Archive for December, 2012

Doolie’s Hot Hot Sauce

December 21, 2012 Leave a comment


We had dinner downtown at ART Restaurant two nights ago. (More on that in a forthcoming post.) Along with our entrees, we selected three side dishes, one of which was called “Doolies Hot Sauce Broccolini.” We had no idea who Doolie was.

The server warned us that the broccolini would be hot, which seemed clear enough. I replied that that was good. By the time the broccolini was served, I had completely forgotten that it was going to be hot. Really hot, we discovered. And indeed good.

Yesterday I explored further and discovered that Doolie’s Hot Hot Sauce is a local product. That shouldn’t have been surprising, given the emphasis ART places on its relationships with local purveyors. Still, I had imagined a sauce from Texas. Not at all. The company is in South Seattle, the founder a resident of West Seattle. From the website:

What started as something founder Abdul Mohamud made as a treat for friends and family for game days, parties or just to have with snacks eventually turned into something so good, they HAD to have with every meal! Overtime, the sauce had adopted a new name and became known as Doolie’s Hot Hot Sauce. Eventually, more and more of his friends, his family, even his friends’ families began to ask him for some of this amazingly delicious sauce, using it as a marinade, on pizza, in sandwiches and on burritos, or even just as a dip with chips! With such a high demand for the sauce, Abdul decided to make Doolie’s Hot Hot Sauce available for sale to local businesses, vendors, and plain individuals. Years of practice and perfection, as well as the highest quality of ingredients go into each batch of sauce produced. All of the produce is hand-selected with the highest standards of excellence. All ingredients are fresh and local, supporting the Pacific Northwest community and local farmers. All of this is done ensure that YOU receive the best hot sauce available!

My search also led me to a great piece half a year ago in the West Seattle Herald, where I learned that Mohamud is just a 24-year-old, born in Somalia.

Last year he started a Somali restaurant with his brother, but after six months they were only able to break even and decided to call it quits. There was, however, a silver lining.

Grandma’s hot sauce was served with every meal during their restaurant run, and Mohamud said people started to take note. Customers were stealing bottles from the tables, friends were stealing mom’s homemade batches from his fridge, people were calling in to-go orders for the sauce instead of food … it was clear people really liked the stuff.

At the turn of 2012, Mohamud decided to run with the lustful following Grandma’s sauce had created, applied for the necessary permits to start making it for commercial resale, and started renting time at a commercial kitchen in SoDo. After much trial and error, he was able to recreate Grandma’s flavors in large scale batches and found a way to tone down the heat “for the masses” (he said the original is extremely hot).


Reorder requests are going from a case a week to a case a day, a modest profit is starting to turn, and Mohamud is already scheming future products, including a “GuacaDoolie,” a red sauce, and, eventually, an original version of Grandma’s Recipe with a heat level for adventurous palates.

The Doolie’s website has a recipe for a spicy tuna sandwich that I’m eager to try. We’ll buy a jar and experiment.

Categories: Food

Crossword Constructor Exploitation

December 20, 2012 Leave a comment


I have long wondered how well compensated NYT crossword constructors are. Each day, the paper dutifully prints the name of the puzzle’s constructor. With a magnifying glass you may be able to learn who it is. But Will Shortz always gets top billing, and you’ll have no trouble reading his name. My sense that constructors don’t get their due is confirmed by Ben Tausig in a recent piece (hat tip: Andrew Sullivan).

The financial stakes of the crossword are higher than a casual solver might realize. The New York Times, which runs the most prestigious American crossword series, pays $200 for a daily or $1,000 for a Sunday, which is certainly more generous than its competitors. However, The Times also makes piles of money from its puzzles. Standalone, online subscriptions to the crossword cost $40 a year ($20 for those who already subscribe to the dead-tree edition of the paper). In this 2010 interview, Will Shortz, the paper’s famed puzzle master, estimated the number of online-only subscribers at around 50,000, which translates to $2 million annually.

Meanwhile, The Times buys all rights to the puzzles, allowing them to republish work in an endless series of compendiums like The New York Times Light and Easy Crossword Puzzles. In that same interview, Shortz called these “about the best-selling crossword books in the country.” All royalties go to the New York Times Company, the constructor having signed away—as is the industry standard—all of his or her rights. Visitors to will also be familiar with the crossword merchandise—mugs, shirts, calendars, pencils, and the like—pitched aggressively by the paper, and perhaps also with the 900 number answer line, which still makes some money from a presumably less Google-minded segment of solvers. Finally, the crossword has a significant impact on overall circulation. Lots of people buy the paper, or even subscribe, in whole or part because of the puzzle.

Tausig makes clear that his beef isn’t with Shortz, who has been a steady advocate for higher constructor pay. It’s with the Sulzbergers.

The crossword business needs its Curt Flood and its Marvin Miller. Yes, not a perfect analogy. But in the knowledge economy, the content creators deserve more. Royalties at the least.

Categories: Business, Crosswords

Burgundy at Home

December 19, 2012 Leave a comment


Here are the ingredients:

1. Attend the annual fundraising dinner for your favorite museum, buy anonymous (wrapped in paper) bottles of wine in the “wine grab,” discover that you are the owner of a 2000 Morey-Saint-Denis premier cru from the Monts-Luisants vineyard.

2. Have some beef in the refrigerator that needs cooking.

3. Pick up your son at the airport late the night before, thereby bringing one more appreciative eater and drinker into the house.

4. Have the wisdom 27 1/2 years ago to marry a good cook, wait 21 years for her to attend culinary school, wait another few years for conditions 1 through 3 to fall into place.

Combine and produce a Burgundy evening at home.

Last night, Gail made beef bourguignon: beef, carrots, onions, parsley, mashed potato, and lots of wine in the sauce. Accompanying it was our 2000 Burgundy. A green salad followed, and then poached pear (with a second helping of the beef in between). Too bad I didn’t take pictures of the salad and pear. Everything was delicious, and a feast for the eyes as well.

No need to go to France, or Rover’s*, when we can eat like this at home. Thank you, Gail.

*Rover’s, Seattle’s great French restaurant, just down the street from us, will close next April, as owner-chef Thierry Rautureau announced last week. Luc, his restaurant next door, will continue, and he has other ventures in mind.


Categories: Family, Food

The Expats

December 16, 2012 Leave a comment


I didn’t expect to be slumming it with a thriller like this, Chris Pavone’s The Expats. But here I am, a hundred pages in. I finished Robert Sullivan’s My American Revolution yesterday afternoon, downloaded the free portion of The Expats last night—about 20 pages—and read it before going to sleep. On awaking this morning, I downloaded the rest and continued.

Why The Expats? A couple of days ago, a New Yorker blog post appeared with the title Best Books of 2012. In it, selected New Yorker contributors listed up to three of their favorite books. There were some familiar choices. Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies. Robert Caro’s The Passage of Power. Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers. Another had such a striking description, courtesy of Louis Menand, that I would have downloaded it on the spot if it were an e-book.

The best new book I read last year, in fact the best new book I’ve read in many years, is Jorie Graham’s Place, which is a book of poems, but which need not be approached as such. It can be approached as a book by a person who has something to say, and, since she happens to be a poet, says it in poetry—in the same way that Lucretius and Dante had something to say, and also said it in poetry. What Lucretius and Dante had to say was: “This is how the universe is, and, given that, this is what life, human life, your life, really is.” Except that Graham is not interested in the universe, which is a vertiginous abstraction; she’s interested in the planet whose air we breathe and on whose roads we walk. That’s her “place.” She’s also not interested in the way things have been and forever will be; she’s interested in the way things are now, in this lifetime, at this moment. … read “Place.” You will read it more than once.

And then there was Malcolm Gladwell’s selection. I’m no Malcolm Gladwell acolyte, but what he wrote intrigued me.

I loved Mischa Hiller’s Shake Off. I picked it up entirely by accident. I’d never heard of Hiller before, and the book absolutely blew me away. The only thriller this year that even came close was Chris Pavone’s The Expats, but Hiller’s novel has the benefit of mining every trope of the thriller genre while being absolutely original at the same time. I will read anything by Hiller from now on.

So here I am, reading The Expats. Why not Shake Off? That’s a puzzle. I don’t know. I looked into both, and The Expats got the nod.

It is sweeping me along. Not the most elegant prose, but the plot’s the thing, and it has snared me. Mantel and Boo will continue to wait.

Categories: Books

Seventy-One Years

December 16, 2012 Leave a comment


I’m two days late with this one. On Friday, my parents celebrated their 71st anniversary. They don’t get out much anymore, but they did for this occasion, heading 30 blocks down the street to their favorite New York French restaurant (pictured below).


I spoke to them just after they got home. They had a lovely meal. Congratulations, Mom and Dad.

Categories: Family

My American Revolution

December 16, 2012 Leave a comment


A few weeks ago, while reading Ian Rankin’s Standing in Another Man’s Grave, I downloaded the free portion of Robert Sullivan’s new book, My American Revolution and started it. Sam Roberts’ Sunday NYT review appeared a couple of days later, confirming that I made a good choice. Once I finished the Rankin novel, I returned to it.

But not for long. As I explained in my post on Matt Dellinger’s Interstate 69: The Unfinished History of the Last Great American Highway, that’s the book I really wanted to read, and so I did. Then I stumbled on two more books, thanks to various end-of-year book lists, and read them too. (See here and here.) Finally, while proctoring a final exam on Wednesday morning, I got absorbed in My American Revolution.

What’s it about? I’ll quote from Roberts’ review.

Sullivan has written a provocative Baedeker for a landscape of loss, Gen. George Washington’s route from Brooklyn to “the very first Middle America” and back — the states that, Richard Brookhiser once said, can be traversed by jet plane on the New York-Washington shuttle in 20 minutes, but where the American Revolution raged for much of its seven years.

We may never learn for certain what Sullivan himself is revolting against, but it’s a good bet that convention and linearity are among his targets. He approaches them with gusto, not only chronicling re-enactments of “Washington Crossing the Delaware,” but embarking on his own 33-mile march to Morristown, N.J., in the Continental Army’s footsteps and engaging a retinue of game wingmen in replicating Washington’s triumphal return to New York by barge from Elizabeth.


Sullivan’s travels (a map would have been helpful) are recounted in appetizing bite-size morsels, often delivered with knowing asides to his reading audience and accompanied by extended footnotes. No pebble is left unturned. In his note on sources regarding John Honeyman, who may or may not have been a Colonial spy, Sullivan volunteers that Honeyman’s New Jersey house was near the home of George Harsh, whose exploits as a World War II prisoner of war partly inspired the film “The Great Escape” — as well as a riveting half-page biography by Sullivan.

Rarely are an author’s self-­deprecating and sometimes sheepish introspections (on his aching back, say) and virtually irrelevant digressions (a painting of Gowanus Bay, we’re told, is available on the Web site of the state library of Tasmania) so beguiling. Nor are most families of a boots-on-the-ground observer so forbearing. During one escapade, his daughter stands guard in the music room of a school in Brooklyn while the author positions himself in the Watchung Mountains of New Jersey with a Boy Scout mirror to replicate a Revolutionary scout’s alarm. “Looking out the window at a distant hill where your father was signaling from a Revolutionary War vantage point and not seeing the signal,” Sullivan allows, “is not the kind of thing that wins you respect among your middle school peers.”

Roberts concludes, “What a trip!”

It’s too bad I didn’t have this book 25 years ago, when we lived in Princeton for a year. We made regular weekend drives to nearby New Jersey’s Washington Crossing State Park, and would have been far better informed with Sullivan as our guide. Not to mention having him along in Princeton itself, or Trenton, or Quaker Bridge Mall, all of which are part of his story.

Like Sullivan, we traveled from Princeton to Morristown. But Sullivan did it on foot, in winter, trying to follow as best he could the route of Washington and his troops, arriving at the site where they would spend a historically cold winter, not far from where his parents were living. We drove. And we were oblivious to the history of the route. We just wanted to get to the US Golf Association Museum (“home to an extensive collection of artifacts from the great players of the past to current stars like Annika Sorenstam and Tiger Woods”). Or I did. The rest of the family may not have shared my enthusiasm.

After the museum, we walked around Morristown, saw some historical markers. And we wanted to stop in at Morristown National Historic Park. Maybe we did. I don’t even remember. But I know the sun was going down, we were getting cold, it was late, and we were out of time. According to the website, “Morristown National Historical Park commemorates the sites of General Washington and the Continental army’s winter encampment of December 1779 to June 1780, where they survived through what would be the coldest winter on record.”

Roberts mentions the “bite-size morsels” that make up the book. At first, I found this a bit of a distraction, as Sullivan jumped around between short historical treatments and recountings of his own travels. Eventually, I got into the rhythm of it. I especially enjoyed the later sections of the book, in which Sullivan discusses the Battle of Brooklyn (which preceded the Delaware crossing, Battle of Princeton, march to Morristown, and Morristown winter, the book’s chronology not matching the war’s).

Sullivan’s exploration of New York’s harbor is fascinating. Between his water journeys from Brooklyn to Manhattan (retracing Washington’s evacuation) and from Elizabeth to Wall Street (again paralleling Washington, on his way to New York for his presidential inauguration), we learn that setting out into the harbor isn’t so easy. There’s limited water access, and there’s a presumption that if you’re sailing around the harbor in a small vessel, you’re up to no good. Sullivan’s insights into contemporary New York and New Jersey are as enjoyable as the historical passages.

I just remembered that what tipped me off to the book was a short review in the New Yorker in late October, which describes it as “historically fascinating and deeply personal.” Good book, especially if you have an interest in the history and geography of the region.

Categories: Books, History, Travel

Museum of Math

December 13, 2012 Leave a comment


MoMath, the Museum of Mathematics, opens on Saturday in Manhattan. From the press release last September:

The only math museum in the US, MoMath strives to enhance public understanding and perception of mathematics in daily life. The Museum’s dynamic, interactive exhibits and programs geared for families and adults will present mathematical experiences that are designed to stimulate inquiry, spark curiosity, and reveal the wonders of math.

Spearheaded by Glen Whitney, a hedge fund manager turned mathematics advocate, MoMath will fulfill the incredible demand for hands-on math programming, creating a space where those who are math-challenged — as well as math enthusiasts of all backgrounds and levels of understanding — can revel in their own personal realm of the infinite world of mathematics through state-of-the-art interactive exhibitions.

MoMath will consist of a suite of newly-created exhibits, following on the heels of the successful Math Midway, a popular traveling exhibition that offers an interactive, hands-on tour of mathematical concepts in a carnival-style pop-up. The Math Midway launched in NYC in 2009, and has been making the rounds throughout the country for the past three years. The overwhelmingly positive response to the Math Midway convinced Glen Whitney that he and his team were onto something – that math exhibits could indeed attract an audience, as well as inspire participants of all ages to learn. Those who enjoyed the Math Midway will be delighted to know that its marquee exhibit, Pedal on the Petals, in which visitors ride a square-wheeled tricycle over a sunflower-shaped track, will be featured in the new museum, taking its place among two stories of innovative new offerings.

The opening gala took place last night.

Edward Rothstein’s previews MoMath in tomorrow’s NYT:

For those of us who have been intoxicated by the powers and possibilities of mathematics, the mystery isn’t why that fascination developed but why it isn’t universal. How can students not be entranced? So profound are the effects of math for those who have felt them, that you never really become a former mathematician (or ex-mathematics student) but one who has “lapsed,” as if it were an apostasy.


The goal … was to show that math was fun, engaging, exciting. MoMath is a proselytizing museum. And despite its flaws, it is exhilarating to see math so exuberantly celebrated. … The reason that there haven’t been many math museums is that the enthusiasm the subject inspires is not easily communicated and not readily discovered. In the United States, where student math performance is far from stellar, it is easy to see why a compensatory straining at “fun” is more evident than a drive toward illumination.

To attract the uninitiated, a display must be sensuous, readily grasped and memorable. Yet the concepts invoked are often abstract, requiring reflection and explanation. How are these opposing needs to be reconciled? With widely varying results. When I visited the museum twice this week not every display was completed, but the exhibits covered a broad spectrum of achievement. Many on the higher end of that range should be celebrated; much on the lower should be scrutinized and brought up to grade level.

So first, celebrate: in many of these exhibits the physical sensation of being immersed in a world shaped by a mathematical idea will have lasting resonance.

Having spent years trying to immerse students in worlds shaped by mathematical ideas, aiming for resonance, I’m eager to see how MoMath succeeds.

Categories: Math, Museums