Carpe Diem: Don’t be afraid to be a geek and really enjoy things

Photo by Jake Roth
Me, my 2 boys Matthew and Gabriel and Matt's friend Roger before the USMNT Soccer Game- Photo Credit Jake Roth

I am “in love with living”, which is a direct result of an experience I had over 20 yrs ago hunched down at the bottom of a foxhole in a desert on the other side of the globe. I can’t get enough of life itself….I want to “drink it all in” to experience everything I can, to savor the day until its last drop. I waste nothing in life, for me, every day is a quest to check off more stuff from my “been there done that” list. I also believe that if you are gonna do something, do it all the way!

I love cheering for sports, and especially anything to do with the USA. I love dressing up in red, white and blue and getting my “America” on! The United States Men’s Soccer team played a game last night near where I live….so needless to say, I grabbed the boys and we went. Rather than just “go” to the game….we choose to show our support by dressing like “Spastic Uncle Sam’s”. I went to the ghetto soccer store and bought 2 American flags, the boys got some giant red white and blue hats in Prescott AZ during our road trip last week…and to top it off, I scored a sweet American flag shirt from a Mexican vendor in the parking lot for $10.00! We were ready to cheer our boys to victory against Costa Rica and were going for a bit of tailgating action with the American Outlaws supporters group.

A photographer named Jake Roth came and snapped this great photo of us, it pretty much says it all. If you look at our faces, you will see a range of emotions…Joy, Pride, Excitement, Happiness and Anticipation of a great time…You can also see Love, as in the Love for life, my family and my country.

Jake asked me to send him mine and the boys info for a photo caption, which I did…but what was really cool of him, was Jake sent me a link to the photo…and gave me permission to use it in this blog…I think its a great photo, that captures so much, I am thankful to Jake for letting me use, and write about the photo. Its photographers like Jake that bring the world of sports into our homes every day, with great photos such as this…Jake got a great “Karma Boost” for paying it forward and sending me the photo…Thanks Jake!

So, next time you have to opportunity to do something, whether its jumping out of an airplane (which I have done) or running your hands over the stone at an Egyptian Pyramid (which I have not done), or dressing up like a dork and supporting the country you live in at a sporting event,  go for it…drink in the experience and live, you will be that much better for doing it!

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HPD Community Police join the “Pop Up” restaurant world, and rock it!

The steak course, w Cabernet reduction, blue cheese mashers and grilled asparagus

What do you get when you combine 1 Sergeant, 2 Detectives, 2 secretaries, a service officer/jailer and a police intern? You get one amazing 7 course meal that’s what.

from L-R Det Bureau Secretary Lupe Gallegos, Service Officer Lameka Bell, Sgt Chris "Hungry Detective" Cognac, Det John Dixon, Capt's Secretary Joyce Walker, Det Christy Chiarello and College Student/ cadet Anthony Ramon

The recent trend of “pop ups” has intrigued me, although I have never actually been to one. Chefs such as Ludo Lefebvre pretty much started the trend with his  “Ludo-Bites” concept which takes place in different locations around the country. He goes into a place, transforms the  menu and kicks flavors ass…

Well, as some of you folks know, the police dept I work for has a pretty kick ass outdoor kitchen that was the brainchild of our former and much loved Police Chief Steven Port, the problem with it is that the builders screwed up the gas lines and we could never actually get any heat to the equipment, so cooking was a “challenge” to say the least.  I have always tried to bring good publicity to my little police dept and you may have seen it on such TV shows as “No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain” or “Feasting on Asphalt with Alton Brown” just to name a few. Flash forward a few years, the gas line is fixed and cranking out the BTU’s ..

HPD outdoor kitchen

The Chief informed me that the station would be hosting a very important lunch meeting for 13 Chief’s of Police and asked if I could figure out something to cook them for lunch….at that very moment the seed was planted for the very first “pop up” inside a police station , and that “pop up” would come to be known as “Chez Robert” (our Chief’s name is Robert). Since we are a working police station and not a restaurant, we had to find “front and back” of house help…it worked out nice that my partner Detective John Dixon, went to culinary school, one of the other detectives, Christy Chiarello was a waitress prior to becoming a cop 20 yrs ago. We also had an eager group of service officers, secretaries and a college student/police cadet. Now all we needed was a menu, tables, chairs, food…you know, the important stuff…

Micelada Shrimp (course #2)

We went to the local restaurant depot and got some bulk ingredients, as well as matching aprons etc so we would look professional. Det Dixon and I came up with  7 course tasting menu, that was printed out on really nice paper. We were able to make a big table out of office tables and some wood, covered with a rented table cloth and center pieces we got from a great little party supply place in town. Well, all was set up and now it was “game time” for the crew of Chez Robert. The “front of the house” Det Chirello, Lameka Bell, Joyce Walker and Lube Gallegos went through a mini “server boot camp” at 9 am so when the Chief’s came they were professional, seating the Chief’s, taking drink orders for fruit water, tea, etc…John and I, along with Cadet Ramon were furiously working in the kitchen just a few feet away from the Chief’s table.

The Chief's Table at Chez Robert

Game time came, Chez Robert was open , we had to have service down to a science that allowed for enough time in between courses that the Chief’s could discuss the business for which they came, and at the same time, blow them away with the amazing and well presented food that we were giving them. John and I had make steak butter, garlic infused olive oil and some other items the night before (John also made 3 cheesecakes at home) .

We sat 13 Chief’s and had to get it right, the right temps, flavors and plating…everyone had to chip in, and did I mention that we only had 3 plates per person, so that meant cadet Ramon had to wash and dry plates like a mad man so we could re use them.

Det Dixon and "Servers" Joyce and Lupe at the pass

The first “sit down” course came, it was bread slices (from a Basque bakery called Etxea in Hawthorne) sauteed in garlic oil, topped with a thick slice of pancheta, tossed in honey, served with a smashed raspberry and chives. When it was served 3 different Chief’s started taking pictures of the dish, it as then I knew we were going to hit it out of the park.

Me plating the pancheta course

Next course was the Mango Ahi, with micro greens or color, the whole thing cost next to nothing since we got the Ahi already chopped and frozen at Restaurant Depot, oh yea, it was good…but in my opinion the mos “boring” course of the meal..which I am ok with, since it was good..

Spicy Mango Ahi, served in a bamboo spoon....cost per serving...maybe 40 cents!

We made everything fresh, all the sauces, everything was made from scratch, except for the “Bob’s Big Boy” blue cheese dressing on the salad wedge, cause its just a damn good dressing!

A classic wedge with "Bob's Big Boy" Blue...and Trader Joe's Applewood Bacon

Everyone as working as a team, it was so great to see people that normally work in different capacities at the station (including our CSI technician Morgan Lane who took the photos) come together , have fun and really show how great we can be as a unit…

Cadet Anthony Ramon, working like a madman to get dishes clean so we could use em again!

The 7 courses flew by and I must say the Chief’s were impressed, in fact 3 of them photographed the individual courses…oh yea, on a funny note, one of the Chief’s was a “Tac-Officer” at Det Dixon’s police academy class and another Chief was the “Tac-Sergeant” for my academy class…they both came and thanked us for the meal. It felt great to accomplish something like that…a meal that was better than any restaurant around, served in the kitchen (albeit, amazing and outdoor) of the police station.

The Main Course!

So, now that the inaugural opening of “Chez Robert” has gone of without a hitch, maybe we can light the culinary-crime fighting world on fire with our killer tasting menu’s…maybe we can challenge Chef Ludo to a charity “pop up” event to raise some money for a worthy cause….what? you think that’s impossible….heck, I though opening a gourmet “pop up” in a police station was impossible too…so Ludo, what do you say?

Cheers from your community police-chefs Chris and John…be safe and eat well!

Me and John after service at Chez Robert

The Hawthorne Plaza: An iPhone photo essay in urban decay

Looking North from “JC Pennys”
Note April 16 2014: Since this article has gone viral there are some great comments and some that are hateful and race based. I approve all comments except those that discuss race etc …just trying to stop the hate and let people focus and discuss the photos etc.
 Chris
Once upon a time in there was a thriving aerospace community in south Los Angeles County called Hawthorne. Hawthorne was an “all American” town, in fact the town spawned one of the greatest musical groups in history, the Beach Boys…they went to Hawthorne High School. Hawthorne was a model of the middle class dream, where families would come to work, buy a house and raise a family and to fulfill the American dream.
Escalator leading to underground garage
In 1977 the Hawthorne Plaza opened its doors to meet the booming retail needs of the city. The Hawthorne Plaza was 900,000 sq ft…it was huge, 2 stories and had a 5 acre parking area. The Hawthorne Plaza was an “indoor” mall so the residents did not have to brave the harsh Southern California weather in winter when temps would sometimes dip into the low 60’s!
The Hawthorne Plaza began to falter as several other large scale “shopping mall” projects were completed in nearby Torrance and Redondo Breach. The Hawthorne Plaza struggled to find and maintain quality  tenants to occupy the location along with its anchor stores of “The Broadway”, “Montgomery Wards” and “JC Penny”.
These escalators were used in several major motion pictures
The Mall was looted during the riots of April 1992 and from that point on went on a quick downward spiral into oblivion. The Hawthorne Plaza was put out of its misery and closed in 1999. It has sat, virtually untouched except by vandals for the last 13 yrs.
The Hawthorne Plaza was the filming site for some very famous movies such as the Terminator, Minority Report and Fast and Furious as well as the Green Lantern used the parking areas as “freeways” to shoot scenes.
a contrast in color and decay
What will become of the Hawthorne Plaza in the future? Nobody knows, we can hope that some smart developers will see the value in its location and vast amount of parking and redevelop it. I think most people would also be satisfied if a large earthquake were to crumble the Hawthorne Plaza to the ground, then we could start all over again and build something that the city would be proud of.
I took these photos in July 2011 as I performed a security check with the workers who are doing a bit of demolition on the inside . I put them here in a tribute to the hopes and dreams of a community that were never realized, as well as a symbol of urban decay that shows the ever dividing and widening gap between the “upper class” and the working class-soon to be working poor.
All photos were shot with an iPhone 4

No Cars to park here, but plenty of parking!
No Toys anymore
Many years since the last sale at this Broadway store…or any other for that matter
only the ghosts of shoppers past sit on these benches now

All the “Good Stuff”….I got from my Mom!

This is the first Mothers day in recent times that I will be cooking my giant “Mothers Day Feast” for the family Mom’s and my Mom will not be there…You see, she retired and like so many people do when they retire….she moved to Arizona! I was reflecting on my life a bit and thinking that I really have had an amazing life…and I owe it all to my Mom!

My Mom and I with the "Apple Martini's

My Mom was born Louisa Dunbar Tennille in Montgomery Alabama and raised with 3 other sisters who would become very famous in the 1970’s as the “Tennille Sisters” from the Captain and Tennille.

She is honest and so am I…I got that from her.

My Mom always rises to a challenge and is not afraid to lead…just like me…I got that from her.

I am bald, she is not….I got that from her.

My Mom REALY likes Apple Martini’s as we discovered one very funny evening….I like them too, thanks Mom.

My mom has had a taste of fame and so have I…I got that from her.

My Mom is “wacky” and so am I, I got that from her.

I have always respected people for who they are, no matter what choice in life they make…I got that from her.

My Mom laughs a lot, at herself and things around her and so do I…I got that from her.

My Mom is always up for an adventure in life, just like me…I got that from her.

To my Mom, the glass is always half full…so is my glass.

My Mom see’s the beauty in life…and passed that vision on to me!

My Mom is not a great cook, so I was forced to be one…Thanks Mom!

My Mom became a teacher after being a rock star…she will undoubtedly correct the grammar and errors in this blog post…thanks Mom!

My Mom has lot’s of people to love and who love her…as do I, Thanks Mom!

I have added a cheesy 1970’s video from the capt and Tennille Show with George Burns as the Guest…My Mom is in the middle…I added that, so she would see it and laugh…just as I am!

I love You Mom…Happy Mothers Day!

You Son,

Chris

Do you wanna go to Italy for free? Here is your chance!

I have mentioned before how I get tons of press releases, most of which are crap. Every so often I get something really cool so I post it up for all to see and enjoy. This is from Davinci Wines and is a contest for writers, filmmakers and storytellers who have an interest in wine and Italy. I think that several of my Facebook folks fit the bill for this…It looks like an awesome chance to win a great trip…so go for it!

PS I know the PR guy so it is legit!

DAVINCI® WINES SEEKS WRITERS, ARTISTS AND MORE FOR A CHANCE TO GO TO TUSCANY
ON INSPIRATIONAL “STORYTELLER EXPERIENCE”

Four Consumers with One Creative Assignment: Bring to life real stories of Vinci, Italy 

Applications accepted through May 31st for a week-long experience in Vinci, Italy, where DaVinci wines are created

HEALDSBURG, Calif., May 2, 2011 – If you have a way with words — or with images, video or food for that matter — DaVinci wines is looking for you.

The Italian wine brand is searching for writers, culinary aficionados, artists and filmmakers to travel to Vinci, Italy — home to the historic Cantine Leonardo da Vinci, where DaVinci wines are produced — to gather, bring to life, and share stories of the Tuscan town’s dynamic people and place.  Vinci is a small town in the heart of Tuscany made famous by its celebrated son, Leonardo da Vinci. But it’s the stories of today’s Tuscan wine country that DaVinci wines is interested in.

In July, four selected “DaVinci Storytellers” will spend one week in Vinci and will have unparalleled access to rich history from multiple generations of wine grape growers, dynamic culinary experiences with local chefs and insider access to the area’s robust art culture.

DaVinci will send you on the experience and cover the cost of flights, accommodations, meals and activities while in Vinci; each DaVinci Storyteller, in turn, will express their experience in Tuscany using their creative talents. The resulting stories, art or other creations will be shared by the DaVinci Storytellers through their social media networks as well as the DaVinci website and Facebook page, and the media.

“We’re looking for people with a real gift for telling stories through a variety of creative expressions, whether they’re just learning their craft, working as a professional or pursuing it as a hobby,” says Courtney Klipping, Senior Marketing Manager at E&J Gallo Winery.  “They’ll spend a week soaking up creative inspiration in Vinci with the goal of creating short stories, essays, paintings, photographs, recipes, videos — you name it — to share with the world and to bring to life the story of DaVinci.”

Four DaVinci Storytellers will be chosen, one from each of the following categories:

  • Language Arts such as an author, blogger, journalist or poet;
  • Culinary Arts such as a chef, recipe developer, or food stylist;
  • Visual Arts such as photographer or painter; and
  • Documentary such as a videographer or filmmaker

The applicants will be judged in four areas: a personal “pitch” (why they’d make a great DaVinci Storyteller), samples of work, social media influence and summary of experience and endorsements.  A great applicant will not only be talented in their form of creative expression, but also will be creative, inspired and adventurous, passionate about wine and Italian culture and active in sharing their creativity with others via social media.

Now through May 31st applications are being accepted on the DaVinci Facebook page.  To apply and view the official terms and conditions, please visit www.facebook.com/davinciwine

The Spaghetti Sandwich, It’s “Carbolicious”!

Spaghetti Sandwich

I am an addict, I will admit it…what am I addicted to you ask? Carbs, my friends…be it a tasty bowl of sticky fried white rice with bacon and soy sauce or the glory of a fluffy yet firm Italian roll, I am a straight up addict! Carbs are my “Crack”, they are bad, but oh so good….

I needed a carb fix last night like never before…so with that, I made a carb sandwich and filled it with what else….more carbs, as in Spaghetti !!! It was magical, gooey , yet a bit crunchy at the same time…It was AWESOME!!

I am not claiming to have invented a Spaghetti Sandwich as the Japanese market down the street has little tiny ones on the deli….right next to the squid testicles and fish brains, so with that, I made my own….now you can too!

Spaghetti Sandwich

By Chris Cognac

Ingredients

1 Hoagie or Italian roll 6 to 9 inches long (the kind that are fluffy inside yet tough on the outside)

1 tbs crushed garlic (from a jar)

3 tbs butter or margarine

2 cups spaghetti mixed with your favorite red sauce or meat sauce

shredded mozzarella cheese

Step 1: Slice the roll lengthwise about 2/3 from the bottom of the roll and then separate by hand.

Step 2: Smear butter and garlic on the inside of the roll then sprinkle some cheese on the inside, put into 400 dg oven for 4 mins, remove from oven

Spread the garlic and butter on the bread sing back of spoon

Step 3: Fill the roll with spaghetti (which has already been mixed with sauce), top with a bit more red sauce, then a healthy amount of mozzarella cheese.

Pour extra red sauce onto the "already sauced" spaghetti

Step 4: Bake in oven at 400 dgs for 6-8 mins, then put in broiler for 2-3 mins to really make the cheese melt.

Finished Spaghetti Sandwich right out of the oven

Step 5: Remove from oven and ruin your low carb diet!

Now, remember, don’t blame me when you gain weight from all those , delicious carbs…I didn’t force you to eat it…I just told you how to make it!!

“Opulate”..Yes, you want to make has it!

I opulate to I must has many things
While having lunch with my wife Martha today, she invented a new word whilst trying to describe something: That word is “OPULATE”!!
“Opulate” (Op-You-Late): The Russian and Baltic process of attaining wealth i.e. obtaining as many material items covered in gold as possible.
Now a practical lesson in the proper usage of “Opulate”.
Vladmir: Much chains of gold make want many ladies to make sex to Vladmir, no?
Yuri: Yes , soon Yuri try to Opulate, then much pretty ladies to Yuri make sex from, yes?
Vladmir: Ladies please to have Vladmir make to buy bed of tan so Ladies to orange skin make.
Yuri: Skin of orange ladies, make to show others that Vladmir big man with many thing to has. Vladmir not Opulate long time, many orange ladies, small giraffe , gold popcorn show Vladmir it make!
Well, that is my lesson in “Opulate” now I think it is time for me to Opulate as I need to has many things as well…
PS Opulence is what one has after one Opulate’s …although the process is new, most men go through certain periods know as “Opulation” every so often.
Link to Farms of Small Giraffe for after Opulate  (Click on it, its seriously funny)
Das Vidana, Chris

Flemings updates it’s awesome 5-6-7 Happy Hour menu

The Awesome Prime Sirloin Burger at Fleming's

I love a great bargain and the 5-6-7 menu at Fleming’s is about the best bargain in town. We go to the Fleming’s at LA Live before the L.A. Kings games and can eat and drink like Kings and only pay like a pauper…so here is the new menu release from Fleming’s …check it out, it has my highest recommendation!

Tickled Pink Cocktail

WHAT:            Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar’s  NEW “5 for 6 ‘til 7” Bar Menu

Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar renews its popular “5 for 6 ‘til 7” bar menu with three additions:  the 99 calorie Tickled Pink cocktail, a sparkling elixir that blends Belvedere Vodka with orange juice and raspberries, and a splash of Italian Mionetto Prosecco; Also new to the $6 menu: Guinness Draught, a perfect salute for St. Patrick’s Day; and Roasted Mushroom Ravioli  with Portobello and shiitake mushrooms in a porcini butter sauce.

WHEN:            Nightly from 5 to 7 PM

WHERE:         Available at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar in the bar
Loctations in Newport Beach, El Segundo, Downtown LA, Woodland Hills, Rancho Mirage and Rancho Cucamonga. Please visit FlemingsSteakhouse.com for your closest restaurant.

COST:             Each item is $6 until 7 PM (cocktails, wines, appetizers, prime burger)

MENU:            5 COCKTAILS
·        Vintage Vodka Martini, Smirnoff Vodka
·        Clear Cosmo, Svedka Vodka
·        Pomtini, Smirnoff Vodka
·        Tropical Martini, Malibu Coconut Rum
·        Tickled Pink, Belvedere Vodka, Mionetto Prosecco, 99-Calories (Photo and Recipe available upon request)

5 WINES BY THE GLASS
·        Chardonnay, Canyon Road, California
·        Pinot Noir, Mark West, California
·        Shiraz, Morse Code, Australia
·        Merlot, Red Diamond, Washington
·        Cabernet, Sensual, Argentina

5 APPETIZERS
·        Tenderloin Carpaccio
·        Sweet Chile Calamari
·        Roasted Mushroom Ravioli
·        Seared Ahi Tuna
·        Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail

PLUS FLEMING’S PRIME BURGER (photo available)
PLUS GUINNESS DRAUGHT, two for $6 or one for $3

Wienerschnitzel “Bacon Wrapped Street Dog”: Epic Fail!!!

Do you think my Bacon Street Dog looked like the one in the photo?

I have always been a fan of one of the most amazing, yet simple street food items on the planet earth, the Bacon Wrapped Hot dogs. Ever since eating one during a drunken teenage trip to Tijuana Mexico back in the 80’s, I have been hooked on them. I have professed my love for them back in the early days of online food forums (link to eGullet 2004 thread) , ranted for them...fought for them, getting in a bit of hot water at my “real job” due to some shitty reporting by the Daily Breeze newspaper (although they corrected it in print) about my defending the Bacon Dog , even written how to find and make them. Hell I have even been scheduled recently to appear as an expert on them for a Food Network show, then been mysteriously “canceled” at the last minute (wonder who I pissed off at FN).

Anyway, corporate Mega Giant Hot Dog chain Wienerschnitzel decided to jump on the bandwagon and put a “Bacon Wrapped Street Dog” on its menu. Well, shit, you don’t have to tell me twice to go check it out. I plunked down my $1.99 and waited like a “kid in a candy store” (not a plug for the show on Food Network even though my buddy Sean Omalley makes it) ..

I picked up my order (along with some tasty fries which are always fantastic there) and unwrapped it lovingly. I didn’t smell the aroma of melting pig, which is one of the tell tale signs of an amazing experience about to unfold, plus it felt a little “light”…I was still optimistic, I mean damn its Wienerschnitzel, they are the kings of the mass market hot dog…I unwrapped the paper, an took a look at this!

Wienerschnitzel Bacon Wrapped Street dog

It was an abomination to everything “bacon wrapped” it was a small shriveled up dog, with a flimsy piece of bacon…not even close to being completely wrapped as it should be, they used “applewood” bacon…they should have used a FUD dog and shitty cheap ass Mexican market bacon, cause that’s how its done right. The toppings were a mess, just a big “glob” of mayo. mustard and some decent grilles onions. It looked nothing like the photo, I almost began to cry in between bites, while forcing myself to consume the worst Bacon Wrapped Hot Dog of my life!

Can I ever overcome the fact that I have been sso traumatized by the corporate version of my favorite street food….I don’t know, but I am sure it will take time, and a few decent Bacon Wrapped Hot Dogs…ones from the fucking barrios, not some fast food corporate kitchen, This hot dog has about as much “street cred” as Canadian White Boy rapper “Snow”…yea “Informer Bitches”

! I will give the disclaimer though….wienerschnitzel has some pretty kick ass food…. just not the Bacon Wrapped Street Dog…

OMFG, this Monte Cristo is one you can “count” on!

When Heaven comes to land on your plate, this is what it looks like!

I am a lover of the  rare and often horribly prepared “Monte Cristo” sandwich. What is a Monte Cristo sandwich you ask? Its pretty simple really, its just good fluffy bread, with swiss cheese, ham and turkey. What is so frigging special about that you say?…Well, the good and proper part is its battered and deep fried…yes, deep fried! I have found what I so far in my life of gorging and  culinary debauchery to be the ultimate, best Monte Cristo sandwich around and you won’t believe where you have to go to eat it.

Disneyland, yes…Disney, f ing land!, the Cafe Orleans to be exact…But all the food at Disneyland sucks ass and is made for fat tourists from Omaha! No my friends, the food at Disneyland and many, many other Disney lands, worlds, etc…is quite good, and in this case…amazing! Yes you have to sit and listen to the dixieland band playing 5 feet away from your table, but its worth it!

The Sandwich is an amazing display of contrasts.  When you bite into it, it starts off with a sweet, crunchy batter that is a lot like they used to put on Pioneer Chicken (those of you who remember that chain will know what I am talking about). Then, it is fluffy and warm as you move through the delicious bread, into a gooey piece of just the right temperature swiss cheese, then the smokey ham and turkey, back into a luxurious piece of bread, and finally more crunchy batter…all smothered with fruit preserves and topped with powdered sugar!

They took a semi healthy sandwich, took away the “health” and added flavor and deliciousness that resulted my heart wanting to kill me and my stomach thanking me for the gift it had received.

This is without a doubt the best Monte Cristo on the west coast, cause I have eaten one at every place I can find em on the menu (thats not very many). Its worth the trip to Disneyland just to get one, and look on the bright side, you can walk off all the calories trying to find a line short enough to actually wait in!