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Saturday, September 30, 2017


And the winner is Accursio Lota of Solare Ristorante, Liberty Station, San Diego
After three rounds of competition in two different Italian cities, San Diego's own - Chef Accursio Lotà of Solare Ristorante in Liberty Station - has won the 6th annual installment of Barilla's Pasta World Championship. Congratulations to Chef Accursio, who is pictured below with Paolo Barilla.

A chef of Sicilian origin, Accursio Lotà won the 6th edition of the Barilla Pasta World Championship with his "Spaghetti alla Carbonara di Mare", paying homage to the Mediterranean flavors and ingredients of where he grew up. After a successful two rounds in the Italian city of Milan, the final was held at Academia Barilla in Parma.

Expect Chef Accursio's winning pasta dish to be a special on the menu at Solare Ristorante, located at 2820 Roosevelt Road within Liberty Station in Point Loma, when he returns next week. For more information, visit


Barilla’s Parma, Italy-based Pedrignano facility—the largest pasta factory in the world.
 Have you ever wondered, how is pasta made? You’re not alone! Pasta is a classic favorite, and the people who make the pasta enjoy it just as much as the people who eat it. Just ask the workers at Barilla’s Pedrignano, Italy facility, the largest pasta factory in the world. It’s not surprising people enjoy working at a place that always smells like pasta!

At Pedrignano, durum wheat is made into the pasta you’ve always enjoyed before it’s dried and boxed. The process mimics the way pasta has always been made, with the factory working like a large home kitchen. The process is both fun and environmentally friendly, with Barilla lowering their carbon emissions and water consumption significantly over the past six years. Read the article for more information about pasta making and the amazing people who make it happen!

San Diego Magazine Readers Poll voted Chef Lota the best in town two years in a row.  And, named Solare Ristorante “Best Italian Restaurant in San Diego for 2017.”

Friday, September 29, 2017


Talking about beer at McSorley’s Bar in Manhattan by John Sloan

Edouard Manet, The Barmaid, 1878.

By Thomas Shess, Editor,’s Plenty (to steal a line from Chaucer) throughout the ages—some famous—some not—have enjoyed beer.  Many have left behind good reasons to love good brew well into the future.

Among the following quotes on the subject the most surprising comes from Martin Luther, the man behind the Protestant Reformation, essentially claimed that those who drink beer get to ease by St. Peter at the pearly gates and find a heavenly bar stool.  To that we say: prost, Skal, a la votre, cheers, salud, Okole maluna, na zdrowie, gan bei, fe sahetek (Egypt)

Abraham Lincoln
“I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer.”

Anne Sexton
“God has a brown voice, as soft and full as beer.”

Ray Bradbury
“Beer’s intellectual. What a shame so many idiots drink it.”

Charles Bukowski
 “Stay with the beer. beer is continuous blood. a continuous lover.”

Stephen King
 “A man who lies about beer makes enemies.”

Benjamin Franklin
“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”

“He was a wise man who invented beer.”

 Franklin Roosevelt
“I think this would be a good time for a beer.”

Martin Luther
“Whoever drinks beer, he is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long, does not sin; whoever does not sin, enters Heaven! Thus, let us drink beer!”

Winston Churchill
“Most people hate the taste of beer—to begin with. It is, however, a prejudice.”

Thomas Jefferson
 “Beer, if drunk in moderation, softens the temper, cheers the spirit and promotes health.”

Inspired by home brewers from across the country, former President Obama bought a home brewing kit for the White House kitchen. After the few first drafts, the Brewer-in-Chief landed on some great recipes that came from a local brew shop.

“We received some tips from a couple of home brewers who work in the White House who helped us amend it and make it our own. To be honest, we were surprised that the beer turned out so well since none of us had ever brewed beer,” says Obama.

As far as knows the White House’s Honey Brown Ale is the first alcohol brewed or distilled on the White House grounds. ##.

“Sure, I’m morose because
as soon as I finish this beer
 Wall Street is going to tank.”

Q: What popular film actress buys her craft beer by the case?
A: Charlize Theron.





Thursday, September 28, 2017


The highlight of my trip to Kansas City was the 32oz. Porterhouse at Anton's Taproom on Main Street.

By Eric Peterson, Dining Critic--Kansas City is known for its food, jazz, and a thriving arts scene, but it deserves one black mark of shame: its airport is one of the worst I’ve ever seen.

Kansas City is known for its food, jazz, and a thriving arts scene, but it deserves one black mark of shame: its airport is one of the worst I’ve ever seen.

The cramped gates, the unusually large population of the lobotomized shuffling through the constricted terminal, the sluggardly, shamefully disorganized baggage-claim system—it’s enough to make a seasoned traveler load up on solid-lead fishing sinker weights and go in search of the nearest mill pond.

As for the frequency of the airport’s rental car shuttles and their malicious drivers, I’ve never seen such foot-dragging. Cattle are treated more expeditiously—and arrive at the slaughterhouse in a better mood.

Another thing about Kansas City: I’m not one to genuflect at the altar of barbecue. Going to Kansas City and eating barbecue is like going to the Stanford Library and checking out a Stieg Larsson book. You can do it, but with so many more interesting choices, why would you?

Too many so-called BBQ palaces simply offer inferior cuts of meat, baked beans, french fries, cole slaw and potato salad—a fare more geared to satisfying the appetites of a pack of wild dogs than the palates of those with a semblance of good taste.

And in most barbecue joints, the ambiance matches the superficial food: sticky floors, dirty tables, long lines. The kitchens are manned by miscreants who, with their prison tattoos and covered heads, I suspect are ex-cons on parole. The drill for ordering food is as undignified as it is inflexible. With short tempers and menacing scowls, the employees at the cash registers demand your order in the same tone of voice with which they might demand, some hours later in a darkened alley and in the company of their cooks, your Rolex.

Incidentally, certain Southern California barbecue chains have doubled down on the ignominious, stand-in-line approach to getting food, making the process even more undignified for the customer: they issue electronic red buzzers that, when the eats are ready, trigger off a sequence of noise, flashing lights, and pulsations that threaten the customer with electric shock and could quite possibly lead to convulsions.

This Cranky Diner is still trying to calculate the degree of self-loathing a restaurant patron must harbor in order to voluntarily accept a red buzzer from a perfect stranger and then to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with other suckers in the lobby of a third-rate restaurant, waiting for his turn to eat, sometimes for more than an hour. You’d see me dead first.

But back to Kansas City: Lest you think I am anything but a fan of this Paris to the Plains, let me here and forever set you straight. My reward for navigating through the nightmarish airport was Kansas City itself, a remarkably clean, friendly, all-around welcoming place, where even the homeless hold doors for ladies who happen to be passing by. The gentlemen of the grass happily volunteer directions for lost tourists, too—gratuities not included.

My wife, Teresa, and I eventually got our rental car and checked in to the Sheraton Kansas City at Crown Center, a high-rise hotel in the heart of the city, mere blocks from historic Union Station. Our view of the Kansas City train yards was magnificent.
Soon we were off to dinner. I am a sucker for old mahogany paneled steak houses, and in the fashionable and upscale Country Club Plaza, a short Uber ride away, there was a celebrated chophouse that has been in operation—and family owned—for four decades. At the Plaza, Teresa and I alighted from our ride. The tree-lined street was surrounded by trendy, open-air restaurants bustling with exhilarated diners. We entered our acclaimed steak house and found it … empty.

It was like being in the presence of a legendary, elderly monarch lying on a bed of woe, clinging to life, while the world outside carries merrily on. The vacant bar, the silent dining room, the skeleton staff holding things together as best they could, the novice server grimly going through the rote of presenting the night’s specials—it pointed sadly to the imminent demise of this venerable establishment.
Based on the food, I’d recommend posting a Do Not Resuscitate order on the back of the menu.

The oysters Rockefeller was banal and uninspiring. They offered it in servings of four. Four? Whoever heard of oysters Rockefeller served in four? My New York steak was puny. It looked like something I might’ve had 40 years ago at Sizzler, while on a high school dinner date. The sautéed spinach was so dry that it constituted a fire hazard.
I won’t mention this steak house by name, but you’ll read it soon enough in the obituaries.

Lunchtime at Anton's Taproom.
It gets better.

It was here in Kansas City, on this very same trip, that I had one of the most memorable meals of my life. Anton’s Taproom Restaurant appears to be a hole in the wall. You’ll find it at 1610 Main Street, in an unassuming structure in the heart of the Kansas City Crossroads Arts District. At the behest of Jerry, the restaurant’s middle-aged, good-humored ambassador-manager who doubled as our server, Teresa and I split a 32-ounce, cut-to-order, dry-aged, grass-fed, antibiotic-free porterhouse steak. It had the texture of sashimi—and was hands down the best, the most flavorful beef I have ever tasted.

Jerry talked us into the charcuterie starter—a good choice for a restaurant that has a retail meat market on the premises and makes its own salumi, prosciutto, and pork rillettes. At Jerry’s urging, we also started with an order of roasted bone marrow. We scooped the bone marrow and residual fat onto pieces of crusty bread. The beef bones, nearly as long and thick as police batons, came with smoked brisket sausage on the side.

This extravagant lunch cost a pretty penny—with daughter Katie, and her husband, Lucas, there were four of us. On our way out the door, Jerry told us about a signature cocktail called the Bone Marrow Luge—a shot of whiskey sucked through the hollow of a beef marrow bone.

Wide-eyed, I looked at Lucas, and Lucas looked at me. There wasn’t time; after this long lunch we had a Royals-Indians game to catch, but you can bet we’ll beat a path back to Anton’s the next time we’re in Kansas City.

And, for the record, on your trip home, when you queue up for the security line inside the Kansas City airport, don’t get behind a guy named Bill. You’ll know him when you see him. He wears suspenders over a red plaid shirt and carries a brown Samsonite suitcase secured with a strap, and he’s on his way to Lockhart, Texas, to eat barbecue.  ###

The Cranky Diner appears exclusively on

August 24, 2017:
Respite from the Backside Slide of Literary Society

June 29, 2017:
Texas in my Rearview Mirror

May 25, 2017:
The Menace of Music

April 20, 2017:
My Beef with Most Steakhouses:

Wednesday, September 27, 2017


Called La Grande Roue by the Parisians, the big wheel takes its residency on Place de la Concorde every year for the Holidays. It is one of the best views you can get of the Christmas illuminations, with a height of 60 meters and a perfect location on the axis of the Champs Elysées and the Jardin des Tuileries.

The first wheel was formerly installed here in 1993 by the omnipotent Marcel Campion, the king of fairground entertainers, who also organizes the huge Christmas market on the Champs Elysées. At first many Parisians, including the mayor of the 1st arrondissement where the wheel is set up, protested that the attraction was breaking the architectural design of the Place de la Concorde and Jardin des Tuileries.

After some twists and turns and some incidents when, in 2002, Campion refused to leave the grounds and pack up his wheel, the parties have come to an agreement that the wheel would be erected every year.  This year beginning mid-November through May 2018.

Going on the wheel is one of the best ways to view the city from above as you will get a 360° view from the center of Paris. Queues are longer at Christmas but it is usually not too crowded since opening hours range from 11am to midnight.

While you will see more during daytime, going at night is a completely different experience with the city of lights unveiling before your eyes.

Other Ferris Wheel postings on
July, 20, 2016—Staten Island, New York
August 17, 2016—Las Vegas
September 21, 2016—Japan
October 19, 2016—Nanchang, China
November 9, 2016—Dubai
December 14, 2016—Melbourne
January 11, 2017—London Eye
February 7, 2017—Chicago
March 15, 2017—Singapore
April 4, 2017--Vienna
May—Suzhou, Jiangsu, China
June 14, 2017—Helsinki, Finland
July 26, 2017—Orlando, Florida
August 23, 2017—Tianjin Eye, China