Miscellany & Poetry - On food, wine, film, lit & then some.

Feasting on paste, or what Thanksgiving means to me

I enjoy sea urchin any of 3 ways: 1) tossed with spaghetti & topped with bottarga, the way the awesome José Duarte used to serve it at my dear old Southern Italian–Peruvian haunt in Boston’s North End, Taranta; 2) tossed with ditalini & topped with bread crumbs, the way the awesome (since departed) David Nevins used to serve it at my dear old seafood haunt in Boston’s North End, Neptune Oyster; 3) toasted. Me, I mean—my stomach for stinking, shuddering blobs of hellfire-orange echinoderm expanding according to my liquor intake so that, say, the more sake I drink, the more uni maki seems to rock.


images stolen from this guy’s Flickr photostream & this blogger paying due homage to Hüsker Dü’s Grant Hart

Likewise, with every glass of wine poured during our 3-hour round of Thanksgiving*** hors d’oeuvres did every bite of pâté de erizo de mar purchased from the fine online Spanish market La Tienda taste less like the rotting maw of a terrible vivisected sea monster & more like the rich creamy jelly (de)composed of oceanic-cum-bodily fluids the promo copy claims it is, containing as well hake (a codlike whitefish), margarine, milk, eggs & salt. Still, automatically easier for me to swallow was the mellow pâté de bonito del norte studded with bits of red bell pepper.


Stiller still, funny how a table set with a gourmet spread & the kitchen floor where the cat’s bowls are can begin to blur—not least when the products lining the 1 are called Cata Gourmet & the other

50000-57498 .

***At the table in Albuquerque with the Director & me: the 20-year divorcees that are my folks; their old friend the UNM Spanish lit professor and rumored former gulag prisoner from Kiev; my mother’s Mexican penpal since her teens, a recovering alcoholic up from the Yucatan Peninsula for no apparent reason with her constant (to insinuate) traveling companion, a raging alcoholic, both of whose grasp on spoken English is shakier than, say, that of a recovering alcoholic whose constant traveling companion through foreign lands is a raging alcoholic on sobriety; & my mother’s ever-intimidatingly quiet & wise-looking, polio-hobbled Tibetan Buddhist nun of a cousin in her orange robes. Couldn’t be truer.

Water, friends, is boring. We must not say so. After all, there’s Metromint.

I think that’s how John Berryman would have started Dream Song 14 if Metromint had been around back in the mid-20th century.


For lo, cocoa essence wafts therefrom, & a hint of mint from the Yakima Valley, & the water hath been purified by reverse osmosis, which methinks means it’s magickal.
Indeed, O, it floats in midair.


Plus it has a chill factor, whence we ourselves who flash & yearn could well derive benefit.

Krupnik (no offense)

Before there was chocolate vodka & peanut butter vodka with jelly-vodka chasers & cookie-dough vodka, before there was cake-batter vodka & powdered-doughnut vodka & conversation-heart vodka with real messages sprinkled in, before there was stuffed-French-toast vodka & baklava vodka & flaming crêpes-Suzette vodka, there was Polish honey vodka.
It’s called liqueur for the same reason restaurants with limited liquor licenses, covering beer, wine & cordials only, can carry the coconut-marshmallow vodkas of the world: none of it technically counts as hard liquor because its sugar content is too high.
So, speaking of being too high, I tried this stuff recently at a friend’s dinner party, expecting it to taste like mead—you know, the stuff English majors like to guzzle from pewter steins while perched on rooftops clad in cloaks & trying to outquote each other (so I’ve heard)—but no, this doesn’t lull, it braces, it has the sort of jagged edge a 13th century Polish peasant would surely need to slice his brain into pieces with after a dinner of rocks in his hut made of snow following a 112-hour day in the wormfields.
But even if it didn’t taste hardcore, it’d be hardcore by virtue of the name, which sounds like if you came over & I offered you a glass you wouldn’t know whether to say “fuck off” or “bless you.” Or both.

Dear “VOV,” you bottle of wow,

how I adore you. Shall I count the ways?

1. Bam! Pow! VOV! You look like cartoon characters should be drinking you.


2. Until you’re poured into a glass. Then you look like porn stars should be drinking you.


3. You taste like the pastry chef got sloshed on Marsala while whipping up some zabaglione & accidentally poured in his entire stash—because that’s exactly what you are, you drunken custard!
(Per the label: sugar, Marsala, water, extra alcohol & egg yolks. Certo, legge píu bellamente in italiano: zucchero, Marsala fine, acqua, alcool, tuorlo d’uovo…super-sigh…)

4. You’re only found in Italy. Would it were that the same could be said of me. You & me. Together.


My Pride & Joy (Contains Soy)

On a road trip last June, the Director & I picked this beauty up at a truck-stop counter, fully prepared for all of 5 seconds to share in the glories of its contents. As they really began to sink in, however, we reconsidered and decided to save it for a rainy day. Make that a post-apocalyptic, near-death-by-starvation-since-all-other-food-sources-were-wiped-off-the-face-of-the-earth day. It’s remained in a special place on a shelf in our fridge ever since, its presence a daily reminder to ooh & aah at the wonder of it all.

Behold the Fire Cracker—The Original Giant Red Hot Pickled Sausage:


The money shot:


Did you catch that? It says:

Ingredients: Beef, Beef Lips, Water, Salt, Mechanically Separated Chicken, Less Than 2% of Corn Syrup, Soy Protein Concentrate, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Dextrose, Flavorings, Paprika, Sodium Erythorbate, Sodium Nitrite, Red 40. Pickled in Vinegar, Salt, Red 40.
Contains: Soy

If there’s a single thing in there that isn’t funny, I can’t find it.
And by funny I mean heartbreaking. And funny.

Hyperrific: Mo’s Bacon Bar

Much hootin’ & hollerin’ attended the summertime launch of Vosges‘ deep milk chocolate bar studded with applewood-smoked bacon bits and smoked salt.


Some asked, Why? Others, Why not? And still others, why not combine candy and breakfast meats every waking minute? I say, where’s my sausage taffy? Bring on the lox jellybeans!

Mo’s Bacon Bar is really not so outrageous, of course; from prosciutto-wrapped dates to chicken & waffles, sweet & savory combinations come naturally to our tastebuds. It’s simply the quality of the ingredients that make this particular combo rock (to illustrate, check out just one of the real-pork chunks to be found in a mere square. It isn’t blurry in real life. This is hi-def animal product).

Now watch Hershey’s and Hormel go co-host their own silver-foiled suckfest.