Squirrel it Away: Nuts to You!

My favorite story today is about the “kerfuffle” between Sarkozy, Obama, and Netanyahu as reported in The Guardian: “I cannot stand him. He’s a liar,” Sarkozy told Obama. The US president responded by saying: “You’re fed up with him? I have to deal with him every day.”  (Doesn’t that sound like a joke told by a stand-up comic?)

However, it’s nearly winter and time to stock up so that we’re not left hungry when roads are impassable and storms keep us from leaving home.

Each winter I buy three things in big supplies.

First, we’re talking Stonehouse olive oil from CA.  Fruity, subtle, and aromatic, this product has more depth than most of the Italian versions.  It’s not meant for cooking much, but on salads and in pasta sauces, it cannot be beat.

Bella Viva Orchards?  Simply the best dried apricots, pluots, nectarines, pistachios, and walnuts imaginable.

Finally, Martin’s pretzels from PA: When you buy six pounds, they send a big box holding small bags.  These are the pretzels of my dreams.



I Wouldn’t Say I’m Worried, But…

Some days I wake up overflowing with sunshine and cookies.  Don’t you?  Gosh, what a world.  Neat, pleasant, everything in its place.  Other days, well, we all know about them: The smaller things add up, the footing is loose on the scree.

The good news: I’m nearly done reading “The End,” by Ian Kershaw, and the Russians are in Berlin.  Beckett’s, Letters 1941-1956,” is up next.  My first interview with prominent Indian-Americans runs tomorrow in Times of India.  I’m up to page 225 in the book I’m writing about chefs.

The bad news: What is up with Russo’s?  The o.j. I bought on Friday, dated 11/14/11, is gone from the get-go.  The guanciale is gone from the first unwrapping.  The chanterelles on display are brown and soft. Is the boss away?  Or is there a cash flow problem?  Jeez Louise, where else can one go for the range of good food at this usually good store?

I am concerned.

Kafka: Food Writer, Goth

Of course, many of you know about Franz Kafka, the food writer, cut down way too early by TB, at the age of 41, before he could complete his trilogy on the sweets of Austro-Hungary.  All we have is, “The Hunger Artist,” an intriguing, but incomplete work that foreshadows what might have been.  My interpretation of, “The Hunger Artist,” is hardly unique.  It’s a story about the plight of creativity at turn of the century Middle Europe.  Sitting alone, late at night in Prague, Kafka was hungry, but this was before 7/11 arrived on the scene.  24 hour Turkish take-out?  Forget about it!  He was the hungry artist.

But how many know about Kafka the Goth?  Look at the photo below.  Yes, he bears an uncanny resemblance to my father, we know that, but in a general sense, isn’t his appearance way in advance of the Goth look that we see so often in the scarred youth of today?

Food writer, visionary, Franz Kafka remains a beacon!


Franz Kafka (1883-1924), Czech writer, c1924. The Last picture o


A-2 is A-OK

You try spending 48 hours in Ann Arbor and not being entranced by the food.  Go on, dare you.  Double dare.

Didn’t think so.

Ann Arbor has a culinary scene nonpareil and especially noteworthy given that it is, technically, a Podunkville.  “Jeepers,” as they say on State Street, “you sure got that wrong!”

Face it: Ann Arbor has more going on in terms of food than many a city ten times its size.  Why is that?  Well you might ask.  The F’s help to explain it: Farms, Faculty, Foreigners.  However, the real issue is that people here care about food and keep it simple.  For Pete’s sake, KEEP IT SIMPLE!

We started off on Friday with lunch at Mani Osteria: Just opened this year, this restaurant compares favorably to any number of first-rate osteria in the Bel Paesa.  OK, so the service is a bit snooty, but I reckon that soon the staff will gain confidence.  The thin, oven baked pizzas and pastas are delicious.  How good was everything?  So good that we returned a day later for dinner.  What happened?  Even better.  The restaurant has the best Italian food I’ve had outside of Italy and NYC.  A balanced approach to salt, focus, and intensity.

Later on Friday night: Drinks in The Cellar: Dark, pleasant, and very convivial.  From there we walked over to The Raven: A gastropub type enterprise with terrific salads, burgers, and single barrel bourbons priced to go.  The burger was perfectly cooked.  The salads were crisp.

Pre-game Saturday: The Jolly Pumpkin.  I think I had an uncle with that name on my mother’s side, but memory fails me.  A great booth, great service, great sandwiches, great eggs.  Beer brewed on the premises.  Start the day with a pint, I say!

After the game–Go, Denard!  Go, Fitzgerald!–snacks and soups at Bakery Japonaise where jazz played and water flowed in a moving bamboo sculpture.  Folks, you might as well have been in Japan.  It was authentic and really…delicious.

We already know about Saturday night, don’t we?

Well, after a return to Mani Osteria, we went to Adrien’s: Forty bazillion beers on tap.  Bleary eyed, middle aged white men, looking as if they were camping, eyed the young college girls, clearly delusional about their chances, but settling for a late night wank.  The beers?  Ah, the beers.  I had two terrific Belgians.

The final A.M. it was a visit to Zingerman’s, ‘natch.  The products here–cheeses, breads, pasta, meat–are priced by a deranged ex-hedge fund manager, but the sandwiches are reasonable and a corned beef and pastrami sandwich on rye?  Perfect.

Stepping off the plane, returning home?  Thank goodness for the guanciale in the fridge and the pasta in the cupboard.

What happens in Ann Arbor, unfortunately stays in Ann Arbor, but at least I had the presence of mind to return with two loaves of Zingerman’s breads–day old, 30% off.  I feel like making a t shirt: I GOT A BARGAIN AT ZINGERMAN’S!