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December 31, 2004

7-in-1 Survival Tool


Consider that for $15.95 you get:

• A loud, piercing emergency whistle audible over a mile away

• A liquid-filled, freeze-resistant floating-dial compass to show you the way home (assuming that, unlike me, you possess rudimentary compass skills)

• A bright LED flashlight

• A safety mirror that swivels out for emergency use as a signalling device, or to check your lipstick

• A magnifier to help you focus the sun's rays to light a fire

• A watertight storage compartment to keep six wooden matches dry (I don't know how many times I've told you things like this, but I had better chime in once again: do NOT take this device with matches to the airport.


Without the matches is fine: stick some money in there or something)

• A digital thermometer that switches from °F to °C.

"All in a sleekly engineered, indestructible case!"

I'm always drawn to things that do lots of stuff from a small space.

Since Swiss Army knives are no longer travel-approved, you've got to find alternatives.


Perhaps this is one.

December 31, 2004 at 05:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'It's the best almond in the world'


So said Andy Nusser, executive chef and partner with Mario Batali in Casa Mono, a Spanish restaurant in New York, of the Marcona almond.

Elaine Louie wrote a paean to this heart-shaped Spanish nut for Wednesday's New York Times Dining Out section.

Maricel Presilla, a chef at Zafra and Cucharamama, Latin American restaurants in Hoboken, New Jersey, said it was the best almond in Spain, if not the world.

"It has a beautiful clean flavor," she said, "the epitome of a milky nutty flavor."

Liz Thorpe, the wholesale manager for Murray's Cheese in Greenwich Village, called the almonds luscious.

Wrote Louie, "The almond is available in two versions, one fried in olive oil, lightly salted, and packed in sunflower oil, and one that is raw. The fried variety is more popular and startlingly addictive."

Her article stated they're available at Fairway, Garden of Eden, Dean & DeLuca, Murray's, and Whole Foods.

That's nice.

But what if, like most of the world, you don't live near one of these stores?

That's why you have me.

$12.95 for 12 oz. here.

Here's the story.

    Chefs Crumble Before a Spanish Nut

    In a relatively short time the heart-shaped Marcona almond, a Spanish almond with a sweet flesh and a gentle crunch, has become the nut of choice in New York restaurants.

    "It's the best almond in the world," said Andy Nusser, the executive chef and a partner with Mario Batali in Casa Mono, the Spanish restaurant near Gramercy Park, and its adjacent wine bar, Bar Jamón.

    Maricel Presilla, a historian and the chef and an owner of Zafra and Cucharamama, Latin American restaurants in Hoboken, N.J., said that it was the best almond in Spain, if not the world.

    "It has a beautiful clean flavor," she said, "the epitome of a milky nutty flavor."

    Liz Thorpe, the wholesale manager for Murray's Cheese in Greenwich Village, called these almonds luscious.

    "They're juicy," Ms. Thorpe said, "and they're softer than the California almonds."

    The Romans cultivated the almond in Spain around 2,000 years ago, Ms. Presilla said, and although there are many types of almonds grown in Spain, the Marcona is widely considered to be the best.

    The Spanish chop almonds and add them to sauces, and grind them with water to make almond milk, but their most important use for Spaniards "is for the turron and all kinds of nougats," Ms. Presilla said.

    They also fry them in olive oil, salt them and eat them with manchego cheese.

    Marcona almonds gained notice after Spain's cuisine became popular in the late '90's.

    In 2000 Michele Buster of Forever Cheese in Long Island City, Queens, arranged a food tour of Spain for food professionals including Mr. Nusser, who had lived there as a child and again as a teenager.

    They nibbled almonds, discovered pimentón, the Spanish paprika, and ate manchego cheese.

    By 2001 the Marcona almond had shown up not just on menus but at stores like Fairway, Garden of Eden, Dean & DeLuca, Murray's and Whole Foods.

    "We sell them primarily as a cheese accompaniment," said Francesca de Bardin, an owner of Francvin Epicurean Foods, an importer in Manhattan.

    Ms. Buster, who sells the almonds in 11-pound tubs, distributes 11,000 pounds nearly every month, up from 55 pounds the first month in 2001.

    Ms. de Bardin estimates she shipped 5,000 pounds of Marcona almond across the United States this year, up from 2,500 pounds in 2001.

    The almond is available in two versions, one fried in olive oil, lightly salted, and packed in sunflower oil, and one that is raw.

    The fried variety is more popular and startlingly addictive.

    But chefs like Ms. Presilla buy the raw nuts for baking.

    In the past three years chefs at Picholine, Casa Mono and Town have been using the Marcona as a crunchy embellishment in dishes that are savory and sweet.

    Craig Hopson, chef de cuisine at Picholine, serves seared foie gras on a bed of pear coulis topped by a paper-thin circle of a Marcona almond tuile.

    The contrast of textures and flavors is heightened: the crisp flaky tuile, the unctuous foie gras and the sweet-tart fruit.

    His pastry chef, Daniel Rundell, makes a crunchy Marcona almond nougat, and serves it, shaped like a circle, under a scoop of caramel ice cream.

    At Picholine the chefs use the Marcona almond just as they would an ordinary almond, Mr. Hopson said.

    Casa Mono's house salad is a tumble of frisée sprinkled with ground Marcona almonds colored bright orange from being roasted with pimentón.

    A sweet-sour dressing of sherry vinegar, olive oil and quince paste melted with orange juice glosses the greens, while slices of manchego cheese perch against the frisée and add buttery toothsomeness.

    Mr. Nusser also has his version of an ice cream sundae.

    He sprinkles ground spiced Marcona almonds and slivered candied pumpkin on a scoop of ice cream and drizzles it with Spanish sherry.

    At Town, Geoffrey Zakarian, the owner and chef, and his executive chef, John Johnson, offer braised leeks topped by toasted Marcona almonds.

    The flavors of the leeks and almonds are subtle, but the contrast in textures is bold.

    The chefs also dust grilled quail with ground roasted Marcona almonds to give a hint of crunch.

December 31, 2004 at 03:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Dust Slippers - 'Dust your floors every time you walk into a room!'



What a concept.

From the website:

    Keep your feet warm and clean your floors at the same time.

    No need to get on your hands and knees to scrub or drag out the broom when these slippers can do all the work.

    Saves you time and effort.

    Trendy tartan plaid upper, double-loop mop-style sole.

    You get 2 pair.

    Hand washable.

    One size fits all.

I mean, it's not enough to have conceived of such an excellent two-in-one device, but then they went the extra mile and made 'em in that "trendy tartan plaid," and added lagniappe in the form of "double-loop mop-style" soles.

You won't find a combination like that at Prada, Ferragamo, or Chanel no matter how hard you look.

And offering two pair for $9.95, so you and yours can do a turbo clean-up before the party: I simply don't know what to say.

December 31, 2004 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

What It Is Like - by Gerald Stern

I will have to tell you what it is like
since I was the one lying on my back
with my arms in the air and a blanket up to my
chin, since I was the one on a mattress
and the one trying to make up my mind
whether it was an early heaven just being there
or whether it was another bitter vertigo.

There were great parties where I went out
on a back porch and stared through the sycamores,
and there were parties, mostly lawless gatherings,
where we stood on the beach apart from each other
studying the sky. For me it's always
the earth; I'm one of the addicts; I can hardly
stand the dreaminess; I get burnt, I blister

at night as others do in the day. Last summer
I lay there crying. It was California
and the sheep vision. I was on a mattress
looking up. I started to talk. Aside
from the stars, aside from the beating heart, I only
remember two things: both hands were in the air
and I was, for the first time in twenty years,

lying down without fear. My friend Robin
was there beside me; she was sobbing; I have
such gratitude toward her. It was her house,
it was her stars. She took me down to see
the sheep first, then she showed me the ocean.
It was an outside room; one wall was a maple,
one wall was made of planter boxes. There were

tomatoes and eggplants in one, there was lavender
and basil in another. I remember
the trees on every side; I know there was oak
and redwood; there was a twisted madrona with leaves
in leathery piles, almost like rhododendron.
Robin knew the shadows, she knew the edges,
she knew the clouds, she knew the sky. It was

the summer of 1989. The charts
have already registered my odd affliction
and the stars absorbed my happiness. Standing—
or lying—you could see a horse to the right,
if you were facing north, and a white dragon,
if you were facing south. I think I never
slept that night. I only dozed. And ranted.


December 31, 2004 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Wasabi Hangover Bath Treatment


If you've got big plans for tonight, perhaps you should pick this up on your way home.

Here's a link to the stores that sell it: they're all over the place, so maybe you'll get lucky this afternoon, even if tonight's a bust.

From the website:

    The Wasabi Hangover Bath Treatment contains Organic Ginger for nausea, fever & indigestion; Organic Mustard for increased circulation, stimulating sweat glands, & opening pores; Epsom salts for relieving aching muscles and internal rebalancing; and a specific blend of essential oils to loosen phlegm, sooth nerves, and stimulating pain relief.

    Combined, these ingredients are the ultimate detoxifying bath which relieves symptoms of jet lag, hangover, food over-consumption or the flu/cold.

Well, there you have it.

A 2 oz. Single Use packet is $5.00 here.

Cheap at ten times the price - if it works.

You'll thank me in the morning.

Or maybe not.

Trust me - I'm a doctor.

December 31, 2004 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'US Airways yesterday sought volunteers... to work without pay... over the New Year's weekend'


For a second there I thought I was still asleep and dreaming, but even after I shook myself, there I was Wednesday morning, sitting with my coffee reading the opening sentence of the lead story in that day's Washington Post Business section.

Say what?

You say you want me to come in on a holiday weekend, when I'm off, and work not for double-time pay, not even for my regular hourly wage, but for free?

And you say you haven't been smoking anything?

I must say, this takes the cake in terms of sticking your corporate stiletto heel right in the figurative eye socket of your workforce, then grinding down as hard as you can.

More from the article:

    Yesterday the airline sought even more employees to work for free between December 30 and January 3.

    "This is a volunteer program," the airline said in an e-mail to management and office staff.

    "You will not be paid if this is on your day(s) off."

    "It promises to be a rewarding opportunity to learn more about the operation of our airline and come face to face with our customers."

Yeah - and jumping off a tall building is a good way to see what free-fall feels like.

I've got news for you: if those customers are among the many thousands whose flights were canceled last weekend by US Airways, and the additional thousands whose bags never arrived with them (see the picture above - at one point more than 10,000 misplaced bags had accumulated), then I don't want to be anywhere near a US Airways counter this weekend.

US Airways is so finished it's not even funny.

Rather than waste time and ruin their New Year's weekend, US Airways employees should be buffing their resumes for the upcoming year, in order to get a head start before the company comes out and declares what everyone knows is coming: "It's over."

How do you spell "Dead Company - and Industry - Walking?"

Here's the full story, by Caroline E. Mayer and Amy Joyce.

    US Airways Appeals To Workers For Help

    Troubled Airline Seeks Volunteer Labor for New Year's Weekend

    Trying to avert another round of flight disruptions, US Airways yesterday sought volunteers from its nonunion workforce to work without pay at its troubled Philadelphia operations over the New Year's weekend.

    The airline canceled nearly 400 flights last week, leaving thousands of passengers stranded or separated from their luggage, after an unusually high number of flight attendants and baggage handlers based at the Philadelphia airport called in sick.

    Yesterday, US Airways said its flight operations were back to normal, although the carrier was still trying to clear out the backlog of misplaced luggage - at one point it totaled more than 10,000 pieces - and deliver them to their owners.

    Additional workers and executives had already been dispatched to Philadelphia earlier this week to help restore service, but yesterday the airline sought even more employees to work for free between Dec. 30 and Jan. 3.

    "This is a volunteer program," the airline said in an e-mail to management and office staff.

    "You will not be paid if this is on your day(s) off. It promises to be a rewarding opportunity to learn more about the operation of our airline and come face to face with our customers."

    Depending on their background, the employees will be assigned to meet and greet passengers at the ticket counter, security line, curbside or baggage claim, as well as provide assistance on the ramp and in the baggage sorting area, the memo said.

    The memo came the same day the airline told all employees, including union workers, that it would conduct "an enhanced review of each person's attendance record during the holiday period" from Dec. 23 to Jan. 3 and consider "disciplinary action and/or loss of pay" if it is determined that any sick leave was unmerited.

    US Airways was one of two airlines that suffered a major service interruption last weekend.

    Comair, a regional air carrier owned by Delta Air Lines Inc., canceled all of its flights on Saturday, after a major computer malfunction, which the company blamed on bad weather.

    Comair's operations still had not returned to normal yesterday; about 75 percent of the flights were back in the air, but the airline said it expected to be operating at full service today.

    Kenneth M. Mead, the Department of Transportation's inspector general, has launched an investigation into whether the two airlines adequately prepared for the holiday travel period and whether they responded appropriately to consumers once flights were canceled and bags misplaced.

    With airline traffic and delays increasing, the inspector general said the expedited inquiry will be the first step of a major audit of the entire airline industry's performance.

    The investigation will assess the carriers' treatment of their customers, the inspector general's office said Monday.

    Mead said he will be looking at how well the companies are living up to customer-service commitments to deliver bags on time, provide adequate and timely information to customers about flight delays and cancellations, and respond to customer complaints within 60 days.

    The inspector general's findings could be critical for the thousands of passengers who were stranded in airports last weekend and have not received restitution from Comair or US Airways for canceled flights or misplaced luggage, consumer advocates said.

    If the inspector general determines the disruption was due to weather, the airlines may not have to compensate passengers, said David Stempler, president of the Air Travelers Association.

    "The line of demarcation has been if the problem was not in the airlines' control, they tend not to take responsibility for disruption of passengers," Stempler said.

    But if the airlines are to blame, then passengers should receive some sort of payment for their troubles, he said.

    However, just how much is unclear.

    No federal compensation requirements exist, except in the case of passengers bumped from overbooked flights, so each airline would determine any restitution.

    Yesterday, both US Airways and Comair said they were dealing with customers case by case.

    US Airways said that in many cases it had already paid some passengers $50 for the first night they were without their baggage and $25 for the second night.

    Both airlines said they tried to provide hotel and food vouchers to customers when needed.

    But further compensation, such as free tickets or refunds, remains "a gray area," Stempler said.

    "It depends on what happened. If you were reaccommodated and got to a destination late, perhaps not," he said.

    US Airways said its Philadelphia problems stemmed from an unusually high number of sick calls from flight attendants and baggage handlers - three times the normal rate.

    Yesterday, Perry L. Hayes, president of the US Airways flight attendants union, posted a memo on the group's Web site, criticizing those who called in sick.

    "AFA in no way supports any member who calls in sick unless that person is actually sick," Hayes's memo said.

    "Sadly, the employees who took this action may ultimately cause the failure of the airline."

December 31, 2004 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

'Twinkie Chefs, Start Your Ovens'


Headline of Jennifer Mann's story in last week's Kansas City Star about the upcoming festivities surrounding the 75th anniversary next year of the venerable Twinkie.

Even though Interstate Bakeries, the maker of the iconic treat, is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, nothing's getting in the way of this once-in-75 years celebration.

To mark the great day, Interstate is compiling a "Best of Twinkie" recipe cookbook.

A national search is ongoing - as you lick the cream off your sticky, gooey, Twinkie-covered fingers - for recipes using Twinkies.

The Twinkie, as you may recall, was created in 1930 by one Jimmy Dewar, a Chicago bakery manager.

He was looking for a way to use the shortcake pans that sat unused except during the six-week strawberry season.

The name?

It was inspired by a St. Louis billboard advertising Twinkle Toes shoes.

Of such things is genius composed of.

Anyway, read the story, then go out and buy a pack for old-time's sake.

I did.

And they're just as irresistible as they were when I was little and, on special days, found them in my lunch bag.

    Twinkie Chefs, Start Your Ovens

    As the ubiquitous Twinkie prepares to celebrate its 75th anniversary next year, the snack cake's owner is compiling a 75 best-of Twinkie recipe cookbook.

    Toward that end, a national search is under way for recipes using the cream-filled, bright yellow sponge cake cylinders that have been a lunch box staple for decades.

    Beth Barden, owner of Succotash restaurant in the River Market and known for her creative twists on traditional foods, has already concocted a recipe using Twinkies.

    Her "Twinkies Foster" is a rendition of the classic "Bananas Foster" flambé dessert using coconut-covered, split Twinkies in lieu of the traditional vanilla ice cream.

    Barden made the dessert for a private dinner party, which she termed a "funky, Americana one."

    "We were just coming up with a menu using funny things from our childhood like little Smokies and 'Ambrosia Salad,'" Barden said.

    Originally, she was thinking of serving deep-fried Twinkies for dessert, but that was too been-there, done-that.

    That's when she hit on "Twinkies Foster," which she plans to submit for consideration in the cookbook to be released next year.

    That's just the sort of creativity that Kansas City-based Interstate Bakeries is looking for when it comes to compiling the anniversary cookbook.

    Having filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in September, the company is looking for all the help it can get to boost its products.

    The Twinkie was created in 1930 by Jimmy Dewar, a bakery manager in Chicago.

    He was looking for a way to use the shortcake pans that sat unused except during the six-week strawberry season.

    The name was inspired by a St. Louis billboard advertising "Twinkle Toes" shoes.

    Go figure.

    To feed the project, Interstate's marketing department has suggested recipes like "Twinkie-misu" and "Twinkie Toffee Treat."

    Megan Garrelts, co-owner of the highly regarded newcomer restaurant Bluestem, sounded dubious about concocting a recipe for submission.

    But that doesn't mean she can't appreciate Twinkies for what they are.

    "They're an easy, fast-food pastry," Garrelts said.

    "When you want a sweet, cake-like dessert, it sort of satisfies that craving. Personally, I preferred the Hostess cupcakes in my lunch box."

Submit recipes for next year's best-of Twinkie 75th anniversary cookbook at Twinkies75@twinkies.com, or by mail to Twinkies' 75th Anniversary Recipe Search, 12 East Armour Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64111.

Recipe entries should include a list of ingredients and step-by-step instructions, as well as the creator's name, address and telephone number.

The deadline is March 31.

December 31, 2004 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Monkey Hook


What's a Monkey Hook?

Long story short: it's a new picture hanger that goes in easily


without tools in seconds,

supports up to 50 pounds,


and doesn't require you find a wall stud so the picture doesn't come crashing down.

The website's got a video to show you how it works.

At $2.99 for two, count me in.

December 31, 2004 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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