Monday, June 30, 2008

Dim Sum Sunday

I'm the early riser in my family. [The Man I Love] and Our Son both like to sleep in whenever they can, so planning weekend morning activities requires some active pleading and reminding (read: nagging) on my part.

I've been yearning for dim sum lately, and you can't sleep till 11:00 a.m. if you want to eat dim sum on a Sunday in Los Angeles - you'll battle for parking and wait an hour in line for a table. So this Sunday morning, my family graciously agreed to get up early and set out for the San Gabriel Valley for a dim sum brunch.

The San Gabriel Valley, just east of Los Angeles, is home to the largest Chinese American community in California, and maybe in the US itself. Foodies consider it to be the place to get the best Chinese food in the US (yes, I'm talking to you, New York and San Francisco!).

Dim sum are little bites to eat while sipping tea. My first experience with it was in the 1970s, at a tiny restaurant in New York's Chinatown, a few steps below a crowded urban sidewalk lined with produce and fish stalls. We sat in red vinyl booths, surrounded by kitschy decor, and the bill was totaled up by counting the little plates left on our table. If your only dim sum experience is like that, you are in for a surprise in the San Gabriel Valley.

The unassuming front of Capital Seafood, in a strip mall in Monterey Park, does nothing to prepare you for what awaits inside. The parking lot also serves a huge Ranch 99 Market next door, and by 9:45 a.m., there were already lots of cars cruising for spaces. After parking we followed an Asian family to the door and stepped inside.

The double doors, ornate with beveled glass and shiny brass hardware, gave way to a marble-floored foyer bordered in Greek key design, a row of gilded classical columns shielding the dining room beyond from the noise of the parking lot. A hostess in a tailored suit led us across the floral-patterned carpet to our table.

We looked around in amazement. Glittering crystal chandeliers hung from the coffered ceiling, in recessed domes with gilded molding, indirectly lit with magenta and chartreuse neon. The walls were paneled in white and gold, and at intervals decorated with brocade drapes, beveled mirrors, or backlit pierced screens with Chinese designs. Holographic Chinese characters on the walls shimmered with iridescence.

This giant room was filled with the din and noise of people eating and talking. Elderly patriarchs presided over huge round tables with lazy susans at the center. Elegantly dressed matrons - fresh from church - were politely escorted by their husbands to tables. Behind us, two middle-aged men shared a 4-top, sipping tea and reading Chinese language newspapers. One fellow filled out a racing form. Teenagers in flip-flops and 30-somethings in designer jeans sat with their friends. Diners stood and hailed their arriving friends to join their table. Toddlers sat in booster seats - one little girl had pink sneakers and socks with pink pompoms. Kids occupied themselves with coloring books while the grownups talked. A large sign on the wall stated the room capacity as 385.

There are two styles of dim sum service here in Los Angeles. The newer restaurants have menu service, with waiters. But traditionally, dim sum is served from wheeled carts pushed by women servers, who stop at each table and offer items to diners. I like the traditional service. Capital Seafood is a cart-style restaurant.

A pot of tea appeared on the table when we sat down. Soon, the first cart arrived. The server lifted the lid from each stack of steel steamer dishes to show us the items inside. We chose har gao, or dumplings with shrimp gleaming pinkly beneath translucent rice paper wrappers, and siu-mai, gathered and ruffled dumplings of minced pork and shrimp, with a bit of orange roe on top.

The carts are made of stainless steel, and are each uniquely customized for its menu item. The most common type held stacks of steamer dishes. But others had receptacles for vats of porridge, or a flame beneath a griddle for frying - these had high curved hoods to shield diners from the heat. Open shelved carts held displays of delectable sweets. Each cart rolled soundlessly on the carpet on heavy casters.

The servers don't always speak English, and the noise level is pretty daunting, so you have to be adventurous and just make a selection. We chose a roll of fat rice noodles stuffed with shrimp. The server took a pair of sharp poultry shears and snipped it into bit-size pieces, ladling dark soy sauce over all. After she served it, she stamped an empty box on the paper form at our table, indicating how many items we had and at what price level.

The next cart held large ceramic crocks with pineapple fried rice. The server piled it into a perfect half-dome rising above the small bowl she left with us. It was delicious, with crispy bits of Chinese sausage, chopped vegetables, and scrambled egg.

A waiter in a brocaded vest brought a little dish half filled with sriracha sauce, half with Chinese mustard. Hum bao arrived next, perfectly steamed, as light and as white as a marshmallow, filled with barbecued pork. A golden baked bun was glazed with almond sugar, and filled with savory chicken filling - an interesting combo. We passed on the chicken feet - I wanted to watch someone else tackle them before attempting myself. There was broccoli boiled right there in the cart, and served with oyster sauce. There were steamed meatballs.

A server cooked flat squares of something on the griddle. It was a little like fried polenta, or scrapple, or kugelis (Ah! the universality of pork-loving cuisines!) It turned out to be turnip cake, or law bock gow - soft-cooked daikon enriched with bits of meat formed into cakes and fried crisp.

Other servers passed with sweet pastries - deep-fried crisps, puff pastry-topped souffles, flaky pastry nests holding custards, and gently trembling jellos. I chose a plate of little golden orbs, deep fried and studded with sesame seeds, containing a smear of deep red sweet bean paste, for my dessert.

We were full! We could eat no more. A cart bearing platters of sliced duck breast, its skin shiny lacquered and gleaming brown, passed our table - it looked delectable, but we reluctantly turned it down.

The service was fantastic. The cart ladies, in their cinnabar-colored smocks with pink and gold brocade trim, couldn't have been nicer. The busboys in pale gold tunics whisked away the empty plates and tins before you knew it. A dignified manager in a suit inquired if we enjoyed our meal.

While we waited for the bill, I went down the hallway, past a Versailles-like mirror, where a baroque console held an electric towel-warmer, a huge vase of plastic flowers, and a row of hot water carafes. In the tidy ladies' room, as I washed my hands at the granite countered vanity, one middle-aged Chinese lady demonstrated to an elderly one how to use the motion sensor to work the towel dispenser. Conversely, My Son relates that when he went to the men's room and stood, puzzled, before the same machine, an octogenarian kindly showed him how to make the towels come out.

When I returned to the table, the bill had arrived. For all that food - $33.00.

What a deal! My guys better get their sleep next weekend, because I want to go back! And this time I'll leave room for the duck!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Upcoming Changes

This blog is three months old. I enjoy writing it, and I hope you're enjoying what you read.

But I need to correct some mistakes I made at the beginning

First, the title, "Doves Today." I thought I might change it but on reflection I'm going to keep it. It does, after all, pay homage to a lucky muse on the day I started. There is a problem with the URL and the title not being consistent with one another.

I am trying to find out how to change my blog's URL - and ask those who have me in their blogroll to update it - and have a redirect link at the old URL. I'll let you know when I do this - it will be soon.

Also, I plan to change my screen name displayed on this blog, and that will appear when I comment on other Blogger accounts. I've used "g" for years to comment on political blogs, because it's so neutral. But for a blog Author, it has no personality. Also, it's too much like Mrs. G's name - and I certainly don't want to disappoint people who are looking for her!

So, What should I use for a new name? A nickname? I never really had one - at least not one people used to my face! [The Man I Love] calls me a couple of things, but I don't think I want to use those.

Something with a witty literary, theatrical, or film reference? That leads down a very crowded trail. Shakespeare, Jane Austin, John Waters, Rodgers & Hammerstein......Who to pick?

Or I could use a screen name I've used in the past that is from my family.

What would you do? How did you pick your screen names? did you stick with your original names? If you changed things, how did you manage the change?

Your suggestions are welcome!

Pickled Plums

The plums are finally ripe, and the amount of ripe plums is overwhelming! The branches are bent to the ground with the weight of them.

I've been looking for recipes. I can make plum tarts, plum cake, plum preserves...

Today I made something that sounds like an interesting relish to serve with grilled pork or ham. Slice the plums into wedges, chop a red onion into 3/4 inch pieces. Put 1 part cider vinegar and 1 part water on the stove with whole spices (cinnamon stick, star anise, cloves, cardamom, peppercorns), and when it boils put in 1 part sugar. Stir to dissolve. Pack the fruit and onions into jars, pour the vinegar solution over. Let cool and cap.

Pickled Plums and Onions.

UPDATE: we had this tonight with a charcoal grilled steak. The pickled relish was dynamite!!!!

Saturday, June 28, 2008


Uh Oh. You forgot there's a summer picnic tomorrow at someone's house and it's potluck. What do you bring?

My favorite potluck dish is an Asian noodle salad. The basic recipe calls for vermicelli noodles tossed in a sesame and soy dressing, with garnishes of scallions and sesame seeds. The recipe I use comes originally from Seattle's wonderful prepared foods shop, Pasta & Co., but it has been altered considerably in the 20 or so years I've been making it.

It has many virtues that make it the perfect potluck dish.
  • It can sit at room temperature without spoiling.
  • It's suitable for vegetarians, it has no dairy, and no peanuts
  • Its ingredients are staples of the pantry and refrigerator
  • It's good in the basic recipe or expanded with additional ingredients
  • It's cheap
  • It's fast
  • It's tasty and it's pretty in the dish
If you don't have soy sauce or sesame oil in the pantry, you can't make this dish. But I think those are the only essential ingredients - everything else can be substituted.

To make the dressing, mix:
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar (or brown sugar, honey, cane syrup)
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar or Balsamic vinegar (I recently found Chinese black vinegar at Ranch 99 market - I've made this dish for 20 years with Balsamic vinegar)
  • 1 - 2 tablespoons hot chile oil (or a dash of Tabasco, a sprinkling of flaked red pepper, a squirt of Sriracha sauce - to your preference for heat)
Boil a package of thin noodles. You can use Chinese noodles, or Japanese soba, or Thai rice noodles. You can even use American spaghetti. It works particularly well with the new multigrain pasta that's supposed to be good for you. I like to make it with Japanese buckwheat noodles, and once I even made it with green tea-flavored noodles - that made an interesting visual!

While you're waiting for the noodles to cook, chop up scallions (green onions). I like to slice them thinly on the diagonal.

When the noodles are cooked, rinse them and then toss them in a bowl with the chopped scallions and a generous amount of sesame seeds, and the dressing. It will seem oily, but after it chills for an hour or so to let the flavors meld, the dressing will be absorbed. The original recipe actually recommends you use your hands to mix it thoroughly - so don't be afraid to get messy!

To adapt this basic recipe to your own taste or to the occasion, you can add more ingredients. I think finely diced red bell pepper gives a pretty accent. You can add celery, thinly sliced on the diagonal. You can add more substantial vegetables, too, to expand the dish. Blanch some broccoli florets or some snap or snow peas in the boiling water. You can add shredded carrots, julienned cucumber, or you can serve the whole thing on a bed of greens.

If your guests aren't allergic, you can stir some peanut butter into the dressing, and sprinkle the dish with chopped peanuts or almonds.

To make this a main dish, add some shredded cooked chicken, or shrimp, diced tofu, or thin-sliced leftover steak.

To add flavor, and make it even prettier, you can add chopped herbs - cilantro works well. I've been experimenting with adding Thai basil - its purple leaves are pretty garnishes. Even Italian basil would work in a pinch.

For the potluck I almost forgot about today, I used Chinese chow mein noodles, and added some celery and red pepper. I had some black sesame seeds as well as white ones, so I mixed them. I had a head of Savoy cabbage in the fridge, so I shredded it up like a slaw, and plan to serve the noodles on top of it in one of those Smart & Final black plastic dishes. Perfect!

I'll add pictures of the final assembly later.

UPDATE: And there it is, at the top!

Saturday morning

It's a beautiful day. Walking out on the deck with a cup of coffee, I can look down at the garden and see - look! - the apricots are starting to ripen.

Here's the view across the canyon this morning:

What a great start to the weekend!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Open House

Welcome - c'mon in! So glad you made it! How was traffic?

I'm so glad Mrs. G suggested you drop by. Let me show you around. Come on in the living room where it's comfy. Don't mind Mr. Lumpy, he's friendly. Yes, I know it looks like we color- coordinated the floor runner and the wall, but really, that's not a rug, it's a yoga mat we put down to make it easier for Mr. Lumpy to get around on the wood floors at his age.

The couch is comfy, and there's a nice red throw in case it gets chilly in the evening with all the windows open. That piece on the table behind the couch is a sculpture we bought from our friend Rick. I hung up that paper star lantern around Christmas, and haven't gotten around to taking it down yet.

Oh, the view. Yeah. That's what we love about this place.

We love the way the corner of the house looks out over the canyon like the prow of a ship.

You wanna go out on the deck for a better look?

There. I especially like it just as the sun is going down. You can see birds flying home to their nests and as dusk falls, you can see bats fluttering out in the sky, eating the bugs. This is a place where you can just breathe easy. It's pleasant, isn't it?

How about a drink?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

What is it?

This striking piece of art is on top of a two-story building on the southeast corner of 5th Street and Main Street in downtown Los Angeles. The building houses a shuttered convenience store called King's Market on the first floor. Go to the link for the Googlemap street view.

Although seedy and run down, the building has a 19th century charm, with its corner turret and bay windows running along the north facade, and ornate cornice pieces. Its blank windows hold no clues.

This article at blogdowntown this spring says the first floor will become the offices of a county homeless assistance program. It also notes that this area of 5th Street has a notorious reputation for drug sales and crime, and is known as "the Nickel".

Project 50, as the program is known, interacts with the homeless population on the street, and identifies 50 of the most vulnerable. Putting it bluntly, their mission is to help the people most at risk of dying on the streets. Program coordinators try to find housing and get them desperately needed medical care. This story in the LA Downtown News Online describes the program's accomplishments so far.

But what I want to know is - what is this sculpture all about? Against the sky, in spiky silhouette, it reminds me of the works of Kara Walker. Given the history of the building, and the challenges of Project 50's mission, I would not be surprised if the creator of this interesting piece is trying to tell us something as troubling and as thought provoking as Walker's work.

Does anyone reading this know anything about this weathervane?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Mrs. Smiling, 1 Mouse Place

Stella Gibbons' marvelous comic novel, "Cold Comfort Farm" is about Flora Poste and her attempt to civilize her rural cousins, the Starkadder family, of Howling, Dorset. Although the drama involving the Starkadders is the main focus of the novel, one of my favorite characters is a minor one, Flora's London friend, Mrs. Smiling. Mrs. Smiling is single - a widow - and well-off, and has a series of beaux she cultivates but never commits to. She lives in a little house with geraniums hanging in baskets. And she has a hobby.
Mrs. Smiling's ... interest was her collection of brassieres, and her search for a perfect one. She was reputed to have the largest and finest collection of these garments in the world. It was hoped that on her death it would be left to the nation.

She was an authority on the proper cut, fit, color, construction, and proper functioning of brassieres; and her friends had learned that her interest, even in moments of extreme emotional or physical distress, could be aroused and her composure restored, by the hasty utterance of the phrase:

"I saw a brassiere today, Mary, that would have interested you..."
Tootsie Farklepants recently posted about the frustrations of bra-shopping. A lot of commenters agreed.

Bra shopping is discouraging, demoralizing, and humiliating for most women. A garment so formidably engineered, with such a complex system of sizing, and such an exacting standard of proper fit is intimidating.

Back when I was a young mother, I wore plain and utilitarian bras - the kind of thing that springs to mind when you hear the phrase "durable goods" in the financial news. Equipped with triple-hook closures and wide shoulder straps designed to evenly distribute heavy loads, gusseted inserts for ease of movement, and snappable flaps to allow the rapid deployment of the assests they protect to fulfill their mission of infant nutrition. They came in colors like "toast"or "nude" or plain white. Their molded cups were as formidable and as enticing as shoulder pads or athletic gear.

In recent years, however, I've switched from wearing these dull and boring garments to wearing beautiful, lacy, sexy bras. It's like having a pretty secret beneath my everyday clothes.

I like brassieres from French lingerie-makers like Lejaby and Aubade and Simone Perele, classy and expensive looking - (not just looking; I can only afford them when they're on sale). I like their cheaper imitators, Felina, Jezebel, and Passionata, with their sluttish - but ever so sexy - bosom-revealing demi-bras, or "balconnette" syles. I love the exquisite detail in their garments.

And lace. Give me some lace.

It's often asserted - by lingerie retailers - that bras have a "shelf life" of only 3-6 months or so, and should be replaced when their elastic gets flabby, for fear they won't provide proper bosom support. When I wore workaday bras, this seemed unrealistic. As a friend of mine said the other day "Three months? That's when they finally get comfortable!"

For a lacy bra, unlike a more practical one, this is all too true. Like fresh flowers, beautiful lingerie is fragile. All it takes is [The Man I Love] tossing it into the washer and dryer with the blue jeans a couple of times, and that lovely pale pink La Perla confection becomes a torn and snaggled shred of lavender-grey netting.

So every six months or so I go online and check out what's on sale - at, or, or - the Grand Dame of bra retailing - Nordstrom. Sometimes I get a little carried away. Apparently, I ordered some things from Nordstrom, and then forgot I did, and ordered some more from The other day two shipments landed on my doorstep with a bouquet of beautiful bras!

At this rate, I too will someday have the largest and finest collection of these garments in this world! Like Mrs. Smiling:
Mrs. Smiling then went away, her face lit by that remote expression that characterizes the collector when on the trail of a specimen.
She would have LOVED shopping for brassieres on the internet!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I'm ready for my close-up

Can I just say - I am totally freaking amazed at what this cheap little camera can do?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

And now for something cool

Los Angeles holds some refuges from the summer heat, and we were lucky that we found one today. We enjoyed the day with friends in their incredible garden, on a shady terrace close enough to the coast that the heat was tempered by ocean air. Beyond the terrace, a pond featured amethyst-colored water lilies and a magnificent specimen of Nelumbo lutens, the American Lotus.

The pink lotus, or Nelumbo nucifera, is a divine symbol in the Hindu and Buddhist faiths. Brahma and Vishnu are often shown holding its flowers, or sitting upon its leaves. It is said that wherever the Buddha treads, lotuses grow in his footsteps.

The pure beauty of the lotus blossom, rising as it does from roots in the mud, is celebrated in Chinese and Indian poetry.
In nineteenth century England, Tennyson - after Homer - wrote of the Lotos-Eaters. Odysseus's men land on an island and eat the plant offered by the islanders.* They lapse into a dreamy stupor, and just like many who come to Los Angeles and experience personal change, they vow to remain in the land where "it seemed always afternoon", where
"With half-shut eyes ever to seem
Falling asleep in a half-dream...
hear each other's whisper'd speech;
Eating the Lotos day by day,
To watch the crisping ripples on the beach."
Not for nothing is Hollywood known as Lotusland. Like the Lotos-Eaters, people come here hoping for stardom, which to many might be the modern equivalent of living
"On the hills like Gods together, careless of mankind.
For they lie beside their nectar, and the bolts are hurl'd
Far below them in the valleys, and the clouds are lightly curl'd
Round their golden houses, girdled with the gleaming world:
Where they smile in secret..."
I'm not sure Tennyson would recognize his Lotos-eaters in the languid denizens of Malibu, lounging in cabanas sipping cocktails and hearing each other's whisper'd speech through their Bluetooth devices.

And here in Los Angeles, unlike the Gods, even Lotos-eaters aren't immune from
"...earthquake, roaring deeps and fiery sands,
Clanging fights, and flaming towns..."

A different Lotusland can be found near Santa Barbara in Montecito. This 37 acre garden was created by Ganna Walska, a Russian singer, in 1941. Walska was an eccentric person with eclectic interests like spiritualism, Ouija boards, and various other mystical schools of thought. Her opera career, which was promoted by her wealthy second husband, is said to have inspired the character of Susan Alexander, Charles Foster Kane's wretchedly untalented mistress in Citizen Kane - her singing was that bad!

After Walska's initial plan to create a monastic retreat called "Tibetland" didn't work out, she named the garden Lotusland after the pink sacred lotus in her water garden. The garden is just as fantastic as anything Kublai Khan or Kane might have had - a living clock made from succulents and topiary; a garden planted with entirely blue plants and flowers; giant clam shells fountains and glittering chunks of geodes and abalone shells lining the paths.

But let's not get carried away with lotus eating, shall we? enough of drug culture, strange cults, and half-baked mysticism!

We are contemplating the American lotus - a more down-to-earth and altogether more wholesome plant.

Our friends' garden was no place for mild-eyed melancholy and decadent lotus-eaters - it rang with the sounds of five toddlers banging on drums, vroom-vroomming toy cars, and tipping baskets of toys off the railing into the rosemary bushes below.

One little boy took his mother's hand and walked to the side of the pond, intent on the goldfish swimming within. The white blossom of the lotus was as high as his head. His mother and I each put our noses to it and sniffed. The scent was faint, barely detectable, but pure, sweet and beautiful.

"Lotus on four sides and willows on three,
Half a pool of autumn water reflects a hill.
Distant fragrance is all the more delicate and fresh."

Zhou Dunyi (1017 - 1073 AD), Song dynasty

*The lotus eaten by Odysseus's crew is thought to be Nymphae caerulea - the Egyptian blue water lily - and is said to have psychoactive properties.

What's in the Fridge for breakfast?

Sunday morning. Three hungry people in the house. What's in the fridge?

Only two slices of bacon. No onions. One quarter of a red bell pepper. A couple of scallions. A single ear of sweet corn (3 for $1 - only 2 of us had dinner at home last night). Some wilted basil leaves. What's in those baggies? A rind of aged gouda cheese and some crumbles of sharp cheddar.

Cook bacon until crisp and drain, reserving bacon fat. Cut kernels off ear of corn. Chop red bell pepper into 1/4 dice. Thinly slice white and light green part of scallions.

Heat reserved bacon fat in saute pan, and saute chopped vegetables until onion and pepper are wilted:
Break 6 eggs into bowl and lightly beat.
Add finely chopped basil:

Pour eggs into pan with vegetables, making sure entire bottom of pan is covered with egg mixture and vegetables are evenly distributed. Lower heat to Medium Low.

Break bacon into bite-size pieces and sprinkle into egg mixture. Grate gouda cheese and mix with cheddar bits; sprinkle over eggs.

Pre-heat broiler - yes I know it's not good to use the oven when it's hot out - this is just for a few minutes.

When egg mixture in pan is almost set, remove from stove and place under hot broiler for 2 minutes, or until eggs are completely set and top is lightly browned. Remove from heat, being careful with the hot handle.

Put a large plate on top of the pan, hold carefully with one hand, and with the other, turn the pan upside down so that frittata ends up on the plate:
Slice like a pie, and serve.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Heat wave declaration

It's so hot this evening [The Man I Love] said - "Let's take off all our clothes" and I interjected "and stand in opposite corners of the house!"

Teheran in Westwood

Today I had to order a cake for a friend's birthday, and went to a little French bakery I know of on Westwood Blvd., south of Wilshire.

That part of Westwood is sometimes known at "Little Teheran" because of its concentration of Iranian businesses. There are restaurants, travel agencies, beauty shops, book and music stores, and professional offices, all owned by Iranian immigrants.

I ordered my cake, and strolled up and down the street. In the book store everything was written in Farsi, which is printed in Arabic script. The flowing calligraphy lent a graceful beauty to each volume. Of course, I had no idea what it said. There were several books or folios of prints on sale depicting paintings by modern Persian artists - romantic depictions of lush gardens, ancient domed cities, cornucopia of fruits, and idealized portraits of beautiful black-haired women - some were kind of like Persian Thomas Kinkaid paintings. Others, like these by Mahmoud Farchian presented complex and multi-colored fantasies that build on the ancient traditional art of Persian miniatures.*

The Jordan market was well-stocked with produce - fresh fruits like cherries, figs, apricots and berries looked luscious. I bought a couple of Persian cucumbers because they aren't carried at my local store. I also bought some fresh pita bread. There was a whole shelf holding fancily packed gift boxes of pistachio nougat. Cellophone-wrapped rock candy in many colors glittered in the fluorescent light. Plastic trays of pastries and cookies dusted with crushed green pistachios. There were bins of nuts and dried fruit you could buy in bulk. And yes, boxes of brightly colored Jordan almonds!

This market also has a large selection of fresh flowers and potted orchid plants. The orchids plants were arrayed on top of the high-front refrigerated case that displayed meat and fish, the lovely blooms arching over shoppers' heads as they peered in at the salmon, chicken, and lamb kidneys.

There were jars of imported jams and preserves, including quince jam, and rosepetal preserves. I bought a jar of sour cherry preserves, because I like to put a spoonful on my breakfast oatmeal. The shopkeeper tapped the label approvingly when he rang up my purchase. "This is a very good one - it is from Iran."

Another lady bought some plums and Rainier cherries, and chatted in Farsi with the woman behind the deli counter. I thanked them, and went back on the street. It was lunchtime.

Just south of the big Borders bookstore on the east side of Westwood Blvd., on a side street called Wilkins is a little shop that you enter through a tiny courtyard. This is the Attari Sandwich Shop.

You order at the counter. The display case holds platters of oliveh, a creamy chicken salad, and tongue, a couple of sandwich options, and kotlets, which are beef or chicken fried cutlets. Someday I'll try some of the other offerings on the menu, but today I ordered a kuku sabzi sandwich.

You can eat in the shop, where an elderly man watched a soccer game on the flat-screen TV on the wall, or you can eat outdoors in the courtyard, under cheerful yellow umbrellas and the waving fronds of palm trees and giant bird-of-paradise trees in the planter boxes. As I waited for the server to bring my sandwich, I watched the other diners - a table of older men, who hugged, back-slapped and kissed cheeks when another man joined them. A table of handsome dark young men in designer jeans with gold watches. A couple of older ladies in business attire walked into the shop and walked out with take-away. Everybody was speaking Farsi.

Kuku sabzi is like a dense frittata made with finely chopped green herbs. It's sliced and served on a crispy-crusted baguette with sour cucumber pickles. It is a burst of fresh green flavor in your mouth, and as you crunch through the sandwich, brilliant green flavored oil drips out to stain your fingers. Another delicious thing to order here is the Ash or soup - a rich lentil soup golden-yellow with spices served with a garnish of sour cream and crispy fried onions. It's a meal in itself - but today was too hot for soup. You can get a bottle of doogh, a carbonated drink made of yogurt with mint - I had it once, it's like drinking fizzy buttermilk. Not for all tastes. I had a diet Coke today.

After I left I walked across Westwood to where a sign beckoned saying "Persian Ice Cream." This is the Rose Garden Ice Cream Shop. The owner gave me a taste each of Saffron-Pistachio and White Rose ice cream.

Ice cream is a nice thing to eat during a heat wave like today. I opted for a pint of Saffron-Pistachio, and decided to pick up one of White Rose tomorrow for the birthday party. Someday I'll come back and get the faloodeh, which is a kind of sorbet made with little frozen vermicelli, flavored with sour cherry syrup.

For those who can't get to Westwood and want to taste Persian ice cream, visit Mashti Malone - in Hollywood or Westlake Village, at Whole Foods, or on line. I think they do mail order.

Mail order ice cream. What a concept.

*I chose not to post images of paintings, due to respect for copyrights. The painting above is a modern Indian botanical gouache I own. But I encourage you to go visit the links to see the amazing and beautiful paintings - both ancient and contemporary.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Florida wisdom

"You know how hot it is?

It's hotter 'n a boiled owl."

9:02 PM and it's still hot.

Roadside sign

There's got to be a story behind this!

Plush porn

When Our Son was about 3 years old he became a collector of stuffed plush animals, or "stuffies".

And like collectors who are consumed by other passions, such as antique art pottery, rare coins, or manga figurines, he saw every trip away as an opportunity to acquire another souvenir for his collection.

On one trip, we visited an Aquarium, and in the Gift Shop we bought a pink octopus. He named it Pinktopus.

On another trip, we discovered a green octopus. It was Groctopus.

Pinktapus and Groctapus played roles in the stories Our Son playacted with his stuffies. Octopi are mollusks, with mouths located at the center of their tentacles. It only made sense that Pinktapus and Groctapus kissed by smushing their tentacles together.

Our Son abandoned his stuffies around the age of nine, and the collection gathered dust on his bedroom shelves. A recent visit by a friend's two-year-old unearthed Pinktopus and Groctopus, who have been living in our bedroom ever since.

It's made [The Man I Love] and me remember Our Son's playacting tenderly. We identify with these plush octopi - I'm Pinktopus, and he's Groctopus. However, in our jaded minds, the relationship between them has taken on a racier tone.

We've produced in the Doves Today studios a dramatization of octopoidal passion, using the painstaking laborious technique of Stop-Action animation.

Please note that you must be over 21 to view stuffed octopus porn.