Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Monday, November 28, 2016

STRANGER THAN NON-FICTION


 Sometimes you find yourself in a supermarket and you see a product – let’s say for example, wine in a can, costing $10 and called Fiction, made by a company called Field Recordings - and you think to yourself what kind of person would buy a thing like that? 


And then you go home and think about it and you suddenly realize – ME, I’m the kind of person who would buy a thing like that.  I mean, I like fiction, I like wine and I even like field recordings (see below), and so somewhat inevitably and only a little reluctantly, I shelled out ten bucks for a 500 ml. can of wine.


It’s a good looking can, and it says on it that the wine is made with 36% Zinfandel, 18% Mourvedre, 14% Grenache, 12% Syrah, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Tempranillo, 4% Viognier.  There’s also a description of the wine, invoking, "Heady aromas of blueberry pie, luxurious suede couches, ham paninis, unlit menthol cigarettes and roquefort tarts. Firm tannins anchor flavors of grilled meats, cherry cola, sweet carob and black licorice chews, all cased up together conveniently in a cigar humidor."  I’m hoping this is ironic, if not downright fictitious.
         

And how was it?  Well not bad at all.  The color was probably the best thing about it, really dark and rich, and it tasted pretty good, plenty of nose, quite dry, very quaffable indeed.  I’m sure there are plenty of wines at about that price that are about that good – but heck, if we’re looking for a unique selling point, a memorable name, and some good looking packaging, you could do a heck of a lot worse.  I wanted to make some smart remark about pulp, but it would have been unjustified.

Field Recordings is, apparently, the brainchild of “Winemaker Andrew Jones (who) has a keen eye for diamonds in the rough: sites that are unknown or under-appreciated but hold enormous untapped potential. He strives for unique wines loaded with personality and a one-of-a-kind experience.”  That’s him on the right below; looks like a cheerful soul.


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

NIPPOPHILIA




I am, as you probably know by now, a bit of a Japanophile: not only, but not least,
because of the food.   And sometimes it seems to me that the Japanese are pulling some strange confidence trick on the West.  Sometimes I think maybe they’re not really as weird as they appear, they’re just pretending to be weird in order to confuse and tantalize us.  So far it’s working pretty well.

I mean, the maid cafes:



The transvestite maid cafes:


The cat sushi:


The cappuccinos, this one’s by “foam artist” Kazuki Yamamoto:


And most recently this – a box of chocolate nipples:


I thought at first this might be the dreaded “fake news,” or perhaps not real food but some kind of conceptual art – though the information comes from the RocketNews24 website who are generally reliable.


According to them:  A new brand of chocolates manufactured by the Mme KIKI company will be hitting the shelves next year in Japan in the form of women’s nipples. The “CHOCONIP” set will be sold with eight different nipples representing the transformation from a young girl’s nipple to the mature age female nipple.
         “The Mme KIKI company … has said the idea came to them suddenly when they thought ‘Why don’t we make chocolate in the shape of young girls’ nipples?.’”


         Creativity, it’s such a mystery, isn’t it?  They also say it’s got something to do with the Jison-in Buddhist Temple in Wakayama, which celebrates “motherhood” – by depicting lots of boobs. Who knew?  



 And might I suggest that a European or (especially) an American producer of the chocolate nipples of young girls might very well find himself in jail for making these things?  And who’s to say they shouldn’t be?

Meanwhile in my own little corner of Japanese oddness, my pal Marco has returned from a trip to Osaka with these: ramen noodles dried to form a snack food:


It’s not bad at all, a bit more savory and less sweet than a lot of Japanese snacks tend to be.   And let’s face it, it’s not really all that weird at all.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

PRESIDENTIAL ....

You know, I think it’s hard to look presidential while you’re eating, although some definitely look better than others, as these much circulated "compare and contrast" pictures of Trump and Reagan suggests. 


Whatever else Trump becomes known for, he will surely go down as our most joyless, and least sybaritic president.  It would be very nice, and let’s face it very surprising, if that’s the worst that could be said about his presidency.  Of course Reagan was a pro: he knew how to work the camera, and how to act as though he was enjoying his food, even if he wasn’t.  

He could even look good with an ice cream, and that’s really tricky.


By no means all succeed:




Even Obama can’t always pull it off.


And a hotdog can be every bit as perilous:





And whatever food Nixon is eating here, well, that possibly isn't the very best way to eat it.


It seems to me that Roosevelt had it pretty well covered.  He looks like a man who knows how to carve a bird, and is actually taking pleasure in it.  Eleanor is certainly looking on in admiration.


Roosevelt also looked damned good with a drink:


And Reagan too could even look good with a drink even when he had to act as though he wasn’t enjoying it.  Admittedly this was in pre-presidential days, and if you want to look impressive it certainly does no harm to have Bette Davis drinking beside you.


As for Nixon, well, here at least he does seems to be handling his drink a little better than Brezhnev.


Saturday, November 12, 2016

VIBRANT, YEAH?

In these troubling times, would it lighten your mood any to see what an incredibly, perhaps ridiculously, expensive plate of Ji-Kinmedai (cold smoked golden eye snapper, from Chiba, Japan) looks like?  Well of course it would.  It looks like this:


Was it really worth what it cost?  Well very nearly, although this Ankimo – (monkfish liver - from Boston, as a matter of fact) offered rather more bang for the buck:


Both these dishes were eaten at a restaurant in San Francisco called Akiko’s, on Bush Street, which is pretty special.  One of the curious things about the menu is that it’s divided into two sections “White Fish” and “Vibrant Fish.”  But who wouldn’t go for vibrant?


You want to see a pretty decent and reasonably priced pulled pork sandwich?  Well, here’s one I ate earlier, at Café 5 in the newly refurbished San Francisco Museum of Modern Art:


Did it need to be served on a piece of wood?  Probably not.  Although it did have a little circular hole for the bowl of pickles, and actually it was the pickles that made it.  They were vibrant.



Friday, November 11, 2016

THE TELEVISED MARTINI



I was sitting in the bar of the Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Los Angeles; not the really fancy revolving one at the top, but the semicircular one in the lobby. 



 I was waiting for a friend who has been known to be late on occasion, but he was already later than anticipated.  I was drinking a Bombay Sapphire Martini and I hadn’t expected much but when it arrived it tasted pretty good and it was huge – requiring five olives!!

Photo: Anthony Miller.

While I waited, I watched the TV above the bar.  It was showing the anti-Trump demonstrations taking place around the country (some of us always knew the revolution would be televised).  But then one of the people working behind the bar, an Asian man, switched channels and the TV started showing football.
 
My drinking companion finally arrived.  He had a number of good reasons for being late, the best one being that there was an actual anti-Trump demonstration going on in the streets, and in fact on the freeway, of downtown LA, and there had been street closures.  As I sipped my second martini it was hard to decide whether living well was the best revenge or whether we were fiddling while Rome burned.  I don’t suppose it couldn't be both.

Photo: LA Times


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

DRINKING NOSTALGIA

Is there anything better than being in a museum and looking into one of the display cases and seeing an exhibit there, behind glass, nicely lit and arranged, and being able to say, “I’ve got one of those and it’s in better condition than that one”?

Well yes of course there are many things better than that, but the above happened to me in the Robert Opie’s Museum of Brands. Packaging and Advertising, in Notting Hill in London.  The article in question was a tin that had formerly held Huntley and Palmers (note the absence of an apostrophe) Cocktail Assorted Biscuits.  Here is my own "museum quality" tin:




As you see the great thing about it is that the tin shows a tin that shows a tin that shows a tin, and so on, ad infinitum.  I like that kind of thing.

Much of the Opie Museum is a big blast of nostalgia.  You get to see all the cans and packets and wrappers that you knew as a kid, all the chocolate bars and breakfast cereal and fizzy drinks, all the way up to a Watneys Party Seven (note the absence of an apostrophe).  And you observe how some designs have changed completely and some hardly at all.



And then there’s stuff you can’t quite believe – Tony the Tiger, for instance, now a lovable feline with a neckerchief was once considered a wild animal and had a big “dog” collar round his neck.


Now, we know the past is another country, but even so, I was surprised just how much cocktail-related stuff there apparently was in the English past.  Even Twiglets seem to have been sold as a “cocktail snack”.



True, my dodgy aunt and uncle who drove around in a yellow and black Ford Zodiac did have a cocktail cabinet with a light inside that lit up when you opened the front – hours of amusement there for a small pesky child.  But I don’t recall them mixing any cocktail.  The cabinet was much like this one:


And of course there’s some stuff you remember that isn’t there, and a lot of stuff that’s there that you don’t remember at all, and then there’s the stuff you find fairly hard to believe.  I mean it doesn’t seem so surprising that Heinz made Mock Turtle Soup.  But Real Turtle soup?  Where’s there time machine when you need one?