Monday, January 30, 2012


I was in my twenties and getting some breakfast at Elm City Bagels in Keene, NH. Everybody was so excited while waiting in line to check out.” What is everybody talking about?” I asked the lady in front of me. “They just got Starbucks coffee in!” she said in a giddy tone. Wow, I thought to myself. I’d been hearing about Starbucks for years now and finally I get to see what all the buzz was about. I set my bagel down and ordered a Starbucks coffee instead of my usual “regular” coffee, which now; after so much fanfare would surely taste like coffee they swept off the floor.

The woman behind the counter handed me my cup and a brown thingy she called a sleeve (before this, sleeves didn't really exist, and the only sleeve used to pick up a hot cup, was your own coffee stained one) with the Starbucks logo on it…I was confused and trying to put it together in my head how was this going to turn into a lid, When out of the woman’s mouth came the total for my “coffee of the god’s” and a bagel with schmeer. This took my attention away from the sleeve and back to reality. “What?” I said confused. She repeated the total and I told her she must be mistaken, I only had one bagel in my bag not two.
Feeling good about clearing up the mistake, I went back to the sleeve for a split second finally figuring it out before she said “I only charged you for one bagel.” So, begged the question…”How much was the coffee?” Now bear with me kind people as I have no earthly idea as to how much the coffee or the bagel were, but I do remember the coffee was damned near as much as the price of another bagel with schmeer, And these were 1990’s dollars (always wanted to write that) so we shall leave it at that. I walked away with my cup, my sleeve and my bagel thinking to myself….this better make sparks fly outta my arse!

A long story longer…It was the worst coffee I had ever tasted, surely they burnt this batch. I informed them of the mistake, this batch had been burned and I’d like another. The woman behind the counter laughed and said I was like the twentieth person who had said this. She said “It’s supposed to be that rich!” Rich?! Brownies are rich, this was burnt. Burnt was a flavor I knew well from years of eating my mother’s grilled chicken (Which I loved by the way…in case you’re reading Mom). Today it is a personal joke whenever somebody says “Starbucks”, I always say…”Oh Starbucks, their coffee is sooo rich!” To which, everybody likes to nod like little sheep and I always get a laugh out of, even though nobody knows why.

Look, I pick on Starbucks because I can. But the truth is, almost everybody is making this same brand/type (in my sorry opinion) of crappy tasting coffee. Joe Muggs, Seattle’s Best….pick one, any one… they all stink in my estimation. I don’t mind, and even enjoy espresso, which I drank a lot of when I lived in the South End of Hartford, CT (a predominantly Italian-American neighborhood) This espresso I drank was not fussed over, and cooked on a little stove top device that reminded me of the old fashioned percolators of my youth. It seemed as though all the Italian families had three or four of these in all sizes, and the coffee mostly came out of cans although there was some fresh ground as well.
I've had Greek Coffee made by my dear friend Litsa and others that is also good. I’ve done cuppings more times than I can tell you. Cuppings done with dear friends who try their damnedest to make me a coffee snob and for the life of me I just can’t do it. “Here Pav, this is a hand-crafted single origin bean from the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, and roasted by this super-duper place in Washington state.”  “Hand-Crafted” I ask? Whose hand exactly made that bean? Single origin, well you told me where it came from, of course all the beans are from there… Why are we making it so damned complicated, it’s just coffee. To me, honestly, it just tastes like the last cup o’crap that I didn't care for. “Pav, can’t you taste those fruity notes, with caramel and chocolate undertones?” NO, and if I could, not only would it be wonderful, this would be the only coffee I’d drink!

What’s my go to coffee of choice you ask? Well I’ll gladly tell you I drink Maxwell house “Master Blend” oh, so rich! It was good enough for my father, and it’s good enough for me. I know, I know…bring on the haters! Look, I never said I was high end. I’m decidedly not high end, unless we’re talking about scotch. For me coffee is just an effective and cheap delivery system for the caffeine I need to turn me from Cap’n A-hole, into the gruff but lovable me, you have all come to know and love.

My brother Bryan I can only imagine, is rolling his eyes in disgust with a look on his face as if I had just lost his entire baseball card collection from the early 70’s…ummm… like I did when I was ten or so. (Hey in all fairness, they were all still relatively new cards when I lost them, so me losing them, or us using them in the spokes of our bicycle tires… let’s let bygones be bygones)  Yes Bryan is one of you “coffee” people. I have no idea how, as we grew up drinking coffee that had been percolated for oh, just under a year, and kept in the pot to get “stronger”.  My grandfathers were both from Canada and were tea men, but you could float an iron rail on both of their tea’s after brewing, so maybe that’s where the strong coffee my father made came from.

Another reason I can never be a coffee snob is because going into coffee shops now just makes me laugh. Mostly at the ridiculousness the concoctions, but also at the prices and to a lesser extent, the collection of poor tortured souls behind the counter…”The Barista”! Wow, barista sounds super important. Let me break it down for you real quick, it’s not. You serve coffee. Sometimes it takes a long time to serve one of these crazy assed mochalatta ya ya cha cha drinks, but nine times out of ten, you… are not a barista.

Now now good and noble slingers of coffee, don’t be offended.  I’m not saying it’s not a real word. But a full 99.5% of all people serving coffee are not what I would consider a barista, nor would true barista’s (which I know exist)…nor would anybody else. Look, I’m a cook…some people even call me chef. I’m not a chef or a cook because I own knives and have an oven. I’m a cook or a chef because I have trained extensively in culinary arts. If just showing up to a kitchen made someone a chef, my mom would be a master chef of hot cereal and burnt chicken! Training for a day or two figuring out what goes into that five hundred plus calorie, thirty odd grams of fat gut bomb called a venti iced whole milk double chocolaty chip frappuccino with whipped cream does not a barista make. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you what it’ll make the recipient either.

For what it’s worth dear barista wanna be’s… I couldn’t and wouldn’t do what you do. I’d sooner fight a lion with a banana, than deal with most of the pretentious asses you deal with on a daily basis.  (Read this next quoted text in whiny assed spoiled teen cheerleader voice while on a cell phone and you’ll see what I mean) “Yes, ummmmmmmmm….I’ll have a venti iced whole milk double chocolaty chip frappuccino with whipped cream… oh, and extra mocha…..oh, and make that to go….what, oh I know… I told Laurie, that purse didn’t even match, and so she was like, WHAT EVS……..yeah, oh, hold on a sec…..Did I order extra mocha?!”

Yeah, I got your order sweet pea…Here’s your coffee flavored coffee…black… milk and sugar are over there, now beat it! YOUR HIPS WILL THANK ME LATER! (Sorry, I pictured it being me behind the counter…and no I wasn’t all tatted up looking like I was in Goth hell either) Now picture a whole line of these people, or people just like this one, throwing in the odd business person, soccer mom, etc…oh for the love of pecan pie, please choke me out now!

So yes I know I am the exception rather than the rule, and coffee snobs feel free to extol the virtues of sustainable, in season, organic, French roasted, fair trade, French Pressed, hand-crafted, single sourced, Kopi Luwak (you know, cat poop coffee…look it up)…and I’ll picture you getting it straight from the source. But you’re probably right, maybe my piss poor taste, or lack thereof is the reason for my not liking “good” coffee. Coffee is something I love the smell of dearly, and aside from bacon, nothing smells better. From a taste standpoint however, I just don’t get it. Jameson on the other hand…   

Saturday, January 28, 2012


BRAVO... SKY...BRAVO! At long last... Finally, a magazine that understands it's demographic. Not only did you get me, but you embraced me with the complete package of fashion, travel, celebrity and food. I stared wantingly at the cover, and after closing the last page feeling sated and spent...I finally felt loved, seduced by the sweet, warm, and yet torrid embrace of SKY Magazine. I knew then, there could never be another magazine for me....and yet you weren't to be. I was a kept man who could never have that perfect someone.....but at least finally, FINALLY, someone understood what it be in coach.

I knew this just by looking at the cover of your November edition. Seeing Sarah Jessica Parker's face, let me know this was going to be something special. I mean really, it doesn't get much more bourgeoisie and common then that. If anybody knows common it's this connoisseur of the over iced three ounce diet coke in a plastic cup, and one ounce portion of pretzels man of style, fashion and cuisine...common indeed! I wasn't disappointed at all.

I flipped open the first page, then flipped again...and again, again, again, again, again...I had to do this ten times to get to a story. The up side was, I got to see a note and a very Annette Bening'ish photo of the editor sitting on a chair that looks like it was stolen out of the gate area of some exotic far flung destination, perhaps...Newark or the like...BONUS! Some people wouldn't get it, but I knew what you were doing, Editor Jayne Haugen Olson...this was your idea of foreplay, and I was loving it. Nothing like a little advertising to get the blood flowing.

Then you made the first move and it was electric, a bottle of Beau Joie Champagne with a copper skeleton around the bottle so we don't even need to have an ice bucket, and at only $110 dollars a bottle, you had me opening my wallet like a 17 year old sailor in a whore house. Wow, that felt amazing, but you weren't finished yet.

You made me aware of  Prada, I got my eye on a hot little nine hundred dollar man bag I was hoping would really set off the rims on my Ford F-150 Pick up truck.  Then there was Edition Hotel, New York..I can't wait until it opens in 2015, talk about premature dirty. If you want a preview just skip on over to Istanbul (which I'm pretty sure is somewhere near Trenton) and check out the only open one. Then be sure to shell out ten thousand dollars for the penthouse suite...for one night.  Barcelona, Spain, how fantástico, Now I've got someplace else to go on vacation next year if my plans to Hampton Beach, NH fall through. You thrust all this on me before I could even take a breath. But you never did relent...

Then you made me do something I didn't feel like doing, but once I was amazing, I got a Saxonia Dual Time for the low low price of only $28,100... You tempted me with the 165th anniversary edition for a mere $500,000... But I felt I had the staying power for the 175th edition which could be much more than say $750,000 dollars, and so I waited. After all Jayne, this can't be all about me. I want you to be fulfilled as well, and what can be more fulfilling than what must be hundreds of millions of advertising dollars?!

It came time for your pièce de résistance....ah the restaurants. Contributing food editor Andrew Zimmern must have spent at least five, or maybe ten whole minutes coming up with these gems. Jason Oliver Nixon was no slouch either, and with the title of "Roosters, Pigs, Lambs and Lions, Oh, My!" must of had the help of an incredibly talented six year old copy writer, fresh from a viewing of that L. Frank Baum classic. I mean who doesn't want to drop a Benjamin or two for breakfast lunch and dinner every single day. I myself don't know of a single place in NYC where you could get a good sandwich or a slice of pizza. No Ma'am, not when I've just spent 28K on a watch, I need some beautiful, well heeled people to look at me while I overspend for a tortured plate of food. That's how "our" class of people roll.

I kept going, through Tel Aviv, a list of the best plastic surgeons of America (gosh, where do you even start right?!), a map of the Schipol Int'l airport in Amsterdam, until I couldn't take it anymore, I'm trying to not, one more page...... and then finally...DAMMIT!!!....somebody already did the crossword puzzle.

I don't know how you did it Jayne, I mean with eighty five or ninety percent of the plane being coach, and yet pulling in advertisers that make Robb Report look decidedly broke ass. After watching others use their magazine to scratch themselves with, put torn out pages over drink spills, move into other unsuspecting passengers seat backs...I knew we couldn't create this magic again. The only consolation I had, was knowing that there were others. Others that had been, and are being used, but unlike myself, the advertisers must be getting screwed every month, not just when Delta had the odd lower fare. Fed with what has to be a steady diet of promises, that they are reaching only the elitist of the elite. But instead are

Dear Jayne,

In all seriousness, I personally believe your food selections could use a bit more substance for the common person riding the planes. As for the destinations, fashion, culture...I don't really give a rip. Food is what I know. I can't help but think if you made the food pieces more accesible, the magazine may at some point become....palatable. I'd like to help with those pieces and am willing to do so for the cash equivalent, of the 165th anniversary 
Saxonia watch.....or whatever you can manage to scrape together. It's not for me, it's for my credit card bill that's now in the red by 40K + dollars because of all the must have items in your magazine...turns out some watch companies return policies are pretty strict.


Friday, January 27, 2012


Etiquette... this is what they call those life lessons mom tried to teach me, with my elbows planted firmly on the table while jamming an uncut mound of salad into my face while reaching across my brothers plate to grab a dinner roll. I remember when I was young her telling me, "if you do that out on a date someday, the girl is going to be very embarrassed and never want to go out with you again..." In my mid to late teens, I interpreted these lessons as "you keep that crap up and you're never getting to second base!" More on me later...If I wanted to bore you people that badly, I'd have The Cat doing a podcast of Plato's "The Allegory of the Cave."

This isn't about how you should or shouldn't act in a restaurant. I'm sure you all got the "make sure you pull out your date's chair when you get to the table, that's a sign of good manners" speech already, or would have if you were paying attention and not loosening the top on the salt shaker. Rather, this is an observation on wait staff, hostesses, bartenders and customers you might find in restaurants... besides every guy knows the most important rule of etiquette, is to open the car door for the that you may freely pass gas while walking around to the other side of the car, making sure not to get into the car too quickly....well, this applies until you know she really likes you, then you can go back to being the animal you used to be.

What can I say about host/hostesses, they don't have to be rocket scientists, yet they always manage to seat you next to the only other table with people in an otherwise empty restaurant. Also, I'm not sure why it is they feel the need to seat you next to the bathroom or at a table where so many people walk by, you'd think there was a mass migration going on. The difference being Wildebeest wouldn't stare quite as much as they were passing. Oh, and a little tip to you kind hosts and hostesses... were not doing the 200 high hurdles here, let's keep it down to a meandering pace.

Wait staff (fine dining):  In culinary school you are taught the first thing out of your mouth to the paying customer should be, "can I get you something to drink?" Not "Hi", not "my name is Cassidee, that's with two ee's but most people try to add a y, isn't that crazy, any who, welcome to Chez Andy" You don't sit down with the customer, you don't lean on the table, don't get down on your haunches...You ask them if they'd like a drink. period. After you get them a drink, if you have bread or a snack of some sort to offer, bring it, then you can explain the specials. The customer is there to relax, enjoy themselves, each other, and the food. It's not their job to know your name. If this is trivia night, let them know so they can win something for knowing it. The customer shouldn't notice anything other than they were well taken care of, for will be rewarded.

Wait staff (Everything else): Feel free to tell me your name and something funny, but then get to asking if I'd like a drink. When a customer sends something back, or tells you something is incorrect... just say "yes". This is not the time to try and prove you're right, in fact, sometimes you are....but by trying to win an argument with the customer, you just pissing them off, and telling them they are stupid... which sometimes they are. So let that make you feel warm inside, and just say yes.

Now, this next bit is super important. When it comes to taking the customers order, do me and more importantly, do yourself a favor...WRITE IT DOWN! I'm not impressed with your memorization abilities while taking an order for a table of five, while winking at someone walking by and ignoring what the hell I'm asking for. Because when you come back and my food isn't exactly what I asked for, I am going to hammer you into dust my little blank expression friend. There is a reason you have a dupe pad and a pencil...use them. Otherwise I'm going to walk you back and forth to that kitchen like a show pony with things I asked for, and things I didn't....but you won't know because you were too smart to write them down. If you're using a dupe pad and pencil, and you make a mistake...mistakes happen, and I know you're trying your best...I appreciate that and will cut you some slack.

Bartenders: The only thing I have a problem with is when they have no personality, or when they would prefer to spend more than eighty percent of their time with "a regular". Here's a thought, include some folks into a conversation at least make the offer to open it up to others with a simple "what do you think about the Bruins this year?" or the like.... If you're at a bar eating dinner chances are you're there by yourself, from out of town, or are in the mood for a bit of conversation to kill the time along with some brain cells while having a bite to eat. Keep in mind, someone whose had a good time, a few laughs and felt like "part of the gang" likely to tip a few extra bucks, and if in the area again...a repeat customer, all because you were a swell person.

The customer: Ah, the customer....ok

Keep your kids in their seat...and please, I know you can't control their screaming, but you can control where they scream, it's just rude to not take action for the folks around you, unless you're at MickyD's...then all bets are off. Letting your kids scream and run around like it was your own private Romper Room is not cool... Hello, Magic Mirror called and said for you to sit your crazy assed kids down! In the old days, A.K.A. my youth, this would have equaled a one way trip to spank their ass town. "But Pav, I don't want to stifle their creativity." Ok, so have some fun with it, make a poem out of sit down quiet time in the restaurant....Here's an example:

U are so royal with your own little crown,
when you see a waiter please sit your ass down.
U are as cute as a kitten or pup,
while we're in the restaurant please shut the F#$k up.

You can use that one people, don't worry...I'll make up some more.

Talking on cell phones does not bother me unless I'm eating in a fine dining restaurant. I think people get pissed at it because they either A) can't hear the other end of the conversation. B) can't eavesdrop on the conversation being held by the twenty somethings at the table across the room who have been doing more than play footsies under the table all night. I don't talk on the phone any louder than I do in a person to person conversation...which is what they are doing at their table, having conversations, or should be, if she wasn't so busy trying to hear everybody else's. If you do, or know someone who does talk loudly on the phone...stop it, you sound like an idiot.

Do not stare at other people, or their food. Didn't your mother ever tell you this is rude?! Well, don't mind me if I use the ole three stooges Moe with two fingers to the eyeballs routine to reinforce that lost lesson.

Do not tell your waiter you can't have "something" because you're allergic to it, if you are not allergic to it. Be truthful with what you do and don't like. If the chef can accommodate he/she will, if they can't too bad for you. If you are truly allergic to something be specific about it.

Stop sending food back to the kitchen because you're a dumb ass, and don't know what medium rare is. Or sending back fried food because it seems know what, it is greasy, it just came out of  375 degree oil... it's probably gonna have some of that grease on, or in it.  Look, kitchens make mistakes, they are back there sweating their asses off to make good and tasty food for you... your peas touching your potato is not a good reason to send food back. Sending a well done steak back because you asked for medium rare is a good time to send it back. After all, you can't stuff the shit back in the mule. Oh, and when you do send it back.... be nice about it... they really do try hard.

Do tip well! The waitstaff, bartenders, bus people all work very hard to make you happy and ensure that you have a good night. Help ensure that they can get groceries and pay rent. I promise they won't become millionaires just because you tip an extra four or five percent.

Just relax and be human, if you wouldn't do it with company over at your house, don't do it in a restaurant. If you are with someone who is acting the fool. Here's a fun game you can play that writer P.J. O'Rourke used to play with his buddies at Rolling Stone Magazine. Take the little stainless steel creamer (yep, the one with a lid on it that looks like a mini trash can). Let's call him Carl the Creamer, use your thumb to lift the lid up and down as if Carl is talking...(high pitched voice)"Carl's Hungry....Feed ME!" says Carl.... pass him in front of the others at your table and have them feed Carl bits of food, sugar packets, tea bags etc... until Carl is full. When the meal is over pick Carl up and make Carl start to talk again...Carl: "uh...gosh, I don't feel so well....I probably shouldn't have eaten so much...I think....I'm gonna be....." Then open the lid all the way up and toss at the offending ass at the table...I guarantee you will get a laugh from everybody else at the table.

Have a super weekend...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


I was walking through the grocery store to pick up some ginger ale to mix with my Jameson ...medicine and something caught my eye. Cherry 7-Up, ok.

Now good people, I am not a scientist... but on occasion I have been known to think. Wouldn't the benefits of antioxidants in high fructose corn syrup and dye filled soda water, be outweighed by the fact that they are in high fructose corn syrup and dye filled soda water?! Their advertising tells me "There's never been a more delicious way to cherry pick your antioxidant." Really?! What's wrong with a nice fresh red pepper, or a tomato or a hundred other wonderful foods with antioxidants? I pick on 7Up, but it's not completely their fault...Some egghead at an advertising firm sat staring at the ingredients list and had to think of something truthful to say about soda or snack food or ice cream or whatever else someone plunked in front of him/her.  Now I know as an American male in the 21-54 year old demographic or whatever age group they lump me into, I'm supposed to be a complete moron. (Shut it Cat!) I see the advertisements.....start scene..... I am talking on the phone telling my buddies I'm eating Boston cream pie while what I'm really doing is staring into a fridge full of yogurt..and crappy yogurt at that. I don't know what genius thought this one up, maybe someone who has never had yogurt, or never saw a guy have a phone conversation with a buddy. Here's how that would go...

Guy 1- Got a tee time for 7 tomorrow. You in?
Guy 2- Yeah.
Guy 1- Cool, see ya.
Guy 2- *beep*

(normally this would be in text form, but ad people think everybody still talks on the phone...I myself have gone beyond needing to talk to people at all, much less actual friends)

So after I saw the miracle antioxidant soda, it got me wondering what other silly ad crap is out there. I wasn't disappointed.

"Natural", this was on so many different foods I stopped counting. The best part about the word natural in the ad world is, they don't have to explain to you what it actually means...which is absolutely, JACK, SQUAT. Most people when they see the word Natural in labeling, define it in their own terms according to how they see it. But when you come down to it, all food is natural to one degree or another....the vegetables that go into a can of soup are natural....but then again so is the cow manure used to grow them, and naturally, I won't be eating that.

"Organic", this is a good one as well. Now technically, there are laws governing what organic means. But they have become so stretched and convoluted that they mean virtually nothing. Cows that are feed organically certified grain to produce organic milk and yet never see so much as a blade of grass doesn't sound very organic to me. Importing certified organic produce from China also concerns me... These are the the folks that brought us melamine in dog food, and antifreeze in toothpaste. If we're stretching what "organic" means in the states, what are they doing to them over there?! Organic is a fine word if you're buying from farmer Joe down the street who's hawking squash at the farmers market.....there "organic", actually means something.

"Fresh" If something is in a bag and warm, as in, it just came out of the oven within the hour....Then it's fresh. If something is in a bag with preservatives and a sell by date and has been there more than an's not fresh anymore.

"Wholesome" Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz" was wholesome, food is not wholesome.

"Zero Trans-fat" Just because you see this on your favorite package of processed preservative laden cookies, does not mean you should make a meal of the entire contents of said package, because you're "feeling pretty stoked about it being zero trans-fat."

"Homemade" Unless a significant other, be it your grandma, husband, child, aunt etc... wrote this on your bag is NOT, homemade.

"Cage Free"- You've seen these in the store... the super eggs, cage free, free range, hormone free, fed an all natural vegetarian diet (when did chickens stop eating bugs by the way?) fully tanned, massaged by virgins, run three miles a day and drinking only water from glaciers on the eastern slopes of the Himalayan mountains for the low low price of eight bucks and your first born child.... these babies must be running in herds on the great plains making the remaining buffalo tremble right? Yeah, not so much....more industrial farming. Do yourself a favor and find a local farm for some real "cage free" eggs...and don't freak out when you find out chickens are still eating bugs.

"Hearty"....It means heart felt... How does your heart feel when you're eating that can of chicken broccoli cheese manly soup with 22 grams of fat, 1780 grams of sodium and more than 30 carbs?! Mmmmm Mmmmm _________________ flat line! And these people think you should pour this liquid stroke on top of potato or rice...where's my defibrillator?

"Flavored" What this means... whatever the food you are eating is supposed to be flavored like, it will decidedly not have that flavor. Which is a good lead into the next ad-tastic word...

"Style" Add a word in front of STYLE, and it will immediately become the antithesis of that word. Let me give you a few examples...Home"style" will be nothing like you make at home, Chicago "style" will not be anything like you would have in Chicago.... Don't believe me?! Go to the freezer section and get yourself a Chicago "style" deep dish pizza, eat it. Now fly to Chicago for an actual Chicago deep dish pizza and eat it. I'll bet you feel like beating the person who wrote "style" on the frozen pizza box, with a bag of nickles... don't you? I know I do.

"Authentic" I don't know about you, but when I'm walking by a can of refried beans... I'm thinking man...I'll bet that's just how they're doin it down in Oaxaca, Mexico....Hey Juan, wait for me, and I'll bring the crunchy taco shells!

Look... I could go on in perpetuity with these, but I'm not going to unless someone can bring 30 yards of kevlar and five rolls of tape to keep my head from exploding. Advertising really chaps my haggis...all the half truths, The lies, the treating of consumers like dumb asses, the half naked women....OK, the half naked women..maybe not as much. Why not have a little truth in food advertising? Dudley Moore in "Crazy People" when the character Drucker said
"Metamucil: It helps you go to the toilet. If you don't use it, you'll get cancer and die."
That may be a bit extreme, but here are a few of my ideas...

"Twinkies, so bad for you....but oh so cream filled!" 

"Cherry 7Up... for people who hate real sugar, don't worry, we're only using the best quality high fructose corn syrup available baby!"

"Quaker brown sugar and cinnamon oatmeal, for people who don't mind eating floor sweepings...and  enough sugar to really amp up that pancreatic function!"

Those are just a few of my ideas....I've got a million more Madison Avenue, so give me a call and I'll be happy to help you get your head yanked out of your collective butts...I'll just be here playing chess with The Cat and drin....uh, taking my medicine.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


As I look out the window while I type, it's 6 degrees Fahrenheit and the world is wrapped in snow's pillowy embrace...Wait, did I just say pillowy embrace?! Oh Sweet Jesus in satin pants, this must mean another one of Pav's childhood stories... OK, so The Cat isn't digging it, he is leaving for a skating party with friends....hopefully you'll enjoy it anyway.

Every winter, after the excitement of the holiday feasts have faded. I get nostalgic for a more simple breakfast. Something that used to terrify me as a child, somehow brings comfort and warmth as an adult...cereal. Oatmeal, Cream of Wheat, Wheatena, Cornmeal, Maypo and Grapenuts. This was the dreaded "winter" cereal lineup of my youth. What's that?! No, I meant Cornmeal as they weren't considered grits in New Hampshire. My mom made them something exotic, "Cornmeal Mush...the Indians used to eat it." These six cereals were there to greet my brother and I every single morning when we arrived at the breakfast table. As mom believed and stated often that "you should have something warm in your belly on a cold morning." As mom was from a family of fifteen kids, I'm sure there were mornings in northern Vermont where she grew up, they may have done without this luxury on a morning or two.  Mom would change the order around so you never ate the same one on consecutive mornings. As my brother and I got older she would ask which one we wanted. As Bryan was not an early riser and I was, I usually got to make the call, often not the right one judging my my brothers disgust (secretly it's sometimes why I chose the one I did...sorry Bry). I didn't really have a favorite as they had been the same cereals I had been eating every school morning since I could remember.

Mom would often add different things to these cereals to add to the variety. Raisins, walnuts, banana, cranberries and the like. In all fairness raisins were the go to, followed by banana as walnuts and cranberries were usually only around for baking Christmas goodies. Mom was not much of a baker otherwise, save for the much loved pineapple upside down cake. But the two things that always accompanied the cereal were milk and sugar. The sugar once in a great while was replaced with maple syrup or brown sugar, but ninety percent of the time it was of the granulated white variety. The milk was almost always whole milk, except when the milk ran low and somebody forgot to get more, then there was evaporate milk mixed with water...this was never a happy morning. 

We always ate the cereals and headed out into the cold to the bus stop which was 20 miles through knee deep snow uphill both ways....ok, it was about a quarter mile... but it did get cold, sometimes as much as minus thirty, and on occasion a goodly amount of snow... I recall nine inches of fresh snow on the ground once with snow still falling and thinking to myself....who's leg to we gotta hump to get the day off here?! OK, I probably didn't think exactly that. School cancellations were a much loved day for my brother and I as it meant two things, More sleep for my perpetually tired brother, and no hot cereal for me. My father would have the radio on in the living room at about 5 am, and lying in bed I could hear them read through the names praying to hear my schools name. Sometimes we won, which meant my father would turn off the radio and make the walk to his and mom's bedroom to tell her she could rest for a while longer...Sometimes we lost which meant my father kept the radio on to make sure the call wasn't made later. This of course was the only way to know as there were no automated callings, no internet access, and my town didn't even show up on our state's one news station's map!

My Junior year in High School, Bryan got paroled from cereal jail as he left for the Air Force, and I was left alone to face the onslaught of winter cereals alone. Nobody to argue with, nobody to annoy or be annoyed by, I was left alone with nothing but a long stare at hot cereal...this was a lonely, desperate place. I tried explaining to my mom about then, that maybe I could just have some toast, or perhaps I'd have eggs, bacon and toast..."I'll even make it"... Which I'm sure was code for "YOU can make it". I was an early riser, but the thought of waking up and making a full on breakfast seemed pretty least for this fifteen year old. My mother declined with the counter offer, and you can do the dishes. As my parents only dishwasher went from two boys to one...I quickly bowed out.

I had to do something to stop the madness, so I devised a plan. My mother went out every morning to scrape the car and warm it up before leaving for work. This gave me a five or so minute window to bring my bowl of cereal to the bathroom, dump it, return to the kitchen and be washing my bowl by the time my mother came back in. This in fact worked swimmingly for a week or two until one day it had snowed. I felt I had plenty of time and continued my newly devised plan not taking into account that my father had shoveled the driveway when he got home, which meant he had just barely gotten to bed and wasn't asleep. The bathroom being just outside my parents bedroom, I'm sure offered an excellent listening position for my now tired and yet sleepless six foot two inch 270 pound father who wasn't particularly jaunty this time of morning. I got back to the kitchen feeling good about my success when mother came back inside. 

Dad made a surprise visit to the kitchen, I thought to get something to drink. Mom asked how my cereal was and with a smile and a wink I offered "It was great!" in a way I thought Tony the Tiger might say. My father not being amused, offered instead "Yeah?!...If it was so good, why did you dump it down the toilet?!" UH....looking to Mom's face and knowing the gig was up I was speechless. Waiting for mom's reply to see her go from sadness to anger I winced and expected either a smack upside the back of my head from dad, or a tounge lashing of incredible proportions from my mother.....But what I got instead was "Fine, well I won't be making you cereal anymore" With a look of confidence on her face as though she had just solved a quantum physics problem. My father just looked stunned...."That's what he wanted in the first place!" My mother went to say something to him and her face went blank, then she started to father shook his head and started for the bedroom. Mom looked at me and said, "You should have just told me, instead of wasting food." To which I felt awful about, knowing mom just wanted what she thought best for me, preparing a meal for me, a meal made with love... and I threw it away. Preparing food for someone has meant so much more thanks to that morning.

I never did get another bowl of hot cereal for the rest of my high school days, and at the time I was thankful. I never really touched it again for more than a decade after that and then in my late twenties, and going through some tough times both personally and financially, mom and dad came for a visit. She was always bringing some sort of care package, heck, even now when I go to visit, she tries to load me up with food stuffs. But I'll never forget that visit because she brought with her, aside from some canned goods, pasta and the cereal. She asked if I'd like to go out and eatwith her and dad, and I declined. Instead I asked her if she could make some cereal...It was just what I needed...a simple meal. Made with love and care, when that was what I needed most.

Mom and I laugh about the "cereal incident of 85" to this day. When I go over to her house I even make some for her on here it is, cold and snowy and it's time for breakfast...I think I'll have a bowl of oatmeal and give mom a call.

Have a great Sunday!

Saturday, January 21, 2012


Growing up, I was quite literally an absolute vacuum at the kitchen table. I could, and did, eat absolutely everything put in front of me, and even some things that were not in front of me. I didn't care for pearl onions much, but I would eat them. I guess it was a psychological thing, they reminded me of eyeballs...although, to my knowledge nobody ever made me eat a bowl of eyeballs. Now I'm fairly certain they aren't actual eyeballs and I love them deeply caramelized and served with a red wine reduction.

Then...There was my brother Bryan. The one food he would not eat were, peas...Some folks call them sweet peas, others (esp. in the south) call them English peas. There was nothing you could do to disguise them to where he would eat them. By disguise them I mean put them into something, I'm not sure how that's being disguised, but understand my mother had no knowledge of a great English favorite Mushy peas or other types of mashed.  Even if she had, I'm sure she would have thought somebody completely insane for mashing up perfectly good peas. It was always a battle of wills when mom would serve peas. All he had to eat was a serving spoon full which he always made a great fuss about, with fanfare abound.

Why would my mother make them knowing he hated them you ask?! Well good, kind and gentle PC people, this was back in the day when a 10 year old did not get a personalized menu. My mother was not standing in the kitchen with a dupe pad in hand, waiting for little Lord Fauntleroy to come up with what he thought to be appropriate fare, for his delicate palate.  This was at a time when food was cooked, it was eaten....if not that day, then the day after, or the day after that...until it was gone. We had a garden, peas were grown in that garden, ergo, my poor brother would be a pea eater for the short season in which they grow in New Hampshire....and that was that. For all the fussing there was about peas, my brother made up for in his interest of anything else food. I remember once, that while we were doing dishes, Bryan got scolded for getting something out of the fridge to eat after we had just gotten up from eating supper.

Somehow my brother was labeled "a picky eater". I think it's funny now, because I look at some people who are making several different meals a night because, this one won't eat this, and that one won't eat that. How does this happen? How do you develop a like or dislike to certain foods. I know childhood food aversions are either as a result of becoming sick in correlation, allergy driven, parent dislike, and later from peer dislike. But what about adults who get food aversions. After eating certain foods your whole life, how can you flip that switch? Is being in a country where excess is the norm a contributing factor? It's one thing to fall out of love with something, go through phases where you like a lot of one thing so much you burn out on it, or you're changing your diet to vegetarian, vegan, lowfat etc...But to wake up a day after eating say chicken, to the next day absolutely detesting it seems asinine to me. Or accumulating new dislikes based on other aversions, this makes me want to shake people until their heads fall off.

A friend of mine was talking about a television show where this person would not eat anything that appeared wet. I'm guessing that this person was either a burnt out saucier, or almost drowned while being thrown into the pool as a child in the old "Grampa taught me how to swim" routine... But how do you take that and turn it into "I don't do wet food"?! Are you F'ing kidding me? People were replying to her post with, well some people just like what they like, or, you don't have to watch it. There was only one thing that kept coming to my mind and that was...I wonder if this variety of insanity ever occours in *insert third world country here*.  Personally it makes me sad, and angry. I wonder if poor children in other countries getting in the range of 300 or fewer calories a day who may only have rice or some other cereal grain available, is looking at their mom through malnurished eyes and saying..."Yeah, I'm not really digging rice anymore." Just really sad to me and my sensibilities.

What can be even more madening is when you invite one of these picky people to your home to share a nice meal with and then they ask you what you're preparing. You explain what you had in mind and they wrinkle the nose, not offering something they may prefer, or are fine eating but instead offer "um yah, I can't really have onions, I'm allergic" or "um yah, My husband doesn't like this or that or that or that...etc..." A) Don't be an ass, first I would be suspicion that you are actually allergic to onions, most folks like to say shit like that because they "really" don't like onions and pin it on allergies. Yes, yes, yes, good and honest people, I'm sure there are folks allergic to onions, all five of them, and the closest one lives in the Ural Mountains in the quaint town of Sverdlovskaya oblast, Russia. But lets use our heads people and stop giving everybody the benefit of the doubt all the damned time. If they said peanut allergy I wouldn't be shocked, an Onion allergy just may force me to puree one up to pour in the pasta suce and head to the pharmacy for an epipen to see what kind of a lying ass I'm really dealing with. Oh, and to Mr. or Mrs. Here is a list of shit I don't eat, here is some advice to you, stop at MikeyD's on your way over, or whatever crap o' matic fast food place you probably "LOVE" everything at, and get your dinner there, as I'm not in the catering business, I'm in the having a nice meal with friends business. I have heard of such people and this should serve as fair warning. The Cat knows this very well, as I embarrassed him and a lady friend he wanted to make Crêpe Suzette for, until she showed a lack of interest in orange zest....I threw a hissy fit, and he took her to Henry's for a night cap... Henry's is a nice little jazz bar down the street....but that's quite the other thing. He hasn't spoken about it since, unless of course it has been jotted down in his memoirs...Either way, you get the point.

Look, I'm sure most all of you fine and fun loving people have one or two foods you don't like and have given them the old college try. You are also the same people who would just put to the side or pick out things they don't like and eat the rest. I'm not talking about you, I'm talking to the "I don't like wet food" or the "I don't like it even though I've never tried it, mostly because I suck" people. Luckily, I don't have any of those folks in my circle. I see some of these folks from time to time, and have seen them in my restaurants... You know them..."Can I get extra beurre blanc (a wine and butter sauce as Beurre is French for Butter) for my scallops, but I don't want any butter on my rice, cause I'm allergic." To which I always instructed the front of house to ask the customer if they'd like to add beurre blanc to the rice at no additional charge...I can't tell you how many were so pleased and thanked me personally as I always took the time to deliver these myself. "Bon Appetit!"


My favorite local butter

Applewood smoked bacon cooked in the oven, from a butcher friend.

I had this given to me, I can't remember the last time I payed for Maple Syrup...

crepe with a little vanilla and nutmeg...and a hunk o' butter on top...almost time to eat!

add a little thyme, et voila! I love it when breakfast comes together! Have a great Saturday everyone!

Friday, January 20, 2012



First off, I'll go ahead and throw my two cents worth into a pile that is ass deep to a ten foot man with pennies already. Paula Deen is a shit... there, I said it. No, it's not because I think she causes diabetes. No, not because she kept it secret for three years either. Paula Deen is a shit because of a comment she made to USA Today "I knew when it was time [to tell], it would be in God's time." Well apparently "God", is working for Novo Nordisk and not only did he (yes, yes I know...or She) think it was a good time, but he also gave her a big wad of sweaty money and produced a drug that was heaven sent just for her little ole' disease y'all! (Like the "As Good As It Get's" reference...I do)

I for one, do wish Paula Deen all the best for a long, healthy and happy life. People that are blaming her for her own or others diabetes, or,  praying for her demise are just silly. No doubt there is cause and effect, IF, her diet is of the high fat high calorie, don't be afraid to add more butter variety. What really chaps my haggis about this whole thing is, to wait in hiding until she could figure out a way to profit from it. Had she come out from the start and announced her disease, promoted new ways of looking at food, she could have avoided most of this firestorm. Now she just looks greedy, self centered and frankly, unconcerned about the folks she has been feeding "Piggy Pudding" to. I think one of the saddest things is that people will now be knocking each other over in the near future to get her eating healthy cookbooks....The saddest Paula. I just wonder if Food Network knew about this. Just spit balling here, but if they did, did they encourage her to keep her silence being as popular a show as it was? I don't want to give Paula an out, or lay any blame... she most probably kept it to herself... it was just... a little fat to chew on.


I've asked this question on another site but I figured I'd post it here as well just because I am truly curious and don't know if this is even considered a paradox amongst vegans. Being a vegan for two whole hours myself didn't allow time to reflect on this question...I was too busy planning for that spicy pork sausage and bean cassoulet that evening!!!The points that I am interested in, and I'd love to get clarity from the vegan contingent are as follows:

Are you ok with chemical based fertilizers?

Can you be truly vegan if you eat organic vegetables that are fertilized with, bonemeal, manure, fish meal, bloodmeal, compost, guano or worm castings?

If you're ok with with the latter, how do you justify the exploitation of animals for the purpose of growing your vegetables?

Thanks in advance for your responses.


My parents would take my brother and I up to my uncle's cabin in Old Orchard Beach Maine once a summer for a weekend. We would wake up at the crack of dawn with my uncle David (the second biggest inspiration in my cooking life as he was a chef for a lot of years) asking if we wanted to go out body surfing. Anybody who has been to Maine can tell you, even on a 100 degree day in late August, the best you can hope for from the North Atlantic is maybe 65 degrees, blue lips and a generous amount of shrinkage. (see Seinfeld) But what a great way to wake up! Looking for shells and making sand castles. Sandwiches and cold sodas from the cooler for lunch and riding the tilt a hurl on the pier until it was time for suppah (dinner to you dear city people).

The Clambake... this is your typical Coastal New England fried fish/fried clam/fried shrimp/ french fry and last but not least LOBSTER restaurant with the whole nautical theme, if you were from say... Kansas, and had never seen anything Nautical themed...But rather what you imagined to be nautical themed. The very first time we went to the cottage, we ate there, and every time after that it became a bit of a tradition. I had never had lobster before, and this was the 70's so you didn't have to mortgage the house to get one so I ordered it. I knew what it was, and I knew what they looked like, but I had no earthly idea what to do with one. I guess I envisioned I'd be eating it like Daryl Hannah in the movie Splash. The moment arrived, AHOY LOBSTER! Now what...I could see my father and mother were a bit nervous. I was about six or so and even thought lobster wasn't pricey, it still wasn't a hot dog and fries cheap either. I think my Uncle Gerry sensed their nervousness and came over to help, and he brought his lobster to demonstrate.

"Grab an antennae" wait what?! um...ok, must be some meat in there....I started chewing. "No, (laughing) you just suck on those." Ah, um....ok. "Now we move to the little swimmers, the little legs." He pulled off a leg and broke it into smaller pieces, then he showed me how to squeeze the lobster meat out. We worked through the knuckles and then the claws. then he pulled off the tail and set it aside, pulled the back off to reveal the tomalley, (that's the green stuff landlubbers) which gave me pause, but I tried it and loved it. Uncle Gerry explained there was a lot of meat inside the lobster, and showed me where to look for it. When we finally got done and got to the tail meat, he said to me...."that's what you've been working so hard it's time to eat!" he pulled off the little flippers getting each morsal of meat out and then poked his finger through and pushed the tail meat out...WOW! He showed me how to devein it and then it was lobster heaven!

After that is was time to retire to the beach where we would jump off the breaker wall into the sand playing lighthouse tag, kicking jellyfish and picking up sand dollars....just waiting for next year when we could return to the Clambake for more Lobster. I perfected my Lobster eating skills over the years and can have one stripped in pretty much two or three minutes. I have my own technique of pulling all the meat out and piling it up before enjoying it all at once. When going out in a group of friends for lobster I anxiously wait, for "That Guy" the one who eats the claws and tail and thinks he's done....yeah, "That GUY", I love to see their faces when I ask if I can pick theirs over, and they see all the meat you can actually get out of it piled in front of me! Oh, all except for my friend Kris, He's from Maine and his grandmother Ruby showed him how the native Micmac Indians eat lobster....maybe Uncle Gerry was Micmac....either way, Thanks Uncle Gerry....for my mad lobster skills! 

Lobster Anyone?! Have a great weekend...

Thursday, January 19, 2012




Wednesday, January 18, 2012


As I've said before, my mother was a casserole queen. She made the most wonderful casseroles and one pot wonders. Winter in rural New Hampshire was my mom's time to shine from a culinary standpoint. There was mac n cheese with ham, scalloped potatoes, potato and squash gratin, baked spaghetti with lardon of salt pork, fish, clam and corn chowders, lasagna, shepherds pie, rappie pie, boiled dinners, pot roast...I can just smell them now. She had her occasional flops as we all do, but even when making something out of nothing she always seemed to make it taste amazing. Mom was able to do all these dishes without ring molds, sauces a la Jackson Pollock, eight inch sprigs of rosemary, tourneed vegetables, Himalayan Pink Salt, cedar planks, plates the size of a pool table and in the shape of used silly putty on acid. Aside from pot liquor from cooking greens, pot roast jus thickened with a little cornstarch slurry, or turkey gravy on Thanksgiving...there was little to add or take away from what was delicious food. I'm the first to admit, I love the addition of a nice jus, salsa, fresh mayo, hollandaise etc... but just to add a touch of flavor or elegance to an already nice plate of food. but after that, STOP F'ING WITH IT!

I noticed on Top Chef several weeks ago (the last time I ever watch, save for the odd time when Bourdain is judging) the judges were critiquing the plates that the food was served on, the garnish on the plate, the sauce on the food, and then finally the food itself. Why are these people making food so damned complicated? It's not just Top Chef, it's everywhere. If I am at Le Bernardin, and I am paying several hundred dollars for dinner, I want a horse and pony show, I expect tall, fancy, ornate and delicious food...that's why I'm there...for the experience..of course I also want to be kissed before the check arrives. Only whores don't get kissed before they get....well whatever it is whores get....but that's another story. That all being said, when I am at a local restaurant paying twenty bucks for a nice roast lamb dish, I don't want pruning shears to cut the half tree of rosemary that's skewering my lamb into the ring molded couscous, and a squeegee on top of that because there are three different sauces splashed all over the half truncated icosidodecahedron shaped plate, that is sitting atop a forty pound slab of salt from Taoudenni. Just serve the poor lamb as it was intended...simply. The other monkey business is superfluous.

The problem is, it's not going to end there. Soon, you'll be seeing this stuff in your local diners and sandwich shops. But Pav, Cooking is art, the chefs need to express themselves creatively. Oh, is that right?! Bullshit. chefs are cooks, they should cook the food and present it in a manner that is appealing. I can't tell you the last time I got all weepy eyed looking at a plate of food and through trembling lips uttered "Oh the chef....he knows the joy I feel, you can see it in the log cabin he has made with his pommes frites!" Oh yeah, and unless you're from France or Belgium, let's just call them fries. As far as people in the culinary world being artists, I'll concede that the pâtissier probably fits that mold, but other than way. Still don't know what I'm talking about? Let us take a look at the lowly hamburger and hot dog. For the last several years now, restaurants have been looking for new and innovative ways to take these things to new heights. Adding foie gras, truffles, gold leaf, wagyu beef....these bastions of manly American food, being made to dress up in their sisters high heels and make up, then sent out on parade for all their buddies ridicule and mock.

Innovation is fine, but the Greek aphorism, "Know Thyself" should be taken into account here. This type of food torture has taken place before in the recent past in the form of nouvelle cuisine, which was intended to simplify food, but instead turned into lemon grass tapenade avec le écureuil en crapaudine. If we aren't careful that's where we are headed again. I understand cooks wanting to test their limits, stretch their legs if you will. How else would we have come up with bacon ice cream?! OK, maybe that wasn't the best example. But if you're going to play with your food, go with things that work together. My palate should not be a playground for your version of "Chopped"..."Hey, I wonder if tripe coated with Chinese five spice dunked in tempura then deep fried and served with mango salsa would be good?!" I don't honestly know, perhaps you should find out before you serve it to me. I'll have the cheeseburger with a slice of American cheese on something that resembles a nice toasted bun, a little onion, tomato, lettuce, ketchup, mayo and mustard....what you do with the micro greens, foie gras and truffle oil is your business...but I can give you suggestions on where you should stick them.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


When my brother and I were quite young, my parents would on occasion hire a babysitter to watch us while they went for a rare night out. This particular babysitter was vegan, and would make my brother and I vegan based meals for dinner. This was not an easy thing to do in a house that had a can of bacon grease in the fridge at all times along with several types of deli/luncheon meats, milk (that's "whole milk" because the only other types of milk available at the time were skim which dad hated, buttermilk which dad loved, or raw, which dad preferred but not always convenient to have on hand) butter, (later's not nice to fool mother nature...I think mother nature was trying to tell us about trans-fats in that, she was evil) fresh meat of all kinds, frozen meat in the freezer and canned meat in the pantry....No, not just Spam...there was also Treet, Libby's corned beef, dried chipped beef and canned minced pork my mother used to have on hand to make Tourtière, and canned beef that went into damned near anything consisting of just vegetables. But...the babysitter did manage to throw a few things together and make a meal that was quite tasty if not satisfying. But alas, the babysitter went away to college and that was the last of my experiences with meatless anything for quite some time.

For the record, my mom doesn't care for meat. She is the undisputed queen of one pot meals and casseroles. If left to her devices, she'd probably omit meat from damned near everything she cooks. She loves vegetables and in the summer when fruit and vegetable stands are packed with fresh goods, she is in her glory. I asked her one day if she could go without eating meat....she said "no problem"! I asked her if she could do it forever. She asked..."Why would I?!" I asked if she could go on a diet without eating any animal based products whatsoever and she simply responded "No". So here's a woman who is a self admitted meat hater and still, she could not give up eating meat forever. She couldn't even become a simple vegetarian, never mind vegan.

I got to thinking on my way home, could I ever become a vegetarian? Or worse yet, vegan? OK, yes, I said it, "worse yet". Because for me, I can't imagine anything less appealing than a diet void of all things animal. I can't... or can I? I thought, hey, I've got lots of friends who are vegan as well as vegetarian. I often hear my vegan friends say "I won't eat anything if it had a face", to which I always reply "I won't eat a food if it ever cast a shadow!"  But hell why not try it, just for one day. It could be enlightening. Maybe I can find out a little something about myself. Or something useful about my vegan and vegetarian friends. I mean really, I've eaten meals my vegan friends have made and hell, some of them were tasty, even downright delicious! But how am I going to do this? How in my meat-centric house will I be able to do the whole "vegan" thing? I'll need to go grocery shopping and get some nice spices, herbs, vegetables and some different kinds of protein....this is gonna be interesting!

So I get to the grocery store and make my way through the produce section, picking up some nice greens and things for a salad, white onion, cilantro, limes etc. for some kind of tofu taco I seem to remember from school, some onions, celery, carrots, tomato, to do a play off a cassoulet for dinner. OK, so now onto some dry goods, white beans, and lentils for the cassoulet and some vegetable stock. Grabbed a bag of walnuts and some dried cherries for the salad and I could also use them in granola or in the morning in my steel cut I'm about to pick up some bleu cheese for the salad I think, oh man, I can't have that. So before I go any further, what else do I need to be on the lookout for. After all I have heard my vegan friends talk about things to look out for, now what were those things again?! Thank you oh great and powerful technology gods for Google and smart phones or I'd be staring blindly into space for hours... Let's see here, ah, foods vegans should look out for....perfect....I begin to scan down the list...Beers, biscuits, breads, cereals, cookies, cakes, candies, cheese, chewing gum, chips, dressings, jellies, pastas, pastries, soft drinks, spirits, stocks added to other foods, vitamins, medicines, wines, Worcestershire sauce and the hits just kept coming.... Yes, yes, yes, I know dear vegans, not all of these items of every brand have things in them that make them non vegan. But I refuse to live my life reading labels like a deranged bibliophile. I went back to the cheese and picked up that nice Maytag, got some Anduille for the cassoulet, got some pork butt for the tacos, put the vegetable stock back in lieu of the pork stock I had at home, picked up a six-pack of Guinness and stood happily at the check out line some two hours into this grand experiment.

I mean WTF is the point?! I guess the point is this... it's not for me. I love food. I love cooking and eating food, all food. That's what being cibo is all about. If you asked me to cut out any one food item, just one, for the rest of my life. I'd be hard pressed to name one that at some point I wouldn't want again. Octopus Pav?! Yeah, love it grilled. How about blowfish Pav?! I've had it once and given the opportunity to eat it again, you can bet your haggis I would. Stinky Tofu Pav?! Um....ok, so I've found one... but I haven't just taken a whole one third of my diet and hucked it into the thrash bucket. (thrash bucket, is grandfather speak for trash can...well my grandfather anyway) As for me, food is a celebration of life, even if it's as a result of death. I respect the food I eat for having given its life. I don't waste those foods. I'm not going to be having roast giraffe tongue and throwing the rest of the giraffe away people. When I get the opportunity to do so and I get a whole pig, calf, cow, goat, lamb, chicken etc...I want to eat it ALL! People's thoughts about what goes into a hot dog, are in my mind, the only two parts of an animal I'm not generally going to eat....lips, and assholes.

Look, at the risk of beating a dead....uh...I the risk of sounding repetitive here, I grew up working on a dairy farm. I've seen the circle of life on many occasions, with many different animals. I understand how this whole thing works. Some day I will also die, and if eating animals or animal products equal F's on my karma report card, then I guess I'm screwed.... or, I'll be in stock pot with a cow lifting the lid asking if I'm done yet. Until then I say, my hat's off to you vegans. I don't know how you do it. I don't know if it's a moral thing, a hate for food thing, respect for food thing....I don't know, and being completely close minded....I don't want to. But even though I don't understand them, I respect your dietary choices... even if you did just step on and kill a couple of defensless ants.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


When I was maybe 17 years old, the only cooking shows available were Julia Child during the week, and the occasional show over the weekend on PBS. This is how it was until November of 1993 When TV Food Network arrived on the scene...I didn't see it at first, probably a good thing as they had some kinks to work out. I believe it was almost a year later before I got to see any programming... and when I did, I thought it was fantastic.

The shows production value, well let's face it, they were horrible. But the beauty of it was the simplicity, the on air talent, and the format. People standing and facing you in your living room and talking about food. They were talking about food in an honest, enlightening, engaging manner that made you feel comfortable and excited about food and cooking. It made me feel the same way I did so many years ago while watching Julia Child, Martin Yan or Burt Wolf (Burt in his earlier shows, which were more about cooking and less about how distinguished and sophisticated people travel). It was electric for anybody who loved food and cooking. I would turn on TV Food Network when I got home, leave it on while I was cooking, and at times, it would stay on until it was nearly time for bed at ten or eleven o'clock at night.

The network had some talented people on during the late nineties including but not limited to: Emeril Lagasse, Mario Batali, Ming Tsai, Jamie Oliver, Tyler Florence, Sarah Moulton and so many more. Granted they were stand and stir shows, but loaded with cooking technique and information. It was something myself and many more people were happy to watch but that was a problem. I happened to be in a larger market that got the network fairly early, but at that time (1998 ish)  it was only available to about 28 million or so viewers...In 1999 the network only had an overall 0.2 rating which meant only about 84 thousand people a day were watching the network. The good news was it was growing, and in 1999 was scheduled to break even and would start to make a profit that following year.

In 2000 the powers that be decided to make the "stand and stir" show format something only to be seen during the day. Prime time was now going to be "entertainment focused", uh....Food Network....shouldn't there be food in there someplace?! They started creating shows based on competitions, taking chefs out of kitchens and deliberately creating shows to generate sex appeal. This was when the base crowd, including me started to grumble. Then came 2004, enter Brooke Johnson the new Network President, who hates the "Stand and Stir" format... this is where things started to go south on a rocket ship. This is where we started seeing cooking shows turn into drama competitions. We also start to see "personalities" instead of cooks. Why would you want to have cooks on a Food Network? Beats me, but Brooke sure knew. For a while though she was wildly successful. I'm sure if I was juggling chainsaws next to the bearded lady while sitting on the two headed calf, I'd draw a hell of a crowd too. The problem with that is people eventually grow tired of the freak show....there's a reason the circus doesn't stay in one town.

I wrote an E-mail to Brooke Johnson as well as several key people at the Food Network to plead with them to stop the madness. I described how they were driving their base away, and if they didn't stop soon, there would be nobody left to turn the lights off when they finally slipped the rabbit hole. I never got a response from anybody...In all fairness, I probably never made it through their spam filter...But, I'll bet they could put together one big ole can of spam! Ignoring mine and probably several thousand other emails begging for sanity, Food Network started cleaning house, and see ya later actual cooks and chefs....Hello shit show! Yes, send in the clowns.... by lowering the cooking and food content, upping the drama level and adding personality they chopped the integrity of the network to the lowest common denominator. They whored themselves out for fast rising ratings in exchange for their dignity and the respect of the people who made them what they were up to that point.

I haven't watched anything on the Food Network in five or six  years. I haven't watched because, Why would I?! There is nothing good or entertaining about it, and their slipping ratings are proof of this. Last year they slipped by more than ten points in the fourth quarter. Look at the people they have, and the shows they have them on, some times three and four shows a day featuring the same personalities. I love lobster, but if you jammed it in my face four times a day forever, I don't care how many new ways you find to serve it, eventually I'm just not going to eat it. I'm not going to drag these people through the mud, The network is doing a fine job of this all by themselves. One of their shows is a  poorly done ripoff of Gordon Ramsay's "Kitchen Nightmares", I say they should have a show where you bring in somebody like a Gordon Ramsay but instead of being a professional in the field of cooking, make it in the field of network executives... and have them visit Food Network!

I know how to increase your ratings, start showing food, and actual cooks, cooking food on the Food Network. Sure you're gonna loose some of your other viewers.... but they're mostly there to see if the puffed rice cereal cake is going to fall at the end of one of your twenty awful mega extreme super duper cake competition shows. The Food Network is just silly and awful, but I'd like to help you out Brooke. I'll be glad to come down there and fix what's wrong with your programming. I'm just hoping part of the dress code isn't clown makeup, because trying to watch any of shows for even a little bit makes me want to order peanuts, and I keep looking for the other two rings. We would have to start slowly, but I know we could do it. Besides if we weed out all the shows that weren't fun, weren't entertaining, weren't based on food or cooking, there will be no shows, and no personalities either for that matter. The viewers that you left cold and crying in the rain, will come back...If you give them something to come back to.  

Sunday, January 8, 2012


Dear kind and gentle readers, as I know we are all of mild disposition and in no way mean spirited. I shall omit the actual name of the store that I will be talking about today, because I am better than that. I am above name calling,  finger wagging and tattle for this post I am taking the moral high road... besides, someday they may want to give me a pile of money to endorse them... so I certainly have to leave that option open.

It was a couple of days before Christmas and a friend of mine had gotten me a present. It was a fifty dollar gift certificate to ....oh let's call it "Bill Fresno"(you like how I did that?). You've seen this place before, it seems like every mall has one. Oh, you do know where I'm talking about. It's the place you can buy a nine dollar lemon reamer, (while the rest of the wooden lemon reamer selling world is giving them away for two or three bucks) or what I found fascinating, a ten dollar banana slicer (are you serious?!). These little beauties must be flying out the door! RIGGGHHHT....that place! So I had been there before, numerous times in fact, but not very recently. Being a diehard cook and cibo (yes cibo works in this case, trust me) I am always drawn into any store that has shiny pots, pans, knives, gadgets, do dads, and what not's. Five minutes after going into Bill Fresno I always come away chuckling at the serious faced people inside asking serious questions about this seriously bad premade chutney, or that seriously overpriced sautoire pan....that they!

So I'm thinking surely I'll be able to get something decent for fifty bucks, I know at my own restaurant supply store I could get perhaps a saute pan, or an offset serrated and paring knife (yes both)...sadly, I was mistaken. I strolled into the store and was immediately assaulted by several sales people. I guess the assumption is, if you're shopping there to begin with, you must be clueless. I can go into my restaurant supply store and  if I didn't go to the counter with my question, they would probably not know I was there and shut the lights off come closing time. It's not that they aren't helpful, they are... they just assume if you are in their store, you must know what the hell you're doing. So back to Bill Fresno... I politely tell them I am looking for a saute pan and won't be requiring their assistance. I started looking at saute pans and found only two out of some twenty that just squeaked in under a hundred bucks. A sales woman came over and offered "This one's on sale!" I said thanks, but I'm looking for a saute pan. She said, "oh I'm sure this one is an excellent saute pan.".... "Ma'am, it's a sautoir" Her: "Isn't that what this is?!" I then spent the next couple of minutes explaining to her the difference between a saute, sauteuse, sautoir, cassoulet and rondeau... Which I don't mind. I actually enjoy teaching something about cooking that they don't know. I was just thinking I wouldn't have to do so here. By the way, I checked when I got back home...there were fourteen out of nineteen saute pans that were under a hundred bucks at my restaurant supply store and 8 of those were under fifty!

So I thought cutlery would be a no brainer for a fifty spot.....wrong again. In all fairness, they did have three or four pairing knives for sale under fifty bucks, but they were either ones I already had or ones I'd never use unless at gunpoint. Take the bird's beak paring knife, this little baby is great for such fun cuts as the tourné cut. Tourné is where you take little root vegetables and turn them into little seven sided footballs .... WEEEEE.... a total pain in the ass and a total waste of time. The other FUN things you can do with a bird's beak paring knife is fluting mushrooms, or making rosettes with things like radishes... these are both as much fun and useful as learning how to make a prison shank by rubbing a toothbrush on concrete....actually I'd argue the latter may be more fun and useful. Anyway, it was a no go on the cutlery, every other knife was so expensive it's not even worth mentioning.

So how about gadgets, I'm all for something that I can use for multiple jobs. My thought on this is The Cat doesn't have any unitaskers, why should I? Well, ok there is that wine siphon he uses for racking his wine, but his argument for a good and drinkable wine, is a valid argument in my book... so I let it slide. Hey now, back to that banana slicer! Ten bucks to slice a banana, I don't know how my mother ever managed to slice them onto mine and my brothers cereal when we were kids without one of these gems! Now if only I knew how to get into that darned banana.....Et Voila! No kidding, a banana opening tool, no, it doesn't peel it, you still have to do that, it's this silly thing that pops the long piece on the top so you can open it the rest of the way with ease....EASE I TELL YOU! Myself, I just pinch the bottom like a monkey and the skin pops off the damned banana in one piece.....My guess is the monkeys would turn the banana opening tool into an ass scratcher but that's just a guess on my part. They had tools to crush fruit on the bottom of a glass, a cherry/olive pitter, and avocado all in one tool, melon knife, pineapple corer slicer and dicer, apple corer slicer, and a tomato knife....and except for crushing fruit on the bottom of a glass, I can do the rest with a chefs knife....I'm not sure why you'd crush fruit on the bottom of a glass, The Cat said something about an Old Fashioned, but unless your favorite drink is Jameson and Ginger or beer, you're gonna be SOL at my house, you wanna crush some fruit at my house, I suggest you use a fork or tablespoon.

So defeated, I looked at all the different premade foods. Chutney, fancy flavored mayos, dressings, sauces... all stuff I am particular about, and know how to make myself. I'm not against premade or processed foods. Hell the whole inside of the door on the fridge is loaded with premade mustard, ketchup, soy sauce, oyster sauce, so on and so forth... but I'll bet I didn't spend ten or twelve dollars for any of them either. I saw that they had towels, oven mitts, aprons and such.... but I have those things as well and didn't pay a king's ransom to get them. So what did I end up getting? I got two cookbooks, One on New England cusine, and one on soups....I ended up giving them as gifts to other friends. I'm not sure they would have fit in next to LaRousse Gastronomique,  Le Guide Culinaire or my Pro Chef 8th Edition on the bookshelf...Plus anybody who knows me, knows I am not much on recipe's but most people are....I'm glad I got the gift certificate as it saved me a few bucks on gifts for a few cibo friends... but maybe next year he should just get me a toothbrush and some concrete.

Have a Happy!

Saturday, January 7, 2012


Something most people out there don't know about chef's, cooks or cooking , is that it's crazy assed tough and thankless work. When you're either just out of school "prima donna", or starting out as a "prep bitch" with no experience in a decent restaurant, the one thing you can count on more than death or taxes, is that "they" are gonna work you like a rented mule. You'll probably work upwards of sixteen plus hours a day six days a week, for what amounts to a shamefully small amount of money, in a cramped area that's at times 130 degrees or more, you're quite literally cooking yourself. Go ahead, ask any professional in the industry who has made their bones how easy the work is...Or better yet, just for funsies, tell them you, or someone you know is thinking of going to culinary school or getting into the food service industry. Then ask them their thoughts. If they're being polite, they will tell you it's tough. Or if they are being truthful, you will probably get something that starts with "Are you/they F'ING crazy!? and end with, If I had to do it over again, I would have gone to college and studied ancient dead languages and art history, and made more money than I am now!

By the time a cook becomes  Chef de cuisine (literally "chief of kitchen"), they have put in a serious amount of hours, probably have some health issues (back, legs, feet, etc...), make ok money, but still it is no cakewalk because the success or failure is typically planted squarely on that persons shoulders. So there is an incentive to spend as much time, if not more in that kitchen to keep your fingers on the pulse, as it were, of your restaurant, your patient. Your next step if you're so blessed is to become known for your food. Be it in newspapers, magazines, TV interviews, etc. Today this is a common thing, but there was a time not too long ago when being a chef held no such prestige. Jacques Pepin was offered the position of executive chef for president Kennedy, and he turned it down in lieu of a job for Howard Johnson. When asked why he did such a crazy thing he said, "In France I was the Chef de cuisine for the French president and never received one interview, or had one picture taken....I thought the Howard Johnson job would be more interesting."

So now you're becoming well known and you may even be lucky enough to have a few restaurants with financial backers, and business partners, PR people etc... to take care of the nuts n bolts of operating such businesses, so you can be free to create the great food and maintain the standards of your blooming empire. Hey, there are things in the works to get you a TV show cause you're a swell person and you make good food. This will finally be where you will start to achieve fame, but will undoubtedly work nearly as many hours...The problem is, you can't do it for fame, or the money, because you'll never become famous, or rich enough, and you'll drive yourself crazy trying to get those precious things. The fame, the money... must be a derivative of your sweat equity.

So now the TV show is going great, you're rich, you're famous, your business has grown by leaps and bounds, hell, you've opened four more places, in Rio, Las Vegas, Chicago and're an international superstar of cuisine! Here come the endorsements, alright, you're finally into the big money. Don't forget now, you have integrity, no sireebob, I have standards, I have integrity, nothing but the best, that's what I'm gonna endorse....Ummmmm.....Here's the problem. Yes you have integrity, you have standards, that's what you've built your whole career on....But now, you have 10 restaurants, business partners, investors, employees, several hundred if not thousands of people are depending on you to keep maintaining, even growing your Name, your Brand. You can't NOT do these commercials.... "Why yes, when I'm working in my kitchen all I ever wear are Doctor Schills Insole Cushy Thing's....yes indeed.....comfy as a cloud!"

You have to do this, and you will do this, and sure you'll make a lot more money, and those snobby bastard foodies will hate you for selling out, the cibo crowd will be fine with it because, well shit because they appreciate pretty much anything food related, the American people are already on board as they are the only people still left watching the Food Network or the Cooking they're scarfing this stuff up as fast as you can endorse it.

Would I ever buy "their stuff"....Not a shot in hell. Why?! "But Pav, that's not being very cibo"... you're saying, and you're right....but right here on line 7 in my, "worked in professional kitchens/ cook contract" I am more or less obligated to consider myself a cook as opposed to cibo...which allows me the added benefit to also thumb my nose at things that I/The Industry Lifer Team deem as unadulterated bullshit. I wouldn't use the spice mixes, because I have a tongue, I have spices, and I know what I like, I don't need to be told "This is Steak Rub"... out of spite if I saw that in a kitchen, I would most definitely use it on fish. I won't use the Stock as I have a stove, and something called a stockpot....guess what it's used for? I won't buy the pans because I know where the kitchen supply store is that isn't interested in hawking kitchen ware for some celebrity, they're interested in supplying kitchens with stuff that works, and at a competitive price. So it goes... with the toothpaste, the dog food, etc, etc, nauseum...I don't, and I won't buy this stuff...but that's just me. If you like any of these things, feel free to buy and use them, take no shame kind people...really, it isn't all shit on a stick. I guess for me, it's just principal.

Do I blame them?! Hell no, and I'll tell you why dear readers. Because these men/women in most cases have worked their butts off, are from humble beginnings, are good people, and if they can sell lumps of dog shit that people will buy... all the power to them! They almost have to do this, because if they don't... the empire starts to fold and people start to loose their jobs. The Chefs themselves would still do fine, but so many others depend on them. So they will keep doing what they do for the sake of the people who got them to the station they are at....and really, that's what a good chef does.