Tacos

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Tacos are a go-to meal in my house. Left-over meat, fresh avocado, onions, cilantro and a drizzle of hot sauce. That’s the quick part. I don’t like eating food that has preservatives and additives, so I tend to steer away from buying tortillas in the store. Making corn tortillas at home is pretty easy using instant masa and a tortilla press.  The most confounding part is trying to get the temperature of the pan just right so that the tortillas puff up while cooking. I haven’t mastered the trick. I find that some of my tortillas puff up, but most don’t. They all taste fine. They’re much more tender than tortillas from the grocery store. I always make a double recipe to have extras in the fridge.

For the very best tortillas, check out Baro in Fairfield. They make their own fresh masa from scratch. Yes, they soak the dry kernels in lime, and then they grind the kernels. Their tacos are outstanding.

Free Junk

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Do you need to furnish a new apartment or even an entire house? Do you need to BUILD an apartment or even an entire house? How about a lawn mower, slightly used, to go with these projects? And a plastic sandbox and a bicycle in need of a wee bit of elbow grease? Garden hose? A stuffed animal or three hundred?

Well then, please come to Cheshire in the springtime, because April is the coolest month for junk hereabouts. The town has, after a three-year hiatus, revived its bulky waste pickup program. Consequently, every home in the town has emptied out the contents of their basement and put the detritus at the curb.

In theory, the material awaits pickup from the trash hauling company contracted by the town. But, in practice, enterprising trash pickers arrive from miles around and leave Cheshire with their salvaged loads tottering like the Clampett family in Beverly Hillbillies.

Come join the fun. It’s the ultimate in recycling and reusing and it goes on all month.  Do NOT let this stuff end up in the landfill when it can FILL your house!

Great Crab Cakes

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I’m always wary of attempts to define “the best” be it lobster rolls, burgers or crab cakes — unless it’s a spontaneous, in-the-moment exuberance, “This is the best!”
So, let me just say that Rizzuto’s in Westport has some damn good crab cakes. In fact, “cake” might not have any place in this tender morels of lump meat in crisp panko.

Whither the Late Night News?

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Interesting that the day after he announced his retirement, the Associated Press prepared a list of nine “possible successors” for his Late Show. (It ran in the Hartford Courant and many other papers.) The next day, CBS announced a successor, and it wasn’t any of those nine.

It was Stephen Colbert of course, whose Comedy Central news-satirist colleague Jon Stewart had made the AP list. Before Stewart took over The Daily Show, he indeed had his own talk show (syndicated by MTV) and I remember him doing a bang-up job subbing for Tom Snyder, who had the Tomorrow Show when Letterman had Late Night on NBC.

Rachel Maddow was one of the few commentators to speculate that Colbert—even though he won’t be doing the new show as the same Conservative character he’s developed on Comedy Central—might bring some needed political commentary to late night talk shows. That actually seems to already be happening with Seth Meyers, who, on one of his earliest episodes of Late Night, brought on New Yorker David Remnick to talk about the situation in Crimea. Jimmy Fallon is doing a less newsy monologue than Jay Leno did, but Meyers is doing more of one, and going deeper into current events than Leno ever did. On other networks, Craig Ferguson certainly has opinions on world events. But more would be great. Otherwise, someone might have to revive Nightline.

Memorable Meals

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One of the best meals I had in the last year was a tasting menu cooked by Chef Brian Lewis at Elm in New Canaan. Mention Elm, and people say, “Oh, it’s expensive.” That is true. But I remember that meal a year later.  This was one of the courses, rabbit porchetta with leek vinaigrette, mandarin mostarda (a sweet-sour fruit condiment), pickled mustard seeds and spring greens.

Rebirther: A Memoir-ish Book From Singer/Songwriter Todd Snider

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It must be a little frustrating, or off-putting, or maybe worrying, to be a singer-songwriter who’s best known for telling stories between tunes on stage. Didn’t people come to hear you sing? That’s the strange predicament that the singer Todd Snider has found himself in — he’s made a name for himself because of his outrageous rant-stories that he launches into to set up his material. To be fair, he’s funny as hell, like a jittery speed-freak after several beers retelling some of his best near-death anecdotes for the edification of all. Don’t get me wrong: people like his songs, too. But it’s fitting that Snider has finally written a book, since his narrative riffs in front of crowds always seemed to beg for being set to the page and bound between covers.

Snider’s “I Never Met A Story I Didn’t Like” (out this month from DaCapo Press) rehashes some of his best material, about getting wasted, getting arrested, hanging with his idols, or generally pissing off the rich and powerful. It’s a book of unabashed road stories, drunk tales and thoroughly baked shaggy-dog sagas. Continue reading

Cat Stevens??!!??!!

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will induct another crop of musical icons this Thursday night in Brooklyn. At least this year they’re giving nods to deserving folks like Nirvana, Peter Gabriel, Brian Epstein and Andrew Loog Oldham.

Some of the “undercard” at this year’s ceremony seems dubious at best but, hey, it’s their museum and they can induct whoever they want. Besides, everyone keeps their own private rock ‘n’ roll museum locked inside their hearts. However, the RRHOF really scraped the bottom of the barrel this year with Cat Stevens. Wow, nothing says “rock ‘n’ roll” quite like “Cat Stevens,” ya know?

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When last we saw this Cat (aka Yusuf Islam), he was still refusing to admit that he backed the Ayatollah’s 1989 fatwa on the novelist Salman Rushdie for the “blasphemy” of having written the novel The Satanic Verses. But this piece of video, proof that Stevens/Islam did in fact call for Rushdie’s death, just won’t go away:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Oienjf0GK8

Perhaps sensing that the ceremony had become more of a wake or an entombment than a celebration, the Hall has opened the event to the public for the first time, and is holding it in a basketball arena (Barclays Center, where the Nets play). In years past, the induction ceremony was for high-rollers only, with seats and tables going for king’s ransoms. They’re not exactly giving the seats away this year, with prices ranging from $55 to $576.40. But still, you can go:

http://www.barclayscenter.com/events/detail/rock-and-roll-hall-of-fame-induction-ceremony

The highlight of the ceremony in Brooklyn will, no doubt, be Bruce Springsteen inducting his former E Street Band, and performing with them, and perhaps the well-deserved, belated salutes to Epstein and Oldham. Every inductee’s presenter has been decided and announced (e.g. Michael Stipe will induct Nirvana, Tom Morello will induct KISS, etc.). Everyone but poor Cat Stevens.

Might I suggest Salman Rushdie be given the honors? Turnabout is fair play. And it just screams “rock ‘n’ roll”!

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Scrapple

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Scrapple’s a love it or hate it thing. I love it – but then my father’s family is from Philadelphia, and I have memories of waking to the smell of slices of it crisping in a cast iron pan. The peppery pork-and-cornmeal loaf gets brown and crisp outside and creamy inside. I recently returned from a trip to Philadelphia, where I was not so thrilled with a breakfast of deep-fried scrapple. It was crisp, but greasy. I think the best way to cook scrapple is in a hot cast iron pan. No additional oil needed. Wait until the slices are crisp brown on the bottom before flipping them. Don’t fuss with them. And watch out that the pieces don’t touch — because they’ll stick together and then your nice squares of scrapple get mangled. Scrapple is available frozen in grocery stores in Fairfield County. I’m intrigued by the idea of making it, with some good quality, pasture-raised pork. Marion Cunningham has a recipe in The Breakfast Book, made with bacon instead of pork parts.