AUGUST NEWSLETTER: Catching up on summer, with new recipes and news from the Delaware shore.


Smartacus and I are welcoming August with a grilled charcuterie board, subbing out the typical aged meats with portobello mushrooms, zucchini and grilled shrimp, then pouring it on a giant cutting board as you would a typical charcuterie tray, along with the standard cheeses, nuts and oily olives.

You heard it here first, folks: the grilled charcuterie board, the Californication of what has become an American bistro standard. As you know, it’s often a ripoff at a restaurant, with a few slices of aged meats, thin as a honeymoon negligee, a small chunk of cheese, grapes. There’s never enough crackers.

This grilled board will be so much better. Just wish I were still at The Times, for I think I could sell them on a story.

By now, they’ve mostly forgotten – or fired anyone who remembers -- my last food story.

It was on wings, namely turkey wings prepared as you would sports bar chicken wings. Bigger. Bolder. Tougher. Kind of chewy, to be honest. I’m still working on one of them.

Will never forget it. My buddy Irving and I took over the Times Test Kitchen one day and made teriyaki wings, and blue cheese wings, and bourbon-laced-honey-mustard-maple-syrup-brown-sugar-Mick-Jagger wings.

“If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing,” Irv explained at the time.

So that’s what we did.

“Super Wings for the Super Bowl” was the headline, or some such.

Do you see the way I flip conventional thinking on its nose? Now, instead of wings, Smartacus and I are putting a new twist on charcuterie boards.

Lord help me. I need a hobby soooooooo bad.

Yet, I can’t wait for the lovely and patient older daughter to get a glimpse of this baby, for she is the Frank Gehry of charcuterie boards. I mean, the epic trays she puts together (see photo). World class.

Rapunzel puts together a very impressive charcuterie board as well, as does Suzanne. To my mind, you can gauge the inventiveness of a chef by his or her charcuterie board.

As we speak, I’m brushing the shrimp with a sweet Thai chili sauce. Other than that, I have no clue what I’m doing. Which is where Smartacus comes in. To be the fall guy.

This way I can blame him if it goes wrong. Or gush over him when he nails it.

Hail Smartacus, master of the nouveau American cuisine, where fussy food takes a back seat to bulky, beastly satisfaction.

That’s our motto anyway.

Stay tuned for results.


So I’m walking a picket line outside the Radford lot in Studio City. With me: Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker and Virginia Woolf.

Hellava writers’ room, as they say. Hellava picket line.

Because this writers’ strike isn’t just about streaming residuals for the young writers who work in TV. It’s about all the writers and actors, past and present.

To me, AI is the most-dangerous of all the writers’ strike issues. If artificial intelligence takes off like they think, studios will feed all the great works – from Shakespeare to Larry David – into a program that will blend the writers’ cadences, they’re plot devices, their subversive and delicious wit.

Then they will mass-produce storylines like potato chips. Hybrid metaphors will emerge, stunning turns of phrase, a plot twist or two.

Think of AI as a giant ripoff machine. Think of it as the ultimate deux ex machina that will literally devour the literary world.

What’s wrong with that? Is America going to lose much sleep over the plight of overpaid writers and actors?

As they say, Hollywood is the place where people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t need, to impress people they don’t like.

Why should anyone care?

Here’s the catch: Hollywood execs love nothing more than stealing from the past. With AI, everything will be a derivative of everything that has gone before us.

As actress-director Justine Bateman just wrote for Newsweek, AI could even create a new version of the 1980s sitcom “Family Ties” without her or anyone else from the original cast taking part.

So, there I am on the picket line, my WGA career a footnote in the history of the guild, yet a believer in all that it stands for in this four-month labor dispute that could easily last the year.



    Amid the extreme heat and the record rancor, here are a couple of refreshing gin recipes, both of which would pair well with a grilled charcuterie board:

    From reader Judith Burkhartsmeyer

    Muddle 2 strawberries and several mint leaves in a tall glass. Add crushed ice. Generous pour of gin. Fill glass with equal parts grapefruit juice and tonic. Squeeze a slice of lime on top.

    From reader Jill Baer

    Start with Mulholland Gin (over ice). It has notes of lavender, lime and cucumber. Squeeze in fresh lemon and lime juice, then some muddled mint leaves. Add Bubly brand sparkling water (the Pamplemousse, but you could use any sparkling water with a citrus note). Garnish with fruit slices and a sprig of mint.


    Our correspondents report that Catty Cakes is eating ice cream and more ice cream, during her summer adventure on the Delaware shore, along with some boiled crab, followed by more ice cream.

    Between cones, she gazes out to sea, in search of more ice cream. “She looks like a South Bay dad,” Rapunzel quipped.



    Fresh from our latest success, the Gin & Tonic Society of Greater Los Angeles is zeroing in on another terrific venue for our next bash, possibly in Santa Monica. Will send details as plans firm up. Warning: Stay away from the grilled charcuterie tray!

    Questions? Comments? Recipes? Please email me at


    “Cuter by the day. Her, not you.”

    --reader Elaine Beno on me and my granddaughter, the ice cream queen.
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