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Megalomania continues...
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Sunday, February 29, 2004

Okay. Before I begin commentary on the Oscars, I have to make a comment about the repercussions of boobygate. I hate Howard Stern. I think he's a vulgar, crude barbarian. He's not funny, and he's done and said some horribly misogynistic things towards women. That being said, I think that's it's craptacular that his radio show is being suspended for questionable content. I mean, sure, fire him cause he sucks (but he's popular, so that would be a bad business move), but pulling his show because of "decency reasons" is just ridiculous. This censorship thing is really getting out of hand.

Oh, and about gay marriages, whether you support them or not... Mr. President, don't you have better things to do? Aren't you supposed to be searching for WMDs in Iraq, or Osama Bin Ladin? Since when does the government have any business dictating who you can or can't commit to? I hate to think that all our tax dollars are being wasted on this kind of debate. Sheesh.

All-righty. Rants over. On to the Oscars. First of all, HOOOORRAAAAAAYYY!! ROTK swept! (does a little dance of joy) It's about fucking time! Was I the only one who wanted Peter Jackson to cradle that gold statuette, fondle it, and murmer, "my preciousssss..." But where oh where was my precious? Oh yeah, that's right. I seem to remember some kind of plan about lawn chairs, strawberries and mimosas...

Did anyone catch the pre-show "countdown"? There was this one cokehead reporter - I think his name was Billy Bush, and it's quite possible that he's related to Dubya - that kept running to all the hot starlets so he could stand really close to them (like violation of personal space close) and ogle their chests. I swear, he was practically licking his chops and reaching for a grope. Especially Angelina Jolie. Everybody he interviewed looked really annoyed with him, and kept trying to dismiss him, and he kept pestering. Tim Robbins actually pointed the camera towards Ben Kingsly, then ducked. He started to pester Kingsly about his "hot date," and Kingsly said, "This is Lady Kingsly. My WIFE of TWENTY FIVE YEARS." And Benicio Del Toro's date visibly rolled her eyes and made a face when he tried to run down her aisle and interview Keisha Castle Hughes. I could swear she was about to trip him. The dolt.

Aww, I felt really sorry for Bill Murray when Sean Penn won. I had a feeling it would come down to those two. Hell, even Jude Law (swoon) said he voted for Penn. I really Bill to win, and although I haven't seen Mystic River, I'm sure Penn deserved it - he always turns in a great performance. Bill just looked so sad. Not mad really, but he looked like he was about to cry. And Johnny Depp looked so embarassed and befuddled that's he was nominated for Pirates. It was really very endearing.

Random musings (you can check out everyone's dresses on

I love that the hobbits (Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens) are all unkempt. It's so charming! I just wish they were barefoot!

Uma, what happened to your stylist? Did Ethan get her in the divorce? She put you in that gorgeous lilac Prada 10 years ago, when everyone was wearing black Armani. It's not like you're Bjork, and people will just say, "Oh, she's just quirky".

Jack Black and Will Ferrell are the best part of this show - "It's time to cut to commercial, you're BO-RIIINNNG!" They should host next year, instead of Billy Crystal. Who I did *not* need to see semi-nude.

I think the bow on Renee Zellweger's dress is gonna attack her, or the presenters, or quite possibly the entire audience.

Sandra Bullock's dress reminds me of Big Bird.

Naomi Watts needs to gain 20 pounds. Seriously! She was skinny in Mulholland Drive, but still smokin'. Now, she looks anorexic.

Scarlett Johannson looks great. Love the hair and the red lipstick. The dress is nice, but the fit is a little off. Still, I like that she doesn't try to starve herself like everyone else. She actually looks really healthy, and that gives her a nice glow. Which is actually a lot more prettier than being stick thin.

Why does Liv keep taking the glasses on and off? It's distracting. But not distracting enough to make you forget about the one-sided hair.

Mitch and Mickey! I love those guys! I kept giggling during their performance, because I kept thinking about the covers of the albums Mitch released after Mitch and Mickey broke up. When is Eugene Levy going to be nominated for something? I swear, he always steals whatever movie he's in. Although I'm thrilled that ROTK swept, I know that this song actually deserved to win.

Jennifer Garner, why are you presenting? Take you and your peanut shaped head back to Alias.

Charlize, stop with the Mystic Tan. You're starting to go the way of Paris Hilton. And that's not good.

Gah! Julia Roberts is scaring me, for some reason.

Damn, Marcia Gay Harden is pregnant. This is kinda mean, but she looks like a giant blueberry.

Nicole's dress is gorgeous and flattering, but she needs to stop denying that she Botoxes. Maybe she stopped using it when she filmed The Hours, but that forehead Does. Not. Budge.

And my favorite dress? Big surprise, it's Sofia Coppola, in Marc Jacobs. I know it's not ultra glam, but it's very fitting for her.

I love Marc. Proenza Schouler, Narciso, McQueen and Posen are turning my head nowadays, but I still love Marc. This month's StyleFax (god bless you, Andre Leon Talley!) in Vogue discusses who's gonna succeed Tom Ford for Yves St. Laurent. Looks like it's gonna be Hedi Slimane, and all the previously mentioned names were bandied about. It was Marc, though, who put things in perspective, with a suggestion so simple, I can't believe no one else thought of it . "Yves St. Laurent. The man is still alive. For me, that's what Rive Gauche was, and always should be." Brilliant.

There was a recent article in the Journal about Marc. Since he took the helm at Louis Vuitton in 97, he doubled their profits to 2.4 billion by 2001, yet guess how much his salary is... less than a million. And they sold his fragrance division without telling him. That's just wrong. Anyways, time for bed. Good night.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Last Saturday, I came home carting half a pound of duck sausages, half a pound of Toulouse sausages, 4 cured trotters, 4 pounds of piglet shoulder with about a pound of rind still attached, 4 pounds of fresh ham hocks and four duck legs confit. What brought on all this pork fat madness? Well, late Thursday afternoon, I decided (foolishly, perhaps) on the spur of the moment to make cassoulet for Sunday's Super Bowl gathering at the Macapinlacs' house. I looked up Saveur's recipe, and cross-referenced it with ones from Chez Panisse, and Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I discovered, rather quickly, that there were about as many different ways to make cassoulet as there are surrender monkeys in France. After some further poking around on egullet, I concluded that Paula Wolfert's recipe, from Modern Southwestern French Cooking was the best. Easy enough, I thought. It's only $14.80 on Amazon... I'll pick it up from Stacey's tomorrow. In the meantime, I emailed Max, the East Bay cassoulet expert. He emailed me back promptly, and told me to order:

(pork) shoulder and

I called various butchers immediately. In addition to the cuts Max suggested, I also asked for fresh ham hocks. (Saveur's recipe called for them). I learned that pork belly, pork rind and fresh ham hocks are pretty tricky to get ahold of on such short notice. Most of the butchers were quite friendly, even though I wound up calling them something like four times each. Joe Scalise, upon hearing me recite my list, paused and declared, "Lady, you're asking for some pretty off-the-wall stuff here. But I'll go and see what I can get." Well, how much more bizarre was this than caul fat? At Cafe Rouge, Shannen suggested using one of their trotters (a pig's foot soaked in red wine, then packed in salt) instead of a ham bone with the beans. But between the two of them, I was able to obtain everything except the belly. I figured the extra pound of pork rind and the ham hocks made up for it, though.

As for the recipe itself, it turned out that the Cooking of Southwestern France was out of print. D'oh! I did pick up The Slow Mediterranean Cookbook, which had a cassoulet recipe as well. But that recipe turned out to be different than the one everyone was raving about from the Cooking of Southwestern France. On a whim, after my rounds at the farmers' market, I stopped at Moe's Books. As luck would have it, they had a used copy! For ten bucks! So I picked that up, along with used copies of the Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook and Chez Panisse Pizza, Pasta and Calzone. I almost picked up a first edition of Richard Olney's French Menu Cookbook, but decided to exercise some restraint. Sorry, Slow Med Cookbook. As gorgeous as you are, I'll wait til you cost less than 35 bucks. Back to Stacey's you go!

As soon as I got home with my meat packages, I started cooking right away. I was pleased to discover that the ham hocks still had rind attached. I removed the rind from the shoulder and hocks, and started simmering the meat on the stove with the hocks. I cut up the rind (which is actually harder than I thought it would be, even with my trusty Globals). Now it was time to break in my new Le Creuset dutch oven, and what could be better than rendering pork fat? Now, Pork rind is a little different than caul fat. The skin, once it is heated, sticks like the devil! And it has a tendency to uh, I'm not sure how to put this, but it can jump out of the pan. Seriously. I had it on low heat, and I decided to sit down with Zack for a few minutes. I was listening to it sizzle, then I heard a pop, then a different kind of sizzle, then a thud. Like a landing-on-the-floor type thud. Zack gave me a weird look, so I went to check it out. Yup. Sure enough, there was a chunk of pork rind lying on the floor. So I guess I shouldn't have left it unattended. Amazingly, although the pork fat was sizzling away, none of the stuck bits burned! I was beginning to understand why one of these damn french enameled pots cost so much. And once I deglazed with some red wine, the browned bits came right off. Yummy! Those little brown bits (fonde) would serve to flavor the beans, which I added to the pork rind, along with the trotter and an onion. In the meantime, I sauteed the sausages in duck fat with a puree of a whole head of garlic and an onion. Oh my god, did it smell good! Zack was like, "I have to admit, that smells sooooo good!" Eat your heart out, Emeril. Anyways, I assembled the dish in layers - beans, then stewed pork, then the sausages and garlic, then duck confit, then the rest of the beans, and into the oven it went, for a total of eight hours Yes, it was good, yes it was fatty. And my Le Creuset oven amazed me again - nothing stuck! With a swipe of a sudsy dish sponge, all the baked-on crust and grease came right off. I'm going to have to get me another one of these things. So yeah, that's my cassoulet experience. Sorry that this is so badly written. It's late, and I'll edit this later, and add links.

Much is being made about the opening of the new Time-Warner building in Gotham. I was pleased to learn though, that Thomas Keller isn't abandoning us after all. While he is closing the French Laundry to get Per Se up and running, he will be leaving his New York location in the hands of his protege, Jonathan Brenno. But wait! Apparently, he will be installing "a live video link between the kitchens of the French Laundry and Per Se so he can eyeball the day's squid preparation or vegetable selection on a large plasma screen". Sheesh. And I though I was a control freak!