Food, drink, film and other random thoughts from The Lone Star State.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Black Suit & A Gun

When I first started the job search in the new arena, I was expecting a huge rush of interest from the Washington DC area, followed closely by the Pharma density from PA to CT and of course San Diego, the birthplace of Computer Science meets Biological Science.

But that didn't happen. Initially it was Texas only; Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and Houston.

Now, a month later the tide has turned yet again. The cities that seem most interested in me are (in increasing order of callback volume)

5) Boston
Not so surprising since Boston has always been a leader in the Bio-Computing arena. The problem I have with Boston is the white stuff that falls from the sky.

4) Phoenix
This was a surprise to me but apparently there is a considerable amount of clinical trial work here (maybe its an age-related demographic). I've always like the PHX area to visit, I wonder if I would like living in the "dry heat".

3) Las Vegas
Yeah, totally surpised me but LV has invested much in the bio-computing arena, apparently in an ongoing effort to balance out their ecomony. LV would be a good place since I like its 24-hour nature and most of CA friends now live there.

2) Atlanta
ATL's economy is so diverse its almost impossible to get your head around it all. CDC is headquartered here so they anchor a fairly big bio-computing community. The bonus to ATL would be an existing friend base and my folks are only 4 hours away.

1) Washington DC
These are all gov jobs, which is cool with me since I worked for the CIA, NSA, Army and Navy back in my 20's. When I recall all of the places I have worked (over 100, I'm a consultant) I think I enjoyed my time with the gov people the most. Sure the NSA polygraphers were not very humorous; I thought it was funny when they asked me "Do you have or have you ever had sex with an animal?" and I replied "Well, some of them have been a little wild, does that count?" But judging by the "Just yes or no, please" response I got, they were not amused. Once you get past that administrative detail, the people in the agencies are far from uptight and rigid, although they are hyperfocused on getting the job done.

So now I'm faced with many different agency opportunities, all of which have pretty good salaries and excellent bennies.

Of course the most important reason to consider these positions is that I think I would look good in a black suit and a gun.

It really is all about fashion.


Monday, November 27, 2006

Chocolate Whore

Every Thanksgiving my friend, Hotel Goddess, has dinner at her place. We kinda deemed it the Benetton Thanksgiving since each person is from a different country. Benetton Thanksgiving is a little different. Although our hostess supplies the bird and some of the more traditional sides, we the guests must each bring a dish to represent our country of origin.

This is tough for me since I have no country of origin. Ok, I have three - Russia, Germany and England. But seriously, lets face it, these are not places known for great national dishes. A couple of years ago people complained about my Schnitzel and Borscht Souffle with Treacle Pudding, so now I bring some generic, origin-free dessert. Noone calls me on it and usually its all gone by last call.

This year I went the flourless chocolate route. Fair warning, if you make this be prepared to smoke out every chocolate whore in a 50 mile radius. Its not a terribly sweet dessert (except for the ganache), which is good for me since I don't like sweets. I did two test runs and everyone agreed it was a keeper (although several bitched it wasn't as good as my Creme Brulee and they would prefer to see that next year :)

Chocolate Pistachio Torte with Chocolate Ganache

Pistachio Paste

  • 10 oz Pistachio, shelled
  • 2 Tbls Sugar
  • 2 Egg Whites


  • 12 oz Bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 stick Butter, room temp.
  • 6 Eggs, separated
  • 1/4 t Salt
  • 2 Tbls Sugar
  • 2 Tbls Brown sugar


  • 2 C Whipping cream
  • 16 oz Bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1 To fix the pistachio paste process pistachios and sugar in a food processor until the nuts are finely ground. Add egg whites then blend well with wooden spoon. Cover and refrigerate for later. Actually this will keep for a couple of days if you want to make it ahead of time.

2 To fix the torte. Preheat oven to 350. Butter up a 9" springform pan, putting parchment around the bottom. Place chocolate in a saucepan over very low heat, stirring occassionally until completely melted (could also use a double boiler). Remove from heat and cool to touch.

3 Take 1/4 C of pistachio paste and reserve, put the rest in a large bowl, add butter (best to cube it up). Electric mix the butter and pistachio until blended, then add yolks one at time until blended. Then add the chocolate until blended.

4 In a separate bowl using clean beaters, beat egg white and salt until soft peaks form. Slowly add sugar until stiff peaks form, cranking up mixer speed if necessary. Sift brown sugar over stiff whites and fold in.

5 Take stiff whites and blend it in three equal additions to the chocolate pistachio glob. (Trust me, it will eventually blend).

6 Pour the new glob into the buttered up springform and level with a spatula.

7 Bake for an hour or until your testing knife comes out with just a little batter attached. Transfer to cooling rack (or stovetop, like I do) and completely cool. This will keep for a day if you want to make it ahead of time, just Saran it and leave it on the counter.

8 For the ganache, just heat the cream in a saucepan until it starts to simmer. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and whisk until smooth. This too can be made a day ahead, just cool it and stuff it in the fridge. Re-warm when ready to serve.

Servings: 12

Serve with whipped cream, chopped pistachios and a defibrillator.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


Dearest Jim,

We have been patient with you. We have forgiven you for not owning even one Madonna or Cher CD. We have been understanding about your school schedule and therefore have not complained about you only going to a gay bar twice this year. We still don't understand why you hate shopping, not to mention the fact that you do not discuss every irrelevant detail your sex life. But so be it, we are a kind and understanding organization. But, that you have never seen an old-school Elizabeth Taylor film, well, thats the limit. This outrageous fact has caused us to place your membership on immediate probation. Please see to it that this urgent issue is resolved.

Sincerely, The Gay Card Administration Staff

My apologies to Elizabeth Taylor and to the bitches who form the GCAS. Its true though. Nor have I ever seen a movie with Rock Hudson or James Dean. So, last night I decided to mix up a pitcher of martinis and get them all done by watching the film, Giant.

Giant is a great film, but like all films that are 50+ years old, there is a little bit of cheese factor. Its expected considering the limitations of 50's technology. Still, it made me laugh out loud to see the "aging" Elizabeth Taylor, she just looked like a 25 year old with gray spray paint in her hair and black eye shadow under her eyes, lol.

Other than that its was very enjoyable to watch this epic (3 1/2 hours, sheesh) film about the DC girl who meets and marries the west Texas rancher, moves to Texas and tries to fit in. The redneck ranch hand makes three and a subtle triangle emerges with all kinds of 1950's drama and a heavy focus on the prejudice against Mexicans that was prevalent in that location during that time.

Although Giant is not a 10/10, I really consider this a must see, its just so much history rolled into one. Particularly so if you are from Texas.

Elizabeth Taylor - Wow, now that I've seen her in her glory days I have to say she was stunning. My grandmother used to say that Elizabeth Taylor was the last great actress. I can see now why she would think that, she was the force holding this film together. And what a force she was. Now I'm going to have to see her in that Virginia Wolfe thing.

Rock Hudson - Holy crap, exactly how tall was he anyway? He towers over everyone in this film, even seated; he was just one freaking huge man in size 13 boots. Sad that he had to hide the fact that he was gay and that he died relatively young (60).

James Dean - He might have been a short one (5'8", like me) but his presence overshadows everyone on the screen, even the considerably taller Hudson. I've always been curious about Dean's strangle-hold on American pop culture 50 years after his death; even today his name is mentioned in music (Madonna) and of course, he is still being held up as the ultimate in rebellious cool.

Dean was the first actor to be nominated for an award after death. And actually he was nominated for 2 awards; Rebel Without A Cause and Giant. He never actually got to see himself in either.

Dean, in an interview after making Giant, was asked to share his philosophy of life. The quote is almost haunting.

"Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die today."

Shortly thereafter he was killed in a car wreck. He was 24.


Saturday, November 25, 2006

I know

Yes, I know I've been neglecting the blog; mine and everyone else's. Not gonna change soon since on top of the two jobs, 3 classes and on-going renovation, now I have interviews and, of course, the graduation party.

Thanks to BGB for the feature. Yes, they are right, I do this for myself, its my way of keeping in touch with friends and family that live far away (which are most). Its also a good 15-minute sanity break.

I haven't forgotten about GMR either, I think I might do an interview on the streets, so to speak, for my first post there.

Be back soon!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Dark, Reckless Ambition

As soon as he emerges from the ocean, dripping and cocky, you can see his superior acting skills. And even if you dont see them, you better get used to seeing him bare-chested and coming out of many oceans in the future. Daniel Craig is James Bond and after seeing him in his 007 debut this morning, I'm certain he's here to stay.

Casino Royale has a very turbulent history. You can browse any of the movie databases or 007 sites to explore the drama surrounding this movie, which started in the 60's. Its amazing that now, 40 years later, it is showing up on the screen as Flemming had intended. Like many hero sequels and series have done recently, Casino Royale is a prequel, Bond before being admitted into the Licensed To Kill arena.

Its a formula right? Villan, girl, techno-wiz, capture, escape, girl? Wrong. Of course those elements are there but those used to the famliar tempo will be left feeling a little out of equilibrium. For those used to smooth talking, grace under pressure Bond, well, you too will feel a little off-balance. This Bond is visceral, darker, more prone to mistakes and wildly ambitious. Frankly, I think this is how Bond was intended to be, pre-franchise.

The slick production style, shiny story veneer and techno-wiz have been stripped off for deeper character development and some very intense action leaving everyone roughed up and in uncertain territory.

I was impressed not only with Craig's physical transformation but his acting and the fact that he opted to do most of his own stunts. Eva Green scores as the girl and of course who could ever be M but Judi Dench.

Casino Royale is my new favorite Bond flick. My guess is that it will wildly cheered by others, considering most of the 200 seats in my theatre contained a warm body at 10am this morning.


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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Leaving Havana, Finding Havana

Certifiably Crazy Aunt was married to a Cuban man for many years. He was one of many in the 60's who went through a dramatic exit from the island to reach Miami. Cuban Uncle was the first to teach me Spanish. During our Spanish lessons he talked alot about his homeland, so much so that I decided then Cuba was one place I never needed to visit.

For some reason, in recent years, my group of friends have become obsessed with travel to Cuba. They all claim its the island envirnoment that attracts. I have to call BS on that since there are plenty of other islands in the Caribbean, yet they have no interest in them. Who knows why they go, maybe its the element of danger, whatever.

I get my Cuban experience in Miami, and more recently in Dallas. I met a family a couple of weeks ago that took advantage of Castro's "down time" to exit Havana. I didn't get a clear answer of why they chose Dallas but I'm glad they did since they opened up this place.

Caribbean Cafe
1000 Webb Chapel Rd @ Belt Line
Carrollton, TX 75006
(972) 418-7071

There are other Cuban restaurants in Dallas but this one is authentic and unlike the others, there is no glitz here. Webb Chapel is the saddest and loneliest major street in town; there just isn't any part of its stretch from NW Highway to where it dead ends at Belt Line that calls out, "Come Visit Me". Caribbean Cafe is located at the nothern-most end of the sad street, where there is absolutely nothing else.

Inside is pleasant but minimal. What will impress you isn't visual however, its the smell of plantains, spicy black beans and of course, the national meat of Cuba, pork!

Server Girl was a beautiful girl in her early twentys. She was so happy to see Big Mike and I since she wanted desperately to pratice her English and their patronage since opening 4 months ago has been strictly Spanish speaking. I, of course, wanted to practice my Spanish so I made a deal with her, we would alternate languages. She liked that.

The menu here is fairly large for Cuban fare but some of the option have been placed for a distinctly Anglo palate, avoid those. Stick with the Cuban meals like Ropa Vieja, its delicious! If you've never heard of Ropa Vieja, its a slow roasted, shredded beef in a garlicky tomato sauce, smothered in sauteed onion and bell peppers.

Dinners are good-sized so try not to eat the whole basket of garlic toast that will come out initially. Dinners come with configuration options: you can get your plantains either ripe-sweet-n-fried or unripe-salty-n-hard. I've never cared for hard bananas (careful! :) so I usually opt for the ripe ones. You can also choose to have your obigatory black beans separated from your obligatory white rice or you can have both mixed together into one big purple blob of carbs.

I think the "Dallas people" will leave this place alone since it isnt a place to see or be seen, which works out well for me since I need a place to go where I don't have to listen to their smack.

Big Mike, he likes it.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Hamas, Ahmadinejad & Dating

Muslim Co-Worker Girl and I have been working together for a year. We share a lab that is kept at a constant 60 degrees, we would both prefer it to be 80 degrees. We'd like to say its kept cold to keep the computers running at optimal performance or perhaps to keep our DNA samples from denaturing. Sounds good but the reality is that the AC is messed up and noone will fix it. So we bonded initially over our mutual dislike of cold temps. Then we bonded our over our mutual interest in Indian food. Most recently we bonded over our mutual dissatification of how our government has become too big and therefore ineffective. Since then we have chatted up many subjects if only to distract ourselves from pending hypothermia :)

I decided to chat up MCW Girl about the Middle East Crisis thing. I wasn't really sure what to expect but I was surprised that we were almost in agreement. We both believe that a two state system is the only way to end it, and we both agree that it has to come with ALOT of conditions on both sides.

We both felt the world should acknowledge Hamas as an actual government. Before you have an aneurism over that, the psychology is that acknowledging them as a real government then puts them in the position of behaving as such. The assumption, however loose, is that they cannot function as both a government and a terrorist organisation. If they fail, we win in the court of world opinion and they will have to be ejected. If they succeed, we win, since an actual governement will give the Palestinian people a real place to call home. Besides, the Palestinians elected them so let the Palestinians kick them out if they aren't happy with the services they provide.

We disagreed on funding. She thought we should still provide financial aid to Hamas, I say no, provide humaritarian support to the Palestinian people but Hamas will have to figure out how to support themselves. I'm sure Iran will give them a loan :)

Then I chatted her up about Iran and Ahmadinejad. She has a closer info since her husband, who is Indian but grew up in Iran, still has family there. She was kind of funny in her responses.

Me: What do think about Ahmadinejad, I think he's a lunatic.

MCW Girl: No, he's just a smart politician.

Me: Threatenting to wipe Israel off the map is smart?

MCW Girl: Jim, please, that is political BS only, the last thing he wants is for this conflict to be resolved. The Palestinian people are just a pawn to him.

Me: How's that?

MCW Girl: What Arab leaders and Ahmadinejad fear the most is that the there will be peace in the Middle East and that their all-encompasing, never-questioned power will be subject to internal criticism. Think about it, what is the big difference between Israel and the rest of the Arab world?

Me: Hmmm, they're Jewish?

MCW Girl: No, all religion is equivalent, the big difference is that they live in a democracy. That democracy would spread scares the crap out of Arab leaders, it would make them at once accountable and subject to objective criticism. They use this conflict to keep everyone's emotions high and ralied around a perceived enemy. Israel and Palestine are both being held hostage is this case.

Me: Sad!

But I guess that makes sense, in a manipulating, pathetic way.

Then I asked Other Persian Guy and Former Persian Boss for their thoughts about him.

OP Guy: I hate him, every time he opens his mouth he makes it harder for me to find a date! LOL

FP Boss: (to OP Guy) You just need anti-Ahmadinejad weaponry.

OP Guy: What's that?

FP Boss pointed out of the window to his new Corvette and smirked.

FP Boss: Cars trump innane political rhetoric.

Well there you have it.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Infinite Divergence

Since deciding that I will be going to Middle East next year, I thought it might be a good idea to try to understand the origins of that whole Middle East conflict thing. Talk to family in Israel? Forget it, they are necessarily one-sided. Talk to my Arab and Muslim friends? Not a chance, again they are one-sided and most them do not know about my Israeli connection.

Instead, I read. My dad gave me this book.

From Time Immemorial by Joan Peters

Fair warning, it is pro-Israel which is good but it is also vehemently anti-Arab, which is bad. I still recommend it but only for ramping up on the history of the region. IMHO, the author did a stellar presentation of the historical influences on the region during various eras.

I learned a few things from this book. I did not know that since time immemorial there have been Jews and Arabs on all the land that has become Arab nations (even Saudi Arabia, which presently will not allow Jews into the country) and Israel. This sort of bilaterly diffuses the discussion of who is entitled to what land because they were there first.

Along the same lines I was fascinated to find out just how many "ruling entities" have been in what is now Israel through out history. Sure the Arabs were there. And so were the Spanish, the Italian, the Turkish, the Persians, the Mongols and of course, the British. Its seems everyone has tried to lay claim to that little, albeit religiously important, piece of land.

To counteract the anti-Arab sentiment of the preceeding book, I borrowed another from an Arab friend.

The Case For Palestine by John Quigley

This one is distinctly pro-Palestinian. While they say some nasty things about Jews and Israel, they stick mainly to legal aspects of why there should be Palestinian state. I can see their side too, legally speaking they are entitled to what was dictated in that division of that land into (trans) Jordan and Israel.

Neither book changed my opinion of the situation, which I will keep to myself (for the time being) but both gave some amazing historical context.

If you are going to look into this topic I recommend getting two books; one pro-Israel and another pro-Palestinian, then decide for yourself. These may not be the best books, in terms of being objective, but I think if an author is going to write about the conflict in the Middle East, they definitely are going to have an initial bias.

I did chat up Muslim Co-worker Girl about what we should do about Hamas, she brings an interesting perspective, I'll post that soon.

Monday, November 06, 2006


I've been carrying around a nickname for past 6 years: J-LO. Funny, I got branded with that name from Marky Mark and Ex-5 during the same week but for different reasons, but we'll save those details for some other post :)

But now there is new one.

Last week I met Other Persian Guy for drinks. OP Guy is a really nice guy I worked with a long time ago who I recently ran into while shopping a Middle Eastern grocery. What I didn't know was that Former Persian Boss, who hired us both, would be joining us for drinks.

It was interesting to see the two together since they both come from the same city, Tehran, similar backgrounds and religion but are separated by a generation; OP Guy is early 30's, FP Boss is early 50's. The difference between them is night and day.

FP Boss was one of my favorite bosses. Not only could he get a project out under budget and on time, he was just fun. About once amonth I would get a panic phone call from FP Boss telling me to clear next week's schedule because he needed me at a conference to explain the technical aspects of our project. Usually this involved two hours of answering questions from disinterested conference attendees, the other 4 days and 22 hours involved riding around with FP Boss in his convertible, exploring every local bar and restaurant and 'socializing with the people', which involved FP Boss chatting up everyone blonde girl who came within his line of sight. The week I spent in South Beach with him is still a blur in my mind since we never got back to the hotel before 3am. He never let me pay for anything and he covered all of our nightlife expenses out of his own pocket not the company tab.

FP Boss is single again, and I'm glad to report he hasnt changed much. During our two-hour drink reunion he excused himself about 20 times, each time to introduce himself to a blonde girl. He also picked up the tab for all of us.

OP Guy, on the other hand, is very serious and part of that seriousness, I found, is coming from his parents pressuring him to get married. A nice Muslim girl, they want, no, insist upon. But OP Guy, much like FP Boss, likes blondes, non-Muslim blondes.

I can't understand parents who would impose wishes on their children that would make them unhappy. My parents wouldn't even consider the thought. Even if they did it wouldn't do them much good since they raised me and my sister to be wickedly independent.

OP Guy: You couldn't understand, you aren't Muslim. You're like some flavor of Christian, arent you?

Me: Difficult to answer; I'm maternally Jewish, raised Unitarian then started practicing Buddhism when I was 19.

OP Guy: So, that makes you what? A Unijewdha? LOL

FP Boss immediately broadcasted my new name to everyone over his Crackberry.

Friday, November 03, 2006


Last month Marky Mark, Neighbor Blair and Fly Me Charla all went out for a group birthday dinner at Stephan Pyles. It was a fanatastic evening and amazing meal. Truly wonderful except there is a clause in our friend contract that specifically states that when a group of friends go out for a joint celebration it is a Dutch treat situation.

Marky Mark violated this clause of the friend contract by picking up the whole bill. It was a big violation considering the bill was over $500. Neighbor Blair, Fly Me Charla and I had a meeting over what to do about Mark's violation and we decided the punishment was to take him out and not let him pay for himself.

We did exactly that.

Fireside Pies
2820 N Henderson Ave
Dallas, TX 75206

I know I've written about Fireside before but its interesting to visit a place after a year or so to see if they have remained consistently good or if they have sparkled and faded. I am happy to report the former. I am also happy to report that Fireside seems to have overcome the dreaded Dallas 12 month rule; here in Dallas most restaurants and clubs buzz and thrive for one year then crash and burn due to the fickle nature of the Dallasite and the over-abundance of choices.

Pies are magnificent here. What I failed to notice on my last visit was that all of the ingredients are local. Cheeses from the Dallas Mozzarella Company, Sausages from the Jimmi's, the de facto Italian deli and grocery, basil from the chef's rooftop garden; tomatoes from east Texas.

Don't miss the salads here either but be smart about them, each one is enough for 3 or 4 people. I love it when each person orders one of these as a light salad before the pizza and they bring out bowls bigger than Montana.

The only drawback to Fireside is that they are enormously popular (still) and they don't take reservations. Going at peak hours on any day can be an hour or more wait. My advice - go early.

So there, we have exacted our cruel but necessary punishment on Marky Mark, let that be the mother of all lessons to him! :)

Marky Mark & The Markettes @ Fireside