Welcome to The Epic! I am launching this blog as a manifesto for and a guide to living well. The title and motto of the blog are taken from the Epicureans, at least some of whom believed in the notion that not one minute of the future was guaranteed to them and that as a result they had the duty to live life to its fullest every moment.

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

The One Suit Man

Somewhere there are towns where men's clothing vendors have people working for them that actually know about men's clothing. Where I live, there is only one man. "Mr. Walter" is in his upper sixties, has been my friend for many years and is the last remaining haberdasher in these outlying parts.

Mr. Walter has a term which he appends to the sartorially unenlightened. He calls them the "one suit men". Meaning they own one suit, for use at their arraignment. Or, later, at their funeral. I do not hold it against a man if he only has one suit, particularly in the current economy. If it is the right suit. Like this one, for example.

I wrote earlier about the one "magic suit" I have that always gleans me a compliment, a good table, an upgrade, even (twice) a job offer. This is the suit. Selected for me by Mr. Walter. Midnight blue, single breasted, two button pinstripe by Ralph Lauren. Matched with this shirt by Charles Tyrwhitt...

Pale yellow with blue and white stripes, contrasting cuffs and collar. Double cuffs. I actually had to scan my shirt for you because my lousy camera would not capture an image of it for some reason. Matched with the tie shown above which is blue silk with cream rosettes outlined in yellow. I kid you not, this outfit never fails me. It is the one I turn to when it is all or nothing. The Last Stand. The Big Deal. For such occasions, I have nothing else that will do. So, thanks to Mr. Walter and a great shirt company, I guess I am a one suit man too.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Epic Scrapbook: Frank In The Studio

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

Love At First Sight

The "Mad Men" special edition suit from Brooks Brothers. From sketches done by the clothing designer for my favorite television show. If I could put my hand on a grand this would be mine.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Icons: Catherine Redux

She drinks bourbon. She smokes cigarettes. She wears fur. She is 66 today. The photo above is from this year. Asked if she has had "work" done on her face, she chuckled and said she hadn't the time. Then refered the questioner to her 98 year old mother's face. With a shrug, "It's genetic." I beg to differ. It is much more than that. My original "Icons" post celebrating her 65th birthday is here.

"It was Truffaut who said she had to be unlocked; that there was in her "something that was ready to give but also refused to unbutton". And it is evident today as she sits in the corner of the sofa, a marriage of passion and primness - the polo neck, brooch, skirt that falls at a tasteful point above the knee, counterbalanced by the throaty laugh, and the famous Deneuve froideur..."

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."

Nicholas Katz, The Times Online, 9/25/09
Laura Barton, of The Guardian, January 2009.

If any lady in the world of the cinema deserves the label of "icon", it is Catherine Deneuve. Joyeux anniversaire.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Epic Hotel!!

The Epic is apparently causing a wild accommodational trend as I note the new Epic Hotel in Miami. What is next on the horizon? A chain of Epic Clubs? An Epic Casino? A line of Epic hats for men and ladies? The mind boggles.

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...

Oh yes my friends, I see myself residing in one of those cabanas during a hot Miami day. Working of course...

Assuming that they can drive me from the equally cool looking lobby and bar...

Perhaps I can orbit between the lobby bar and my cabana by the pool...another shot of the latter...

This place looks like it has it all to me. On-line visitor comments have been outstanding. Here is a distance view...

What do you think? I imagine a free suite upgrade pour moi is in order, don't you? Ok, if not a free suite, how about a comped martini? One thing you can count on is that I will give you a complete report when I stay there. Which will be soon, I hope. Maybe I can use The Epic Hotel as the site for the first ever Epic Convention!!! A fine notion. What a great group we would be in the bar...

Saturday, October 17, 2009


The thermometer dropped into the fifties here yesterday afternoon, announcing the arrival of my favorite season. Autumn has always been special to me, foreshadowing County Fairs, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Where I grew up, Autumn was a several month celebration. Here, it lasts......oh.......about a week. But I revel in it just the same. As I attempted to show in the lead photo, the sky looks different when it gets "cold". The sun is at a more oblique angle, so the light is different also. Leaves fall, such as they do fall here...

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

Early Evening, New Orleans

Say you find yourself in one of your favorite cities. At liberty on a glorious autumnal afternoon. Fortified by a nice lunch and a martini. Or two. You amble about soaking up the breezy sunshine. Thinking of the plot for that noir thing you are writing. Follow me for a little stroll. Into a full fledged, class five, participatory dining fantasm.

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

A Manifesto For Happiness And Style

An ad slogan some years ago said "Be Your Own Dog". A cornerstone of the Epic philosophy. Fashion week in Paris has seemingly concluded. Bringing to focus the high tension that ladies of style feel this time of year as they take measure of themselves and their wardrobes and put that vision beside whatever it is they find on the runways. To me, the larger issue transcends a person's gender. The Epic notion is one of being enthused about being oneself. In a distinctive way. When this is accomplished, the Epic can get the absolute most from every minute without wasting them trying to be someone, or something, else.

In that regard, my readers should click over to French Essence right away. To read the best plan for happiness and style I have come across in a very long time. Essential wisdom for anyone striving for Epic living. Perhaps particularly useful to ladies this time of year. Post Paris Fashion Week. Thanks to Vicki Archer for a marvelous article. A timely statement for anyone whose goal is to live to the full in each and every moment.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Perfect Watch

You know what lucky is? Lucky is having a fiancee who knows you love watches. Like my fiancee, twenty-two years ago. Who gave me an Omega Manhattan Constellation as an engagement gift.

Or, who as my wife twelve years ago, gave me this vintage 1960s Rolex for our tenth anniversary. Gold case. Perfect 1.1 inch diameter. Face divided into quadrants of pale gold and white. Of course, an alligator strap. I have never seen another watch like it. And I have seen a lot of vintage watches. Not just my favorite Rolex. In my opinion, the best one. Ever. Made well before the horrid "big gold case" trend. On the pattern of the first wrist watches. Used for determining when it was time to climb out of a trench in Belgium.

Some time later, I was wearing my Rolex at a swanky jazz club in a large town. I saw a young hipster to my left peering at my wrist. I arched an eyebrow.

"My God. That watch looks like something Dean Martin would have worn."

Precisely. Did I mention that I was lucky?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


He is always so well groomed. He lives indoors. No danger. Food always available to him. And he probably sleeps on some wonderful fluffy thing or another. He is rarely in the rain. Never dirty. Gets petted and talked to all the time. Whenever the loud, rolling machine leaves with them inside, he gets to go along. I have to stay. By myself.


Every time I see him, he's hooked to a leash.

The old cat gave a long, walking stretch and hopped up on the wicker porch chair. Content.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Power of a Compliment

One of my interpersonal initiatives of late has been of paying a compliment when it is due. How many of us get a compliment during the daily shuffle?

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

A Hidden Gem: Le Petit Paris, Chicago

I knew where it was and I could not find it. I had to walk down the block. Ask a friendly doorman. Turn back in the direction from which I had come. If you look closely in the photo above, you will see a lady standing in front of a very nice condo tower. Walk toward her. Turn left just where she is standing. Enter the lobby. You still may not find it. Hal, the lobby security man, will recognize your confused and hungry expression and will point you to the far northeast corner of the lobby. Where you will find a small smoked glass door. Behind which lies a top notch dining experience.

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...

Chef Alain makes a very good martini. The presentation is curious. He serves your cocktail in a small crystal glass that looks like either a miniature martini glass or a huge cordial glass of some sort. I was peering at this with a raised eyebrow when he also placed a small crystal bowl of ice on the table that contained a flask with another four or five refills of the glass in it. Thus redeeming my view of the entire procedure. The table service was lovely as well...

The menu of Le Petit Paris contains perfectly executed standards [pate' with black truffles for example] and seasonal dishes. Chef Alain has obvious connections to local produce vendors. All of the vegetables served with my meal were stunningly fresh and prepared in the best, simple, way to let the natural flavors stand out. My red and yellow beet salad was lightly dressed and the beets were so fresh I could have just had five portions or so for my meal and been perfectly happy. But that would have been a shame. Because if I had stopped there I would have missed the salmon en croute. Perhaps the best dish I have ever had. Certainly in the top five. Again, the fish was so fresh it had striking and lovely flavor. It was Chef Alain's thought to layer leaves of new basil along the top of the fish inside the light-as-air pastry. This had the perfect complimentary flavor and really brought out the wonders of the salmon. Along with just a touch of a rustic, large grain, mustard sauce. Some "just from the farm" asparagus and a bit of potato puree to round off the plate? Oh yes. I think so.

The Le Petit Paris wine list is lovely, with selections for every taste and budget. Budget? Goodness, did I use that word? Have no fear. The prices at Le Petit Paris are very reasonable. I had to bite my tongue not to tell Chef Alain to charge more for this exceptional food. Such are the lengths I will go for you.

Return readers know that I fully adopt the theory of transportational dining. In which, during the best meals, the Epic diner is taken to another place and time. This meal was so wonderful that despite sitting in the corner of a condo building lobby [albeit a hidden corner] I had very little trouble imagining myself sitting, perhaps outdoors, in the French countryside, dressed well, with cocktails, marvelous dishes and great wine appearing from all quadrants. The Duc D'Lane at table.

Back when I could eat anything I wanted, any time I wanted it, I often had dessert. With the usual consequences. In those times, my favorite dessert of all were profiteroles. Little puffs of pastry cut in two, filled with ice cream, and drizzled with dark chocolate sauce and a scattering of shaved almonds. Profiteroles were the first really great dessert I ever had. Back in New Orleans. Years ago. Late at night during a serious rain storm. When a lady at another table sent the waiter over with a plate of them and a note written in lavender ink saying....well, perhaps a tale for another time. Suffice to say that profiteroles dropped a spot to become my second favorite dessert. In any event, I saw them on the menu at Le Petit Paris and casually asked about them. Chef Alain makes them with PISTACHIO ICE CREAM. An obvious masterstroke. One that had not occurred to me before. Nor, it seems, to any of the pastry chefs preparing the profiteroles of my prior acquaintance. I was informed by a very suave looking ten year old boy at the next table that the combination of the puff pastry, pistachio ice cream [just a bit melted, as it should be], bitter dark chocolate sauce and a few scattered almond and pistachio pieces were as perfect a rendition of this dish as could be imagined. As I said, the boy was rather urbane.

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.