Here Comes Baby Jane

New artwork for the much-anticipated Feud: Bette and Joan miniseries on FX has been posted to Facebook.

The miniseries is loosely based on Shaun Considine’s wonderfully trashy, compulsively readable* 1989 dual biography, Bette and Joan: The Divine Feud, which was itself somewhat loosely based on the lives of Bette Davis, the actress, and Joan Crawford, the movie star. It focuses on what happened during the 1962 production of Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?, which was the only time they co-starred in a film.

The casting is impeccable, with Oscar winners Susan Sarandon as Bette Davis and Jessica Lange as Joan Crawford. And look at this supporting cast:

  • Alfred Molina as Robert Aldrich
  • Sarah Paulson as Geraldine Page
  • Stanley Tucci as Jack L. Warner
  • Judy Davis as Hedda Hopper
  • Catherine Zeta-Jones as Olivia de Havilland
  • Jackie Hoffman as Mamasita
  • Kathy Bates as Joan Blondell

The first episode of Feud: Bette and Joan will screen on FX on 5 March 2017.

This Just In: As I was preparing this post, I discovered that Feud: Bette and Joan has the cover of the new issue of Entertainment Weekly.

*A few days before the holiday, I gave a copy of Bette and Joan: The Divine Feud to a friend for Christmas the year it was published. He took the wrapped package and could tell it was a book. Clearly disappointed, he said, “But…I don’t read books.”

He called me around 8PM on Christmas, to tell me that he’d opened the present that morning, and he’d been reading it ever since.

PassionFish — Lunch on 17 January 2017



Bethesda Restaurant Week continues. Same city, but another day, and another restaurant.

I’d spent two days at places I knew well, so it was time for something new. I made my first visit to PassionFish, which is just across the street from Mon Ami Gabi.



The starter got some serious heat from the habañero.

It was listed on the menu as “Classic Peruvian-Style Ceviche.”  It earned that title because it contained toasted kernels of Cancha corn, which is popular in the Andes. I’d never tasted it before this. Because of the unexpected crunchy texture, I  wasn’t even sure it was corn at first, but the server confirmed it.

I later found a video on how to make “Cancha – Andean Corn Nuts for Ceviche”—it’s really simple—and I’m going to make some for snacking.

You need a special variety of corn called maiz chulpe to make cancha.



The main was a perfectly cooked North Carolina Mountain Trout, with green beans, almonds, and a citrus brown butter. For the longest time, I wasn’t sure whether to eat the skin when I ordered fish. Epicurious cleared it up for me:

“Salmon, branzino, sea bass, snapper, flounder, and mackerel skin are all delicious when cooked until crisp. But Usewicz says you should forget about ever trying to eat tuna skin (it’s way too tough) or skate skin, which has thorn-like barbs in it (fortunately most skate is sold already cleaned). Swordfish skin is edible, but not that tasty. Same goes for monkfish.”

For the record, you can add trout to the approved list. The skin at PassionFish was crisp and delicious.

National Treasure Betty White Turned 95 Yesterday

Here’s a classic scene from a 1976 episode of the Mary Tyler Moore Show called “Sue Ann’s Sister”.

In the episode, Betty White, playing “Sue Ann Nivens”, is depressed when her younger, more attractive sister arrives in Minneapolis. She leaves her job as TV’s “Happy Homemaker” and takes to her bed. Her co-workers arrive and attempt to cheer her up.

That was 40 years ago, and her greatest success was still ahead of her.

Happy Birthday, Betty White!

Mon Ami Gabi — Lunch on 16 January 2017

During Restaurant Weeks, I try to mix new places with old reliables. My second lunch in Bethesda, at Mon Ami Gabi, a classic French bistro, falls in the second category—I’ve eaten here countless times. Mon Ami Gabi is part of a small chain, with two restaurants in the Chicago area, one in Las Vegas, and two more in the Washington suburbs.

The plan for the day was to stick to the classics, and enjoy a traditional meal at a familiar restaurant.

Onion Soup Au Gratin

Onion Soup Au Gratin

How could I start with anything other than French Onion Soup?  I’ve got to start making this at home, where Butternut Squash Soup has reigned far to long as my default lunch-in-a-bowl.

Mon Ami Gabi serves an authentic version of this standard, baked with the customary Gruyère topping.

Steak Frites

Steak Frites

Steak Frites. Of course I ordered Steak Frites with Béarnaise Sauce.

The restaurant is always busy, and on this MLK holiday, it was packed. That didn’t seem to have affected the quality of either the food or the service. “We thrive under pressure,” my server told me.



Then something happened that altered and enriched the whole experience, and set me off on an unexpected Proustian remembrance of things past.

Dessert was a Profiterole, with house-made vanilla ice cream and double chocolate sauce.

The chocolate sauce instantly brought back intense memories of the drugstore Hot Fudge Sundaes that I used to love as a kid. At the time, they were the best treat, the most wonderful thing in the world.

Wonder if they still make them? They must, but I can’t remember seeing them on a menu recently.

And another flashback: Raspberry Ice Cream. Not in a sundae, just a couple of scoops in a cone. Haven’t tasted it in years!

So a traditional meal leads to a search for two new (old) things, and I have two new (old) pleasures waiting for me.

I call that a successful lunch.


“Flaming June” Returns to Leighton House

“Flaming June”,  Frederic, Lord Leighton’s greatest painting, has come home, but only for a visit.

“‘Flaming June’, Leighton’s masterpiece and one of the most celebrated paintings of 19th century British art, returns to the house where it was painted alongside the other paintings that the artist and President of the Royal Academy, submitted for the Summer Exhibition in 1895, only a few months before he died.”

—Leighton House Museum

The painting was exhibited at The Frick Collection in New York during the summer of 2015. Frick Senior Curator Susan Grace Galassi talks about the history and significance of “Flaming June” in this brief video:

The Leighton House showing began last November, and will run through March 2017. The museum is offering a full schedule of events, including  workshops, tours, musical performances, and a multi-media play in Leighton’s studio exploring the relationship between the artist and Dorothy Dene, his model, muse and confidante.

Leighton House Museum

Whenever I’m in London, I visit two locations: The Victoria and Albert Museum, and Leighton House. The V&A is the world’s leading museum of decorative arts and design, and the Leighton House Museum is…something else.

The great glory of Leighton House is the Arab Room, pictured above. I’ve spent hours there. I plan to spend hours more in the future.

Leighton House was the Holland Park home and studio of Frederic, Lord Leighton, who lived there alone for more than 30 years. As the most famous British artist of the late 19th century and the President of the Royal Academy of Arts, he entertained many of the most eminent Victorians in the Arab Room, including, in 1859, Queen Victoria herself.

Note: The current header for this blog is a detail from Leighton’s “Cimabue’s Celebrated Madonna is carried in Procession through the Streets of Florence”.


Le Vieux Logis — Lunch on 13 January 2017


It’s that time of the year again! Winter Restaurant Week 2017 started last Friday.*

This year, the RW season started with Bethesda Restaurant Week, and I started at one of my favourite Bethesda restaurants, the revitalized Le Vieux Logis. The pictures above are part of the mural that covers two sides of the building.

Seafood Paella Soup

Seafood Paella Soup

I had Seafood Paella Soup as a starter. The server poured the rich broth over bits of shrimp, mussels, and white fish at table, the way it’s meant to be done. As always at Le Vieux Logis, it was wonderful.

Parmentier of Beef Short Rib, Root Vegetables

Parmentier of Beef Short Ribs

I’ve got to apologise for the awful, murky quality of the photography in this posting. The interior of the restaurant is a little dim, so it was impossible to get a good image. Just take my word that the main, Parmentier of Beef Short Ribs, with Root Vegetables, was beautifully plated.

If you’re unfamiliar with the word “parmentier,” it’s mashed potatoes over a meat base. Just think Shepherd’s Pie. The seasonal vegetables included carrots, onions, Brussels sprouts, and leeks, brightened by pomegranate seeds.

It was a great start to Winter RW 2017.

*Actually, it’s Winter Restaurant Weeks in the DC metropolitan area. Friday was the beginning of Bethesda (Maryland) Restaurant Week, which runs through Sunday, 22 January. A week later, postponed because of the Inauguration, Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Week kicks off. This is the big one big. It features more than 250 restaurants in the District, Maryland, and Virginia. It ends officially on 5 February, but many places extend it for a second week. Then on 17 February, Alexandria (Virginia) starts its 10 day Restaurant Week. (You might have noticed that a “week” lasts 10 to 14 days in Washington’s winter months. This is not news to anyone who has lived through one of DC’s seemingly endless Februaries.)