Mad Housewife Chardonnay

January 28, 2012

Kathryn isn’t exactly a haus frau, not with all the lawyers she must deal with daily.

Probably more of a comment on her husband.  A good friend offered this gift a while back:

Mad Housewife Chardonnay - IMGP2636 Photo by Ed Darrell, Creative Commons license

Mad Housewife Chardonnay - Photo by Ed Darrell, Creative Commons license

We laughed.  Then we found, in the box, an accompanying chardonnay glass:

Change du Life wine glass - IMGP2637 Photo by Ed Darrell, Creative Commons

Change of Life wine glass

“Hot with complex characteristics.”  Still hot after all these years (that many? really?).

Drinking it poses a conundrum:  A Trophy Wife ™ really should be taken out on an occasion to drink a wine with a name like that, right?  But I’m stingy enough not to want to pay the corkage on a bottle brought in.  In no case should this one be drunk with a dinner she’s slaved over for hours.

Maybe it’s time I hit the kitchen.  Old Bay crab cakes, maybe?  It’s a great wine.

Literary mushrooms in Rockport, Maine

October 20, 2010

Greg Marley’s new book on mushrooms is out, and there is a launch party set for October 30, in Rockport, Maine.

Can you be there?

Greg’s book party:

Book Release Party and Mushroom Talk

Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares, by Greg Marley
Cover of Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares, by Greg Marley

Saturday, October 30 from 4-6:00 pm
at Farmers Fare on Route 90 in Rockport [Maine]
Light refreshments served and beverages available

Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares: The Love, Lore and Mystique of Mushrooms

Welcome a new book by Greg Marley, celebrating the wonder and mystery of mushrooms. Enjoy a readable, captivating and informative collection of great mushroom stories. From world-class edibles (with recipes) to the most deadly, learn about the mushrooms in your neighborhood and how to invite them into your life, or even how to grow your own.


Hey, if you’re in the neighborhood, drop in.

Watermelon salad, blueberry bock pie

September 14, 2010

It was a benefit for the Arlington Master Chorale (Kathryn’s group); it sure turned pleasant to discover that Olenjack’s, at Lincoln Square in Arlington, Texas, has some stunning things on its menu.

Kathryn swears by the watermelon and onion salad, crisp, sweet watermelon and sweet onions with greens and a great dressing.

For dessert I took the blueberry bock pie.  The one slice must have contained (barely) a pint of fresh blueberries.  The crust complemented the blueberries perfectly, crisp and exploding at the fork.  The bock?  It’s made with bock beer, Shiner Bock.  I suspect chef Brian Olenjack reduces sugar considerably to add the beer, then probably simmers it down.  As a result, it’s the sweetness of the blueberries one gets, and not a sugary, syrupy, sweet goo.  With hints of nutmeg, it’s a wonderful concoction.

At $4, it’s one of the best pie buys in Texas right now.

Kathryn took a bowl of cinnamon ice cream, another steal at $2.

Blueberry bock pie and cinnamon ice cream, together?

(Also:  I stuck with appetizers — the lamb lollipops will make lamb lovers, also love Olenjacks.)

We’ll be back.  Rumor is the fruit pie changes ever few days.  There’s a strawberry rhubarb in the mix.


18 mushroom hunters dead — don’t jump to conclusions

August 30, 2010

What would kill 18 mushroom hunters in Europe?

Reuters gives the scary headline:

Mushroom hunter “massacre” claims 18 lives in Italy

MILAN | Mon Aug 30, 2010 12:52pm EDT

MILAN (Reuters) – At least 18 mushroom-lovers have been killed in accidents while hunting for their favorite fungi in the mountains and forests of northern Italy.

Mountain rescuers say eager mushroom seekers are abandoning safety procedures as they don camouflage and hunt in darkness to protect coveted troves, la Repubblica newspaper reported on Sunday.

“There is too much carelessness. Too many people don’t give a darn about the right rules and unfortunately this is the result,” Gino Comelli, head of the Alpine rescue service in northwest Italy’s Valle di Fassa, told the newspaper.

You may be a fan of the fungus yourself, or mycologically or botanically or culinarily inclined, and right now you’re thinking, “If these guys don’t know what the safe mushrooms look like, they shouldn’t be out in the woods.”  You’ve heard the stories of the mushroom experts who ate something they swore was safe, and of the lovely eulogies delivered a few days later.

But you’re leaping to conclusions.  Not so fast, Bunky.  Pay attention.

Yes, the death toll is astounding.  But it’s not mycological poisoning.

Seventeen people have died in nine days — six in 48 hours alone — mostly from sliding off steep, damp slopes in the northern mountains, la Repubblica said in a story headlined “the massacre of the mushroom hunters.”

Another person has been missing for more than a week, it said.

Ansa news agency said a man who had been hunting mushrooms was found dead on Sunday in the Alpine region of Valtellina.

A combination of August thunderstorms and hot weather has led to a bumper mushroom crop that has drawn the first hunters of what is expected to be a boom season.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

An Oklahoma or Pennsylvania deer hunt would be more analogous — it ain’t mushrooms that killed the mushroom hunters.  It’s just plain old being-careless-in-the-woods.


Black Forest Cafe and the “Too Fat Polka”

December 6, 2009

Foray to the Container Store a success, the question:  What to do about dinner?

Kathryn asked, “How about that little German joint in back of Half Price Books?”

The Black Forest Cafe and Bakery.  Legendary for its Black Forest Cake.  For years it had a small shop inside the “mother ship” of Half Price Books a half-block away.  Before Starbucks, in Dallas there was the Black Forest Cafe.

It’s really more like a delicatessan.  Out of the way.  A real hidden kitchen of Dallas.  A refuge for Germans and lovers of German meats, mustards, chocolates.

Not immune to kitsch, though.

We were surprised to find the place packed late on a Friday.  At a couple of tables, obviously a part.  A private function?  We found a table at the rear of the cafe.

And along the way we passed the guy in leiderhosen.  He carried a large, burgundy-colored accordion with a German-sounding name.

Soon after we got our seat, he stood up at a microphone in a corner of the place, said a few things and I heard “most popular song of 1957.”  Vic Damone on an accordian?  Frank Sinatra?  Buddy Holly?

“Too Fat Polka!”  Kathryn and I both laughed.  We knew it from Bob Wills’ repertoire, old cowboy movies.  In a crowd of mostly young Dallasites, we would be the only ones to recall it (1957?).

From the opening notes and especially through the chorus, the entire crowd sang along.

Who knew?

The Hungarian-spiced bratwursts exploded with flavor, and the mustard was perfect.

Note: No, it was 1947.  An Arthur Godfrey success, McGuire Sisters.   And anyone else who had a band and a recording contract in 1947.

Yeah, it’s ironic (hacked e-mails and global warming)

November 26, 2009

James’s Empty Blog:

It is hard to miss the irony in people eagerly poring through illegally-obtained private email, looking for ethical breaches by the writers! I’m sure we can all imagine the outrage if one of the emails revealed that a scientist had hacked into one of the sceptics’ computers and was reading all their correspondence. So a bit of perspective is called for here.

James Is A Scientist (IANAS), and he has much good stuff to say (read some of the other posts about the hacked e-mails while you’re there) — but you gotta wonder about a blog that follows such a post with this:

Prawns, Jules Berry

Prawns not in their native habitat. Probably Tastimus deliciousus

Tip of the old scrub brush to Stoat.

Bear facts

September 18, 2009

A grizzly mauled a sheepherder and killed some sheep and dogs, along the Upper Green River in Wyoming.

Ralph Maughn’s blog has a lively and informative discussion on the incident, and on bears and bear protection in general.

For all the hard work they do, North American sheepherders sure seem to me to get short shrift in U.S. markets.  When was the last time you could find anything but New Zealand lamb at your supermarket?  And I ask this from Texas, the largest sheep producing state in the U.S. (with very few grizzlies).

While you’re at Maughn’s blog, look at this piece of good news:  You don’t have to eat ‘em.

Best burger in the nation

September 6, 2009

Sophia Dembling wrote about it in today’s Dallas Morning News:  The Owl Burger, from the Owl Café — this one in San Antonio, New Mexico.

It’s the best burger in the world, I think.  It reminds me, and it’s a painful memory.

Back in better younger days, before I’d left American Airlines, Kathryn and I made one last run to Salt Lake City to retrieve the last of the stuff in storage.  It was a motley combination of stuff, mostly hers, that we couldn’t fit into our apartments on Capitol Hill in Washington, and then that we just didn’t need during law school.  The monthly storage bill finally got to be a burr after we’d settled in Dallas, and we had room for the stuff in the house.

We gave the kids a vacation with Grandma and Grandpa, flew to Salt Lake, rented a much-too-large truck (the smaller one we reserved wasn’t in), loaded up and headed out.

A drive from Salt Lake to Dallas can be dull as dishwater, but we worked to add some spice.  “Adventure in Moving,” the old U-Haul slogan ran — and one usually works to avoid such adventures at all costs.  But this was different.  This was planned adventure.  We took the Xtreme Scenic Route™, through Southwestern landscapes that squeeze the creationism out of the most fundamentalist Christians.

The first night we camped in Torrey, Utah, at the edge of Capitol Reef National Park.  Someone recommended a local Mexican restaurant in an old farmhouse, a place that was really top notch, as demonstrated by the autographed photo in thanks from Robert Redford behind the cash register.  Redford knows almost all of the great places to eat, and stop and look, in Utah and much of the Four Corners area (ask me about Redford and Dick Cavett in Farmington, New Mexico, sometime).  Great dinner in a great place.

(Can I remember the name of the restaurant more than 20 years later?  Not at all.  I could drive to it . . . if it’s still there.  Perhaps this is its successor.  If so, it’s gotten a lot fancier, and to me, less charming.  You don’t expect such fine dining in such a small town.)

Coyotes started to howl about 2:00 a.m.  We hadn’t bothered to pitch a tent, the weather being what it almost always is in Utah in the summer.  I don’t know how long I sat up, looked at the stars and listened to the coyotes all around the canyon, next to Kathryn as she slept.  It was one of those nights you remember for the rest of your life.

Coyotes sang til dawn.

Capitol Reef N.P. demands more than one night’s stay — we had both been there before, though, and our task was moving furniture.   From Torrey we drove through Capitol Reef and on to the Moqui Dugway, about an 1,100-foot drop down off the Mogollon Rim, on the way to Monument Valley.

Moqui Dugway, from the rim -- see the road at the bottom, in the middle of the picture

Moqui Dugway, from the rim -- see the road at the bottom, in the middle of the picture. The sign reads "Mokee Dugway Elev. 6,425 Ft. - 1,100 Ft Drop Next 3 Miles"

Remember, this was a big truck.  It was over 20 feet long, but just how much over I don’t remember.  I do remember that when we stopped at the overlook at the top, some guy on a Harley came over to ask if we were going to “try to drive down,” and when we said yes, he said he was betting we would make it, and he had some good money riding on it.  He wished us luck.

A note in the visitor center at Natural Bridges National Monument explains, now:



The Mokee Dugway is located on Utah Route 261 just north of Mexican Hat, UT. It was constructed in 1958 by Texas Zinc, a mining company, to transport uranium ore from the “Happy Jack” mine in Fry Canyon, UT. to the processing mill in Mexican Hat. The three miles of unpaved, but well graded, switchbacks descend 1100 feet from the top of Cedar Mesa (on which you are now standing). The State of Utah recommends that only vehicles less than 28 feet in length and 10,000 pounds in weight attempt to negotiate this steep (10% grade), narrow and winding road.

Here’s the Moqui Dugway (or Moki, depending on how much paint the sign maker has):

The Moqui Dugway -- no place for too-big trucks, or trailers - photo from Craig Holl at

The Moqui Dugway -- no place for too-big trucks, or trailers - photo from Craig Holl at

We waited until there was no traffic coming from the bottom for several miles, and started down.  About six switchbacks down we encountered a long, crew-cabbed duelly pickup towing about a 30-foot cabin cruiser boat.  Fortunately we found a wide spot so he could get by, though it took him what seemed like a half-hour to make one turn in the road, and I swear he had wheels spinning in air at one point.

If the motorcycleman did indeed wager on us, he won.

The Mittens, sandstone formations in Monument Valley, Navajoland - photo from Richard P. Day at

The Mittens, sandstone formations in Monument Valley, Navajoland - photo from Richard P. Day at

We camped again at the Monument Valley Tribal Park, on the Navajo Nation.  The Mittens dominated the skyline; I remember the frustration at being unable to capture the beauty of the place through the lens of a 35-mm SLR on any film.  Images could not be big enough, exposures could not do justice to the color and natural beauty of the place.  In some SUVs and RVs in the campground, people retired to watch television in their vehicles.  They were probably the same ones who pulled out at 6:00 a.m., unable to wait to watch the sunrise complete its glorious stretch across the desert.

The third day we planned to stop and see my widowed Aunt Fay in Farmington, New Mexico.  For a couple of years in college I had the pleasure of doing air pollution research in and around Farmington after the Four Corners Power Plant was in operation, and before the San Juan Power Station came on line.   Uncle Harry Stewart, my mother’s brother, lived there and worked with El Paso Natural Gas.  Weekends I spent with Harry and Fay and their friends the Woodburys.  Harry died a few years earlier — I hadn’t seen Fay in 15 years at least.

But first, I got us stuck in the sand about 50 miles west of Farmington.  We pulled off the road to check the map — off the road meant “into the sand,” though it looked firm from the highway.  Tow trucks were 80 miles away.  A passing woman drove me 40 miles to the home of a Navajo Tribal Policeman, and back; by the time we got back a passing couple from Tucson, Arizona, and a couple of local guys with shovels had dug away feet of sand to hard soil and stone; we gunned it out of the barrow and onto the road.  (How it works today, with cell phones and satellite phones — I hope it works better.)

We had a nice visit with Aunt Fay.

There is no way to avoid scenery between Farmington and Albuquerque.  We pulled into the intersection of Interstates 25 and 40 in Albuquerque near 8:00 p.m., found a hotel, and were happy to find a decent-looking café nearby, with an odd, 50-foot owl at one end.  The Owl Café.

The Owl Cafe, Albuquerque, at night

The Owl Cafe, Albuquerque, at night

Who possibly could have guessed?

We seemed to be among the last people there.  It was not crowded.  I probably had a beer.  And I ordered a burger.  “Owl burger?” the waitress asked.  “Made from owls?” I asked back.

She explained it had a touch of a green chile sauce on it.  Sounded good.

She came back.  “I mean, it’s hot.  You’re not from New Mexico, right?”  I stuck with it.


I mean, WOW!  It’s made from sirloin — moist and tender, not overcooked.  The bun is fresh, heavy and yeasty.  And I think it was the green chile stuff — heaven!  I told Kathryn I thought it might be the best burger anywhere.

Now, I’ve had some good burgers at roadhouses and fancy restaurants.  I’ve had burgers in the burger outlets near the stockyards of Greeley, Colorado, Fort Worth, Kansas City and Chicago.  I’ve had aged and marinated burgers at little joints around the Saranac Lakes of New York.  I’ve had burgers at restaurants overlooking the cities of Phoenix, San Francisco, Seattle, Indianapolis, New York and Denver.

And if I’ve eaten one Big H from Hires Drive-in in Salt Lake City, I’ve had a hundred (and would like a hundred more).  I used to argue that the Big H was the El Supremo of burgers.

The Owl Burger topped them all.

When I finished the Owl Burger, I ordered apple pie, and I wondered out loud if I should just have another burger instead.

In the morning, we found the place open for breakfast.  I joked about having another Owl Burger for breakfast — and it was on the menu.  But I didn’t.  I had some great egg dish.

Before we got out of Albuquerque, I regretted not having another Owl Burger.  All day long as we drove to Dallas I thought about that burger I didn’t have.

I’ve thought about that burger now for the better part of two decades.  The closest I’ve come to the Owl Café is a couple of passes through Albuquerque’s airport on the way to other places.

I opened the paper this morning, and there was that burger!

Owl Burger, from the Owl Cafe in San Antonio, New Mexico (photo from -- not from the online DMN)

Owl Burger, from the Owl Cafe in San Antonio, New Mexico (photo from -- not from the online DMN)

Alas, according to Dembling in the DMN, management of the Albuquerque Owl Café differs now from the San Antonio Owl Café — can the burger recipes be the same?  Do we now have to make the drive to San Antonio (New Mexico)?

•Owl Bar & Café, State Highway 1 and U.S. Highway 380, San Antonio, N.M.; 575-835-9946. There’s an Owl Café in Albuquerque, but it isn’t under the same management.

The San Antonio site has some history related to development of the atomic bomb and the nearby Trinity bomb site.  One could study history, and have an historic burger at the same time.  I’ve wondered:  If the Germans had had Owl Burgers, would they have gotten the A-bomb first?  It’s that good.

[I did get excited three years ago to read that another Owl was open in San Antonio, Texas -- but reading the article, I discerned that the author was unaware of a San Antonio in the Land of Enchantment.  Geographical error, gustatory disappointment.  If any of my students are reading this, that's why you have to know geography -- so you don't drive to San Antonio, Texas, and find yourself 542 miles off target (thanks to Geobytes for the distance calculation).]

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A no-bourbon Christmas

December 26, 2008

You can’t buy bourbon in Dallas on Christmas day.

We planned pork tenderloin with apricot/bourbon filling.  Wonderful recipe.

But we needed a cup of bourbon, and when we got to the liquor cabinet, we had only about a quarter cup left in a bottle.

We aren’t bourbon drinkers.  The last time we used bourbon was the last time we cooked pork tenderloin with apricot/bourbon filling . . .

So at about 10:00 a.m. I headed out of our nearly-dry end of the county to a precinct rife with liquor stores.  If any place was selling bourbon on Christmas day, it would likely be among this small city of liquor stores just off I-35, near the sinning areas of Harry Hines Blvd. and a couple of truck stops.

A mile down the road the new quickee mart was open, selling beer and wine.  No hard liquor in this precinct, though.

Liquor store by I-35 near Dallas - photo on Flickr by Futurowoman

Liquor store by I-35 near Dallas - photo on Flickr by Futurowoman (Polaroid photo?)

12 miles up the road, past the doomed Texas Stadium, I passed four liquor stores at one exit, all dark.  At the next exit, the gas station at a liquor store was open.  The main liquor store next door was dark, but I was hopeful.

Inside, one man with an obvious need for a hit of something bargained with one employee over the price of a can of malt liquor.  Another customer queried the other counter man about where he could get a ribbon for the can of beer he’d just bought for his girlfriend, sleeping outside in the car.  Merry Christmas, baby.

No ribbons.  It would be an unwrapped, un-beribboned can of beer.

“What are the chances of finding some bourbon?” I asked.   The guy looked at me like I came from Mars.  His store was selling cheap alcohol in tiny amounts to people down on their luck, but of me he wanted to know:  “What are you doing with bourbon so early in the day?”

Cooking, I told him.

“You won’t find any today.  State law.  All the stores are closed.”

The sauce would have been better with more bourbon, I think.  What else would I be doing with bourbon on Christmas morning?

Thanksgiving 2008 – Fly your flag today

November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving? Texas had it first. No kidding (unless you count the Vinlanders, who probably were grateful to be out of Greenland, but left no records that they ever actually had a feast to say so — but see the comments in the posts linked at various places).

Last year, Mrs. Bathtub was in the hospital. We sprang her before dinner, but barely.  This year, #2 son is off in the wilds of Wisconsin — the first Turkey Day he’s spent away from home and family.  We empathize with the families the first colonizers left behind.

Still, there will be dinner with the family, thanks for the endurance of storms and trials, reflections on good times past, and hopes for the future.

Thanksgiving is a national holiday, one of the 18 days designated by Congress as a “Fly the flag” day.  It’s been a historic year.  It’s a good day to fly the flag.

So, in keeping with that spirit of remembrance, it’s reprise post stuff mostly, today. If you need more, go here:

Google's Thanksgiving logo, 2007

Here’s the main reprise post, text below (there were some good comments in 2006); Margaritas and nachos do sound good, don’t they?
Patricia Burroughs has the story — you New Englanders are way, way behind.

Palo Duro Canyon in a winter inversion

Palo Duro Canyon during inversion, Winter 2001, site in 1541 of the first Thanksgiving celebration in what would become the United States. Go here:, and here:

Update, 11/27/2006: Great post here, “Top 10 Myths About Thanksgiving.”


Resources for 2007:

Google's 2008 Thanksgiving logo - click here for search on "Thanksgiving"

Google's 2008 Thanksgiving logo - click for search on "Thanksgiving"

Teddy Roosevelt at the Minnesota State Fair

August 21, 2008

It’s state fair time!

Which state fair has the most fried foods? Which state fair has the oddest fried foods? You can make nominations in comments.

State fairs drive local economies, sometimes, and occasionally a bit of history gets made there. Certainly they are places where culture and history are on display.

Minnesota’s State Fair is so good even Teddy Roosevelt visited — it’s been an almost annual event since 1859. I’ll bet Roosevelt had a good time, though I wonder if the Fair served him a bag of their famous mini-donuts — 388,000 bags of donuts served last year (do they rival corny dogs?).

Check out Minnesota’s State Fair with this 21-question interactive quiz by Dave Braunger at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune — see how well you know or can guess Minnesota history, and compare it to your own state fair if you’re not in Minnesota.

Corny Dog at the Minnesota State Fair (image from a Pronto Pup-o-philic MySpace page)

Corny Dog at the Minnesota State Fair (image from a Pronto Pup-o-philic MySpace page)

Utah beer brewers have a wicked sense of humor

July 5, 2008

Three decades out of Utah, who could have seen this coming?

Utah beer brewers make good beer, and they have a wicked sense of humor.  Yes, that’s “Provo Girl,” as in the town where the LDS Church’s Brigham Young University calls home.  And that winsome woman is smiling before Bridal Veil Falls of Provo Canyon.  Let’s just say there’s a lot of history in that drawing.

Face it, brewing beer in a Mormon-dominated state is spitting into the wind anyway (Mormons don’t drink beer, for religious reasons).

Brewers must make money from non-Mormons, and from tourists.  Maybe that explains the proliferation of labels that rather stick it to the local religious authorities.  Humor seems to be a favored marketing device.

Other labels to watch for :

Texas was thankful first

November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving? Texas had it first. No kidding (unless you count the Vinlanders, who probably were grateful to be out of Greenland, but left no records that they ever actually had a feast to say so — but see the comments in the posts linked at various places).

Mrs. Bathtub is in the hospital. Nothing major, but it appears the staff who should have signed her out yesterday all headed off for Turkey Day and may not return until mid-December, so Mrs. Bathtub languishes at the expense of the insurance companies because security is tight and there are only enough sheets to get her down two stories, and she’s on the third floor (and the people-with-unknown-fathers at the hospital have sealed the door to the balcony anyway — that’s got to get you thinking). So Mr. Bathtub is frantically reading the back of the Libby’s Pumpkin can, and you can imagine what antics are up in the kitchen today. Blogging will be sparse.

So it’s reprise post stuff, mostly, today. If you need more, go here:

Google's Thanksgiving logo, 2007

Here’s the main reprise post, text below (there were some good comments last year); Margaritas and nachos do sound good, don’t they?
Patricia Burroughs has the story — you New Englanders are way, way behind.

Palo Duro Canyon in a winter inversion

Palo Duro Canyon during inversion, Winter 2001, site in 1541 of the first Thanksgiving celebration in what would become the United States. Go here:, and here:

Update, 11/27/2006: Great post here, “Top 10 Myths About Thanksgiving.”


Resources for 2007:


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