Saturday, March 17, 2018


Well, my birthday was coming up, and being a hard man to buy for, I wandered into Pier One and saw they had a cocktail shaker with an octopus design, and I said OK, I’ll have one of those.  I might have said that even if it hadn't been my birthday.

It never looks quite as photogenic as I feel it ought to, and the octopus head does look like something from outer space, but I’m not saying it like that’s a bad thing.

And then curiously, the very same day, I was in the local Vons supermarket and I saw they had octopi for sale – they'd never had them before - so obviously I bought one.

Now, I have cooked octopus quite a few times – it has been discussed elsewhere on this very blog - how to avoid rubberiness is always the problem. We know that Jiro (the one who dreams of sushi) has his staff massage the critter for an hour or so, but I knew I wouldn't be doing that.  So instead there was marinating, and a longish boil at which point it looked like this:

And then a quick fry.  So that it came out looking like this:

It tasted pretty good.  Texture-wise it was perhaps just a little bit soft, though that’s better than being rubbery, I think.

 And then, developing a small obsession, I was in a Japanese supermarket a few days later and I saw they had two kinds of octopus for sale, both according to the label, perfect for sashimi.

The one with the small suckers seemed to be cooked already, and could have been eaten straight out of the pack.  The other one with the giant suckers (I had never seen suckers like that) was raw as raw could be and needed work, though I wasn’t sure quite what – a good boil and a deep fry is what it got.  It was OK, not rubbery but perhaps a bit chewy -  I think there’s a difference.

There is, of course, more than one way to deal with an octopus, as this image from Nobuyoshi Araki (my main man) undoubtedly proves.  I hope they ate it afterwards:

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


I went to the Tam O’Shanter restaurant again last Tuesday – old school, reliable, “delighting diners for over 90 years,” and quiet on a Tuesday night, in fact so quiet that they were having a trivia contest in the bar to drum up customers.
Usually when I go to the Tam (as we call it) I order the prime rib, but I wasn’t in the mood and so I went for the toad in the hole.
Now, you and I know that toad in the hole is a vat of Yorkshire pudding with sausages baked into the middle.
I worked out that I wasn’t going to get precisely that because the menu read “TOAD IN THE HOLE - diced filet mignon, yorkshire pudding, onions, mushrooms, kale, carrots, guinness gravy.”  And the waitress asked how I wanted the meat cooked – medium rare seemed to be the way to go.
When it came it looked like this (you'd think Guinness gravy would be darker, wouldn't you?):

It tasted very good, and probably superior to a genuine toad in the hole, but I still couldn’t shake the image I had in my head of what it ought to have been:

Maybe the Tam should give their dish a different name – possibly “Yorkshire pudding filled with stew”

         Still, you can forgive a surprising amount when you get to eat in a room that looks like this:

Wednesday, March 7, 2018


You ever wonder what a 50 ounce bone-in ribeye steak in foie gras sauce looks like at Animal (435 North Fairfax, LA)?  Like this:

Photo by Marco Zivny

You probably imagined it would be bigger, right?  It was pretty great however, even shared between four.


You know, in the past, it seems that people used to get a lot more excited about Rose's Lime Juice than they do these days.

I guess they figured it was a ladies' drink.  

Raymond Chandler (and Marlowe) would have been appalled. But they'd both have agreed (see The Long Goodbye) with the sentiment of this ad "always with Rose's." 

Monday, March 5, 2018


There’s comfort food and there’s comfort reading. I’ve always been a bit skeptical about the notion of “comfort food.” I mean, if it doesn’t comfort you then why bother to eat it?  But reading is different - we read for so many reasons and comfort is probably one of the minor ones.  

          Even so, lately, for comfort, I’ve been reading (in some cases rereading) P.G. Wodehouse, and there’s a lot in there about the comforts of food, and indeed the comforts of drink.  The picture below shows Wodehouse and his wife Ethel, in New York c. 1956: I think it is possibly the best author picture ever taken.  Note the size of the martini glasses. We'll be coming back to that:

Here’s the opening of - Much Obliged Jeeves: “As I slid into my chair at the breakfast table and started to deal with the toothsome eggs and bacon which Jeeves had given of his plenty, I was conscious of a strange exhilaration, if I’ve got the right word."

That’s so good, so clever, so witty, it tells you so much about what’s ahead that you 

almost feel you don’t need to read any more.  But only almost because you know 

great delights lay ahead.

Wodehouse’s great foodie creation is Anatole the French chef who works (not without crises) for Wooster’s Aunt Dahlia, at Brinkley Hall.

And yes, I found myself comfort watching, 25 years or so after it was made, never having seen it before, the TV series Jeeves and Wooster, starring Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie.   Those two are perfectly cast, even if it seems to me that some of the actors in the minor roles aren’t.  John Turner is brilliant however as Sir Roderick Spode and Robert Dawes is even better as Tuppy Glossop.

There’s a fair amount of food in the series, sometimes crucial to the plot, and Anatole pops up, and in general it looks as though they’ve worked pretty hard on making the food look historically authentic.  Look at that pile of boiled potatoes:

Look at that pile of sandwiches:

There is a little bit of a problem here, of course. Jeeves and Wooster exist in some timeless alternate universe – the earliest short story dates from 1915, the novels were published between 1924 and 1974 – and although there’s a general 1920s - 1930s feel to things,  matters of historical accuracy may be moot.

But I did worry about the martini drinking (other cocktails are drunk too but it was the martinis that really got me fretting).  The shakers I think were spot on, but I’m not at all sure about the glasses.  

Now, the history of the martini glass is much researched, and somewhat contested, but I’m pretty sure that nobody in England had bucket-sized martini glasses like the one in the picture below, until at least the late 1970s, possibly the early 1980s:.

See also this one here, with a different cast - I'm pretty sure that's a shaker somebody went out and bought at a department store the day before the photoshoot:

Likewise thus:

TV, the movies, they don't always tell the truth you know.

One very minor Wodehouse foodie note, on his first onscreen appearance Jeeves was played by Arthur Treacher, an English actor who specialized in butlers (Jeeves, of course, was a valet not a butler). David Niven played Wooster.  I have no idea what’s going on here.

Arthur Treacher, went on to parlay his fame and Englishness into becoming the figurehead for the Arthur Treacher Fish and Chips chain which still exists here and there across America.

You can tell it’s classy and English because it’s got “olde worlde” lettering.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018


Ya know how you could sell more ceviche around here?

Bigger effin portions.

           To be fair Loteria, in Hollywood, where this was served as a starter, is generally pretty good on portion size.  This was just a misstep - possibly on our part - there were two of us (dudes) sharing.
            And, to be fair, there were four tiny Japanese girls at the adjacent table (glued to their phones throughout their meal) who, given the minuscule amounts of food they ordered, would probably have thought this was a feast.