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Water and stone

Monday, January 31, 2011

Lesley Duncan - Love Song

Buddha Nature


It was a cold and rainy day yesterday. After brunch Leslie and I decided to drive down to Escondido to see the gigantic Jade Buddha for Universal Peace that arrived this week. It is being exhibited at the California Center for the Arts. This 9' tall buddha weighs four and one half tons and is the largest buddha in the world carved out of gem quality green nephrite. It was consecrated by the Dalai Lama last december.


It was a large and colorful festival, sponsored by the Vietnamese American United Buddhist Congregation. The grounds hosted lots of different statues from the buddhist pantheon. There were many  altars and offerings, from joss sticks to fruit and lots of flowers.

I believe that yesterday was also the anniversary of Tet, the lunar holiday in Vietnam. Lots of stalls sold food and trinkets. Everyone was very happy, friendly and pleasant. I was struck by the seriousness and sincerity of the devotion shown by the faithful.


I met a monk and bought a scroll that he had painted with his beautiful calligraphy, a paean to peace. We talked about the subtle differences between the southeastern asian mahayana and the tibetan version. He seemed very clear and sincere, a typical buddhist.





The Jade Buddha was carved out of a piece of jade purchased in Canada for the purported sum of $1,000,000.00. The carving itself cost over $250,000.00. Over 5 million people have seen the buddha in the last year. There was also a special exhibit of rare antique buddhist artifacts loaned by the king of Thailand in one tent. If you want to see the event, and I recommend it, I believe that the jade buddha will be there for another week.



"If you come here with mindfulness, you will find the relationship with Buddha ... You can see all the lights shining on the Jade Buddha and you can feel relaxed," said Le Tan Huynh, among the team of the organizers that helped bring the Jade Buddha for Universal Peace back for its second visit to Escondido. "It's miraculous; you can't describe it."






Sunday, January 30, 2011

Emile Cohl

Justice Department getting pissy about data retention.

"Relying on the government to protect your privacy is like asking a peeping tom to install your window blinds." John Perry Barlow

Interesting story on CNET. The government wants records of all of your electronic communications.
Criminal investigations "are being frustrated" because no law currently exists to force Internet Providers to keep track of what their customers are doing, the U.S. Department of Justice told Congress. The department's position on mandatory data retention says Congress should strike a "more appropriate balance" between privacy and police concerns.
"Data retention is fundamental to the department's work in investigating and prosecuting almost every type of crime," said Jason Weinstein, deputy assistant attorney general for the criminal division. "The problem of investigations being stymied by a lack of data retention is growing worse."

My question is why does the government all of a sudden have a right to all of our electronic communication? Could you imagine them passing a law that said that you had to keep every letter you had ever received? Or that the phone company had to keep a tape recording of every phone call? Without warrant or probable cause to snoop. We would be enraged. But somehow, because we have all this fancy new technology, we cede the right to privacy. Please explain. 

Curtis Mayfield - Superfly

More news from the front


According to a new study by Penn State political science professors Michael Berkman and Eric Plutzer, High School teachers are failing to teach evolution in the classroom. The study was published in the latest issue of Science. They procured their data from the National Survey of High School Biology Teachers, a representative sample of 926 public high school biology instructors, to reach their conclusions.
Amongst their findings:  "About 13 percent of biology teachers "explicitly advocate creationism or intelligent design by spending at least one hour of class time presenting it in a positive light." Creationists do not believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution.
About 28 percent consistently implement National Research Council recommendations calling for introduction of evidence that evolution occurred, and craft lesson plans with evolution as a unifying theory.
The rest, about 60 percent, “fail to explain the nature of scientific inquiry, undermine the authority of established experts, and legitimize creationist arguments.”
These teachers, the researchers said, try to avoid controversy by using one of several different strategies that include :
* Teaching evolutionary biology as if it applies only to molecular biology and failing to to explain evidence that one species gives rise to other species.
* Telling students they don't have to "believe" in evolution but they have to know it for tests.
* Telling students to make up their own minds -- even though scientists say that they are as certain of the validity of evolution as they are of other scientific principles taken as fact."
Here is the official position taken by the National Science Teacher's Association regarding the teaching of evolution. Berkman and Plutzer wrote the book Evolution, Creationism and the battle to control America's Classrooms - Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Of course, evolution is already in the news this week, with Republican congressman from Georgia, Jack Kingston announcing that "I believe I came from God, not from a monkey so the answer is no," he said, laughing, when asked if he subscribes to the theory. "I don't believe that a creature crawled out of the sea and became a human being one day."

According to a Gallup poll released last month, 40 percent of Americans believe God is responsible for creating human life in its current form roughly 10,000 years ago. The survey found that 52 percent of Republicans believe in creationism with 34 percent of Democrats and independents maintaining the same view.  According to the poll:
"The significantly higher percentage of Republicans who choose a creationist view of human origins reflects in part the strong relationship between religion and politics in contemporary America. Republicans are significantly more likely to attend church weekly than are others, and, as noted, Americans who attend church weekly are most likely to select the creationist alternative for the origin of humans."
I don't think that I have to provide a lot of analysis regarding these studies. The dumbing down of America is old news, the rejection of science in favor of superstition as old a pursuit as burning witches at the stake. The fossil record, the proven link between hominids with an ancient ancestor Ardi some 4.4 million years ago, perhaps all part of the dark force's great conspiracy to thwart the divine plant for our nascent planet.

It is interesting how creationism, after having been totally refuted by science and reality, quietly morphed into the somewhat more fashionable "intelligent design" movement. Once it was the flat earth, in the center of the hub whose orbits included the sun, planets and angels. Now we try once again to shape our earth and cosmology to conform to our preconceived notions of deity and myth. We are still drawing crude figures on the walls of our caves, trying to make some sense of the great mystery of life and consciousness.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Amy Winehouse - Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow

Satan Is Real - The Louvin Brothers


Charlie Loudermilk, the Charlie of the gospel group the Louvin Brothers, died this week. He left us with this thought provoking ditty.

Fractious friday

I got an earful from Jim today. I have apparently not only alienated the christians and the republicans but a bunch of other potential clients and it is bad for business. I should write more about art and antiques, a point echoed by Millard. He says that some people have told him that they like my wares but hate my blog and politics and that is fine, I guess. Hilbert told me the same thing last month. Of course they don't have to read me, I'm not holding a gun to anybody's head and I have always tried to keep business and writing separate.

I guess I don't care about the business enough. Want to pay my bills and take an occasional vacation. That is it. I guess I just don't care enough about money. I am an opinionated person and I like to shpiel. So be it. Ain't your cup of tea, I apologize - we can keep our conversation confined to brush strokes and chroma. Or the weather.

***

Egypt is in the news big, on the heels of the uprising in Tunisia. Egypt has been ruled by a succession of military men since Nasser. They tend to rule like dictators. Unfortunately they have also been abetted by the United States of America because their rule has been relatively stable. Egypt has been at peace with Israel since the Sinai land trade. They have also acted to quell the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, an outlawed organization.

Unfortunately we live in an imperfect world. Sometimes we have to work with very distasteful people. Things are not always black and white.  If the populist uprising is successful and it could very well be, what will it mean for stability in the region, especially if the islamists assert control, much like Hezbollah has done this month in Lebanon? Another hostile enemy on Israel's southern flank. The iranian backed militia, about to be implicated by international tribunal in the Hariri murder, instead brought down the Lebanese government, only to reappear a week later as the new ruling party. Hezbollah has more weapons than the regular Lebanese Army, thanks to a United Nations who have chosen to quietly allow them to rearm to the teeth, contrary to agreements made after the last war.

Of course, show me a democratically elected government in the arab world, it doesn't exist. And much like in other places closer to home, religious fundamentalists are asserting control throughout the region. Maybe people get the governments they deserve, after all.

***

I was reading my friend Daisy Deadhead's blog and she came up with this tidbit - Michelle Bachmann, that stalwart opponent of government bailouts, has received $251,973.00 in farm subsidies.

***

The House GOP is rewriting the laws on rape in order to cut abortion funding. According to this article in Mother Jones, only forcible rape will now be covered by Medicaid.

"For years, federal laws restricting the use of government funds to pay for abortions have included exemptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. (Another exemption covers pregnancies that could endanger the life of the woman.) But the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," a bill with 173 mostly Republican co-sponsors that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has dubbed a top priority in the new Congress, contains a provision that would rewrite the rules to limit drastically the definition of rape and incest in these cases.
With this legislation, which was introduced last week by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Republicans propose that the rape exemption be limited to "forcible rape." This would rule out federal assistance for abortions in many rape cases, including instances of statutory rape, many of which are non-forcible. For example: If a 13-year-old girl is impregnated by a 24-year-old adult, she would no longer qualify to have Medicaid pay for an abortion.
Given that the bill also would forbid the use of tax benefits to pay for abortions, that 13-year-old's parents wouldn't be allowed to use money from a tax-exempt health savings account (HSA) to pay for the procedure. They also wouldn't be able to deduct the cost of the abortion or the cost of any insurance that paid for it as a medical expense. Other types of rapes that would no longer be covered by the exemption include rapes in which the woman was drugged or given excessive amounts of alcohol, rapes of women with limited mental capacity, and many date rapes.
As for the incest exception, the bill would only allow federally funded abortions if the woman is under 18."
***

Georgia Republican Representative Paul Broun was attacking the President by Tweet during the SOTU, basically calling him a socialist enemy of the Republic. The funny thing about all these southerners talking socialism is that they come from a part of the country that gets far more federal aid than it contributes in tax revenue. California gets somewhere on the order of 77 cents for every dollar it contributes to the federal coffers. These southern states are the biggest suck on the federal tit around. If you crackers want to stop socialism so bad, why not stop taking federal money?

***

Rand Paul called for a ban on aid to Israel today. Wonder if this is a payback to Don Black and the folks at the white supremacist and anti-semitic organization Stormfront, big financial backers of Paul?

***

We have a big snowy white barn owl building a nest right over our bedroom window. It has been going on for about three days and the noises all night are otherworldly. I am bringing my camera home and hope to snag a few shots soon. Hope she catches a lot of rodents.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Soul Royalty





Library Question?


I love the Fallbrook Library. The architects, planners and builders did a superb job. It is filled with excellent artwork from various members of the local community. I walked in to the now officially open library for the first time the other day and was really impressed with how many people were utilizing the new rooms, books and technology.

One thing did sort of strike me as slightly strange and I wrote one of the chief librarians that I work with the following letter:
Dear     ,
Please let me congratulate you on the wonderful new library facility in Fallbrook. It is truly wonderful and state of the art. I walked in and checked out the officially open library for the first time today and everything seemed really top shelf.


I did have an academic question that I hope that you can help me with. While checking out book titles I noticed that there were two stand alone shelving compartments titled Christian Fiction. I can not say that I have ever seen a separate demarcation for christian fiction in a public library before. I looked around to see if I could find similar shelves for shinto fiction, hindu fiction, zoroastrian fiction, islamic fiction or even atheist fiction and to my surprise the only belief system that rated its own category was the "majority brand."


I wonder what the etymology and thought processes are behind these kind of decisions and if this sort of label is used throughout the county system or is a particular Fallbrook idiosyncrasy? Please rest assured that I am not a rabble rouser, merely an individual with a surfeit of idle time and curiosity.


Sincerely,


Robert Sommers
I never got a response to my letter from the librarian, although I did get a positive letter back from one of the Friends of the Library that seemed to echo my concerns. I wonder why they felt the need to balkanize the fiction section? I can see a separate christian fiction section in a Barnes and Noble, but a public library?

I am all for people reading whatever the hell they want to read. Perhaps I am being overly sensitive and PC. But it strikes me as a bit overbearing and well, un-American to favor one creed in a Public Library and give it it's own exclusive section. Poor Dewey would be turning over in his grave.

News of the weirder

La Jolla realtor Lisa Hench really loves babies. She loves them so much that she ingratiates herself with their parents, then gets the little toddlers to herself where she commences to scratch and gouge the shit out of them until she draws blood. Very bizarre story, she is looking at a minimum of at least one year in the pen.  Lisa liked to hang around the Y and Chuck E. Cheese, looking for fresh meat for her baby scratching jones. On the bright side, top two percent earner for Coldwell Banker. Never complain about your mother again. You could have had worse.

***

Castigate me for my patrician eating habits. How about Adele, the girl who likes to eat couch cushion. Where do you take her out for a date? The La-z-boy store?



***

Another jesus and mary found on a tortilla.








Unexpected text message kills suicide bomber.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Nuggets





Issa Capades

My congressman, Darrell Issa, is not starting off in his new role as House Oversight Committee Chairmen with a lot of grace. Or comity for that matter. After telling his democratic counterpart, Elijah Cummings that he would be able to make an opening statement yesterday, he pulled the chair out from underneath him and rescinded the offer thirty minutes before the meeting started. He also refused to allow an industry witness from J.P. Morgan to be called before the committee investigating the TARP matter.

Spokesman Kurt Bardella said that Issa killed the idea of opening statements in order to skip the "political speechifying" which ate up time. "If the minority is going to judge the value and success of a hearing based on their political ability to bloviate at the start of it, then so be it. We're of the mindset that Congress should listen more and talk less,"Bardella said.


Cummings, wrote a letter to Issa on Monday in which he said that the majority was withholding documents from Democrats, a charge Issa denies.

It sounds like this a going to be a fractious relationship over the next two years, since the Chairman's staff is accusing the minority member of bloviation, right out of the gate.

Issa of course is a total embarrassment. I have written frequently in the past about his wayward youth, with the car thefts, the gun charges, the old partner getting screwed out of his share in the company. The New Yorker takes up the story this month.

Is it too much to ask that our elected officials act like grown ups, instead of a spoiled child who has to stomp on the rights of the minority because it does not fit his chosen narrative? Of course, with Issa, we have come to expect the worse.

Stan Getz and Chet Baker



Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Fool me once...

It's been really hard to wear my new hat as the postpartisan "Robert." Try as I might, I just keep coming back to the fact that the Republicans are slimy prevaricators. I know, I know, both sides lie and connive, but they just seem so much better at it than the rest of us.

This last election we were told that "it was about the economy stupid" and that the conservative social agenda was getting put on the far back burner. Word in the last two days that that was just a line they were pedaling, it's now all hands on deck to outlaw abortion and abortion funding and news today that contrary to what they told the Log Cabin folks, a new push to outlaw gay marriage. Typical say anything to get elected, GOP sleight of hand. Shame on those of you who bought the line of crap. These so called libertarians are just stealth candidates who want to make everybody else toe their parochial moral line.

Of course now the GOP is trying to cast itself as the party of fiscal restraint too. Which would be kind of funny if anybody remembered what happened to the deficit the last time the GOP was in charge. Couple wars, a fat tax rebate for their friends and that Clinton surplus was gone in no time. But nobody does remember, the Bush Presidency was so long ago, they can pull it off with a straight face and nobody's the wiser.

***

Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry wrote an editorial against bailouts in the Washington Times last week - the same day he requested one from the federal government for 6.4 billion dollars.

***

Bravo to the nine republican congressmen who have given up their government subsidized health insurance. You know the health care that they want to repeal. Only 221 more members to go.

***

Kentucky Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell's idea of bipartisan negotiation - ""If the president is willing to do what I and my members would do anyway, we're not going to say no."

***

How the BUSHIES ended around the Hatch Act.

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Gingrich - Eliminate the EPA. Because money has to trump health and safety every time.

***

Arizona Rep. Gov. Jan Brewer wants to cut 280,000 Arizonans off Medicaid.

***

Utah Republican Senator Mike Lee says that Federal Disaster Relief is unconstitutional - but wants millions of dollars of it anyway. He just doesn't see a conflict between his words and actions.

***

Fix your rack if you hang and burn my dog.

God told this Spartanburg County, South Carolina woman to kill her nephew's pit bull. The satanic whelp had chewed on her bible, a sure sign that she was one of the devil's minions. So Miriam Smith wrapped an orange extension cord around the bitch's neck and doused her in kerosene. Miriam is now in jail, another persecuted woman trying to do the lord's work.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Bill Withers

The Art Game


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times or most probably sometime stuck in between...

I have a great job. It's definitely not getting any easier but it is a great job. There is a saying in the trade that antique dealers share two things in common, we have problems with authority and we are all essentially unemployable and I would say that the shoe fits me pretty accurately. I get to sit at my desk and play on the computer and strum my guitar and idly waste my day between sales and that beats clipping widgets in a factory any day.

I have worn a lot of hats in my life - sign painter, general contractor, project manager, developer, my last gig was running a financial research company in 1995. I hated it. As nice as I tried to be to the employees, the more they seemed to hate and resent me. The boss was a sociopath and I got to act as his henchman/consigliere. I couldn't take it and the Blue Heron hatched out of it's egg and has been flying around ever since.

Being an art dealer allows me to research, something I enjoy immensely, and to find and surround myself with beautiful things. I love buying paintings and objects. Selling, not so much. I think that it is every dealer's dream to hit the lottery and be able to keep all the good shit. But the reality is that I am just a temporary caretaker, looking for good homes for my pets and hopefully operating as a trusted mentor and advisor to those clients that put their faith in me.

You never stop learning in my business, although the scholarship of my forebears is sadly lacking today. We have lost a lot of institutional knowledge, since many so called antique dealers have rarely opened a book in their entire lives. They sell what is known in the trade as decorative arts. Decorators are another group that I mostly despise, since they tend to be uniformly stupid and only really concerned with the size of their client commission. Although I admit to having met a few that were top notch.

Things were a lot easier before the crash, as you might expect. People were making obscene fortunes speculating on art in the last decade, especially American Impressionism. But as the top rung artists' works disappeared or were priced out of the booming market, dealers started trading in substandard and frankly awful painter's canvases. With straight faces and little conscience. And the public was too dimwitted to care.

Askart.com started giving the price of an artist's work per square inch, something I always found funny and slightly obscene. Whereas an 8 x 12" Vermeer's worth is recognized as basically priceless, it was nevertheless deemed okay to establish a sliding scale for an artist like Granville Redmond. An 8 x 10 is worth this much, a 16 x 20 this much, and so on. Which is so foreign to the notion of a painter capturing an idea on a canvas or a board. Smaller usually is better, there is a "sweet spot" for every artist, and larger paintings often get blown out and fail to capture the magic of smaller studies.

But this is America after all, so bigger has to be better, doesn't it? So paintings get sold like broccoli heads or commodities, oftentimes by tin eyed car salesmen with a real talent for recognizing signatures. Askart is a subscription art service with detailed auction records and has made a major impact on the business. Because artists used to really appreciate so dramatically but now to be tethered by their auction histories. Which is unfortunate in a way because sometimes lesser known people just really nail it and also people with little output or auction history can be unfairly penalized by this all knowing market.

Things have slowed down and in a way it's good. I find that the great majority of people buying art these days genuinely love the artwork they are selecting and aren't thinking about the five year hold and flip. I am selling more on time, to people from all income levels and stations, and people seem to have a bit more discernment aesthetically. I think that my eye is my strength so it makes my job easier.

I have survived due to the patronage of some very loyal and devoted clients and I appreciate them all for their faith and business. Like in any business there are people that you find that you are able to work with and some that you are not. For some clients it is about proving that they are smarter or superior to the dealers and buying from me would be a tacit admission that we are on a similar level so they do not. Every dealer can tell you stories of clients who have paid exorbitant prices at auctions for paintings that they have offered to sell the very same clients at a fractional cost.

I will never forget sitting next to an upper crust couple at a birthday party some years ago for one of the elites of San Francisco. They let me know that they were looking for a Hockney, one of my least favorite painters. It just so happened that I knew where to find one of his decent early paintings for a song, a little under 100k. They would barely speak to me the rest of the night, they wanted to spend at least a half a mill. I had insulted them.

Yesterday, I almost got pissy. A very, very wealthy woman who I have known for years came in and wanted to know what I had new in works by San Diego painters. I showed her some very lovely examples, a nice early Fries, an Espoy of Northern San Diego County. But I was half hearted, not wanting to give her the whole dog and pony show because she has never bought anything from me in the last 10 years I have known her and never will. I didn't want to waste a sales job on her that I could offer a real client who might actually have the intention of buying a painting some day. I know that I am cheap entertainment but I just didn't feel like dancing.

It is like Zeno's law where an arrow can never hit the mark because it has to go through an infinite number of half steps first. I decided to graciously spare myself the agony and not become a circus amusement act for her viewing pleasure. A client of a friend of mine, Dan, walked by the first day and I pretended not to notice him. He is the detestable gent who told me last year that none of my paintings would ever be good enough to fit in his artistic stable. Fine Dan, please engage in a reproductive act with yourself.

If at all possible I would rather remain poor and humble and not have to deal with these assholes. A woman came by with 10 minutes to go and saved my show yesterday. Bought a painting that another hondler had just tried to cut my price in half on, for full pop, because she liked it. Imagine that?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Robert Cray

Errata nongrata

A few days ago I was reading about the sad case of Mamdouh Hamamreh, the Palestinian journalist who was imprisoned and tortured for 50 days for putting an uncomplimentary picture of Palestinian PM Mahmoud Abbas on Facebook. When asked about the case and the status of press freedom in Palestine, Abbas spokesman Ghassan Khatib, said there is "lots of free speech" in the West Bank but special circumstances needed to be taken into account.

Something about the phrase "lots of free speech"(a quote I can no longer find in stories regarding the matter) struck me. We in America are so used to fairly unimpinged freedom of speech and expression that the idea of it doled out by the pound is foreign and absurd. "Lots" means zero in the final analysis, as does anything less than total.

We are very lucky. In many countries like Russia or Venezuela, opposition news sources are routinely shut down and it is literally open season on journalists. We live in a land where people have the freedom and opportunity to pretty much read and write what they choose to. Thank the deity of your choice.

Of course, the privilege of a free press is oft abused and that very same freedom can become dangerously manipulated by certain individuals. Glenn Beck found an obscure tract written in 1966 by the political sociologist Frances Piven and anointed her the new devil incarnate. Now she is getting multiple  death threats. When she gets whacked he can throw his hands up and disavow any responsibility.

We got it pretty good here. The only really scary trends are the new laws in places like Tennessee and Arizona that restrict the teaching of hispanic studies or curriculum that in any way casts white christian males in a negative light.

Of course freedom of the press in not absolute. You can't yell fire in a crowded theater and you can not slander and defame without corroborative evidence. And you should not be able to steal or receive American diplomatic cables and publish them without suffering serious consequences.

Wikileaks leaking of confidential information is putting Zimbabwean opposition figure Morgan Tsvangirai on the hot seat, he is now accused of treason, a charge that could lead to a death sentence.

***

The show in Del Mar is pretty soft and I still feel horrible. This is the last day. Perhaps something will still happen. Went with Tracy and Stanley to a neighborhood joint that must stay anonymous because it is already too damn crowded. I had a great osso buco and a wonderful time with my two friends. Hope that I did not give them my respiratory disease.

Last night I went to McDonalds and had my favorite extruded poultry dish, a 20 piece box of McNuggets with the hot mustard sauce .

All of the staff were scrunching their jaws like they were on a bad batch of methamphetamine. They give you two ten piece boxes of the crunchy chlorine rinsed poultry byproduct and I hit the wall at 14 pieces but took a breath and kept powering through like a trooper. $4.99. I treated myself to an orange juice as well for $1.89 which was not bad until I got to the very bottom and was left with a heavy syrup.

To think that pink hydrogenated chicken squeezuns could transform itself into so much yummy goodness! On a par with Jack in the Box tacos as holy fast food sacraments.

A black guy with long dreads was at the next table feverishly reading his bible. A cholo with gang tattoos on his neck was on the other side with his wife and two children. Well behaved kids. I had thought about having a big mac as well, one of my favorite fast food burgers but could not seal the deal as I was already out over $7.00 with tax.


***

Went to the Cat show this morning being held in the next building. Always a good time. Purr.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pamplemousse Grille

Well it's that time again, San Diego Restaurant WeekA time when us poor shlubs from the provinces can dine at the fancy uptown joints and get a fix on how the other half eats and drinks. Sample price fixe tasting menus for $20.00, $30.00 and $40.00 per person at 181 or so different restaurants around the county. And as faithful readers may remember, hopefully the meal would not be an unmitigated disaster like last year's fiasco. And to our relief, nobody blew cigar smoke in our face all night.


I am working at the Del Mar Antique Show this weekend, just around the block at the fair and made reservations for my wife and Reneé to join me at Pamplemousse after work. Reneé had eaten there before as had many of my friends but Leslie and I had not.
I have been fighting the crud all week, major respiratory problems, not the ideal time to assess food, especially when the sense of smell is partially compromised. But like a hurt gamer in the fourth quarter, your faithful author sucked it up and ate like the professional that he is. Can't let down the team, you know.


I got there a bit before my female companions and asked the host if it would be okay to snap a picture or two of the food. They quickly assented and really couldn't have been nicer. The staff was top notch all night, from our server, Kris to the people busing the table. A casual spot, I arrived in jeans and sneakers and never felt overly concerned about my rather shoddy appearance.


It is a pleasant enough place, not overdone like so many of it's peers these days, The Market or the Prado being two examples that immediately come to mind. The only embellishments are the far out and extremely well done paintings of horses and bikers and Jeffrey Strauss, the owner's, report cards from elementary school in New Jersey. Strauss and his brother owned a race horse that was really in the money a few years ago. Strauss was sitting at the bar and I circumnavigated the large fellow on my way to the john.


We got the menu and the voluminous wine list. Fred Schrader's special potion at only $650 per bottle. Kistler, all the fabboo expensive stuff that I could never afford. I could see that I would be drinking tea tonight, especially feeling as crappy as I do.


They had a bunch of other off the menu add ons and substitutions that all sounded wonderful but we went in wanting to keep the price down and laid off. A veal chop. A cowboy bone in sirloin. Lobster brioche grilled cheese. We ended up getting so much food that I could hardly finish the dinner I did order and I for one am really glad that we passed.


Leslie ordered a mojito. It turns out that they were out of fresh mint. They went out and got some, don't ask me how. Leslie said it was absolutely delicious.



I ordered the tomato fennel soup, the braised short rib and the pear tarte tatin. Leslie dined on lobster ravioli along with the kobe burger with truffle cheese, truffle mayo and truffle parmesan fries. Dark Chocolate Bombe for dessert. Reneé sampled truffled gnocchi, petrale soul with porcini, and the caramel chocolate cake.



The meal was great. I have been so down on so many local restaurants lately that it was nice to find one that exceeded our expectations. My tomato fennel soup was delicious and just what the doctor ordered. I found that the tomato overwhelmed the crab wonton but it may have been me and my nose. The wonton was hard to find anyway, a rather small and innocuous affair swimming at the bottom of the bowl.  But the wait staff brought out a giant fresh black truffle and liberally hit everything we desired with the luscious shavings. And we wanted a lot. On pretty much everything.


Our server was very kind and generous and brought us a big order of truffle fries for the table. She has been at Pamplemousse since it opened, 14 years ago. The truffle fries were great, not with as much garlic as the dearly departed Laurel, the place that I consider set the gold standard for truffle fries but scrumptious none the less.
Leslie said that every bite of her lobster ravioli was delicious and Reneé felt the same about her fare. Our entree's were equally fantastic. I had been worried about my short rib being puny but it was more than I could eat. More tender then you can believe, just falling off the bone.

Leslie said that her burger was the perfect burger. It needed nothing. Cooked to perfection, perfect bun. Reneé had a bite and said that it was the burger of her dreams. We used to dream about sex, now we dream about food.




We sample each others bites all night as is our habit and everything was top shelf. Desserts were absolutely marvelous. Everyone thought that they had ordered the best dessert but the reality is that I did. The tarte tatin was sublime. 














As I have said before, some of the restaurants that are involved in this promotion have the wrong attitude. One owner once told me that he wasn't going out of his way for some "joe sixpacks" that wouldn't return for a year. We never got the feeling at Pamplemousse that we were anything but first class citizens and were treated to first class service and food. Great food, not silly pretentious food like Addison. And so, we will be back. And hopefully soon.

Pampelmousse Grille
514 Via de la Valle Ste 100 Solana Beach, CA 92075 
(858) 792-9090



Checking in.

I am fighting some dreaded disease, obviously dying. Asthma, heart, blah, blah, blah. Setting up at Del Mar, Antique Show this weekend. If I feel better, have reservations at Pampelmousse, San Diego Restaurant Week deals this week.

I like to write about food because it is a break from politics, which is way worn out and sickens me. But I have to hear from all the proletariat about my pate eating ways so maybe I will just write about Aztecs basketball instead.

You probably won't hear from me until the beginning of the week or the BYU game, unless I get some damn epiphany.

Best,

Robert

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Mose Allison

Cetacean Watch

Blast comrade and coffee companion Wild Bill went out whale watching on tuesday for his wife's birthday and snapped this picture of a breaching gray whale.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Denis Kelly - Pacific Grilling



Long time friend of the Blue Heron Blast and noted chef and cookbook author Denis Kelly giving a grilling demonstration on Youtube and celebrates the publication of his newest book, Pacific Grilling.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Susan Boyle







Perfect Day



Yesterday was a perfect day. While much of the country is under snow and storm, we are basking here in San Diego in 70 to 80 degree weather. Although the Santa Ana winds are playing havoc with allergy sufferers' sinus's, it is nothing short of glorious in these parts. Sunsets have been gorgeous all week. No worries, as they say in the islands.


A bunch of us Fallbrook foodie friends met yesterday morning at Jasmine for Dim Sum, the number diminishing at the last minute because of various member's ailments or family situations. It is hard to beat dim sum for a gluttonous food orgy for the money you spend. We all jumped into our various cars and made our way to San Diego for the mass feeding frenzy.



The cavernous Jasmine was packed as usual and we went right to work, ordering a steamed fish in garlic and ginger and a Peking duck for the table. They brought our prospective entree out in a tub for inspection and it looked like a happy, tasty rocky cod so we said go ahead and cook her up!

Dim Sum is tricky, especially with a big table because the food is coming so fast at you from so many directions, sometimes it is hard to pace yourselves and say no. Too easy to get filled up. We were like voracious termites, gnashing our way through trays and trays of every manner of crustacean, fowl and sea creature, Superb roast pork. Broccoli. Calamari. Turnip cakes. Eggplant. Barbecued duck. (We really like duck!)



We forego the won ton soup and some of the usual delicacies we get at Jasmine (spare ribs, duck rolls, lotus wrapped rice) because we were in such a mass consumption mode right off the bat. Every dim sum meal is going to be different because of the luck of the draw. But we had no complaints. We pillaged and conquered and did Fallbrook proud.


Carmen ate the fish eyeballs, which she said were a bit firm. She was welcome to them. It was her husband Michael's birthday and it was nice that they could join us.


We sat there engorged in a bacchanalian stupor, like some roman liege from Caligula. I wanted to ask for a feather. Everybody was stuffed to the limit when I forced my lunch compatriots to eat one more thing, the sesame balls stuffed with bean paste, in order to have a final sweetness in our collective palette's. They all agreed that it was a good thing, after a bit of muted protest.


The final bill was about $25.00 a head, which is really nothing when you consider the peking duck and the steamed fish, which are twenty bucks a pop. For the money, you just can not beat it. The great french food god Escoffier reportedly got his greatest inspiration from chinese cooking, a cuisine that had over one thousand ways to cook an egg and an appreciation for texture not rivaled in any other school of cooking.

***


After brunch we ventured down to the harbor where our companions took us out on their boat for an afternoon of whale watching. The ocean was calm and the sky was clear. The gray whales were traveling south from their northern haunts and were positioned about two miles out.






We saw quite a few of the magnificent leviathans. I lay on the front of the boat and just soaked up the rays and the enormity of our perfect day. Great friends and great food. We spent about three or four hours out, unfortunately with more delicious food and champagne. A major cheese and fruit tray and cheesecake and blackberries for dessert. That after the holidays' diet has obviously yet to occur.





Sailboats darted in and around the giant cetaceans. D, our host and a marine biologist, explained the particular feeding methods of the gray whale, who will clean the plankton off a boat anchor line like dental floss and tilt his or her head to the side to strain a nutritious meal out of the seabroth.




Coming back in, we were treated to an epic sunset and lovely views of the metallic San Diego skyline shimmering in the distance. Thank you all, for making this one happen. (p.s. none of these photos have been photoshopped or supersaturated, this stuff is out of the can...)