Towse: views from the hill

July 30, 2004

Curiosity killed the morning

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 5:17 pm

We have a weekend houseparty to gear up for. Wash to do. Beds to make. Food to prepare. The last minute cleanups. So what have I been doing this morning? Surfing. Poking around in the fascinating piece of the Web called

All calculations are based on records filed with the FEC of contributions by all individuals totalling more than $200 (and some totalling less than $200) to a single Republican or Democratic presidential campaign or national committee between January 1, 2003 and May 31, 2004.

Pop in your ZIP

Which neighbors are giving what to whom?

The Blums are supporting Kerry. Now there’s a big surprise. (Blum is married to Dianne Feinstein.)

Hey, there’s someone else. I didn’t know she lived in the city.

Oh, and hey, look at that attorney with Babcock & Brown. $2K to Bush and $1K to Kerry. Changed his mind? Wants his name on both lists?

One I found yesterday was puzzling. I’d popped in the name of a cousin’s deadbeat ex-husband and found someone with the same name who’d given $20K to the DNC. His occupation was listed as “deceased.” Interesting occupation, wot?

I popped the name and the ZIP into the Social Security Death Index. The guy died 09 Nov 2001 (requiescat in pace). This database runs from 01 Jan 2003. A bequest to the DNC?

I also find that there are absolutely no Towses in all of the USofA who have given to the campaigns covered by this database in the dollar amounts covered by this database, cheap sons of guns that we are.

There is someone with my stepdaughter’s name in Bethesda who gave $2K to the John Kerry campaign. No, my stepdaughter doesn’t live in Bethesda.


I discovered a nervous tic the other day. Help me keep track of the number of times I start a sentence with “so,” I’m trying to break myself of the habit.


On tap for this weekend’s house party, if all agree, are as follows:

(1) Dinner at Fior d’Italia tonight. Fior d’Italia is not my most cherished place to eat, but the chicken livers are delish and when you have a large-ish party and you don’t know how far people want to walk and you have some members who are used to a low-fat, vegetarian diet and it’s Friday night on a weekend that includes the North Beach Jazz Festival, you need to find a restaurant close by with large rooms that has a wide selection on their menu and takes reservations. Fior d’Italia (“the nation’s oldest Italian restaurant”) it is.

(2) Down the Filbert Steps and south on the Embarcadero Saturday morning to the Farmers’ Market in the Ferry Building and a visit to the Book Passage branch at the Ferry Building.

(3) XOX Truffles, preceded by a walk through North Beach and Washington Square Park, which should be just a mess of people because of the Jazz Festival.

(4) An Exploratorium excursion per request from one of the participants

(5) Salmon grilled on the deck for dinner Saturday night. Salad. Macadamia nut brownies. Dinner at home to avoid the aforementioned messes of people in North Beach. Free jazz brings out thousands.

(6) whatever else we can think to do …

… but right now, I need to hem some chair covers, bake some meatloaf for sandwich makings, prep some food, and stop messing ’round on the Web.

July 29, 2004

Dear Ken

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 6:21 pm

Remember my entry regarding Mary Beth Cahill’s Dear Ken letter? Someone from stopped by to take a peek at it this morning.

July 28, 2004

[FOOD] Foodies on the Web

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 8:09 pm

Those who actually check out bloggers’ blogrolls may have noticed that mine keep growing and this week gained a few links prefaced by [FB].


Well, zat means the link is to a foodie blog, one of the foodie sorts of things I covered in the column I just sent off to Computer Bits. That column was triggered by the angst I’m feeling as I box up books (and books and more books) — more specifically, the angst I’m feeling about boxing up my cookbooks. The book boxing is happening now so we can get the free-standing bookcases out of the way and show off the size of the rooms when we put the house on the market. All the bookcases, except for the built-ins, are headed over to join the other books and bookcases in the warehouse until we get the movers in.

All the cookbooks have been boxed, except for about three-feet worth. The books remaining will be kept in the built-ins down here until we make the final skedaddle up to Telegraph Hill. I am missing my boxed cookbooks already.

Paul and Ellyn were up for a BBQ on the deck a couple weekends ago and I was whining about boxing up the cookbooks, all forty or fifty boxes (or more) of them. Ellyn asked, “But really. How many cookbooks do you need?” What can I answer to something like that?

Cookbooks aren’t just something for checking out a recipe for mu-shu pork or Char Siu Bao or gingersnaps. No, when I need a recipe, it’s usually not a specific cookbook I head for. I pull out five cookbooks and find five recipes and mix them up, or I go to the Web and do something similar with Google.

Cookbooks are for dreaming over, for sitting curled up in a chair with a breeze coming in off the Bay with a pad of sticky notes, marking pages with possibilities for future dishes or snacks or desserts.

I only have three feet of shelf space for cookbooks at the place on Telegraph Hill. The rest of the cookbooks will be stashed in bookcases at the loft annex and I’ll need to dash down and retrieve them if I suddenly realize I need one of Madhur Jaffrey’s recipes or something out of Moosewood.

With most of my cookbooks elsewhere, I’ll be depending on the Web for my foodie fix. Aha! a subject worthy of a column.

I sorted through an enormous number of sites and blogs to come up with the ones I mention in the column. There were many, many more I didn’t have space for.

Ready for a whirlwind tour? Starting from my links over there –>

Chocolate & Zucchini from Clotilde Dusolier in Montmarte. Clotilde turned 25 yesterday, as you might’ve noticed. She writes deliciously about food, cookbooks, shopping at the markets, travel, restaurants and yet more food.

I mentioned 101 Cookbooks here the other day. The theme behind Heidi Swanson’s blog is “exploring my collection of cookbooks, one recipe at a time.” Recipes, musings, market shopping and the weather in the City by the Bay. But only 101 cookbooks?!?!! Oh. My.

chez pim, an occasional chronicle of intemperate pedantry. I came across Pim in eGullet‘s forums. Pim writes about food and restaurants and travel and food and books she’s reading and food. I especially liked reading about her visit to Manresa. We’d eaten at Manresa when it first opened because I loved David Kinch’s food at Sent Sovi and Manresa was just a little bit further in the other direction. Three miles away maybe?

Perhaps it was opening jitters, but even though Aimee was there keeping a handle on the front room, the experience fell flat for the price. It seemed Kinch was trying too hard to impress with original, over the top creations. Pim’s (and Liz’s) hearty cheers for their Manresa experience convinced me we need to go back, now that the dust has settled, and see how it is — maybe for my birthday next month.

My latest supper — modern italian home cooking — and more — from the south east of england is not just about cooking, as the title explains. Where else could I find out that Bertolli olive oil is owned by Unilever?


My column mentions Chocolate & Zucchini and 101 Cookbooks but not the others. Other sites the column doesn’t mention, but which deserve mention somewhere, are

the daily bread – also from the other side of the pond.

a spoonful of sugar – recipes galore. Angela sorts everything into categories: “dinner is served” “low fat” “soup” and such.

Mikiko Itoh’s I was really just very hungry recently shared a recipe for zucchini basil muffins. Have I mentioned that I like reading recipes?

Deb’s In My Kitchen is a chatty blog with recipes and discussions about cookbooks and food.

… and last but not least (not because I’ve run out of links but because I could go on for days), is the Domestic Goddess – devoted to the art of food and its preparation – with scrumptious food descriptions and recipes.

Interview with Breslin

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 6:59 pm

Poynter has an interview with Breslin who is in Boston covering the DNC, about the DNC and other topics.

Most surprising?

He sounds depressed — but not surprised — that newspaper readership continues to drop. He said today’s newspapers — even tabloids — lack sufficient anger and humor to engage and hang onto readers.

He’s not just talking about young readers, noting that his own favorite source of news these days is “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

Jon Stewart? Hope somebody gives Stewart a heads-up.

Strothman Agency

Filed under: writing,writing-market — Towse @ 5:39 pm

Wendy Strothman, formerly with Houghton Mifflin and, before that, head of Beacon Press, has her agent shingle hung out in Boston. How do I know? Because someone (not me) in this household gets a copy of the Brown Alumni Magazine and was reading bits of the magazine to me over dinner last night. Strothman was Brown, class of 1972.

Strothman left HM in June 2002 to agent. She works with affiliate agent John Ryden and Dan O’Connell as senior publicity director. According to Publishers Weekly, the agency “specializes in narrative nonfiction — memoir, history, science and nature — and selected fiction.”

Have something along those lines?

The Strothman Agency
1 Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Third Floor
Boston, MA 02109

Update: More information on Wendy Strothman and the Strothman Agency

Update: “The Strothman Agency is moving. As of July 28th, [2008] we will be located at 6 Beacon Street, Suite 810, Boston, MA 02108. This will also be our new mailing address.”

[FOOD] Olive Garden

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 4:17 pm

An article in USA Today (12/17/00) is titled Italian expert turns nose up at fare.

The article begins

Italian cooking expert Marcella Hazan, whose books have sold more than 1 million copies worldwide, accepted USA TODAY’s invitation to a meal at Olive Garden. She was joined by her husband, Victor, an expert on Italian wine and food. The idea: to gauge the company’s claim of offering “a genuine Italian dining experience.”

SARASOTA, Fla. — What’s wrong with Italian cooking in America?

Too much garlic, too little salt and much of what’s on the menu at Olive Garden, says Marcella Hazan.


The article goes on to detail Hazan’s comments on the soup, the pasta, the entrees.

I’ve eaten at an Olive Garden … once. The only reason I’d return would be for a retirement lunch or similar event where the organizers wanted a restaurant with a menu most people could choose from that could put warm food in front of a number of people quickly.

Not only is PJ back …

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 2:54 am

but she seems to have paddled Kos’ canoe as well. I’ve added him to the barely baked list to the left of your screen.


So hard to get people updating their blogs as often as you’d like.

Update: Removed the link to Kos’ blog. I need at least a bit of reinforcement to click through a link — a new post once a month isn’t too much to ask, is it? Took Mule’s link off as well.

July 27, 2004

[FOOD] Phillip Innes doesn’t think much of Michael Bauer

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 11:52 pm

Phillip Innes doesn’t think much of Michael Bauer and he tells you why in this Critical Analysis of Bay Area restaurant critics from SLAMMED magazine — the Voice of Restaurant People.

Tired of second-rate restaurant reviewers writing snarky reviews of decent restaurants, Innes decided to turn the tables and review the restaurant reviewers. Herewith, his review of the reviewers by the Bay.

Hoo boy and boy howdy.

Clotilde Dusoulier turns 25 today.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 7:58 pm

Happy birthday! and thank you for Chocolate & Zucchini

Geoffrey K. Pullum gives us the sixteen first rules of fiction

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 7:08 pm

In Language Log, Geoffrey K. Pullum gives us the sixteen first rules of fiction, which he found by searching for “the first rule of fiction” and rounding up the results, with links to a site that mentions each rule.

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