more routine since we got this gizmo for my KitchenAid mixer:

With it I've been able to not worry about my lack of that third, Zaphod Beeblebrox -like arm. I just crank Ye Olde Kitchen-Aide and I goeth.

Anyway, here's the grand recipe, ideal for an early fall.

Fettuccine* Amatriciana

The Pasta Part:

3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I like King Arthur's Pasta Blend)
4 extra-large eggs (I use free-range organic eggs)
1 Tablespoon of EVOO (optional)
½ teaspoon sea salt (fine crystal size, for regular salt use ¼ tsp.)

Mound the flour in the center of your KitchenAid mixer's bowl (if you have one, otherwise use a food processor or, for that grandma-in-a-hill-town-outside-Bologna touch, a large wood cutting board). Add your eggs (if doing this on a board, make a dent in the middle of the flour and use a fork) and using the "paddle" mix together the eggs. (You manualists start to mix the flour from the inner rim of the well. The trick is not to break the "levee" of flour.) The pasta dough will start to take form around the time half the flour has been mixed in.

Start kneading the dough (luddites, use the palms of your hands). Add more flour, ½ cup at a time, if the dough seems too damp and sticky. The moment the dough sticks to itself but nothing else, stop adding flour and keep on kneading for another 3 minutes. (technophobes, you may need to add a dusting of flour here and there...do not panic) Pasta dough should be elastic and "tacky" but not all sticky. Continue to knead for 3 minutes more. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and set aside for 20 minutes at room temperature. Flatten and run through the roller (real primitive-types use a rolling pin) and then run through the cutting attachment. Shake and rattle the fettuccine as you mound them, so they don't stick to themselves, since the cut edges are moister and stickier. Let dry as you prepare the sauce.

The Sauce Part:

¼ lb guanciale (pork jowls cured like prosciutto), diced, or you could use pancetta (naturale or affumicata) but I use the latter which is really nothing more than really great bacon. I prefer Nueske's (waves to Poppy) applewood-smoked, which is the least smoky. Avoid any maple stuff.
4 cloves garlic
1 yellow onion, diced
¼-½ teaspoons red pepper flakes
Salt and black pepper to taste
14 oz. crushed tomatoes, I like the Italian brand Pomi.

In a large-ish skillet (this will need to hold all the sauce AND the pasta) or saucepan, put the bacon/pancetta/guanciale over medium heat and cook over medium heat until crisp. Add the red pepper, stir for just a second or two, then the onion, THEN the garlic. When the onion has reached the nirvana-like state of translucence, add the tomatoes and increase the heat to medium high. Cook to reduce by about 20%-25%, or just enough to cook out the watery nature of the tomatoes. Set aside.

The Home Stretch:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a good 2 tablespoons of salt and then toss in the pasta. Fresh pasta will take NO TIME TO COOK. The nanosecond the pasta floats aggresively (i.e. all the fettuccine fight each other for surface time), drain--reserve some pasta water--and toss in the sauce. Coat the pasta well and if it looks dry, add a ladleful of pasta water. Serve immediately (fresh pasta waits for nobody) into warmed bowls. Grate fresh pecorino (romano is the most popular, but I marginally prefer toscano).

It looks like this:
http://www2.worldpub.net/images/18_125_40006323.jpg

Serve with a large glass of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo.

-J.

* Yes, it's s'posed to be bucatini...sue me



Posted by Joke at 8:41 AM 7 comments

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Today? REVISED

Sucked.

A client with whom I had worked to put together a project called at 1st crack to piss and moan about wanting to back out because he hadn't gotten some paperwork from the other guy involved in the project. He had a point, it had been ages he had been waiting. But the other guy HAD sent the papers, only Guy A was tired of waiting.

I spent the entire day schlepping between offices and putting out fires.

The problem is that both of these guys are Very Accomplished Talkers and after official business is concluded, they start flying off on tangents about their (seriously!) collection of vintage casino ashtrays or their trip to México or whatever...

So I finally got home around 6ish, having spent, literally 90 minutes at my desk. Do you think I accomplished anything useful? Me either.

Blah.

-J.

Explanatory note: The problem was NOT how long my day was. My problem was that I had to handle a lot of stress (like, say, a major project collapsing) pretty much on the fly--and I'm blessed to be able to do so pretty well--for the whole day AND by doing so I was able to accomplish exactly nothing at the office. The number of hours itself is irrelevant. I never realized I had made a complete mess of what I intended to say until BB mentioned it.

Posted by Joke at 9:55 PM 8 comments

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Like Navin Johnson*

...I'm somebody!

Many of you will recall my recent entry related to a certain menswear site and a new column I'd be writing regularly there. Well, it came out.

Wow.

When I checked this morning, I had 439 emails. Like, say, 30 of them involved something vaguely related to my naughty bits and 40 had to do with PayPal or eBay spoofs. So that leaves 439 - 30 - 40 = um, a LOT of emails on the matter of my column. My other blog's readership has reacted the way the spam emails suggest my naughty bits would if I applied their Ancient Phoenician Naughty Bits Lotion.

Yikes.

I wonder if there is money in this?

-J.

* Steve Martin's character in The Jerk

Posted by Joke at 9:00 AM 9 comments

Monday, October 10, 2005

Stats! (Blackbird gave me the idea...)

I started this blog ten months ago.

I have written 261 posts.

I have uploaded 181 pictures.

The photo of the car that sucks has been viewed 94 times.

The photos from the What Are You Wearing Today FPM have been viewed 458 (!) times.

I usually have about 253* (!) readers.

94% of them are from North America. 5% are from the United Kingdom.

About 15 or so feel comfortable enough to comment on a somewhat regular basis.

Now you know.

-Joke

* You guys snuck up on me. Hi. Welcome.

Posted by Joke at 8:20 AM 8 comments

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Life is good, or at least, good-ish.

Just back from dinner at one of those Very High End restaurants, the kind with multiple James Bear Awards on the walls. No, it was not earth-shatteringly good, but it was pretty damned good. Like, B+ good.

The menu is one of those with things like "soft-shell crab dusted in Haitian grits and pan fried, served over a plantain timbale with a guava and balsamic reduction." Which was my appetizer. My main dish was a double cut grilled (organic) veal chop with a panela/lime/soy glaze and coconut-ginger jasmine rice.

We went because it was my BiL's wife's birthday and also my wife's best friend's husband's birthday. (Flowchart upon request.)

There was wine. The wine was good and only 3x the cost of retail. So we had several bottles, just the eight of us. For dessert, I ordered the mocha pot-de-creme, and an espresso. The point of all this is that I the wine (Steele 2003 Pinot Noir) was good and I had more than my share of it.

-Joke

Posted by Joke at 6:46 AM 2 comments

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Precisely the sort of idiotic thing which amuses me

http://www.theflaneur.co.uk/

-Joke

Posted by Joke at 10:29 AM 0 comments

JokeBlog JukeBox

Playing (I've set my WinBook to "random") as I read up on my assorted blogs:

Joan Jett & The Blackhearts - Bad Reputation
Donald Fagen - Tomorrow's Girls
Haircut 100 - Love Plus One
Kim Carnes - Crazy In The Night

Donald Fagen - Bright Lights, Big City
Josie Cotton - License To Dance
Madness - One Step Beyond
Divinyls - Pleasure & Pain
Donald Fagen - Shanghai Confidential
The Boo Radleys - There She Goes
They Might Be Giants - Birdhouse In Your Soul
Donald Fagen* - True Companion
M.I.A. - California Dreamin'
Linkin Park - Breakin' The Habit
Kim Wilde - Kids In America
The Offspring - Hit That

-Joke

* Yes, I like Donald Fagen. What? Shaddup.

Posted by Joke at 9:05 AM 2 comments

Friday, October 07, 2005

I'm a grocery sIut, I admit it.

OK.

I know I'm deranged. You probably think I am deranged. Well, I'm going to explain to you why your hunch, as regards my insanity, is correct.

I now shop for foodstuffs--regularly--at FOUR separate places. One is one of them warehouse clubs, where I buy things like Raisin Bran by the silo, crates of San Pellegrino, half-wheels of imported Parmigiano-Reggiano, prosciutto from San Daniele, real Italian pasta and (believe it or else) many of my fave wines. (I also buy pallet loads of batteries, drums of kid's bath gel, and columns of paper towels, etc.)

The next place I shop is "the regular supermarket." This is where I go and get things such as rice, assorted pulses, whatever the Hell bizarro cereal my kids are into this month, ice cream and the like. No, I don't shop at Wal-Mart. Not because totally unbiased and perfectly objective websites with names like www.WalMartIsSatanicAndTotallyEvil.com tell me to avoid it on the perfectly sensible grounds they offer to pay immigrants $0.23 an hour and, instead, strap them to a Catherine Wheel and zap them in the nuts--regardless of whether they have any!--with a cattle prod as they abjure collective bargaining; or because Wal-Mart fuckin' censors, man, by not carrying things they don't feel like but www.WalMartIsFuckingShreddingTheBillOfRights.com thinks they should. No, I avoid Wal-Mart because their selection is dreck, they are not so damned cheap and it's too damned far.

Next is my upmarket supermarket. In this place I buy a lot of poultry, live shrimp (yes!) and other crustaceans, bizarro beers, pretty excellent wines, the better sorts of artisanal pasta*, interesting and authentic ethnic ingredients, artisanal breads and organic produce.

The last place is the Hoity-Toity food shop. This is the one spot where even a not-overburdened plastic grocery bag will have resulted in a $50 hole in your wallet. I go to get only the stuff I cannot find anywhere else. "O" Lime (or Lemon) Infused EVOO? Got it. Tiny Trapeze Organic Marshmallows? Yep. REAL fresh** pasta? Uh huh. Sun-dried tomato paste? Callebaut Cocoa Powder? Sure! Organic NON-ultra pasteurized milk? Hell, yeah. Prime beef? Of course. 7 different varieties of garlic? Absolutely? This is like a small, self-contained Whole Foods/Wild Oats (both of which are too far away). They even have an actual Japanese sushi chef making stuff right there with unbelievably fresh fish. Actually, the fishmonger guy is another Japanese guy who gets mad if you ask for anything that wasn't swimming a half-hour ago and his accent gets more impenetrable the more rattled he gets. They also have killer to-go lunches.

So how does this work out, in practical terms? Glad you asked. I'll give you an example.

Tonight for dinner we had grilled shrimp and pasta. The shrimp were live shrimp, and the heads/shells all went to make a killer seafood stock for another application another day. I basted them with Lemon-infused EVOO, a mix of dried herbs (marjoram, oregano, thyme), black pepper, sea salt and a bit of hardneck garlic (I like the purple skinned ones). The pasta was a black (i.e., squid-ink) spaghetti, the sauce made of organic, aseptic Italian tomatoes, sharp EVOO, Gaeta olives, red pepper flakes, organic "Italian Flat" onions (i.e. cipolle, albeit grown in GA), and anchovy paste (the good stuff...what? Shaddup, Duane).

When my wife sees me at this she always has that look of "Well, boil the pasta in Evian, why don't you?" but seeing as how in 12+ years of marriage she has yet to cook her first meal, I suspect she keeps her counsel. None of this could have been made the way I would prefer if I hadn't shopped at all four stores. The lucky thing for me was that I stopped one day at the Hoity Toity food emporium, out of desperation, mostly. My upmarket supermarket had just been remodeled and a lot of my favorite products and brands (say, Flora sun-dried tomatoes in EVOO) just up and disappeared. Some I haven't been abe to replace, but most I have. Sure, now they cost a lot more, because the Hoity Toity place has hoity-toity rents and no economies of scale, but there you are.

-Joke

* We love pasta. Bugger off Atkins.
** Fresh meaning "made that day" and only from organic flour and organic eggs.

Posted by Joke at 10:40 PM 4 comments

The JokeFest Committee

According to the ancient Biblical scrolls and my Official Disney Swiss Army Watch, we're only about 6 months away from JokeFest2006. So, while I wait for the world's longest fax to finish decimating my paper and toner supplies, I thought I would do something useful and that is, post the requirements, duties and whatnots of the JokeFest2006 Committee.

I was going to beg Poppy to chair this committee, since she's an experienced hand at this, but JokeFest is almost certain to provide her with inadequate stress and therefore this offer will be an insult to her very finely honed sensibilities. After all, there are no sponsors to tap, no talent to coordinate, no bizarro catering demands to be met (well, there are a couple of JokeFestians who have some moderate food issues), no meetings to be held for the purposes of berating other committe members whose sole ambition is to appear on the program and, finally, no tickets to sell.

This would be like barging into Alan Greenspan's office to ask what we ought do with that savings bond our friends I & M sent when NTS was born. So y'see what I'm sayin'.

At any rate, here is what needs to be done for JokeFest:

1- Write down the application for an invitation to attend JokeFest. (C)
2- Determine the schedule of events for the weekend before and the weekend after and the actual birthday itself. (These events usually entail: a welcome reception for out-of-towners, the party, a thank-you brunch for out-of-town attendees, a driving tour for my fellow car geeks, some sort of birthday dinner, and maybe an after-party.) (C)
3- Determine the contents (and print them out) of the JokeFest registration packet. (C)
4- Stuff the above into envelopes, in anticipation of mailing labels. (J)
5- Decide on a design for the T-shirts (C)
6- Get the assorted goodies that belong in the goody bags. (Get goody bags, too). (J)
7- Print up maps and suggest airfare and lodging options for out of town attendees. (J)
8- Keep most of my wife's friends at bay, or at worst, segregate them to the lesser of the two parties (as yet to be determined). (J)
9- Plan menus for all events, which involves kitchen planning and/or catering, if the numbers get unwieldy, or if we go do this somewhere off-site. (J)
10- Get decorations for the two main themes (one for each weekend) (J)
11- Ponder the JokeFest gift registry (relax, it's invariably weird-yet-cool but cheap stuff) (J)
12- Update the JokeFest website (haven't touched it since...um...last JokeFest) (J)

(J) = Joke
(C) = Committee

The one thing that is always a potential for...well, I don't know exactly what, but something is if people's schedules front- or back-load the guest list. That is if hardly anyone can attend on one weekend but almost everyone can attend the other weekend...that will cause some back-to-the-drawing-board meetings. The last time we had a Big Deal JokeFest, the attendees neatly divided almost exactly in half, but that cannot be relied to continue.

Now, if everyone can make it for one weekend, then that makes matters simpler (although, not easier). The night mare scenario is to have something like a 25%-75% split.

So that's where we are right now.

-Joke

P.S. Hotwire.com has the following lodging options:

**** Condo (I guesstimate this to be the Ritz-Carlton in Coconut Grove) for $145/night
**** Suite (I guesstimate this to be The Biltmore) for $166/night
*** Hotel Room (I guesstimate this to be The Mayfair) for $55!

Posted by Joke at 10:30 AM 3 comments

It's not all giant snakes eating giant alligators and vice-versa...

Well, well, well. At the end of my Week From Hell I have the possibility of a weekend of irony (and rum) soaked Cheez-O-Rama Tiki fun.

It turns out that there is this old Trader Vic's-like place up (down, for most of you) in Fort Lauderdale called the Mai-Kai. I thought it had closed ages ago, but: 1- Either I was wrong (Hell, even I make mistakes) or 2- They reopened or something and never bothered telling me.

I was there all of once, in the early 1970s, when some Official Hula Dancer dragged me up on stage (I must have been 9 or 10) to get me to hula and otherwise shake my then-Tiny Bubbles. But the memory of that otherwise fun night, when I got my drink (some sort of tropical juice thing, IIRC) served in a ceramic vessel that Looked. Just. Like. A. Coconut! has stayed with me. The idea of going back strikes me as hilariously fun, slumming of the very best sort.

Mind you, I am still on the verge of collapsing after I wrap up this paperwork project thing and finally settling down to enjoy a lovely sore throat and coughing and sneezing and purulent rhinitis over the weekend. But if by some miracle, I do get back up to 100% (possibly by rounding up), I will check the thing out and report back. Which strikes me as eminently fair.

Why, if I do get to go and if it does turn out to be halfway decent fun, I may schedule one of the events of the weeklong JokeFest2006 thereat. Maybe the Friday Night Welcome Reception. (I'm riffing offa Poppy's suggestion that we all pile into airplanes and go to LV, NV for Viva Las Vegas! which usually sorta-coincides with JokeFest, to provide that neo-retro ironic-wacky fun. I promise that 2006 will be The End for the irony, though. 2007 will be the Year of the Snob.) That's as far as I have gotten in my thinking on this, though...and I can't guarantee I have been thinking clearly.

-Joke

P.S. Check out what started this off: http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/entertainment/12830278.htm

Posted by Joke at 8:38 AM 2 comments

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Don't ask me why I did this, but...

Today I had, for the first time in YEARS, "regular" (i.e., brewed) coffee. This will serve me as a reminder why I stick with espresso. OMG is there water in brewed coffee! I have--and maybe this is just all the workload and cold meds typin' heah--taken it upon myself to turn the USA into a coffee culture that turns its back on brewed coffee. Yes, this will not be overnight.

Still, decent espresso, thanks to eBay, needn't be the exclusive province of Starbux or its ilk. For under $100 you can get something that will set you up and last eons and produce delicious espresso/cappuccino and caffé latte. I wouldn't go with anything that requires pods because then you're tied to the pod-seller for coffee and that can get expensive, fast.

I like Saeco. It's an Italian brand (duh) and really ridiculously cheap. Even their very cheapest pump (NOT STEAM) driven machines will dazzle you with caffeinated goodness that actually tastes like something, as opposed to brown water borne of the accidental collision of indifferent beans and too much water in an unsympathetic contraption.

Then you can get some cool espresso cups (notice I have kindly provided you with an illustration to help you select) and then go and sit outside, under a Campari or Cinzano umbrella, reading Figaro or La Gazzetta dello Sport wondering when your Vespa will get out of the shop or whether you should have saltimbocca or stracotto for dinner.

-Joke

Posted by Joke at 12:30 PM 2 comments

More happy place thinking

For the record, these are all from a very talented artist (& cookbook author) Leslie Forbes. She had written a cookbook called A Table In Tuscany and it was reissued by Barnes & Noble, and these were postcards they sent to people to alert them of book signings. A friend of TFBIM's SiL (I'll draw you guys some kind of a speciala flow chart if needed) was/is the manager at one of these and she saved them, which is impressive seeing as how there are a LOT of these, too.
So, anyway, seeing as how I feel like shredded Hell and how I have a whole bunch of work ahead of me, I am deep in My Happy Place.

-Joke

Posted by Joke at 8:43 AM 0 comments

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

It is! It IS one of those weeks!

1- I wrapped up a long-ass client thing at 9:30pm!
2- I'm getting a cold. I have a sore throat and I still have a lot of annoying stuff to grind out this week.

Blah.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 11:26 PM 0 comments

Why, despite all the hurricanes and heat and humidity, I can't move away from SoFla

http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/12820947.htm

-J.

Posted by Joke at 11:25 PM 0 comments

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Oy. One of these weeks.

Dear Internet,

I started having "one of those weeks." I may have to retreat to my Happy Place, so's ya know. And, so you don't feel slighted, here is a doodle (no, not anything I doodled) of my happy place*, to which, if the good Lord's willin' and the creek don't rise, we'll be traveling for summer 2006. If things work out REALLY well, we might even buy a little piede-in-terra there.

Your Pal,

-Joke

* The Italian wine country, BTW. This the part where they make Brunello. Which is yummy.

Posted by Joke at 10:19 AM 5 comments

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Scary Porno Spam

I was just looking through my emails when I spotted one that made, boldly, a particularly lewd and explicit declaration. Normally those are all jettisoned, like all those involving cheerleaders who want to apply a vacuum cleaner to some rooster they--quite erroneously, I assure you--believe I own.

But this one had the first name of one of my very, very best pals. I am very pleased to note the note was purely a coincidence and my friend was in no way related to the spammer. Besides, if it HAD been my pal, I think I could have had that $9.95/month thing waived.

-Joke, still rattled

Posted by Joke at 5:00 PM 9 comments

Saturday, October 01, 2005

No, really.

Because we have started our post-Katrina fixing up for real, I had to rejigger stuff so the electrical contractor could work on the serious-ass rewiring we needed. That being done, I was able to move stuff back an I discovered someone had given me this cookbook, probably as a gag, 7-8 years ago.

I was going to toss it when I saw the recipes were by "Jack Bishop" who was NOT one of the Rat Pack, in case you wondered. This guy is an editor at Cook's Illustrated and that is sufficient for any foodie to give the book at least one serious pass.

So I looked it over and the recipes ARE GREAT. Not pretty good for some fan-book thing, good on their own. In fact, the artichoke dip/spread thing is so good you could eat a phone book with it. The recipes are all accessible, delicious, (usually) quick and easy to follow. The layout of the book is VERY distracting, but otherwise this thing is a hidden gem. I will issue the following endorsement: This is the best starter cookbook and the best "little bit of everything" cookbook I have ever seen for anyone past 10th grade.

Get it, it's probably cheap as dirt on eBay and on the used sections of BN.com and Amazon.com or your friendly neighborhood used bookstore.

-Joke

Posted by Joke at 10:19 PM 2 comments