Summertime

(My Idea Of A Summer Car)

Brian from the Blue Hour asked people to respond with their favorite things about summer. He received over 180 responses. I wrote my comment and clicked on the box to receive follow-up comments via email. My I-phone kept buzzing every time a new response rolled in. I was very busy.

Here are a few of my favorite things about summer. I am not working this summer for the first time since I was 14 years old. Brings back old memories of summer vacation as a kid.

The only thing I hate about summer is that it flies by. This weekend is already the 4th of July. Yikes.

Enjoy the rest of the summer everyone.

– Making pizza at least twice a week in the wood oven with my two boys. They have become pros.
– Eating ice cream as often as possible usually at Scoops on Heliotrope and Melrose. (ice cream for me is not just a summer thing)
– Going to the mall just to hang out with my wife. We usually end up buying books or eating more ice cream.
– Taking my son James driving in the empty parking lot down the street.
– Making homemade ice cream. This summer we’ll make some vegan ice cream with almond milk and fresh berries.
– Grilling Louisiana hot links on the BBQ and then serving them in buns with home grown serano peppers.
– Growing tomatoes in big pots on the patio. The first one is almost ripe. By Sunday 4th of July it will be ready.
– Tomato sandwiches on homemade bread with lots of mayonnaise and salt and pepper. Maybe a few basil leaves.
– Watching the Tour d’France every morning in July with my two boys who spend the whole time talking about Lance Armstrong being on Steroids.
– Watermelon, strawberries, cherries and peaches when they are finally ripe. Oh I forgot Cherries in June. I made some cherry jam on Sunday.
– Eating lunch with Anne and my boys. We sit at the table with no distractions like tv or magazines. In the summer we’ll eat outside.

A few new sites I have been hanging out at:
Pinterest
The Eternal Worrier
the blog camp 365 in 2010 project
The English Can Cook {It’s an underground supper club)
The One Minute Writer
El Corte a La Inglesa
The Hymn for The Cigarettes

A couple of songs:

Patrick Watson The Great Escape

Bombay Bicycle Club Dust on the Ground

Pizza Nazis

When I got home last night my son, Patrick says to me “the oven’s not hot enough”. I said “what are you talking about?” He said, “the wood oven needs to be between 750 degrees and 900 degrees”. He read it on the internet in one of those pizza forums.

I thought we were doing pretty good. We made pizza on Sunday. We got the oven to 700 degrees. The pizzas were very good.

Well my boys have become the pizza Nazis. Pushing the hell out of me to get this thing right. My younger son, James holds back at nothing. He will tell it how it is. He has told me on a number of occasions that the pizza is not good enough and we need to keep working on it. He said it won’t be perfect but we can keep getting better.

On Sunday the second pizza was rated a 6 by James and I thought it was delicious. I am humbled by him, but I am also forced to keep moving on.

I keep playing with the dough. I have made pizza with all purpose flour. I have made it with bread flour. On Sunday I introduced cake flour to the party. I combined it with the bread flour. I also made another dough with the cake flour and the all purpose flour. Both doughs rose well. They felt  smooth and pliable, but seemed to stop rising  after about 6 hours. It appeared that the yeast had died. This has never happened to me before.

The pizza rolled out well, but when it was baked the crust remained flat as a pancake.  The crust was truly thin like a New York or Chicago style pizza. The flavor was terrific. James preferred the dough with the bread flour. I couldn’t really tell much of a difference.

Over the last couple of weeks James has been constructing every pizza before it goes in the oven. He spreads on the homemade sauce, grates and layers on the cheese and then distributes the toppings. His pizzas look and are beautiful. He is a perfectionist. He gives me crap because my pizzas don’t look as nice as his.

We discovered Sunday that we needed to add more sauce. The amount he had been putting on the pizzas was inadequate and the pizza was coming out a little dry and flavorless. He allowed me to apply the sauce and after he bit into the first pizza with the extra sauce he said “WOW, we learned something this week”.

Thursday is the day. Patrick said we need to load the wood in the oven the day before to dry it out. Another thing he read on the internet.

We’ll give it another swing with the bat. I just hope I don’t get yelled at by the pizza Nazis.

Guitar

My son asked me to teach him how to play the guitar. Peer pressure had gotten to him. His friends play music, but he has never picked it up. He listens to great music, very unique, alternative stuff such as The Good Life, Smog, The Microphones, Fred Thomas. The list is huge.
I offered to help him before, but he declined.

I took classical guitar in 2002. The same time I began to study Italian. I did well in the class, but struggled with rhythm and timing. I couldn’t feel the beat. Since then I have strummed the guitar on almost a daily basis. I use it to calm myself. I don’t know why it works. Maybe it’s the challenge. It has taken me a long time to get my fingers wrapped around the neck of the guitar. My flexibility has grown and I can now hold most chords.

I strum the guitar while I watch TV. Last week the family watched each and every Laker game. As the tension grew I picked up the instrument and strummed very lightly so as not to disturb Patrick, James and Anne. When they took a lead I set it down.

My son picked up the guitar and clumsily held it in his hands. We worked on three chords C, G and D7. I strummed and sang This Little Light of Mine. My voice cracked, but I strummed pretty good. I handed him back the guitar. He took his turn and practiced planting the tips of his fingers on the strings. I warned him about callouses. He took the guitar to his room to work on those three chord.

I was overjoyed that he asked me to help him. When I was a very young boy I always wanted to play guitar. I took a lesson in my early teens, but quit before the callouses formed and gave me some relieve from the pain in the finger tips. I always seemed to abandon things that got tough. This time though I stuck it out.

I hope Patrick gets as much pleasure from the guitar that I have.

Farmer’s Market

On Sunday we took my parents to the Farmer’s Market in Larchmont. I have been there many times before. It’s probably one of the best markets in Los Angeles because it’s quaint and nicely put together. It reminds me of a European market and most specifically a Paris market. There is a roast chicke vendor like the ones I’ve seen in Paris. He too has a tray of potatoes roasting under the chickens that sob up all the chicken juices. Absolutely incredible.

There is a new vegetarian soup vendor. We bought a pint of Tuscan white bean soup and ate it for supper. It was rich and creaming. The beans were cooked perfectly.

We ate lunch directly next door to the market at a place called La Bottega Marino. It reminded me so much of Italy. Everything was homemade. The bread was baked in house and was still slightly warm when they served it to us. We had a plate of sliced prosciuto and salami that was very nicely done. You could tell the meats were sliced to order because they were really fresh. Many restaurants pre-slice their meats for convenience sake and the meats get dried out.

We had an assortment of pastas. My son ordered a penne arrabbiata that was the spiciest pasta I have ever tried. The pasta was cooked al dente like a good Italian knows how to do.

The place is very old and looks it, but I love that. They have a couple of deli showcases. One is reserved for meats and cheese. There were huge chucks of Parmesan and pecorino wrapped in plain plastic wrap so you could see the cheese. I hate going to these new delis where everything is wrapped in plastic with the company’s name hiding the products.

The other showcase was lined with long rectangular, white platters filled with their deli salads. I was impressed by the quality of the products. Everything was fresh. The green bean salad looked very appetizing. I could tell it was just made. The green beans were glistening with a light dressing and they were still a nice green not that pale/brown green that you normally see with day old green beans.

There was a counter display with homemade desserts. Lots of fresh cookies and cakes. We ordered Linzer type cookies filled with raspberry jam and nutella. Not in the same cookie.

here are a few pictures from the day.

Orange Soda

I took this picture yesterday at Wurstkuche in downtown LA. It’s a restaurant featuring over ten different sausages, Belgium Fries and a host of Belgium beers. The sausages are great and some of them are extremely unique. They have one with rattlesnake meat. Another one with rabbit and one with duck. I had a spicy Louisiana hot link with grilled onions and spicy peppers.

James ordered an orange soda. As a kid growing up I never drank much orange soda. Back then it was Orange Crush. In our house we drank 7-up and Coca Cola. It came in 16 ounce glass bottles. At the grocery store they would be neatly stacked on the lower shelf, but they were heavy and when you lifted the 8 pack you had to be careful that you pulled it up and lifted it out. Otherwise you could knock over the whole lot of them.

The bottles were recyclable. You returned them to the front of the store. They would go into a huge bin. I still remember my mother lugging those big old bottles from the car to the store and this was on her way in.

Today that’s all different. No more heavy glass bottles. I kinda  miss the glass bottles. There is something very real and authentic about  soda in a glass bottle and to me, maybe just me it tastes better.

By the way James’ orange soda came in a glass bottle.

Walking

My folks are in LA for the week to see our son Patrick graduate from High School. Whenever they are in town, we do the touristy thing and visit different places and sites that we normally don’t take the time to check out.

We walk a lot and eat a lot. I don’t mind either of these. Actually I love to eat and those of you who know me, know this to be true. Today we are heading to the Getty where we will do our fair share of walking, but that’s alright because it will build our appetites.

Where should we have lunch? Any suggestions.

A couple of other things.
I will be doing an Italian cooking demo at the Whole Foods in Venice some time in the next month. I will keep you posted.The date will be listed on the calendar soon.

I will be featured on This Joy Ride this summer. I will be collaborating with Shari and Sheri on a Pizza edition.
It’s a great site that features two artist a month, the 1st and 15th of each month.

Gibralter

Intelligentsia serves a coffee drink called the Gibralter. It reminds me of a drink I have in Italy all the time called a piccolo cappuccino. I like it because there is much less milk than a regular cappuccino and therefore strong.

Intelligentsia serves this drink in a gibralter glass. A gibralter glass is a stack-able rocks glass that many old time dinner houses used for booze on the rocks. The glass comes in many different sizes, but the most popular are 7 and 9 ounce. It’s very thick and  a great vessel for the hot espresso drink.

I had one yesterday at the Venice store. It’s a short drink. Only worth a couple of quick gulps, but to me it’s perfect. It always reminds me of standing at a bar in Italy having my morning piccolo cappuccino.

here are a few photos from yesterday.

Addicted to Hipstamatic

I am addicted to the Hipstamatic application on the I-phone.Since I can’t watch the Laker game because they are getting killed I thought I would upload some photographs from an earlier today. I hope you enjoy them.

Running Springs

White Beater from Arcadia Ca.

Running Springs

Did you ever notice that the motion of your life creates a well worn path and as you move about on this path you see the same things over and over? You also become so accustomed to those things that you lose sight of their natural wonder. This past weekend I got off my well worn path for about 24 hours and experienced the beauty of Running Springs. It’s only about an hour and a half from our house but seems so remote and distant like another world. Here are  a few picture from that 24 hour period of time. I am grateful to have a camera by my side to document all this otherwise the memory would fade. Ciao tutti.

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