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Are you getting all your vitamins?

Tips to revamping your diet in 2020

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diet, gay news, Washington Blade

Be more proactive about your diet in 2020. (Photo courtesy StatePoint)

StatePoint — Getting all the vitamins and nutrients you need each day is one of the most important things you can do to feel your best.

The good news is that you don’t need to devote hours each week to meal prep to ensure you’re healthfully getting essential vitamins. As you make your 2020 plans to revamp your diet, here are a few things to keep in mind:

• Don’t follow fads: When it comes to your wellness, it’s best to rely on basic science, not the latest fad diets or sports drinks and supplements that rely on added sugars, fillers, preservatives, artificial flavors, sweeteners, dyes and negatives. Look for products that transparently list all their ingredients.

• Drink your vitamins: Did you know that liquids are the most bioavailable form for your body to absorb nutrients? For complete health on-the-go, consider drinking your vitamins. One effective solution is Drink Nutrient, which offers single-serve stick packs that make it easy to get the essential vitamins you need. Among its offerings is Vitamin Coffee, a natural sustained energy booster made from 100 percent Colombian Arabica coffee that offers 50 percent of your daily essential vitamins in each serving. Served hot or cold, it’s a good choice for anyone who needs a caffeine boost without the crash. Or, to get 100 percent of your daily essential vitamins and 610 mg of electrolytes in one go, consider Vitamin Booster+, which contains real fruit juice, less than one gram of sugar and is only 15 calories per serving.

• De-stress: Too much stress can compromise your body’s ability to absorb nutrients. So take steps to relax and unwind. Whether it’s through meditation, journaling, cooking or jogging, discover what hobbies and wellness activities help you reduce your stress levels and be sure to make time for them.

• Refuel wisely: If you hit the gym frequently, you likely have tried one or two sports drinks and know how important it is to refuel quickly and wisely after a workout. For optimal high performance, consider upgrading your drink of choice. With double the electrolytes of leading sports drinks, Liquid Nutrient has a potassium-to-sodium ratio intended for high-quality hydration as well as amino acids for mental focus and muscle repair.

• Maximize meals: To maximize meals, make sure the bulk of the calories you consume are not “empty.” Empty calories, such as added sugars and solid fats, contain little to no nutritional value. Fill up on dark leafy vegetables, berries, nuts, seeds and good-for-you fats like avocado and salmon, while avoiding chips, cakes and other junk foods.

Don’t let your busy lifestyle get in the way of ensuring you’re getting all the nutrients you need to feel your best. This new year, resolve to revamp your diet for optimal nutrition.

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Food

Kane’s Cuisine: A plum torte + bonus recipe featuring more plums!

LA Blade White House correspondent Christopher Kane shares his love and passion of cooking writing in his weekly column

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Photo by Dan Balinovic

The LA Blade’s intrepid Washington D.C.-based White House correspondent snarks his way through another delicious weekly recipe while dishing tea on other subjects

WASHINGTON – As I was looking for the recipe featured in this week’s column, I got some interesting results when I mistakenly hit “return” after typing only the first word of my Google search query (“plum”). 

Turns out, in the U.K., a man who speaks with an accent typical of the English upper classes is often said to “have a plum in his mouth”? Of course, here in the States, instead of that we have Hilaria Baldwin. And Meredith Marks in the latest episode of RHOSLC. 

And according to Urban Dictionary, “plum” is also used by Brits to describe the painful constriction of a man’s external genitalia, often with a rubber band, for purposes of performing a sex act that I cannot describe with words that are printable in this news outlet.

Perhaps we should broaden the latter definition to include “putting the squeeze” on someone in a non-sexual manner, as our House Speaker is now experiencing at the hands of his Republican colleagues in the chamber? 

Anyway, for our purposes, the plums we’re talking about are the stone fruits whose abundance and peak ripeness mark the onset of autumn. 

I could not possibly gas up this torte recipe better than the description provided by New York Times Cooking, which I’ve excerpted below:  

The Times published Marian Burros’s recipe for Plum Torte every September from 1983 until 1989, when the editors determined that enough was enough. The recipe was to be printed for the last time that year. “To counter anticipated protests,” Ms. Burros wrote a few years later, “the recipe was printed in larger type than usual with a broken-line border around it to encourage clipping.” It didn’t help. The paper was flooded with angry letters. 

  1. Heat oven to 350° F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan (or similarly sized cake pan with high sides) with unsalted butter
  2. Halve ~12 ripe plums, cutting slightly off-center to avoid blunting your knife with the pits, and then use a small paring knife to cut them out and discard 
  3. Cream a half cup softened unsalted butter together with 1 cup granulated sugar using a stand mixer, a hand-held electric mixer, or by hand with a whisk if you’re a masochist and need to be a hero 
  4. Add 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, a heaping half teaspoon kosher salt*, and 2 eggs, beating or whisking until well combined 
  5. Scrape the batter into your pan. Distribute your plum halves over top, skin side up, and sprinkle with the juice of half a lemon, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and granulated sugar (roughly a tablespoon, depending on how sweet your plums are)
  6. Bake for 1 hour. Top with confectioner’s sugar and serve with ice cream or whipped cream if desired 

*The recipe calls for a pinch, but I firmly believe most desserts make insufficient use of salt and its flavor enhancing properties, including in this case.

Photo by Dan Balinovic

Bonus recipe: From Melissa Clark, a fabulous and easy weeknight dinner of roasted chicken thighs with peaches, basil, and ginger. And as I discovered, the dish works as beautifully with plums as it does with peaches. 

Apologies that my husband was not available to take pictures of this one, but you can use your imagination or see what it’s supposed to look like at NYT Cooking:

  1. Heat oven to 400°
  2. Halve plums (or peaches!), remove their pits, and slice the fruit into quarter to half-inch wedges
  3. Arrange or evenly scatter the following on a 9 by 13-inch sheet pan: 1 pound chicken thighs,* seasoned with salt and cut into 1-inch strips; 2-4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed; 1 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, 2-3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger, 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons dry sherry or dry vermouth, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and a half teaspoon black pepper
  4. Roast for about 20 minutes
  5. Top with an additional 1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil and follow Melissa’s advice: “Sauce will be thin, so serve with crusty bread for sopping or over rice.”

*Use boneless skinless thighs, or de-bone them and leave the skin on with the expectation that you’ll have to pour off excess rendered chicken fat that will accumulate after roasting

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Food

Kane’s Cuisine: Celery salad with cilantro, scallion, & sesame

LA Blade White House correspondent Christopher Kane shares his love and passion of cooking writing in his weekly column

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Photo by Dan Balinovic

The LA Blade’s intrepid Washington D.C.-based White House correspondent snarks his way through another delicious weekly recipe while dishing tea on other subjects

WASHINGTON – I served this salad with my homemade pasta & Bolognese last week, and I can tell you it’s really the perfect side dish to accompany anything heavy that you might be making, whether it’s a chicken pot pie, a lasagna, a 16-ounce ribeye…

That said, the salad is decidedly and unambiguously Asian inspired (and would, therefore, pair perfectly with beef bulgogi, steamed pork dumplings, bo kho soup…) 

After her first bite, my dear friend Nancy told me, “This tastes Vietnamese!” She would know. And not only is she Vietnamese, but Nancy is also a fantastic cook, so this was high praise. We will do a collab soon. Still working out details. Stay tuned. 

Photo by Dan Balinovic

Recipe adapted from Alison Roman:

  1. Toast 2 tablespoons sesame seeds in a small skillet over medium-high heat until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Remove and set aside. 
  2. Thinly slice 8 scallions and 4 stalks of celery on the bias. Toss in a large bowl with 1 bunch cilantro, leaves and tender stems, roughly chopped, and 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped.
  3. Add 3 tablespoons rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons lime juice (freshly squeezed), and 1 tablespoon fish sauce (preferably Red Boat Vietnamese fish sauce, which contains just black anchovies and salt). Toss to combine.
  4. Season to taste with kosher salt and black pepper
  5. In a small bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons canola oil, 4 tablespoons olive oil, and 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil. Add to your salad and toss to combine.
  6. Season again with salt and pepper. 

Top with Maldon sea salt flakes, your toasted sesame seeds, red chili flakes, more black pepper, and another drizzle of sesame oil.

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Autos

Standout SUVs: Jeep Compass, Subaru Crosstrek

Americans still prefer larger vehicles to sedans

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Last year Americans left many old-school chariots in the dust, buying twice as many SUVs as sedans. But while early pioneers like the Jeep Cherokee and Ford Explorer get props for leading the sport-ute charge, today there are more than 170 models. I recently test drove two newish SUVs that kinda-sorta remind me of my Pride bracelet: They make a statement, but at an affordable price. 

JEEP COMPASS
$29,000
MPG: 24 city/32 highway
0 to 60 mph: 7.5 seconds
Cargo room: 27.2 cu. ft.

PROS: lots of amenities, good storage, all-wheel drive

CONS: some pricey options, stiff ride, bit noisy cabin

IN A NUTSHELL: Redesigned last year, the Jeep Compass gets a stronger engine for 2023. More power usually means reduced fuel efficiency, but mileage is up almost 10% from the previous model. Another plus: More stowage space, which had been sorely lacking. And all-wheel drive is now standard, so better traction and handling, especially on slick or gravelly terrain. 

Despite having chiseled looks like the midsize Jeep Cherokee, the smaller Compass feels lighter and more limber. But while this compact SUV can handle light off-roading, the short wheelbase makes it hard to ignore potholes or speed bumps. In fact, I often had to slow down to a crawl to not seesaw jarringly over them. In other words, any Barbie or Ken wannabes with perfectly coiffed hair will want to stick to smoother surfaces when driving this vehicle.  

The well-built cabin is much improved, with higher quality materials. The dash is covered in soft-touch leather—a nice touch—with a 7-inch digital instrument cluster and 10.1-inch touchscreen. Plenty of legroom and headroom in front, but tallish backseat passengers may feel a bit squished. 

There are five trim levels, including the top-of-the-line Trailhawk, with more aggressive styling and solid off-road capability. I tested the mid-range Latitude Lux, which costs $5,000 more than the base model but comes with larger wheels, heated seats, and other niceties. 

Notable tech features: smartphone integration, Wi-Fi hot spot, Bluetooth, wireless charging, voice recognition, remote start and nine-speaker Alpine stereo. 

But it’s the list of safety gear that rally wowed me, such as rearview camera, park assist, lane-departure warning, driver-attention monitoring, rear-seat passenger reminder, pedestrian and cyclist detection, blind-spot monitor, forward collision warning with active braking, and—whew!—so much more. 

SUBARU CROSSTREK
$27,000
MPG: 28 city/34 highway
0 to 60 mph: 9.1 seconds
Cargo room: 20 cu. ft.

PROS: decent mileage, comfy seats, user-friendly cabin

CONS: poky base engine, so-so storage, plasticky dashboard

IN A NUTSHELL: With so much sport-ute competition these days, automakers seem to be revamping their SUV models each year (not every four to six years, as in the past). This time, the Subaru Crosstrek receives some nifty design flourishes and major cabin upgrades. Compared to the butch Jeep Compass, the curvier Crosstrek looks trés chic. Think boyish Buck versus trendy Eddie on “911.” 

Based on the nimble Impreza hatchback, the subcompact Crosstrek feels car-like and agile. Two engine choices, but opt for the more potent powerplant so it doesn’t feel like you’re just treading water. While the Crosstrek is smaller and slower than the Compass, the ride here is smoother and more composed. Higher ground clearance, tighter suspension and quick all-wheel drive system all help, as does a new direct-steering system. Plus, paddle shifters, which I only needed to use once or twice when merging into traffic, provide plenty of extra oomph. 

The Crosstrek cabin, which is surprisingly quiet, offers good legroom for passengers in both the front and back. An optional 11.6-inch infotainment touchscreen is mounted vertically, similar to those iPad-like displays found in the Ford Mustang Mach-E and various luxury vehicles. 

It says something when my biggest beef with the Crosstrek is the placement of the odometer reset button, which is only a smidge above the remote start button. Both buttons are completely obscured behind the steering wheel, so I was constantly reaching around and pressing the wrong one. A minor annoyance, to be sure. But if Subaru could fix this ergonomic annoyance, then I wouldn’t have to listen to my husband claim that the problem is actually my own “user error.”

Subaru Crosstrek
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Education

California State University’s board approves 6% annual tuition hike

CSU has enough revenue to cover 86% of actual costs to meet student, staff, and institution needs, leaving it with a $1.5 billion gap

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CSU trustees hold hearing on Tuesday in Long Beach to increase student tuition 34% over 5 years, as students gather to protest outside many were left out of the meeting room even with a row of empty seats. (Photo Credit: California Faculty Association/Facebook)

LONG BEACH, Calif. – Trustees of the once-affordable Cal State University system approved a 6% tuition increase annually over the next five years Wednesday. The board is attempting to narrow a $1.5 billion deficit, a decision that some students labeled “disheartening.”

The university’s governing board voted 9-0 to approve the increases that will start across the 23-campus system in the fall of 2024. Annual tuition for full-time California undergraduate students will increase by $342 next year to $6,084. By the 2028-2029 school year, those students will be paying $7,682, the Associated Press reported.

The increase is the first of its kind since 2017, and comes amidst the economic crisis wherein many high school graduates are unsure whether they can even afford a college education in the first place. 

California’s Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis reacted in a statement saying: “A $2000 tuition increase over 5 years could drastically affect the lives of over 184,000 CSU students who do not receive full tuition coverage. This is unacceptable.

I stand firm in my opposition towards a tuition increase and will continue to do everything I can to make a CSU accessible & affordable for ALL.”

 Revenue from the increase will bridge approximately 56% of the $1.5 billion Cal State system budget gap that has forced the institution to skimp on teacher and employee pay increases, facility renovations, course options, and more. The funds will also allow for better mental health resources and changes to how the system handles the sexual discrimination cases that have been rising at CSU and have led to the resignation of top officials.

Cal State officials claimed they are still dedicated to keeping the Cal State system affordable and pledged to retain almost one-third of the budget increase for financial aid. This financial aid will cover full tuition for 60% and partial tuition for 18% of the nearly half a million CSU students across its 23 campuses.

The tuition hike will begin in the fall, raising in-state student tuition by approximately $350. By the end of the five years, in-state tuition will rise roughly $2,000. 

CSU students gathered Tuesday to protest the increase at a public hearing that lasted over 2.5 hours. Students implored trustees not to approve the increase, calling the sudden rise in tuition unfair as many students already struggle to pay CSU’s tuition despite working multiple jobs. Come even called the increase racist, as the CSU student body is predominantly made up of people of color.

The board of trustees favored the institution’s finances over student pleas and voted 15-5 to approve the tuition inflation. 

Cal State trustee Jose Antonio Vargas called the increase a “nightmare scenario” but joined the 15 in favor of the hike.

According to a report about the system’s finances released in May the Associated Press noted, found the system with 460,000 students, many of them minorities and first-generation college students, has enough revenue to cover about 86% of what it actually costs to meet student, staff, and institution needs, leaving it with a $1.5 billion gap.

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Food

Kane’s Cuisine: Homemade pasta & Marcella Hazan’s Bolognese

LA Blade White House correspondent Christopher Kane shares his love and passion of cooking writing in his weekly column

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Photo by Dan Balinovic

The LA Blade’s intrepid Washington D.C.-based White House correspondent snarks his way through another delicious weekly recipe while dishing tea on other subjects

WASHINGTON – While I rarely balk when presented with a difficult, tedious kitchen task (peeling an especially knobby ginger root or a dozen pearl onions, for instance), I have tried making pasta by hand and simply do not have the patience. 

Finally, I bit the bullet and bought myself a Philips pasta and noodle maker. $300 well spent*

Photo by Dan Balinovic

I agonized over how to use this powerful new tool in my column. Should I do one of the four pastas of Rome? Or an Asian dish like ramen? Dumpling wrappers? The possibilities are practically limitless. 

Photo by Dan Balinovic

My maiden voyage with homemade pasta, however, had to start with Marcella Hazan. Often called the Italian Julia Child, she was a master of her craft who once said she would never do a cookbook because she did not want to write in English. x

Luckily for all of us, someone offered to translate her work. Luckily for me, New York Times Cooking had my back with her Bolognese sauce

I’m not going to detail the pasta-making process because unless you have a Philips machine your measurements will be different. 

Photo by Dan Balinovic
Photo by Dan Balinovic

Cook store bought noodles according to package instructions until al dente. Just know homemade would be so much better. And yes, I will be obnoxious about using only fresh pasta moving forward. Sorry about it, this is my personality. 

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and 3 tablespoons unsalted butter. Cook a half cup diced onion and two-thirds cup each diced carrot and celery. Season with salt** and pepper
  2. Add a half pound ground beef and quarter pound ground pork, browning the meat. Season with salt and pepper 
  3. Add 1 cup whole milk and an eighth teaspoon ground nutmeg
  4. Add 1 cup dry white wine and allow to simmer until evaporated (until it no longer smells boozy)
  5. Add 1.5 cups canned whole peeled tomatoes
  6. Marcella says: “When the tomatoes begin to bubble, turn the heat down so that the sauce cooks at the laziest of simmers, with just an intermittent bubble breaking through to the surface. Cook, uncovered, for 3 hours or more, stirring from time to time.”
  7. Taste and adjust seasoning
  8. Serve with grated parmesan, fresh parsley, a drizzle of olive oil, red pepper flakes 
Photo by Dan Balinovic

*With the volume of carbs I consume, I expect to recoup the cost savings over dried supermarket pasta within a year. 

**Diamond Crystal kosher salt. Always and forever. I’m just tired of specifying.

Photo Courtesy of Diamond Crystal Salt Company, a division of Cargill, Incorporated, an American global food corporation based in Minnetonka, Minnesota.
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Food

Kane’s Cuisine: Orange loaf cake with honey-orange compote

LA Blade White House correspondent Christopher Kane shares his love and passion of cooking writing in his weekly column

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Photo by Dan Balinovic

The LA Blade’s intrepid Washington D.C.-based White House correspondent snarks his way through another delicious weekly recipe while dishing tea on other subjects

WASHINGTON – I love a loaf cake. Equally welcome after dinner or first thing in the morning, this olive oil version by Melissa Clark is top-notch. 

To begin with, it’s easy. 

Plus, you’re using the zest and the flesh of the fruit, which is amazing because I can’t tell you how often I’ve taken the microplane to a lemon, lime, or orange only to throw out the shriveled up, dried out carcass a week later. 

Clark uses blood oranges (which would be fabulous here) and all-purpose flour. My fruit vendor at Eastern Market was fresh out, but his cara caras worked perfectly for me. I used cake flour because I had it on hand. 

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F and grease a 9 by 5” loaf pan with butter 
  2. In a medium sized bowl, zest two oranges and use your hands to work it into a cup of granulated white sugar 
  3. Supreme the oranges (cut off the tops and bottoms, using a sharp knife to cut away the pith following the curve of the fruit). Cut flesh out of connective membranes and into chunks about a fourth to a half-inch in diameter. Set aside
  4. Halve another orange and juice it into a measuring cup until you have a fourth cup. Add buttermilk until you have two-thirds cup. Pour into sugar mixture and whisk to combine. Whisk in three large eggs
  5. In a large bowl, whisk together one and three-fourths cups cake flour (or all-purpose), one and a half teaspoons baking powder, a fourth teaspoon baking soda, and a half teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  6. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Using a spatula, gently fold in two-thirds cup extra-virgin olive oil. Fold in orange pieces until mixture is well combined
  7. Scrape batter into loaf pan and cook for 55 minutes, tenting with foil if the top gets too brown 

Serve with honey-orange compote (two oranges supremed and cut as in step 3 & two tablespoons honey, stirred together)

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Business

Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams furniture co. abruptly shuts down

The furniture manufacturing and retail company Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, named after the two gay businessmen who founded the firm

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Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

TAYLORSVILLE, N.C. – The furniture manufacturing and retail company Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, named after the two gay businessmen who founded the firm in 1989 before selling it in 2015, announced last week that it is shutting down all its operations due to a sudden loss of financing.

During the years of Gold and Williams’s ownership, the company expanded its operations from a single furniture store in D.C. to the operation of 24 high-end furniture stores across the country and three furniture factories in North Carolina.

Gold couldn’t immediately be reached by the Washington Blade for comment.

The Washington Post reported that many of the company’s estimated 800 employees received word of the shutdown and their impending layoff over the past weekend through a letter posted at the company’s factories and stores by the Stephens Group, a Little Rock, Ark., equity firm that bought the company from Gold and Williams in 2015.

“Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams has recently and unexpectedly learned that we are unable to continue business operations,” the Post quotes the letter as saying. “As you may know, the current economic climate has presented significant challenges to the furniture industry… [The company] has recently and unexpectedly learned that we are unable to secure critical financing to continue business operations,” the letter states.

According to reports by the Post and the furniture industry publications Furniture Today and Business Of Home, Gold and Williams initially sold the company in 1998 to Rowe Furniture in an arrangement that allowed them to continue managing the company’s operations.

The Post report says the two men, who originally named the company Mitchell Gold, bought the company back in 2002 with a group of New York investors and renamed it Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. Williams and Gold sold the company once again in 2015 to the Stephens Group while remaining on the company’s board and in company management.

The media reports about the shutdown say Gold, 72, retired in 2019, and Williams, 61, retired in 2022. The Post reports that the two men still sit on the board as observers.

Furniture Today reports that Gold served as board chair emeritus after his 2019 retirement and “reengaged with the company” earlier this year to support company CEO Chris Moye.

“I was devastated and in shock. Both Bob and I are,” Gold told the Post in recounting his feelings upon learning of the shutdown. “And if I had to use one word, it’s heartbroken.”

An employee who answered the phone at the Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams store in D.C. at 1526 14th Street, N.W., told the Blade on Wednesday that a liquidation sale of the store’s merchandise would take place Saturday, Sept. 2.

Often with Gold acting as host, the upscale D.C. store has opened its doors for LGBTQ events, including fundraising events for local and national LGBTQ organizations.

Gold and Williams have been credited with emerging as advocates for LGBTQ equality during their years living in North Carolina while operating the company’s main furniture factory in rural Taylorsville, N.C. In 2005, Gold founded the LGBTQ organization Faith in America with the mission of combating “religious-based bigotry” targeting the LGBTQ community.

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Food

Kane’s Cuisine: Vodka martini with ginger and a twist

LA Blade White House correspondent Christopher Kane shares his love and passion of cooking writing in his weekly column

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Photo by Dan Balinovic

The LA Blade’s intrepid Washington D.C.-based White House correspondent snarks his way through another delicious weekly recipe while dishing tea on other subjects

WASHINGTON – After enjoying a wonderful and rather boozy weekend entertaining an old friend from New York, I returned home this evening in search of a nightcap. My heart is full, and it’s one of those muggy later summer nights in which an ice-cold martini just felt appropriate. 

In my youth, back when my friend and I first met, I lacked the self-control to abide that old maxim that, like breasts, one is too few and three too many. I couldn’t see it then, but I lacked the elan at 25 to order anything other than a well drink. 

Making a vodka martini in my own home tonight felt…sophisticated. And with the proper stemware, along with fresh ginger and lemon, I had the makings for a cocktail that represents the platonic ideal of where I am now in life.

Photo by Dan Balinovic


  1. In a highball glass, combine 3 ounces ice-cold vodka, ½ ounce dry vermouth, and a handful of ice. Stir and allow to chill for 30 seconds or so
  2. Strain into a martini glass 
  3. Peel a knob of fresh ginger root and grate into the glass to taste. Use a sharp paring knife to peel a ½ to 1-inch strip of lemon for garnish, careful to avoid the bitter white pith
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Food

Kane’s Cuisine: A dish for when you find top-tier tomatoes

LA Blade White House correspondent Christopher Kane shares his love and passion of cooking writing in his weekly column

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Photo by Dan Balinovic

The LA Blade’s intrepid Washington D.C.-based White House correspondent snarks his way through another delicious weekly recipe while dishing tea on other subjects

WASHINGTON – My vegetable and herb gardens are not exactly thriving these days. The fault lies not with the plants but with my failure to spend enough time and attention caring for them.

The good news is my tomato plant, which had long looked like it was on the verge of certain death, made a sudden, dramatic recovery last week and delivered a bounty of the best Sun Golds I have ever tasted. 

When this happens to you, or when you can smell the tomatoes in your farmer’s market or grocery store from an arm’s length away because they have reached that elusive state of peak ripeness, you are obliged to act. 

Jump on the opportunity like you’ve found a dom top who can host and is free to meet up now. Or pass up the opportunity at your own peril, because while you may have a second chance tomorrow, it might be another 9 months before god showers you with his blessings again. (That last part really applies more to tomatoes. It’s mid-August, after all, which really means we’re on borrowed time.) 

Whatever you make with them should be simple and decidedly tomato-forward. Treat them like the gifts that they are (unlike the plants that are now languishing in my backyard because I’ve neglected them). 

Photo by Dan Balinovic

A very simple tomato salad 

  1. Halve one pound top-tier first-rate five-star cherry tomatoes (or core and then chop larger tomatoes into bite-sized pieces)*
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together one tablespoon high-quality extra-virgin olive oil and 1.5 tablespoons vinegar – sherry, red wine, or champagne vinegar will work well here – and toss with the tomatoes  
  3. Season to taste with Diamond Crystal kosher salt (be relatively conservative because you’ll be finishing with flaky sea salt)
  4. Top with a mild allium – chives, scallions, ramps – along with flaky sea salt 

*Tip: If using cherry tomatoes, don’t do as I did here and cut straight down on a 90-degree angle from the portion of the fruit that was once connected to the stem of the plant facing upward. Instead, slice on a slight bias, and you’ll be left with more visually appealing halves (because the whitish part will not be visible).

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Autos

Tip-top pocket rockets: BMW M2, BMW Z4

German automaker leads in rankings for user-friendly options

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BMW M2 Coupe

Sure, German cars are uber exciting, but Asian brands are much more reliable. Right? Well, not exactly. 

This year, for the first time, BMW tops the list in what is considered the holy grail of product-quality resources: Consumer Reports. Along with improved reliability, BMW leads in the rankings for user-friendly options—including innovative infotainment systems. 

To be sure, seven of the top 10 most-reliable vehicles are still made by Asian automakers. 

But today’s BMW drivers can enjoy both style and substance, with rides that are fun, fast, furious—and now very dependable. 

BMW M2 COUPE

$64,000

MPG: 16 city/24 highway

0 to 60 mph: 3.9 seconds

Cargo room: 13.8 cu. ft.

PROS: lively acceleration, taut handling, sexy exhaust growl

CONS: rigid front seats, tight backseat, hard-to-access seatbelts

IN A NUTSHELL: I have a love-hate relationship with two-door cars. They fail the test when it comes to ferrying lots of people or more than a few suitcases. And forget about cross-country trips, especially if you want to pull over and catch 40 winks by stretching out in any sort of rear cargo area. But it’s hard to resist the convenience of a coupe or convertible when scooching into tight parking spaces or weaving through congested traffic. And these rides can be a blast to drive. That’s the case with the BMW M2 super-coupe, a pocket rocket that comes standard with a 435-hp engine and six-speed manual transmission. Expect automotive purists to forgo the optional eight-speed automatic, though it is a tad faster. 

The feisty styling boasts flared fenders, muscular side panels and an arousing rear spoiler.  As my husband Robert said, “This car is ‘sex on wheels.’ ” Yes, indeed. 

Of all the BMW high-performance M cars, the M2 is the smallest and least expensive. Yet it’s loaded with the latest bells and whistles: sport-tuned suspension, track-oriented tires, side-impact airbags, knee airbags, Harman Kardon surround-sound stereo, 12.3-inch digital gauge display and an even-larger 14.9-inch infotainment touchscreen. This second-generation M2 is also longer and wider than before, which adds more leg and elbow room inside. 

My test car came with the weight-saving carbon-fiber package. This included bucket seats with rigid thigh bolsters, as well as a quirky hard protrusion that stuck up awkwardly between my legs. Intended to keep you seated firmly in place when swooshing in and out of twisty curves, the intrusive seat design can sometimes smoosh your nether regions. In other words, there’s a reason these seats are called “ball busters.”

BMW Z4 ROADSTER

$55,000

MPG: 25 city/33 highway

0 to 60 mph: 5.2 seconds

Cargo room: 9.9 cu. ft.

PROS: wicked fast, easy to drive, cushy cabin

CONS: low ground clearance, no second row, skimpy storage

IN A NUTSHELL: Built on the same platform as the less-expensive but also less-luxurious Toyota Supra coupe, the BMW Z4 convertible is more of a comfortable cruiser than cheeky racecar. Two fine engine choices are available, though neither propels the Z4 as fast as the Supra or BMW M2 coupes. Still, handling and braking are splendid. Most important, my tush appreciated the more traditional seating in the Z4 compared with those butt-blasting seats in the M2. 

As with all BMWs, styling on this two-seater is dramatically sculpted. My only complaint was with the doors, which are so darn long you need to lean over and reach into another county to close them. 

The high-quality cabin is surprisingly spacious, with plenty of headroom, even with the top up. But storage cubbies are few and far between. Luckily, the trunk offers decent stowage, thanks to the power-operated top that takes up no cargo space when lowered. And despite having a fabric top instead of a thick metal one, there’s very little road noise.

As with the M2, the Z4 is actually a lot of car for the money. Pricey competitors to the Z4 include the $101,000 Porsche Boxster S and $110,000 Mercedes SL-Class. 

While crossovers and other SUVs may rule most showrooms today, these two rousing, reliable and relatively affordable two-door rides offer plenty of temptation. 

BMW Z4 Roadster
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