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August 6, 2007

Meet Carminantonio Iannaccone — the man who invented tiramisu

1toptop

That's him above, showering cocoa powder on the final layer of cream atop the latest batch of his signature dish.

Don't believe it?

Then read Jane Black's July 11, 2007 Washington Post Food section front page story (it follows) in which she goes deep — very, very deep – into the life and times of this iconic desert.

Along the way you'll find photos which accompanied the Post article.
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The Trail of Tiramisu

We Sift Legend From Fact In Search of an Answer: Did a Baltimore Baker Create Italy's Most Famous Dessert?

"It's not a big invention," said Carminantonio Iannaccone in a lilting Italian accent. "It's not like the telephone. It's just a dessert."

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Iannaccone tugs at his black suspenders and shifts in his chair in the cramped office above Piedigrotta, his even more cramped Baltimore bakery. He's being modest. Because it's not any dessert that Iannaccone (pronounced yahn-a-CONE-ay) claims to have created. It's tiramisu. If Iannaccone actually invented Italy's most famous sweet — and there's reason to believe he might have — then I am sitting in the presence of gastronomic greatness, the Italian equivalent of the Earl of Sandwich.

Iannaccone's story is simple. He trained as a pastry chef in the southern city of Avellino, then migrated to Milan to find work at the age of 12. In 1969 he married his wife, Bruna, and opened a restaurant also called Piedigrotta in Treviso, where he cooked up a dessert based on the "everyday flavors of the region": strong coffee, creamy mascarpone, eggs, Marsala and ladyfinger cookies. He says it took him two years to perfect the recipe, which was originally served as an elegant, freestanding cake.

Tiramisu, which means "pick me up" — a reference to its shot of espresso — was an instant hit. Chefs, Iannaccone says, came to taste it, and soon they were either making their own versions or he was supplying them with his. By the early '80s, tiramisu had become ubiquitous throughout Italy and beyond. Miami Beach had a restaurant called Tiramisu, and the dessert was considered a status symbol among the Tokyo elite.

Iannaccone's tiramisu is tremendous, a sophisticated and boozy rendition that has little in common with the soupy mush that too often passes as the original. "Today, it's a mess," said Iannaccone, sounding somewhat defeated. "But if you like it and your grandma made it that way," he shrugged, "fine."

Still, the whole thing seemed awfully unlikely. Why would the creator of tiramisu be operating a tiny bakery on the outskirts of Baltimore's Little Italy? And would the inventor even be alive? Italians pride themselves on their culinary traditions, not newfangled innovation (like those crazy Catalonians). Surely, a classic like tiramisu would date back to the Renaissance. Catherine de Medici gave us artichokes, truffles, gelato, even the fork. Surely, she would have had a hand in tiramisu, too.

In an age when chefs are busily copyrighting recipes, patenting new cooking techniques and suing one another for ripping off restaurant concepts — as New York chef Rebecca Charles did last month — you'd think it would be easy to track down who served up the first tiramisu.

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But 40 years ago, in a small Italian town, no one, especially Carminantonio Iannaccone, apparently thought to boast about a new dish or save a menu that might prove when it was first served. He didn't know tiramisu would become an icon of Italian gastronomy, breeding such bastard children as "berrymisu" and pumpkin tiramisu trifle. He didn't know that in 2007 it would pull up 4.9 million hits on Google vs. just 792,000 for the mighty cannoli.

As Iannaccone likes to say, it's just a dessert.

Iannaccone, who still struggles with English and recounted much of his story in Italian, says he doesn't have the time, or the energy, to prove that he is tiramisu's inventor. So I decided to do some legwork on his behalf. First, I examined the historical legends: One says the dessert was invented in the 17th century in honor of the grand duke of Tuscany, Cosimo III de Medici, but soon became the favorite of courtesans who used it for a little extra energy before performing their duties and gave it the nickname "pick me up." Another says it was invented in Turin in the mid-19th century at the request of Italy's first prime minister, Camillo Cavour, a renowned gourmand who needed a pick-me-up for the trying task of unifying the Italian peninsula.

Good stories, both. But neither is true, Italian food experts agree. Mascarpone, one of tiramisu's key ingredients, is native to the northern Veneto region and wouldn't have been found in Tuscany hundreds of years ago. Even in the 19th century, without refrigeration, a dessert made with uncooked eggs would likely have sickened more people than it pleased.

Next, I scoured authoritative cookbooks for a recipe that would predate Iannaccone's claim. But, as he predicted, niente: British cookbook author Elizabeth David makes no mention of the dessert in her 1954 "Italian Food," nor does Marcella Hazan in "The Classic Italian Cookbook" (1973).

Indeed, it wasn't until the 1980s that published references to tiramisu began to appear. Two Treviso restaurants get the credit: El Toula (from cookbook authors Claudia Roden and Anna del Conte and Saveur magazine) and Le Beccherie (from several Italian magazines and cookbooks).

El Toula "was after us," Iannaccone said. "They print it because it's famous. We're not famous. And we don't care."

(Neither, for the record, does the owner of El Toula, Arturo Filippini. When reached by phone in Treviso, he admitted that El Toula had only "contributed" to the development of tiramisu. As far as he knew it was invented "sometime in the 1950s" in a casa chiuso — a house of ill repute — for women who, you guessed it, needed a pick-me-up.)

What Iannaccone does care about is the attribution to Le Beccherie. Though he has no invoices to prove it, he claims that his late brother, Giuseppe, sold tiramisu to Le Beccherie, whose owners passed it off as their own.

Le Beccherie owner Carlo Campeol says that's preposterous. In a telephone interview, Campeol insisted that he's never met or even heard of Iannaccone or his restaurant Piedigrotta.

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Stuck in the middle of a culinary he-says-he-says, I turned to Pietro Mascioni, the husband of a Los Angeles cooking teacher who became an amateur tiramisu-ologist after reading about Iannaccone's claim last year in foodie newsletter the Rosengarten Report ( www.davidrosengarten.com). The recipe printed in the newsletter directs you to first make a zabaglione, then a pastry cream, and it "seemed bogus," Mascioni said. "It's a chef's recipe. Wait two days for this, then make that. It's not something that you would do in Italy. Everything there is very simple and done on the spot." (Rosengarten, whose staff worked with Iannaccone to nail down the recipe, disagrees: "People want to believe that it's an old folk recipe that drifted into the kitchen. But what is clear is that tiramisu was invented by an Italian pastry chef, so it's likely it wouldn't be rustic.")

Mascioni began to search through his vast collection of Italian cookbooks and magazines. Finally, in a 1981 edition of "Vin Veneto," he found a series of recipes for coffee desserts collected by respected gourmet Giuseppe Maffioli. There, for the first time in print, was a recipe for tiramisu.

"Born recently, less than two decades ago, in the city of Treviso is a dessert called Tiramesu which was made for the first time in a restaurant, Alle Beccherie, by a pastry chef called Loly Linguanotto," the introduction, in Italian, declares loftily, using the Venetian dialect in the spelling of the dessert's name. "The dessert and its name, tiramesu, which signifies its nutritious and restorative properties, became immediately popular and was copied with fidelity and variations not only in the restaurants of Treviso and the region but throughout Veneto and Italy."

The recipe that follows, what Maffioli calls "tiramesu legittimo," combines eggs, sugar, mascarpone and coffee-soaked ladyfingers. There is no alcohol, because, as Campeol explained, it was served to children and the elderly.

A subsequent recipe for "refined" tiramisu includes rum or Marsala in the mix.

"The story is very credible," said Mascioni, who traveled to Treviso to talk to the Campeols last fall. There, matriarch Alba Campeol told Mascioni that she got the idea for the dessert after the birth of one of her children. She was very weak in bed and her mother-in-law brought her a zabaglione, spiked with coffee to give her energy.

When she returned to the restaurant, she worked with her chef, Liguanotto, to make a layered dessert that they called tiramesu. (Mascioni's account of his visit is at his wife's Web site: www.annamariavolpi.com.)

Case closed?

Sort of.

The facts, such as they are, do point to Le Beccherie as the inventors of tiramisu. But, as the Campeols stipulate, their recipe never contained Marsala.

And the tiramisu that swept the world? It has a hearty dose of the stuff. It's the Marsala's depth that balances the strong coffee and the creamy zabaglione and gives the dessert sophistication, or as the gourmet Maffioli acknowledged, a certain "refinement."

And that's the way Iannaccone says he's always made tiramisu. The ladyfingers are dipped quickly in coffee so they hold their shape. The zabaglione, a mix of egg yolks, sugar, Marsala, lemon zest and vanilla extract, and the pastry cream, made from milk, egg yolks, sugar and flour, are made separately, and allowed to chill overnight before being gently folded with mascarpone and whipped cream before assembly.

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That may seem complicated to Mascioni and others, but Iannaccone explains that's only because we're used to making tiramisu "the cheap and easy way."

It may be "just a dessert," but it was meant, Iannaccone said, to be a showcase — for the flavors of the region and his skill as a pastry chef.

"In 2001, the U.S. Congress recognized Antonio Meucci. You know who he is?" said Iannaccone, stabbing his finger in the air. "He invent the telephone. The credit will come."

Piedigrotta, 319 S. Central Ave., Baltimore, 410-522-6900, and 1065 S. Charles St. (in Cross Street Market), Baltimore; 410-244-5543. (In several months, the South Central Avenue shop will move to a larger space at 1390 Bank St.) www.piedigrottabakery.com.
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Oh, I see how it is: now you want the recipe.

Here you go.
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Carminantonio's Tiramisu


Summary:

The original tiramisu was served as a free-standing cake, according to Baltimore pastry chef Carminantonio Iannaccone, making a more elegant presentation.

This dessert has several steps, so here's one way to work efficiently: Make the zabaglione and pastry cream in the morning, assemble the tiramisu in the afternoon and chill it overnight; that will allow the flavors to develop and makes the tiramisu easier to serve.

6 servings
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Ingredients:


For the zabaglione

2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup Marsala wine
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest


For the pastry cream

1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup whole milk


For the whipped cream

1 cup chilled heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


For the assembly

2 cups brewed espresso, warmed
1 teaspoon rum extract
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
36 store-bought ladyfingers
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder


Directions:

For zabaglione: Have ready a double boiler.

Combine the egg yolks, sugar, Marsala, vanilla extract and lemon zest in a large mixing bowl. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture is smooth. Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler; fill the bottom pot with hot water and place the top pot on top. Over low heat, cook the egg mixture, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles a thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency. Let cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the pastry cream: Combine the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the egg yolk and half the milk. Whisk until smooth. Place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent curdling. Add the remaining milk a bit at a time, stirring. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. (If you have a few lumps, don’t worry; push the cream through a fine-mesh strainer.) Transfer to a bowl and cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the whipped cream: Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat with a large whisk, hand mixer or immersion blender until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

For the assembly: Have ready a large rectangular serving platter.

Combine the espresso, rum extract and sugar in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon; this will make it easier to mix. Add the reserved zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set the cream mixture aside.

Working quickly, dip 12 of the ladyfingers in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy. Immediately transfer each ladyfinger to the platter, placing them side by side in a single row. Spoon one-third of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the edges. Repeat to create 2 more layers, using 12 ladyfingers and the cream mixture for each layer. Clean any spilled cream mixture; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight.

To serve, carefully remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the tiramisu with cocoa powder using a fine-mesh strainer. Cut into individual portions.

7jjljljil

[Smile]

August 6, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Aqua Bar

Mjokokioki

Sounds like Randy Gerber's latest venture but it's not.

From the website:

    Aqua Floating Bar

    Sit, sip, and relax in this Aqua Floating Bar without ever leaving the water.

    Beat the heat by sipping icy cold drinks at our inflatable pool bar while relaxing partially submerged in armchair comfort.

    Makes outdoor entertaining a breeze.

    Features:

    • Twelve cup holders keep drinks handy while you sit or swim

    • Pool bar inflates in seconds with standard air pump

    • Recessed center compartment holds snacks or ice

    • Rugged PVC construction won't fade or crack

    • Includes four free-floating pool chairs

    • 84" square x 15" high.

$49.50.

August 6, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Things you won't find on bookofjoe

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• Emoticons

• The word "sucked"

• Abbreviations like LOL

• Recommendations for technology beyond the grasp of a complete idiot

• Up front comment blocking other than TypePad's default lame spam filter + CAPTCHA

Feel free to add others you might be aware of that I'm just too zoned out to recall at the moment.

August 6, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

In Vitro Orchid

Iijhipjuoo

A lot cheaper and easier than the human version.

From the website:

    In Vitro Orchid

    Anyone can send a bouquet — this is the uncommon way to send flowers.

    A nutrient-rich gel supplies all that this orchid needs to grow in its sterilized test tube.

    No water or maintenance necessary — biotechnology does the work for you.

    When the plant reaches the top of the tube simply transfer to potting soil (not included).

    5"H x 1.25" Diam.

$30.

August 6, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

CEOexpress.com — 'The Executive's Internet'

Jokokpj

Hey, finally a website for big cheeses like me — I mean, I'm bookofjoe's CEO etc., aren't I?

I'm not?

Go away.

Where was I?

Oh, yeah, CEO salaries — yes, they're definitely out of line... wait a minute... that's not where I was.

Hold on.

Okay, then.

CEOexpress.com got the following rave review from Mark Frauenfelder in his new book, "Rule The Web."

    High-density information portal

    If you could boil down all the useful business, travel and news sites onto a single Web page, you'd get something like CEO Express (CEOexpress.com). Thanks to its spartan design, the site loads quickly, and it offers over a hundred links to essential information sites. You'll find pointers to all the business and technology magazines, major newspapers from around the world, and newswires. There are over a dozen links to health sites, as well as links to track express package shipments, get airline schedules, and much more.

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Even if you're not self-important, there's no reason you can't take a walk on the wild side, as it were....

August 6, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Kippy Pot Handle Holder

Hbhuhguhuoh_2

From websites:

    Kippy Pot Handle Holder

    Nonslip freestanding handles are instantly available.

    Silicone protects from heat up to 550°F.

    Dishwasher safe.

    Made in Italy.

    Black.

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$9 (CAD) apiece.

Prefer yours in Yellow, Blue or Red?

Jojooki_2

They're two for $13.95 at In Good Taste, a Portland, Oregon store that won't let you buy them on its website (you can try but my crack research team wasted over six hours in their attempt to do so — without success).

You'd do better by calling the store: 503-248-2015.

You can tell them joe sent you but me — I'd pass.

August 6, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Meet F. Max Hardberger: World's Only Naval Repo Man

Pijiojoijo

Talk about a strange way to make a living.

Here's Dan Weikel's March 1, 2007 Los Angeles Times article about a guy (above, with sunglasses) who gives a whole new meaning to the word "extraction."

    This repo man drives off with ocean freighters

    It's a rare specialty that can be dangerous, given parts of the world in which he must operate.

    If repossessing a used Chevrolet can be tricky, consider retrieving the Aztec Express, a 700-foot cargo ship under guard in Haiti as civil unrest spread through the country.

    Only a few repo men possess the guile and resourcefulness for such a job. One of them is F. Max Hardberger, of Lacombe, La. Since 1991, the 58-year-old attorney and ship captain has surreptitiously sailed away about a dozen freighters from ports around the world.

    "I'm sure there are those who would like to add me to a list of modern pirates of the Caribbean, but I do whatever I can to protect the legal rights of my clients," said Hardberger, whose company, Vessel Extractions in New Orleans, has negotiated the releases of another dozen cargo ships and prevented the seizures of many others.

    His line of work regularly takes him to a corner of the maritime industry still plagued by pirates, underhanded business practices and corrupt government officials, waters the Aztec Express sailed right into.

    The saga began in 2003 when the vessel's Greek owner died and his company did not keep up payments on a $3.3-million mortgage.

    Bahamian court records show that an American businessman who had used the vessel to haul 235 used cars from the northeastern United States to Haiti did not pay the charter fee, contributing to the loan default.

    Once the ship arrived in the Haitian port of Miragoane, the businessman bribed judicial officials to seize the vessel and sell it to him in a rigged auction, according to court records.

    Meanwhile, a violent rebellion threatened to topple President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, making it impossible for the lender or the owner's relatives to contest the sale.

    The condition of the Aztec Express further complicated matters. Its main engines were out of commission, having been idle and untended for months.

    Hardberger was hired by the New Jersey-based mortgage holder. He flew to Haiti and drove with an armed bodyguard to Miragoane.

    He gathered two important pieces of information. Watchmen stationed on the Aztec Express sold fuel from the vessel on the black market. Second, port authorities had a cellphone, but they could use it only at the harbor's soccer field, where cellular service was reliable.

    Hardberger managed to get the guards off the ship by offering to buy fuel. When they came down to the dock to discuss the transaction, off-duty Haitian riot police hired by Hardberger held them at bay.

    Meanwhile, an oceangoing tugboat also hired by Hardberger slipped into port and backed up to the Aztec Express. Under a full moon, the crew began cutting the anchor chains with blowtorches.

    In case harbor officials noticed and tried to call for help on their cellphone, Hardberger had paid a witch doctor $100 to cast spells on the port's soccer field. The witch doctor marked the field with gray powder, a clear warning to believers in voodoo, the nation's dominant religion. No call ever went out.

    Once the freighter was freed, the tug hauled the ship out of port and headed for the Bahamas, where British-based maritime laws give a high priority to lenders' claims.

    The next day, however, another tug intercepted the ship. Its captain said he had been sent to take over the operation.

    Hardberger's team checked with the marine towing company hired for the repossession and found that no relief boat had been sent. It then summoned the Bahamian coast guard, which detained the other tug on suspicion of attempted piracy.

    Hardberger said the second tugboat had been sent by the American businessman when he learned that the Aztec Express had been pulled out of Haiti.

    In the Bahamas, a court upheld the ship's repossession and ordered its sale to settle the lender's claim.

    "Haiti has a corrupt legal system where cronyism and corruption are the order of the day," Judge John Lyons wrote in his decision. "Justice is dispensed according to who can pay the going rate."

    Hardberger said small-to-medium-size cargo ships such as the Aztec Express are among the most vulnerable to chicanery and illegal seizures.

    Often operated by small shipping lines, these modern-day tramp steamers regularly visit developing countries plagued by unstable and corrupt governments.

    In the worst-off nations, Hardberger said, it is possible to seize a $10-million ship with a $100 bribe to a justice of the peace.

    "You need more than what an attorney can do in some of these countries," said John Lightbown, a ship owner who recently sought Hardberger's help to avert a seizure in Haiti.

    "Deals can be bought and sold under the table. Max gets into the middle of things. He's been around the block," he said.

    "I don't know anyone who does this, except for Max," said Jonathan S. Spencer, a New York-based maritime adjuster who determines the monetary losses of shipping accidents. "It's hard to say how much people like him are used. They work in gray areas of the law. They are very discreet, and the people who hire them are discreet as well."

    With his graying hair, walrus mustache and moderate build, Hardberger doesn't fit the profile of a swashbuckler.

    He taught history and English at parochial schools in Louisiana and Mississippi after graduating from the University of New Orleans and earning a master's degree from the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop.

    Outside the classroom, he worked on Gulf Coast oil rigs and the vessels that served them. For several years in the 1980s he skippered a cargo ship in the Caribbean and later wrote "Freighter Captain," a novel based on the experience.

    In 1998, after a four-year correspondence course, he passed the California bar exam on the first try. He now practices maritime law, mostly in the Caribbean, but regularly comes to Southern California to handle cases.

    Hardberger fell into the ship extraction business in 1991 while managing two freighters for Morgan Price & Co., a wastepaper exporter in Miami.

    Morgan Price had chartered one of the vessels, the Patric M, to a Peruvian company that used it to carry steel to Venezuela.

    When the company refused to pay Morgan Price $80,000, the Miami firm instructed the captain to dock at Puerto Cabello in Venezuela, its destination, but not unload the cargo.

    In retaliation, Hardberger said, the Peruvian firm bribed court officials to detain the Patric M in port and allow the company to operate it. A judge even jailed the master and chief engineer, but not before the engineer was forced at gunpoint to power up the vessel's cranes so unloading could proceed.

    Hardberger flew to Venezuela. He says he persuaded court officials to put the captain and chief engineer under house arrest at a hotel.

    Hardberger then met with the two men. The captain refused to participate in the repossession, fearing for his safety. When the chief engineer agreed to help, he and Hardberger slipped out of the hotel through a laundry room.

    In the evening, they took a taxi to the waterfront and walked along the port wall that was topped with barbed wire, finally gaining entry by crawling under a railroad gate.

    Once inside the port, Hardberger said, they hid in doorways, culverts and the shadows of shipping containers to elude guards and stevedores.

    "Extractions are a big risk. If you get caught, you are looking at a very serious charge," Hardberger said. "In some countries, you could wait two or three years for trial and end up with a 20-year sentence."

    At the unguarded ship, both men climbed the gangway, and Hardberger found the first mate, a heavy-set Panamanian, who agreed to cooperate.

    The Patric M's crew, which had not been replaced by the Peruvian company, was assembled in the mess for a briefing. Everyone signed on to the plan.

    Later in the evening, the crew cut the ship's lines from the deck. The main engine came to life with a few deep thumps.

    Proceeding at "dead slow ahead," Hardberger steered the 340-foot cargo ship past a naval base and through the narrow harbor entrance.

    En route to Aruba, Hardberger said, he received a radio message saying Venezuela had notified Interpol — the global police agency — that the ship had departed without permission.

    He soon found an isolated anchorage off the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico. The crew ground off the original name and identification numbers that are stamped into the steel of every cargo ship when it is built.

    All the Patric M's documents — plans, ledgers, log books and certifications — were copied and altered to reflect its new name. The originals were destroyed, including its Panamanian registration forms.

    Then, Hardberger said, he found a country willing to register stateless vessels, no questions asked. He declined to name the country, but there were only a few at the time, such as Honduras, Vanuatu and the Marshall Islands. International regulatory agencies have since banned the practice.

    About a year after acquiring its new identity, the Patric M was sold by Morgan Price.

    "International waters," Hardberger said, "are worse than the Wild West. In many ways, there is little or no opportunity to avenge the wrongs people have done to you."

    For the last 3 1/2 years, Hardberger has operated Vessel Extractions with Michael L. Bono, an admiralty law attorney and one of his former high school students.

    Before repossessing a ship, they make sure the vessel has been seized illegally and the claims filed against it are fraudulent.

    If negotiations and legal methods fail, the company will proceed with an extraction, a step that might include payments to local officials if a nation's government is corrupt.

    Those payments, Hardberger said, are made under exceptions in the federal Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits U.S. citizens from bribing foreign officials to retain or obtain business.

    "In a rogue state, you can't tie your hands behind you," Hardberger said. "It is common to find that the court system is rife with corruption."

    Extracting a ship can cost a client $100,000 or more.

    If a repossession is requested, Hardberger and his team quietly enter the country involved. They seek out friendly officials and trusted local contacts such as ship agents who tend to a vessel's logistical needs in port.

    "You need to pick up clues about the ship and what is said in the bars, at the ship chandlers and in the local whorehouses," Hardberger said. "Crews are not that sophisticated and talk about their orders and departure times. You can really keep track of a vessel this way."

    Hardberger said he does not carry a firearm, though he has hired bodyguards, as he did with the Aztec Express. Stealth and trickery are the preferred methods.

    "I do not want my face seen," he added.

    Such tactics were employed in April 1999, when Hardberger was asked to extract a 280-foot cargo ship that had put in for repairs at Drapetsona, a part of the Greek port of Piraeus. "It's a place," he says, "where ship names are repainted quickly."

    The small freighter was Hungarian and, despite the fall of the Soviet Union, was still equipped with a commissar's office. It contained a secret radio room and the complete works of Lenin.

    When the repair company charged four times the agreed-upon price to fix a huge dent in the stern, Hardberger said, the owner refused to pay. Port officials then denied the vessel a clearance to leave.

    Hardberger and the ship's agent got permission to move the ship to a port anchorage under the ruse that she needed refueling. The new location would make it possible for a crew to reach the vessel by launch.

    Then, with everything in place, Hardberger waited for the weekend of Greek Easter, a religious festival marked by rich pageantry and widespread celebration.

    To help the coast guard enjoy the event, Hardberger arranged for the ship agent to drop off several cases of ouzo at the station, which overlooked the port.

    At 2 a.m. on a Sunday, a crew boarded the unattended freighter and sailed it out of the harbor unnoticed.

    Hardberger, who coordinated the operation from shore, sat in a seaman's bar in Piraeus with friends, including the ship's agent. In the ancient port, they toasted their success with vodka.

August 6, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Men's Diaper Vest

Picture_1jpoijiop

Say what?

From the website:

    Wearable Diaper Bag For Men

    Prepare for the extreme sporting event — modern fatherhood — with this cleverly designed fleece diaper vest.

    A total of nine strategically placed pockets make this vest ideal for both dad's and baby's necessities — they include:

    • Two tall side pockets for storing bottles

    • Front zippered travel wipes access pocket

    • Two large interior pockets for diaper storage

    • Back pocket with hidden slim design changing pad

    • Pocket and opening for MP3 player and headphones

    Nylon and polyester.

    Machine wash separately.

    Diaper pockets hold up to #5 size diapers.

    Men's sizes M, L, XL, XXL; chest sizes M 41"; L 44"; XL 47"; XXL 50".

$80.

August 6, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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