1) Our internal clocks are stuck on whiskey, but the weather has been decidedly more white wine, even mojito. What’s even more odd is that blood oranges have been enjoying a particularly long season in Chicago groceries. My compromise has been a spin on the Old Fashioned: 1/4 bourbon of choice – we’ve been all about Basil Hayden lately – to 3/4 soda over ice, two squirts of orange bitters, one squirt of Jamaican bitters, slice of blood orange. Poke the ice cubes with your finger to mix.

2) Jeff gifted me a copy of Essential Pepin for Christmas. I’ve only recently turned to it, after dreaming over the photography in Cook with Jamie and having imaginary coffee klatches with Simon Doonan while immersed in Gay Men Don’t Get Fat. Pepin’s book isn’t one of those porny ones with lettuce shivering ecstatically under a cloak of homemade mayo. It’s definitely more of a compendium; the “one book” that anyone would ever need. I was about 3/4 of the way done when I remembered that a technique DVD came with it. So I popped it in the player and sat back, anticipating the calming presence of Monsieur Pepin to entertain me for a while. What I didn’t expect is to become infuriated. Somewhere around oeufs cocotte, I started audibly hissing in frustration. I was quiet during the fish section, but only because I slipped into a reverie where fish for dinner didn’t involve strategic pork chops. Once Jacques started deboning entire chickens and stuffing them with spinach and cheese in under 2 minutes, I was yelling at the TV all the way until the spun sugar end. And don’t talk to me about the magic of editing. These were one-take scenes. In the aftermath, I’m left with some complicated emotions. Do I stop cooking all together or strap on a pair and improve? Is it weird that I either want him entirely for myself or not at all?

3) You need to see Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Gary Oldman and John Hurt? Get the fuck out of town. Serve with spaghetti and meatballs.

Get thee

1 lb ground sirlon
1/2 lb ground pork
1 egg
1/2 cup of bread crumbs
various Italian seasonings – either a blend or oregano, basil, parsley separately
olive oil
1 large can of crushed tomato
1 small can diced tomato


1) Mix all the ingredients up to and including the Italian herbs in a bowl with your (clean) hands. If you’re squicky about touching raw meat and raw eggs, you know what to do. (Spoon – duh.)

2) Get out a large-ish skillet. We recently procured a 12-inch cast iron that is pure genius. Glug some olive oil in there and start the heat on high. Quickly roll the mix into golf ball sized pieces. Once all of them are in the pan, sort of move them around with a spoon until browned on all sides.

3) Pour in your crushed and diced. Stir. Add diced garlic – at least two cloves – and rosemary. Garlic powder, although poo-pooed by chefs, is quite nice as well. It enhances and rounds out the raw garlic. Maybe a little more salt. Stir, but be careful not to break the meatballs.

4) Once the mix starts to boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

5) After 15 minutes, start your pasta water. While that cooks, the tomato sauce will reduce further. When the pasta is about done, kill the heat on the meatballs so you don’t burn your mouth.