They Play Poker Here

hawaiian-gardens-poker-tableCard rooms are legal in parts of SoCal. They are mostly poker rooms. Other table games are played, but with lesser odds than ‘real’ casinos. Poker dominates.

The nearest rooms are in the south end of Los Angeles County, less than a half hour from here. I’ve been to Commerce Casino in… wait for it… The City of Commerce. The largest card room in the world. It’s like a bus terminal!

If you’ve been to beautiful casinos, like in Vegas or Connecticut, you’re in for a letdown. Commerce doesn’t seem to be the exception. I’m told none of the card rooms are showplaces.

This afternoon Helaine and I drove to Hawaiian Gardens Casino in… wait for it… Hawaiian Gardens, CA. There’s a little more room between tables than Commerce, but it too borders on bus terminal.

The casino occupies what looks to be two huge tents! Surfboards hang from the ceiling marking the different poker games dealt. It’s like a United Nations get-together.

wider-shot-poker-roomWe go to Hawaiian Gardens because of the food. Oh my God!

You order from a roving waitstaff with red shirts. Just like the deck of an aircraft carrier, everyone working at the Gardens wears a shirt colorcoded to describe their specific job.

The menu is wondrous. It’s a spiral bound, plastic encased affair with at least ten pages. Along with breakfasts and dinners are pages for Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean food.

The food comes hot. The portions are large. The taste is incredible.

Helaine had a shrimp and asparagus dinner. I had their Thursday night lamb chop special. We both had large Diet Cokes.

I gave the waiter a twenty for both of us, which included a nearly 25% tip. I’m not sure we can eat home for that price?

As for poker, one of us won twice what the other one lost. A fun adventure for us while Doppler kept guard at home.

Is Everyone At The Mall?

IMAG0362-w1400-h1400Stef and H spent most of Wednesday on a mission. Items to return. Items to replace. Get out of the way!

By early evening and still not home, Helaine called to ask if I’d like to join them for dinner. Next stop, Irvine Spectrum. It’s the outdoor mall with the Ferris wheel and carousel. It’s got its own Wikipedia entry.

IMAG0367-w1400-h1400I’ve been going to malls since malls were born. I’ve never seen parking as awful as this! Back and forth, up and down, a pack of cars, each jockeying for a good place to watch for exiting shoppers.

I found a space, but not without a minor conflict.

Dinner was at “The Melt,”

Headquartered in San Francisco, California, THE MELT is simply “Grilled Cheese Happiness.” Currently operating 15+ locations throughout California, this fast casual eatery combines chef inspired, all natural, wholesome food with innovative online ordering technology in an eco friendly environment.

IMAG0366-w1400-h1400The food was great, but the place itself was loud, overly bright and not very eating friendly.

The girls asked me to join them as they finished their quest. Not tonight. Not during mall season.

It was a long walk back to my car. The space I found was at the edge of the property. I wonder if it had resale value tonight?

The Bourdain Disagreement

anthony-bourdain-no-reservationsThere’s a minor disagreement in the Fox house. I think Anthony Bourdain’s show on CNN, “No Reservations,” “Parts Unknown,” is close to amazing. That is not a unanimous opinion.

Masterfully written. Nicely shot. He goes places I dream of, but know I’ll never see.

Tonight’s show is paused. He’s in Congo.

Helaine’s opinion of Bourdain is exactly opposite mine.

The show has Anthony traveling the world, marveling at local (often rudimentary) cuisine. It is the ultimate armchair travelogue. He flies in rickety third world airplanes, travels rivers in rickety boats, drives over rutted and potholed roads while eating food prepared with minimal consideration of hygiene.

There’s no doubt this is Anthony’s show. He will often address the camera directly. Lots of ‘me roll.’

Back to the writing. It’s the most important element in televised storytelling.

Guys like Bourdain and Alton Brown understand how to write prose which will be spoken. Bourdain’s script is crafted in his spoken voice. The narration is embedded deep within the fabric of the story–no less a player than the photography itself.

I’d like to think I write like that. Maybe not. I try.

The word is CNN will air more documentary type shows, like Bourdain’s, in 2014. From

“The goal for the next six months, is that we need more shows and less newscasts,” Zucker said in a recent interview about “massive changes” he’s got planned for the network, adding that he wants CNN to attract “viewers who are watching places like Discovery and History and Nat Geo and A&E.”

That’s good new and bad news. Among the bad, every hour of doc programming is an hour less of news. CNN is already news challenged too many hours of the day.

The good news is shows like Bourdain’s are worthwhile endeavors. We know so little of the world around us.

The Movie We Didn’t See Tonight

IMAG0327-w1400-h1400This story needs a setup. It is tradition with the Foxes and many other Jewish families, Christmas Day is spent at the movies followed by Chinese food. Go back in the blog to any December 25th entry and you’ll read about a movie and a meal!

This year, since we’re close to Stef, it’s likely she’ll join us. Neither Helaine, Stef nor I agree on which movie we should see.

OK. You’re caught up. The story continues…

Stef called this afternoon. Did I still want to see “Saving Mr. Banks,” with Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson?

I knew I wanted to see this movie as soon as I watched the trailer. Hanks. Disney. Nostalgia. Hooked!

Stef wanted Helaine and me go. Goodness of her heart? Not tonight. Going removes one choice for Christmas.

“Mr. Banks” opens ‘wide’ next week, but Orange, CA (not far) is among the “selected cities” showing it now. Normally a 25 minute trip, Google suggested a back way which would take 28 minutes. The usual route, 45!

Christmas shopping I suppose. That and Kanye West playing at the Honda Center in Anaheim, under a mile from the theater.

We occupied Doppler with a treat and snuck out through the garage. By the time we were on our way, Google had changed its preferred route. We were still skipping the major roads. Still saving time.

The parking lot was jammed. I dropped Helaine at the box office and looked for an open space.

She was first in line when I caught up with her, but the news wasn’t good. “It’s not playing here,” she said.

Stef and then her father had searched correctly for the movie, but didn’t look closely enough at the result. When the movie wasn’t available tonight, Fandango just offered up the next showtime: December 20! The date was on the page, but I was expecting tonight’s movies, Fandango.

We ended up at Costco.

And The Calories Just Keep On Comin’

I am living proof. Too many Christmases. Too many pounds.

I like working here in “Connecticut’s Newsroom.” It’s a busy place. Since we’re a TV station, website and the Hartford Courant it’s by far the largest newsroom in the state! A newsroom like this is steeped in tradition.

I got this via email yesterday. It’s a newsroom tradition!

Just a reminder…..

Tomorrow (Wed.) is our annual newsroom holiday party.

Please bring a potluck dessert to share.

See attached flyer.

Happy holidays !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I forwarded a copy of that note to Helaine who sent me in with banana cake enveloped in cream cheese frosting. Somewhere nearby a cardiologist is crying!

In case you’re wondering my place of business is just like yours. Throw out some food and they’re all vultures!

It was just a little crazy with cakes and cookies and pies. It was too much even for an overeater like me! There are delights I’d love to sample if only they’ll keep until tomorrow.

Fat chance!

Eat-a-thons like ours today are the grist of holiday news stories like this one from the New York Times.

[S]everal studies now show that the average weight gain during the winter holidays is just one pound.

The news isn’t all good. Most people don’t ever lose the pound of weight they put on during the holidays, according to a report in The New England Journal of Medicine. Since the average weight gain during adulthood is about one to two pounds a year, that means much of midlife weight gain can be explained by holiday eating.

I am living proof. Too many Christmases. Too many pounds.

Dinner At The Place

As you watch the show that is food prep you’ve got to wonder, what would happen if OSHA ever came to this place?

If you watch Food Network any length of time you know every region has its own eclectic dining experience. It’s the kind of place no one would set out to design. In fact it is the antithesis of design! Our one-of-a-kind place in Connecticut is “The Place” on the Post Road in Guilford.

The Place is open air. You sit on tree stumps! If there’s rain you should hope there’s no wind because the only cover is tenting–when necessary. The grill where all the cooking takes place is built from cinder block and brick.

“The Place” serves lobster, clams, steak and corn all grilled over open hardwood flames. Yeah, grilled lobster! It’s crazy good!

Helaine and Cousin Melissa went to The Place Tuesday. They liked it so much they asked if I’d go Wednesday? They knew what I’d say long before the question was asked!

As you watch the show that is food prep at “The Place” you’ve got to wonder, what would happen if OSHA ever came here? Can inspectors be held at bay with drawn butter?