Must jet off, bye for now darlings!

Like a step back in time: Loz and Sal, the betrothed.

Darling Readers and Blogging Buddies: Tomorrow, La Diva and DJ Nevah L8 (4 dinnah) will embark on the long 30 hour journey to Sydney, Australia, where my brother in law is eagerly awaiting to wed a very lovely lady. We will be celebrating at Neil Perry's Rockpool Bar and Grill restaurant with copious amounts of local sparkling and incredible food.

Our first week back home will be very busy with La Diva's birthday and little brother's nuptial celebrations and catching up with DJ Nevah L8's high school chums. Did you know I lived in Sydney for 10 years? I did. So La Diva has an entire other life there. I'm certain a good time will be had by all.


Will I have time (or a computer) to blog? I hope not.

Will I take lots of food porn photos? You bet.

Will I share them with you. Of course, darlings!

Will I ever come back? Maybe.

La Diva is going to be in Sydney for three glorious weeks and I'm certainly going to make the most of it! The last time I was there, La Diva was tempted to take a job and stay. (look at the photos and you'll understand why...) Who knows what will happen this time?!

Keep well, my darlings, until I C U on the Internets again! Enjoy and CIAO for now!!!

Ok, let's start this little Aussie photo fest with what epitomizes the ultimate Sydney food fave to La Diva: Sydney rock oysters. And what kind of sheila would gal pal Amanda be if she couldn't shuck a dozen or two oysters for her dear Diva visiting from America? (Yes, darling, you CAN click on all the photos to make them bigger. Go on!!)


Bondi Beach is glorious on a weekday morning.


Dusted lightly in flour and then pan fried in olive oil, haloumi sheeps milk cheese from Cyprus is a family favorite.


The view of Manly Beach from La Diva and DJ Nevah L8's fave body surfing beach, Queenscliff Beach.


Nothing beats a traditional hot meat pie from the milk bar (sandwich shop) for lunch on the beach after having a "bash" in the waves.



Ah yes, I'm looking forward to spending more hours on Fifi's lovely back veranda yakkin' and drinkin' and eatin' good cheese and yakkin' and drinkin' and...



Well, lookie here, we gots prawns wit de heads on 'em! I miss that. I used to take the shells to make broth for using some how, some way later on. La Diva thinks its a crying shame we don't get prawns with their heads left on at most fish shops in the States.



View from the in-laws cozy little flat in the posh northern suburbs of Sydney looking at north Sydney. It's about a 10 minute walk to the ferry, Harbour Bridge and Sydney Harbour from here.



La Diva's fave Thai restaurant at an inner-West suburb of Sydney takes its boisterous place in the back of a pub in a lush, outdoor tropical setting. Stir fried chicken with dried chili at Suma Lee Thai.


A gorgeous red from one of my fave wine growing regions in Australia: McClaren Vale in Southern Australia. I love that you can go to a BAR in Australia and get a nice bottle of wine, unlike in America where it's soo cool to pay for overpriced vodka because Americans are soo demanding for high quality spirits yet all the wine at these places are usually CRAP.



La Diva actually resisted temptation and did NOT buy any of these tantalizing pastries and cakes while waiting for her coffee to roast at Bellaroma in the northern beach suburb of Manly Vale.



However, La Diva DID succumb to this pink and precious little frangipani cupcake to sustain me before my swim in the surf with hubby and long-time pal Liam the Gorgeous One.



Fifi's in de morning: view of the tree tops of Kur Ring Gai Chase National Park at dawn from gal pal Fifi's lower veranda. Yes, dawn. Jet lag makes you do all kinds of crazy things, like be up all wide-eyed and bushy-tailed to watch the sunrise and take photos!



Fifi's in de night: view of Bantry Bay and Kur Ring Gai Chase bush at dusk from the Fifi's upper back veranda.



Battered and fried cheese-stuffed zucchini flowers with freshly-squeezed blood orange juice and Campari served up for lunch at the Fratelli Fresh market, cooking school and cafe in Sydney's new gallery district. Very civilized indeed.



Downtown Sydney from Jeffrey St. Wharf at Kirribilli in north Sydney. This was the exact view from my first flat when I moved to Australia in 1993. Hey, if you're gonna transplant, why not immerse yourself into Sydney lifestyle?



Lunch at the Oaks pub under the giant oak tree: Mussels with bleu cheese and pommes frites!



Ahhhhh simple Aussie comfort food: Good ol' lamb roast with pumpkin, potato and carrot, a traditional Sunday dinner.



One must always be on the lookout for the giant seagulls that frequent the beaches of Sydney. They will eat you.



Malaysian coconut curry noodle soup or "laksa" with char siu pork, fried tofu, tiger prawn and egg noodle from the Sussex Food Court in Chinatown. La Diva will most likely be on an Asian and seafood feeding frenzy the entire time.



One of the most beautiful buildings in Sydney: The Queen Victoria Building, full of high end shops, cafes and patisseries with fabulous tiled floors and beautiful architectual and design details including stained glass domes.



Look up! One, two, three levels up and then there is the coloured glass dome. Stunning!



La Diva's morning capuccino from Baci cafe, Queen Victoria Building



Produced by Pepperidge Farms, you can now buy these legendary Aussie biscuits from Publix here in Florida during the winter months! I've tried one box of the caramel flavor so far. The jury is out as to whether they match their Aussie counterparts in flavor but I'll be sure to keep you posted.



Native spice blend from Herbies, my fave spice shop in Sydney. Nothing, NOTHING like that here in Miami. Why did I leave?!



Ah yes, the booty from Downunder! La Diva had to hide a few boxes of the Tim Tams from DJ Nevah L8, and thus extended my cookie enjoyment by one whole day before he sniffed them out and devoured them! Sigh.



video
Did I tell you that my friend Fifi lives on the edge of a national park? Listen to all the birds.....Enjoy!

What my Mama couldn't teach me La Diva learned the hard way...


Darlings, you all know that La Diva is a self taught cook and was not fortunate enough to have my mother around long enough to pass down her culinary knowledge. After recently connecting with long-lost cousins from my mother's side of the family, I find that my fascination with food and the skill to not only cook food, but cook food well is inherent and runs strong and deep in my family. My mother's father was a professional cook, my mother's siblings all cook and bake and now La Diva finds she has a lot in common with her cookin' cousins as well!

And as with anyone with a self-taught education, one will make mistakes along the way and La Diva has certainly had her fair share! Through the years, I have really tried to learn from them and have worked hard to improve my culinary skills. Like any thing else one becomes good at, diligence and persistence pays off.

One mistake I made in particular was pretty funny. When I was about nine years old, I tried to recreate my mother's famed buttercream frosting. Little Baby Diva simply took some softened butter and white sugar and beat it together as I'd seen my mother do so many times. I added some red food coloring. There. Done. I just made my mom's pink buttercream frosting!



It sure tasted good! But I wasn't thrilled with the grainy texture and knew even at that tender age that something was not quite right. However, Little Baby Diva wanted some cake! I began frosting it and watched in dismay as the icing all slowly melted away as the cake was still warm!!

I didn't know. And, Little Baby Diva was impatient. I wanted a piece of that cake!! I was only interested in the outcome, not the process!

As I got older and learned more, read more and asked more questions, I realized that in cooking and baking, there is a reason cooks do the things they do and tell you to take certain steps. Here are some of the things La Diva has learned to do to make my dishes successful and tasty!

I'll admit, some of these ideas are common sense. Some of them seem obvious. But, if no one has ever told you the reason why it's important to do these steps, you won't heed the recipe and could miss out on a really good dish instead of a just "okay" dish. Or even avert kitchen disaster! Or even get that "a-ha" moment. It's important to note that little extra steps can make a BIG difference in the success and taste of your dish. So, I'm happy to share with you what took me years to learn on my own!



Tasty salads you'll crave!

When I was a little girl, my Italian Great Grandma Rose would make salads with bitter dandelion greens and escarole. La Diva LOVED them, which is odd considering kids don't usually like salad, especially ones made with bitter greens. What was it about grandma's salad that made it taste so good?

Simply put, Grandma seasoned them very well and used quality ingredients to dress her salads. When making a salad, season the salad itself and then always season the tomatoes too. I make a mean Greek salad that is always so full of flavor and that I get a ton of compliments for because I salt the tomatoes separately and then season the salad itself with oregano, salt and pepper before adding the dressing. Sounds simple yes? Great! Do it!

Use the best olive oil you can afford. I use three different olive oils in my kitchen. I use plain for frying and sauteing. I use a good quality extra virgin for my white bean dip and to flavor vegetables and pastas. But for my salads, I use an intensely flavored, deep green and fruity oil that is about $20 a bottle. In salads, you can really taste the oil and it should be flavorful while enhancing the greens and vegetables. Keep the oil in the refrigerator so it doesn't go rancid and take it out 15 minutes before needed so it's at room temperature and pours easily. You can also use walnut or hazelnut oils to dress salads too. Try using a very good quality oil and you'll see it will take your salads to the another level!

Another suggestion is to try to use high quality vinegars too. I have white wine, aged balsamic, sherry and champagne vinegars in my pantry.


Boxer, allow me to introduce you to Stove. Stove, this is Boxer. I thought you might want to get to know each other better!

Speaking of tomatoes


If you don't want the skin of a tomato to end up off the tomato and in your dish, take it off before adding it, it's easy. Put a pot of water to boil on the stove. Take your tomato and cut a small 'x' on the bottom and then cut a circle around the stem. Put tomato in boiling water for 30 seconds, remove with a slotted spoon and you'll be able to easily peel away the skin from the "x" starting point! The tomato will not cook in 30 seconds and will still be raw but this makes the skin easy to remove.

If you are adding fresh tomato to pasta just before serving or making bruschetta or a fresh tomato salsa and don't need the tomatoe's juice or seeds, you can easily de-seed the tomato. Cut the tomato into quarters and with your fingers, remove the seeds into a bowl. Simple enough, right? Now, here's the important part: dice the tomatoes and then add to a strainer over a bowl to catch the extra juice. Leave for a few minutes until all juice has drained from the cut tomatoes. SALT the tomatoes and throw away the juice. See all the juice?! By allowing the tomatoes to drain, you are guaranteeing a crunchy bruschetta not a soggy one! And no one likes slimy seeds in their pasta! I also find draining roasted tomatoes an important step for a crunchy roasted tomato bruschetta. The simple step of de-seeding and draining tomatoes before use is a noticeable element in the finished dish's texture and presentation.

Cucumbers are wet too!

Cucumbers are so refreshing because of their high water content. However, the added wetness from the insides of a cucumber can work against you if you are using them in sour cream, yogurt or salsas. I make tzatziki and raita often and before I took the time to de-seed my cukes, found my sauces to be very watery. Simply cut a cukumber in half and then again lengthwise and using a tea spoon, scrape away the seeds into the compost. Now simply dice, salt and add to whatever you need them for! Easy, pretty and not too slimy!



Wet ain't good part III

Did you know there is a lot of water added to meat these days? Whenever I am about to brown or stir fry meat, I always blot away the extra moisture out of the meat using a paper towel before I season it. Also, don't crowd the pan when searing, browning or stir frying as the meat will not brown but steam instead. That's why many times recipes say to brown the meat in two batches. Seared, brown meat = good. Rubbery, gray meat = bad.

I also blot the moisture out of shrimp, chicken, fish and tofu before cooking too, especially if it was frozen previously. If you buy flash frozen fish, thaw it on a small rack over a dish or bowl to catch the water and so the fish does not sit in the water while thawing. Then blot, season and cook!

When I am baking with pastry and using vegetables for a quiche, pinwheels or pastry cups, I blot the excess moisture out of them as well. An example would be for canned artichokes, sauteed mushrooms, spinach or leeks. You don't want the pastry to be overly wet and end up soggy after it bakes, so take the time to do this extra step!



Salty goodness

Use a good quality salt to season your food at the table! Just like olive oils, La Diva uses three kinds of salt in her kitchen. I use regular salt for salting pasta water and baking (and soaking up spilled red wine!) and I use kosher salt for most dishes I'm cooking. And I use Maldon salt crystals for seasoning at the table and for salads. Do a taste test of regular salt vs. the Maldon. You'll be surprised at how pure and flavorful the Maldon salt tastes. Darlings, at $10 for a small box, there is no doubt that Maldon is expensive. But, because it has so much flavor, I tend to use it sparingly so a box lasts for a while and is worth every penny.

More salty advice: DO flavor your pasta water with a generous amount of salt. This is the only chance to salt the pasta as it absorbs the salt while cooking. DON'T salt beans and potatoes while cooking but wait and salt after cooking, when the beans and potato can really absorb the salt flavor. Salt meat just before cooking.

Uniformity

What does it mean when a recipe says to cut everything up the same size? Does it really matter? Yes! It's important for the vegetables to cook evenly, and how will that happen with oddly cut veggies? DUH!

La Diva watched a girlfriend make mashed potatoes once and being the Diva she is, had
a very hard time biting her tongue while watching her friend make kitchen blunders! With a pot of water boiling furiously on the stove, La Diva watched in horror as my friend haphazardly cut potatoes and threw them willy-nilly into the pot, gabbing away and unaware of her culinary crimes!

First of all, you don't add potatoes to boiling water but to cold water and then bring to a boil. So now, she had potatoes that were cooking at not only different times but also were different sizes. Naturally, the result was some potatoes were water-logged and mushy and others were still a bit hard which resulted in a lumpy, inconsistent mash. Mashed potatoes are very simple to make, yet by not taking the time to cut them properly or pay attention to what she was doing, she messed up a very simple dish.
Remember, darlings, it's the little things that can really screw you up in a kitchen!



Boffo baking

Darlings, I'm sure I could write a LOT more on the subject of baking. La Diva has made many fatal mistakes in her younger years baking as I applied to it my same lack of attention to measuring ingredients as I did to my cooking. BIG mistake. Baking really is an exact science so unless you are really good at it, follow the recipe exactly before modifying.

Darlings,
always use a sifter to combine salt, baking soda or baking powder together with the flour when baking, even if the recipe doesn't call for it. La Diva doesn't have have a fancy cake sifter but simply uses a mesh strainer that I tap gently to release the dry ingredients into the batter. La Diva learned the hard way when one time years ago, I brought in a freshly-baked ginger bread to work and a co-worker bit into a huge, salty ball of baking soda and spit my cake out with a nasty look on her gob. Naturally, this was not the reaction La Diva was aiming for and it ruined the entire would-be yummy experience!

Silky, savory soups

Making creamy soups creamier doesn't always mean adding cream! In fact, you don't even need cream, sometimes La Diva uses canned milk instead or omits it completely. A silky, creamy pureed soup is all about the TEXTURE. Restaurant chefs in kitchens use a chinois, a cone shaped sieve, to push their soups through to make their soup extra silky and smooth. I use my handy mesh strainer and what a difference it makes. If I make a roasted vegetable soup, I simply puree the soup with an immersion blender and then strain over a bowl, while pushing down gently with a spoon. This method takes out all the tough bits of veggie and gives the soup a nice, smooth texture. Add back to the pan and continue heating and if you'd like, add a bit of milk or cream to taste! Voila! Yummy, silky, creamy soup!

Making good stock for soup is easy to do but it IS time consuming, but so worth it for the superior flavor over store-bought stock. La Diva has come a loooong way from the days when she just threw meat and carrots into a pot to boil.

When making a broth for soup, add the vegetables you want to eat in the soup the last 45 minutes of cooking. When making a stock or a bean or pea soup, I start using a quartered white onion, celery, carrot and bay leaves for flavoring to the bones. After slowly simmering the stock to get good flavor and color, I strain the soup using a colander over a large bowl. I put the strained broth back into the pot and then add the cut up veggies and cook until tender.

If I'm making a bean soup, I cook the beans separately and then cook the stock with the bones and cooking vegetables. Once I get flavored stock, I take out the bones and cooking vegetables (if they are still in one piece!) and THEN add the beans to cook down more and finally the veggies to cook last. I can't tell you how many times when I first started cooking that I ended up with mushy veggies before I finally learned this bit of common cooking sense!

Roasting adds more flavor: instead of just chucking a chicken and some veggies into water for chicken soup, try roasting the chicken and veggies first. Roasting brings out the food's natural sugars and sweetness and will contribute to a more flavorful soup. Sometimes La Diva cheats and buys a pre-roasted chicken to make my stock. I take all the meat off and set aside and then cook the bones and a bit of skin with some cooking vegetables. Don't use all the chicken skin, it will add too much fat to the broth. You'll get a very rich stock much quicker than if you simply boiled the chicken and vegetables. You can also roast other meat bones and shanks before making stock too. Try it and see the difference yourself!

I also always brown onions, celery, carrots and green peppers for risottos, casseroles, meatloaf or chili for the same reason. You'll eke out a lot more flavor from those veggies than just throwing them raw into the mix! Think about it: raw onions and carrots in soup are just boiled onion and carrot. But browned and caramelized onion and carrot will add sweetness and a rich hue.



Moist meatloaf and meat-a-balls

My Polish Great Auntie Irene always told me: "If the meat mixture is nice and moist before cooking, it will be moist and delicious after cooking!" Truer words were never spoken. La Diva always makes her meatloaf and meatballs moist to the point of just barely being able to be held together. If I have time, I try and use freshly made breadcrumbs. As I stated above, I always caramelize my onions, celery, etc. before adding to my meatloaf. No one wants to bite into a huge chunk of undercooked onion!

Another trick La Diva employs for moist meatballs is to use ricotta cheese with ground chicken or turkey meatballs. The cheese will add a lovely and light texture to meatballs for soup. This will take your meatballs from tough to tantalizingly tender!

Follow the recipe


What is it about us cooks that when we get a recipe we have to change it immediately? Such was the case with my sister when she asked me for my simple but delicious coleslaw recipe. She used Miracle Whip instead of real mayonnaise, she used pre-cut cabbage out of a bag instead of cutting a fresh cabbage herself and she didn't grate the onion but omitted it all together. Then she calls me up and says, "That coleslaw recipe you gave me sucked." Really? How did you make it? She didn't follow my recipe and took shortcuts and didn't use the same ingredients, so naturally, the coleslaw did not taste like mine.

Sometimes, you CAN'T take shortcuts, its the simple things that make the recipe taste so good. If it's a recipe from a cookbook or online, I will follow it exactly the first time and if it needs tweaking, I'll take notes for the next time. SOME recipes are poorly written to begin with and simply need to be abandoned! (like those stupid salted maple cookies I made. blech!) If that's the case, La Diva will rewrite the recipe herself once I have a taste of the outcome.



Better living through chemicals does not apply to food

Darlings, please don't use fat free, low fat, or fake sweetener products to cook or bake with. Back in the 1980's, La Diva was on a huge health kick! I was constantly trying to cut down on my white sugar consumption and also was cutting out calories here and there by using fat-free cream cheese or low-fat sour cream or artificial sweetener. Needless to say, once the dish was completed, it didn't taste quite right. The low-fat sour cream in my Hungarian chicken paprikash had separated and was now an unappetizing, lumpy mess.

I also tried making low fat, sugar-free cheesecakes with non-fat or low-fat cream cheese and artificial sweetener. Big mistake! They tasted horrible, with a chemical after taste and the texture was all wrong. It made me realize that there is a science to cooking food and the fat is there for a reason!

While some recipes can be easily adapted to reduce the amount of fat without sacrifice, I always follow the recipes, especially for baking, just as they are written and just eat less. The dish tastes so much better, the way it was intended, and after all, how can one make a low fat cheesecake?



A good cook will never stop learning! And practice is the only way to get better at it! In fact, watching America's Test Kitchen just the other day, La Diva learned something else that makes perfect sense: reduce your wine before cooking with it for concentrated flavor.

Darlings are you making any of these mistakes? Are you trying to save time by omitting steps? I hope that now you'll see the reasoning behind what seems like time-wasting steps and that these are just some of the little extra things La Diva does to make my dishes come out with the right texture and taste. What little tricks and steps do YOU take? La Diva wants to hear all about it!

THIS POST IS DEDICATED TO BUZZKILL who valiantly conquers the kitchen on a daily basis to feed his hungry brood! And to Making Space who gets an "A" for effort for challenging herself with Dim Sum Sunday!

Ciao for now, darlings! Only three days to go before I jet off downunder!!!

Comfort in the Cold: Dim Sum Sunday Soup!

Darlings, I don't expect any pity. Really, I don't. But, it HAS been a very chilly winter here in Miami and Florida in general. The last few days saw the thermometer dropping again with temperatures in the 50's during the day and down to the 40's at night. And to make matters worse, La Diva is losing her tan!!!

Yeah, I know, boo-freakin'-hoo.

Still, when one gets acclimated to mild Southern winters, those temperatures seem cold. I mean, we couldn't just lounge about outside with our guests on Saturday night like we usually do when we barbecue on the bay as the blowing wind and cooler air had us all huddling 'round the fire! And forget about swimming in the pool like we had planned, it was just too darn cold!

Yeah, I know, boo-freakin'-hoo.

So what's La Diva's point? The point is, it's perfect weather, even in Florida, for some nice, hot, comforting soup!



Living in the middle of the frigid tundra known as The Midwest, Dim Sum Sunday hostess The Great Shamu chose this week's theme of "Hot Steamy Soup" hoping that a big bubbling pot would finally warm her cold, winter-weary bones!

As per usual, my CSA dictates the kind of soup I'll make and La Diva found herself with some lovely petite red skinned potatoes and some gorgeous spinach. I thought about the combo and suddenly, La Diva had a baconization inspiration!


The Great Shamu shoveling her sidewalk...again.

I started off by cooking six slices of thick bacon in the oven over a rack and used the drippings to saute a diced white onion, stalk of celery and garlic. I cooked this for about 10 minutes and then I added the peeled and cubed potatoes, 32 oz. of good quality chicken stock and simmered for about 25 minutes. I chopped the cooled bacon into nice, bite-size pieces.

Meanwhile, I washed and chopped the spinach and green onions.

I wonder if the Chicago Blackhawks would let Shamu borrow their snow shoveler?

Once the potatoes were cooked through, I then took half of the soup out and put aside and blended the other half with an immersion blender. I poured the chunky potato broth back in and then added the bacon, saving a bit for the garnish. I cooked on a low heat and adjusted the seasonings with salt and white pepper and then added a nice knob of butter and about a half cup of cream.

Finally, I added the chopped spinach and allowed it to wilt for five minutes before serving it up garnished with extra bacon, spinach chiffonade and the green onions.


La Diva's photo with her tired ol' camera. DJ Nevah L8 is not home yet.....and it's doubtful he'll be wanting to play food photographer when he finally gets home. So, we'll have to wait just a leetle bit longer for shots from the new camera.

RESULT: OH COME ON NOW. You KNOW it was divine. La Diva baconized it, so it HAD to be good! Since La Diva was meant to cook this yesterday, I had a day old loaf of French bread so instead of the usual bread and butter, La Diva made some crunchy, healthy fresh tomato bruschetta to help assauge my creamy, buttery baconized guilt.

Go on over to the Karmic Kitchen
to see what everyone else made for their Hot Steamy Soup entry! Ciao, darlings, and do try and stay warm. La Diva is off to the pool.....
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The Nevah L8 Files: Eats Beats & Cleats 2010


Darlings, as La Diva slaved away in her kitchen the day before her class last Friday before Superbowl Saturday, my personal deejay and sidekick DJ Nevah L8 also had his hands full producing and emceeing the "Eats, Beats and Cleats" Super Bowl event on Miami Beach's Lincoln Road mall. Billed as a "celebration of sports" along with food and music, it was voted best Super Bowl party on the beach!


Animated and energetic, Ingrid 'splains all about turning sliders into scrumptious bites. Nevah L8 told me she was funny and abusing her lazy sous chefs!


HOT local Latina chef Ingrid Hoffman of Food Network's "Simply Delicioso" was on hand to demonstrate her muy sabroso sliders that she slings in her movable kitchen, the Latin Burger and Taco truck that made its debut in Miami a few months ago. La Diva REALLY wanted to come and see her and hoped to meet her but....


DJ Nevah L8 (4 dinnah) and local celebrity chef Ingrid Hoffman, beaming away after her cooking demonstration.


Boston Chef Todd English was on hand after Ingrid to demonstrate a paella of "poor man's lobster" aka monkfish and then doled it out to the hungry (and most likely drunk!) on-lookers. I have to admit, La Diva has not ever seen his cooking show on PBS OR has watched him flogging his wares on HSN or has eaten at his restaurants, but Nevah L8 told me he was an excellent presenter with a good sense of humor. It was his idea to put the football in the nasty fish's mouth and kiss it! Brave man. La Diva likes a chef with a good sense of humor. Most of them are sooo up themselves.


Nevah L8 and his new buddy, calm, cool and collected chef Todd English of Olives Restaurant, Boston.


Dhani Jones tackles one fugly monkfish!

When Nevah L8 called La Diva and said to "get your hiney down here STAT," I hesitated. I had so much to do. I had to stop cooking. I had to put on make-ups. I had to clean up and change my clothes. And for the fourth time that day, I had to ride my bike up to Lincoln Road, dodging drunken Saints fans all the way, as parking was non-existent.

Half-listening to Nevah L8 as I fried some meatballs for class, I thought I had heard him say that Todd English had asked him "if he was Australian or New Zealand?" Wow, I thought, he didn't think Nevah L8 was English like most people? Impressed, I chuckled and continued scooping the meatballs.

"So, come DOWN and see this!"

"Nah."

"I gots too much to do to stop now, I'm up to my ears in Thai meatballs. I'd have to get dolled up and ride my bike up there. Besides, I'll be exhausted. Can't do everything."

Nope, I thought. I'm gonna stay focused. Stick to the plan. Yep. That's what people do who have their own business. I'M committed.

La Diva plowed on and found I had completed my lengthy prep list only a few hours later. By 7 pm, I was on the couch with a glass of wine. I looked at the clock and thought to myself: "Damn. I think I could have gone up there for a bit..."

DJ Nevah L8 came home about midnight and downloaded the photos. La Diva looked at them dejectedly and said....

"Um, Dhani was there?"


"Yeah, I told you. I told you to come down. He wasn't sure if I was Australian or New Zealand."

"Oh."

"I thought you said Todd English told you that."

"No! I said DHANI!"

"Dhani Jones asked me that, he's a very well-traveled guy. You love him. You know him, he's on the Travel Channel, he's an ex-NFL football player for the Bengals."

A very crestfallen La Diva said, "Um, yeah, I know."

DA-YUM.

I blew it. I love DHANI!! Jones is the star of "Dhani Tackles the Globe," a series for the Travel Channel in which he learns how to play international sports that are unknown to most Americans. He's so affable, open and so willing to embrace new things, I was so impressed by him when I watched his show. I really admire him! And he's so darn handsome.


Dahani working as Todd English's sous chef: You've got to be pretty brave to cut up squid and monkfish for anyone. But, Dhani IS a pretty tough guy. I've seen his show where he's training and boxing in Thailand, it's pretty impressive how good he is at sports he's never even tried before.


I'm not sure who's more gorgeous: The very affable, knowledgeable and talented Dhani Jones with the very diplomatic, problem-fixer, celebrity-calmer, hard working and sexy-voiced DJ Nevah L8 (4 dinnah)

and nary a Diva to be seen. : (


Muy caliente Puerto Rican R & B pop princess Felicia and her gold lame hot pants-sporting back up dancers. Poor hubby. Having to look at this while working.

Nothing like a heavy Caribbean dub band with Latin over tones to get the drunken (mostly) Saints fans "dancing!" Araka provided an island vibe for the tourists and fans. Oddly enough, Mike, the guitarist with de dreadlocks, was our CSA host for a brief period!


So, the moral of the story is:

PAY ATTENTION to your husband when he's trying to tell you something.

AND


Sometimes it's good to take a break to enjoy yourself and meet people that inspire you.

DA-YUM!