DDD #96 – Vegan Parsley Herbed Potato Gnocchi

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2018

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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Click the image about to watch the gnocchi video.

OK – spicy marinara is really arrabbiata – I know.  And I have posted many versions of simple pasta sauce before but I am just gonna go ahead and post another here.  Pasta sauce is so easy – there is no excuse to buy bullshit jarred sauce at a far greater price.   HERE is one you can make in the time it takes your pasta to cook.  But – in a pinch – your favorite jarred sauce will do.

I used some wrinkly sad cherry tomatoes in my sauce.  Every time I consider whether produce is still edible, I think of the Diary of Anne Frank.  They lived on sub-par or rotting produce.  For years.  So, I am usually guilted into finding a way to use the questionable items.

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Gnocchi are remarkably easy to make, too.  Once the potatoes are baked – it can all come together pretty quickly & so incredibly delightfully.  This recipe should feed 4 pretty easily but if you want to save a bunch for the future – simply put uncooked gnocchi on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Put the sheet in the freezer & once the gnocchi are frozen, put them into sandwich bags in the freezer.  When you want to eat them – boil them frozen or they will get gooey.

In the past, I have made these with eggs but this recipe is vegan & they came out SO LIGHT & PILLOWY!   I will never use eggs in gnocchi again.  I had to subsidize my Russet potato quotient with some random yellow potato.  It didn’t hurt anything.  But try to use Russet because of the starch & moisture factors.

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Vegan Parsley Herbed Gnocchi with a Spicy Basil Marinara

INGREDIENTS

for the gnocchi

3 lbs Russet potatoes

1 TBS olive oil

1 cup chopped fresh parsley

1 1/2 cups (plus more) flour

S&P to taste

for the spicy basil marinara

1 6 oz can tomato paste

2 28 oz crushed tomatoes

30 grape or cherry tomatoes – quartered

1 TBS olive oil

6 garlic cloves – chopped

1/2 cup chopped basil

1-3 tsp crushed red pepper – optional

S&P to taste

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DIRECTIONS

for the spicy basil marinara

Heat the olive oil over medium heat & saute the garlic for about 30 seconds.  Add the tomato paste & fry another minute or so.  Add the crushed tomatoes, chopped tomatoes & basil & about 1 cup of water.  Add the crushed red pepper – if using.

Simmer covered on low for the hour it takes to bake the potatoes.

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for the parsley herbed gnocchi

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Bake the potatoes (directly on the rack) for an hour or until soft.

Halve the potatoes & let cool a bit & then peel them.  If you have a ricer – rice the potatoes.  Otherwise – mash’m up good with a potato masher.

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Mash in the olive oil, parsley & some S&P.  By hand, incorporate the flour 1/2 cup at a time until you get a dough that you can handle without it being too sticky.  Depending on the sort of potatoes you used & their moisture – this might take more or less flour.

Roll out chunks of the dough into snakes less than an inch thick & cut into gnocchi.

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You can leave them like that or roll them on a fork or a gnocchi board to get little grooves on them.

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I like the little gnocchi board so that is what I used.  They are super cheap – if you decide to buy one – like maybe $5.

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Now – you can either freeze a bunch as I explained above or get to cooking them up.  I let mine sit out an hour or so.  It didn’t harm them.

Boil some salted water & when it is rolling – add the gnocchi.  They are done when they float & stay at the top.  Scoop out with a slotted spoon & serve with the marinara & more basil.  Add some cheese or vegan cheese – if you desire.  YUM!

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Oh – and remember to buy my book!  IT IS HILARIOUS!  www.BathingBook.com

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Stracnar (Stracenate) Pasta with a Pan-Fried Cauliflower, Tomato & Clam Ragu

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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Stracnar & stracenate are both the same name for a pasta that originated in the Puglia area of Italy.  Stracenate is essentially an egg pasta that is rolled thin & then rolled over a cavarola board & embossed with a pattern.  The cavarola board looks like this (Photo courtesy of AdriBarrCrocetti.com)

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These are very hard to find & the few I could find cost over $60.  I didn’t want to commit that kind of money to what could end up being a one-use item – so I tracked this tiny plastic version down & bought it for $14 HERE.

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Actually, I didn’t expect it to be tiny – but it is.  It is like 2″x3″.  I would much prefer a larger one that could imprint as much pasta as possible in one go.  As it was – I had to cut my homemade paste into tiny squares & then run each one, individually, over this little guy.

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It wasn’t difficult to roll these guys out.  The little plastic cavarola came with a little grippy thing to put under it & a tiny rolling pin.  I quickly moved on to my real rolling pin but, though this is a sorta slow process, it was satisfying & kinda Zen to do.  I didn’t bother attempting any uniformity of shape.  The rustic, variations bothered me less than trying over & over to roll out uniform strips of rectangular pasta.  After about an hour total – I had stracenate for four drying on my counter.

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The fact is, you can make this pasta & just blow off the embossing part.  Once cooked, the imprint is somewhat less noticeable, anyway, and it is purely an aesthetic.

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It is really just an old-school throwback to a regional, Italian, artisanal pasta and I love that kinda thing – so I did it.  Plus – I have far too much time on my hands & making pasta of all kinds has a really calming effect on me.  And homemade pasta is as delicious as it is gratifying.

For this dish, I used the other half head of cauliflower I had after my Kraft Cauliflower No-Mac & Cheese endeavor.   I used tomatoes for color & clams for texture.   You could leave any one of those out & compensate with more of another & still get a great ragu.  I didn’t use live clams because of a clam Holocaust I caused a while back recounted here in my Arugula Bucatini & Spicy Clam Sauce post.  Also – this video bums me out.  How can you throw these guys into steaming pots?  Oof!

As to homemade pasta – my “tutorial” for that is HERE.  You could simply roll that dough out thin & cut it into rectangles with a knife & declare yourself a stracanate maker.  Who’s gonna call you on that shit?  Nobody.  Nobody who wants to eat your homemade stracanate, that is.  If another kind of pasta seems preferable – look HERE for a pretty decent selection of pasta doughs I have posted over the last year – doughs made from spinach or kale or arugula or beets or serrano/cilantro – etc etc.  Or – just use any shape boxed pasta.

A quick aside about quantity of spices: I like my food heavily spiced & very garlicky.  But – you can use things like crushed red pepper & garlic to suit your own taste – added to or subtracting from my suggestions.  That said – my boyfriend Miles (looking super badass in Texas last March)

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and I ordered a pizza delivered from the awesome Village Pizzeria.  They sent a little plastic container or crushed red pepper with the pizza.  It is THE HOTTEST fucking crushed red pepper on Earth.  I use 1/2 tsp of this stuff where I would use 3 TBS of the stuff in my cabinet.  I am guessing that they must just go through theirs very quickly so it is always fresh & powerful where my Costco-sized container sits on my shelf for over a year and become less potent.  At any rate – I bring this up because I typically suggest FAR larger amounts of crushed red pepper than I do in this recipe & that is because I was using the Village Pizzeria stuff.  The amount you really use is up to you & the spiciness of whatever crushed red pepper you are using.  I had no idea the spice factor could vary as much as the two different containers I have here – and I have no way of knowing how spicy YOUR crushed red pepper is – so – just spice this up to your taste.

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Stracnar (Stracenate) Pasta with a Pan-Fried Cauliflower, Tomato & Clam Ragu

(This feeds two very well)

INGREDIENTS

2 servings homemade stracenate (stracnar) or 1/2 lb dry pasta (perhaps a pappardelle?)

1/2 head cauliflower – cut into bite-sized florets

12 cherry tomatoes – halved or quartered (plus more for garnish)

2 (6.5 oz) cans clams

6 (or less) cloves of garlic – chopped coarsely

1 small onion – diced

Lots of chopped parsley plus garnish

1/2 tsp of crushed red pepper

Olive oil

S&P to taste

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DIRECTIONS

Make your pasta or get a box out of the pantry.

Heat 1-2 TBS olive oil in a large pan.  Pan-fry the cauliflower florets by letting them sit about a minute at a time on the hot pan – unmolested – before stirring them so that you get some browning as they cook.  Once browned & tender – put them in a bowl & set aside.

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If needed, add another TBS olive oil to the pan & saute the onion, tomato & crushed red pepper until the onion is soft & browning a bit.  In the photos below, you can see I left my garlic in pretty sizable chunks.  I find it is harder to burn that way – but it also results in you biting into huge garlic bits.  I have no issue with that.  If you do – cut your garlic smaller.

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Add your garlic & saute a minute or two & then add the clams (with the juice from the cans) and the cauliflower.  Add a handful of chopped, fresh parsley & add S&P to taste.  Heat through and allow to rest over lowest heat.

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Cook your pasta.  Homemade pasta is done when it floats to the top of boiling water.  Boxed pasta has instructions.

Drain the pasta, arrange some on plates & top with the ragu.  Garnish with additional raw, chopped tomato and/or parsley.  Enjoy your Italian stay-cation!

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Braised Calamari Stuffed with Shrimp & Baby Kale Over Whole Wheat Spaghetti

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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Ok – I confess – I just could NOT get a decent shot of this dish.  This is becoming a frequent issue – caused, most likely, from my lack of continued inspiration photographically.  My lighting & plating options are limited & largely exhausted.   I need to start going to yard sales & junk stores & buy up some new cutie little dishes etc to maybe restore the fun of photographing the foods I prepare.

At any rate – this was a really satisfying dish to prepare.  I felt like an old Italian mamma in my kitchen, expertly filling squid with stuffing & braising them.  Braising, by the way, is defined on Wikipedia like this:

Braising (from the French “braiser”) is a combination cooking method using both moist and dry heat; typically the food is first seared at a high temperature and then finished in a covered pot with a variable amount of liquid, resulting in a particular flavor.

This dish takes a few steps but is well worth it.  If you use boxed pasta & jarred sauce – this dish is downright easy!

I found fresh squid at my store the other day, all cleaned & pristine looking, and I got two packages for under three dollars combined.  There were probably 20 little squid in there – each only about 3 inches long.

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I, personally, preferred the littler guys but you could do this with larger squid & have less work to do with the stuffing of them.

I marinated the squid in garlic, olive oil & lemon overnight – but this is unnecessary.  I did that, primarily, because I thought they had an odd smell & I wanted to get rid of that.  It wasn’t a smell like they had spoiled or were fishy but, rather, kind of a musky, bleachy scent which I found super gross.  The marinade cured that & these guys cooked up as mildly & inoffensively as any squid I’ve ever had.

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Also – I used baby kale because that is what I had.  You could use regular kale or spinach or broccoli or whatever in the stuffing for these.  Other recipes I looked at for this kind of thing suggested a course chop for the shrimp.  I opted to puree the whole lot & that resulted in a stuffing mix that could be inserted into the squid with a pastry bag or, as I used, a zip-lock bag with the corner cut off.  THIS was a lifesaver!  Trying to stuff these fuckers by hand – even with my green puree – was crazy-making so definitely have a zip-lock bag handy.

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Also – I only had these foiled sandwich toothpicks around.  If you use these, be sure to cut off the plastic fringe with kitchen scissors before cooking the calamari.

Also – I used my 5 Minute Arrabiata Sauce for these. You can do that, too, or use your own favorite red sauce, whether homemade or jarred.  I used whole wheat spaghetti from a box

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because I really like whole wheat pastas & was too lazy to make fresh pasta.  This, too, is open to your interpretation.  Make some pasta (I have posted lots of recipes for that) or simply boil up your favorite brand & shape of the boxed variety.

Lastly – definitely buy CLEANED squid.  I tried to clean squid once in the late eighties & was scarred emotionally by the experience.  It took until this week for me to ever attempt squid again.  So – if your grocer has squid in the case but it isn’t cleaned – pay whatever it takes to get them to clean them for you.  Trust.

When these little bad boys are cooked up, they are so tight & neat & resilient – you can slice them up with a knife & they do not fall apart.

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PRINT THIS RECIPE

Braised Calamari Stuffed with Shrimp & Baby Kale Over Whole Wheat Spaghetti

INGREDIENTS

1 lb pasta of your choice

15 -20 little 3″ squid or lesser quantity of larger ones

3/4 lb shrimp – peeled & deveined

6 garlic cloves

2 cups baby kale (or other vegetable like maybe spinach or broccoli or arugula)

3/4 cup panko (or other breadcrumbs)

2 eggs

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

1 TBS crushed red pepper

1 TBS dry oregano

6-7 fresh basil leaves

S&P to taste (1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper?)

Olive oil

1 tomato – diced (optional)

Parsley as garnish

Marinara or Arrabiata of your choice

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DIRECTIONS

I marinated my squid in a little olive oil, 10 cloves of crushed garlic, the juice of a lemon and some S&P overnight.  This is optional.

Prepare your red sauce or simmer your jarred sauce in a large saute pan.

For the stuffing – put any tentacles you might have from the squid into a food processor with the shrimp, garlic, kale, eggs, panko, cheese, crushed red pepper, oregano, basil and S&P & pulse to puree.  You might need to scrape the sides a few times.

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With either a pastry bag or a large zip-lock bag with one corner cut off – squeeze your puree into each of the squid.  Only fill about 2/3 of the way because squid shrinks when it cooks & it will shrink wrap your stuffing quickly & begin to squeeze it out.  Secure the open end by simply piercing through with a toothpick.  If using fancy tipped toothpicks – cut the fancy part off with kitchen scissors.  Pierce each squid once or twice in the fat part with the tip of a sharp knife to vent them as they cook.

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I had extra stuffing so I just made little “meatballs” from it.

Heat a frying pan & add 2 TBS olive oil.  I used my marinade to sear the squid & you can, too, but know that the garlic burns a bit.  When hot, place the calamari in there & sear them a bit all over, on high heat, until they begin to brown.  Remove from heat.  You can sear your “meatballs” in this process, too.

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When your red sauce is ready, place the seared calamari into that pan.  I added a little water to my sauce to thin it but that is just a matter of taste.  I also added 1 diced tomato.  Cook for about 15 minutes over low to medium-low heat without disturbing them.  Then turn them & cook another 15 minutes.  If you have extra stuffing “meatballs, add them to the pan for the second 15 minutes.

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Cook your pasta & serve it smothered in your red sauce & evenly distribute your stuffed squid.  Remove the toothpicks!  Garnish with chopped parsley & maybe extra crushed red pepper.

PRINT THIS RECIPE

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I Panini di Ambra in Hollywood, California

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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Sunday, my boyfriend and I decided to try the new taco joynt in my hood, House of Tacos.  Sadly, it was closed.  Stunned by this development, we staggered down the street trying to think of what to do next.  We were on the block of Hollywood Blvd that is home to my favorite Thai restaurant – Torung – but Torung doesn’t open until 5pm.  Then I noticed a little hole in the wall that I had never seen before.

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My boyfriend, Miles, can be a very finicky eater & is known to refuse food all day – if the things he is served fall short of his expectations.  I, on the other hand, will eat pretty much anything.  Miles refused to eat this steak from Chan Dara

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because he was EXPECTING it to be a tradition Chinese-style green pepper beef sorta thing – with steak strips & green bell pepper.  Mind you – Miles eats steak.  He loves steak.  But on this particular day, he wanted green pepper beef & this steak was not that.  So – it came home & was fed to the dogs & he skipped all food all day until dinner.

That is a lot of pressure for ME.  I like to feed people.  I like people to enjoy their meals in public.  I like to eat WITH someone.  With someone who is also eating.  Finding a place that will live up to Miles’ very specific tastes is sometimes a Herculean task.  <insert deep sigh>

So – I see PIZZA & sandwiches – meat sandwiches.  Miles eats those things.  We stood outside, gazing at the posted menu.  I expected Miles to respond positively quickly – but he did not.  He gets suspicious if he sees things like “speck panini” or if the cheeses listed are unfamiliar.  While I considered whether or not it was safe to pressure him, the two customers sitting inside the door over OUTRAGEOUS looking tiramisu & espressos beckoned to us.   “Come in!  The food is AMAZING!”  I suspected the food would be amazing.  Look at the menu:

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but if Miles spots one errant or too exotic ingredient listed on a sandwich – the whole place starts looking hinky.

“Really!  They make their own bread here!   Come in,” the diners insisted.

I wanted to go in.  I peeked inside:

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Such a cutie little spot!  Such a surprise on that very ugly block on Hollywood.  This is exactly the kind of place this area needs more of.  Quaint, cheerful & with imaginative & really fresh food.  While I weighed whether or not I wanted to insist we go in & risk another Miles hunger strike, the proprietress came from behind the counter to the threshold where we continued to conspicuously hover and, in a melodic Italian accent – also beckoned us in.  “They have pizza, Miles.  How dangerous could that be?”

“Best pizza in town,” a voice said.

At that point, I felt like a lame tourist afraid to step into a restaurant that wasn’t an international chain.  I pulled Miles inside.  Look how cute he is!

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He does look a little worried, doesn’t he?  But, as it turned out – there was nothing to be nervous about.  My smoked salmon & goat cheese panini (to which I had them add some arugula) and Miles’ ham & mozzarella panini were as delicious as they were pretty – and they each came with a light little side salad for an extra .75 cents.

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And Miles got this lemony dessert which put a big grin on his face.  He declared it delightful!

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And look at the little coffee planters on the tables:

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I Panini di Ambra is owned & run by an Italian husband & wife team.  They were warm & gracious and when our hostess noticed that Miles only ate half his sandwich (because he is a light eater) – she worried that he didn’t like it – and offered him any other sandwich on the menu instead.  Very sweet!

I don’t think you will find a fresher or more delicious panini anywhere in Los Angeles!  I can’t wait to go back & try the pizza!

http://ipaninidiambra.com/

Culina Restaurant at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

Lemme just start off by saying, I am not a fan of Beverly Hills.  In fact, going west of La Brea freaks me out & I scuttle back to the east side as quickly as I can on the rare occasions I am forced to cross the great divide.  But, the other day, my good friend, Thomas Kelly (best selling author – see here & successful television writer & producer of Blue Bloods – see here), happened to be in town & was staying at the Four Seasons.  In Beverly Hills.  He offered to buy me dinner at the modern Italian restaurant there if I dared come that far west.  Pissing & moaning, I agreed.  Ungrateful wench that I am.

The restaurant is huge & has an enormous bar area & a lovely outdoor area – pictured above.  That night, Some Like It Hot was screening silently behind the fountain.

The menu is pretty interesting & reflects very few of your average Italian selections.

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The most fascinating thing to me on the menu is a thing called CRUDO – or Italian sashimi.  We tried two.  The Tonno – for $12

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and the Kampachi – also $12.

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Tom preferred the former – myself the latter.  While we discussed this – I noticed a man – my stalker – in the dining room.  I couldn’t believe it.  Every time I had a nice meal on the west side – this fucker was there.  How did he know I’d be there?  It was getting problematic.  You may have heard of him.  His name?  Larry Flynt.  Yes.  Larry Flynt is stalking me.

It all began at the Beverly Hills hotel.  I was there celebrating my friend’s birthday.  Minding my own business.  Then Larry rolled in.  Took a place at the table next to ours – so close I could almost touch him.  I tried to pretend I wasn’t sneaking peeks at him every few minutes but, I must confess, I was a tad starstruck!  I admire this king of porn for his left-wing, political activism and I determined that I had to do something I had never done: approach the man & tell him I admire him.  My friends all forbid me to bother him but as I consumed overpriced wine – I became infected with an overconfidence that was, in fact, ill-advised.  As we sauntered through the dining room post-meal, I let my friends get ahead.  I was gonna do this thing!  My heart was in my throat as I approached Larry’s table.  I tried to clear it – no no avail.  “Excuse me, Mr. Flynt,” I croaked.  “I am sorry to interrupt your meal but I just had to tell you…”

Blah blah blah.  They all sat there politely while I delivered my tipsy & unrehearsed bullshit and once Larry generously said simply, “Thank you,” I took my leave of their presence.  I felt like a retard but fuck it.  He is the king of PORN, after all.  Who the fuck is he to be the arbitrator of appropriate behavor?  At least my vagina wasn’t showing.

Anyway, the next time I was on the west side – I was at the Newsroom Cafe.  This was during the primaries in 2008.  I was a huge Dennis Kucinich supporter.  My dinner companion was late and, as I sat at the bar waiting for her, I scanned the room, idly.  “Hmmm,” I thought to myself.  “Who is that striking red head in the center of the room?”  I looked around the room some more but my eyes kept coming back to her.  It was as if someone had shone a light directly upon her – like a statue in a gallery.  “Holy smoke!  That is Mrs. Kucinich!!!” I realized.  I immediately looked to her companion and – you guessed it!  It was Dennis Kucinich!!!!  I had to approach him.  I had to tell him I admired him & supported his campaign & that I would volunteer.  Sure, my Larry Flynt contact had been awkward & regrettable – but this was Dennis Kucinich.  In campaign mode.  It was his JOB to be harassed by the people.  Why couldn’t I be one of them?  I stood up as I built my nerve for the approach & it was then that I noticed there was a third person at the table.  Yeah – a third person.  Larry fucking Flynt!   WTF was Larry Flynt doing there?  I couldn’t approach Dennis Kucinich and say, “I’m sorry, sir.  I don’t usually do this…” because Larry Flynt was sitting right there.  Larry Flynt sitting there & just waiting to call bullshit on me!  “Don’t buy her shit, Dennis, ” Larry might say.  “She ruined my dinner just last month at the Polo Lounge.”

As I sat back down, thinking better of my plan, I noticed 3 or 4 Men in Black types sitting around the room at tables alone.  Drinking water.  Security.  Of course Dennis Kucinich has security.  He is a friggin’ presidential candidate!  I envisioned my shy approach to Dennis’ table & the resulting sudden counter attack or some incredibly bone crushing Diamond Dallas Page smack down….an encounter far less friendly than this one:

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I sipped my wine & threw stink-eye at Farry Flynt – even though he’d just saved me from a likely assault at best – a felony conviction at worst.  Who knows what they do to people that make sudden moves near political candidates?  Who knows how many unsuspecting constituents have been disappeared?

As it turned out – the security was there with Larry Flynt.  Curious.  I know – because they led him out and did not return.  Once my stalker left – I did – ultimately – approach a very accommodating Dennis Kucinich but the only campaign workers they wanted were door to door canvassers and I’d rather eat fresh cat shit (my equivalent to ending up with a Republican president?  Hmmmm…) than go door to door peddling anything – even for an hour.

And now, here he was again – at the modern Italian sushi restaurant at the Four Seasons!  Larry Flynt.  My arch nemesis.  I went to point him out to Tom but Tom was engaged in selecting overpriced wine for our pleasure & I didn’t want to impede that.  I turned back to Larry.  He was gone!   Just like that.  The ninja bastard. Well played, Flynt.   Well played.  But there will be other opportunities & will not be caught again so flat footed.

Next on the culinary adventure was the kale salad thingy.

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The Culina Caesar.  It was little more than an overdressed Caesar salad lightly peppered with bit of kale but the olives in it were high end and it was pretty good, indeed!  Just don’t expect anything healthy, light or any experience of kale.

Next – the squash blossoms (didn’t photograph well) and the octopus.

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Again – these were heavier than I expected – given the whole sashimi theme here but the zucchini blossoms were yummy.  The octopus – which I experienced as squid (in the dim lighting) seemed more traditional in flavor & texture to what you would get at a nice Italian restaurant.  I wasn’t a huge fan.  Then – in the sober light of day the next day – I saw the photos.  Are these guys intact baby octopuses (octopi?)?

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After looking at these images – I will never order a baby octopus ANYTHING.  Ew.  I feel terrible!

At one point – I looked out the window beside me – past my Prosecco – and who (whom?  Let’s not get too anal here, OK?) did I see walking outside about to take a table?

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Another of my idols – Chris Matthews.  I did NOT photograph Chris Matthews at Culina.

Watch Chris Matthews give a right-wing radio ignoramus the most brutal televised beating I have ever seen:

YOU DON”T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT!

Click that link & watch.  So satisfying.

Tom Kelly must have been feeling the wine, too, because when I pointed out the arrival of Chris Matthews – he suggested I go introduce myself.  Despite the support in making an ass of myself from Tom & despite the fact that Larry Flynt was nowhere to be seen – I elected to remain seated – firmly atop my dignity.

Oh no!  Then MORE food came!  Tom had a veal chop (and no, I didn’t chide him – though I thought things) & I had the branzino.   I love branzino – and I miss chicken piccata – a lot.  It seemed a good choice.  And it WAS!

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Here is the Flintstone-sized veal chop:

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You will be surprised to know – Tom could not eat all that veal and I put my moralizing aside to bring the balance home to my dogs.  They were pleased.

As we pondered dessert – because, after all, we had only eaten 7 courses between us & two bottles of wine & spent about half the GDP – we noticed an elderly woman at a table nearby – all by herself.  She had finished eating but we heard her order a Lemoncello.  We invited her to join us.  And she did!

Ah, what can I say about Ms. Lillian, born 1928, married twice, 5 daughters, once-attorney now independent real estate agent?  She was delightful!  We all sipped after dinner drinks & shared a combination of gelato flavors & various life stories until it was past midnight & time to go.  Tom asked for the check and, it appears, was able to pay it without having to take out a line of credit on his home.  Whew!  And – thank you, Tom!  That was one DECADENT meal!

As I fetched a cab & invited Ms. Lillian to share it – Chris Matthews approached.  Fine.  He didn’t approach me – but he entered the foyer.  Tom, punk that he is, approached Chris Matthews to tell him what a huge fan I was of Hardball (Chris’ show on MSNBC).  I am a fan.  It is true.  Chris good-naturedly shook my hand as I sheepishly kicked at imaginary dirt.  Chris’s trademark blonde hair was disheveled – with an Alfafa spike in the back – and that seemed to me to be very charming.

With that – I got into my cab with Lillian, dropped her off two blocks away – and began my final adventure of the night – my ride home with my Chinese cab driver with English so broken – he was like a racist & almost impossible to understand cartoon.

I never got his name but I know he moved from mainland China to study chemistry.  A long time ago but he refused to say when.  “I give you enough clues!” he kept insisting.  He said something about the war – and for reasons I cannot remember – I am sure he meant WWII but I don’t remember what it signified.  I believe he went to school in Chicago.  Became a chemical engineer.  Retired.  Became a taxi driver because, while it didn’t pay very well, it allowed him to work alone – the way he prefers.  He doesn’t like people & dealing with their idiosyncrasies, it seems.

He then began to fill me in on old movie stars (something I am unusually informed about already) and the history of some of the landmarks we passed – like the El Royale.  He was impressed that I knew some things about that building which he did not.  He also told me that actors need to be good at dealing with the idiosyncrasies of others.  He used the word idiosyncrasies about 10 times during the ride which was hilarious because it highlighted his accent to scandalous proportions.  If I spelled stuff phonetically here – it could be my Mukaka Moment and I don’t want to come off like the racist arse George Allen did (is).  Also – idiosyncrasies isn’t a word that comes up every day.  It is funny hearing it so much &  blended into sentences void of appropriate prepositions.  Only big words for taxi guy.  No small words like in or to.   But – that is not important.  Taxi guy told me certain actors were exceptionally talented at this – dealing with idiosyncrasies – actors like (and I quote) – Robin Williams, John Travolta & Christian Slater.  They, it seems, have natural talents NOT artificial talents.  I never had a chance to get that explained.  His favorite movie is a Bruce Lee film he has on video cassette but he also enjoys films from the forties & fifties.  Sabrina, for example.

As we pulled up to my door, taxi man had one more thing to share.  “You know,” he said, “I asked John Travolta if he ever had affair with Olivia Newton John – from the film Grease.  He said he did.  But very brief.  Very brief!  Bad timing.”

“Really?” I asked, impressed.

“Yes, bad timing,” he repeated and shook his head solemnly.

“What do I owe you?”

Miraculously – the taxi from Beverly Hills to Hollywood was only $25.  Incredible!  I handed him thirty.”

“Oh!  Thank you.  That very generous.  Healthy tip.”

“You’re welcome,” I said and, unsure how to make my exit, I added, “That’s too bad about John Travolta & Olivia Newton John.”

“Yes, yes.  Bad timing.”

And while he pondered the missed opportunity those two actors shared in the seventies – I slipped out of the cab & into my front door.