Towse: views from the hill

January 30, 2006

Wot’s a pisco sour?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 7:29 pm

“Wot’s a pisco sour?” Paula asks in the comment stream.

Funny you should ask.

The Pisco Sour is Peru’s traditional drink, a brandy-based cocktail. I found out just yesterday (from an article in the Chronicle’s Travel Section on Lima) that February 5th is National Pisco Sour Day!

Pisco is a Peruvian brandy that dates back to the Conquistadores. There’s a bunch of history behind why it’s called Pisco.

Pisco Sours are not created equal. The best Pisco Sours we had in Peru were at a restaurant/bar in Lima (the first Pisco Sour I’d ever had) and at a lodge on the Amazon where we stayed for a while. The ones in between and after were never to write home about until we ate at Destino the other day for lunch.

Basically, the recipe is, whip up an egg white in a blender until the egg white is frothy.

Add half a glass of crushed ice
3oz. Pisco
1 1/2oz. simple syrup (or superfine sugar to taste)
2oz. lime juice (or lemon in a pinch).

Bzzzz it up until the crushed ice has melted into the drink. Pour into a couple glasses and dribble Angostura bitters on top, or, as Destino does, sprinkle nutmeg on top.

The closest thing to it would be a batida or caipirinha.

I’ve never made one myself. I’d forgotten how good they are, but maybe it’s better not to know how easy they’d be to make. At $7.50/ea at Destino, my intake will be limited by my parsimoniousness.

Have to keep an eye out for Pisco in the liquor stores.

January 28, 2006

Best buy (so far) this month at a Santa Clara County Goodwill

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 4:14 am

First edition. Dust Jacket.
BE COOL by Elmore Leonard


… signed.

Best buy last month at a Santa Clara County Goodwill was this which I found with a wonderful frame/mat job and bought for less than ten dollars for my sister-in-law for her bday.

I searched the Web so I could let her know something about the artist and gave the limited edition signed print to her even =after= finding out how much it was worth … because she deserves it and I thought it was perfect for her.

When I gave it to her, I told her if she didn’t love it as much as I thought she would, she was free to sell it and go off on Hawaiian vacation instead.

The house that Carmel built … and Destino

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 2:10 am

We took the F-Line a week ago yesterday to have lunch (and what turns out to be perhaps the best pisco sours in the City) at Destino at 1815 Market (at Guerrero).

We left home earlier than we needed to so we could have time to check out the house that Carmel built, The Fallon House at 1800 Market St, across the street from Destino.

The Fallon House was named for Carmel Fallon, his nibs’ grandmother’s grandmother. The family history is all there on the site — the spinster rich girl who married the dashing adventurer and wound up whacking him over the head (with what is sometimes called a fireplace tool, sometimes called a lead pipe) when she found him in “a compromising position” with the housekeeper some twenty-seven years into the marriage.

Carmel left San Jose with her children in tow and resettled in San Francisco, where she was a business woman and landlord.

Appropriately enough, considering our older son’s gay, Carmel’s house is now the home of San Francisco’s LGBT Community Center. We need to support both the house and the center.

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And Destino?

January is Dine About Town month here in San Francisco. The San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau rounds up a list of restaurants that offer special tasting dinners and lunches for a fixed price ($21.95/lunch; $31.95/dinner). Sometimes these deals are more or less what you would get anyway. Sometimes these deals are real deals.

The idea is to get people into the restaurants during the usually slow month of January and to give all us folks braving the rain an opportunity to try some restaurants that we haven’t tried before at a perhaps real deal.

Oh, and I mustn’t forget Visa. You’re supposed to pay with your Visa card in order to get the deal. I don’t know what Visa tosses into the mix, maybe the money to pull the restaurant compilation together and advertise the event.

1815 Market St.
San Francisco, CA 94103
phone: 415.552.4451

The Best Pisco Sours I’ve had since I came back from Peru and better than many of the ones I had in Peru.

And yummy food.

At Destino, their Dine About Town menu (for dinner) was identical to their DAT menu for lunch. $10 difference in price! $20 if there are two of you! We saved $20 by coming for lunch!

Of course the Destino pisco sours are $7.50/each …

The restaurant is narrow and deep, and warm. The walls are a burnt orange and a perfect setting for the art on the walls: Spiritual Altars by Michael Oliver — intriguing deep shadow boxes of different woods and sizes that frame collections of religious iconage, Madonnas and Jesus on the cross and a bit of this and a bit of that. The works reminded me of the home altars we came across in the hinterlands (and not so hinterlands) of Peru.

Our personable hostess started us off with banana chips/strips with a haunting minty sauce and our first round of pisco sours.

For the appetizer course, I had the Ceviche a la Peruana — sea bass, red onions, cilantro and cancha (toasted corn bits that added an interesting crunch). The combination of the soft/tart ceviche with the crunch corn was tasty. The cancha was a great touch that took the ceviche just a step further than ceviche usually goes.

His nibs had the chile relleno, a poblano chile stuffed with ground sirloin and shredded sharp cheddar, topped with a roasted chipotle salsa and creme fraiche. Both appetizers were well worth repeating.

We both order the salmon for our main dish, which the restaurant describes as Panela Marinated King Salmon with Squash-Goat Cheese Puree, Sauteed Spinach, Medjool Dates. I can’t swear to the Medjool dates. The salmon arrived on top of the squash puree. The spinach was to the side. The dish was tasty. I wished I’d tried something else off the menu so we could see whether we were just being lucky or whether everything was really just that good.

For dessert, his nibs had the “Dulce de Leche” Pumpkin Pudding Cake with Pepitas Crunch and Tequila-Cajeta Sauce. Delicious. I had the Aztec “Xocoatle” Flan which came served on a piece of Peruvian Cacao-Nib Shortbread. Um. Here for the first time was something I wouldn’t order again. Even if the shortbread was made with cacao, I expected it to be shorter, more buttery, even, dare I say it, not so bitter. The cookie was flat, uninteresting and too there. The “Xocoatle” flan was okay, but not something I’d rave about to friends. I probably would’ve been better off ordering the Pear-Ginger sorbet with Malbec granita.

After lunch, we hopped the F-Line back home, stopping off at the Asian Art Museum to check out the current show.

After checking out the show, and before we were tossed out of the museum, we took the trolley, got off near Pier 23, and toddled up the stairs to home, where I promptly fell to nap in one of the living room chairs.

Idea for the Food Editor over at the Chronicle

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 1:21 am

Here’s an idea for Miriam Morgan, the Food Editor over at the Chronicle.

I think Michael Bauer should be assigned to work as wait staff for a week and write about the experience — the good, the bad, the ugly, and what he’s learned about what makes a restaurant work (and how hard it is to make it work) from the exercise.

Have the restaurants he’s critiqued for the past year join forces and vote as to which restaurant he gets to work for.

Had an interesting time last Wednesday evening. We walked over to the Ferry Building for a Commonwealth Club Forum. The forum was a panel discussion of the restaurant biz with

PHILLIP ANDRADE, Owner, Goat Hill Pizza
DOUG BIEDERBECK, Owner, Bix, Florio, MarketBar
ROB GOLDBERG, CEO, Plump Jack Group
SUZETTE GRESHAM, Chef/Owner, Acquerello Restaurant
ED LEVINE, Partner, Left Bank Restaurant Group

moderated by KEVIN WESTLYE, Executive Director, Golden Gate Restaurant Association

No one said nasties about Bauer — would they dare? — during the forum but there was some mention that reviews can’t make or break a restaurant in a town with three thousand restaurants, that word of mouth was more important than a review in the paper, that if you’ve been open for a year or two and are still relying on reviews to drive traffic, you have problems.

Seems to me that it might’ve been Rob Goldberg making some of those comments. Hm.

Frankly, I think most people who eat at the restaurants Bauer reviews and who have seen the sideways shove that he sometimes gives restaurants that haven’t sprinkled rose petals in his path take Bauer with a grain of salt. We’ve been known to eat at restaurants specifically because Bauer snubbed them in a review.

The panel discussion was interesting although I didn’t much care for Westlye’s moderation style. Given a question, he’d only ask one of the panelists to answer and then he’d move immediately on.

Several times another panelist would get the next question and say, ‘first, I’d like to make a comment on something he/she just said’ and would comment, then answer Westlye’s question.

One of the audience questions was “Where do you go to eat? What restaurants do you like that aren’t one of your own restaurants?”

Phillip Andrade answered The Balboa Cafe — one of Rob’s restaurants — and then Westlye went on to the next question.


But no. It was not to be. …

I came away knowing that I needed to get over to Goat Hill Pizza and Acquarello. Both Phillip Andrade and Suzette Gresham seemed like great people, passionate about their work and their community.

Did I mention that James Ormsby, who quit a while back as executive chef for the Plump Jack Group, has a new job?

According to the foodie scuttlebutt column in the Chronicle this week,

Ormsby has been hired as a private chef in an undisclosed home, with a view “like the Gettys’,” he says, cooking for a family of four.

“It really worked out great,” says Ormsby. “They want someone who can cook healthy food most days, but be able to entertain on a French Laundry level for guests.”

Must be nice to have Ormsby cooking in the kitchen. I’d probably wind up like Christina Onassis though.

January 25, 2006

Kathleen Davey’s progress

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 9:18 pm

It’s been two very long years for the Davey family. There’s a click over there in the lefthand sidebar to the site that tells the story.

I have Kathleen’s daily update on my bloglines list. When several days go by without Mike writing some quick note on how she’s doing, I worry.

I think about them often, about Kathleen who seems to improve millimeter by millimeter and then falls back and starts all over, only not all over because she’s not back at the beginning, about Mike who bears an unbearable load with far more grace than anyone would expect, about Samie and Rachie who are growing up in a household far different than Kathleen and Mike envisioned two years ago, about the family that was so happy together, playing in the sand.

I picture them at the beach on a better day when the girls were younger. I hope for beach days in the future.

Mike wrote about the two-year anniversary yesterday. People added comments. One comment was pretty hateful, I thought. I hope the community that gathers the Daveys close are more than enough to blot out the ugliness that sometimes rears its head.

Today, as with most days, I hope for a miracle. If not a miracle, more of those millimeter by millimeter steps and for the day Kathleen can hug her children back.

Best thoughts from here to there.

[WRITING] Victoria Strauss — What Real Agents Don’t Do

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 9:08 pm

Latest from the Writer Beware blog and the Victoria Strauss half of the dynamic duo of Strauss and Ann Crispin:

               What Real Agents Don’t Do


Since Ann has so thoroughly covered what real agents do, I’m going to spend a little time on some things that real agents DON’T do–practices and procedures that, if you encounter them, should make you very, very wary. Ann’s already mentioned some of what follows, but I thought it’d be helpful to have it all listed in one place. Note that these aren’t necessarily signs of a scam–they may just indicate that the agent doesn’t know what he or she is doing. Inexpert agents are often sincere and well-intentioned, but their low level of expertise means that they aren’t any more likely to place a book than a dishonest agent. So scammer or incompetent, the bottom line for writers is the same: no sale.


January 24, 2006

[WRITING] Should Authors Audit Their Royalty Accounts? Interview with Gail R. Gross

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 1:18 am

The Writing Show had an interview with Gail R. Gross, Chief Operating Officer of R & M Royalty Review, LLC, of New York City last September covering the subject Should Authors Audit Their Royalty Accounts?

Not surprisingly, Gross says, “Yes!” and she gives the reasons why, with stories to back them up.

R & M Royalty Review, LLC, handles royalty reviews on a contingency basis. You don’t pay unless they find that the publisher owes you money, at which point you pay a percentage of the moneys they find for you.

Sound like a deal? More than you know. Gross says that most NY publishing contracts with audit clauses (allowing the author or the author’s agents to audit the publishing companies royalty statements and payments) have audit windows covering six years. Anything you find going six years back is up for payment.

Gross tells the story of the royalty account audit that paid off big time: over $900,000 over the six year period. Big bux, eh? Unfortunately, the problem (a contract clause that hadn’t been tracked by the royalty system) had gone on for far longer than six years. The losses were far more than $900,000, but those losses that were over six years old couldn’t be recovered.

Do you need your royalty accounts reviewed? How often? If R & M Royalty Review, LLC, works on a contingency basis, and you wouldn’t find the errors on your own, how could it hurt you to have them check things over every few years?

[via a Google hunt triggered by Miss Snark and a post on royalty reviews and the companies that do them]

January 20, 2006

Nan Talese. James Frey. Getting on these days?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 11:18 pm

In an article in the New York Observer, Nan Talese, James Frey’s publisher, disputes Frey’s claim on Larry King Live. Frey said:

We initially shopped the book as a novel, and it was turned down by a lot of publishers as a novel or as a nonfiction book. When Nan Talese purchased the book, I’m not sure if they knew what they were going to publish it as. We talked about what to publish it as. And they thought the best thing to do was publish it as a memoir.

Sheelah Kolhatkar writes in NYO, “When the manuscript of A Million Little Pieces was received by us at Doubleday, it was received as nonfiction, as a memoir,” said Ms. Talese by phone. “Throughout the whole process of publication, it had always been a memoir, and for the first year and a half it was on sale, it was always a memoir with no disputation. It was never once discussed as fiction by me or anyone in my office.”

Don’t know if I’d want to be either James Frey or his literary agent, Kassie Evashevski, should Nan Talese say she needed to talk with me in her office.

Grovelling might help.

[WRITING] How to be in the Right Place at the Right Time: How I Got Published

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 9:40 pm

How to be in the Right Place at the Right Time: How I Got Published by Katrina Kittle, Author of The Kindness of Strangers

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” — Thomas Edison

Once my first novel was published, I was astounded at the number of people who asked me for advice. I want to be helpful. Many people helped me along my way, so I give my advice with all sincerity.

People think I’m being flippant when I say, “Write the book. That’s my advice.”

But I mean it. That is how I got published.



Update: Swopped out the article link because it was turning up 404. This new link should hold.

January 19, 2006

Pots of Gold

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 7:28 am

Met some new neighbors today.

Our place was a wreck. I was sorting through books and magazines that had accumulated since before Thanksgiving. Piles here. Piles there.

His nibs was off to the local post office to mail the younger nib’s newly-repaired iPod back to Boston. … and to mail some other stuff.

I heard voices yakking down on the walk. Neighbors chatting. Not unusual. Then I heard his nibs’ voice. Next thing I knew his nibs was inviting neighbors up for a walk-through. Yikes!

Our neighbor two buildings down was leasing her space to new neighbors. They were signing papers today. She’d been doing a walk-around of the place and was in front of our front steps with “and this building …” explanation when his nibs came in.

We showed them the space.

Rainbows from the deck.

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