Would you take on Sophia Loren?

…On the proper recipe for Pasta Fagioli no less? Well, Deana Martin did exactly that!

While interviewing Ms Martin for the Holiday Chat with Deana Martin article, we had a sidebar discussion about learning to cook her dad’s favorite dish — Grandma Angela’s Pasta Fagioli — and a little “cultural exchange” she had with Sophia Loren.

Standing toe-to-toe…

…Deana and Italian cultural icon Sophia (“everything you see I owe to spaghetti”) Loren jousted over the proper ingredients for the classic Italian dish. Oh, to be a fly on the wall for that exchange!

Well, the next best thing is Deana’s side of the story below. Check it out … as well as Angela’s recipe and my review of the dish below. [Read more…]


photo: John Griffeth

I was lucky enough…

…to catch up with Deana Martin for a phone chat the Sunday before Thanksgiving. This was a VS bucket list event for me, and Deana turned out to be every bit as lovely and charming in person as she appears on stage!

Deana was packing for a trip to LA to visit family and to kick off her holiday tour at the Catalina Jazz Club the day after Thanksgiving; she was nice enough to carve an hour out of her very busy schedule for an interview that was both a great deal of fun and informative.

Did I mention Deana is a busy lady? Following the Catalina gig, Deana whirlwinded her way through tour stops in Florida and Ohio, and this week makes her way to Las Vegas for a guest appearance in The Dennis Bono Show on Thursday (12/13) at South Point Casino followed by two nights headlining at The Smith Center (14th & 15th).

But before she hit the road…

… we talked about: her dad Dean (of course), the holidays, Christmas music and recording “White Christmas” with Andy Williams (sadly what turned out to be Andy’s final recording), Deana’s interesting career path, food, Uncles Frank & Sammy, growing up in a Rat Pack/Hollywood styled  “Camelot”, her exhausting performance schedule … we covered a lot of ground!

With Christmas fast upon us, and the special poignancy of the Christmas holiday in Deana’s life — especially this year — I thought I’d offer up the holiday portion of my conversation with Ms. Martin for your seasonal reading pleasure. So grab something mulled or ‘noggy and join me for my chat with Deana Martin! [Read more…]


Deana Martin was nice enough…

…to “sit down” with me for an interview yesterday afternoon.

OK it was actually a phone interview, but Deana took time out of her busy “get away” travel prep (she’s headed to L.A. for a “day after Thanksgiving” show at The Catalina Jazz Club) to spend some time with me discussing a myriad of topics.

It was a great fun fill hour+ for me … chock full of stories about her dad (Dean), Rat Pack anecdotes, what it was like growing up Dean Martin’s daughter and warm holiday tales.

We touched on Deana’s path back to the Great American Songbook, the poignant father-daughter relationship captured in her top selling book Memories Are Made Of This and the soon to come biopic based on the book … Deana’s fascination with flying and even some cool food and cooking stories that I’ll serve up on DiningwithTheRatPack.

The real reason I HAD to interview Deana…

After only a year in circulation, I’ve come to cherish Ms. Martin’s 2011 White Christmas holiday CD release (original VS review here). With Andy William’s sad passing last summer, I really wanted to catch Deana and ask what it was like working with Andy on — what turned out to be his final recording — their duet performance of the title track, Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas”.

Deana shared the emotion of that day and much, much more with me yesterday … and I will share the holiday slice of her interview with you when we revisit Deana’s White Christmas LP towards the middle of next month.

Keep an eye out … it’s a great interview!


We spun up a Dean Martin fest…

… last weekend while I dove into an interesting recipe I snagged off the web — Rigatoni with Roasted Cauliflower and Spicy Tomato Sauce from herbivoracious.com.

Actually, my Zite aggregator snared the recipe for me … finding out the recipe comes from a vegetarian cooking blog explains some of the recipe’s shortcomings — one of which I fixed … and one I did not.

As you read though the recipe, you’ll see that basically this is a spicy tomato cream alla vodka sauce embellished with roasted cauliflower and green olives. The nutty roasted cauliflower was very nice; but channeling Dean Martin … leave the olives in the martinis palie!

I love green olives and look for ways to cook them into view … tagines, paellas, osso bucco and countless “pantry pasta” and puttanesca variations.

But the sauce in this rigatoni recipe is more of a luscious creamy tomato alla vodka sauce and the picante flavor of the green olives “break” the sauce — on the palate if not actually in the dish. To be clear, the sauce does not actually break but the olives strike an incongruous chord against the pureed creamy tomato sauce consistency. [Read more…]


Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin AND Bing Crosby…

…singing with Nelson Riddle and his orchestra; together delivering a raft of musical numbers written by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen — I mean, how could this NOT be one of the best Rat Pack pictures!

(Actually, with the help of the Feds enforcing the Motion Picture Production Code it was a near thing — but we’ll get to that later.)

Robin and the Seven Hoods is an oft overlooked Rat Pack Era classic musical that I myself have been overlooking for quite a few years.

A month or so back, with my wife off visiting her folks and me with a weekend night to kill, I loaded R7H into my DVD player, poured myself three fingers of Scotch and had a blast re-discovering this fun film.

Watching the Rat Pack principals strut their stuff in this loose retelling of “Robin Hood” as a stylized 30’s gangster musical is a kick on it’s own.

But intersperse a slew of Cahn/Van Heusen songs — written just for the movie — including classics like “My Kind of Town” and  “Style” and you have a bonafide Rat Pack classic! [Read more…]


Put on some great Rat Pack music…

… mix up your favorite libations, grill off some glorious chunks of red meat and hit the pool for some fun with … uh, friends this weekend!

Without a pool at the VS studio complex, I don’t think we will quite achieve the good times “bar” set by Dean and Ann Margret … we’ll just have to make up for it with the food and booze!

In all seriousness, enjoy a fun and safe holiday weekend, and if you get a chance, stop by the Red Cross website and toss them a donation for the folks along the Gulf Coast that will not be having much fun this weekend.

Isaac may not have been Katrina…

…but it still knocked the stuffing out of a lot of folks down there.

With many people in shelters and power outages across the region, my guess is that there won’t be a lot of burgers and brats on the grill in the aftermath of the storm.

So have too much food, just the right amount of drink and mucho fun with the family this weekend … but if you get a chance, take just a minute or so to remember the people struggling in the wake of Isaac and visit the fine folks at the Red Cross to help out.

Happy Labor Day!


A day late …

Sorry for missing yesterday Deana. I spent your birthday driving through the desert and winging my way home after seeing Robert Davi deliver a great performance at Soboba Casino Saturday night — part two of my Davi-Luca Ellis “LA swing“.

Home now, exhausted and belated but still want to offer Deana congrats and “Happy Birthday” wishes.

I’m committed to seeing her on stage sometime in 2012. We have Tony Bennett coming up next month and then I  plan to dial in one of Deana’s holiday shows in New York.

In the mean time…

Deana recently shared a great anecdote about her “formal” singing lessons that I found fascinating. It was part of a NY Post interview piece Ms. Martin did with Frank Scheck  last week (here).

The details of the singing instruction itself was very interesting, but the light this sidebar piece shed on the basic make-up of both her father, Dean and Frank Sinatra was amazing. [Read more…]


When I heard…

Jonny Blu was cutting a ukulele album, I have to admit I figured it for probably a very fun, but lightweight release … more of an EP with maybe half a dozen numbers heavier on schtick than production value.

I was on the money regarding the fun, but could not have been more off base on the production quality of The Ukulele Experience, Vol. One. Jonny delivered a serious LP with this Dao Feng Music release.

Not serious in the academic sense — like say, a flight of Mozart’s best ukulele concertos — but serious from the standpoint that this is a supremely polished and well conceived LP release.

Jonny does a “seriously” good job creatively re-envisioning and arranging a wildly diverse set of songs for (wait for it) … yup, the ukulele.

Now if someone had just warned JB about the hazards of white linen pants and water .. yikes! [Read more…]