Archive for August, 2009

Where is that Drink?

Where is that drink?

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This impeccable martini, served in a wonderfully retro-chic cocktail glass, was poured at Michael Mina’s (relatively new) Clock Bar, located in the lobby level of the Westin St. Francis, 335 Powell Street, at Union Square, San Francisco, CA.

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The new Clock Bar provides much-needed bar/lounge space for the St. Francis Hotel as well as for diners at Restaurant Michael Mina, which is situated opposite the lobby in the former Compass Rose space.  Previously, the busy lobby area in the St. Francis was serving double-duty as a pre-dinner cocktail area for patrons of Restaurant Michael Mina, as well as a seating area for hotel guests and visitors.

The spacious interior of the Clock Bar, which formerly served as retail space, includes a stylish bar with stools, seating groups with comfortable, upholstered chairs, and a banquette that lines the perimeter of the bar.  The bar derives its name from the the Great Magenta Grandfather Clock in the historic hotel.

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Above and Below: Two views of the beautiful bar and cool retro-style fixtures at the Clock Bar, operated by restaurateur Michael Mina,  in the St. Francis Hotel.

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Above: The Clock Bar features lots of comfortable seating in a warm, inviting space– a perfect place to gather for drinks before or after dinner at Restaurant Michael Mina.  Below:  The lobby area, which used to serve as a cocktail lounge as well, has been returned to full-time duty as a seating area for hotel guests and visitors.

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To view the Featured Cocktail menu at the Clock Bar, click here. To to learn more about the Clock Bar, go to the official Westin St. Francis website by clicking here.

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 To go to previous posts in the “Where is That Drink” series, click here.

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Today’s Quote

“I believe we have two lives. The life we learn with and the life we live with after that.”

  – Iris Gaines (played by Glenn Close) to Roy Hobbs (played by Robert Redford), from The Natural (1984), written by Roger Towne and Phil Dusenberry, based on the novel by Bernard Malamud

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Farewell, Ted

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“I have been blessed to be a part of a wonderful family, and both of my parents, particularly my mother, kept our Catholic faith at the center of our lives. That gift of faith has sustained, nurtured and provided solace to me in the darkest hours. I know that I have been an imperfect human being, but with the help of my faith, I have tried to right my path.”

– Excerpt from a letter to Pope Benedict XVI from Edward M. Kennedy (1932-2009), delivered by President Barack Obama on 7/10/09

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World’s Best Bars

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Today’s website is “World’s Best Bars,” a site that ranks the world’s best bars, based on user input.  The site includes a list of the top-rated bars in most major cities around the world, together with user comments and links to the official websites.  Of the top 100 bars, London has the most bars with 12, and Shanghai follows with eight bars.  Eight bars across the USA are included in the Top 100, with Purdy Lounge, in Miami, FL, as the only USA bar in the Top 10 (at #7).

Here’s an excerpt from the Top 100 Bars, showing the 20 top-ranked bars.  The honor of #1 Bar in the World goes to A21 Cocktail Lounge in Helsinki.

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I’ve only been to two of the Top 20 Bars listed above and just five of the Top 100 Bars.  (I’ve got some bar hopping to do, I think!)

To explore World’s Best Bars website, click here.   To view a list of the Top 100 Bars, click here.

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Today’s Quote

“He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.”

   — Unknown

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Katrina at Four

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On August 29, 2005– four years ago today– the center of Hurricane Katrina passed east of New Orleaans, LA, slamming the St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes and creating a storm surge that caused more than 50 breaches in the drainage and navigational canals that help protect the City of New Orleans.  The result was the most destructive and costliest natural and engineering disaster in the history of the USA, with total losses of roughly $100 billion.

Within two days, over 80 percent of New Orleans was flooded, with some parts of the city under 15 feet of water.  

Although a mandatory evacuation order was in place by the time Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, over 60,000 people remained in New Orleans.  As the flood waters rose across the city, residents fled to the famous New Orleans Superdome, which had been designated as a “refuge of last resort,” capable of handling 800 people.  An estimated 30,000 people arrived at the Superdome in search of shelter, water, food and medical services.  Another 25,000 people arrived at the New Orleans Convention Center, which had not been designated or equipped to serve as a shelter.

The failed response of FEMA and other government agencies in providing timely rescue services and humanitarian aid to the residents of New Orleans became a national disgrace and unleashed a whirlwind of controversy around race and class in America.

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After four years, much of the worst-hit areas in New Orleans, including the Ninth Ward, remain barren, abandoned or undeveloped.  I’m left wondering: What will become of New Orleans?

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Today’s Quote

“People change and forget to tell each other.”

   –Lillian Hellman (1907-1984)

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Missy Peggy on FB

The famous Peggy, also known as Missy Peggy and Peggy-licious, is now on Facebook!  Become one of Peggy’s friends on Facebook and stay up-to-date on her activities and latest words of doggy wisdom.  You can find her listed under “Missy Peggy.”

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To go to Facebook and to connect with Missy Peggy, click here.

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Today’s Quote

“Love is an act of endless forgiveness, a tender look which becomes habit.” 

   –Peter Ustinov (1921-2004)

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Today’s Quote

“The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dreams shall never die.”

   –  Edward Kennedy (1932-2009), whom President Barack Obama has called “the greatest United States Senator of our time.”

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National Dog Day

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Today is August 26 and it is National Dog Day, a day dedicated to honoring the nation’s dogs and to focusing attention on the ongoing need to rescue dogs from homelessness and abuse.

According to Colleen Paige, author, pet activist and founder, “National Dog Day serves to help galvanize the public to recognize the number of dogs that need to be rescued each year, and acknowledges family dogs and dogs that work selflessly each day to save lives, keep us safe and bring comfort. Dogs put their lives on the line every day - for their law enforcement partner, for their blind companion, for a child who is disabled, for our freedom and safety by detecting bombs and drugs and pulling victims of tragedy from wreckage, saving their lives and often grieving the dead and dying they cannot save. ”

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Above:  Peggy (rear) and Lucy (front) salute National Dog Day– August 26.

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Today’s Quote

“I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.”

   –  William Penn (1644-1718)

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Today’s Quote

“Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.”

   — Christopher Reeve (1952-2004)

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Today’s Quote

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”

   — Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)

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Julia on Top

Wrtier-Director Nora Ephron is back on top with her commercial and critical hit, Julie and Julia, which opened nationwide a few weeks ago.  After a several misses, including Bewitched (2005) and Hanging Up (2000), it’s great to see Nora Ephron return to the romantic comedy territory she explored so successfully in You’ve Got Mail (1998), Sleepless in Seattle (1993) and When Harry Met Sally (1989).  

In Julie and Julia, Ephron masterfully weaves together two stories, each set in its own timeframe.  In the larger and clearly more interesting story, we learn about the early years of chef, author and American culinary icon Julia Child when she studied French cooking at the Cordon Bleu and started writing the landmark book, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” while living in Europe with her husband Paul.  In the second story, we follow 30-year old New York office worker Julie Powell, who spends a year cooking all 524 recipes in Julia Child’s cookbook, while blogging about her experiences, in the tough days following 9/11.

One of the biggest joys of watching this very lovingly-made movie is the relationship between Julia Child (Meryl Streep, in another amazing performance) and husband Paul (played by Stanley Tucci), who share a love of food and wine, and for each other.  I enjoyed seeing Streep and Tucci paired in this movie, particularly after the terrific moments they shared together in The Devil Wears Prada.

Not surprisingly, Julie and Julia focuses a good deal of attention on food– from Julia’s delight in savoring the flavors of French cooking and shopping for produce or fresh fish to Julie’s tireless efforts to recreate each dish from the cookbook.  If the movies doesn’t inspire you to cook, it will certainly inspire you to eat.  It also serves as a great reminder that food can bring people together and create bonds that last a lifetime.

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“A consummate entertainment that echoes the rhythms and attitudes of classic Hollywood, it’s a satisfying throwback to those old-fashioned movie fantasies where impossible dreams do come true.”

   — Kenneth Turan, The Los Angeles Times

“Few movies are as delightful as Julie & Julia.”

   — Mick LaSalle, The San Francisco Chronicle

“Julie & Julia is one of the gentlest, most charming American movies of the past decade.”

   — David Denby, The New Yorker

“Streep and Tucci enjoy a terrific, infectious onscreen chemistry as soul mates for whom food and entertaining were part of one long, sensuous continuum.”

   — Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post

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To read A.O. Scott’s review of Julie and Julia in The New York Times, click here.

To purchase Julia Child’s landmark cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1, from Amazon.com, click here.

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Today’s Quote

Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else. 

   — Judy Garland (1922-1969)

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Today’s Quote

“Become a possibilitarian.  No matter how dark things seem to be or actually are, raise your sights and see possibilities - always see them, for they’re always there.”

   –Norman Vincent Peale (1898-1993)

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50th State at 50

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On August 21, 1959– fifty years ago today– President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a proclamation admitting Hawaii into the Union as the 50th state.  The President also issued an order for a new American flag featuring 50 stars arranged in staggered rows: five six-star rows and four five-star rows.  The new flag, which still flies today, became official July 4, 1960.

A variety of events during the year are being held across the State of Hawaii to mark the 50th anniversary of statehood. 

Regardless of one’s point of view around the  overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy, the imprisonment of Queen Liliuokalani, Hawaii’s last monarch, and the subsequent annexation to the U.S., the 50th anniversary of the Statehood of Hawaii is a landmark event, and an opportunity to look back at Hawaii’s amazing transformation over the past 50 years.

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Above:  A now famous photograph showing a young newspaper seller on 8/21/59 with the headline announcing Hawaii statehood.

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To learn more about the 50th anniversary of Hawaii’s statehood and to review a schedule of special events, go to the State of Hawaii’s official Anniversary website by clicking here.

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Here’s a clip from YouTube featuring Hawaii Pono’i, the state (and former national) anthem.

Hawai’i Pono’i was written in 1874 by King David Kalakaua, with music by Camptain Henri Berger, the king’s royal bandmaster.  

And here are the lyrics to the beloved anthem, as well as the English translation.

Hawai’i pono’i
Nana i kou mo’i

Ka lani ali’i
Ke ali’i

Hawai’i pono’i
Nana i na ali’i
Na pua mui kou
Na poki’i

Hawai’i pono’i
Nana i na ali’i
Na pua muli kou
Na poki’i

Hawai’i pono’i
E ka lahui e
O kou hana nui
E ui e

Chorus:

Mauka lani e
Kamehameha e
Na kaua e pale
Me ka ihe

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

Hawai’i’s own true sons,
Be loyal to your king,
Your country’s liege and lord,
The chief.

Hawai’i’s own true sons,
Look to you chiefs,
The children after you,
The young.

Hawaii’s own true sons,
People of loyal heart,
The only duty lies,
List and abide.

Chorus:

Father above us all,
Kamehameha e,
Who guarded in the war,
With his spear.

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Today’s Quote

“Don’t compromise yourself.  You’re all you’ve got.”  

   –Janis Joplin (1943-1970)

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Today’s Quote

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

   — Dr. Seuss (1904-1991)

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Pometini

Today’s cocktail is the Pometini, a pomegranate-flavored cocktail that is a nice, refreshing alternative to the old workhorse Cosmopolitan.  Plus, it’s loaded with Vitamin C and beneficial antioxidants.  As they say,” it tastes good, and it’s good for you.”

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INGREDIENTS:

* 3 ounces Vodka
* 2 ounces 100% Pomegranate juice 
* 1 ounce fresh lime juice
* 1 ounce Chambord liquer
* 1 ounce Cointreau 

DIRECTIONS:

1. Fill shaker with ice
2. Combine ingredients in shaker
3. Shake vigorously and strain into a cocktail glass 
4. Garnish with lime slice
5. Serve, enjoy and repeat, as needed

To go to previous posts on Cocktails, click here.

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Bon Apetit, Julia!

Today’s video is a hilarious sketch from Saturday Night Live (circa 1978) in which Dan Aykroyd famously parodies American icon Julia Child as she prepares a chicken on her TV show, The French Chef.  According to some published reports, Julia Child loved this parody and showed it to dinner guests at her home.  Bon Apetit, Julia!

In a clever move, Nora Ephron includes this SNL skit in a scene from her new movie, Julie & Julia.

To go to previous posts in the “Today’s Video” category, click here.

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Today’s Quote

“Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.”

   — Joseph Addison (1672-1719)

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Today’s Quote

“If you don’t get everything you want, think of the things you don’t get that you don’t want.”

   — Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

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Where is that Drink?

Where is that drink?

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This twist on the Negroni (mixed with vodka instead of gin) was poured in a classic cocktail glass at the large, comfortable and attractively furnished bar at the Grand Cafe Brasserie, located in the Monaco Hotel, at 501 Geary Street, in San Francisco, CA. 

The Bar is currently featuring a Happy Hour Menu of specially-priced drinks and appetizers, available from 4:00 to 7:00 PM, Monday through Friday, at prices ranging from $4.00 to $7.00 per drink or dish.  The delicious Negroni, for example, was available during Happy Hour at $5.00.  

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Above:  A partial view of the bright, sun-drenched bar at the Grand Cafe.  Below:  The open raw bar at Grand Cafe, located near the Bar.

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Above:  A view of the large, grand dining room with oversized light fixtures, large comfortable booths,  and whimsical sculpture.  Below:  Cocktails were followed by a lovely meal, which included this delicious heirloom tomato salad with blue cheese.  Yum.

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To read more about the Grand Cafe or to make reservations, go to their official website by clicking here.

 To go to previous posts in the “Where is That Drink” series, click here.

Photos taken: 8/14/09

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Today’s Quote

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”

   — Maya Angelou (B. 1928)

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Skytrax Top Airports

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Each year Skytrax names the Top 10 Airports in the World as part of its annual consumer survey of the best airlines and airports.  In June, Skytrax announced that the World’s Top Airport for 2009 is Incheon International Airport in Seoul, South Korea.  Opened in 2001, the Incheon International Airport is located about 40 miles from the capital city of Seoul and is the international hub for Korean Air, Asiana Airlines and Polar Air Cargo.  It is the world’s eleventh busiest airport in terms of international passengers.

According to Skytrax, more than 8.6 million passengers from over 95 countries took part in the 10 month survey of 196 airports. The survey measures perceptions on over 35 elements of the airport experience, determining how well each airport performs against customer expectations.

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Hong Kong International Airport, which ranked Number 1 for three consecutive years, was bumped to the Number 2 position by Incheon International Airport, which has steadily been climbing the list.  

Not surprisingly, no USA airport was included in the list of Top 10 Airports in the World.

I’ve passed through seven of the Top 10 Airports in this year’s list, but have not yet been to Incheon, Centrair Nagoya and Auckland.  (My last visit to the Auckland Airport was more then 20 years ago, so I don’t think that qualifies.)  My favorite airports are Hong Kong International, Beijing International (Terminal 3) and Kansai (Osaka) International, in that order.

What is your favorite airport?

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To read the full results of the 2009 Skytrax Best Airport Awards, go to their official website by clicking here.

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The Negroni

Today’s cocktail is the Negroni, a classic aperitif, or pre-meal cocktail that is intended to help stimulate the appetite (or at least stimulate the appetite for another Negroni!).  The cocktail was reportedly invented by General Pascal Olivier Count de Negroni (1829-1913).

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INGREDIENTS:

*  1 oz Gin (or substitute vodka, if you prefer)
*  1 oz Campari
*  1 oz Sweet Vermouth

DIRECTIONS:

1.  Fill cocktail shaker with ice.
2.  Add gin, campari and sweet vermouth in cocktail shaker.
3.  Shake vigorously and strain into a cocktail glass.
4.  Garnish with lemon twist (or an orange twist or orange slice).
5.  Serve, enjoy and repeat as needed for desired effect.

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The delicious Negroni is #10 on my list of Top 10 Favorite Cocktails.  To view the full list from a previous post, click here.

To go to other cocktail recipes from previous posts, click here.

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Today’s Quote

“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”

   — Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

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United We Serve

Today’s website is Serve.gov, a national clearinghouse of volunteer opportunities, which is being managed by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).  The CNCS is a federal agency that is chartered with improving lives, strengthening communities and fostering civic engagement through service and volunteering by providing grants through the Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, VISTA, NCCC, and Learn and Serve America programs.  

United We Serve, which was launched by President Barack Obama earlier this summer, is a nationwide service initiative designed to help address the growing social needs resulting from the current recession.  The 81-day program, which runs from June 22 to September 11, aims to both expand the impact of existing organizations by engaging new volunteers and encourage volunteers to develop their own local “do it yourself” projects with family, friends and neighbors.  

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The Serv.org website provides individuals with the ability to locate organizations in their local area who are seeking volunteers, via a tool from All for Good which provides a list of organizations based on keywords (e.g., AIDS, recycling, children, pets, etc.), as shown below.  The website allow enables organizers of local and community-based organizations to register their initiative and to help them find volunteers.

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Here’s a 3-minute video released by The White House in which President Obama introduces the United We Serve campaign.

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