Tuesday, September 22, 2015

SATANIC NOT STIRRED


I know some people have adopted the slogan “eat don’t tweet” and I think they have a point, so I’ve been trying to think of a similar slogan for booze –“imbibe, don’t inscribe” – not nearly as good, I know.  In any case I’m not sure my heart is really in this slogan, and I’m not sure it has to be either/or.

The fact is I really enjoy seeing pictures of what other people are drinking, especially if it’s in some fancy watering hole. My pal Steve from Sheffield, for instance, has just returned from Lake Como, where he drank in the Grand Hotel Cadenabbia, and he had the James Bond Martini.  It’s the one in front below:


He tells me it contains gin, vodka and Lillet, so it’s actually a version of the Vesper from “Casino Royale,” although that one contained a slice of lemon rather than olives, and lemon is a non-starter in a martini if you ask me.  He tells me it was clean and cold – which is always necessary, if not always sufficient.  (Martini-bore, moi?)
    The drink in the rear belongs to Steve’s wife Julia, and is a White Lady, though without the egg white of legend.

Meanwhile my pal Lynell George posts this cocktail served at Elysian, a fancy place down by the Los Angeles River. 


It is, she tells me, a “Lychee-Gee”:  vodka with lychee and an edible hibiscus.  Gosh.  However confident you are in your masculinity, I can’t help thinking most men consider this a “lady’s drink” – which is of course fine, if you’re a lady, as Lynell is.

Meanwhile, again, my pal Anne Billson (yes, I have at least 3 pals) who’s based in Belgium, and photographs and writes about many things, not least movies and Belgian life, is conducting some extensive beer research, and the results appear on her Facebook page as well as on the website http.lempiredeslumieres.com.
Of course it’s no surprise that the Belgians know all about beer, but even so, her photograph of Satan Gold left me prostrate with envy.  Online research says it’s “not available in my area.”


Still, I’ve been doing my best to fly the flag here in East Hollywood.  I was in my local BevMo, a name that makes it sound like it ought to be super-cheap and cheerful and vaguely disreputable, but is in fact a rather sophisticated place, and I swooped on a bottle of Trooper.



This is a beer brewed by Robinson’s, and inspired or possible even “curated” by Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, and named after the Iron Maiden Song “Trooper,” about the Charge of the Light Brigade.  I went to the same school in Sheffield as Bruce Dicksinson, though not at quite the same time.


My pal Steve tells me there are 280 different beers on sale in Sheffield.  And I’m sure he’s right.  When I was in Sheffield this summer I went to the market, where there’s a place called Beer Central, and I bought a bottle of Yorkshire Square Ale.   I did like that black square on the label:




But now I’m thinking I should have bought the Green Devil. 


 They don't go much for ladies' drinks in Sheffield.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

THE ANGRY STOMACH



I was on the road, and had stopped in Baker, in the Mojave desert, to eat at the Mad Greek, a very decent diner (way better than any diner in Baker needs to be), good food served in a setting of over-the-top Hellenic decoration.  I had the lamb gyro.


A few tables away sat a family consisting of a very loud child, a mother, and two grandparents.  The grandfather, something of a patriarch by his looks and behavior, and also (I think) Greek, was not having a good time.  He said, more than once, loudly, in what I took to be a Greek accent, “This is very low class food.” 

Well of course I don’t know what he was having – maybe he’d got a bad kebab – but, as I say, in general the food is way better than you have any right to expect in a nothing little town in the desert.  And it did occur to me that there may have been things other than the food spoiling his meal, the pressures of being a Greek patriarch perhaps, but he was taking it out on the food, and eventually he stormed outside for a good smoke.

I thought he was an annoying dolt, but he did set me thinking about the different ways people react to bad food.  Anger is the obvious way – as the reviews on Yelp so clearly demonstrate - and yes, anger gives you a certain release and power in an unpleasant situation, and I’m not pretending that I’m immune to that.  But sometimes anger just doesn’t feel like the appropriate response.

On this same road trip, I ate at a Chinese restaurant in Delta, Utah called Top’s City Café.  That had obviously been the name of a previous incarnation, but the new owners hadn’t changed it, for whatever reason.  The interior still looked like  a very cool, classic diner, though as you can see business wasn’t especially brisk.


I ordered the Cashew Chicken which turned out to be strips of dry, flavorless chicken, overwhelmed by veggies in a bland, glutinous sauce.   It actually looks much better than it tasted, which is a problem we bloggers sometimes have:


It was pretty bad but it didn’t make me angry.  It made me very sad, because obviously the people running the place were good people – the Chinese waitress was cheerful and attentive, and the cook, an older Chinese man, appeared from the kitchen from time to time and looked around the restaurant in a concerned way.  Clearly they were not indifferent, clearly they were trying hard, but they were failing. 
        And we come to that old thing – not the Kitchen Nightmare thing – that if only some Gordon Ramsey type could breeze in and do a bit of swearing, then everything would be all right.  No, rather that maybe it would be better for all concerned if the chef found something else to do, something he was good at. Meanwhile they could get a good new chef for the kitchen. I had a distinct feeling this was not going to happen at Top’s City Cafe, and that was saddest of all.


But not everything in Delta was sad.  Up at the other end of town there was a place called Mi Rancherito, proclaiming itself to be a Mexican restaurant, although there was a huge Salvadorian flag displayed inside: maybe it was fusion.  The carne asade was wonderful: much better than it looks in this pic (see above).


But here’s the thing: were the people working in Mi Rancherito and less attentive or caring than the people in Top’s City Café?  Were the Mi Rancherito crowd trying harder: no, both lots were trying just as hard.  But the cook, was just very, very much better at what he or she did.  And this is the real thing, which may seem obvious, but doesn’t get said nearly as often as I think it should: being good at things really gives you an unfair advantage over people who are less good.