Because it Needs to be Said!

I know, I know, it's a food blog, but I am so in love with the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser that I can't help myself. I want to share it with all of you because it is just about the best cleaning product that I have come across in a long time. Now, most of you who know me know that I am obsessively neat, especially in my house. Those of you with students in my class or who have had students in my class can thank me for their kids' clean rooms later. So it's winter break and what better time to scrub my bath tub?  I stocked up on cleaning products and for $2.99, I got a bargain. First of all there's no harsh chemicals, but I have to say, there's something magic in that sponge-like thing. Every micro fiber reached into every crevice of our bathtub and removed the schmutz like nobody's business. Now granted, our unit is pretty new, but still bathtubs get that gross stuff (soap scum) no matter what. My bathtub is now sparkling white and shiny. I'm going to pop in some Vitabath and take a well-deserved soak. You can buy the Magic Eraser at major supermarkets.

Caught trending on major city restaurant menus lately are fried chicken skins. You know you love the skin of that chicken more than anything else. If you're like me, you sneak off to eat it when no one's looking. Feel shame no more! The crispy skin is now a legit menu item on Play Provisions' menu. It's a stand-alone center stage menu item! Topped with deviled egg and thinly sliced cornichons (tiny French pickles) it's a skin lover's delight! But that's not where it ends. Friends have recommended tempura fried chicken skin at Marugame Monzu in Little Tokoyo too. Don't be surprised to see it popping up more and more. It's already a favorite across the country!

I haven't been the recipient of that dreaded official envelope in the mail for a few years. You know the one announcing that you've been selected for jury duty. So when it arrived by snail mail a few months ago, you can bet I was thoroughly overjoyed at the thought of giving up my precious summer vacation days to sit in the bowels of the Van Nuys Superior Court waiting to see if my name would be called. Now, I'm all about serving my state, being a good citizen, and all of that crap, but why oh, why doesn't my winning Bingo number get called or why doesn't my ticket get picked in a raffle? I often ponder this. But hey, it's not all bad. I got picked to be in the jury pool in a civil case today; in the first round! How's that for beginner's luck? There is definitely something wrong with our jury system though when you can't even call by phone nor sign in to the portal for the LA Superior Court to find out if you have to appear during your assigned week of duty. Yes, that's right. The whole system was down last night, so there was no way of finding out if I had to report or not. Finally, at 9:00 a.m. today after calling about 30 times and pushing about a trillion buttons, I learned that my reporting time was, in fact, today at 7:45 a.m. Oh well, guess who was two hours late? Upon my arrival the person behind the window merely said, "Oh, sorry. The system is really messed up." No, really? "Take a seat." And take a seat I did until 11:30. "Lunch break!" was hollered. Break from what? At that point I panicked. Why, you ask? Because, there is nowhere and I mean nowhere to eat on Van Nuys near the courthouse. Whatsmore, we were given two hours, yep, two hours for lunch. (And I was not moving my car!) So I walked, and walked. Every sign was in Spanish, and should I have needed a bail bond, I would have had no problem. But I needed a sandwich. There were none to be found. So I continued to walk. That's when I stumbled upon Tommy's #7. Now I know 1-6 are pretty decent, though the Beverly and Rampart local will always be my favorite (no "hood" comments). I ordered a burger, chili cheese fries and a chocolate shake. All of it was under $10. And it was good. It gave me brain power for the difficult task I had ahead of me. Walking back. It was 90-something degrees with no shade. When you grab the nearest clothes in morning, not knowing you have jury duty until 2 minutes before (and those clothes happen to include a sweatshirt and black leggings) you're kind of stuck wearing them; aka screwed. Finally at 1:30 (mind you- my new juror friends had been sitting there, doing nothing, since 7:45 a.m), our names were called. We went up a few floors to a courtroom where we got to play a new game called "Are You Dumber Than a Juror?" I have patience for children of any age, but not for fellow jurors apparently. Never have I been with a group of people who are supposed to be representing us, as citizens, who are worse examples of the population at large. Eight names were called as potential jurors. The rest of us breathed sighs of relief, but not for long. The eight "chosen" ones took their places in the comfy juror chairs. Shall I start with the 30 year-old skate boarder? He was a gem who posessed a certain economy with words. Every answer was one word or an especially satisfying grunt or nod. I'm pretty sure he was wasted too. Next we met a woman who  I'd had a conversation with in the lounge. I thought she was kind of hard to understand. It turns out she needed a interpreter. There was another who thought the case was wasting the taxpayer's money and the court's time; one who could not be fair, and one who did not understand English. Then there was the neurologist who said he was prejudiced; against everyone. "Am I in the Twilight Zone?" I wondered? So there went tons of the potential jurors...out the door. We took yet another break. By this time I was so done with my civic duty. Ten minutes later we reconvened and all new jurors got to state their cities, occupations, etc. By the end we ran out of time. So guess who get to go back tomorrow? I'm almost ready to say, "Pick me! Pick me!", just to get it over with already! I'm really disappointed with my jury duty so far. At least there could maybe be a good restaurant or two.


"All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt." The great cartoonist Charles M Schulz perhaps explains Valentine's Day better than anyone. While most people look at the day as a romantic holiday to get beautiful red rose bouquets delivered from Mark's Garden or bought on line at Costco, I see it with a whole different spin.

Now all of you who know me, have experienced first hand the excitement in my eyes at the end of December when the Valentine aisle appears at Michael's. Rows of red ribbon decorated with hearts, red plastic heart boxes, shiny heart bags, heart cupcake liners, cake decorations, confetti, blank cards, and wreaths for the front door fill my basket, along with my 25% off your total order coupon. Nevermind that it's not even December 25th yet. For me, Valentine's Day is just around the corner.

After loading (hiding) all of my Michael's crap in the trunk of the car I wander over to Dollar Tree to see what I can find before it's sold out (by the end of December, mind you). There I find heart tins perfect for giving heart cookies. And I will make them. Buttery-dipped-in-chocolate heart shortbread cookies that melt in your mouth. For a buck, the tins are bright pink and red, and I snatch up about 10 of them. I also grab the shredded red and pink paper which costs $3.99 a bag at Michaels, even with my coupon. Man, you've got to love that Dollar Tree. This junk I hide in my closet.

When December's over I casually walk through See's Candy to check out what's in store for Valentine's Day. But I don't buy it. Because it's wrong to buy candy weeks before it's going to be consumed. You never buy until the week before if you're giving the chocolates to someone. Now I didn't say anything about chocolate that you might have to eat before Valentine's Day; that's another story. At See's take photos, go online, make a list, then return a week before VD and buy the following, if I may be so blunt as to suggest: Milk Chocolate Bordeaux Hearts ($5.20) Milk Chocolate Hearts ($7), and of course Bridge Mix ($18.50 for my mom! ) See's is for See's lovers only! Samples abound so I always get some butterscotch squares while I'm there, I mean they practically insist you have a sample.

So back to the weeks before Valentines Day, shop every grocery store imaginable from Bristol Farms and Whole Foods to Ralph's to find any and all commercially made candy from Rollo to Hershey's miniatures. They all taste so much better enrobed in their Valentine's wrappers. Buy them all to fill mini Papyrus bags for your best Valentine friends. Sample each one to make sure they are as delicious as they were last year. (They are!) 

Next make cards. That's right. Get stickers, buttons, jewels and any other red and white fun crafting items you can find at Michael's. Spend hours in Michael's selecting perfect supplies for designing cards and envelopes. (Note to self: This is why no one, and I mean no one will ever go with me to Michael's. Ashley Crosner, I mean you!) Eat some of the mini Reese's peanut butter cups while crafting. They go well with creating and give you energy.

Once you've experience all the sweet love of Valentine's Day you still have Valentine's night to look forward to. Look for restaurants that are serving creamy silky chocolate mousse, succulent juicy chocolate dipped strawberries, or even a souffle.

And don't forget February 15th. It's an important day too. All Valentine's Day novelties are at least 50% off. You can always stock up for next year. We're celebrating at The Fork in the Road so I'll keep you posted.




How many times did you, as a kid, sit in the red leather booths at Hamburger Hamlet with your grandparents, your parents, cousins, or just your immediate family munching on those zucchini zircles or gobbling down those fried chicken wings that came in a bowl with  apricot dipping sauce? As a high schooler, the Hamburger Hamlet in Woodland Hills (Topanga Canyon and Ventura Boulevard next to the old Art Theatre) was my friends' (Mort, T.S., Bomber- no wonder we didn't have dates with nicknames like those) favorite dinner hangout. Oh how we waited all week for, that Oak-Planked hamburger, and that Prison Chili, the Lobster Bisque, and the Onion Soup Fondue, not to mention the garlic bread.When Ron and I were young adults living in Brentwood, just walked across the street to HH on San Vicente. There we'd order Coffee Milkshakes, "Those" Potatoes," The Morgan sandwich, and of course, the #9 burger, with everything on it. After we had kids and moved to Calabasas we enjoyed the Hamlet in Agoura for a short time before it closed. Our girls were lucky enough to eat classics like The Stella Nelson (half a sanwich and a cup of soup), cornbread, and the Ultimate Hot Fudge Cake. Though less enamoured with HH than we were, nonetheless our kids still took weekly trip there for dinner. Imagine my devastation when I learned that one by one all of the Hamburger Hamlets were closing. The place that was known for "simply marvelous food and drinks" was no longer to be. No Hamlet in Pasadena (betcha didn't even know that one existed) Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Woodland Hills, Agoura, Sunset Boulevard, and now even on Van Nuys. My world was cosing in around me! But on September 13th, 2014 eveything changed. Harry and Marilyn Lewis' legend lives on. Thanks to Killer Shrimp's Kevin Michaels and Brett Dougherty, the Van Nuys Boulevard location is open again sporting the vintage menu along with some new (who cares?) items. And what's even better news? This is apparently just the beginning. Michaels and Dougherty plan to open more Hamlets throughout the city! My world is complete! So last night, to celebrate we had Onion Soup Fondue Bowl ($7), Those Potatoes ($6) with extra sour cream, the #9, with everything on it ($10) zucchini zircles with apricot sauce, ($8) a big slab of chocolate cake and a hot fudge sundae. ($8) Our server, Rigoberto loved sharing the memories with us. For under $50, I'd say that was almost 1970's prices too! To quote William Shakepeare in Henry the IV, Part 1: Act 2, Scene 1 "He hath eaten me out of house and home; he hath put all my substance into that fat belly of his." We kind of felt  like this when we waddled out of the Hamlet last night. Make memories while you can!  Hamburger Hamlet 4419 Van Nuys Boulevard Sherman Oaks (818) 784-1183 Hours: Monday-Thursday 8:00 a.m.- 10:00 p.m. Fri-Sat 8:00 a.m.- 11:00 p.m. Sunday 9:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m.

Recommended Dishes: Those potatoes, all burgers, fried chicken wings, french fries, onion soup fondue, lobster bisque, chocolate cake, coffee milkshakes, zucchini zircles.

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