Saturday, October 23, 2010

Duck Soup & Dead Bodies

 This is a potpourri posting of reviews for things totally unrelated, but which gave me pleasure, and by inference, may give you pleasure as well, should you choose to partake of any of the opportunities described herein.


Persistence pays.  I have been advocating for duck pho on the menu at Soy House for a long time, and my persistence has come to fruition, sort of.  After weeks of tinkering with the recipe, they finally introduced it to the menu.  As their unique and delicious pizza was in the beginning, this item is an 'experiment', for now.  You need to ask for it, and it isn't available every day--yet.  I suggested they make a Facebook post on days it is on the menu, and trust me, you will want to try this.  This pho, like all of their soup offerings begins with it's own broth.  Most restaurants (including a lot of very pricey haute cuisine joints that should know better)  use a 'base' as a short-cut for broth or stock.  Imagine that little bullion cube from the red or green can on steroids and you get the idea.  Not so at Soy House.  I have actually seen  roasted bones heading for the stock pot for the beef pho, and each broth is carefully constructed for fabulous flavor to enhance the principal ingredient in a given dish.  This duck is delish, full of rich but nuanced flavor.  Served on the side is fresh lime, jalapeno slices, mung bean sprouts and leaf lettuce (instead of Thai basil, which isn't really suited to this soup). Made with your choice of rice or egg noodles (get the egg noodles, they work with the flavor profiles better) this is a must-try for lovers of pho.

Now, let's take a moment to ponder the humble duck, and dispel a couple of the myths surrounding the eating of same:

1.  Duck is gamey.
     WILD duck can be a little-or even a lot-gamey, but farm-raised duck is just a rich tasting dark poultry meat.  It can, and should, be served medium rare when prepared as a grilled duck breast, something you dare not do with chicken.  But grilled, smoked, marinated or roasted, it opens up your taste buds to a bevy of palate pleasing classics of cuisine.  Don't be afraid, embrace your adventurous tendencies.  Order the duck-forget the veal.

2.  Duck is fatty.
      The muscle meat of duck is nearly fat-free.  Ducks and geese reserve almost all of their fat in their skin, which is what makes rendering out the fat possible, and yields--when done correctly--a fabulous taste, and far less fat and calories than the generic burger and fries you have no problem pounding down for a quick lunch.  What little fat remains become about the best flavor-transport mechanism every designed by nature.  Eat the skin, it's tasty!

Their innovative Vietnamese influenced pizza made it to the regular menu (read my review in an earlier post Mason Jar Madness ) after a long introduction period, and I remain hopeful the same will be true for the duck pho.  Asian cusine without duck somewhere on the menu is like BBQ without ribs.  You can do it, but something important is missing.


'RED' is entirely implausible and predictable to a fault, and yet it has an irresistible element of big explosion, high body count, wry comedy and an almost believable May-September romance element to it that I found fun.  Bear in mind, this will not be laden with statuette nominations from the Academy, nor will it get much notice from snooty reviewers, but people of a certain age and gender (male boomers, for instance) will not feel cheated.  There is lots of Wile E. Coyote v Roadrunner violence, just enough CG to be entertaining and a star-studded passel of cast members with their tongues planted firmly in their cheeks while delivering their lines.  The locations are interesting enough, mostly edited in from second-unit-no-principals-in-sight footage, and enough shell casings are scattered to keep an armorer reloading for about five years.  This is 'Space Cowboys' recast in CIA garb.  Great movie making?  Not so much.  A lot of fun for men of a certain age (and the women who love them)?  You bet.  It was for me, anyway.

Fatalities  (ok, I couldn't come up with a decent alliterative for the last book I read, so sue me.)

Damage Control by Robert Dugoni.  Bob is quickly becoming one of my favorite contemporary authors.  Mostly writing legal thrillers, his characters and situations--while sensational and intense, as a thriller should be--also have a ring of truth to them.  Dialogue is natural, plot lines flow evenly, leading to a crescendo of action with a finely crafted resolution leaving the reader fulfilled.  This is not an easy task, so as a writer myself, when I encounter it, I particularly enjoy quality .
Damage Control is Dugoni's second book of fiction and yes, yours truly, ever behind the curve, is commenting on a book published four years ago.  There are two reasons for this:  One, I opted to start at the beginning of his series when I gave a brief thumbs up to Jury Master in an earlier post, Reading to write right, right?  I met Bob at a book signing and writer's discussion sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Writers Association, to which we both belong.  He was signing his latest, Wrongful Death, (a shiny new copy of which awaits my attention) and I was a boy on a budget, so it was paperback for me.
Two, I wanted to try reading a thriller on my new Nook e-reader, and again, being on a budget it was the perfect choice.  $7.99 for the download, forever available to me, and not an inch of already groaning bookshelf space occupied.  I finished the last hundred pages of the book during a two-hour back up at the Canadian border waiting to get back into the U.S.  I won't spend any time recounting plot details or characters, that was done by the NY Times years ago, I'll just say I was fully engaged by the book, enjoyed it for what it was--a diverting drama full of the requisite protagonists in peril, dead bodies piling up and mischief and malfeasance in high places.  It was a great read and, after all, isn't that what most writers hope for when they put their babies out for the world?  Thanks, Bob.  Keep 'em coming.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Why Liberals Fail

After the primary a few weeks ago I was chatting with a liberal friend about the post-election washout of candidates.  I imagined out loud that since her candidate had not advanced, she would be supporting the Democratic candidate that had moved on to the general election.

"No," was the firm reply.  "He voted to fund the war [in Iraq & Afghanistan].  I can't support that.  I have to vote my conscience.  I am for peace, I will write in the name of my [failed] candidate, and vote for him."

"So," I said, "you will cast a ballot that indirectly favors the candidate whose party started the war under false pretenses.  The party that offered no apology or even reasonable excuse for same, whose executive leadership created a torture camp in Cuba and under whose lack of supervision crashed the most vital economy in the world?"

"I have to vote my conscience."  End of discussion.

This is why liberals fail.  It is a political truism that liberals fall in love; conservatives fall in line.  My friend has fallen in love with the candidate and been blinded to the forest by a single tree.  This phenomenon has had many names over the political years:  Peace & Freedom, Green, Progressives, the Mary Janes and others of a similar splinter mentality.  They, and others like them, succumb to the siren song of the 'protest vote', somehow imagining that those votes will be seen with all seriousness in Washington or at the state and local level at least.  They are correct in one assumption:  They will be seen all right, and promptly dismissed as a constituency that can, and will, be ignored.

As a group, liberals have an astonishingly short collective memory.  Only one election cycle ago the most diverse group of voters in my living history accomplished what many believed impossible; they elected an avowed liberal black man to the Presidency of the United States of America.  With him they swept into power a huge Congressional majority of Dems and between them--in spite of fierce and almost unanimous opposition from Republicans--managed to enact some of the most important fiscal and social legislation in half a century.

But, alas, Barack Obama proved to be human.  He didn't march into office and sweep away 220 years of political bickering with a single blow.  Don't Ask-Don't Tell still lingers, as do dozens of left and far left honey-dos.  The agenda is incomplete and you are an impatient and fickle crowd.  You liberals have lost your understanding of the power of incremental-ism.  Like children, you want it all now, or you will sulk in your room.

Republicans are counting on this.  The RNC is collecting and spending hundreds of millions of dollars on candidates, that in any other cycle, wouldn't merit a one line obit buried deep in the political pages.  They hold their noses, open their checkbooks and fall in line.  Most of the mainstream Republicans seeking election, or re-election, are espousing views they cynically don't believe themselves, in order to appeal to a general anxiety amongst the electorate.

And you are letting it happen.  You are so busy feeling sorry for yourself that the entire country isn't on board with your goals, that you have fallen into a malaise, that in just a few weeks, threatens to undo what you worked so hard to achieve.  If you are disillusioned and frustrated now, imagine how eviscerated you will feel when a cadre of elected representatives come into power that have the avowed goals of re-instituting school prayer, rolling back abortion rights, eliminating Social Security and Medicare, trying to deport millions of undocumented aliens and expanding tax cuts and deregulation to the wealthiest companies and individuals in the country. Don't be misled, these are the central tenants of their governing philosophy.

As a moderate Republican, sidelined by my own party, I find myself watching this slow-motion train wreck in the liberal wing with horror.  Oddly, the best hope I, and millions of center-righters like me, have of regaining the reigns of a GOP careening madly out of control to the reactionary right, is a united liberal front.  If you throw up your hands and walk away from the process it may be two generations before equilibrium can be restored, and reclaiming sanity in governance likely won't return in my lifetime.

Think about this; after the dust has settled from the upcoming election, states will begin the process of reapportionment and redistricting.  It is a little-understood, but critically important, constitutional process that affects the makeup of the House of Representatives and subsequently influences elections not just for ten years, till the next census, but for a generation or more, as Members become the ruling class, and re-election becomes a foregone conclusion for 90% of those running.

I'm trying to regain control of my party one blog at a time, but liberals, I need your help.  Don't screw this up, get out the vote.

Moderate Republicans and Independents are counting on you.

Ironic, no?