Recognizing Awesomeness – The Passing . . .

If you are a regular to my endeavors you should have noticed a reasonably significant change in the quantity and diversity of my latest writings. Yes, things have been going on. Just before Christmas of 2013, I had just graduated with some degree I was told came with a piece of paper. Shit, 3 months later and I think they may have reconsidered.

Just before the holidays began last year, my father (91) took, what all of the family thought to be nothing, a small spill. Turns out weeks later developed into a pulmonary embolism. That, combined with his previous 3 open-heart surgeries, had finally taken their course for the big guy. My father passed away just a few days ago.

Dad and his paella

You see, my father was an older-day culinarian. Why do I say that. Older days . . . , if I may call it that, didn’t recognize that word . . . culinarian. Yes, I’m sure it was a word, a life, a habit . . . whatever; but, was “culinarian” as universally recognized as it is today?

My father, whom I share the same name . . . , yes, I’m a Jr., also shared many things. First, I now have immediate possession of everything with his name on it. Do you know how much shit that is? Half of it, is not discernible without his “D.D.S.” or something like that to identify it as being specifically his. So now I have all of these engraved pens, placards and awards from just about every conceivable place of volunteer or  history that his life brought forward. His legacy rests with me. I too, have his name. I too share similar passions about food. My father helped me create and perfect my signature “Sea Monster Ceviche”. He would like textures and extreme flavors. He would pick out the raw (now cooked from the citrus) garlic and the Serrano slices. He would back away from some stuff with his characteristic “uuah . . . huh . . . huh”, indicating that bite was a bit hot . . . or? Then he’d go back in for another sample.

He used to love going to the beach to meet us every time we went . . . then the years started catching up to both Mom and he, . . . and he would still go . . . he and Mom would just leave earlier because of the cool air settling in along the beach sand. Often times he would hear that I had a campsite on the beach and he was there waiting for me to arrive. Dad loved being in the sun . . . the outdoors; but especially warming himself in the sun. If you knew my dad, you would have probably witnessed his afternoon nap on the patio, asleep in the sun. Dad!

My father found out we were making paella on the beach one day; and, . . . as in Dad’s spirit . . . was always at the campsite, stubbornly working his way into whatever we were cooking . . . and would reach in and grab a taste as he welcomed your hug. Raw, frozen or cooked . . . he would be the first to sneak tastes of everything. He was one of my biggest CritDicks. My dad used to eat and cook. I watched him over the years. I grabbed ideas, techniques and ingredients, . . . because he too, could not follow recipes. He too would grab ideas and techniques, but the ingredients always took a velocity of their own. Read my previous blog to learn more about velocity.Dad and his paella2

My dad chewed my ass, hugged me and kissed me as Italians do. He looked to me for car repair advice. He often times would help me work on the cars . . . but only after retirement. You see, he was a Dentist. He practiced for years and I was also his Guiney pig. Since I was the youngest, I always got to be the experiment of his latest oral rejuvenative equipment; whether it was the Nitrous Oxide (Laughing Gas) or the shockingly cauterizing machine. I was the one that was available. I was the kid that hung out in his office and played (broke) with all of the equipment. There are a lot of memories about my father. I remember him breaking his pinkie finger once while riding dirt bikes with us when my sibling brother and I were transitioning through that phase. That was the last time Dad did anything that could ruin his fingers . . . those were his livelihood as a Dentist.

I say he was a culinarian. I say that because he would eat everything. I don’t care if it’s an eyeball or a tail. . . earwax to toe jam . . . my dad was gnawing on it. He grew up old school, eating every part of the animal . . . because that’s what they did, or their families did to get through depressions and wars. Speaking of which; he too was a veteran. Another WWII vet and Korean War vet has been piped over the side. My father served in both the Navy and the Air Force. It wasn’t until just a few short years ago, he was convinced by me to sign up for benefits from the Veteran’s Administration (VA). I had tried for years, but that wasn’t in his plan . . . so it threw him off. Dad was stubborn like that . . .

Dad’s final days were tough for him. He was very active with his mind and body. When he fell ill, I witnessed his frustration with being unable to not do what he used to. I have said recently, “the most pain he was in, was when he was not in pain”. Meaning, the various hard times he had with his recent health, were mostly masked by the various narcotics that were being used to keep him comfortable. When he was alert and not being sedated, was when that frustration came out and he would again writhe in pain . . . mentally. Luckily, his time confined to a bed only lasted about 4 months.

Over the years my mom and dad had moved next door to me, then we moved slightly across town, then they moved to a smaller, more carefree facility. The food was always prepared and my father was officially out of the cooking business. He tasted all of my food as I attended culinary school, the good, the bad and the ugly. From Dad’s bed, he smiled when I told him I had finally graduated from school. While in bed watching the 2013 Super Bowl (played January 2014) he ate more of my Sea Monster Ceviche. The characteristic “uuah . . . huh . . . huh”, came out and he said, “enough”. He just didn’t enjoy food anymore. That frustrated him even greater. He would be able to smell things, but couldn’t taste them anymore. He gave up trying. It made him weaker . . . Well, I’ll never get to show him my graduation paper.

Dad and his paella3


Dad is missed. He will long be missed by the countless people he has touched. They all say he was special . . . he was! Dad was Awesome!


“Culinary Velocity” – defined!

Velocity diagram 1Why do we struggle with our art? Are we not worthy of such emotion? Lady Gaga recently said on a Howard Stern interview that she feels such deep emotion when engulfed in her art. At that moment, I began to think about the culinary arts . . . or science; and about what it takes to evoke emotion as a culinarian. Is this an art? Is this a science? Is this the only life evolution that culminates the two on a level only comprehendible by those that understand this modern-day extrapolation of ideas? Think about it. Is the culinary art, the only art that can bring in attributes . . . heavy attributes (bull shit . . . “serious attributes) from the sciences? Wow! Do I recognize that as being “velocity” in the culinary arts? Interesting stuff here jack!

So just what is culinary velocity? Velocity is defined as speed with direction. Culinary velocity can therefore be defined as “directed influence”. Such would be the case with molecular gastronomy where science meets art in the form of creative experiments with food . . . presented in a very unique way.

Let us now look at the marriage between music and food. Did I not make the correlation between the two sometime ago when I married Adele and Chef Achatz? Such is also the case with the direction I am attempting to steer my ship. Seems everyone enjoys great food and everyone also greatly enjoys great music. I happen to also enjoy other things, . . . like miracles of engineering feats as well as scientific things like what can be found on the Discovery Chanel. Am I weird or, are there extremes from many influences that shape us, . . . that point us in the direction, yet maintaining a speed at which we choose.

I have found I tend to enjoy great musical performances regardless if live or a studio recording. Living and breathing are hard enough on our body and emotional factors that influence our behaviors tend to create stressors that tear at the body even more. Part of our lifecycle REQUIRES us to replenish our nutrients with food. Sensory factors enhance or lives like taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing. Cooking our food helps prevent disease and allows us to consume things that would otherwise be toxic to our bodies. Adding in the sensory factors of taste, touch, smell and sight can be accomplished with just one plate of food; only a sizzling platter of fajitas (or similar) now brings in the hearing portion of this equation. Extrapolated, this equation can allow a musical performance to evoke climatic crescendos of a culinary performance; and likely a similar reversal if performing each live in front of the guest. What I’m talking about here is a live musical performance and live dining performance married in the same event, in a setting of additional sights, sounds and smells that can bring on eye shutting, illusionary thoughts of ecstasy.fajitas

In this case I talk about culinary velocity as being my self centered desire to achieve that ecstasy in some fashion, form or cause. I think there is a place, yet not established, that can resolve my culinary velocity. That of bringing a passionate blend of a great musical performance and a great culinary performance in one setting that enhances the mind, and allows the spirit to open and become enveloped in these married performances . . . on a recurring basis. Something that can be perfected enough that its weekly routine would become synonymous with perfection . . . and anticipated by its guests to get the same quality (or better experience) every time. Think about the possibilities. Now again think back to a married performance of greats like Adele and Grant Achatz. Can this not be achieved?


What is “hospital time!”

I have spent a very fair amount of time at the local hospital recently; Tri-City Hospital.  Have you ever wondered why everyone hates taking the quick trip to the emergency room? It’s not because of the cracked-out meth freak sitting next to you attempting to bite his own elbow; or the guy sneezing, that has figured out how to graffiti using the space between his fingers as an HVLP paint sprayer. No, the reason is because of “hospital time”.

monkeyI’m getting the picture. I believe hospital time’s equation looks something like “hospital time is = or > stated time, plus two hours”. You see, I think it has to do with processing of patients and availability of resources. There should be no doubt that more staff and larger facilities wouldn’t solve the problem. Perhaps That would only change the equation, not resolve “hospital time”.

During my visits . . . with an ‘s’, I had casually asked several staff on the hospital floors if they know what “hospital time” is and if it exists in their profession . . . or, perhaps in this hospital. I feel the overwhelming response favored the existence of hospital time in the hospital. But just how was it explained back to me? Many just chuckled and snickered, then would claim about an hour-and-a-half; explaining to me that “it’s the time that you wait”. But since the hour-and-a-half that you wait is never an accurate number . . . remember, we’re talking quietly while in the emergency room area . . . among all the sick, screaming, and drunk . . .

Crowded emergency room waiting area.The time you wait can be a long time, so let’s use my equation. If that staff member said it was an hour-an-a-half, let’s plug that in. A simple high fever and crankiness for a toddler can take an hour-and-a-half. Add two hours because you’re in the emergency room. So, at a minimum you’re drinking a minimum of one cup of coffee from Eric outside in the coffee cart. Now, let’s consider a slightly different scenario where a young Pop Warner football player comes in with Mom and Dad just after being injured in the big game. The child and mother are favoring his leg. 1.5 hours + 2 hours = 3.5 hours. During the visit, the doctor orders a CT scan of the knee that is now dependent on that department. Different department is just like starting the equation over. Let’s see, that’s 3.5 hours to start. 3.5 + “1.5” hours (staff) = 5 hours . . . oh, don’t forget the addition of the “plus two hours” for a total time this evening of 7 hours or two “grande” sized lattes and mochas from Eric.

I’m going to say the staff is correct claiming hospital time is 1.5 hours. Yet I feel I am also correct is adding the 2 hours atop the stated time. The way I see it is the immediate moments spent in the emergency room waiting area among the infected, seemingly pale in comparison to the amount of time spent looped into the emergency room stronghold, for them to finally say . . . “you need see a specialist”, but give a nice $850 parting gift that supports the knee while waiting for the consult appointment.splint

Good thing there’s decent food for many of those hours available in the cafeteria. Tri-City’s café is a very decent support system below decks.tricity


– The Business Card –

I recently visited Temecula’s newest craft brewery, Karl Strauss. I have, several times in the past, visited Karl Strauss in Carlsbad, CA and San Diego, CA. They have changed their menu over the years. Wifey and I don’t care for anything since around 12 years ago when our first taste was at a catered function at the brewery some 14 or so years ago.

belching4Karl Strauss has been around since around 1989, planting it’s roots in San Diego. Karl has several restaurants in the area, but has recently (Nov ’13) moved their brewing operation (1 single line) to Temecula. Now what’s interesting is the direction Karl is attempting; that of which I have recently wondered (upon collegiate research), why Karl is only the 5th craft brewer in the lower Temecula Valley; since there are (here’s where the memory lapses) approximately 42 craft brewers, 300+ “brew pubs” “ale houses” “brew house’s” . . . who knows what else they were classifying them as, just South of the Riverside/San Diego County line, less than 60 miles from Temecula. The second largest and fastest growing craft brew industry is San Diego, North County to be exact, less than 30 miles from Temecula. San Diego’s craft brew industry is currently growing at about 2 breweries each year. (Memory, 2014) Breweries like Stone, my personal favorite because I have been gaining knowledge about Stone since first opening its doors several years ago when I began contacting the CEO Greg Koch about their sustainability initiatives. Other such breweries that have begun their pursuit in the industry are Belching Beaver and Groundswell GroundswellBelching Beaver did a small favor for me entertained through a mutual friend; and one of Groundswell’s creator’s, Kevin Rhodes, was a professor of mine through schooling recently. Hence the reason I feel Karl is making a huge push by placing their latest addition in Temecula.

The reason I mention the trip to Karl’s in Temecula is because my long time psycho concert buddy has eaten their 4 times since their opening and just raved about it. . . Ok, we’ll go, anticipating the same very mediocre food, service and atmosphere. Yup, just as expected, very mediocre. I say mediocre because there are many, many, many similar target demographic restaurants catering to the same mediocre (expecting) public. Although the service staff all seemed very well versed in their surroundings, the company history, their service techniques and friendliness; unfortunately, our (American) desires lend us to think this (food) is some great shit . . . The flavors, taste and texture were all fine, it was just a pretty standard demographic menu that include the likes of Asada Fries and burgers. Nothing really special.

karl2My Sister-In-Law has a small operation of making cake pops and other crafty treats and novelties. She had delivered baskets full (and boxed) of her ‘baby head and pacifier’ pops to our dinner meeting area outside on the very cold patio, this evening, of the new Strauss Brewery. During the short wait for our initial beers to arrive, a server arrived at our table and recognized the baby head craftware creator and began to strike conversation asking several times for the artists business card. Sister-In-Law just kept jabbering away, seemingly avoiding the necessity of producing the 2″ X 3.5″ billboard. I quickly noticed the dereliction of an immediate sale and began my pursuit of a chance to trump that scene with a CritDicks business card, slapping it down as if I had just won the hand of Spades; saying, “If your not producing, then I’m writing” . . . and thus this story.karl1

I’m guessing why Karl has placed it’s latest “name-brand” beer operation in Temecula, CA. Why is there only, now 5 craft breweries in Temecula when there’s the second fastest growing craft industry just a short drive away? Perhaps, Karl is getting a huge tax break to bring more of that industry, and recognizable industry right up next to California’s second largest and fastest growing viniculture? Perhaps that’s why there’s only 5 so near by, and not 15 . . .

So the moral of this story is . . . don’t be a Dick, I will!




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