SOUP’S ON: Ellen Potter in the Kitchen Interview!

“Today, the girl in the dark glasses, whose name was Clara Frankofile, was sitting at her customary table with a tuna-fish sandwich, cut into four perfect triangles, and a tall glass of tomato juice with a straw.” ~ from Pish Posh by Ellen Potter       

Recently, while nibbling on a few tasty restaurant books, I stumbled upon a middle grade novel called Pish Posh by Ellen Potter. It’s about a rich 11-year-old snob, Clara Frankofile, who has the power to decide which of the celebrities, socialites, princesses and movie stars who frequent her family’s restaurant are important enough to stay.

It’s a great premise (especially in light of recent events), that sheds light on our ongoing obsession in this country with celebrity and the trappings of material wealth. Equal parts fantasy, reality, and mystery, Pish Posh is generously laced with Ellen Potter’s signature humor, razor-sharp wit, and boundless imagination, and contains lots of twists and turns to keep young readers intrigued.

How much do I love that this book is set in New York City and satirizes those who think they’re “Somebodies,” but who could instantly become “Nobodies,” at the whim of a child? Or that Clara teams up with a crafty, whip-smart jewel thief named Annabelle to solve a 200-year-old mystery revolving around an unassuming soup cook?

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friday feast: alice and arlo

“Don’t be intimidated by foreign cookery. Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good.” ~ Alice May Brock

Photo of Alice by Howell Conant, Source:

During the holidays, I like listening to Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree.”

The “Thanksgiving dinner that couldn’t be beat” makes me happy, along with Officer Obie, the Group W bench, and of course, those “twenty-seven eight-by-ten colour glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was to be used as evidence against us.”

Dang fine example of the talkin’ blues, a classic 60’s counterculture, anti-war/anti-draft satirical ballad that still rings true 42 years after its release. I’ve been lucky enough to hear Arlo sing it in person a couple of times, and admit to having a crush on him when I was sixteen. Sigh. I wore out the A-Side of my album (some of the best 18-minute interludes I’ve ever had). When the movie came out with Arlo starring in it, I really really wanted to become a hippie, celebrate Thanksgiving with all those people, and help dump the garbage.

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picture book restaurants, part one

“Ciao Time” by Bob Staake

Any time you and your munchkins are in the mood to eat out, no need to call ahead, dress up, or risk the ho-hum food often found on children’s menus.

Just skip over to your local library and grab a few of these tasty picture books for meals that will excite, inspire, and feed the imagination. I’ve been doing my own literary restaurant tour the past few weeks, and am happy to report there are mucho picture books featuring chefs and restaurants. Most of them seem to favor cafés and diners, with lots of animal characters and cumulative tales ramping up the action with every bite.
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photo by Doug Focht

On a beautiful, warm Saturday night recently, Len and I headed over to Old Town Alexandria for dinner at the Majestic Café. You may remember my mentioning that Mrs. Obama hosted a birthday dinner there for her mother, Marian Robinson, this past summer.

Of course we had to check it out. (This is my favorite kind of “blog homework.”)

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jared and jama dish on alan wong’s pineapple room

“Wong has always been able to take well-loved and highly recognizable dishes and put a spin on them, and nowhere is this talent more apparent than at The Pineapple Room.” ~ Jo McGarry, Midweek.

    photo credit: Tina Yuen, PBN

Pictured above is internationally acclaimed chef and restaurateur Alan Wong, whose name is synonymous with the best of Hawai’i Regional Cuisine. Last month when we were on O’ahu, we treated ourselves and nine of our favorite relatives to dinner at The Pineapple Room, one of three restaurants Wong owns in Hawai’i.

Though I had dined before at his flagship restaurant in downtown Honolulu (an Obama favorite), and loved his creative dishes which blend different ethnic cooking styles, this was my first time at The Pineapple Room. 

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