Saturday, May 30, 2009


Finally got around to the new Pernod absinthe. At $70 a bottle I don't expect to be drinking much of it — mine was, in fact, a PR sample — which is rather sad. I always figured that, once absinthe became widely available, I'd pour me one or two on hot summer days and let warm breezes bake me into a fit worthy of Wilde.

Of course, it'd take a bottle or so to get that elevated, not a likely proposition at that price. And then who's got time to lie around plugged into an absinthe drip taking in green fairies?


A tale of absinthe …

Tony, brother to our next door neighbor in Saint-Chinian, came over one night when we threw a party just before our exodus. Tony liked to smoke. His tan, shaven skin was cologned but the smell of cigarettes was not so easily masked. His white shirt was very starched. A night on the town in Beziers seemed certain. I did not inquire, though, of his plans.

While the rest of the crowd fell into groups — later, we would learn, aligned along old patterns established after years of feudal back and forth — and drank glasses of co-op wine, Tony and I stood over the counter where what little liquor in the house resided. A bottle of Pastis, traces of an Armagnac, a chestnut liqueur, and a half-full bottle of Francois Guy Absinthe. The Pastis was nearly full.

Until Tony got through with it. He kept pouring himself glass after watered glass. (But not before holding the bottle up for me to approve another round. Mannered gent, Tony.) I watched the bottle disappear and decided that Tony would go dry before long.

"Tony," I said, "would you like an absinthe?" I said it in French, of course, having practiced the line for some time on Kelly.

"Absinthe?" Tony replied with a robust shake of the head I almost read as a reprimand. "No, no, pas absinthe."

He said something else about it being pure poison or something. So I poured him his — and my — last Pastis and let him add the water.

"Mark," Tony said, winking at me, "I'm glad I met you."

I don't remember the sentiment in French.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

'Belly' up

Mark Kurlansky had much cool to say about Paris food markets, taste, agri-industry and, of course, Zola. He's apparently been in love with the novel for ages, which is what it took — ages — to get "Belly of Paris" into print. Five years, precisely: way longer than any of his many book projects.

We talked a bit about Zola the writer, Paris the city of misunderstood eaters, and another of his recent projects, this one on WPA food writing. You can read about it next Wednesday in the Scene section of the Tulsa World. But I might go get my copy now of "Belly."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

He is 'Cod'

Oi, I get to interview Mark Kurlansky tomorrow, author of "Cod," "Salt," "The Big Oyster" and "The Basque History of the World," among others.

Anything you want me to ask him?

The Panama and the pea

"OKIES DON'T QUIT," screamed a red T-shirt on a man at the cafe. He was wrestling a kid who wanted a cinnamon roll he wasn't going to get, not today.

"Hartmann Honey," of course, I said to Isaiah behind the bar. No dad in tow, I could treat myself accordingly.

The Hartmann is a treat, I think. Isaiah does not think so much.

It might not be the best coffee to ever be roasted at DoubleShot, but it's pretty typical - handled with care from lot to pot, a flavor profile unlike any other.

I drank down two cups, then took home a pound of Tanzania Songea Peaberry. Take that.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Gin men

I finally got around to trying Broker's Gin. Very classic stuff. London Dry style through and through, distilled near Birmingham.

But I'm actually more enamored with Martin and Andy Dawson than I am their gin. I'm inspired, and now considering who among my fabled crew would be loony enough to toss it all aside and start distilling gin with me?

I like the Broker's site, too — it doesn't look like the lads have any friends who own design firms. It isn't polished one bit, and it has a goofy jokes section, for good measure:

A kangaroo goes into a bar and orders a gin and tonic.
Bartender: "It's 15 quid ... I must say, we don't see many kangaroos in here."
Kangaroo: "I'm not surprised. Fifteen quid for a gin and tonic!"

Have to love that.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Lucas won't eat "wet" meat. He also won't eat pizza that is too "sweet" from what he takes to be an overabundance of salt but which is really ripe tomato. He grazes on Blue Bell frozen fudge bars with a measured licking and lapping, an act of gourmandise that, on Jonas' face, appears as a brown smudge.

When Kelly is away shooting on the weekends, they are in the hands of dad, who does not always take age into consideration when feeding young lads. I lavish them with tater tots, but might, in the same meal, frustrate them with curried chicken, the spiciness of which sours faces. But, I threaten them with a withdrawal of Blue Bell and they usually struggle on.

I admit it's kind of sick. But, as I said, I am alone in this wilderness and easily misguided.

A few weeks ago Lucas confessed that he favored American singles over Parma grana and I tasted the fruit of rebuke. I am prepared to dine on it for decades.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Nick & Nora

I could talk long and glowingly — and, trust me, I will — about Gabriel Szaszko, the Cocktail Nerd. For now, I will thank him for bringing me back to balance.

The Cocktail Nerd (he's about as nerdie, by the way, as Daniel Craig doing Bond with a babe between his legs) made for me a Martini-like drink called the Nick & Nora, named for Hammett's lovely "Thin Man" better halves, Nick and Nora Charles.

In a sweet, little session we'll call for now The Martini Progression, Gabriel stirred me a Martinez, a Turf, and a Nick & Nora. The latter is the closest to a dry, gin Martini of the three. Its glory relies on a 3-to-1 ratio of gin to vermouth. I think Gabriel made mine with Beefeater 24 and a French vermouth the name of which I forget. I possibly even have the gin wrong. I'll right the ship later.

For now, know that his N & N lets the vermouth take flight without grounding the gin in any way whatsoever. Never again will I shake my inconsiderate 8, 10 and 12 to 1s!

Gabriel is online right now, guarantee, so go thank him.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Just an idea

"Hey, Mommy?"

"Yes, Jonas?"

"What's that big idea?"

At a little after 7 a.m., who could say. Jonas' probing, though, is not bound by anything as silly as the hour.

Jonas has a sense of things, of big picture things, but even of things edible. Things he can eat, and those he cannot. If I am cracking peanuts for a Martini snack, and kiss him, he will note them on my breath and ask for them but not in earnest. The other day, I'd squeezed a lemon over a roast chicken just before going in to kiss him good night. "Lime and lemons," he said, angling for deep covers. Kelly cannot sneak a midday chocolate chip without that sweet, ancient dark secret invading his sniff and setting the mouth — "I want choc-LIT!" — in motion.

Jonas will mimic cartoon characters, but in things edible he is his own man trusting his own sense. A gourmand in the making? I think. For this quality (if it is that) is born. An appreciation for food and drink can be honed through appetite and lust, but not without what the gourmand brings to the table, which is at least a perception of the edible world going on about him.

In the morning, we leave the comfort zone to the sound of hinges squeaking and cupboards slamming. Jonas and Lucas are on the prowl, breakfast the prey.

Jonas attacks breakfast as if it were alive. He eats bananas like a chimp and pokes at Cheerios as if toying with them, knowing better gruel lies beyond the horizon of youth.

I think that's the big idea.