Round Up

28 02 2006

Good – Wallace and Gromit in the Curse of the Were Rabbit
Bad – Eros
Fugly – Footballers Wive$

The Fountain
Ice Age 2: Meltdown
V for Vendetta
Hard Candy
Miami Vice
A Scanner Darkly
The Libertine

Red – Ciacci Pic Aragona Brunello
White – Livio Felluga Pinot Grigio DOC Colli Orientali del Friuli 1998
SparklingVeuve Ambal Cremant de Borbogne Carte de Coeur

Coffee Cocktails
Coin Diva
Combine 4 oz strong brewed hot coffee, 1 oz Godiva chocolate creme liqueur, 1 oz Godiva chocolate liqueur and 3/4 oz Cointreau in glass coffee mug. Enjoy

Cafe Gates
Combine 3 oz strong hot brewed coffee, 1 oz Tia Maria, 1 oz Grand Marnier, 1 oz dark Creme de Caco in coffee mug. Top with whipped creme. Thin straws.


Insured Travel

27 02 2006

To get to Italy, travel insurance is mandatory. There are several types of such insurance –

    • reimburses if you cant travel because of illness/death in immediate family (need doctor's note), bad weather, airline strike, terrorism, loss of pay (job) or filing bankruptcy, losing home to flood or fire or (gasp) jury duty
    • recommended for everyone who thinks the trip is of significant expense, or if you have pre-existing health conditions (check clauses)
    • if you have to cut your trip short from the above; otherwise same items apply
    • pays you back for hotel, food or clothing expenses incured from a late flight; some also provide for a connection to a cruise already in progress to the next port of call
    • recommended for anyone whos itinerary makes missing the start of a trip a possibility; don't make tight connections
    • emergency medical and dental care whileo n vacation
    • recommended for travelers not covered with their own helath care policies while on a trip; check your policy and with the consulate of the overseas country to confirm
    • covers loss or theft of luggae during the trip; each policy generally caps the amount it will pay per item and in total, with specific limits on jewelry and laptop computers
    • recommended for thoe withour homeowner's or renter's insurance, or who are not covered for lost or stolen baggae through your credit card company or airlines
    • compensates beneficiaries should you die on vacation
    • are you crazy? If you need life insurance, you should buy life insurance.

Other Name

26 02 2006

I always buy roses before a party. They should last a week to ten (1) days after.

  • Cut an inch off the stems under water when you get home or an air bubble will choke the xylem and phloem
  • Use clean sharp knives or garden shears for a clean cut
  • Use a floral preservative (commercial); I prefer dunking some Sprite or 7-Up for its combination of sugar and citrus. One packet preservative per half liter of water. Do not skimp. Packets are usually free from your florist. It is like soy sauce.
  • Gently pinch off guard petals (on the outside). Follow any instructions that come with the flowers.
  • Do not keep roses in sunlight, extreme temperatures or drafts.
  • Stick a straight pin in its neck if it is bowing: eke out a day or more of beauty.

I buy my roses from Safeway (so I know they are from South America) , my house is always at 68 degrees, and I protect from sunlight. I get a good 10 days.

Dining Beijing

25 02 2006

The menu at Beijing’s latest venue for its growing army of gourmets is eye-watering rather than mouth-watering. China’s cuisine is renowned for being “in your face” – from the skinned dogs displayed at food markets to the kebabbed scorpions sold on street stalls – and there is no polite way of describing Guo-li-zhuang. Situated in an elegantly restored house beside Beijing’s West Lake, it is China’s first speciality penis restaurant. Here, businessmen and government officials can sample the organs of yaks, donkeys, oxen and even seals. In fact, they have to, since they form part of every dish – except for those containing testicles. Of course, there are other restaurants that serve the bian of individual animals. But this is the first that brings them all together. Guolizhuang’s owner, who set it up in November, is proud to combine his own surname (Guo), his wife’s (Li) and his son’s nickname (Zhuang) into its title. A booking comes with a trained waitress and a nutritionist in attendance, to explain the menu and to boast its medicinal virtues. In China, you are what you eat, and the clients were mainly men eager to improve their yang, or virility. Women could benefit, too, but the testosterone might interfere in fertility. But many women say bian is good for the skin.

Some dishes appear unexceptional, such as the simple goat penis, sliced, dipped in flour, fried, and served skewered with soy sauce. But Guolizhuang also has its showpieces, such as the elegantly named “Head crowned with a Jade Bracelet” (provided by horses from the western Muslim region of Xin-jiang), for £20 a portion, or “Dragon in the Flame of Desire” (yak, steamed whole, fried and flambéed) for £35. For beginners, Miss Zhu recommended the hotpot, which offers a sampling of what the restaurant has to offer – six types of penis, and four of testicle, boiled in chicken stock by the waitress, Liu Yunyang, 22. The Russian dog was first. It was julienned, and rather gamey. The ox was, of all six, the most recognisable for what it was, even though it had been diced. In texture seemed identical to gristle. The deer and the Mongolian goat were surprisingly similar: a little stringy, they had the appearance and feel of overcooked squid tentacles. The Xinjiang horse and the donkey, on the other hand, were quite different. Though both came sliced lengthwise, and looked like bacon, the horse was light and fatty, while the donkey had a firm colour and taste. The testicles were slightly crumbly, and tasted better with lashings of the sesame, soy and chilli dips thoughtfully provided.

One speciality, Canadian seal penis, costs a hefty £220, and requires ordering in advance. Miss Liu confessed that Guo-li-zhuang was an unusual place to work, partly because of her training – she has to recite tales proving the vigour of the animals in question as they are being eaten – and partly because of the interaction with the clientele. As for the supposed health benefits, Mr Liu, the most regular customer, was uncertain but hopeful.

Tea Time

24 02 2006

The next project/compulsion is the traditional tea room (cha-shitsu), designed simply and exclusively for taking tea and located within a home. Around the world, this would be a tea house or salon de the. Interestingly, cha is universally tea (in multiple Indian languages, spoken Mandarin and Farsi). Tea rooms in Japan and India are usually small wooden buildings located in remote, quiet areas or in the gardens or grounds of larger houses. Their design is heavily influenced by Zen Buddhist principles. A tea house is typically surrounded by a small garden often featuring a water pool with a waiting area for guests and a roji (dewy path) leading to the tea house. I am not breaking any walls. The tea house itself is usually built of wood (bamboo mainly) and the only entrance/exit is a small square door which symbolically separates the small simple quiet inside from the crowded overwhelming chaotic outside world, thus encouraging humility (you got to bow to get in) from the hosts and guests as you kneel to enter the room. Tea houses consist of two (2) rooms: one for the preparation of food, snacks and tea supplies, and another for holding the tea ceremony itself. The main room is extremely small, often 4.5 tatami mats, and with low ceilings. There is to be no furniture, except for what is required for the preparation of tea. There will usually be a charcoal pit (炉, ro) in the center of the room for boiling water for tea. This is a fire hazard. Guests and hosts sit seiza style on the floor. There is to be little decoration. There will be a tokonoma (scroll alcove) holding a scroll of calligraphy and perhaps a simple small flower arrangement, the cha-bana. All materials are purposefully simple and rustic. All doors and windows are traditionally Japanese shoji (thin strips of balsa wood covered in translucent rice paper permitting outside light entry. The floor is built a few feet above the ground to keep the room dry.

Tea houses were first introduced in the Sengoku period when the central government had nearly no practical power, the country was in chaos and wars/uprisings were commonplace. Seeking to reclaim Japan, the samurai were busy acquiring and defending territories, promoting trade and overseeing the output of farms, mills and mines. The poor sought the salvation of Buddhism. I am reinventing the tea room because I simply love to take tea with friends.

Week in Cognac

23 02 2006

Cognac facts

  • Cognac is double distilled brandy from wine in copper alambic pot stills. The distillation is in the Cognac region in western France just north of Bordeaux. That from Germain-Robin grapes in Ukiah, California, is just brandy. So faux pas to call them cognac.
  • Ugni Blanc (called Trebbiano in Italy) is the main grape used in cognac for its high yield, hardiness and natural acidity. It is France’s most planted white grape varietal. The four preimary designated districts for growth are Grande and Petite Champagne, Borderies and Fins Bois.
  • Grapes are fermented into wine and then wine distilled into eau de vie (water of life) which is then barrel aged to cognac. Cognac, per law, should be aked in French oak cooperage for at least 2.5 years but most age longer. It does not develop until at least the age of five and character needs at least a decade. Exceptional Cognacs are allowed to mature as long as 60 years. To halt the aging, they are transferred from barrels to glass demijohns (unlike wine, brandy will not improve with age in bottles) which are sequestered in dark musty recesses of ancient cellars for blending with other cognacs of variable age.
  • Classification is by the age of its youngest component eau de vie
  • VS (Very Special) has a minimum age of 2.5 years
  • VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale): 4.5 years
  • XO (Extra Old): 6.5 years, a category created in 1870 by Hennessy for the family’s private blend
  • Hennessy Paradis Extra $250
  • House of Hine Triomphe $345
  • Martell Cordon Bleu $180
  • Hennessy XO ($110)
  • Landy VS ($25)
  • Meukow 90 VS Vanilla Cognac ($37)

Tasting tips

  • Avoid heating snifter over flame. It releases alcohol that masks the flavor
  • Warm snifter by cupping in your hands. Plural.
  • Open mouth slightly when inhaling. Do not snore
  • Swirling in snifter aerates it and releases more aroma. Swirl gently.
  • Fill only the bottom 20% of the snifter.
  • Use distiller’s glass for best tasting. Round bulbous bottom narrows into concentrating chimney.
  • Tip snifter to watch for the legs of the spirit (thin film adhering to the side) – longer the legs, the older the cognac.
  • Most VS and VSOP designations have color added (younger) but no color needed for XO or older
  • Very old cognacs are susceptible to air and light. Recork ASAP to prevent evaporation and oxidation.
  • Some Russians drink Remy martin Louis XIII with bourbon. Sweet

American Life

22 02 2006

A block near ABC News world HQ in New York has been renamed after the anchor of “World News Tonight” who dies of lung cancer last August. This is a part of 66th between Columbus Ave and Central Park. Jennings was Canadian and his well wishers hoped it would remind journalists and passers-by of his life and legacy. I just call it the smoking section.