Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Fiddlehead's Return

Amy Nawrocki reading "The Fiddlehead's Return" at Best Video's Poetry Round Robin.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Poetry Round Robin at Best Video

Had a great time at the Poetry Round Robin at Best Video last night. It's really a great way of getting a taste of many styles, and staying engaged with the words. I'll be posting a video soon. In the meantime, here are some of the luminaries who participated.
Best Video founder and visionary Hank Paper introduces the poets.
Pulitzer Prize nominated Franz Douskey reads his clever, biting poems.
Award winning poet Amy Nawrocki reads her poetry, even though she had a bad cold.

Monday, December 26, 2011


Frying up corn slapjacks on a cold morning. Though I expected them to be gritty and less palatable than wheat flour pancakes, they are surprisingly good, especially with a nice smear of butter and a drizzle of maple syrup.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Smoked Duck Nachos

A plate of smoked duck nachos at ZINC in New Haven. When they first opened back in the day, I thought their prices too high and their food just okay (they are right next to where I worked at Kaplan Test Prep). Now, they have cutting edge local/global cuisine, with great drinks and creative fusion dishes. Check them out!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fondue for Dinner

Either my Swiss heritage or a simple love of cheese draws me back time and time again to the joys of fondue. However, here we have some beef tips simmering, to be dipped into a Chinese five-spice sauce while they are oily hot. Delicious. Do you due the due, too?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Black Pudding on Toast

Black pudding (blood pudding) on toast with butter. Yum. Get the blood sausage, cook/fry it on a pan until nice and crispy, then spread it on the buttered toast. A wonderful iron umami.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Haggis with Whisky Cream Sauce

Here's a little dish we whipped up, after finding haggis at the UK Gourmet in Newtown. A little whisky cream sauce, courtesy of the internet, and a haggis warmed through in simmering water. I can't say it was as good as some of the haggis we had while in Scotland last summer. But it wasn't bad at all. Alba gu bragh!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Interview on Practical Talk Time

Here's a video of Amy and I being interviewed by Sandra Wrobel on Practical Talk Time, Channel 23 in the Danbury area. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Plate of Oysters

Above is a plate of Wellfleet Oysters at the Squealing Pig in Provincetown, Massachusetts. I had tried oysters before I met Amy, but together we really became fans of these ugly little slurpers. We enjoy them straight, or maybe with a little lemon or vinegar. A properly shucked oyster is a beautiful thing. If you've never tried one raw, work up to it by eating them fried, or in other dishes, and then slurp one down with a nice glass of beer or a white wine. Riesling is my preferred choice.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Time for Hiking Again

As the semester winds down, it's time to get out the backpack and start hiking the winter forests, searching for tracks. Of course, my cats are not happy with me being gone so often during the semester, and here Django is trying to accompany me on a hike, while Maple looks worried.

I need to recharge my batteries, and a walk through the forests of Connecticut always does the trick.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Duk Bokki - Korean Rice Cakes

Duk Bokki (Korean Rice Cakes) at home, with a spicy oyster sauce and fresh green onions. Yum.

The trick is to get them to the proper softness, a matter of practice. The first couple times we tried this comfort food were not successful - the cakes were too hard, or had hard areas in them. But when they work well, they are simply fantastic. If you want them without the hassle, Midori in Hamden makes some great ones. However, they are worth practicing with and getting right at home.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Weight of London

Every time I land at Heathrow, I can feel a difference in the air. With many countries, the swirl of foreign language makes it obvious that I am traveling, that I have left the United States and entered the land of the other. But this could still be New York, though perhaps a cleaner one. Sure, I receive a strange-looking currency out of an ATM instead of dollar bills, but I have no problem reading the signs for the Underground, no problem telling the taxicab driver where to go. It was just like America, except smaller and with better public transportation. Why then, did it feel so different?

The first thing I notice this visit is that tea becomes my blood as it never can be in America. The hotpot always seems ready at friends’ flats, whether they are of Indian, Chinese, or Irish extraction. "Tea?" is offered at every pause, at every corner cafĂ©, and the tradition and ritual connect us with a billion British through the years. I try to think of a daily American custom that has lasted as long, fifty years even, and fail. Another day we had afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason, pretending to be upper crusters. "Pass the scones, old sport," my friend tells me, quite seriously. But that day we drink tea at a simple tea house in Regent’s Park, and I have what is possibly the best cuppa of my life. I check the bag and find the Twinings label, a common tea brand in the U.S. "Twinings!" I exclaim to my friends. "This ain’t the Twinings we get!" I marvel at the attention to quality, to the importance of detail in daily life that seems missing at home.

From the Regent’s Park tea house, we walk out onto the wet green lawns and find the spot where the final scene of John Fowles’ The Magus takes place, where the main character and the reader are left wondering whether love will triumph. Suddenly, ten thousand novels, plays, and films open to my senses as I realize that London is English Literature, the birthing ground for story itself, for a million scenes of conflict and resolution. Down the road, in the Archive Room of the British Library, those stories line the walls – unbelievable documents that seem legendary: the only copy of Beowulf, the first folio of Shakespeare, the Magna Carta, Alice in Wonderland, Newton’s laws, Gandhi’s letters, and a thousand more, spinning my head in disbelief. Such a room does not exist in America, except in palest imitation, housing a few minor manuscripts, a paltry sum of historical record.

The city seemed like a thick tea bag full of the most venerable leaves as we waded into it again. Stopping at the British Museum, I find a hundred pieces from history class, things that make our heads swim in the deep well of time. Outside, in the streets, the march of history continues, from the primeval Tudor taverns to the iconic Big Ben. Here we stride through those stories in a way we could never do in a place like Hollywood, where the backdrops are fake and the on-site locations constantly changing. Here the ancient gates and smoky taverns live beside gleaming towers of modernity. Certainly a place like New York has at least begun to build its own mythology, with a hundred years of film and novel to lend it weight. But in ancient Londinium these moments can come to life all around you, in this dense, chewy center of English-speaking culture.

My friends and I take pictures with the electrified statue of Winston Churchill, on which no pigeon dares to perch, and duck into Westminster Abbey. As we make our way through the ancient halls, we find the tomb of Queen Elizabeth. Queen Elizabeth! That such a fabled person walked the earth and has an actual resting place seems beyond all expectation. We pay homage in Poets’ Corner, to the writers who built our common language and passions. And then, in the wide gallery of the Abbey, I find the grave of Charles Darwin, an apparent contradiction that only the British could cheerfully stomach, like a Monty Python skit come to life. It is like the pub a wry Britisher opened in an old temperance hall, like the celebration of Guy Fawkes’ Day with fireworks. Only a people with a seasoned, rich culture can see beyond the seemingly outrageous paradox to the calm, tea-blend of true history.

I stand a long time at the grave of Charles Darwin, amongst the murmur of tourists and the sound of echoing feet, knowing that some of my fellow English-speakers probably take this for granted, the solid weight of memory – their lives made denser than scones by narrative and details, in a way that most Americans will never know.

First published in Hackwriters: The International Writers Journal.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Dinner in Ottawa

I really wish I remembered the name of this restaurant. If anyone of my Canadian friends has a clue, let me know! It was in the center city of Ottawa, east of Parliament and the concert hall.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Kale and Sausage with Roasted Parsnips

Kale and sausage with roasted parsnips. At least I think that's kale, looking at it a year later. Maybe swiss chard?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Shrimp With Mango Salsa

In honor of my wife's poem in Gastronomica, one of her recipes - a shrimp with homemade mango salsa that was just delightful.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Gastronomica Winter 2011

Everyone should run out and get a copy of Winter 2011's Gastronomica, which features a poem by my wife, Amy Nawrocki, called "Jamaican Farewell." It's also a really great journal, focusing on food and culture, and with some of the greatest food photography you'll find anywhere.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Decadence: Bone Marrow, Caviar, and Lobster Soup

Just a little something we like to whip up once in a while. Roasted beef marrow is always good, and especially spread on toast with  a little salt. But this one in a rich lobster soup (you can see the beading), topped with a teaspoon of caviar (okay, it's not the really expensive black stuff), is almost too decadent. Almost.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Beautiful Destruction

We were in the United Illuminating section of Connecticut, and so we only lost power for three days, but the rest of the state had a tough time of it this year. We have a decent sized property, though, almost all trees, and I've spent the last week clipping, cutting, and sawing the broken beeches and maples. I'm not even close to finished, and my body aches, and so does my heart. Unfortunately, they were the healthiest trees, rather than the old and infirm; the ones with the most leaves suffered most.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Aged Apple Brandy from Westford Hill Distillery

One of the finest brandies in the world, produced right here in Connecticut. Try it out.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Return to Gouveia Vineyard

Gouveia Vineyards in Wallingford is one of the prime destinations in the state, and they don't need me telling you so. Every weekend it is jammed with wine aficianados, picnicking at the dozens of tables inside the stone building (an architectural wonder) on top of Whirlwind Hill. If you haven't been there, you're missing out. Even if you don't like wine.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

At the Getty Museum

Although we loved the Van Gogh, and the setting was stunning, what impressed us most about the Getty Museum in Los Angeles was the quality of sculptures, including this Calder below, and such antique and modern sculptures as pictured below. I threw the Van Gogh irises in there, too. Because, you know, awesome.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

At the Dolphin Striker

Duck and a flight of wine with my wife at the Dolphin Striker, Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Yum. Certainly one of or the best place for a nice meal in the historic downtown of this fascinating little city.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Inveroran Hotel

The hotel is very small, only seven rooms, but has hosted visitors like Charles Dickens and the Comte de Paris, both of who passed without comment. Poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge stopped on his way south from Glencoe, and waited an hour and a half here for a dish of tea. Dorothy and William Wordsworth complained of a terrible breakfast, with inedible butter, hard oat cakes, and eggs boiled hard as stones. Robert Southey couldn’t get milk. Charles Darwin had better luck, and used the nearby birch trees as an example in his writings on natural selection. The hotel proudly displayed these questionable comments in its publicity materials, with a humor that came from these sorts of places, which have seen hard times and lived to tell about them. We had a fantastic time there.


Saturday, October 8, 2011


If you've never had poutine, you're missing out. A French Canadian treat with fries, gravy, and cheese curds, this is comfort food at its most primitive. Above is a wonderful 'fast food' poutine Amy and I had at a famous Montreal establishment. However, recently it has made its way onto gourmet menus in the states. I get my fix at Mikro in Hamden right now. Let's hope it becomes more popular.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Vanity of Duluoz Review

When Vanity of Duluoz was written in 1967, an overweight and severely alcoholic Jack Kerouac had only two years to live. Chronicling the years just before his adventures with Neal Cassady, his last complete volume takes Jack from the football fields of high school, to the dangerous seas of World War II, and finally to a New York City brimming with the Beat movement. Although the substance is youthful and energetic, and the witty tone addressed to his last wife is entertaining, a clear and strong resentment of the human condition pervades the book. "Nothing came of it. All is vanity" is the acidic conclusion.

As we read, it becomes clear that the days of satori and mythic revelation in On the Road are long over. There is something uncompromising about this book, and though it looks back to an earlier time, it is full of death: Kerouac's doomed shipmates on the Dorchester, the murdered David Kammerer, and the author's broken father. His friend Sabby Savakis dies during the war, and when Kerouac sees "flowers of death" in his eyes at the Boston dock as they say farewell, we sense perhaps the author is seeing them in the mirror twenty five years later.

A version of similar events appeared in Kerouac's more clearly fictional first novel, The Town and the City. So, why bother rehashing these years? For the author, it became a question of truth. He states, "Everybody'd begun to lie and because they lie they assume that I lie, too....but I do believe lying is a sin." The project of Vanity of Duluoz is to set records straight, to complete the great "Duluoz legend" in its memorial entirety. We can hope that someday a future scholar will put all these books together in one great Proustian novel, as was Kerouac's dream.

Appraising this final piece of autobiography, the reader almost believes Kerouac sensed his own impending doom, and valiantly attempted to complete this ambitious narration. He mentions a woman's letter written to him recently that stated: "You are not Jack Kerouac. There is no Jack Kerouac. His books were not even written." It is against this great nihilistic denial that the author fights, swinging his great fists of prose. And against his own feeling of bitter defeat he places another, greater feeling: I am.

You can find the original article, and others, at Empty Mirror Books.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Friday, September 23, 2011

Donald Hall Birthday Celebration

I was honored to speak about the history of Hamden when former U.S. Poet Laureate Donald Hall returned to his hometown for his 83rd birthday. I wrote about his life here in my book, Hamden: Tales from the Sleeping Giant. Sharing the event with the mayor Scott Jackson and Connecticut Poet Laureate Dick Allen was the icing on the cake.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Poetry Reading at the Dickerman House

This photo of my wife, poet Amy Nawrocki, reading at the historic Jonathan Dickerman House in Hamden, looks a little bit like a sorceress incanting a spell. That could not be more appropriate. Poetry is magic, only, those who do not fall under its spell are cursed.

Friday, September 9, 2011