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Monday, July 31, 2017

DUNKIRK AND GIRLS TRIP

I saw the #1 and #3 box office films yesterday.  The Emoji Movie came in #2, and I only mention it because it got the lowest rating I've ever recently seen from Rotten Tomatoes reviewers:  8!  So I checked, and it turns out that Eloise, released in February earned a 7.  Must have missed it, but Pierce Brosnan's Urge last year was embarrassed with a 5, tying the absolute worst bestowed by Rotten Tomatoes.  However, if you click on that 5, the site says zero!  While I show the poster for #2, I would like to underscore that I did not see that film.  I might indicate, though, that I might begin to use more emojis in the future.

So back to sanity, here is a summary:

                   Box Office       Rotten Tomatoes       My Grade
                                        Reviewers  Audience

Girl's Trip        3                    88              88              B

Dunkirk           1                    93              83              B-

Girls Trip was well produced with good (and dirty, for it is R-rated, showing the most graphic exhibition of women peeing I've ever seen) writing.  They could have used LSD, but absinthe, I should let you know, is not hallucinogenic.  I once lived in Louisiana, so enjoyed being in New Orleans again.  I could not identify with the music.  Yet, I did give this flick a B grade, for it was surprisingly entertaining.

Jada Pinkett Smith (top right--wife of Will and mother of Jaden) was nicely human and Tiffany Haddish (top left) will get mentions for her performance.  The ending was as Hollywoodish as you can get.
Three years ago, one of my poker buddies remarked that Birdman (Rotten Tomatoes reviewers' rating of 91) was a terrible film.  I went to see it and tended to agree with him.  It won four Oscars, including for Best Picture.  Last week he said Dunkirk was a junk movie.  I went to see it, and sort of agreed again.  Is Dunkirk headed for Oscar-land?

There is no dominant character, moments of boredom, but mostly high intensity with a severe accompanying musical score.  Only a microcosm of what occurred was depicted so you did not get a sense of anything awesome happening.  Of the more than 800 water craft involved in the rescue,  we only got a close look at one.

On June 6 I posted on D-Day, 6June1944:

This was a key culmination beginning four years earlier, on 4 June 1940, when Prime Minister Churchill delivered his "We shall fight on the beaches" speech, hailing the Miracle of Dunkirk, when 338,226 Allied troops were rescued in 800 boats, but all their military hardware was captured by Germany.

You get a sense of how important this rescue was when you learn that "only" 156,000 allied troops invaded Normandy on D-Day, turning the tide of the war.  However, almost a million troops eventually made it over the landing beaches of Normandy by July 2, less than a month later.   If the rescue at Dunkirk did not succeed, maybe Hitler could well have been victorious.  And where would the world be today?  What would you be doing?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average broke its all time high, up 61 to 21891.  Corporate earnings look good.
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Typhoon Noru keeps getting more threatening, as he is now at 120 MPH and seems headed for south Kyushu:


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Sunday, July 30, 2017

SIMPLE FOOD

One can best enjoy fancy foods only occasionally.  When I'm on my global adventures, I actually get tired of dining in yet another Michelin 3-Star or Pellegrino Best 50 restaurant, perhaps also influenced by the exorbitant cost.

I eat 25 times/month at 15 Craigside, but also take out a few times/week to enhance in my kitchen.  Today, my blog will feature what I ate over the weekend.  These were mostly simple comfort foods at relatively minimal cost.

First, on Friday, I walked 18 holes at the Ala Wai Golf Course.  On the front nine I accompanied two good looking females who played at around my level.  They were both married and I would guess in their 40's.  The Japanese lady was on vacation from Seattle, while the Korean person lives here, and originally came from Seoul, and they were golf buddies from the same church.
Then, on the 10 hole, a third female joined us, not sure where she was from, but she was gorgeous.  Nope, that is not a photo of her to the right, just someone I met a few years ago.  This latest was nattily dressed in green and purple.  She could have been a golf pro from Korea, China or Japan, for she drove further than me.  My initial reaction was that she ran a Korean bar in town.  Interesting that the three of us originals had already bonded over nine holes, and I sensed a stand-offish attitude from the two ladies...or maybe they were trying to protect me from the interloper.  In any case, she seemed to have a Greta Garbo attitude (I want to be alone), so we did not talk to her much.

The whole point to those above paragraphs is that there are huge opportunities to meet interesting people at the Ala Wai Golf Course.  In the parking lot I noticed that the invader drove off in a spiffy black BMW, while the person from Seoul placed her bags in a really expensive and large Mercedes.  Anyway, decent start to my weekend.

But about my simple cuisine, on the way home I picked up some poke from Foodland, rated #1 in the recent Hawaii's Best 2017 poll.  The Hawaiian food was supplied by 15 Craigside.  I enhanced the poke by adding the lomi salmon, some kazunoko (herring roe), onions and Hawaiian chili sauce.  After taking a bath, it was already dark, so I feasted in my living room on laulau with rice, chicken long rice, poi and that special poke, with some beer and a tropical drink, while watching the Major League Baseball channel.


Lunch on Saturday had me catching the #4 bus into downtown Honolulu, where I went to the Chinatown Cultural Plaza for Shanghai Soup Dumplings at Fook Lam.  

I first dropped by Chinatown Liquor to buy my usual $1 beer, a Steel Reserve at 8.1% ethanol.  They have a wide assortment for this price.  I also brought with me a small bottle of Courvoisier Cognac.  The restaurant was packed.  Service in this typical Chinese restaurant was relatively efficient, but almost surly.  But that's the tradition, I guess.

You first place the dumpling in that black ginger sauce, and lay this tidbit on a spoon which is covered with a small leaf of choy sum.  Punch a small hole at the top and add a small amount of cognac.  Cover this all with that red chili sauce, and bite off half.  Why half?  First because the piece is rather large, second so that you can pour an additional dollop of cognac to finish off the Xiao Long Bao, the Chinese term for this dish.  You need to do this yourself to appreciate the terrific-ness of this experience.

I also like the custard tart, but three are just too many for me.  But I got over my initial resistance and the pastry came uncomfortably hot, so I carefully ate one.   Heavenly.  Then, I noticed I still had a lot of cognac and those sauces.

So for tart #2 I added some cognac and chili sauce.   Excellent.  The third was the full monty of cognac, chili and ginger.  Fabulous.  I might just have invented a variation that might be called a pre-dessert.

To continue, when I sometimes go to a movie or two on Sundays, I sometimes bring some sticks of celery to have with the buttered pop corn.  Something to do with assuaging my conscience with a healthful complement.   So I walked to Safeway and Long's, and got them, but had a sudden urge for a Bloody Mary, so I bought a bottle of that mix.  Then I noticed two Sherry wines that deserved to be purchased.  I added bottles of horse radish and blue cheese stuffed olives for the drink.  I was planning to walk uphill back to 15 Craigside, but the weight of my shopping must have exceeded 15 pounds.  So I smartly decided to catch a free bus ride home.

Just as I was about to across the street from the bus stop, the #4 bus zoomed past.  I hated to wait half an hour, if not more on a Saturday, so I began trudging home.  For the first time in a long while I spotted a Giant African Land Snail.  It came to Hawaii as pets, flourished in nature, but seemed to recently have disappeared.

Originally, I thought the snail flesh was poisonous.  However, three years ago 67 of these snails from Nigeria were confiscated at the Los Angeles International airport, for they are a serious pest.  Turns out they were headed to be made into escargots.

Returning to my Saturday walk, I just passed the final bus stop when The Bus whizzed past me.  So I actually made it back carrying a load.

In the spirit of international cuisine, on my lanai Saturday night I featured Portuguese Bean Soup, quite good at 15 Craigside--into which I added an egg, plus scotch and rice--salad, which I topped with yesterday's Hawaiian poke special, with a Bloody Mary, supposedly invented in France, and Japanese beer.


So next to breakfast this morning.  I have two kinds of bf, simple and elaborate.  Sunday is simplicity, for I avoid proteins and salt:


The venue is by my computer while I'm composing this blog.  Note the plants, arugula and green onions:


On mornings when I plan to walk 18 holes, I have the more traditional local breakfast, something like Portuguese sausage, two fried eggs, rice and tsukemono (Japanese pickles), with usually green tea, but here also with cold beer and hot sake.  This is why I drink Mickey's, for I might have a quarter of the bottle and twist back on the cover for the future:


Tonight, I join my Sunday night table in the dining room for yet another party and an hour and a half of stimulating discussion.

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After dawdling around in circles, Typhoon Noru suddenly is showing signs of significantly strengthening, now up to 110 MPH, with a projection to Category 4 status.  Worse, the current path sends him towards Japan:



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Saturday, July 29, 2017

DINNER WITH CHEF ALEX ATALA

I caught The Bus into Waikiki, and, as I was too early for dinner, stopped by House Without a Key.  In one of my previous sittings here I expressed some negative thoughts about their re-planting a kiawe tree to replace the one that fell because this tree has too many dangerous thorns.  However, I later learned that the surviving shoot comes from the original.  Thus, of course, for historical purposes, they had to keep it.

I had my traditional gin martini.  They serve a devilish potato chip bowl that has ruined many dinners for me in the past.  You can only barely see it in this photo to the right, but a rainbow was forming over Diamond Head.  I don't think I've ever seen this combination, and this scene appears everyday at the top of this blog site.  

I used different settings for the next few shots, including a selfie, with the possible intention of replacing that masthead:


Notice that there is a double rainbow.  So off I went across the street to the Waikiki Parc Hotel.  

The Culinary Institute of the Pacific at Kapiolani Community College hosted Chef Alex Atala, whose DOM is the #1 restaurant in South America.  It was six years ago that I took a 21-hour overnight flight (with a few delays--both in London and Sao Paulo).  I finally got to my hotel at 9AM, but as exhausted as I was with no appetite, found my way to Alex's restaurant.  You can read about one of the best lunches I ever had.  

In 2014 DOM became #1 on Pellegrino's list.  In 2017 it dropped to #16, but this is what happens when the chef travels a lot.  Chef Rene Redzepi's Noma, which was #1 for several years is no longer on the list, but mainly because he will close this restaurant and open another one in Copenhagen.  I dined there more than six years ago just before he attained #1 status.  He is shortest guy in this photo.


But here I am with Chef Alex in Waikiki:


The Master Sommelier that night was Patrick Okubo.  I still remember some years ago when he was "merely" a young sommelier with Chaine des Rotisseurs.  At one time he was the world's youngest sommelier.   I remarked to him that he had not aged at all:


I also had a long chat with Alan Wong, who was one of the diners.  I didn't realize he has a restaurant in The Portman Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai.


Okay, I promise, you won't see me again.  The meal begun with a Tattinger Champagne:


There was a menu with all the wines and dishes...but they confused me by adding other things.  First came a cava drink with a straw, but my camera had the shot out of focus, so let me start with this frozen something:


Then an Oyster, CupuaCu (a kind of cacao), Whiskey and Mango.


The wine was a Ricardo Santos Semillon from Argentina.  Next, Heart of Palm Fettuccine and Yanomami Mushrooms with an Apaltugua Reserve Rose from Chile:


The Onaga was accompanied by Acai and Aromatic Pepper Barda, with a Bodegas Charcra Pinot Noir from Argentina:


The consensus was this was the best of the night.  We then had something not on the menu, enchilada comes to mind, and it was good.


Some enjoyed the Brisket with Chutney of Bacuri, with a Chateau Leoville Poyferre St Julien from France.  I believe this was the $200 bottle.  Terrific wine.  I might add that that the third glass which looks like beer, was, from Maui.


At this point, Chef Atala personally served something for which he is famous.  I'm guessing, for I didn't listen to why he was doing this or what this was.  It tasted like an exceptional and cheesey mashed potatoes.


The extraordinary dinner ended with Smoked Mango, Puxuri and Brazilian Chocolate, plus a fabulous Royal Tokaji from Hungary, reminiscent of a Chateau d'Yquem.



I sat with two Susans and a chef from the new downtown Honolulu Senia, Berkeley.  He said that they just began serving lunch during weekdays.  I'll be there in August for sure.  Our table was next to the piano player, and I'd swear he played the theme from Cheers at least three times.

Next to me from Kapiolani Community College was the other Susan, here with another Susan, both administrators at KCC.

I had long chats with all of them, including the Chancellor Louis and Dean John, here below opening the program:


15 Craigside dined at KCC a couple of months ago:


I indicated to my University colleagues that I would like to drop by their offices one day to gain their wisdom on a future effort the 15C Dining Committee might want to initiate:  dining-in.  It certainly would be more convenient for a monthly dinner in our Solarium, which has a room with a view and full kitchen.  Perhaps we can entice guest chefs to cook for us.  This option would make us distinctive among the senior community sites.  Of course there would be an extra charge, but not the $100-$400 I have spent on our dining-out activities.  I should mention that all the servers were students at KCC.  Maybe their budding chefs and hospitality students can be of help to 15C.

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