A Cup of Hot Coffee and Brownie To Go, Please

easy brownie recipeSometimes, or once in a Super Moon, when there is much to be done and you need to boost a sluggish afternoon body, there is nothing better than a bite of a warm, homemade brownie and a sip or two of hot coffee to help you get to the finish line of “a day well lived.”

Below please find the recipe for a very delicious, rich chocolate brownie from one of our favorite bakeries, The Standard Baking Co., in Portland, Maine – a “bakery without spin” where “…you won’t find art work on the walls, fancy coffee drinks or deli sandwiches.” Instead, “the bread and pastry sell themselves.”

How? Simply put, “The Standard isn’t a brand, it’s a philosophy,” writes Jane Newkirk in The Standard Baking Co.’s book, Pastries. Read more

Falling Into the First Day of Autumn

Fall poemsYesterday was the first official day of Autumn, and it just so happened to be a picture perfect day where everything was “just right” – the soft blanket of blue sky, the sunny warm and still air, the full-blossomed, perfectly poised purple petunias. But “just right” never stays long – things change as nature, a “trustworthy guide”*,  shows us season to season as we now watch the coming and going of summer to autumn. The turning of leaves into an exhilarating brilliance ends with a falling into a cooler, darker, and heavier season. The lightness, openness and warmth of summer has departed leaving behind the “meeker” chillier mornings that Emily Dickinson wrote about in her poem about autumn below:

The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry’s cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.

The maple wears a gayer scarf,
The field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned,
I’ll put a trinket on.  Read more

All Things Constitutional

Charles Murray By The People ReviewIn celebration of Constitution Day, ATG highlights the book By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission by Charles Murray, an American libertarian political scientist and author who first became well known for his book, Losing Ground: American Social Policy 1950-1980.

In Chapter One, “A Broken Constitution”, Murray argues that “the Constitution that once sustained limited government is broken, and cannot be fixed by a Madisonian* majority on the Supreme Court.”  He explains how our “legal system is increasingly lawless” and that the “legislative process has become systemically corrupt no matter which party is in control.” Read more

Shining A Hopeful Light on Usher Syndrome

Usher syndrome symptomsWhen I think of Emma, my 1-year-old niece and goddaughter, I think of her big, bright blue, angelic eyes. They are staring up at me, at seven months old, trusting, innocent eyes that eventually succumb to the spellbinding power of sleep in the arms of someone she had not yet come to know.

I remember thinking how miraculous it was that, at such a young age, babies could not only convey a feeling, thought or emotion with one simple look, but could gaze so deeply, so intently, as if, for a moment, they were imparting years of life wisdom that we typically only acquire with age.

It was her eyes in this moment that flashed through my mind as I learned three months later that her hearing loss would not be the only challenge that she would come to face. That what had once seemed like an unlikely possibility had revealed itself as a new reality when the test results diagnosed her with Usher Syndrome – the most common cause of combined deafness and blindness that affects about four babies in every 100,000 births. An inherited disease, it is thought to be responsible for about three to six percent of all childhood deafness and about 50 percent of deaf-blindness in adults. Read more

Make Bourbon Great Again!

Bourbon drinksOne can never quite know exactly what it is that resurrects something from the past, but bourbon – the famed American whiskey – has risen from the ashes and been “made great again.”

Surely the popular TV series Mad Men has contributed to its resurgence – the “Mad Men Effect” – where men were men who drank manly drinks called the “Old-Fashioned”, but whatever the reasons involved, the rise of the “golden age of bourbon” is an undeniable reality. Read more

Discovering Polenta At Chicago’s Spiaggia

creamy polenta recipe“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” –Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)

“During the last twenty years, Spiaggia [Chicago’s premier Italian restaurant] has wined and dined the famous, the infamous, trendy ‘foodies’, and some of the most discerning palates in the world,” writes Tony Mantuano and Cathy Mantuano in The Spiaggia Cookbook: Eleganza Italiana in Cucina (2004).

From the great chefs of America and Europe such as Alice Waters, Wolfgang Puck and Charlie Trotter* to the likes of Sir Elton John, the late Princess Diana, Sir Mick Jagger, Julia Roberts, Billy Joel, Harrison Ford, Sting, Tom Cruise, President Clinton, Paul Newman, Steven Spielberg, and Sir Paul McCartney, Spiaggia – translated as “beach” in Italian – has certainly satisfied the palate of many a famous people.

As the guest of a native Chicagoan, I had the privilege of dining at Spiaggia – located on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Oak Street, with a view of Oak Street beach on Lake Michigan – over 10 years ago. And as I first learned over 25 years ago after eating at New York City’s famous world-renowned Le Cirque, fine dining is an experience that one always remembers. Read more

September: Serving Up The Last Delicious Drop of Sumptuous Summer

September picturesEight days remain. Eight golden days of Summer, until it swiftly departs at sundown on September 23, giving way to a crisp autumn morning on the 24th.

While we may lament the end of August, the month of September is the perfect time for what we Americans refer to as “al fresco” dining, a phrase borrowed from the Italians meaning “in the cool air.” (Interestingly, Italians refer to outdoor dining as “fuori” and “all’aperto,” since “al fresco” is slang for “in prison”).

What better way to celebrate the closing of the summer season then to dine outside in the cool September evening air, seated at an intimate table with pleasant company, surrounded by a picturesque, beautiful view of a distant mountain, still lake or sailboats in the distant ocean horizon, accompanied by fine wine and delicious food. Read more