Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


We’re in the early stages of what they call a Winter Weather Event here in north-central Georgia, with the ground (and roads) getting covered in an ever-thickening layer of slick white stuff.

The local schools have released their inmates students early, clogging the roads with panicked mommies and daddies who now need to schlep Junior home where he can enjoy his video games and hot cocoa in lieu of his education.

The aforementioned clogged roads are packed with idiots. Okay, that’s true on any randomly selected day, but the idiocy level hereabouts ramps up to an astonishing degree when there’s the most minimal suggestion of ice on the roads. Normal driving practices - don’t block intersections, for example - are kicked to the curb, exacerbating an already nasty situation.

Mark Twain is usually credited with the observation that “everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” As if to prove him right with a vengeance, the media are providing their usual frantic running commentary. If boiled down to its quintessence, said commentary consists of various rephrasings of “It’s snowing and the roads are slicker than snot.”

We don’t get snow very often around these parts, at least not enough to accumulate. The public works departments are ill-equipped to handle jobs like sanding and salting the roads, much less plowing them after a snowfall. (“Whutchew think this is, Spud... Chicago?”) Combine that with a goodly supply of hills and curves, and you have every reason to simply hunker down in place... much as we had to do in Foat Wuth after the infamous ice- and snowstorm that struck on December 5, not quite eight weeks ago. Hey, it’ll melt eventually.

“When in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout.” Herman Wouk’s advice is clearly being heeded by the thundering hordes who even now are scouring the supermarket shelves for the basic Snowstorm Emergency Supply Pack: bread, milk, and toilet paper. But not us. I can bake any bread we might need, and the Missus and I don’t drink milk. We have enough Tee-Pee to house a whole tribe of Native Americans. So the usual panicked last-minute foraging is unnecessary. Too late for that anyway.

A nice pot of lentil soup and a few tots of whisky, and I do believe we can weather the storm.

Postscriptum: The Cobb County schools declared an early dismissal, but they may have waited a tad too long. By the time the middle schoolers were released, the buses were having a tough go of it... slowing matters down yet more. It was closing in on 4:00 pm when The Missus was finally able to leave, by which time the roads were completely buggered. Being of sound mind and body, she decided to walk home rather than take her chances in the car. She managed to make the 2½ mile trip on foot in less than 55 minutes. (Meanwhile, horror stories of 6+ hour homeward journeys and of people camped out in Waffle Houses began to pour in.)

Now that we’re both home, I am prescribing roasted salmon, roasted Brussels sprouts with capers and balsamic-soaked dried currants, lentil soup with beef kielbasa, and lashings of High West Campfire.

Postscriptum the Second: Rather than hitting hardest south of the metro Atlanta area, the storm struck the city head-on with not all that much snow, but with horrendous icing conditions. Coupled with hilly topography, snaky roads, and enormous amounts of (routine) truck traffic through and around the city, all that iciness created a traffic clusterfuck of epic proportions. The last time we saw anything like this was in January of 1982 - the infamous SnowJam. (The winter storm of January 2011 - dubbed Snowpocalypse - dumped more snow on us, but the city seemed to be more prepared for it.) But looking at the photos and hearing the stories, I’m thinking that SnowJam 2014 has exceeded them all.

Postscriptum the Third: Atlanta brought to its knees by a two-inch snowfall? Har dee har har. The Daily Show weighs in...

South Parked, indeed. Hothlanta. The Frozombie Apocalypse. Take your pick.

Monday, January 27, 2014


Eli the Goat - one of the Mistress’s charming handcrafted finger puppets.

Some time ago, I wrote a post that described the vaguely remarkable fact that my posterior is removed by only two degrees of separation from those of Marilyn Monroe and Jacqueline Kennedy. Strange, but true.

As the Missus and I were watching Downton Abbey last night - yes, Esteemed Readers, I do watch Downton Abbey - we both realized that we are, in like wise, connected with Masterpiece Theatre host Laura Linney.

It seems that Miss Linney collects needle-felted finger puppets - specifically, the ones hand made by the Mistress of Sarcasm. It’s a thin sort of connection, but nevertheless, it exists. Two degrees of separation once again.

Appropriately enough, Miss Linney’s earliest acting credit was in the 1990-92 period, when she was an understudy in a stage production of - what else? - Six Degrees of Separation. How ’bout dat?


The Atlanta Sommelier Guild kicks off its 2014 schedule with an event that celebrates “wintry reds and hearty fare” at a restaurant that is new to me: Au Rendez Vous Bistro in Chamblee.

Good red wines are usually inducement enough, but what sold me on this event was the fact that the evening’s offerings included duck (twice!) and rabbit. I’m all about the duckies and bunnies. Check out the menu:

2009 Woodward Canyon Chardonnay - Columbia Valley, Washington*
Rillette de porc with pickles and French bread

2010 Tensley Camp Four Blanc - Santa Ynez Valley, Central Coast, California**
Vegetable crêpe

2003 La Barroche Châteuneuf-du-Pape - Rhône, France*
2011 Domaine Lafage Tesselae Old Vines - Languedoc Roussillon, France**
2011 Lesec Les Galets Blondes Châteuneuf-du-Pape - Rhône, France***
Aubergine gratinée - roasted eggplant with tomato sauce, beef, spices, topped with cheese

2006 Karl Lawrence Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa, North Coast, California***
Canard et gésier sautés au vin rouge - duck, turnip, onion, herbes de Provence, red wine, brandy

1994 Chappelle Laurette Madiran - France**
1995 Château Montus Madiran - France
Cassoulet - duck confit, pork sausage, and white beans cooked in tomato sauce and fine herbs

2002 Mitolo G.A.M. Shiraz (screw cap closure) - McLaren Vale, Australia***
2002 Mitolo G.A.M. Shiraz (cork closure) - McLaren Vale, Australia
Lapin rôti à la sauce moutarde - rabbit in mustard sauce with herbs and brandy

Rare Wine Company New York Malmsey Special Reserve Madeira****

1990 Domaine De Cambes - Bordeaux, France***
2000 Château La Croix Martelle Grande Réserve - Minervois La Liviniere, France**
2007 Marquis Philips Cabernet Sauvignon - McLaren Vale, Australia**

I’ll probably pick at the eggplant - the stuff gives me instant heartburn, so I generally avoid it - but that won’t keep me from enjoying the wines that go with it, or all the other goodies. Duck! Duck! Rabbit! Yow!

Au Rendez Vous
The long table set up for our event at Au Rendez Vous.

Update: Good Gawd, I ate enough duckies and bunnies to depopulate a Disney cartoon. We’ll have to come back to this place during regular dining hours. Regular menu prices are reasonable to the point of outright frugality, and the food is well prepared French home cooking.

The two Mitolos were tasted blind, i.e., we were not told which one had the screw cap and which the cork until after we had declared our preferences. The overwhelming favorite (mine as well) was the screw cap version, which tasted bright and young despite its tannins having been smoothed out by over eleven years in the cellar.

Saturday, January 25, 2014


Bijou Cocktail
The Bijou Cocktail... a real gem.

Today’s tipple is a veritable jewel: the aptly named Bijou Cocktail.

I like a gin-based cocktail, and I have found that gin pairs very well with green Chartreuse, the powerful herbal liqueur created by Carthusian monks in the early eighteenth century. (Last Word, anyone?) So when this bad boy caught my eye on the Serious Eats site a few weeks ago, I added it to my drinky To Do list.

1 ounce London dry gin
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 ounce green Chartreuse
1 dash orange bitters

An alternative version, in case the alcoholic punch and herbaceous pong of the Chartreuse are too much for you, is this:

1½ ounces London dry gin
½ ounce sweet vermouth
½ ounce green Chartreuse
1 dash orange bitters

It is a real gem, this drink, with the rich color of topaz. And the taste? Wow, just wow. May I suggest you try one at the earliest opportunity.

Friday, January 24, 2014


It’s the 49th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s passing.

Winston Churchill

They don’t make ’em like ol’ Winnie any more. [Little-known fact: She Who Must Be Obeyed is thought to be a distant relative, through Churchill’s mother.]

Thursday, January 23, 2014


Let us be thankful for everyday miracles... and the Unseen Hand that helps us get through every day.

Me: God, can I ask You a question?

God: Sure!

Me: Promise You won’t get mad... or wax wroth, or whatever it is that You do?

God: I promise.

Me: Why did You let so much rotten stuff happen to me today?

God: What do you mean?

Me: Well, first off, I woke up late.

God: Yes...

Me: And then, my car took forever to start.

God: Okay...

Me: At lunch they screwed up my sandwich - got the order completely wrong and, on top of that, I had to wait while they made me a new sandwich.

God: Hmmm...

Me: On the way home, my cellphone went dead just as I picked up an important call.

God: All right...

Me: To top it all off, when I got home I just wanted to soak my feet in my new foot massager and relax... but the darn thing wouldn't work! Nothing went right today! Why did You do all that to me?

God: Well, let’s see. This morning before you got up, the Angel of Death was at your bedside and I had to send one of My angels to battle him for your life. But I let you sleep through all that... it would’ve just gotten you upset.

Me (humbled): Oh.

God: I didn’t let your car start because there was a drunk driver on your way to work. He probably would have hit you if you had been on the road.

Me (ashamed): Oh.

God: The first person who made your sandwich today was sick and I didn’t want you to catch his stomach virus - I knew you couldn’t afford to miss work and spend the next three days throwing up.

Me (embarrassed): Okay.

God: Your phone went dead because the person that was calling was going to lie to your boss about what you said on that call. I’m not a big fan of giving false witness, so I didn’t even let you talk to him. Saved you some trouble at the office.

Me (softly): I see, Lord.

God: Oh, and that foot massager? It had a short circuit that was going to blow the GFI... but your GFI was defective, so you would’ve been electrocuted instead.

Me (horrified): Really? I’m so sorry I doubted You, Lord...

God: Naw, not really. That last one? I was just fucking with you. Sometimes I like to mess with people just to see ’em get pissed off. So sue Me.

[Lifted - sorta - from Facebook.]

Friday, January 17, 2014


Ethereal Stella

My feline life is mighty grand:
I pinch a loaf onto the sand
Then dig a hole and bury it
That others may not smell my shit.

When Daddy’s in his litterbox
He pulls his pants down to his socks
And drops his load into the bowl
To flush it down a wat’ry hole.

O, Human! Life must be so bitter
To crap without some honest litter.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


You just gotta love Jimmy Fallon.

Ohhh, I cannot wait for Jay Leno to get the hell out of Dodge. I might even start watching the Tonight Show once Fallon’s on board.

Saturday, January 11, 2014


Miles Davis wanted a new sound.

Kind of Blue was a classic, and he had recently taken steps into electronica with his landmark A Tribute to Jack Johnson. But there was so much more he wanted to do. “How?” he wondered silently.

As he lay awake in bed, an unbidden memory of an old Our Gang comedy short came to him. In a flash, he knew just what to do.

Two weeks later, the group was in the studio to record Bitches Brew... with one extra.

“Kid, here’s a quarter. When I start playing, you start sucking on this lemon.”

[The Weekly Challenge topic at The 100 Word Stories Podcast is lemon.]

Thursday, January 9, 2014


The gifts of grain are as diverse as human imagination.

Grind the precious kernels into flour and you have the raw materials with which to make the Staff of Life: bread.
Pain au Levain with Whole Wheat
Two boules of pain au levain with whole wheat... my latest foray into whole-grain sourdough breadmaking.

Bread is alchemy, the seemingly magical transformation of various powders and liquids into something completely new. It never ceases to amaze me.

Sourdough Whole Wheat Bread
Mmmmm... bread. The perfect Butter Conveyance Device.

Another alchemical transformation is possible. Ferment the grain and then distill it, and you have Spirituous Liquors. Case in point: rye whiskey.

If you have a load of rye, you can do any number of things with it. You can sell it outright. It’s easily transportable, and as long as you keep it dry and away from insects and vermin, it will retain its wholesome character. You can add value by baking it into loaves of rye bread. Bread, however, has a limited shelf life, so an efficient distribution and marketing network is critical.

By converting your rye into whiskey, you solve the shelf life problem. Whiskey doesn’t spoil or go stale; it even improves while it is aging in the barrel. It’s also easy to transport. Now, that’s value-added!

If you have some rye whiskey sitting around, you should consider doing something useful with it. Why not make a Cocktail à la Louisiane?

Cocktail à la Louisiane

The Cocktail à la Louisiane is a sweeter cousin of the Vieux Carré, one of several venerable tipples originating in old New Orleans. If you like that one, you’ll probably like this as well.

Cocktail à la Louisiane

¾ ounce rye whiskey (I splurged and used WhistlePig 100/100)
¾ ounce sweet vermouth (Carpano Antica works well, so would Punt e Mes)
¾ ounce Bénédictine
4 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
4 dashes absinthe (Herbsaint or Ricard also work)

Combine the ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker glass. Stir well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.

If you wish, drink your Cocktail à la Louisiane and eat a slice of bread... it’s a grainy twofer!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


We like to gripe about how crappy the economy is, but even in the depths of the recession that struck in 2008, Americans, by and large, didn’t have it so bad.

Then, as now, millions continued to go to the House of the Evil Mermaid to purchase $4.50 lattes. But when times are tough, you don’t drink latte or cappuccino - you drink good old American coffee.

And when times are really tough, coffee becomes hard - or impossible - to get. That’s when coffee substitutes start getting popular.

Any number of substances can be used to stretch a meager supply of coffee, or to replace it outright. Roasted chicory root is probably one of the better known coffee extenders, having been a mainstay of Louisiana cuisine for years... probably owing to coffee shortages during the War Between the States. And C. W. Post made a fortune selling Postum, an instant beverage made from wheat bran, wheat, molasses, and corn-based maltodextrin. Postum was not marketed as a coffee substitute but rather as a healthier, caffeine-free alternative to coffee... which made sense, because it in no way tasted like coffee. It was unique; I liked it and would go through periods of weeks when I would even prefer it to other hot beverages.

Coffee substitutes are still popular in Germany, possibly due to a perverse nostalgia for World War II food scarcity. The generic German term for ersatz coffee - Muckefuck - is amusing to the English speaker, but it is no more than a corruption of the French expression mocca faux - fake coffee.

Take that, muckefucker!

These days, I’ll enjoy the occasional cup of French Market coffee with chicory - it’s a tasty version of my favorite hot drink, best made strong enough to stand a spoon in. But no way will I tolerate substitutes for my other favorite hot beverage: chocolate. Lips that touch carob shall never touch mine!


...and be sure to make note of Thursday, January 2, 2014, the date on which Perforated Headgear achieved a new level of respectability in the great State of New York.

It was on that date that Christopher Schaeffer, a practicing member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (just what those practices are, who can say?) was sworn in as a member of the Pomfret Town Council while wearing his religiously mandated colander.

Christopher Schaeffer Swearing-In
“‘Strainer’ things have happened.” Christopher Schaeffer is sworn in as a member of the Pomfret Town Council while wearing a colander, the Pastafarian version of a yarmulke. [OBSERVER Photo by Greg Fox.]

A few years back, there was a bit of a stir when an Austrian gentleman insisted upon being photographed for his driver’s license whilst wearing a pasta strainer. The courts eventually agreed with him on the basis that his wearing a Holey Chapeau was dictated by his religious beliefs... and that he was psychologically fit to exercise same.

The struggle to extend the religious legitimacy of the Church of the FSM has now reached our fair shores, with the Town of Pomfret in the lead.  Pomfret, which lies on the southeastern shore of Lake Erie roughly midway between Buffalo, New York and Erie, Pennsylvania, has shown itself to be a community that welcomes those with unorthodox spiritual views, a positive sign in my not-so-humble opinion. Pastafarians everywhere, rejoice!

As for me, I need no religious approbation in order to wear a noodle strainer on my own noodle... for I am Captain Colander.

Captain Colander!

Monday, January 6, 2014


“When in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout.” - Herman Wouk

It’s going to get really, really cold here tonight... maybe not by Antarctic standards, but certainly according to the norms of the region.

Five degrees Fahrenheit is pretty damned cold, especially for Georgia. We don’t see single-digit temperatures here all that often - maybe once every decade or so. But as it happens, five degrees is not much different from the weather we experienced in New York a few days ago, except up there the subfreezing temperatures were accompanied by a full-blown blizzard that dropped close to a foot of snow on much of Long Island. Yeef.

Instagram Snowdrift
A wind-sculpted post-blizzard snowdrift.

That Arctic blast was pretty much the only thing the media were talking about for two days - not much different from the way they do things Down South - except that in New York and its surroundings the local infrastructure is actually geared up to deal with a dozen inches of snow. Here, all they can do is sand a few overpasses and hope everyone stays home.

Before that storm hit Thursday evening, we stopped by a local market to pick up a few necessities. Bread and milk - the usual suspects - were not on our list. It always fascinates me how bread and milk are pushed to the top of everyone’s Emergency Preparedness Rations list. When did carbs ’n’ casein become the mandated Go-To foods after the Snowpocalypse? People actually panic if their local stoopidmarket runs low on their Butter Conveyance Device inventory, as though there is nothing else available to eat during a snowstorm. It’s almost as bad as Christmas shoppers coming to blows over Tickle Me Elmo, this desperation to grab hold of a gallon of two-percent and ten loaves of Pepperidge Farm Honey Wheat.

[People also panic if supplies of toilet paper are thin on the ground before a big storm. This is a perfectly understandable concern: Nobody wants to be reduced to tearing pages out of their old telephone books (remember them?) when the household’s stash of bunwad runs dry, and the option of using wet washcloths is simply revolting. In such cases, conservation is the order of the day. We were blessed with adequate supplies, so we did not go into Tee-Pee Panic Mode.]

As for us, with our basket of goodies we were prepared to weather a lengthy stay indoors. Hot chocolate, roast chicken, peanut butter, various chunks of cheese, plenty of fruit and Greek yogurt, a bag of bagels, and an assortment of smoked fish... and the remnants of a (mostly unconsumed) handle of Scotch whisky should things get really desperate.

As it turns out, the great northeastern blizzard - Winter Storm Hercules, they called it - was mostly an overnight affair, and by mid-day Friday it was perfectly feasible to dig ourselves out and use the still-mostly-untraveled roads to pay a visit to Eli, Hizzownself at the Veterans Home. And by the time we headed home on Sunday, all we had to deal with were the normal mobs of frantic travelers at the tail end of Holiday Season.

When you’re prepared, there’s never any need to panic. The running in circles thing, though? That’s kinda fun.



Saturday, January 4, 2014


Today is my Quarter-Birthday.

I’m 61¼ years old today. Joy!

It is entirely appropriate to celebrate one’s Quarterday with a quarter of a birthday cake, an entire birthday cake being presumptuous, excessive, déclassé. In lieu of a quarter-cake, a cupcake or two is an acceptable substitute.

I will abstain from cake, however, now that the holidays are behind us. No, a simple meal at one of my favorite local restaurants will be just fine.

We’ve got reservations for two at Horsemeat ’n’ Waffles. I love the waffles - just the thing whether you want to go sweet or savory. The appetizers are to die for... but the manes are where the chef really shines.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


The Judge

The New Year stretches before me
Like a fairway at a golf course.
Surprises await:
Some good, some not so good.
Will my tee shot be errant or true?
Will I stroke my putts smoothly?
Will my ball find the short grass,
Or bury itself deep within a bunker,
Lose itself in the woods,
Or drown in the depths?

When I step up to the tee,
I have no idea what will happen.
I have only experience to guide me,
Along with vague knowledge of the laws of probability.
But nevertheless,
I needs must swing away.