Monthly Archives: December 2010

L’Epicerie & Druckin Lyle Lovett

OH OKAY. If you’re going to open an adorable French café and market, L’Epicerie,  50 yards away from my Culver City apartment, I guess I can take one for the team and give it a try. THE THINGS I DO FOR YOU PEOPLE.

My French prof's fave joke: An oeuf is an oeuf for breakfast. (Get it? Enough for breakfast?)

Awesome pal Kate ordered uh-MAZING eggs benedict, but instead of Canadian bacon (as in the above pilfered pic) hers came with rustic, homemade sausage. She loved it! And my mocha was delightful, with patterned foam pretty enough to use as wallpaper:

Leaf me alone with my mocha.

The owner, Thierry Perez, seems like an actual French. (Not like all the Mexican sushi chefs in LA. BLESS THEM. But they are about as Japanese as I am.) L’Epicerie (literally, the grocery store) is divided into a wine cave, a little store, and the dining area. All very pretty.

Slow service but trying very hard. Baby steps, right Kate?

I love the racks of Euro mags and I super-love the French candies by the register. The day we went, the views of the rainy sidewalks out the window (not to mention the hot fireman that stopped by!) made it all tres Parisian. We also had a front-row view of this guy, whom I happen to ADORE:

I would never love you and leave you, Lyle. Not like that flaky Julia Roberts!

Lyle Lovett was apparently starring in Much Ado About Nothing at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City with Helen Hunt, and I missed it; the run is over. (SAD.) But I got to see, feel and experience his utter Lyle-osity, his awesome hair, and the kind and gentle way he treated the L’Epicerie staff.

I remember when Bush beat Kerry in ’04, WXRT radio in Chicago played his song, “That’s Right, You’re Not From Texas” and it was one of the most apropos musical moments I’ve ever experienced. But that’s not the song that made me love him. It’s the song I heard Dag Juhlin cover beautifully one night at Schubas in Chicago:

Kiss my ass, I bought a boat, I’m going out to sea. Words to live by! Merry Christmas, y’all — Joyeux Noel and Feliz Navidad. I feel so lucky and blessed to have you with me.

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A Druckin Phallic Festivus

For awesome pal Arielle’s annual Festivus fete, I brought frosted butter cookies made with the Hannukah cutters my cousin Nancy gave me a few years back. They include the usual suspects. The menorah. The dreydl. Green stars. Blue diamonds. And the traditional Jewish phallus, bottom right, under the wine glass. (Where it belongs, in order of importance.)

Is it weird that I searched 'penis cookie' images and a pic of cookie monster came up?

As if there just weren’t enough iconic Hannukah images to warrant a full set, they threw in some holiday sidekicks. Like the shofar, usually associated with Rosh Hashanah:

Feeling horny yet?

It’s a ram’s horn. It’s a primitive wind instrument. You blow it. Which is why it was amusing when my Hannukah shofar cookies looked so much like a male body part. Of course, we ate them before I thought to take their picture, but this gives you an idea:

Small pic. Shrinkage.

Butter cookies with buttercream frosting are one of my favorite things about the holiday season. I’ve used lots of recipes, but my favorite is called “Rich Roll Cookies” and I got it from my mom’s Joy of Cooking cookbook, with the pretty robin’s egg blue cover and the red ribbon bookmark. (Aw, I love my mom.)

Butter on butter. That's just how I roll.

But sometimes I cave into the need for speed, like when I’m baking cookies an hour before the party while also blowdrying my hair, talking on the phone and applying mascara. Then I rely on another Betty. Crocker, that is. This Sugar Cookie Mix is genius, and it’s just about the most forgiving dough you’ll ever roll:

The name's Debra, but you can call me Sugar.

They’re made with real butter you add yourself, giving them a homemade taste that masks whatever chemicals Betty uses to give the mix eternal shelf life. Just roll, cut, bake, cool, frost, POOF, you’re Martha Stewart.

I use my mom’s standard buttercream recipe (turns out it’s the same one on the box of powdered sugar) but do what you like. Food coloring is pretty, though snowy white works too. And I love the crunch of sanding sugar, a.k.a. colored sprinkles. Happy almost Festivus, everyone!

Mother Drucker Buttercream

3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup (one stick) butter, room temperature (NOT MELTED!)
2-4 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat up butter and vanilla with mixer until fluffy. Alternate additions of powdered sugar and milk until you reach desired consistency.

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Druckin Vegas, Baby

Editor’s note: For the record, Vince Neil was totally sober the night I met him in Vegas. He also wasn’t a host or even a celebrity guest at the party — just a regular guy, refreshingly sans entourage and attitude. If anything I’ve said below was taken out of context (which, unfortunately, it was), I sincerely apologize.

Wow. I flew to Vegas on a private plane last week for an epic party at the Las Vegas Hilton and partied with Vince Neil, former lead singer for Motley Crue. There are details that involve cowboys and pirates and grape-stomping and body paint. Prime rib and piles of shrimp and a vodka luge. But if you’d like to stop reading now, you can. You’ve got the gist.

I’ve never flown on a private plane before, but WHAT A WAY TO GO:

This plane is called Aero Commander. I misunderstood, and wore no underwear. When in Rome!

AMAZING. I drove my car up to the plane. Threw in my luggage. Sat down. And took off. That was it. No one tried to touch my junk. Not even when I asked. This is what the inside looks like:

Like my nephew says, "DO IT AGAIN?!"

The phenomenal pilot, whom I would (and did!) trust with my life, magically fixed it so it didn’t hurt my ears at all. The views of the desert, mountains and Big Bear Lake were beautiful, and I loved talking into the headset, because I’m a huge dork. But you knew that.

We went straight from the airport to the hotel to the party. The minute I entered the VIP lounge at the Hilton, someone put a glass of champagne in my hand. (Yep, I could get used to this.)

The party is an annual event for an eclectic group of corporate and non-corporate cowboys. I’m not sure if they are a secret society, so I won’t mention them by name, but I can tell you — they know how to have a HELLUVA good time.

Happy paint.

It all went down in the penthouse suites, three of them, each with a different theme. The pirate suite had painted beauties, and booties, see above. One room, filled with decadent desserts, featured a bed with a nearly-naked girl on it, her backside liberally sprinkled with cocoa and powdered sugar. Like a human cannoli.

It was a Kubrick movie, come to life. I half-expected a midget clown to swan in on a bicycle. But then I saw this guy, which is the next best thing:

Nice guy. Even nicer highlights.

VINCE!! “Girls, Girls, Girls” and “Kickstart My Heart” and 80s HAIR! Considering how much abuse he’s heaped upon his diminutive frame, he looks fantastic. And SWEET! He let me kiss his cheek (smooth!) and take his picture, which unleashed a torrent of female fans. I apologized, and he said, “Nah. I love it!”

I started off the night in jeans, a crazy-tight black top and stiletto-heeled booties, but after countless vodka tonics, I went back up to my room and changed into my cowboy boots. By then, I was HAMMERED.

Talk about a foot fetish.

Therefore, I only vaguely remember the vodka luge (martini), the trio of hotties in the grape-stomping tub (red wine) and the pretty Galliano girl (ill-advised coffee liqueur concoction). I finished the night with a delicious triple-decker club sandwich delivered to my room at 2am.

Like I said. I could get used to this.

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Easy Druckin Chicken Lasagna

Hey y’all. My friend Deb (who is awesome, as all Debs are!) once told me that ‘easy’ and ‘chicken’ were two of the most powerful words on the Interweb, and she should know. She worked for Martha Stewart. So hopefully we’ll score BIG on the search engines with this rich and delicious little number.

So wrong, and yet so right.

This recipe comes via New Zealand, where I first made it for the man I should’ve married, but its true origin is the New York Times. (U!S!A!) Since it doesn’t have ricotta cheese and is only two layers high, I’m not sure it’s truly a lasagna. But it is truly, insanely RICH. It has pretty much every fatty component known to man short of bacon and butter. (Don’t worry. It’s still GOOD.)

I simply purchase a rotisserie chicken, shredding it with painstaking care, leaving no bone unturned. Then I stare at it for a little while, thinking, “You know, you would make a LOVELY chicken salad. Some toasted walnuts, a handful of dried cranberries…” before I finally plop it in the bowl and commit to lasagna. (I have commitment issues, clearly.)

Oh! Almost forgot. I haven’t made this lasagna in a long time, and thus forgot the ingredient list. Snobby foodie that I am, I told Adra that I would never, EVER stoop to making a casserole of ANY KIND (including tuna) with cream of mushroom soup, as it is the work of the devil. I spoke, loftily, of bechamel sauce. Of effortlessly whipping up a roux with flour and butter and enriching it with cheese. I LIED.

Mea maxima culpa.

So, do a few extra laps in the pool, miles on the treadmill, floors on the stairmaster, then do yo’self a flava and make this here dish.

Chicken Lasagna Heart Attack

6-8 lasagna noodles (make a few more as insurance)
1 pkg frozen chopped spinach (thawed and drained)
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon corn starch
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tablespoon soy sauce (yes, soy sauce!)
1 can cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
1 carton sour cream (8 0z.)
1 five oz jar sliced mushrooms
1/3 cup mayo
1 cup grated parmesan

Cook noodles, set aside. (I always drizzle a little olive oil after I drain them to keep them from sticking to each other.) Squeeze all water out of spinach. Combine spinach, chicken and all other ingredients except parmesan. Arrange 3-4 noodles in the bottom of a buttered 9 x 13″ pan. Spread half of chicken mixture over noodles. Repeat with remaining noodles and chicken mixture. Sprinkle with parmesan. Bake at 350°F for 50-60 minutes, till hot and bubbly. Allow to stand at least 15 min before cutting.

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6 Druckin Degrees in Chicago

Nope, that’s not the temperature. Although that happens A LOT in Chicago, which is why I live in LA.

6 Degrees just happens to be a fantastic Bucktown bar awesome pal John introduced me to — and they may very well be the only drinking/dining establishment in Chicago to serve an authentic HORSESHOE. It looks like this:

YOU KNOW YOU WANT IT.

Two open-faced burgers on bread, completely obscured by a mountain of fries, slathered in cheese sauce. Too much food? WUSS. Order a Pony Shoe, which is the same thing with one burger. The cheese sauce is different everywhere, but it’s almost always good (when is cheese sauce bad?) and never good for you. Here is a picture of 6 Degrees so you can find it:

But will the valet park my horse for me?

John is from Springfield, IL, which (for you geography buffs) is the state capital. Springfield is where Illinois governors go before they go to prison, and where normal people go to eat Horseshoes. Fresh from the field. YUM!

There’s some dispute over who created the toe-tappin’ treat, but most agree that it was at Springfield’s Leland Hotel in 1928. Here’s what it might have looked like, if you’d been there.

My grandpa, Harold Baldridge, is buried in Springfield. I miss him.

That’s about 220 miles, 3.5 hours away from Bucktown, but Springfielders feel right at home in this friendly neighborhood joint. They weren’t 100% impressed by my fancy footwear, perfectly appropriate by LA standards but not quite at home in a sea of booted Bears fans:

Not my exact shoe, but close enough for biochemistry, as my Dad would say.

But I don’t mind; I’ll take the stares. I only own two pairs of closed-toe shoes, anyway. And I’ve always thought of Bucktown as an artsy, edgy, anything-goes neighborhood. My sister, a former denizen of squeaky-clean Lincoln Park,  used to say it was trashy. Literally. Trash everywhere. What a realtor would call, ‘distinct urban charm.’

These days, gritty Damen Ave looks more gentrified than ever. Cute boutiques are everywhere, like the fashionista favorite, Veruca Salt. And the adorable Bucktown Beanery coffee shop.

Chicago is full o'beans.

It was so charmant that for a nanosecond, I thought — I could live here. Then I thought about 6 degrees the temperature, not the bar, and violently shook the notion off, like a wet dog. I also thought about this guy:

Yep, that's right. It's me. Mother Drucker. No need to point.

Kevin Bacon at 6 degrees would be like an actual Hippo showing up to a game of Hungry Hungry Hippos. In other words, UNBELIEVABLE. Kevin, if you’re reading this, your first Horseshoe is on me, buddy. We’ll start with James Gandolfini. GO.

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Bang, Zoom, to the Druckin Moon Palace (Chicago)

Hello, I missed you! I was in Chicago for Thanksgiving weekend and it was AWESOME. And where have you been?

Today, because your Mother loves you, I’m going to put down this turkey sandwich and “out” two ethnic Chicago ‘hoods for serving alcohol to minors. (I could, in theory, out my parents for “forgetting” a six-pack of Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers in their basement, but that’s a story for another day.)

Anyhoo, I’m sure these neighborhoods have learned to card hard since 198whaaa? And I highly doubt that Chicago cops are reading Mother Drucker. (But they SHOULD.)

Chicago, you are a beautiful tease. SO pretty. And SO COLD.

First ‘hood, Greektown (see above). Even the most baby-faced sixteen year old could get woozy on zee ouzo. But Greektown is on the near West side, and I was dating a U of C student on the South. So where did he take his 18-year old paramour for General Tso’s Chicken and delicious whiskey sours, the alcoholic equivalent of a Jolly Rancher? It’s Chinatown, Jake. Specifically, Moon Palace.

Moon Palace is not a place to drop trou. Just FYI.

Last weekend, I dragged my sweet and accommodating parents to Chinatown on a cold and blowy November night, to the NEW Moon Palace (no longer on the second floor), because the old Moon Palace burned down. 15 years ago. That’s how long it’s been. (Now they’re right next to a fire house. Coincidence?)

The place was crowded, filled with Bears fans and uniformed Chicago cops. (Who may or may not be reading this and planning a sting operation for underage drinkers this weekend.) And the food was… Wrong. Just wrong. Not bad, exactly but wrong. (Wong!)

We started with Shanghai soup dumplings — xiao long bao. I first had them at Yank Sing (always makes me think of flogging the dolphin — first you yank, then you SING!) in San Francisco, and fell hopelessly in love.

They are splotchy little satchels filled with porkylicious liquor — I think it’s broth. How they get broth to stay and even travel in a porous vessel like a dumpling is clearly an ancient Chinese secret. This is what they SHOULD look like:

Thank you very much for pretty picture, hungry dog blogger.

And here’s what Moon Palace’s dumpy dumplings look like:

Those aren't dumplings. They are little LIES.

Um, that’s just a pork dumpling. (My name in prison.) Maybe some people would call it a potsticker? Regardless, the only ‘soup’ involved is the liquid that squelches out of the pork when you stab it with a chopstick. Another fatal flaw was moo shu pork, wrapped in this:

Asiamex. Mexinese. Kogi truck. Hmmm. Maybe this fusion isn't ALL bad.

That is a TORTILLA. That isn’t remotely Chinese. And while it may very well be delicious warm with butter or filled with various Mexican delicacies, moo shu pork should be served with a delicate, transparent wrapper. Right? RIGHT?!

How do you tell a cow to go away? Moo, shoo!

As my sister astutely pointed out, I should look on the bright side. That’s one Chicago stop I can tick off my list. Which is a good thing, because between my mom’s pies, the Apple Haus cider doughnuts, the Lou Malnati’s pizza and the Ditka’s pot roast nachos (how big is Ditka?), it’s a good thing I’m back in the land of sushi and salads.

On a totally unrelated and very sad note: a lovely little girl I once knew lost a long, drawn-out battle with spinal muscular atrophy over Thanksgiving weekend. Rest in peace, angel.

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