{Book Review} America the Edible by Adam Richman

I am not going to lie, when I first got this book I was a bit skeptical.  What was I to expect in a book written by a guy who I only knew from watching him eat very large amounts of food all over the country?  Well what I got was actually a very fun and light hearted read.

This book really amounts to sort of an early life memoir and travel guide from Adam Richman.  In the text he basically covers his young adult life as he traveled across the country for various reasons and the food memorable food encounters he had during that time.  From New York to St. Louis to Los Angeles, Richman hits many major cities and discovers much of their authentic cuisine.  Each chapter focuses on a different city and his memorable eating experiences while staying there.  At the end of each chapter he offers a few “Must Visit” places and one recipe that for him sums up his experience with the town.

The book was fun to read as Adam seems to be a light hearted and funny guy who just happens to have great times with regular food that you and I could have too.  None of the places he talks about are haute cuisine or restaurants that will require a reservation two months ahead.  They are all average joe type places you and I could visits and the collection of recipes he offers are all quite easy for any normal home chef.

In the end I recommend the book, not just for the food recommendation and handful of recipes, but also for the fun stories.

Arizona Fallout Ramblings

+++Next on my mind is the tragic Arizona shooting and the fallout from it.

It has got me thinking about quite a few different things.

Many on the left want to take issue with the rhetoric the right used prior to this and use it as an example of going too far and possibly inciting this sad violence.  While I completely understand where they come from with this, I don’t think it fair to hold one person’s political speech as the responsible for another person’s action.  There needs to be personal responsibility here.  And while I don’t approve of much of the speech being accused of inciting this tragedy, I don’t think you should place limits on what can be said in a public forum.

 

Despite the fact that I still vehemently opposed flag burning, and I think corporate contributions to election campaigns and political action committees is a horrible idea.  I have become more and more a believer in free speech.  The ability to say whatever you want is one of those things that I think the founding fathers got right, as opposed to the right to own and bear arms.

 

The right to unrestricted free speech is a truly amazing and American thing.  I heard a story recently form the UK where an election was annulled and a candidate suspended from politics for three years because he made false statements about his opponent during a campaign. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-11761986) What an amazingly civil thing to have, and quite British when you think about it.  But to quote Penn Jillette “Fuck Civility. Hyperbole, passion, and metaphor are beautiful parts of rhetoric. Marketplace of ideas can not be toned down for the insane.”  I kind of agree with that.  And I think this whole concept of “Blood Libel” is not close to something of an accurate description of what has been going on.  Plus I do not think many people even knew what “Blood Libel” meant before the week started.  I do not agree with much of anything Sarah Palin or other arch-conservatives say, but I do believe in her and their right to do it, no matter how stupid, insane or inerrant.  True freedom of speech unregulated by the government is, I believe, and essential piece of our democracy.

Turning within the issue a little bit though, I have come to be a believer that the right to bear arms while at the time was perhaps a good idea, today I do not quite agree.  While I do not believe in the complete abolition of gun ownership (For then I do truly think the only people who would have guns are the police and the criminals), I do believe it should be as tough as possible to own a gun in the United States.  I do not want to make it an expensive process, but I would like it to be a lengthy and thorough one.  I would like to see people checked for psychological stability and very complete background checks performed (I should say I feel the same way about car drivers, but that is another topic).  Even with all this I myself am not even sure I would want a gun in my house (I do not have one now), simply because when you look at the numbers having a gun in your house makes the possibility of someone being shot in your house go up exponentially, and I do not think that is worth the risk.  If I were to have children I do not think I would be comfortable even having a gun even locked up in a safe in my house.  You just increase your risks too much.  But there are people out there who treat gun ownership like a God given right and I don’t think that is what the founding fathers had in mind.  In fact the right to keep and bear arms is not a concept found in the original articles of confederation.  And our right found in the second amendment was heavily based off the English Bill of Rights in 1689, which was more about shifting power from the monarch to the parliament.  And when Madison was crafting the second amendment we were a bunch of farmers with muzzle loading rifles, Patrick Henry thought a well armed populace was the only way to ensure liberty, and while I see the reasoning behind that, especially when just coming out of a bloody revolution, I don’t think it applies to today.  No group of liberty loving gun nuts will really be able to oppose the power of the U.S. military, plus despite what Glenn Beck says I do not think the threat of gun violence is really what should keep society in order.

Well I said I didn’t want to ramble and I have, I would benefit greatly from an editor, something I am not.  That is all for now…..more mumblings later.

The Long And Winding Road Back To My Blog

Why hello there!

I certainly have not done this for quite some time, but alas I think I need to get back to writing on a somewhat normal basis and try to get my thoughts and feelings about certain topics back on “Paper”.  So I am going to try and commit to spending some regular time each day during my down time to putting the proverbial pen to paper.

So what is on my mind this morning?

+++ Jerry Brown and his budget for California.  I get it, I really do, California was enormously prosperous during the 90’s and most of the 00’s.  The tech boom, soaring real estate and home sales made the golden state quite flush.  Sadly the state legislature took all that tax revenue and started spending it like crazy on various programs, non essential services, and deals with unions.  The economy drops out, state tax revenue drops out and we are screwed.  We have to do something to get the state budget close to balanced and I think third timer Gov. Brown has the right idea.  Keep some taxes higher and make some big cuts to services.  You got some yin and some yang here, democrats won’t be too averse to raising or keep up some taxes and the republicans will agree with the cuts to services.  My only real fear is that republicans will really try to stall on this and claim that taxes need to be cut to help business develop more jobs in the state.  Deep down I really do agree that job creation is the single best thing that can happen for the California economy, but working in business myself I also know that no tax cuts are going to help with job creation any time soon.  Corporate or small business tax cuts will at best take a year or more to really affect job creation within the state.  Most every business I know or is not basing their hiring practices based on the their tax rates but rather on the overall shape and strength of sales, production, etc..  So while job creation does need to be a long term goal I do not cutting taxes now will affect it in any way.  Rather I think the responsible thing to do is really try to shore up the state’s budget and work from there.  It won’t be easy for anyone, the CalWorks program which my wife works for is looking to be cut up to 50%, which in all reality could mean her losing her job, but I accept that as being for the good of the people.  And I know fees and tuition will go up for state colleges and universities, which I hate to see, but I suspect this will separate the wheat form the chaff.  Those who really want to go to college will have to really work for it now and they will be rewarded, as opposed those who just treat it as a four year extension of high school.  Anywho, I just think that the Governor has the right idea and I hope that republican legislators (Of which I am represented by) might understand this too and try to do the painful but right thing.

Later I intended to take up my thought on the Arizona shooting, our rights, and the founding fathers.

{Book Review} Speakeasy by Jason Kosmas & Dushan Zaric

For the Master Mixologist in You.

I have never had a drink at the Employee’s Only Bar in New York, but I have read about and talked to those who have, and I hear only good things.  Employee’s Only appears to be one of the new wave of cocktail bars truly dedicated to not just respecting the cherished history of the cocktail but also moving things forward and I think that is evident in their cocktail recipe book “Speakeasy”.

I say that they look to the past and the future because of the way they have structured the book.  Going through the pages you will find recipes for classic cocktails such as the Manhattan, Martinez, Sidecar, and Negroni and on the following page you will find an Employee’s Only version that either ups the complexity or takes the drink in an exciting new direction.  So not only do you get the great classic recipes, but you also get a new version to try or even inspire your own experiments.

Most recipes do refer to the spirit ingredients by brand name, but almost all of the brand names mentioned are fairly easy to find.  In the re-invented cocktails there is the healthy use of homemade or infused ingredients, thankfully there is an appendix in the back of the book with directions for the production of such ingredients.

So while making some of these cocktails may require a bit of work to get the required ingredients together or produced I have found that I am almost always rewarded by something complex, tasty, and smooth.

In conclusion I guess I would say that if you are a serious drinker and you like real cocktails and you are willing to work for them then this is a great book for you.  Produced by people whom I would consider true mixologists, this book gives you an idea on how they think and approach their craft by adjusting classic recipes and creating new ones.  I have enjoyed this book and I hope you will too.

{Book Review} A Taste for Absinthe by R. Winston Guthrie

I was really looking forward to this book “A Taste For Absinthe, 65 Recipes for Classic & Contemporary Cocktails” by R. Winston Guthrie with James F. Thompson; but this book didn’t really knock my socks off, but was still a solid effort.  Allow me to elaborate:

I would venture to say the book itself is organized into seven major sections; an absinthe primer, classic absinthe recipes, fruit & citrus related absinthe recipes, whiskey & gin related absinthe recipes, liqueurs & bitters related absinthe recipes, modern classics & cutting edge absinthe recipes and an absinthe buying guide.

I will move from back to front.

I found the Absinthe Buying Guide to be a bit inadequate, while they do list 18 different absinthes; there were some omissions that surprised me (La Muse Verte, St. George, etc.).  And instead of giving recommendations (As I would think a buying guide should) instead you are given a website, the name of importer, style, ABV, distillery name, a vague price indicator and a short description.  For what was described as a buying guide, I was a bit disappointed.

Overall when looking at all the recipes in the book I have neither great praise nor complaint.  The recipes vary from relatively simple to complex.  In the ingredient lists for most recipes the products are called for by name brand name.  Normally I wouldn’t consider this a big deal, but when your average bottle of absinthe runs from $45 to $85 it seems a little silly.  There are several recipes however that just call for just absinthe or blanche absinthe.

I am however happy to report that the majority of the recipes were new to me, of course I was familiar to most of the classic recipes listed in the same named section.  So if you are looking for a good collection of new absinthe related cocktail recipes then this book may work out for you.  Also peppered throughout the book are one page “A Moment In Absinthe History” essays.  I found these to be sometimes interesting little snippets of absinthe history that I may or may not have already known.

The absinthe primer at the beginning of the book is probably the best conceived and executed section of the book.  While very little of the information was new to me, I felt it was a well-organized and well laid out introduction to the spirit.  I would easily recommend reading this section for anyone who wanted to learn the basics about absinthe and its production and range or types.

So to conclude, while I would not considered this a new classic cocktail book is still a very solid effort towards collecting and compiling the best of the absinthe related recipes out there right now.  For a non-absinthe fan you would probably want to skip this book, but if you have a passion of love for the green fairy then this belongs on your bookshelf.

{Book Review} Boozehound by Jason Wilson

By Jason WilsonFun, Informative, and about Booze!

I think if I died and was reincarnated I would want to come back as Jason Wilson.  That man has a job of traveling to drink and write about various distilled spirits, what a gig!  The nice thing is that author realizes he is pretty lucky to be a “Lifestyle Journalist” and he doesn’t take himself too seriously.

This book “Boozehound,” comes off as part memoir, part travel log, part spirits review and part cocktail recipe book.  And in all those things it makes for a fun read.  Wilson takes on a trip through his past while commenting on learning to taste and understand the flavors in spirits.  He discusses cocktail snobs, searching for lost spirits and liqueurs, the great stories (True or not) behind many beloved alcohol brands, the world of Italian bitter drinks, a whole chapter on aquavit, terroir and its effect on spirits, and much more.

At the end of each chapter the author always gives out a handful of cocktail recipes, which are neither recipes that you have seen a hundred times before or amazingly complex examples of molecular mixology.  They are just straightforward recipes that use the ingredients discussed in the proceeding chapter and out of the ones I have made they have been pretty good.

So while this book seems to cross many genres, part cocktail history book, alcoholic travel log, spirit critique and tasting notes, humor, and personal history I found it an enjoyable read; I learned a lot and had a great time reading it.  If you are interested in this kind of stuff then you will like the book too, and if you have a friend or family member who enjoys the history and stories behind different spirits, then I think they may like this book to.  I recommend it.

Back To The Grind

I fortunately had a really nice holiday weekend.

I got to go home early on Friday, which let me get my relaxing on early.

Mad MenSaturday was a spectacular day and wasted time.  I worked on packing away some old books and watching episodes from season three of Mad Men, which over the last month has become my new favorite drama since the loss of Lost.  Just good writing, compelling story lines and characters who are a great mix of good and bad.  I eagerly anticipate the premiere of Season Four later this month.

I also snagged an online peak at the Main Event of UFC 116, Brock Lesnar versus Shane Carwin.  Holy Begeesus did Brock take a A Beat Up Brockpounding in the first round.  But he rode it out and the Ref was good enough not to stop it.  Although there were a few times when Brock seemed to just be curling up and not doing much.  However Brock answered the bell for the second round with a smile on his face and worked a choke on Shane.  Gotta admit th man is tough and deserves some respect.  I look forward to his next fight.

Angel StadiumSunday was a lovely day to sleep in, worship at Church, and then make our way to Anaheim for an Angel’s game.  Had not been to an Angels game in a while.  A completely different crowd from what you get at Dodger Stadium.  A bit higher class if I may say.  Plus you can tail gate in the parking lot.  And you don’t have to climb to the top of Mt. Chavez Ravine to get to your seats, just a leisurely ramp stroll.  The Dodgers organization good do a lot to make things easier for fans to get in and out of the park.  but they won’t because there is no financial incentive to do so.

We also got to watch the fireworks afterwards, and a really great show.  Artie Moreno really knows how to run a ball club.  If only Frank McCourt would take some tips.  The Dodger experience could be so much better.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love Dodger Stadium, I love Dodger Dogs, I love driving up Stadium Way to the Baseball Cathedral in the Chavez Ravine, but the Angels do a really good job with a stadium that is technically only 4 years younger then Dodger Stadium.

That’s all, more later.

Music Review: Balls in Your Face by Lee Press-On & the Nails

Lee Press-On Nails Ballroom Music!

Well what can you expect from an album that is titled “Balls in Your Face”?  Wait, do not answer that, just let me tell you.  What you do get is another fun album from Lee Press-On that focuses on Waltz’s and Ballroom Music in general.  I am sure you have always wondered what Ozzy’s “Mr. Crowley” would sound like as a Tango; and I am just as sure you have spent nights awake thinking what Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades” would sound like if it were a Polka.  Well wonder no more and download this album.  Also included is the fan favorite at live shows, “The Congress of Vienna Waltz”!

But I digress.  If you are a fan of the music and humor of Lee and the Nails then I feel like you will enjoy this album.  If you are a fan of obscure covers of ballroom music, you too may enjoy this album.  If you take yourself or ballroom dancing very seriously, get away, get away quickly, listening to this music may cause you to have fun or possibly even be considered hype.  You have been warned.  So in conclusion, I have enjoyed the latest music endeavor from Lee Press-On & the Nails and I hope you will too. Purchase or listen tot it here:

Balls In Your Face

Book Review: WAR by Sebastian Junger

Taking you inside the American soldier’s mind in Afghanistan

I have read several books and accounts of both the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and I feel secure is saying that Junger does a better job of taking you inside the mind of a soldier then anything else I have read, even solders’ own personal accounts of the war.

The author spent time with the same group of soldiers in remote Afghanistan off and on over a period of 15 months.  During this time he went out on patrols with them, was with them during firefights, and endured endless hours of boredom.  And he was really able to translate what it was like to be there with them and what those men were going through.

Junger broke down his book into three themes/parts: Fear, Killing and Love.  And each part of the book sort of focused on that theme in the soldiers daily life from fear of dying or failing fellow soldiers, to killing enemies, and the love soldiers had for each other and for fighting.

All in all I really enjoyed reading this book.  It can be a little tough to follow at times unless you can get a mental picture of the geography of the land Junger talks about.  As the action takes place in an area of hills and valleys in Afghanistan.  Also the author has a tendency to flash forward and flash back a little bit when telling a story and that can disrupt the narrative a little bit, but other than those two minor quibbles I found the book to be very engrossing, intriguing, informative and overall entertaining.  If you are interested in books about on the ground modern warfare I think you will enjoy this book.

Book Review: California Tenants’ Rights by Janet Portman

California Tenants' Rights

Front Cover

Now, I have been a renter/tenant all my adult life and there are multiple times I can think of, when I wished I had this book.  The information would have saved me a lot of time looking through the legal codes online or just getting bad advice from friends.

So let me just say this book is great, as it is particular to California State Law and whenever something is mentioned or quoted from the law they give you a legal reference so you can look up the law yourself to prove it to your landlord or whoever it is you are talking to .

Just about everything is covered, from getting your lease, including inspections, repairs, sub-leasing, getting your security deposit back, even when the landlord can enter your dwelling, plus a whole lot more. And another great feature is there are a bunch of useful standardized forms in the back that you can either pullout or make copies of to use for various things like maintenance requests, setting up sub-leases and other useful stuff.

My only real disappointment with the book and the only section that was not covered that I really would have liked was dealing with bad neighbors/next-door tenants etc.. But I suppose the law doesn’t say much about the people below your apartment blaring music at 2am.  I just wish they could of given some direction as to how to deal with these people and what rights you have to not be disturbed by noise and late night parties.

However on another good note this book also gives some helpful advice as to how a judge would view your case if you took your landlord to court over various objections and problems, which I find quite helpful, especially since the book is honest enough to tell you that even though legally you may be right, a judge probably won’t do anything for you.

So if you are looking for a useful and well organized resource for the laws and rights of a tenant in the state of California then I highly recommend this book, as I said before I really wish I had access to this info in the past as it would have saved me a lot of time and grief. If you have any questions feel free to leave and comment and I will try to get back to you with a response.