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Sunday, May 28, 2017


Greek mythology is like a convoluted dream with a cast of thousands.  One such story is that of Odysseus.  We all know Odysseus as the wandering hero of Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad epics.

But, few know the back story and how life was for Odysseus outside of Homer’s epics.  It’s an exhausting story.   Thanks to for bringing this literature to the public domain.

To start, Odysseus was the son of Laertes and Anticlea, and is well known as an eloquent speaker, ingenious and cunning. Before the Trojan War started, Odysseus was one of the suitors that wanted to marry Helen, step-daughter of king Tyndareus of Sparta. However, the suitors were many and there didn't seem to be a way to solve who the husband would be. Odysseus told Tyndareus that he would provide a solution if he helped him marry Tyndareus' niece, Penelope.

Tyndareus agreed and Odysseus proposed to draw straws. Before that, though, he made everyone swear an oath that they would all support the husband and wife in any ill fate that they might face in the future. As a result, Menelaus drew the lucky straw, while Odysseus married Penelope.

After Helen's abduction by Prince Paris of Troy, all suitors were summoned to help Menelaus in his quest to bring her back. Odysseus did not want to join the expedition, for an oracle had informed him that if he participated, it would take him a long time to return home. So, he decided to feign madness by harnessing a donkey and an ox to a plough and sowing salt on a field.

Palamedes did not believe that Odysseus was actually mad, so he put Odysseus' baby boy Telemachus in front of the plough; Odysseus immediately changed course, thus exposing his plan. For this reason, Odysseus always had a grudge against Palamedes since then.

After Odysseus' plan was foiled, they all tried to recruit the hero Achilles, as an oracle said that the Trojan War would be won only if Achilles joined. Before they reached the island of Scyros where Achilles lived, his mother Thetis disguised him as a woman, because of another prophecy that said Achilles would either live a long, peaceful life, or have a glorious death while young.

Odysseus made a plan to find out who Achilles was, among the women; he laid various weapons on a table, and Achilles was the only one who showed real interest in them. Odysseus then sounded a battle horn, and Achilles instinctively picked up a weapon ready to fight. As a result, Achilles joined in.

After the Greeks reached Troy and the war started, Odysseus played a particularly influential role as a strategist and advisor. He was the main character who maintained the morale of the Greeks in a high level, and managed to prevent Agamemnon from withdrawing from the war.

He also managed to appease Achilles' rage when Patroclus was slain. However, holding a grudge against Palamedes, it seems that Odysseus played a role in his demise; some versions say that Odysseus made a plan to expose Palamedes as a traitor and was stoned to death.

According to another version, Odysseus and Diomedes told Palamedes to descend a well because of a treasure that was supposedly hidden there; when Palamedes reached the bottom of the well, the two men buried him inside.

Odysseus was most famous in the war for his contribution to create the Trojan Horse, a huge wooden horse that was supposed to be a gift to the Trojans by the retreating Greeks. The Trojans accepted the gift joyfully and started celebrating around it. When the night fell and everyone was drunk, the Greek warriors, who had hidden in the hollow body of the horse, revealed themselves and slew the Trojans, winning the war.

After the Trojan War, Odysseus made a ten-year journey to reach his home, Ithaca; his adventures were recounted in the epic Odyssey. On his way home, storms led Odysseus' ships to the island of the Cyclops Polyphemus, who started eating the crew of the ships.

Odysseus managed to trick Polyphemus and along with his companions, blinded the Cyclops. Before they left, though, he did the mistake of revealing his identity to Polyphemus, who then told his father, the god Poseidon; this had a major impact on the hero's travel, as the god sent rough seas throughout the journey.

The ships then reached the island of the god of winds, Aeolus, who put all winds except the west wind in a bag and gave the bag to Odysseus. As a result, the west wind blew the ships all the way to Ithaca. However, just before they reached the shore, Odysseus' companions took the bag of winds from Odysseus, and thinking it contained gold, opened it and released all of the winds. The ships were blown away from the island, back to where they had started.  Aeolus did not accept to help them again, and they left.

They went to the island of the Laestrygonians, a cannibalistic tribe that ate all of the crew, except that of Odysseus' ship. They quickly left the island and reached that of the witch Circe. She turned Odysseus' companions into pigs, but Odysseus, who had been given a magical herb by Hermes, resisted her witchcraft. Circe fell in love with Odysseus and transformed the pigs back into men. After they stayed on the island for one year, they left to continue their voyage.

They reached the western edge of the world, where Odysseus took advice from the spirit of the prophet Teiresias, and later encountered his mother's spirit, who told him that back home, his wife Penelope was being surrounded by potential suitors.

They then returned to Circe's island, who advised them on how to continue; they managed to avoid the Sirens, as well as the monsters Scylla and Charybdis.

In the island of Thrinacia, Odysseus disregarded the advice of Teiresias and Circe, and caught the cattle of the sun god Helios. Helios, enraged, demanded that Zeus punish them, or he would make the sun shine in the Underworld.

Zeus obliged by causing a shipwreck in which only Odysseus survived. He reached the island of Ogygia, where the witch Calypso kept him captive for seven years, before Hermes intervened and released the hero.

Odysseus then reached the island of the Phaeacians (the modern day island of Corfu), who helped him reach his destination. He reached Ithaca late at night, and he was disguised by Athena as a beggar in order to learn what had happened during his absence. Penelope, his wife, had just announced that she would marry the person who was able to string his husband's bow and then shoot an arrow through twelve axe shafts.

She knew that this was impossible to do for everyone except her husband. None of the suitors managed to do it, but Odysseus still in disguise completed the challenge and revealed himself; helped by his son Telemachus, he slew the suitors.

Penelope did not believe that it was her husband but instead a god in disguise. To believe him, she asked him to move their bed to another room. Odysseus said that this was impossible, as he had made the bed and knew that one of the legs was a living olive tree.

Years later, the son of Odysseus and Circe, Telegonus, reached adulthood and wanted to meet his father. He went to Ithaca, but as he reached the shore, he killed some sheep as he was hungry. Odysseus went and fought with him, not knowing who the other person was.

 Odysseus was eventually killed by Telegonus. Telegonus took Penelope and Telemachus to the island of Circe, where she made them immortal.

Saturday, May 27, 2017


GUEST BLOG / By Janel, founder of the Nellie Bellie Kitchen Blog (click here)

In Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, the flat white seems to be a quite popular beverage recently.  I wish I that had been true when I was in South Africa a few years back!  When I was there, the only place you would find anything other than really, really horrible instant coffee was at a fancy restaurant.

I learned to drink a lot of tea.

Now, I think I would have more options.

Flat white is one of those coffee drinks that is seriously misunderstood.  Here in the U.S., we look at the flat white and assume it is just a latte under a different name.  I actually did the same when I was over in South Africa, simply because I didn’t have a lot of options to compare it to.  Now that I’m back in the U.S. where rich, glorious coffee is available in pretty much any combination I want it to be, I can definitely tell the difference between a latte and this flat white.

And there’s actually a couple key differences between them.  The two main ones are the coffee to milk ratio and the density of the foam. 

Coffee to Milk Ratio
A latte usually has a shot or two of espresso, and then a ton of milk.  A flat white has more coffee, less milk.  Put two shots of espresso in an 8 oz cup, and then fill the rest with your microfoam.  You’ll have about the right ratio. 

Density of the foam
Our readers continue to remind us that THIS is the most important aspect of a correctly made flat white.  You need perfect microfoam. 

Here is the heart of the difference.  In a latte, you get a lot of milk with a touch of foam at the top.  And this foam can be of varying qualities.  That won’t fly with a flat white.  A flat white requires impeccably created microfoam with the tiniest bubbles you can create.  The froth should be so silky and smooth that it is actually shiny.  And when you pour that microfoam into the cup, be sure you don’t miss it all and just put in the milk that might remain at the bottom of your pan/cup.  The microfoam is important!

 If you don’t own an espresso machine, a hand-frother will work just fine.

Flat White | Australian Coffee

whole milk
espresso (or strong coffee)

--Froth 1 cup of milk, either using an espresso machine or on the stove using a milk frother.
--You want to heat the milk to about 160 F.
--You want a froth with very fine bubbles.
--While you are frothing the milk, make your espresso.

--Combine the espresso and foam.

Friday, May 26, 2017


GUEST BLOG / By Mike Shess, Publisher, West Coaster craft beer website and print magazine.
Once a year, usually in the Fall, as in 2016, West Coaster craft beer website and print magazine publishes the results of its Readers’ Poll.  Publisher Mike Shess and Editor Ryan Lamb ask readers to vote for their favorites among the following categories:
         Best San Diego Beer
         Best San Diego Brewery
         Best Brewmaster
         Best Brew Pub
         Best Homebrewer
         Best Tasting Room
         Best New Beer Spot
         Best Beer Bar
         Best Beer Restaurant
         Best Beer Region within San Diego County
         Best Beer Festival
         Best Bottleshop
         Best Beer Selection
         Most Underrated Brewery

For the next few weeks, daily online magazine in its weekly The Brewspaper column will profile on “Best of” from West Coaster’s annual poll. 

This week Part 9:
Hop Fu by North Park Beer Company
 After years of earning respect and awards in the homebrewing world, Hop-Fu! made its production debut in 2016 with the grand opening of North Park Beer Co. Brewer Kelsey McNair scaled up the recipe skillfully and this IPA is ready for primetime. McNair was surprised when told he’d won this category: “I think the commercial version of Hop-Fu! still has a lot of room for improvement.” Our readers disagreed, and the history of this recipe bolsters their choice: Hop-Fu! took home a gold medal in the American Homebrewers Association’s annual competition in 2010, 2012 and 2014 in the highly competitive American IPA/Imperial IPA category.

Thursday, May 25, 2017


By Eric Peterson, author of The Dining Car, bon vivant, vintage train aficionado, urban explorer and fine dining critic for online daily magazine.

The human animal is growing increasingly barbaric by the day, and I’ve got the evidence to prove it: loud music in upscale restaurants.

Unless you’re the dining room of the Waldorf Astoria New York, and unless you have a string quartet playing Haydn, I don’t want to hear it—not your overamplified jazz or your folksy guitarist imitating the Eagles, or, God forbid, your damn karaoke machine with the amateurs at the microphone, shrieking like cats. 

What commonsensical person would patronize such a place?

I’ve stopped frequenting one favorite watering hole because they offer live jazz seven nights a week. My wife and I loved this place when it first arrived on the scene. It was an easy walk from our high-rise condominium in San Diego’s Marina District, its luxuriously appointed, glittering décor made it one of the most welcoming dining destinations in town, the staff was friendly and accommodating, and the bar was blissfully quiet.

Now I can’t stand the place. Live jazz, seven nights a week! The electronic caterwauling is inescapable, even when one flees to the upstairs dining room. I won’t name the place—it starts with Eddie and ends with V—but it has me scratching my head: Does management really not understand what a menace this preposterously deafening music represents, and how it drives people away?

Ah, Peterson, you wishful thinker.

We all know this instinctively: Loud music in an upscale restaurant conveniently shields legions of well-heeled halfwits from engaging in meaningful social interaction the way gin and tonics once shielded British officers from malaria. The sad fact is, the level of socio-functional illiteracy in our society is alarmingly high. People simply don’t know how to talk to one another.

These days, for far too many, a night on the town is a summons for an assault on the senses. We’ve all been there: Music blasts. Drink orders are shouted at the nearest bartender, who can’t hear. Patrons are reduced to pointing stupidly to some inane craft cocktail listed on the gimmicky bar menu.
Meanwhile, the guests at the tables have their noses planted firmly in their iPhones, checking their latest Facebook feed and tabulating likes and follows on their Instagram app.

For legions of dolts giving wide berth to all things serious and noble—like good conversation in a quiet chophouse, where you can still get a properly portioned meal—food in one of these raucous rathskellers is likely to be an afterthought. 

Dinner might consist of three share plates of goat-cheese balls, baked shishito peppers, and a beet-carrot éclair, after which everyone files home to turn on their 60” flat-screen TV and catch the latest episode of “Real Housewives of New Jersey” (Google it—it actually exists!).

Last great American Hedonist
I guarantee you—Lucius Beebe is spinning in his grave. (Google that name, too.)

To this day, my inclination toward seasickness as a boy makes me reluctant, as a grown man, to board a boat, unless it’s the Queen Mary 2 making a Transatlantic Crossing, which is preferable to flying. Similarly, my revulsion for loud music makes it impossible for me to attend a rock concert. Had my wife, Teresa, a lifelong lover of music, known what a stodgy curmudgeon I’d become with respect to rock and roll, she’d have married Glen Frey instead.

Call me hypersensitive, but sitting in a bleacher seat for three hours is disconcerting enough.  Having people standing all around me, singing lyrics at the tops of their lungs, leaves me with the urge to stick my head in an oven and turn up the gas.

I put this out there, gratis, to the music industry: Here’s the perfect rock concert. Your famous band plays one song, preferably their most popular hit. Then they take a 60-minute break, during which time a battalion of servers circulates through the crowd, bearing trays of cut crystal flutes brimming with Veuve Clicquot, weighty tumblers of Johnnie Walker Blue, and foie gras canapés. In this quiet interlude, the audience engages in conversation about art, literature, architecture, the best hotels of the world, and the most desirous destination parks for class “A” motorhomes.  

The band returns for one last song—their second biggest hit, a tune with which we’re all somewhat familiar. The audience neither stands nor sings. After this, the band leaves the stage, and there is no curtain call. The battalion of servers returns, though, offering more champagne and scotch. Cigars have supplanted the trays of foie gras. Throughout the venue, restrooms are pristine and easily accessed.

The cost for a ticket to this concert would be $3.98—about what you’d pay to purchase the same two songs on iTunes.

Make it Conway Twitty, if you would, or John Denver, and keep the speaker volumes at tolerable levels. Now that’s a concert I might be inclined to attend.

After a quiet dinner, of course. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Eric Peterson is the author of The Dining Car a contemporary novel about a former college football player who enlists as bartender and personal valet to a curmudgeonly food writer and social critic who travels the country by private railroad car.