Oyster-Artichoke Bisuque

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Oyster Artichoke Bisque

           I took a trip to New Orleans sometime in 1993, and returned with some great inspiration for food to try out in o'Bagelo's. I had never heard of this soup, but it turned out to be one of the great imports from that region. It is the only time I have seen this soup in any restaurant.  

           The response was fantastic for anyone who had the taste for oysters. It is an easy soup to make if you are willing to garner all the necessary ingredients. The reward will be worth the effort and then some, if of course you're a fan of oysters. This recipe varies from a traditional bisque as I do not puree the final product, but I left the name because I didn't have any other "Bisques" on the menu.

            I have been reluctant at times to reveal the recipes of many of my unique items in the event I ever ventured back in the business of serving food to the general public. Obviously I have decided
that this isn't going to effect either the decision or the outcome if that day ever comes. Good luck with this one, and reserve it only for oyster lovers, as it can be expensive to make, especially outside of the large areas that produce oysters.

  • 4 Pieces of bacon
  • 1/3 cup chopped onions
  • 1/2 stick of unsalted butter
  • 2 15 oz cans of Artichoke Hearts in water. chopped, liquid reserved
  • 3/4 cup All purpose flour
  • 8 oz. Clam Juice
  • 20 oz shucked oysters in liquor
  • 2/3 qt of Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 1 - 6 oz can of smoked oysters
  • 3 scallions, chopped. I use the white parts and a bit of the green for flavor and garnish
  • Salt/Pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper
  • 3 Tbsp parsley
  • 1 Tbsp thyme

Total Time: 1 hour

Should serve six, but often eaters are looking for seconds.

The first step in this trip to joyousness is to render the bacon in a large soup pot at medium high heat. A pot that you will use to combine all the ingredients. When the bacon is about 3/4 finished, add the chopped onions and sauté until the bacon is done and the onions are translucent.

You can do them separately, just be sure tho cook the onions in the bacon fat, and then add the bacon back to the pot. Once the onions and bacon are cooked, add the butter and melt thoroughly.

Next add the artichoke hearts without the liquid.  We are now going to finish this bacon-artichoke roux. Mix the flour in until you can't see any white from the flour. You may need to add a bit more flour to get this part to the perfect consistency. Not too dry and not too wet. The mixture will look wetter than a standard roux and will thicken up with the rest of the ingredients.

Let this cook on the heat for a few minutes to get rid of any flour taste and incorporate all the flavors.

Add the liquid from the artichoke hearts and the clam juice and combine well. Let the mixture heat through as it will take a few minutes to get the mixture back up to temperature after you have added the colder ingredients to the hot. 

After the heat has returned to the soup, add your oysters with their liquid. At this point, open and drain the smoked oyster on some paper towel. It will take a few minutes for the fresh oysters to cook in the soup (when the edges of the fresh oysters start to curl, they are ready).

Next we add the spices, the heavy cream, and the white part of the scallions and let cook for 3-4 minutes.  Add the smoked oyster last and garnish with the green parts of the scallions. If your soup is too thick or creamy tasting, just add some water to thin it down to your desired taste.

This is the end, and a beginning.

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"This is the end, beautiful friend, this is the end. . . " 

I generally like to quote literary or historical figures, but on occasion I like to allow for a bit more reality in appearance. And it seems to fit here. 

      Most of the stories in this section are based on my time in the restaurant business but it occurred to me that I haven’t gone into any detail as to why I am no longer in that business. I thought I would take a little space to tell you about some of the more entertaining parts of a very difficult situation. 

This idea was brought about by a now annual visit to my primary care doctor. A doctor who shows as little interest in seeing me as I do in seeing him, at least that’s what his face tells me when he enters the room. I am not aware of anything that has transpired between us to create any disdain or dislike but that is only my perspective. His monotone speech, delayed sentence structure and limited interaction may be merely representative of a doldrum personality. And as I consider myself an above average conversationalist, this really pisses me off. I believe I can drag a dead cat into a better discussion than my doctor, and I don’t like cats.

It was just over four years ago that I quite literally stumbled into his office. The pinnacle of a developing health issue that refused to be ignored any longer, no matter how hard I tried. No matter how many people told me to get some help, having no health insurance at the time and being excessively stubborn,  I was reluctant to open that particular box of pandora’s in hope that it would take care of itself.   For the record, I was wrong.

One of the on going discussions and eventual divisions among my friends encircles my arrival  to this point. And I also mean that in a very literal way. My arrival at the doctors office, and eventually the next drop off point.  I finally made an appointment for the Wednesday after labor day since I was unable to get out of bed for more than 10 minute periods over the weekend.  I would walk to the end of the hall in my apartment to take a shower and be so exhausted when finished that I took a four hour nap. Not only was I unable to stay on my feet or stay awake, but anything going in me was reversing it’s path soon after. I was even returning the water I tried to drink. This was bad even for the “Italian Mom” standards that I grew up with. 

“You’re fine, go outside and you will feel better” 
“Walk it off, I’m busy” 
“You’re going to school today, I have too many things to       do around here”
“Stop all that yelling in there” - when my brothers (6 years older and 100 lbs. heavier) were tag team wrestling me the family room. 
I can remember falling off my bike racing down a hill one day and watching my both wheels fly out from under me and crash to the ground. I was about 10 years old, and the mention that we might have to go see a doctor to stop the bleeding was highly unnecessary and interruptive.  

My friend Ned agreed to take me to the doctor based on my concern about driving. I couldn’t see shit that Friday on my way home and I knew I was a danger to myself and others. I didn’t open o’Bagelo’s on that Monday or Tuesday and I had the staff run Baked & Carved. Ditto for Wednesday. Ned picked me up as he had a little more freedom with his daily schedule. He was leaving on a trip the next day and had some running around to finish up before he left. He waited in his car catching up on emails while I slowly crept up to the office. 

After a few minutes (I think) in the anterior office the nurse called me back into one of those little rooms. She sat me down and took my temp and blood pressure. She glanced up at me and and  re-inflated the cuff. She excused herself immediately after that second reading and said she would be right back with the doctor. My doctor came in within a minute and looked about as hurried as I have ever seen him up to that point or since. He also took a blood pressure reading twice. He was staring at my face while the cuff inflated and as soon as it was done, even he had a small expression on his face.

“Your blood pressure and your coloring tell me you need to go the the emergency room right now. I should call an ambulance but if you have a ride and promise to go directly to the ER, I will agree not put that additional cost on you.” He knew I didn’t have insurance and that gesture seemed quite thoughtful at the time.

“From the readings we took you are at severe risk of a stroke, and frankly I’m not sure how you walked in here. My BP was well over 200 for that upper number, and over 140 for that lower number, well over.  I called Ned while the doctor called the hospital and we arranged both ends of the transport. He gave me a stern look and said you have to promise me that you will go directly there. “If you go home there is a pretty good chance you will not survive.” I was getting the point but I’m sure my physical appearance suggested I might be a tad noncompliant.  Combine that with how far I had let this go, throw in the possible inability to comprehend him with my fragile state, and I now understand his attempt at a threatening expression.

In hindsight he may have been taking on a large risk by letting me walk out on a promise. What if I didn’t go and didn’t make it? Would he have been liable for a risky decision? I am still not certain how he let me walk out of there. Maybe he just didn’t want his other patients to see a stretcher coming in and out of the back office. That can’t be good for business.
Ned was waiting for me right outside the office even after being scolded by a security guard to move his minivan (The original metaphor would work really well here if it was blue, but his "bus" was gray). When he got my call asking for a ride to the ER, he probably figured the situation was more serious than either of us believed. So I slowly climbed into his chariot, a chariot by the way we recovered together when it was stolen one afternoon. I made two phone calls on the way to the ER to inform a few someones where I was headed. First to a family member that I knew would complete the informal phone tree. The second to the girl I was dating. She had suffered over the weekend trying to help me out and pushed for me to seek any form of medical help. I thought it would be nice to let her know she was right.  She also worked across the street from o’Bagelo’s  and I knew that she would tell my friends in the neighborhood  why the store was closed. 

This is the specific moment where the division of my friends developed. Ned pulled up to the emergency room parking lot and asked me if I needed anything. I told him I thought I was fine and got out of the minivan and headed through the doors of the ER. He heard me make the calls and figured someone would pick it up from there. Later he told me he waited until I enter the building and then went about his day.  I walked up to the ER window and they were waiting for me. A nice woman gave me a clipboard and I started to fill out some information but before I could get very far someone came from behind those secretive doors with a gurney and called my name. I remember sitting down with my clipboard on that bed, but after that it’s just one big blank for a while.  It must have been time for my nap as I was awake for over 2 hours at this point, I think, and did more walking than I had for days.

Apparently leaving someone that sick at the emergency room parking lot and letting them walk in on their own, especially based on the what followed the next 25 days, was enough to cause more than a small chasm among my friends.  

“How could he just leave you there?!!” 

“What is wrong with him?!!” 

“WHO does that?”

“ Does he have any empathy whatsoever?!!” Etc, etc., etc. 
I don’t need to remember the voices of my friends Joe and Margaret as they remind me using the same tone every time they hear his name, with the same amount of shock. Every time.

         And this continues to this day.  Recently Ned told me that when I got into his car, on both trips, he noticed an odor that he could only associate with the smell of death. I never asked him if he had a reference point for this statement but he seemed pretty certain of his metaphor. This only added to the anger and frustration with the the other group of friends. 

The next memory I have is waking up in a hospital bed with lots of machines and lots of action. A woman sat in a chair on my right and was staring at a dresser size piece of equipment with lots of tubes ands lights and noises. She was watching that machine with great intent and seemed very uninterested in my sudden consciousness. On my left was another chair and I’m pretty sure it was the family member that I had called on the way to the hospital. 

I was awake now and stated to get a sense of what was happening. Mainly because of the constant flow of medical personal in and out the room. I couldn’t tell you how long I was unconscious but backtracking I can figure out a few things. My doctors appointment was at 10 am. I wasn’t there for more than 10 minutes. I had learned that there were a few people out in the waiting area and they would only let one person, and that person had to be a family member, into the room at a time. I had learned an Uncle was sent there by my paralyzed father to check on the situation and report back, as my father was unable. One of my brothers was there also, which was interesting as we hadn’t spoke in about 2 years. The possibility of death changes those things.  And of course the girl I was dating was also in that outer room. Oddly, she hadn’t met any of the family members, as I often figure that is a disaster for any possible relationship. 

The effort to get in touch with all these people and  get them to the hospital would not have been an easy task, even with our technological advancements today. Several of those mentioned are prone to not answering or responding to phone calls in a timely fashion, especially from family. My best guess was that it was between four and five in the afternoon. 
I attempted to ask the woman staring at the machine but she wasn’t interested in having a conversation with anyone.  One of the higher level medical staff informed me that I was in ICU and hooked up to a dialysis machine. They had put a port into my chest that went directly to my heart, and I had a few IV’s hooked into my arm. All in an attempt to clean my blood of the build up of toxins.

It’s still unclear to me how much information was being passed on to me or how much I was comprehending. I think I was pretty happy to be awake and to know that something was being done about whatever had been the cause of my spiraling health. I’m not sure how much they knew other than my kidneys were not functioning at that moment and long enough before to turn me a dull yellow.  Cause uncertain.

I began to have conversations with those that were in the room and those through the revolving door. Family was starting to take turns coming in to get a visual image to add to the doctors information. This they would report back to their protective sections of our sorted clan.  Medical staff was in and out to check on any additional damage after I awoke. As so much time had passed I am guessing that this wasn’t the first time in the room for any of them. A quick check on my mental state and ability to communicate and they were back in the outer room certainly projecting the outcome of my fate amongst themselves. 

A short while after all this came to light (and a short nap I think), I could hear a commotion out in the anteroom. O.K., maybe not a commotion but certainly some sort of discussion that appeared to end with the entering of two friends who were still in their business suits. My memory has an image of the two of them pushing open two swinging doors and charging in with a conviction I had not seen in any of my other visitors. The body language and facial expressions made a quick change when they took in the vision of me in that Intensive care bed hooked up to some machine.  For the first time I had a complete sense of the severity of my situation. 

I have never seen the look that either of their faces morphed into, prior to or since that day.  Now even I was worried. After a few stumbling moments of conversation, they were able to pull themselves together and attempt to cheer me up. You know, the usual things like. “Holy shit, you look like crap, even more so than you have been.”  “Jesus, you look worse than the rumors we heard.”  They both smiled as Joe started to tell me that if anyone asks, they were both family. The commotion outside was the medical staff trying to withhold any details of my health and inform those two that only family members were allowed to see me, further enhancing their concern. When the woman protecting the door asked if they were family, Joe immediately placed his hand over the others chest to stop him from talking and confidently told her “Of course we are family”. They came through that door moments later, before their status could be confirmed with the others in the outer room.   

There was no way for me to know how much of an impact that decision would have on the rest of my recovery until many months later. The combination of the time spent and their great ability, put into research and communication greatly aided my recovery and my life after my month long stay in the hospital. When they left the room the woman who had encountered  Joe and Jon at the door came in and checked on a few medical issues but quickly asked if it was O.K. that she let those two in and if they were family. I smiled and said it was fine, and that they are both lawyers so it was best that you let them in. 

There is much more to the days between that moment and my eventual release 23 days later but this in really about my doctor and that last day of confinement. One of those friends that barged the through intensive care doors that day had found an an option for insurance for someone with a pre-existing condition (A preface to the Affordable Care Act) and the girl I was dating had helped me though the long application process. All of this was necessary for the hospital to release me. I had to have some insurance and a placement in an outpatient dialysis center or they couldn’t let me leave.  As the policy wasn’t going to start until the first of the month, both the hospital and I and to play a bit of a waiting game. 

I became accustomed to the same doctor doing his daily check on my now stable condition as we waited for the insurance approval and then the end of the month. I had become a resident of the floor and many of the staff would stop by and say hello or just check in on any needs I might have. One nurse came by every evening with hot tea, no matter what set of rooms he was assigned to that night ( I will expand on why in a more in depth post concerning my stay).

On the day before I was to be discharged the hospital doctor came to see me as I sat in one of the social rooms on the floor. He was giving me my last set of instructions for departure including contacting the dialysis center, getting  my medications downstairs at the pharmacy, and  making an appointment with my primary care doctor within a week for a follow up visit. 

I wrote everything down and when the doctor was sure it had all sunk in, he turned to leave the room. I looked up and saw that he paused, and turned back in my direction. A smile creeped onto his face as he hesitated to speak.

“I probably shouldn’t tell you this, and normally I would not, but I think you will take this the right way. When I called your doctor to tell him that you were going to be released and would be making an appointment to see him, he responded with a little surprise in his voice.” 

“That guy is STILL alive?”

The doctor in my presence paused and when he saw that I was smiling he turned away again and left the room. 

Four years and many, many visits with the same primary care doctor later, I decided to try and crack him. Either I would make this guy show emotion or connection with me or I may have to find a new doctor. I decided I would confront him on this issue in person and gauge his response. I reiterated the story of my departure from the hospital and as I started to to get his reported remarks he became a little flush. When I had finished, with the qualifier that I neither wanted a confirmation nor a denial on the matter, he was full on red faced and smiling. “AHA!” I thought, maybe I broke him! His words were denying any memory of the interaction but his face was telling a different story. 

A few minutes later we both left the room to finish up the annual visit. He walked down the hall ahead of me and  I heard him say over his shoulder, “ See you next time. I’m glad to see your still alive.” Looks like I will stick it out with him for another year. 

Olive Salad - for Muffaletta

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New Orleans Olive Salad

There are many different forms of olive salad, even those claiming to be the true New Orleans "Central Grocery" recipe. There really are no limits to this and you can add any of the derivative veggies that you like. I suggest you use pickled veggies (or pickle your own), but that is still a dealers choice. This is the version (and the original, I believe) that I served at the both stores for 22 years.

Photos by Jon Feldman
The Ingredients

  • 4 cups Spanish Olives (Manzanilla - the type usually found with pimientos)
  • 3/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1.5 oz Cocktail Onions, chopped
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh garlic
  • 1/4 cup Pimientos
  • 1 tbsp Capers, chopped
  • 1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 3 tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1/4 cup brine liquid from the olives
  • 1 tbsp Oregeno
  • Salt/Pepper to taste
Total time: 15 minutes

The type of olives varies in recipes and I imagine this is based on preference. I suggest this spanish olives without the pimiento stuffing so you can control the amount of peppers. If you can't find unstuffed olives, do your best with what you can find, but I suggest not using all the stuffing parts.

Because it's a cool picture

I usually hand chop all these ingredients because I am very particular about the size of my chopped olives in this concoction. However here I have used a food processor, but only for the olives.  I have done this because I think it will entice more people to try this out at home.

And an obligatory close up

 On the pulse mode a bread down the olives to a chunky consistency. I don't like the olives to get minced and I find I can control that better with my knife than with the machine. Kind of my version of "John Henry".

Proof that I used a food processor

It used to be a regular (but short) argument in the kitchen concerning the lack of a food processor with any new kitchen employee. We hand cut, despite the complaints.  I have seen olive salad with olives cut in all sizes. Dealers choice. 

The processed olives

After carefully processing your olives, add the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Place the mixture in the refrigerator for at least an hour before using.

Capers. Got to have them.

All ready to mix

The olive salad can be used for any sandwich, or as a Tapenade like topping for bread, crackers, etc. It will last in fridge for several weeks, as most of the ingredients are pickled. 

Just look at those colors. Mmmm. . . 

The olive salad and the bread it will land on

Muffaletta - A New Orleans Standard

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We have been making this sandwich at o'Bagelo's since I returned from my first trip to New Orleans, back in 1993. It was a another big hit even with my slight variation of melting the provolone to bring out the flavor and the smell of the olives. Some say that this is blasphemous, and here I served it the traditional way, but I still recommend the melt.

Photos by Jon Feldman


  • One large Round loaf of bread. Preferable a medium crust, so the filling doesn't all run out.
  • 1/8 lb. High grade Salami (Soppressata, Genoa)
  • 4 slices of Prosciutto de Parma (You could substitute ham, but really why bother)
  • 1/2 cup olive salad (Recipe here)
  • 3 slices Mild Provolone cheese (enough to cover the center of the bread)

Total time: 20 minutes (including time to make the olive salad)

Slice your round loaf horizontally.  Place 1/2 the olive salad on the bottom half of the bread to let the juices soak into the bread.

Next, place your salami and prosciutto on top the olive salad.

Hot version: If you are going to melt all this deliciousness, I suggest you place the rest of the olive salad on the meats next, and top it with the provolone. Place the bottom all this on a middle rack in the oven, and set to broil. Let the cheese melt until a few brown spots appear on the provolone. It is an excellent melting cheese and the kitchen will quickly smell like "All things Beautiful."

Cold version: The only difference here is that I like to put the second layer of olive salad on after the provolone so that is soaks into the top layer of bread. The benefit to the cold in that the longer it sits (within reason) the more the juices soak into the bread, enhancing the flavor.
This is one of reasons that they taste so good at the "Central Grocery" in New Orleans. They make them early and let them sit for while, building flavor

Eggplant Muffaltetta

 This is something we came up with one day when asked if there was a vegetarian version of the muffaletta from one of my customers. Even though I was often reluctant to alter recipes for certain groups of people, I almost always gave it some thought before denying the request. This just seemed to work well with the flavors, and was a hit.

Using the eggplant recipe from a previous post, stack the fried eggplant as you would the meat on the bread loaded with olive salad. Heat this part first under a broiler to warm up the fried eggplant. Next, place some more olive salad and the provolone cheese and melt. I highly recommend serving this one hot to bring out all the flavors.

The "Chicken Little" impact.

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The Sky is Falling
One particular sunny fall day after the lunch rush, I was catching my breath and  staring out the window. I had come in from cleaning the last occupied outdoor table and took a minute to soak up the weather. I remember taking a break at the table while I cleaned up after the last group of lunchers had left.  A few of those customers were familiar, but not all.  This was a common occurrence and I was thinking how nice it is when regulars to do my marketing by bringing in new people to try out the place. 
As I turned to walk into the kitchen a loud unfamiliar noise made me stop and listen further. A new sound is something that catches your attention quickly. Working in any environment for a period of time accustoms your ears to the usual and unusual noises.  The coolers turning on and off; dishes being placed in the sink, breaking dishes - when they are not being “placed” in the sink; the clanking of bottles as the self service drink cooler in being loaded, - or the lack of that noise when the staff is not on that job by a certain time. Of course the door opening and closing is the primary noise, indicating business in the door, or people leaving.  
What catches your attention most are the unfamiliar noises. That’s when your ears perk up. All other processing stops as you wait for follow up noises. “Am I going to be needed to investigate? Do I have to address a situation?” And other thoughts as “Did my day just extend well into the evening because the compressor just blew? A pipe broke? Or some other new issue?”

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is a companion recipe for a story I posted a while back.  The theory was to post them both at the same time, but that's why it's called a theory, and not a law. Peanut butter cookies can be made with or without the chocolate chips for this recipe.  The companion story can be found here, if that interests you. Either way the cookies were always a bit hit.

  • 1/2 lb unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups smooth peanut butter
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Total Time: 10 minutes to prep the dough. 20 Minutes to cook and cool.

Start by melting the butter. Yes, that's right. I melt the butter for my cookies. Not sure why it works so well for me and others tell you not to, but it does.  I use a microwave and get the butter just to the point where the butter has not more pieces. If there a few small ones, it will work fine.

Place your sugars and butter in a mixer or a bowl, and whisk to blend the mixture. Once they have combined, add you eggs, and whisk again to combine. Don't overwork the eggs, but give it enough time to come together.  

Next add the vanilla and the peanut butter and thoroughly mix, stopping to scrape down any excess peanut butter that has stuck to the sides of the bowl. 

Sift together your dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda) and combine to the wet mixture. Be sure all the dough is smooth and there are no lumps or stray peanut butter clumps. 

The last step for the dough is to fold in the chocolate chips. If you use a stand mixer for this you risk melting the chocolate and changing the consistency of the dough. 

Once the dough is done, it is best to refrigerate it for at least an 2 hours, but this dough is often firm enough to bake right away.

Sometimes this happens, and it really was random!

Preheat your oven to 360 degrees, and spoon or scoop out 2 1/2 oz balls of dough onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 8 minutes first, rotate pan in oven and cook for at least another 6 minutes. This part will vary based on your oven, so you may have to experiment.  I do not use parchment paper for my cookies as I find they have a tendency to spread out, and I like thick gooey cookies.

The other thing I have to do in my home oven is to place a empty sheet pan on the lowest rack to assist in diffusing the direct heat from the coils. This may not be necessary if depending on your own oven.

The bigger picture

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Entry #3

The Big Picture?

After finishing my interview on foodabouttown.com’s podcast, I wanted to clarify a few of the economic issues I brought up with host Chris Lindstrom. Topics we merely touched on but deserve further investigation in my opinion.

I have written about my fight with the city over the business license and the outcomes. I have told you tales of skirmishes with the locals. And I have told you of my behavior modification  experiments and my starring role as the “Catalyst at Large”. Now I’d like to venture into a little economic theory with no credentials to do so whatsoever.

In a piece about the “Portal” in the story section, one might think my greatest nemesis over the years existed in that hole in the ground, but I am more apt to believe otherwise.  The most constant and persistent battle for all my years was with Parking Enforcement, specifically the policy makers that influenced that department. This is not going to be a rant about getting parking tickets but rather a discussion of the macroeconomic issues of parking tickets, red-light camera, and the dreaded yellow boot that we see all too often in our city.  I will attempt to entertain you along the way, but this will have undertones of survival for a mid-size city and some business principles as I see them.

The number of tickets I received over the years on State Street is staggering. The number of tickets that I paid was barely a stumble.  I have no reason to complain about the money I had to spend over the years, but the time, aggravation and favors used are another story.  There were ways to get around this particular process of taxation on the small business owner, but the customers were usually on their own. It wasn’t without risk, and certainly it was a small minority of business guys who were successful at ridding themselves of this horrible and outdated nuisance. I consider myself very lucky in this regard and any complaining about what I have paid is certainly inappropriate. 

Before we get started, let me quell the usual strategy you hear in response to these problems. “Why don’t you just park in a lot or garage, like other downtown workers?” This is a great idea; limit the risks of tickets and free up space on the street; and all is well. Nope. It just doesn’t work that way for small places. Every owner I know in the food business is out of the store at least once a day, usually more often than that. Product outages - usually because we have limited storage and it is impossible to predict demand and delivery; banking requirements; life issues; employee problems; things that break that have to be fixed, now! 

Whatever the reason. In and out of a food place is mandatory. If you think otherwise, you don't know the industry. 

Back to the problem at hand. Parking. Over the years the assaults came in waves, like any good armed forces campaign. There would be periods of relative calm and peace and then a  big push arrived. This usually occurred with a change of personnel in the enforcement team, either city management, the staff at the PVB (parking violations bureau) or the police department when they were in charge of the foot soldiers. I remember well the gates and faces of those enemy combatants and of those friendly allies that patrolled our streets. The learned behavioral response to those sitings would give B.F. Skinner plenty of data for his conditioning experiments.  

The foot soldier took the brunt of assaults from most people, but the true  target of my ire and disgust were the policy makers. Those street soldiers were the enforcers of the code with some leeway on how to proceed. If we couldn’t negotiate a reasonable truce with each soldier, they often were the recipient of retribution that was better saved for their superiors. Superiors, I might add, that were usually hiding behind some desk, hidden in some office, without the balls to out themselves. Chicken shits. All of them. 

So the war raged on. A new monitor would be assigned to our area and the terms of the battle depended on their particular interpretation of the orders given.  Although we experienced periods of peace with one, the next would dig their teeth in with such force, you would have thought world peace was at stake. 

For a period of time I was so annoyed with them I started papering my wall with the tickets accumulated since renewing my registration. This was all prior to the ugly process of booting cars began. Registration renewal was the turning point for anyone with outstanding tickets in the early days. You had to find a way to wipe the slate clean of violations before you could reregister your vehicle. This happened every two years. That’s when action was needed on the part of the ticket recipient. That all changed with the “Boot”.  Thanks Susan Olley. She brought us the program of booting cars with 3 outstanding tickets. Nice job furthering the economic devastation of our community. Not that it’s all her fault, but that was just another step deeper on our “Dante-esque” like  path down the inferno to economic hell.

My wall was getting pretty full, somewhere in the neighborhood 35-40 tickets, all unpaid, and I had no certain plan on how to alleviate myself from the impeding doom of registering my car. For those of you who have never received a parking ticket, you are given 30 days to pay before the fines start to accelerate, with increasing fines topping off at about 3 times the original face value after 90 days.  At that point there is no reason to pay the fines until you plan on registering your car, especially if you have ever studied the time value of money. I think someone told Susan Olley about that financial theory and that’s when the “booting” started. 

Parking restrictions served a purpose at one point in our city’s development. That point occurred during the end of the boom time or our downtown area and the beginning of the automobile revolution. Car ownership was increasing and people worked and shopped downtown. The need for short term parking for customers was getting larger as fewer people took public transportation and the subway system disappeared. 

Businesses were asking for a reprieve from cars parked all day on the street, limiting customer turnover when availability was scarce. Years later when businesses asked for a change in the system the city’s addiction to the revenue could not be broken. Like a drug addict with a $15.00 dollar a hour habit (When I opened meters were had a one hour limit and the fee for exceeding that limit was $15.00). Like most drug addicts, the city’s habit has grown to $50.00 for an hour and one minute, when your meter expires. There is not only an inflationary principle here but a dopamine sensitivity principle as well. “Addiction is a bitch”, as it is said by whoever says those things. 
This is one circumstance where lagging 2 years behind the rest of the country on topical issues and ideas in government came in handy.  This perpetual lagging our community insists upon in creativity and sometimes economic growth can prevent the downside risks associated with unproven ideas and bad decisions.  It can also limit us in attracting a young and trained workforce and progressive businesses. It would be nice if we had an original idea on occasion and went forward with it, or at least supported more creative ideas that could attract new people to our city (think Jazz Fest with year long influence). But we can’t have everything. 

Now that we are booting cars in the city for parking violations the city sees more of the money that they are owed much faster.  An argument can be made that they would receive their money in due time (registration time) but as stated earlier, there is a time value to money. The downside to the consumer is the increase in fees that occur if you are booted.  There is a boot charge; a daily charge for having the boot, and a not returning the boot charge.  

When you car is booted you are required to call an “800” number (not local) to pay for your indiscretion of parking somewhere without paying or somewhere you shouldn’t have.  You will need to pay for all your tickets and the fees associated with getting caught for this horrible debasement of the city codes. You are required to plead guilty to any infraction and have no recourse of appeal.  All this to get the boot removed, and if you do not or cannot, you will be charged $50.00/ day from that point on. A fairly un-American style of justice, at least in principle.

Understand that to get to this point you will have had to acquire at least three tickets, and not paid them within the 30 day rule. It might be argued that you deserve all this if you willing to let things go this far. Maybe, but the jury that you are not granted here, is still out for me on that argument.  And this discussion does not plan on heading in that direction. 

Let’s start with the bigger picture.  Part of that additional fee that is collected above and beyond the original parking fines and late fees (over 50%) is sent to the company that is processing the booting and the payments. That means that in order to collect the money owed the city (money the would have collected at the end of the 2 year registration process) you are charged additional money.  Money that is removed from the flow within the city. It is being sent to some other state, and they will get the advantage of that money being spent within their community.

Remember that money spent inside your community will continually get cycled through the local economy and retains local wealth. Money that is spent outside the community or is removed from the local system does the same for the community where is it spent. This decreases the overall wealth of the local economy. This idea is often proven in the form of money spent on luring tourism dollars. “Come to our town and spend the dollars you earn in your own community. Leave your wealth with us and enjoy whatever we have hyped up for your entertainment.”

Let’s move on to the next level of all this deficit thinking.  Red light cameras. I think anyone who had been captured on camera for this violation will just agree with me upon hearing those three little words. But let’s keep going with this a little. The car that is registered to you gets filmed violated a yellow or red light and the magical line at the intersection that indicates you are guilty.  As the registrant you are sent a notice of violation and a fine.  Up until recently there was no reporting to the DMV or insurance agency, nor was the enforcement anything more than a report to credit agencies for ignoring the fine.

If after receiving the ticket you choose to challenge the accusation, you have a few options.  But the one that sparks my attention is the “I wasn’t driving the car” excuse.  If you were not driving, you are required to provide detailed information of the person driving, incriminating them, to exonerate yourself. They do not have to prove it was you, but you are on the hook until you give up someone else. 

This was a bad idea when it first started and many people have challenged it under several principles of law.  Since red light cameras are still up and operating I assume they have had limited success..  The money collected for these grave violations has an even greater negative impact on our community wealth than the parking tickets.  The Arizona company contracted to operate these cameras are creating the penalty and the violation. They take a larger total percentage of the money the violater is being penalized. In the parking tickets example there is an existing violation where the fines are split between the city and state.  Not so with red-light tickets.

Now the city has started booting for unpaid violations of these red light cameras. This is an accelerant of the bonfire of our diminishing economic issues. Create the infraction. Send most of the money elsewhere. And then enforce the created infraction, and sent that money outside the community as well. Brilliant. You know that symbol of our city? That disconnected pentagonal image with softer edges. It’s starting to make sense to me. Disconnected from the people of the city; from creativity; from reality; from common sense; from existing economic understanding; from the core of the issues.

More money leaving the community for behavior that is happening within the community. I have not even addressed the legitimacy of the cause.  Penalizing your citizens to raise revenue is an overall negative for any locale. Sending more that 50% of that money to Arizona is just stupid. 

I once told a sitting Mayor of the city, sometime around 2009, that a good indicator of the severe economic demise of our community was that middle level managers of the city of Rochester were wearing more expensive suits that the businessmen of the community they are charged with governing. Think about that for a few minutes. It is pertinent. And most of those city officials do not live in the city either. Another travesty. Take the money from the city tax roles and give it to the suburbs with whom you are competing.  Genius. But that is for another rant.

Sweet Basil Pesto

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Basil Pesto and Fresh Pasta

At some point in the growing season, we find ourselves with a volume of garden delights that could go unused. When your basil runneth over, it's time to make pesto. If you add your parmesan cheese last, you can freeze the mixture prior to adding the cheese.  When you thaw it out for use in the winter months, finish with the freshly grated parmesan or Romano. If you are not a gardener, you can often find basil in larger quantities and cheaper at farm markets late in the growing season.

Here we combine a fresh fettuccine with our fresh basil pesto and create a multilayer delight.

Fresh Pasta - deconstructed with some symmetry. 

Pesto ingredients


Pesto                                                Fresh Pasta Dough 
  • 4 cups plus, Fresh Basil                                      3 cups 00 (double zero) flour
  • 4 Garlic cloves                                                    1 cup Duram Wheat Flour
  • 1/2 cup Pine nuts                                                 3 Tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup Olive oil                                       Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup Parmesan                                                   3 Eggs
  • salt/pepper to taste                                              2 tbsp cold water                                
  • One lemon for juice                                          
Time for pesto : 10 minutes
Time for fresh pasta: 50 minutes (Including the 30 minutes in the fridge)
Total time should be about 50 minutes if you make the pesto while your pasta in resting in fridge. 

The oil difference will depend on how tightly you cram the basil in the measuring cup. Just make sure it all incorporates and you don't have oil pockets.

Special tools: Food processor or immersion blender for pesto.
                       Pasta machine for rolling and cutting the pasta dough

If you plan on making this whole recipe in one day, make your pasta dough first and put in the fridge for the 30 minutes and then return to the pesto.

Add your basil and garlic to the processor with about 1/4 of the olive oil and start mixing. Add your pine nuts, salt and pepper to the mixture and mix again. Start adding the rest of the oil slowly until combined. 

At this point you can freeze the mixture for a later use, or add the parmesan for immediate enjoyment.
Basil mixture and parmesan

Place both flours and salt in a bowl. I like to mix my flours and salt first and then plop them on my work surface. Alternatively you can make a nice design on the work table because you have artists helping out on the camera.

The artist shot

Either way, combine the dry ingredients and me sure they are incorporated.

Next make the traditional well in the middle of you flour pile, with about a one inch edge all around the well.

Creating the well

Crack your eggs in a separate bowl so you can fish out any runaway shell pieces. It's easier to do this in a bowl than in the flour mixture.  Add the olive oil and one egg to the well in the flour.  Use a fork to start mixing the flour into the egg. Don't worry if it starts to overrun your well, just shore up the outer edges as best you can and keep working. Add the other 2-3 eggs, one at a time, until the dough starts to come together.

Eggs in a basket?

From flour to dough, here we go

Work the dough lightly into a ball. It should not be as pliable as a bread dough, but be sure it had some smoothness to it.

Coming together

Wrap up your pasta dough and refrigerate for 30 minutes. You can keep the dough for a day, but it starts to darken in  color and the freshness changes quickly.

Cut the ball of dough into quarters and work quickly so the dough does not dry out.  One quarter at a time, take each piece and form it into a torpedo shape. On the thickest setting of your pasta roller, feed the dough into the machine lengthwise.  Use one hand to feed the machine, one to crank the roller, and one to catch and guide the dough as it comes out. See the problem here. Not to worry, you will get the hang of it by the time you are done, as you will roll quite a few times.

30 minutes (or one drink on the porch) later.

The plan here is to make some long thin even sheets that will be run through the cutting attachment on the machine.  I will work with the output a little each time, cutting and shaping to get the end product in a shape easiest for the final product.

Chelsea and I working the dough, Laura working the camera

Run the dough through the roller twice at each level. After level 2, the pasta should start to get too long to work as just one unit. Cut the piece into 2 to 4 (12 to 14 inches long) sections at this point and continue to run each piece of dough through each level of the roller twice.  When I get to 5, I call it a day for thickness. Set the sheets aside on a floured surface, and continue on to the rest of the pasta dough.

. . . and working

Now that the pasta is rolled into sheets, it's time to cut it into the desired shapes. For this recipe I have used the fettuccine setting. It's a good starting point and a little easier to handle.  To make the pasta look uniform, you can trim the edges to make perfect rectangles.  None of the participants needed that uniformity here.

The light at the end of the "cutting board"

The pasta machine has an attachment to run the sheets through to cut into strips. Be cautious not to pull the pasta through but merely guide the sheets in and out. Place each batch on a floured surface and sprinkle a little more flour on top to avoid sticking.

From here, it's a 2 minute cooking process in boiling water and simply adding the pasta to the pesto sauce. I like to place the pesto in a skillet on very low and add the cooked pasta directly to the pan. Add a little pasta water if the sauce looks to dry.

Mix thoroughly in the pan and serve with parmesan shavings for an added touch.

One course of our afternoon cooking and drinking

A final shot before we enjoy the fruits of our labor.