Every year on New Year's Day, Homemade Cafe gives a free drink to anyone who comes dressed in their pajamas. My wife takes them up on it each time. Here we are this morning:
It has turned out just about how I expected, although I didn't think it would take until I was 64 for it to happen.
Cannabis becomes "legal" in California on January 1. The San Francisco Chronicle included a 40-page pull-out section, "Green State", with information, awards, and (who'da thunk?) lots and lots of advertising.
They called my hometown, Berkeley, the "Best Cannabis City":
Berkeley blazed the trail to safe access to medical cannabis nearly two decades ago, and in 2017 set the curve for implementing recreational legalization locally. They were the first city in the state to create a pathway for its dispensaries to sell recreational marijuana in the New Year — part of a history of firsts. Berkeley adopted organic-like standards for medical cannabis years before the state considered it. The city was the first to formalize rules mandating free medicine for low-income folks, and Berkeley helped champion the entire dispensary model before patients had any stores to shop at. Personal gardeners and cannabis fans also enjoy some of the most relaxed rules in the state, making the East Bay city arguably the Best Cannabis City in California, if not the world.
And they gave an award to a favorite edible of mine, Kiva Confections:
The California edibles scene is extremely crowded, but sitting pretty at the top of them all is Kiva Confections. Founded in a San Leandro kitchen in 2010, Kiva now has 85 employees and a 13,000 square-foot factory in Oakland that serves 1,000 stores in California alone. Co-founder Kristi Knoblich Palmer hand-selects the company’s chocolate from wholesalers, and Kiva makes its own cannabis extract from cannabis trim that’s been tested for 280 pesticides. The hand-crafted, artisanal chocolate bars come in multiple flavors and strengths, and the chocolate-covered espresso beans and blueberries have garnered multiple awards and fans.
I'm fond of those espresso beans.
So, let's see. Special sections in the newspaper? Advertising featuring the cannabis industry? Awards? Did I mention advertising? Yep, it's pretty much how I expected it to be.
I'll be honest. I've never liked hunting down dealers, so although I've been smoking since I was 15 or so, I rarely have any lying around. And when medicinal became legal, I was too lazy to get a patient card. But on January 1, all I have to do is go to the dispensary.
I want to call Al “Jazzbo” Collins a local legend, except “local” is hard to define. His long radio career included extended stays in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, and many smaller areas, most in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. Besides radio, he was briefly a host for The Tonight Show when they were looking for a new person (they eventually decided on Jack Paar). He had a morning TV show in San Francisco in the early-60s. He even cut a few records, hip fairy tales they were called:
His radio shows, no matter the station, were always broadcast from “The Purple Grotto”, several floors underground. His theme song was “Blues in Hoss Flat” by Count Basie:
Starting in 1959, he was on KSFO in San Francisco. They (and he) played my parents’ kind of music, and hey, I was only six. It wasn’t exactly a “normal” show:
His shtick with the Mexican banditos from The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, well, I don’t know how it started. But if you were a guest on his show, you had to get “majuberized”, which meant you had to recite the quote from the movie. (Later in his career, he had a call-in talk show, and people would call solely to get majuberized.)
Then he added that morning TV show, and it was a joy, even for a tyke. Memories are tricky things, but among the stuff he did, I can remember this little toy where you put a coin in it and a little hand came out and grabbed the coin and pulled it inside. Jazzbo loved crepes, and he was always having a chef making crepes on live TV.
Eventually in, I think it was the late-70s, he ended up with that call-in talk show. The channel, KGO, had nothing but talk shows, and reached all along the West Coast at night. Once in awhile, someone would call in berating Jazzbo for not talking about politics, but he would kindly explain that his show was a little different.
It is here where we finally get to the grasshopper pie. As always, Jazzbo loved to talk about his favorite foods, and he frequently spoke of how much he loved grasshopper pie. He’d talk about the recipe ... you started with grasshoppers ... I can’t really remember it very well, and I had never heard of grasshopper pie, but he got my attention as I drove home from the factory after midnight.
Eventually, I figured out that the pie was based on a cocktail my mom used to make called “grasshoppers”. I thought for a long time that grasshoppers were fairly traditional ... I mean, my mom made pitchers at home ... but apparently it’s one of those remnants of post-war American culture, and they went out of fashion. I haven’t had a grasshopper since I was old enough to drink legally (admittedly, I don’t go to bars just looking for the cocktail). But once, 30+ years ago, I was on a jury, and the city paid for our lunch. We went to some fancy restaurant in Oakland, and on the dessert menu was Grasshopper Pie. I had to order it, see what it tasted like, and yum!
Here is a video showing how to make “real” grasshopper pie:
And here’s a bartender making a cocktail:
My mom made hers in a blender.
So now you know my personal history with grasshopper pie. It turns out there’s a restaurant in Oakland that has grasshopper pie on the dessert menu, so my wife and I went there for dinner. The restaurant is called Homeroom, and they pretty much only serve macaroni and cheese. We both got the “classic mac”, and it was delicious (also v.good microwaved the next day ... the servings are huge, you can’t finish one). Then I ordered grasshopper pie for dessert:
It was yummy yummy. It wasn’t “real” grasshopper pie, and I knew in advance ... in place of crème de menthe and crème de cacao, they used chocolate mint ice cream, and apparently, this is standard nowadays. It tasted like a really good Baskin-Robbins cake. The taste was like a real grasshopper if it didn’t have alcohol.
Of course, I had to tell our waitress all of this. I wasn’t surprised she knew nothing of the cocktail, but I admit I felt very old when she said she had never heard of crème de menthe. Even my wife, whose parents didn’t drink like mine, had crème de menthe on the shelf when she was a kid, to pour on ice cream.
Anyway, I’m satisfied now. I hope Jazzbo heard about it in the Purple Grotto.
Here’s a link to an article about the cocktail:
Checking the shelves at a local chain drug store for some yummy treats, I came across a mini-box of my favorite cereal of all time, Cap’n Crunch. This delicious cereal was introduced in 1963, when I was 10 years old. Here is the very first commercial for Cap’n Crunch, created by former Berkeley resident Jay Ward, the animator who gave us such great characters as Rocky and Bullwinkle, Dudley Do-Right, Sherman and Mr. Peabody, and George of the Jungle. (A baby-boomer Hall of Fame.)
One sign of the times is that they promoted the cereal as “sugar sweet” ... at least they kept the word “sugar” out of the name, meaning it is still called Cap’n Crunch, just as it was in 1963. (Other cereals were not so lucky, resulting in name changes as times changed ... to the best of my knowledge, you can still buy Sugar Puffs, Sugar Smacks, Sugar Pops, Sugar Crisp, and Sugar Frosted Flakes, to name a few ... you just won’t see those names on the boxes, the word “sugar” being removed.)
The commercial also notes the importance of “crunch”. Cap’n Crunch is true to its name ... it is indeed quite crunchy. The ad tells us that this is because it stays crunchy, even in milk. My wife, who can’t stand the stuff, points out that the crunchiness, combined with the shape of each morsel, means you hurt the roof of your mouth with every bite.
The ever-trustworthy Wikipedia tells us that Cap’n Crunch actually has roots in something almost traditional, despite the aura it gives of being concocted in a lab out of sugar and chemicals:
Pamela Low, a flavorist at Arthur D. Little and 1951 graduate of the University of New Hampshire with a microbiology degree, developed the original Cap'n Crunch flavor in 1963—recalling a recipe of brown sugar and butter her grandmother Luella Low served over rice at her home in Derry, New Hampshire.
Grandma would make this concoction with rice and the sauce that she had; it was a combination of brown sugar and butter. It tasted good, obviously. They'd put it over the rice and eat it as a kind of a treat on Sundays...
—William Low, Pamela Low's brother
All due respect to my own grandmothers, who were wonderful women, but I think Luella Low belongs in the main wing of the Grandmother’s Hall of Fame.
Wikipedia lists more than two dozen offshoots of the original cereal, beginning with Crunch Berries in 1967, but I always saw them as interlopers. My Cap’n Crunch never needed to be tarted up with berries and such.
I had a bowl last night. I was as delicious as ever.
I’m not posting here, I’m sleeping odd hours … it’s like I never returned. Here are a few photos to fill space. Paella at Ayo’s:
I forget what this was called on the menu. It was enormous (the plate in this picture is about the same size as the plate in the previous picture):
Robin’s favorite place in all of Nerja:
Yes, I went back for seconds at Ayo’s:
For many years, Robin and I enjoyed dining at Fellini Restaurant. I’ve mentioned it here a few times. The guy in charge, Jeff Davis, left, and after a couple of visits, so did we … it just wasn’t the same. Eventually it shut down.
A couple of days ago, we were driving around looking for somewhere to eat, and Robin said “let’s try that new place where Fellini used to be.” So we did, in part because they have parking. We entered the restaurant, called Pizza Moda … and there was Jeff! Turns out he’d returned to the restaurant biz. We are glad he did. The food was excellent across the board (we had an interesting salad, yummy pepperoni pizza, mac and cheese, ice cream with chocolate sauce, and apple/pear/cranberry crisp), the service was perfect, and Jeff was his usual effusive self. Basically, Pizza Moda is good at the same things Fellini used to be good at.
We look forward to stopping by in the future. We have our basics: Homemade Cafe for breakfast on Saturdays and Mondays, Juan’s Place every week or so for Mexican, Rudy’s Can’t Fail Cafe for comfort food accompanied by punk rock, and delivery, always delivery. We’ve gotten accustomed to going to Paisan for our semi-fancy Italian food, and it’s as good as ever, plus it’s very close to our house. But the parking sucks, Pizza Moda isn’t much farther away, and … well, you get the idea. I suspect we’ve found our new semi-fancy Italian place. And the cool thing is, it’s our old favorite semi-fancy Italian place, with a makeover!
I ate at Chipotle for the very first time after seeing this video:
OK, so I like Willie Nelson. You go to Chipotle’s, you can feel good knowing the animals you eat have been treated properly. You know the food is fresh, you know the food is good for you.
Dinner for two was $20. No tip, so that’s out the door for three crispy steak tacos, one burrito bowl, and two small soft drinks.
Now, $20 is less than we pay when we go to Juan’s Place, so I can’t exactly say that Chipotle is overpriced. At Juan’s, we’re at home (if you don’t believe me, look at my picture on the wall), we’ve gone there for a few decades, everybody knows everybody, they’re always throwing in something special for free. It’s the kind of place, the kind of atmosphere, the kind of people where you are glad to leave a big fat tip, so even if the food itself wasn’t more expensive than Chipotle’s, the tip pushes it over the top. Still, Juan’s isn’t that expensive … maybe $35 tops for two big plates of food with plenty of leftovers to take home for later, bottomless drinks, great atmosphere and service.
If we go to Taco Bell, we spend $15 at the most for enough food to more than fill two stomachs. There is no service to speak of, the food is only marginally “Mexican”, and god only knows what went into the food before it appeared on our plate. If you can bring yourself down from your high horse, you’ll find that the food tastes good … that’s the evil secret of fast food, they know how to make it taste good so you want to come back for more, whether by adding sugar or salt or fat or whatever.
So, the question is, what was I paying for when I spent $20 at Chipotle? The food was healthier than the food at Taco Bell, although I don’t know if it’s healthier than Juan’s. Some would argue that the smaller portions at Chipotle are a good thing, since Americans eat too much, but that kinda goes out the window when you’re hungry two hours later and have to eat again. The service is no better or worse than the service at Taco Bell, which is to say there is no service beyond taking your order and handing you the food.
You are spending $5 extra over Taco Bell to feel better about yourself because they were nice to the pigs before they killed them. I can see why that’s worth it; I try to buy organic (not natural) meat, myself, even though it costs more. What surprised me on my first visit to Chipotle, though, was that the entire experience was far closer to Taco Bell than it was to Juan’s. If I’m going to spend more than a Taco Bell’s worth of money, I’d just as soon go visit my friends at Juan’s, where the food is good and the people are better. I’m sure the people at Chipotle are nice. I’m just as sure that they won’t still be working there 30 years from now, greeting old friends.