Archive for February, 2009

Yup… I’m Heading to the Mouse!

it’s a small world (yes, folks, no caps) is re-opening to the public officially tomorrow. But since I am an annual passholder, I can go in today and see what has been done to one of my favorite attractions in the park. I have heard things on both sides, good and bad. A source close to me says they have reverted back to some of the original layout concepts. The new characters added — all from the Disney cannon — are supposed to be in the same Mary Blair style.

So, in a few hours, you shall know the truth! Check back here soon for the skinny…

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Time for Drinks – Introduction

I like to drink — I won’t lie. Here, let this video explain a little bit more to ya…

As noted in the video, I’m offering you some of my favorite drinks. These are ones that I have enjoyed repeatedly over the years when I want to taste something good, or will serve to my friends with confidence, knowing they are going to enjoy themselves completely.

BORDEN CHASE
This is a sly variant on the Old-Fasioned, which I have to make at home since most bars out there don’t stock orange bitters, and couldn’t do a drop of Pernod to save their lives! I normally get a standard Old-Fashioned when I go out, and even then somebody manages to bitch the whole damn thing up. How can you not know how to make a classic?!

As an interesting aside, Borden Chase is buried just a few feet away from Stan Laurel at Forest Lawn Cemetary in the Hollywood hills. Maybe one day I’ll get enough courage up to drink one of these at his grave and thank him for all the joy he’s brought to my life through his pet concoction.

    you need:
    2 slugs of bourbon or Scotch (in real terms, around 2 ounces)
    2 strips of lemon peel
    1/2 teaspoon of superfine sugar, or the equivalent of bar syrup
    2 hearty dashes of orange bitters
    1 drop of Pernod (I keep mine in an old eye dropper)

    how to make:
    Put one strip of lemon peel and the sugar at the bottom of an Old-Fashioned glass with a little bit of water — maybe a teaspoon. Moddle with a spoon until the sugar is dissolved and the lemon peel releases most of its wonderful qualities. Pour in the bourbon, then add the Pernod and orange bitters. Put in a few hunks of ice — enough to raise the drink near the top of the glass — and give it a stir. A lemon peel rubbed across the rim of the glass will finish the drink, and add a delightful nose.:

MY GIBSON
For the uninformed, a Gibson has a pickled onion, and the Martini has an olive, but they are otherwise the same drink. I am a Gibson drinker almost exclusively. The tiny white onions look like little snowballs perched in my glass, which make me think of cool refereshment and calm escape. I also happen to think the tang of the onion is far less intrusive then the olive, and far better compliments a good gin (yes, gin, not vodka).

I also shake my Gibsons with a hearty hand, rather then stirring them. I like everything to be properly chiled and diluted, and this is the foolproof way to get that quality. Once I was verbally accosted by a man who said that I was bruising the gin with my method. I say nuts to him! In the end, you’re the one who’s going to be drinking the dang stuff, and my friends all swear by Gibsons… SO THERE!

Do yourself a favor and pick up some Aristocrat Cocktail Onions from Australia. They are just great! You can get them in white, red or green — fancy, ain’t it? They are available here for a very reasonable price. I just adore them.

    you need:
    2 ounces of good gin (I like Boodles, which has an assertive juniper berry taste)
    a quick dash of French (dry) vermouth
    1 strip of lemon peel
    2 or 3 cocktail onions, speared with a toothpick

    how to make:
    Pour all liquids into a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice, and drop in the lemon peel. Shake with unusual vigor. Strain, using a coil strainer to get those lovely floating ice chips on top, into a chilled cocktail glass. Decorate with the lanced onions.

If you like to drink, but hate to bartend, either treat me really well or drive yourself over to Musso & Frank’s Grill on Hollywood Boulevard. Musso & Frank’s does everything right down to the letter, perfect and exacting every single time. I’m not saying they are better than me… but they’re close!

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Disneyland Food Review: Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante (hosted by La Victoria)

Now, folks, you know I like to eat, and I’m willing to give any place a second chance (unless the first experience is beyond reproach). So, after a not-so-glowing experience at Rancho del Zocalo a few years ago, I decided it was worth a second try.

Certainly, it’s a beautiful place — one of the most attractive eateries in the park. Smack in the heart of Frontierland, you also get amazing views of the Golden Horseshoe, the Rivers of America and Big Thunder Mountain. It looks like an old hacienda, beautifully crafted with wide walkways, a large and accommodating patio area. The restaurant is as welcoming as it is charming. At night, it becomes even more attractive, as the lights become subtle and dramatic, bouncing of the stone, stucco, trees and Mexican bric-a-brac in a sensational way. Beautiful!

Inside, you’ll find a great set-up, with everything placed where it is easy to see. You grab your utensils when you walk in, go to one of four food stations, and grab your drinks on the other end from a wide selection (both bottled and fountain style). They wisely keep everything streamlined. A lot of thought was put into this place, inside and out.

But there is trouble in this south-of-the-border paradise! Immediately, I noticed that all of the spoons they were offering were dirty. Not even two reminders to this major blunder rectified the situation. After ignoring my friend, Loren, for a good spell, the server also forgot what he ordered, as Loren went off to find clean spoons somewhere in this increasingly manic establishment. The server only had 3 dishes to prepare, and the place wasn’t even busy, so there was really no excuse.

We both settled on the Red Chile Enchiladas. I won’t deny the plate looked quite lovely, bursting with color and attractively arranged. But as we ate (rather warily, might I add, since it’s hard to trust a place that puts forth dirty utensils), most it the food was not matching the surroundings. The rice was dry and crunchy, for the most part, bringing back memories of the old grade school cafeteria. The beans were a bit soupy — I thought this was a stylistic choice, but if you want to be authentic, how about tossing in some lard while you are at it. The enchiladas were above average, but had clearly been sitting around too long — they were a bit dry, and took a bit of effort to navigate through. I will say, however, the salsa was quite good.

Overall grade: C
My advice to you is to get food elsewhere and eat in the lovely garden. I think this is one of the finest eating areas in the park. The food, on the other hand, is pretty pedestrian. Oddly enough, I had horrible Mexican food — some of the worst I’ve ever had in my life — over at California Adventure. Don’t you think we could get something a little more acceptable in this part of the country? I mean, I know it’s theme park food, but it really should be better.

Cuisine: American, Vegetarian, Healthy Selections, Mexican
Service Type: Casual Dining
Price Range: $$ ($10-$20 per person) *
Meals Served: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Location: Frontierland

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Mr. Kurt Nielsen – Friendly Talk #7

You won’t see me irked very often… but here I am, irked, turning into Don Knotts without fully intending to.

(By the way: BRRRR!!! It was cold in there. There must have been some Toros in the atmosphere.)

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Performers I Love: Kenny Price

I have been a fan of Kenny Price for many years. Like most of you, I got my introduction to him through Hee Haw, where he was a featured player for well over a decade. In the mid-80s I was plum crazy about his travelogue program on the Nashville Network called Wish You Were Here, where he and his wife Donna drove across the United States in their RV and showed us all the places you can go. I was clearly not the target audience in that instance, and that was of little matter to me. Price was just fun to watch — a big, old-fashioned, charming, happy man with a natural comedic style.

Of course, he was a singer on Hee Haw, most notably with their famed gospel quartet that featured Price, Grandpa Jones, Roy Clark and Buck Owens. He was also a fine solo recording artist for a number of years prior to that, with a rich traditional style full of personality and warmth. Before he did television exclusively, he already had around a dozen albums under his belt plus a few hits like “Walking on the New Grass,” “Northeast Arkansas Mississippi County Bootlegger” and “The Sheriff of Boone County.”

Price could flat-out deliver the goods, no matter what the tempo. In my estimation, he was at his best when doing bouncy, upbeat songs. The first recording I ever heard of his was “Let’s Truck Together,” a classic trucker anthem that I feel is his signature tune. But when tackling love songs or spirituals, he was still very much in his element. Price recorded for Boone Records (working with the very capable Ray Pennington), then later RCA where he was perfectly complimented by the legendary “Nashville Sound.” (He again worked with Pennington, who always seemed to bring out his best, a few times during his RCA run.) His vocals were strong with plenty of character, and he did a lot of styles, which meant various production styles could be implemented.

Nicknamed “The Round Mound of Sound,” the 300-pound Price parlayed his size into a few fun gimmick songs that were self-deprecating to a certain degree, but also filled with a sense of contentment that I have always found refreshing. One of the best is “The Heavyweight” (from the album of the same name) where he tells the ladies “… You won’t get cold in the winter, and I’m shade in the summertime.” Price, just like contemporary Cass Elliott, acknowledged his mass and refused to let it be a disadvantage, turning it into a strength and part of his identity. And, like Elliott, most of his material is cheerful and optimistic.

His music may be (sadly) long out-of-print, but it is still as effective as ever. If you get the hankering to listen to some really solid country, hunt down some of his LPs and get ready to smile. Kenny Price will not let you down.

My top three albums…

SOUTHERN BOUND (1967)
Oh, boy, there’s a lot of beautiful 1960s country going on here. Released on the Boone label and produced by Ray Pennington, all of of these tunes were scattered around and re-packaged later on when Price went to RCA (under the LPs Walking on New Grass and Happy Tracks). Kenny plays the whole range, from the aching sadness of “I’m a Long Way From Home” to the overt joy of “Downtown Knoxville.” This also featured his self-penned signature tune, “Round Mound of Sound.” He walked the line between the Countrypolitan stylings of the 50s and 60s and traditional country at this point — a neat blend. Just great, great stuff that should not be missed.

THE HEAVYWEIGHT (1970)
Country music had changed a great deal by the dawn of the 1970s, and Price adapted nicely to the new surroundings. Now with a more modern edge, Price could stick to what he loved and not sound dated. The title track is classic Kenny Price: funny, bouyant, alive with spirit. The album is a fine sampler of his ability to convey different emotions, and tell stories with wit and resonance.

SEA OF HEARTBREAK AND OTHER DON GIBSON HITS (1972)
These songs had been covered ad nauseam at this point, and it might look like another tired old filler album on the surface. But the old hand breathes new life into these standards. I won’t go as far as calling this his very best record, but I like to list it as an example of the true talent of Kenny Price. To make something familiar sound fresh and exciting again is no small task. As far as I’m concerned, Price’s lusty delivery on “Sea of Heartbreak” is enough to sell the whole package.

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Mr. Kurt Nielsen – Friendly Talk #6 (part 1 & 2)

Here’s some memories of my first time to Disneyland…

And here’s me later that same day…

Do you all get a feeling that I like wearing that blue smock?

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