Defective Detective Shops for a Pepper Mill

I am shopping for a really good pepper mill, and dammit, I can’t decide.

Right now I narrowed it down to two choices:

a) A pepper mill made by Peugeot. Supposedly Peugeot was making pepper mills even before cars. [Insert your own joke about wimpy French cars and their origins]
b) Turkish coffee grinder that was popularized as a pepper grinder by the Frugal Gourmet dude.

Ok, so let’s see what Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance taught me. Thinking romantically, it’s really cool that the grinder is made by an automobile company. It’s a great conversation starter (not that I need any of those). But thinking classically, a mechanism made for grinding Turkish coffee must be by it’s nature more robust, and have a much greater level of adjustment.

Like obsessive-compulsive detective Monk, I can’t decide.

Oooh, isn’t the salt pig adorable? Nah, I’m happy with the salt cellar that I have. Besides, it looks like a perfect place for roaches to camp out.

Die Kunst der Rant : Contrapunctus 1

Like everybody else, I am frequently annoyed by waiters, clerks and salespeople. Like all geeks I am a little deficient in the communication department, which makes it harder.

After getting somewhat bad service from a waitress in Blue Note I even suggested to a friend of mine the following idea: a world where waiters are replaced by a computer interface. You study an interactive menu and your orders are transmitted directly to the chef.

Her argument against that was that some waiters are real characters and are really entertaining. And that’s entirely true! Howard Johnson’s in Times Square has a really unique staff of old timers, probably the most polite waiters I met. Waiters at Peter Luger’s are gruff steak experts. Without them the atmosphere would not be the same. On Dave Attel’s Insomniac I’ve seen a late night cheese steak joint where you are expected to curse out the servers and they are expected to answer in kind. It’s not a family restaurant, of course.

But on the other hand, I find ordering in fast food places somewhat tough. The dude in Coffee Connection (Dunkin’ Donuts rip-off) habitually adds milk to my coffee when I ask for cream. More than that, he lies when asked if that’s milk in the coffee. I carry special glucose detector sticks to check if the soda I get brought is really diet (because I am on a low carb diet). Sometimes it isn’t. Many ordering experiences go pretty much as described by J.S. Bach of the Rant, his coolness JWZ. (don’t be lazy, open the link. It’s short and hilarious).

Now, that I can understand. I worked at glorious Nathatns Famous at Coney Island, and I have a really bad short term memory. When you do mind numbing tasks all day remembering even the simplest instructions is very hard. Well, of course the menu was a bit more complex than popcorn and soda and I had to keep track of many more different things, but still…

All you need is a PDA. You get a menu beamed to it before you enter. You select your order. You beam the order to the waiter. When done, you beam the payment. Not a single word needs to be spoken. Ahh, future.

The General Theory of Tso’s Chicken

Ok, here I am ranting again about food not allowed by my low carb diet.

General Tso’s chicken. Mmmmm. Deep fried chicken cubes in sweet and spicy sauce. Droool.

Ok, if I can’t have it, I can at least finally find out who is this general and why the dish is named after him. Luckily I am not the first one to ask myself that question. Well, trusty google gave me some answers, but very few things are completely clear.

Is it an ancient Szechuan dish called “ancestor meeting place chicken” or was it “It was invented in the mid-1970s, in NYC, by one Chef Peng”? Probably the second.

General Tso seems to have been a real military general. My theory was that it’s genral in the sense of “concerned with, applicable to, or affecting the whole or every member of a class or category”, as opposed to “special”. Anyways, his specialty (huh, huh I made a pun) was Chinese and Muslim rebellion crushing. But were his “.. operations were carried out while he suffered from recurring bouts of malaria and dysentery”? Has he “… flunked the official court exams three times, a terrible disgrace …” or did he have a ” ..successful career as a scholar-administrator”? Was the chicken named so because “…General Tso […] had the top leaders of the Nian Rebellion executed with the proverbial “death of 10,000 cuts”[…] ” or just in admiration?

And how many puns can be made by people writing articles about the good general and his dish? Try to count in the following articles (which I qoted in my post):
Tso What?
Who Was General Tso And Why Are We Eating His Chicken?

Japanese Grocery

I’ve found a really nice Japanese grocery on 43d street between 6th and Broadway. It’s a bit on the expensive side, but the selection is really good. They have raw fish for sashimi, a dozen different types of umeboshi, huge selection of teas, condiments and many other things any japanophile can appreciate. They even have Japanese cigarettes. I’ve purchased the tastiest green tea ever, Kikkoman “extra fancy” soy souse ($3 for a tiny little bottle), some umeboshi, bonito flakes, bonito soup base and a few other things.

Sam Bok Groceries
127 West 43 Street
New York, NY 10036
212 221-0845
10am – 9pm Mon-Sun


Beanie Babies® are freaky. Unlike normal plush toys, they are not filled with stuffing completely, leaving them limp. Some people call them “roadkill” because of that. They are “born”, like the Cabbage Patch® dolls (which are also freaky) , but then they are “retired”. They brought their founder, H. Ty Warner billions of dollars. Really, billions. He bought fricking Four Seasons Hotel for 275 million. I bet, right now, like Howard Hughes, he is sitting in a penthouse there, his toenails 20 centimeters long, with minions swabbing everything with disinfectant. Ok, I don’t know if he is germophobic like Hughes, but he is definitely just as reclusive. And how in hell did he make so much money with those damn dolls? I know, I know – manipulating supply and demand. But billions??


Reading a book about Steinway history (my wife’s father works there).
Henry Steinway is writing a letter after immigrating to America :
“I cannot advise you to come here if you are able, by diligence and thrift, to make a living in Germany. People here have to work harder than abroad, and you get so used to better living that you finally think potato soup tasted better in Germany than the daily roast here.”
Hmmm, all too true.