Bialetti Moka Express

Espresso and Sambuca

Ah... the joys of being retired...

Victor saw an online article the other day that Bialetti - the maker of the iconic Moka Express was in danger of bankruptcy. Neither of us have ever owned a moka express, so we decided it was time - anything to help stave off bankruptcy from such an iconic Italian company.

The pot arrived this morning, and I immediately put it to work - doing the initial wash and brewing the initial first pot that, following instructions, is then thrown away.

This afternoon, we decided to officially break it in - espresso with Sambuca.

It is a classic flavor combination and something I have enjoyed at restaurants after a great meal, but never in the middle of the afternoon on a Tuesday. Somehow, that slight bit of decadence made it taste all the better.

We have a burr grinder for our coffee - and drink an extra dark roast - Café Pajaro from Trader Joe's - so it was no problem getting a finely ground dark roast coffee. It was the perfect foil for the pot and the Sambuca - rich full coffee flavor and licorice.

The perfect afternoon pick-me-up.

Retirement really is good...

Gay Coffee

Gay Coffee...  Who Knew?!?

Certainly not moi - until just a couple of days ago.  A dear friend of ours found out about it and posted a link on her Facebook page.  I followed the link, loved what I saw, and decided I just had to give it a try.

It just arrived and Oh Boy!  It's just what I wanted!

I know most of you will find this difficult to believe, but I can be a bit of a food snob now and again.  Well...  maybe not really a snob - just slightly opinionated about certain things.  Okay...  REALLY opinionated about certain things.  Kinda.

But I digress...

I like good coffee. 

My very first memory of coffee goes back to when we lived on Potrero Hill in San Francisco - circa 1953... The Hills Brothers Coffee plant was at the bottom of the hill and the scent of roasting coffee was everywhere.  I didn't know what it was, then, I just knew that I liked it.  We didn't live there that long, but every time we were anywhere South of Market or along The Embarcadero, that familiar friendly smell was there.

The folks didn't buy Hills Brothers.  I grew up with Lady Lee coffee made by a fireman.  (Lady Lee is the Lucky Market store brand.  Pop had the ability to make bad coffee taste good.)  Or Farmer Brothers - the restaurant brand at the Donut Center and most of the early restaurants where I worked.

Really good coffee wasn't an expectation back then.  Adequate was adequate.  And for me, all coffee pretty much tasted the same.

But somewhere along the line, coffee changed.  Expectations changed.  People started drinking more coffee.  Better coffee.  No longer was coffee relegated to the back burner, so to speak.  Coffee came out of the closet and started getting respect.  Single origin beans, quality blends, roasts that actually enhanced beans instead of destroying them.

It was a good thing.

And then Gay Coffee came out and it was even better.

When I first visited the Gay Coffee website, I was enthralled.  How can you not love a coffee named Good Morning Mary or Second Date?  And the fact that all of their beans are organic and fair trade only added to my delight.

I started shopping.

I'm a dark roast coffee-lover.  I like coffee brought right to the edge. Juuuuuust to the edge.  Coffee roasting is an art and not all coffee roasters are artists.  Into my burr coffee grinder the beans went.

**Okay, a bit of snobbery here, but a burr grinder makes for a much better cup of coffee than a blade chopper.  The blade chops the beans and the end result is an uneven grind of big pieces and little pieces.  A burr grinder grinds all of the beans to the same uniform size resulting in a superior brew.

After sampling my first cup of Red Hanky Roast, the Gay Coffee Roasters are artists!

The coffee beans are just the right shade of dark and glisten with their natural oils.  The scent is wonderfully rich.  And the brewed cup is nothing short of steaming sensuality.

I'm in love.

Gay love.

And a bit of coffee-overload at the house right now.  We have bags of Peet's French Roast and Kimberton Roasters Black Lab in the cabinet along with our three new Gay Coffees.

Did I mention I'm in love?!?

The Hurricane Cocktail

Back in early 1985 Hyatt sent me to New Orleans for two weeks for a management seminar.  Rooms at the Hyatt Regency, all meals included, bar tab picked up... And non-stop seminars.  Early morning to late night.  But being the fun and adventurous young man that I was - and seminaring with equally fun and adventurous young men and women - several of us would head out to the French Quarter every night to experience the Big Easy.

The first thing I did the first day I was there was get a Hurricane at Pat O'Brien's.

It was - by far - the most vile, disgusting drink I have ever had in my life.  OMG!  It was horrible.  Sickeningly sweet and mass-produced, it was downright bad.  I didn't enjoy it, either.  I did drink the whole thing, of course - there was a lot of rum in it, after all - but it's the one and only I have ever had. (I just shivered and broke out in goosebumps at the memory!)

I've made it to New Orleans a couple more times since then - the last time was with Victor in either 1999 or 2000.  His (then) company wanted to transfer him down there and they flew us down first class, put us up at the Fairmont, wined and dined us, and otherwise tried to make it the most appealing place on the earth.

This Liberal Yankee Gay Boy From San Francisco saw one too many Ol' Miss sweatshirts and rebel flags to feel comfortable moving there.  Victor's salary would have been nice, but we still wouldn't have been able to afford a home in The Garden District.  We actually did look at real estate for grins and giggles.  Areas that were prone to flooding and areas that weren't...  weird rules and such about who would be responsible for flood damage...

We said "Thanks, but no thanks."

And...  it really is a good thing we didn't move there.  We would have been there for Katrina.  And I am reasonably confident we would have been there for Katrina.  I have always had a sneaking suspicion we would not have evacuated.  Being the slightly pig-headed idiot I can be at times, it just seems that staying and riding out a hurricane would have been something that sounded like a fun thing to do.  Yeah...  you would have seen us on TV - live from the Super Dome.

So we go from Katrina to Irene.

In case you haven't heard...  there's a hurricane moving its way up the east coast.  Mandatory evacuations from Cape May to Atlantic City.  Heading towards New York City.  We're about 75 miles from the coast.  Not enough to worry about a direct hit, but close enough that the power can go out.  That would not be fun.

Or... other than no air conditioning, maybe it would.  I have several books on the Kindle still to read, an audio book on the iPod.  Plenty of food and a gas stove.  And, as long as there's cellular, we have the iPhones and iPad to amuse us, as well.

The one thing I know we won't be doing is making a



  • 2 oz light rum
  • 2 oz dark rum
  • 2 oz passion fruit juice
  • 1 oz orange juice
  • juice of a half a lime
  • 1 Tbsp simple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp grenadine
  • orange slice and cherry for garnish


  1. Squeeze juice from half a lime into shaker over ice.
  2. Pour the remaining ingredients into the cocktail shaker.
  3. Shake well.
  4. Strain into a hurricane glass.
  5. Garnish with a cherry and an orange slice.

I have my standards.  As low as they are, I have my standards...



Caffe Vergnano 1882

The weather outside is getting frightful.  Time for a cup of coffee.

But not just any ol' coffee...  We're having a pot of Caffe Vergnano 1882 Crystal.   From a nice half-kilo bag.

Victor's nephew, Nick,  got it for us from Eataly in NYC along with a bottle of Frantoio Lucchi & Guastalli Terra di Tramontana Olio Extra Vergine di Oliva.  That translates to "Really Expensive Olive Oil."

The label states the coffee is:

A Vergnano signature blend created by Vergnano for the connoisseur of the true Italian espresso.  Unique in its appearance and unfailing in quality.  Even the most untrained eye cannot help but to notice the large Margagogype beans of Nicaragua which are evident within this celebrated blend.  As an espresso there are floral undertones and hints of spice.  A rich crema and abundant aroma.  Prepared for a filter or drip coffee the 1882 blend produces a coffee which is surprisingly smooth and mellow and yet unmasked in its complexity.

The coffee is also not cheap but it lives up to the hype.  It's good.  really good.  It's a good thing that we don't live closer to NYC.  I couldn't afford to drink this every day!

But we're gonna love every drop.  And methinks we're gonna enjoy that olive oil, too!

Burgers and Fauxllinis

It's about 80 degrees outside.  Wind is blowing at 25+ mph.  Windows open.  Perfect weather to light up the grill!  And to mix up a fauxllini.

What's a fauxllini, you ask?!?  Pureed peaches and seltzer, of course!  Over ice.  Perfectly refreshing.  What I didn't know was where the Bellini got its name...

This drink was created 1943 at Harry's Bar in Venice, Italy in honor of the painter Geovani Bellini. Giuseppi Cipriani was the inventor. The original recipe was made with fresh pureed white peaches with a bit of raspberry or cherry juice to give the drink a pink glow.

How 'bout that.

Yesterday - sans Bellinis - we ended up turning on the air conditioning.  I don't care what the calendar says - when the thermometer inside says 89°, the date is immaterial.  All the real Bellinis in the world wouldn't have made it any cooler.  (Okay, maybe I wouldn't have cared what the temperature was, but it wouldn't have made it cooler!)  But I digress...

I had a hankerin' for a burger on the barbie all day long.  And I got me one.

Charred to perfection with mayo, mustard, catsup, pickles, onions, tomatoes, avocado, and cheese.  On a whole wheat bun, of course.  With fries.

It was a mess to eat.  Even cutting it in half didn't help.  Everything was just sliding everywhere.  I used half-a-dozen napkins.  The perfect burger.

It's supposed to rain like hell tonight and then be a mere 40 degrees cooler tomorrow.

Practically casserole weather!  I think I'll make salads, anyway.

Gotta love it.

Limoncello, anyone?!?


A few years back, we were up in the Boston area and ended up at a store called All Things Sicilian. Victor's Sicilian. We had to go in...

They have some fun stuff, but one thing that caught his eye was a Limoncello decanter and cups. He had vague memories of Limoncello (after a few, EVERYONE has vagie memories...) but really like the set - and it came with a recipe.

Home we came, and limoncello we made. OY! The stuff is G-O-O-D!! Potent, but oh, so flavorful! It's easy to make, but takes a couple of months from start-to-finish to do it right. And the longer you take, the better it is!


This is (double) batch 4 or 5 now... The whole house smells of fresh lemons. Life is good!

** since originally coming up with this, we have cur the sugar tremendously. This is the revised recipe.

  • 15 organic lemons, well scrubbed
  • 1 1.75 liter bottle vodka (80 or 100 proof - higher proof=stronger)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water

Wash the lemons well and pat dry. Carefully zest the lemons with a zester or vegetable peeler so there is no white pith on the peel.

Step One:
In a large glass jar (1-gallon jar), add the vodka and the lemon zest. Cover the jar and let sit at room temperature for at least 10 days and up to 40 days in a cool dark place. The longer it rests, the better the taste will be. (There is no need to stir - all you have to do is wait.) As the limoncello sits, the vodka slowly take on the flavor and rich yellow color of the lemon zest.

Step Two:
In a large saucepan, combine the sugar and water; cook until thick and syrupy, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Cool the syrup and then stir into the limoncello mixture. Allow to rest for another 10 to 40 days.

Step Three:
After the rest period, strain and bottle: discarding the lemon zest. Keep in the freezer until ready to serve.

It shall be the perfect summer sipper!

A Proper Cuppa


I've never been a huge tea drinker. Oh, back in the '70's I did my share of herbal teas and gallons of Constant Comment. But, it was living in Tahoe and smoking lots of pot, too. It was what was expected. And for a while in the 1980's I was buying loose tea from a place called "Cherokee Tea" in St. Louis (they're long gone...) But, usually, given the choice, I'll have a cup of coffee. Most commercial American tea has just been too bland for my taste. Just as with coffee, I'm not a huge fan of "flavors" of tea (the aforementioned Constant Comment, excepted.) They all have their place, but, when I want a cup of tea, - just as with my coffee - I want a cup of tea. No milk, cream, sugar, sweetener. Just tea.

And then we visited England a couple of years ago. Having a "when in Rome" mentality, I found myself drinking tea all the time. And it was good. Strong, rich flavor. Not the weak, bland colored water I was used to drinking. We brought several boxes back, and started imploring friends to bring us back more when they traveled across the pond. I started searching out different "English Breakfast Teas" and "English Afternoon Teas." Good, solid, black tea.

We were out west for my dad's birthday and ran into Cost Plus to see what was new. We practically lived at Cost Plus when we lived out west. We have furnished half our home from them and I was shopping with them way back in the '60's.  But I digress.....

I noticed a box of tea. PG Tips. The box said "A popular British blend of the finest Assam, Ceylon, and Kenyan teas which produces a rich and refreshing flavour. The definative traditional English tea." Okay. Sounds like what I'm looking for!

Fast-forward... It's a great tea! And it comes in these neat "pyramid" pouches that, again, according to the box, gives the tea leaves 50% more room to move around than a flat conventional tea bag. So the tea bag works like a miniature tea pot. This allows for all the freshness to be released for the best tasting cup of PG."

I dunno if it's the tea bag or not, but it's a great cuppa tea!