August 26, 2009

The Ghost and the Darkness

I just finished reading The Man-Eaters of Tsavo by J.H. Patterson. The main story occurs in 1898 in Tsavo where Patterson, a British Colonel who was responsible for building a railroad through Uganda. The workers were being eaten by two lions (The Ghost and the Darkness, of the movie). Patterson said about 40 workers were eaten. In a book by Phillip Caputo it is speculated that as many as 132 people were eaten.

Patterson's book is a view into a earlier time with different sensibilities. He kills all sorts of animals (including an ostrich!). Mostly for fun, very occasionally for meat.

If you can put the hunting in historical perspective, it is a very interesting book, and available, pretty much for free, on the Kindle.

August 24, 2009

Tyler, TX

Doreen and I drove up to Tyler this weekend to attend the funeral of a dear friend's mother. I should call her a dear friend as well. We had Thanksgiving dinner with her many times. She was the embodiment of old Texas grace. Always a pleasure to talk to, she was the most upbeat person I knew.

There were some great stories about her at the memorial service. When she was 84, she went to visit the Taj Mahal. She told Jim (her son) that she always heard that there are two types of people in the world. Those who have seen the Taj Mahal, and those who haven't. And she wanted to be in the first group.

These things are always sad, but it was a nice celebration of her life. She was 94.

It was an easy drive up and back to Tyler. It is about 220 miles, we made it in about 3 hours.

August 20, 2009

The Shiloh Club hits Swamplot!

The Lease of Your Worries: What’s Happening to the Shiloh Club?: "

And now, an entirely unverified rumor concerning Heights watering hole the Shiloh Club, at 1321 Studewood. A tipster writes in:

Stopped in for a cold one yesterday and the word is the lease to Joe (the owner since the late 80’s?) is not being renewed.

Heard- two daytime locals are taking over the lease on September 1. No word what will become of the current bar.

Observed- Friday nights about 10:30 the bar is inundated with young hipsters grabbing cheap drinks on their way out to go clubbing.

Thanks for noticing!

Photo of Shiloh Club, 1321 Studewood St.: Heights Blog


August 17, 2009

Ree and Julia's Birthday

Saturday, August 15th was Julia Child's birthday. Wednesday, August 19th is my sister Jeannette's birthday. So we decided to celebrate both with a Julia Child themed party on Sunday.

The idea was to cook a meal from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I did not come up with the idea - it was in last month's Bon Appetit magazine, along with a suggested menu. We liked the menu enough that we cooked it without modification.

Since this was also a birthday party, we invited all the family we have in town to participate:

From Julia Child Dinner, as well as DomiNate's Visit
That is Jared, Josienne, Doreen, Me, Alex LeBlanc, Rex, and Ree. Quinn had not yet arrived, but he would show up shortly after this photo was taken.

You may notice that we are all wearing identical aprons, with the flag of France boldly emblazoned on them. We thought it would be nice if we all had an apron in honor of Julia Child. Cute, eh?

From Julia Child Dinner, as well as DomiNate's Visit
Doreen and I volunteered to cook the chicken - Poulet Sauté aux Herbes de Provence. We generally like to cook with bone in, skin on thighs. I think that they are more flavorful, and their consistent size makes them easy to cook. So we made the dish with 16 thighs for 8 people.

From Julia Child Dinner, as well as DomiNate's Visit
This recipe (you can reach it by clicking on the link above) calls for browning the chicken in butter. You can see how delicious it looks. You then use the butter and chicken fat to braise the bird, and add some wine to make a nice reduction sauce. It was quite delicious.

From Julia Child Dinner, as well as DomiNate's Visit
We also cooked the Pissaladière Niçoise, which was sort of an onion tart with anchovies and black olives. I had baked the crust and caramelized the onions earlier in the day, and assembled it right before dinner. You will see another photo below, but I sort of burned it. It was still good, though. Julia would have been proud of how we recovered!

Alex brought the makings of a salad with a vinaigrette dressing. I can tell you one thing - that boy can cook! He has just recently moved to Houston (he is working as an engineer for Exxon. Sound familiar?) and I was not familiar with his culinary acumen. I think that I would have asked him to do something more complicated had I known. He is getting married in a week, and was the calmest groom I believe that I have ever seen. We served the salad with the
Pissaladière Niçoise as our first course. (Well, after some Marcona Almonds, peanuts, and goat brie cheese)

From Julia Child Dinner, as well as DomiNate's Visit
Ree and Rex (well, I think it was mostly Ree) made the Ratatouille in this great old enameled cast iron pot Ree got on e-bay. She has never made it before (neither have I) and it turned out great! It made me think of that movie.

From Julia Child Dinner, as well as DomiNate's Visit
You can see how I burned the Pissaladière Niçoise. I was very sad.

From Julia Child Dinner, as well as DomiNate's Visit
Here are Ree and Rex celebrating her birthday.

From Julia Child Dinner, as well as DomiNate's Visit
That is the sauce in its final reduction. Those little yellow dots are yet more butter. You can never have too much butter in a dish.

From Julia Child Dinner, as well as DomiNate's Visit
As per usual at our house, everyone serves themselves. You can now see Quinn - he is the one closest to the camera.

From Julia Child Dinner, as well as DomiNate's Visit
There is the main course, plated. Wonderful!

From Julia Child Dinner, as well as DomiNate's Visit
Too busy eating to look at the camera!

From Julia Child Dinner, as well as DomiNate's Visit
And there is the piece de resistance - a Reine de Saba that Josienne made. She said it was the first cake she had made from scratch. It was so good - there was not one crumb left over.

It was a great meal - thanks to everyone to help make it:

Josienne and Jared
Ree and Rex
Quinn (I think he mostly helped eat!)
And of course, my sweet ever lovin'

August 12, 2009

The Wire

Very sad day for us. We watched the last episode of The Wire this evening (on Netflix)

What a great show, with great writing, great acting, great stories, great characters.

We will probably start over again in a year or two.

I will be just as sad when Deadwood ends.

August 6, 2009

Health care suggestions from a friend

He is sort of right wing (Right Freddy?) but has some good suggestions:

I have several suggestions.

1. Break the monopoly the AMA has on medical schools and certification process for doctors. Allow more foreign doctors to practice in the US if they pass a reasonable test and internship program.

2. Allow companies to use software programs to help diagnose diseases. Currently the AMA forbids that. Really good software would eliminate a lot of the unnecessary medical procedures doctors currently use in diagnosis.

3. Let experienced nurses set up clinics to treat people with minor illnesses and injuries without having a doctor around to increase costs.

4. Drastically reform medical malpractice insurance and the legal system so that if you sue and lose, you pay the fees and the doctor.

I would love to see intelligent discussion on how to reform medical care in this country. It is not happening.


He doesn't have a blog or I would link to it. If he wants full attribution he can add his name in the comments below.

August 1, 2009

Vinoteca Poscol

sLast night as Doreen and I were thrashing about for a place to eat, we decided to go to the Vinoteca e Salumeria Poscol, a relatively new place in the neighborhood. (It replaced the horribile and not at all lamented Belgian restaurant Cafe Montrose. Much to my chagrin, Cafe Montrose has opened in another guise just down the street from us) It is owned by the same fellow (Marco Wiles) who runs an extremely expensive place just down the street (Da Marco) as well as our favorite pizza joint (Dolce Vida) also just down the street.

Poscol is run sort of like an Italian Tapas Bar. There are a number of small dishes (including homemade cured meats - Salumi) and you can order some great wines by the glass.

We started off with a glass of Pecorino and a glass of Soave - white Italian wines. The Pecorino was minerally and very, very, dry. The Soave was (true to its name) smooth an delightful.

We had the "5 meat" salumi platter, with everything from Mortadella and Prosciutto di San Daniele topork cheek sausage. It was all good, but Doreen didn't care for the Pork Cheek Sausage.

We also had some Beets in cartoccio or in a paper bag. Beets, goat cheese, hazelnuts, and something else I can't really remember roasted in a bag. Delicious! Fried spaghetti (better than it sounds) and the special - fried sardines.

The Fried sardines require a special mention. When we were in Lisbon a couple of years ago we ate plenty of grilled sardines. They were especially delicious. These were smaller, but just as good. They also had the added benefit of being boneless! I would recommend a trip here just to try them out.

Our second glasses of wines were an Anselmi and a special wine that I don't remember, but I think it was called a Gaia or something like that. We love trying new wines and really enjoyed these two as well.

A nice meal on a nice night out.