I believe in discovering fun and pleasurable things wherever I find myself each day and I am told I have a knack for unearthing them. My hope is that by sharing in my pleasures and some of my ways of finding them you will begin to collect all the riches that lie in the moments of your life. They are there. Take them! All our lives should be.....Epic.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Hear that last multi-step jump? Right at "and lovvvvvvvvvvvvvveee is the Tender Trap"? The story is that when they were recording it, Frank got to that part and blew the note. Shoved the door of the recording booth open. Snarled at his pianist Bill Miller...
FS: That shift is impossible! Nobody can sing that!
BM: I'm sorry. I thought you were Frank Sinatra.
Whereupon Frank stomped back into the booth, nailed the retake, and stomped out of the studio. Passion for what you do. No matter what it is. Being big enough to take criticism and rise to the occasion. Foundational elements supporting this photo's inclusion in the Epic scrapbook...
Friday, October 23, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Asked about why she has never accepted a role on the stage...
“To be the centre of attraction is something I have a lot of problems with. The idea of being on a stage with people looking only at me terrifies me. On a film set it is very different. Everyone there, perhaps 25 or 30 people, they are all working, all involved in whatever they are doing. Whereas in the theatre you rehearse and rehearse and rehearse and then you present this thing which is completely finished, and in front of you.” She tails off here and her face quails, as if she is glimpsing a vista of plush theatrical stalls with people in them, and finding it too much to bear. Then she smiles at herself, seeming to agree that it’s a rum business. As the smiles increase, something strange happens to her features. The strangeness is that there is nothing strange in their animation. The froideur, the hauteur (sometimes only French words do the trick) that you see in her housewife prostitute of Belle de Jour or her glacial psycho of Repulsion are gone. Suddenly it’s hard to imagine how they ever occupied the space."
If any lady in the world of the cinema deserves the label of "icon", it is Catherine Deneuve. Joyeux anniversaire.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Seriously, I have not yet been a guest at this hotel, but I am certainly going to be the next time I am in Miami. It looks like my kind of place...
A view from a room balcony...
The swanky pool area...
Assuming that they can drive me from the equally cool looking lobby and bar...
Saturday, October 17, 2009
My outside dog, Skippy, who has several impenetrable layers of fur armor, loves it when the subtropical weather leaves us...
Even thought the season has been going on since early September, it is finally the real time for football. Not just for watching the games on television, but for the best football...tossing it about with the Future Rock Star. Yes football is in the chair...
Grilling out has become vastly more fun now that it does not feel that you are part of what is being cooked. And, it has become perfect weather for seasonal beer...
I am always a Wisconsin boy at heart, so I can say that a Marzen style beer like Leinenkugel's Oktoberfest is a fine choice. As it happened, this carton was empty. Shocking. Nothing like a grilled Bratwurst with real German potato salad and sauerkraut to go along with your Oktoberfest mood...
And there may even be room left for one of these...
Ah, the glories of the Autumn season. I read a story long ago, perhaps by Robert Service, in which a wolf had wandered widely from its home in the Northern woods. It survived well enough. But every year when summer passed and the air turned crisp and clear, the wolf would turn its muzzle northward, scent the coming of the season, and feel rejuvenated. As do I.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
You are, of course, staying at a G.O.H. [Grand Old Hotel]. Deep in the French Quarter. You exit and turn right, strolling in an amiable way down toward Royal Street. Then farther. Toward the river. Left on Chartres. The Cafe Pontalba beckons with its two sides of full length doors open to the fall breeze and afternoon sunshine. Right on Jackson Square. So you sit at a table and have a cognac. Just like at Fouquets. Well, except for the Paris thing. After a bit, you leave the Cafe and wander past the Cathedral. Down Chartres Street. Past cute little shops. You do a bit of window shopping. Paying attention to the reflection of your Wayfarers and your new sports jacket in the window glass.
Just because you are in the mood, you walk farther down Chartres Street than you have been before. You give a smile to a couple of ladies walking your way. Eventually you pass by a little alley. It's on your right. Sort of looks like a parking alley. It is just late enough for dinner when you see the sign on your left. Inside the alley. Your sixth sense for dining and cocktailing starts a five alarm drumbeat in your skull. You ponder the menu posted by the door. Intrigued, you enter just as dinner service is beginning and ask the stunning young lady behind the maitre' stand if she could find you a place. No doubt taking note of your jacket, she flashes a smile and leads you to the front room. You notice the place is already crowded. In the middle of the week. In the off season.
And with good reason. The dining spaces are lined with rough antique brick and dark woods. Muted lighting. Lovely paintings. Just the thing for a tete a' tete. The service is spectacular, refined and unobtrusive yet perfectly attentive. There are crystal bowls of fresh roses on each table. Like the country place of a very well off pal that you were invited to for a weekend party and then six days later required a mention that perhaps you had better....oh. A story for another time.
As you gaze at the roses afloat in reflected candle light, a martini appears [!!]. The glass containing it is the most beautiful you have ever seen. A martini glass of the typical sort, but the stem is fluted and twisted right at the top. Allowing the muted light of the room to sparkle up into and refract among the contents of the glass. You are momentarily astounded. Because you have seen a lot of martini glasses. And this one is the finest.
The waitress seems amused by your almost giddy enthusiasm over the menu. An amuse bouche arrives in the form of a lovely shrimp in a champagne kimchi sauce. So good your enthusiasm tops giddy and heads straight for vertiginous. You finally decide upon an appetizer of soft scrambled egg. Mixed with fresh lobster. Served in the egg shell. In a silver egg cup, no less. With a HUGE pile of shaved black truffles on top. Arranged so you must shove them down into the egg and lobster with a little silver spoon. Then spoon them out again. You momentarily consider abandoning the rest of your order in favor of a bottle of iced Veuve Clicquot and a half dozen more of these eggs. But you calm yourself after the arrival of the second amuse. A wonton of braised Kobi beef with just a dot of hot mustard. Better to explore the delights that certainly remain in store.
Such as a fish called Walu. Rather like very good sea bass. Pan roasted. And encrusted, as is often the case in such a dish. Except, that at this place, the chef encrusts the fillet with crushed buttered popcorn. A stroke of GENIUS. The flavor of this dish was outstanding. Served over a bed of snappily fresh yellow corn maque choux and crawfish tails. With a small pool of marvelous burre blanc under it all just for good measure. The flavor combinations in this dish are simply marvelous. Just the thing to compliment the very good Rhone red you are drinking as an accompaniment.
Reeling from the towering grandeur of the two previous courses, you pause to sip your wine and catch your gustatory breath. You consider the fact that they make all their own breads at this place. A significant fact as you scan the dessert menu. The desserts are just as creative as the appetizers and entrees. And just as refined. Barely able to pass over "chocolate cake with hot buttered pink lemonade" or ginger/Grand Marnier creme brulee, you settle for the "grilled cheese sandwich". Lightly grilled, buttery brioche lined with a layer of triple creme cheese. Oh, and the darkest, almost bitter, chocolate ganache. With a compote of blackberries on the side. Just for the heck of it. As an aside, you notice that the chicory coffee they serve is so good that you can smell it as they are bringing it to your table. Along with an Averna on ice, the perfect compliment to the dessert course.
You leave this place and step out into the air of a clear, sultry New Orleans evening. New Orleans evenings are always sultry, even in autumn. It is part of the magic of the place. You wonder if you have ever had a better meal. It is a fair question. You are tempted not to tell anyone about it. Yet, you want everyone to know. I've given you all the clues you need. When you find it, drop me a line. I may be at the next table.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Every time I see him, he's hooked to a leash.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
My concomitant effort is to sincerely inquire about a person's day. An Irish barman I know showed me the value of this simple gift last year. In mid-winter. A howling Manhattan wind made even my Wisconsin blood frost. My face a rigid mask, I (shockingly) found myself pushing open the door of a pub. Whereupon the barman looked at me with genuine concern and said "How're you keepin'?" The friendly concern, and the Powers whiskey, warmed me right up. I can't effect the accent to ask of someone's wellbeing in the Irish way, but I think it is well worth while to make the inquiry. One day last week, for example. A waitress at lunch asked me how I was doing. I replied and then sincerely asked her how her day was coming along. She grinned and said "Fine, now that you mention it. And thank you so much for asking".
I have found this sort of response to be very common when you simply show interest in another person's day. People are so happy that you give a damn. Try it. Spread the love. It costs nothing. But it brings a small moment of joy to others. And it is a funny thing. The moments of joy you give to others tend to bounce right back to you.
How ARE you keepin', anyhow?
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Le Petit Paris has been in business in Chicago's Streeterville neighborhood for quite a few years. I have been coming to Chicago for quite a few years. For this and for that. Business and dalliance. This place is so good that it made me ashamed to admit that I had never heard of it before. Before I received a tip from an unimpeachable source.
This is a small place. Chef Alain is the owner. And, of course, the chef. On the midweek night I first dined with him, the maitre d'. And my waiter. Oh, and sommelier. To say that you get personal attention from the owner at Le Petit Paris is an understatement. The important thing is that Chef Alain is dedicated to each task and to the concept that each diner feel like an honored guest. A seemingly odd notion in much of the restaurant world today. This is the view during the afternoon from my table looking toward the bar...not an uncommon view for return readers, I should think...
But a restaurant cannot be truly great without great people. I was walking about the place after my meal and found myself in the very cozy little bar which adjoins the main dining room...
I stumbled [figuratively] into some very interesting people at the bar. Where I remained for a couple of stimulating hours. Sharing stories. Laughing. Drinking wine. I not only had one of the great meals of my life, but I made a new friend as well. The perfect ending for a perfect dining experience. While Chef Alain sat at a table in the now empty main dining room, apparently doing his books. I offered to remove myself from the premises, to which he replied that he would be there until two a.m. "So why not stay?". I have no doubt that had I ordered the entire glorious meal over again he would have prepared it without blinking an eye. The place is his home, you see. You aren't just a customer, but a guest.
The next time you find yourself in Chicago, give yourself a culinary scavenger hunt. Find this little place on Chestnut Street. Think of me. I'll be wishing I were there as well.