Posts Tagged ‘fredrica duke’

That’s me, the Underdog Lover

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

From the earliest possible memory, and I do mean earliest, my mother role-modeled the love of the underdog.   Why, she married my father, a polio survivor, who sported a cane and brace and walked tilted from side to side.  Think Danny DeVito, only slightly taller.  My dad was all of 5 feet, one inch.

My mother took in strays, both people and animals.  A famous gay makeup artist with a serious drug problem moved in for nearly a year.  Each day that I left for high school, he asked me to score him some good dope.  I always smiled and said “sure,” but never copped, not for him at least.

In retrospect, I’m thinking that I was an underdog.   I was extremely tiny, with crossed eyes, so I had to wear those horrific cat glasses of the 1950’s.   But I didn’t feel like any underdog.   One day in grammar school, I watched, horrified, as all these nasty students surrounded the mentally-retarded girl and poked fun at her.  I came home and related to my thin-skinned mother what had happened, and she lectured me, warning that it will never be me joining in.   And it never was.  I was almost always fighting for the underdog.  Put up with no shit, that’s what I learned from both parents.  That new show, “What Would You Do?” resonates with me because I’m the one who gets indignant in the face of injustice, and says something.   It’s not always pretty either.

Some years ago, I kept noticing this homeless woman in my hood.  I feared where my heart would lead me, so I looked away.  I mean, for a few years I saw her out of the corner of my eye and knew that she tore at me, called to me, if you will…. But I wouldn’t touch it (or her). (more…)

Chasing the Dragon (I mean the burger)

Saturday, May 8th, 2010

Going on the hunt for the “best-of” meals can be a lot like an addict after a fix.  I remember years ago seeing someone I knew in Ruth’s Chris Steak House.   I watched him from afar as he ordered his steak.   He was well into his fifties at this point, and you just knew his doctor wouldn’t approve.  When it arrived, his eyes were as big as saucers and he even rubbed his hands together before picking up fork & knife.  He dove into it like it was his last meal on Earth.  It was really something to behold, and I have never forgotten it.

I hope I never come off as a “know it all” about food but I feel I do know where to get the best burger in L.A., and for me, sorry folks, but it ain’t the Apple Pan.  It is (or maybe right now I can say was) at the Beverly Hills Hotel coffee shop.

My addiction in life is food, strictly.  There are no crossover addictions.  Facebook for an ex-addict friend of mine became dangerous.  She couldn’t casually walk back to her bedroom without the computer calling to her to “check”.  Then she would get lost in the Facebook world of other people’s comments and photos and all that Facebook has to offer.  Hours later, she would finally drag herself away from her computer and catch a bit of sleep.  She unhooked herself quickly.  I miss her presence on Facebook, but she’s a “real” friend, so I actually see her and talk to her whenever I want.

Yesterday, I was doing my five-minute stroll onto my homepage when I noticed that my childhood friend Joy had said something about the best burger ever.  Well, you can only imagine how that caught me eye.   Joy’s posts often get my attention, but none like yesterday.  Where was this amazing burger? I wanted to know.  Her reply: “Fred Segal in Santa Monica,” not usually known for its gourmet cuisine.

The following morning I had one goal in mind.  But first, I had to find which Santa Monica Fred Segal was serving these rumored Best Burgers in Town.  For anyone venturing out, it’s the original or East side Fred Segal.  The place is called Umami and it’s where that little coffee house once was near the parking lot.  And it’s packed.  Clearly the world had heard about this place before me.  I took my son Barnaby, who, several months ago had sworn off burgers after hearing horrific details about them in the documentary “Food, Inc.”

I found a table and scanned the room for the reactions of people eating, and   I’m not exaggerating too much when I use the word orgasmic.   Were smoking allowed, some would have lit up afterwards.  I got very excited, but needed to order just the right burger to make me happy, and so I did.  A cheeseburger–leave the sundried tomatoes and carmelized onion on the side—but keep that special sauce.

Barnaby couldn’t resist and broke his burger-boycott by ordering exactly what I did.  And we shared onion rings.  Orgasmic – can you use that word when you’re dining with your son?   What the hell.

And, just when I thought lunch and life couldn’t get any better, we ran into one of my best friends’ ex-husbands (just one of many exes of many friends).  So, a big shout-out to Tom who picked up the check!

Food, Glorious Food

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

I’m singing that title by the way,  Food, Glorious Food.  I’m just not computer savvy enough to add the musical notes to let you know that I’m singing- so let me spell it out for you.  San Francisco, as anyone who has been there knows, is a civilized and beautiful place to visit.  And, according to my son Oliver, to live.   People often say that S.F. reminds them of a European city.

For me, San Francisco is a serious food destination.  A real foodie’s paradise is the Ferry Building and this quick trip up here is my first experience.  I kept hearing about it from everyone so I made sure that in my less then 48 hour trip I go see what all the fuss is about.  It IS about something.  Food stalls are everywhere with major finds like the best bread or the best olive oil.  There were seafood restaurants with bar seating and I was hungry and almost jumped at the first sign of fresh seafood and an interesting menu.  But I kept hunting around and found the mother lode in a restaurant called b/l which I’m pretty sure stands for Boulette’s Larder.  I will tell you what I had and I will tell you a few things on the menu that day and I will be going back so fucking fast on my next trip up north.

Seafood egg scramble with tarragon ( halibut, whitefish and scallops ).  Perfect.

Served with a variety of the freshest bread from Acme bread company and yes they have their own stall here so you can buy what you want and yes I came home with a few loafs.  Some other things on the menu.

Celery Root Soup with walnut croutons

Sumac roasted chicken breast with black chickpea and fava flour fritters (little gem hearts, tahini, artichoke puree, hummus)

Arctic char filet (little new potatoes, asparagus, lemon verjus buerre blanc)

Writing this is making me so hungry it’s painful.

Another place I ate in my very short stay is where I must go each trip to S.F. and that is Delfina in the mission district on 18’th street.  It might be Italian because it does have pizza’s but it’s more of a Chez Panisse type restaurant with fresh produce from the local farmers markets in all the recipes.

I couldn’t resist one of my favorite dishes which is burrata on black olive crostini (refer to an earlier piece I wrote called amuse bouche to find a recipe)

We also ordered and loved Jewish-Style Artichokes with lemon and mint.

Some other dishes on the menu that looked great:

Grilled Fresh Calamari with warm white bean salad

Whole Petrale Sole in Acqua Pazza (marble potatoes, salt packed caperberries and Gaeta olives)

Five Dot Ranch Brisket (parslied potatoes and horseradish crème fraiche)

A quick note.  After watching the food network last night I realized the place that I blew off needs mentioning.  It’s called Hog Island Oyster Co. and it is meant to have the very best tasting oysters ever, according to the show Best Things I ever ate.

When All Else Fails, Bake

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

me and michael at sylvias soul food restaurant

That Thanksgiving Day turkey thing didn’t work out that well.  I hate that pressure.  I like that I know I can do one thing and do it well.  Bake.  My baking never looks all that “mahvelous”.  The cakes I make tend to look a bit like the leaning tower of Pisa and yet, they taste oh so good- if I don’t say so myself.  A very creative friend in the hood, Simone once suggested I start a business of private cake baking because she’s such a fan.  Simone came up with the name of the business (“I baked you a cake”) and totally approved of the fact that my cakes are so imperfect.  She said, she goes to buy baked goods from local bakeries but that none of those cakes, though they look so perfect tasted as amazing as mine.  I was so flattered that for the next few years, I called when I finished a new good cake to offer she and her family a big ass chunk.

One of her families and my favorites is a red velvet cake that I do not dye red.  My husband is not a big fan because; well, because it’s just not his thing.  But also, he’s not a fan because the color is sort of the color of a spice cake.  He calls the color grey.  I keep insisting it’s a light chocolate cake color.  Regardless of how it looks, it’s one of my best recipes.  It comes from Sylvia’s soul food restaurant in Harlem

red velvet cake