Thursday, November 13, 2014


I was at a nearby Farmers Market t’other Sunday and there was a stall selling  mushrooms, and they had baskets of mixed mushrooms – and I’m a sucker for good mushrooms and at the other Farmers Market that I sometimes go to there’s a guy who sells the very best wild mushrooms.  Actually now that I think about it I'm not sure whether he just forages for them or whether he grows them himself; if the latter then I suppose they're cultivated  wild mushrooms, which may be a contradiction in terms.  In any case, the ones I was looking at, I was pretty sure, weren’t wild in any sense, but they looked interesting enough and I bought a basketful, which cost 8 dollars.

And I got them home and spread them out on a plate and although they still looked perfectly OK, they seemed a little less exciting than I'd imagined, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that the man running the stall might have just been into the local supermarket, bought a bunch of different kinds of mushroom and then arranged them in baskets so that they look artisanal.  I reckoned I could have done that myself and probably could have brought it in for less than 8 dollars.  On the greater scale of food annoyances this one was exceptionally minor, but still …

Actually the Loved One and I did briefly try to grow wild mushrooms. It involved drilling holes in logs and then filling them with spores.  It wasn’t our greatest success.  And the results certainly didn’t look remotely like this (well the logs did but not the mushrooms):

We concluded that you probably need a good cave before you can grow mushrooms successfully. But take a look at the guy in this ad:

He’s earning big money, there’s no risk to the grower, and it seems perfectly possible, given the bold type, that he may even have an air raid shelter, even if not a cave.  Some guys have all the luck.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


Is it a good thing to go into a restaurant and find that the back of the menu has a quotation from somebody you know?  This isn’t a rhetorical question – I honestly don’t know the answer.  The restaurant was Taylor’s (3361 W. Eighth St., Los Angeles), and we were there to celebrate the Loved One’s birthday.  The quotation was (and I suppose still is) from Jonathan Gold, and I since my memory isn’t eidetic I’ll have to paraphrase - something along the lines of: if you want a great French dip sandwich you go to Philippe’s, if you want a great steak you go to Taylor’s.  The menu, to be honest, was a careworn.  

The quotation wasn’t dated and I haven’t been able to find it online but I have found JG’s review from the LA Weekly, from 2005 in which he calls it “a real urban steak house, a two-fisted meat-and-martini joint where an account executive can blow his Pritikin thing with massive hunks of well-aged sirloin ... The filet mignon here is soft, buttery, as rare as you order it, and crusted with char; the New York steak is beefy and rich; London broil, kind of stewy-tasting, comes sliced, with a horseradish and sour-cream sauce on the side. But the glory of Taylor’s is the culotte steak, a softball-shaped prime thing cut from the top of the sirloin. If you order it rare, the interior is scarlet, dripping juice, marbled with fat, full of the tremendous mineral sourness of great meat. It’s the steak that time forgot. “

I had to look up Pritikin.  Nathan Pritikin (August 29, 1915 – February 21, 1985) American inventor, nutritionist, and longevity researcher.  I had no idea, and certainly you can’t have complete confidence in a longevity researcher who only makes it to 70, not that 70 isn’t plenty, in my opinion.

The Loved One had a birthday urge for Prime Rib.  She’d had it Taylor’s before and it was very good, but this time we arrived at 7.30 on a Sunday evening. and the prime rib had run out.  To be fair, restaurants do tend to run out of prime rib.  We’ve been to restaurants where the prime rib ran out at six.  The thing we didn't have would have looked like this:

It was especially galling this time however, since we could actually see people on adjacent tables eating prime rib, and we could hear them talking about how good it was.  One of these tables did contain 20 or so people and you can see that if they all had the prime rib then no wonder it ran out. Still …

The Loved One had to settle for a Spencer steak, which claimed to be “well-marbled” but was not.  She claimed later that it was “a dry, pissy piece of meat” but that may have been the disappointment talking.  I had the culotte (even though I hadn’t read the review at the time) and it was evidently very much better than the Spencer, even if not quite the beef orgasm described above.

Taylor’s is still a two-fisted meat-and-martini joint and I particularly love the interior with its dark wood and (I think) leatherette, but I guess 9 years is a long time in the life of a restaurant.  Taylor’s doesn’t appear on Mr. Gold’s current list of his essential LA restaurants, and I’m left wondering whether he just went off it (which can certainly happen with any restaurant) or whether he went off it because it went off. 

One bright spot: Taylor’s make their own potato chips, pleasingly big things that come in a basket.  Even a serious potato chip eater like myself still had plenty to take home.

Monday, November 3, 2014


First of all I came across this:

A few observations: 1) note how Mrs. Rathbone’s advertising copywriters felt the need to capitalize Wine,  2) man, those are some long candles, 3) how come her husband isn't at the dinner party?   Perhaps he was busy elsewhere. I've discovered that Basil Rathbone, usually without his wife, was prepared to put his name to a great many things, including (among others) Schafer Beer:

Walker’s Deluxe Bourbon:

and even, good lord, Shredded Wheat:

 And here he is in the studio commissary at Paramount with Angela Lansbury, during the filming of Court Jester:  Burger for her, and (maybe?) Salisbury steak for him. 
(The photo’s by Alfred Eisenstaedt, from “The U.S. Goes Out to Lunch,” in Life magazine, 1955):

And here’s Rathbone as Richard III in the movie Tower of London, drinking opposite Vincent Price, who plays Clarence and (as we know but he doesn’t) is about to be drowned in a butt of malmsey.

Meanwhile, I discover, there’s such a thing as the Basil Rathbone Cocktail;  actually several things, and I’m pretty sure that the man himself never had anything to do with them. The Buccan restaurant’s version in Palm Beach, Florida is made with gin, orange juice, mint, basil and strawberry: basil – you see?

The version at the Shadowbrook restaurant in Capitola, California, (and no I’d never heard of Capitola either) contains vodka, lime juice and basil.

The Basil Rathbone Cocktail at the Water Street café in St Louis, consists of bourbon, ginger liqueur and Fever-Tree ginger ale, garnished with bruised fresh basil.

Yes, yes – we get it - they all contain basil.  Seems a little overdeterministic to me.  God knows what they'd put in a Dick Powell Cocktail. 

But in the case of the Rathbone, couldn’t they make a bit more effort and built a cocktail using, say, bones? My spies in New York tell me that bone broth is the current next big thing sweeping the metropolis, and that a restaurant in the East Village called Hearth has a take out window selling the stuff.  Add a slug of booze and a sprig of basil and you’re in business, right?

Saturday, November 1, 2014


CUSTOMER: Waiter, my kale salad has some strange white stuff in it.

WAITER: That’s right. It’s JJ Cale salad.