Cows Don’t Bleat

A few years back, a movie called BarebackBrokeback Mountain was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. It was frequently called “a gay cowboy movie”; this was not an accurate description. The two men at the centre of the film were herding sheep, not wrangling sheep. They were shepherds and not cowboys. Calling it a “gay shepherd movie” would have been more accurate, if just as much a case of missing the heart of the story.

This inability to distinguish lamb from beef seems to be a common problem here in the US. I frequently see Shepherds’ Pie listed on menus. Almost always it is made with minced beef; which means that it is cottage pie. Shepherds’ pie needs to be made with minced lamb; hence the name.

Fortunately, the lamb chops that I ate on Saturday were actually lamb meat. Moreover, they came with a side of mint-jelly – so it is possible to find lamb properly presented.

Published in: on 31 December, 2012 at 7:00  Comments (2)  

Raising The Bar on Grocery Shopping

In the UK I would frequently sit in the supermarket’s coffee shop whilst my wife shopped. On Saturday I found an even better to while away the time whilst the grocery aisles were being explored. The Whole Foods store in Napa has a cafe, but it also has a bar. It offers beer on tap, wine by the glass, and tasting. Moreover, you can buy any beer from the store and they will serve it for you. I took part in a Vinho Verde and Madeira  tasting, for a nominal fee.

Whole Foods Napa Wine Bar

The downside is that Napa is a twenty-five minute drive and the prices at Whole Foods have led to its nickname of Whole Pay Check (Sorry for the American spelling of cheque)

Published in: on 30 December, 2012 at 7:11  Leave a Comment  

An Unexpected Journey

Despite my reservations, I did see the first part of The Hobbit. The film could do with some editing; specifically in the first forty minutes when the dwarves party in Bagend. I would also have cut some of the scenes with Radgast, despite my Doctor Who influenced affinity for Sylvester McCoy who played the Brown wizard.

The film plays as more of a prequel to Lord of the Rings than the novel. We see Saruman (played  by  the 90 year-old Chris Lee) and Elrond; Sauron is mentioned and we see a Morgul-blade. All of this pre-shadows the darkness that is to come to Middle-Earth; which was absent from The Hobbit.

Once we were past the initial slowness, the film’s running time was not an impediment. The highlight is the interplay between Bilbo and Gollum; which was suitably chilling. Martin Freeman is truly excellent as Bilbo; playing the part as a put-upon Englishman out of his depth in foreign climes.


I am left wondering after the trolls, Gollum, and escape from the Goblins how the remaining plot extends to another two films. The first one does leave me interested enough to find out through attendance.

Published in: on 29 December, 2012 at 7:17  Leave a Comment  


For Christmas I received several gifts to help me with my continued exploration of cocktails. I was given an excellent book; Mr Boston. The guide describes itself as offering 1500 recipes, tools, and techniques for the Master Mixologist. The book gives historical context for many drinks as well as a delightfully varied set of recipes. It has the added advantage of being spiral bound, so it sits open whilst you follow the guidelines.

I was also given a muddler and a jigger. The muddler is a stainless steel stick with a rough plastic end for mashing mint leaves into a drink. I expected to use it to make a Mojito or Mint Julep; however it’s first use was for a Major Bailey (1.5 tsp each of lemon juice and line juice, 12 leaves of mint, and 2 oz of Gin)

A jigger has two meanings, it is a two-sided measuring cone and it is also a name given to 1.5oz of booze. This jigger is stainless steel, 1.5oz on one side -1 oz on the other side. Both sides have marks for partial measures.

Published in: on 28 December, 2012 at 7:00  Comments (1)  

World Outside

There was a time when the American car industry led the world, before the Japanese started building cars that were better equipped and more reliable. The world of high-tech is now seeing companies in Korea challenging American giants.

At Christmas I had an excellent bottle of wine. For once it was not from California. It would seem that other countries are now making vintages to challenge those of Napa and Sonoma; based on this delightful red from France.

Published in: on 27 December, 2012 at 18:22  Leave a Comment  

Candy Identity Crisis

It is a tradition for me to receive a Chocolate Orange in my Christmas stocking. They can be made with dark or milk chocolate, but it must be orange flavoured. That is a requirement; the whole point of the confection that consists of segments shaped like an orange is that is an orange.

Consider, therefore, how I was shocked to the very core of my traditional soul when my niece received a strawberry flavored chocolate orange. Such paradoxes threaten the continuity of the universe itself.

Published in: on 26 December, 2012 at 21:30  Leave a Comment  

Close Eyes and Hope It Goes Away

My wife has spent most of the last three weeks in hospital. She knew, therefore, that she would not be able to cook for us; so she ordered a meal from a local supermarket. I collected the meal on Christmas Eve , as she had to visit the hospital for a follow-up. I was given a turkey and a box of extras.

My wife returned home and was baffled by the contents of aforementioned box. There was no stuffing and no cranberry. I had unpacked the box and put the contents in the fridge without noticing the absence of these staples. She rang the supermarket and asked about these omissions. The manager admitted that the store had not receive the boxes for turkey dinners; just those for prime rib and ham. This had not been mentioned to me. The manager did a verbal shrug of shoulders. Apparently, no one else who had ordered turkey dinners had complained about the absence of key side dishes. My wife was not satisfied with this laissez faire attitude. She demanded and received cranberry sauce and stuffing from the store’s shelves.

The lesson is that even when my wife is recovering from time in the hospital, you are not going to browbeat her in an argument when she is in the right.

The end result of this fight with “DangerRoute” was a tasty meal that owed more to my wife’s skill than the supplied dishes.

Published in: on 25 December, 2012 at 21:57  Leave a Comment  

TV Channels

I doubt that I have watched more than a tenth of the channels available on our TV. Most of our viewing is from a handful of channels. However, I have noticed that whilst many channels have names that imply they show a certain type of content – their actual schedules do not match that name.

Reality shows rather than music fill MTV (Music TV). Well under half of the shows on History have subjects that fit the name, Even Fox Soccer channel shows Rugby Football as well as the Beautiful Game. The channel should probably be called Fox Football, which would cover Association Football and Rugby Football. I suppose that might cause confusion as Americans use that word for their own version of Rugby with the players wearing padding.

Mind you none of these examples of names mismatched with content are as extreme as Fox News.

Published in: on 25 December, 2012 at 7:00  Leave a Comment  

Following Procedure

It is common for stores in the US to request ID when you make payment by credit card. Showing your driving license is the usual way of satisfying that request. On Saturday I was shopping for some stocking fillers and the chap in front of me was asked for ID as he was purchasing alcohol. He obliged. The cashier rang-up his purchases. He then proffered a credit card for payment. He was again asked for ID. He obliged without observing that his identity had not changed in the 45 seconds since he had shown it to the cashier previously.

Published in: on 24 December, 2012 at 7:00  Leave a Comment  

Scottish Names

I was restocking Brandy and Vermouth Rosso in Bevmo yesterday; so I can continue to partake of Harvard cocktails. There were two sets of people discussing the purchase of malt whisky. The discussions included some less than perfect pronunciations of Scottish names.

I can understand that names like Lagavulin are a challenge to pronounce correctly. However, Islay is not called Is-Lay. This does not seem hard to grasp when the speaker included the word Island in the same sentence and did not pronounce the ‘S’ in that word.

I was not shopping for malt myself, as I had received a bottle of Laphroaig from my staff as a Christmas present.

Published in: on 23 December, 2012 at 10:00  Leave a Comment