Friday, January 30, 2009

Al Jarreau On My Radio Show

I usually air my radio show on Thursday evenings. However, next week I will be broadcasting on Monday from 3p.m. to 4:30 p.m. (EST). Al Jarreau is my guest as we will be shmoozing about his career and upcoming concert at the Nokia Theatre in Manhattan. Ashford & Simpson are also on the bill for the concert on February 15th.

Nutrisystem Update

Last night I interviewed Lynn Schulman on my radio show, Whirl With Merle on Lynn lost bunches of weight with the Nutrisystem plan. We chatted about the food, exercise and the temptations...not the singing group. Her biggest temptation was to have a pizza with tempura shrimp atop. We later chatted ala phone to talk about our lives and how it related to food. We both have a few foods in common. The love of bacon! Growing up it was basically two slices...but then there begat the breakfast buffet. This prompted me to sing, "Just a fist full of bacon helps the medicine go down, in the most delightful way". How about lox? You got about a quarter of a slice and broke it up in pieces to put on your bagel. Then there came the day that you went to a restaurant and got more than two slices. Just the idea of getting "your own slice" was amazing enough. Today, I do my best to avoid these two delights.

I started the Meal Planner and Walking exercise video. Food's okay.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Am I The Biggest Loser?

As I continue from last week’s article that included Nutrisystem and Nu-Kitchen, I have just completed a flank steak with string beans and coconut rice dinner from Nu-Kitchen. In case you missed it, this company delivers fresh meals each day. The meals from Nu-Kitchen have been quite tasty and easy enough to reheat…except for the salads or if I desire my dessert cold.

One of my biggest problems in regards to eating at home is that I tend to make a larger portion than my body requires. It’s about boredom, sadness, happiness…a reason to eat. With food tasting as good as it does, my taste buds, vs my stomach, wants more. My own meals are cooked “from scratch” and resort to frozen fruits and vegetables when needed. My breakfast, when having dry cereal is one from Nature’s Path, organic and with lots of fiber. There is no way that I can consume milk that is lower than 1% fat. Tuna fish from a can? Have you ever really looked at the ingredients of “tuna in water”? I have found a few brands that are just that.

I have been watching “The Biggest Loser” and for the life of me cannot understand how people that weigh much more than I do can run. Athletes, yes…but not these people. I have a treadmill at home that I will be utilizing (No, I have never used it to hang clothing) it. Cutting down on portion sizes and calories may assist in weight loss, but there apparently has to be more exercise in my life than going up and down the stairs to pee (My bathroom is not on the same floor that I hang out on). I also have this thing about not hanging onto at least one handle of the treadmill for fear that I’ll automatically walk backwards and fall. And so, I will commit myself (No, not to a sanitarium) to walking 30 minutes each day…unless I’m walking 30 minutes outside.

Well, here I am with Nu-Kitchen as I began last Wednesday with breakfast consisting of a blueberry muffin, fresh berry jam and yogurt. Lunch got me a grilled chicken salad, chocolate chip cookie for dessert (which I had with a glass of milk), dinner sporting a Moroccan grilled lamb chop with honey and almond and my snack of a Mizuna salad with jicima, carrots and sesame vinaigrette. I made an effort to down lots of water and four cups of rooibos tea.

One of the issues I have with both Nu-Kitchen and Nutrisystem (as with most meal plans that you do not cook yourself) is the reheating as I do not have a microwave or toaster oven. I certainly do not want to heat up the oven that came with the stove. For a while I was reheating in a pan until yesterday when I decided to take out my NuWave oven (another Nu). I can’t begin to tell you how sooooooo much better this gadget is!!

Unless you make a special request, Nu-Kitchen meals are not delivered on the weekends. Having samples of Nutrisystem’s meals, Saturday’s fare was of the packaged ilk while Sunday’s was from the frozen. Saturday’s lineup? Frosted Cereal for breakfast of which I added frozen blueberries and milk. Ham and bean soup was my lunch. Meatballs and Rotini in a tomato sauce was dinner, adding a cup of asparagus. I chose a brownie as my dessert.
I began with a glass of V-8 juice with Sunday’s breakfast of a turkey and egg salad sandwich. Lunch choice was a chicken fajita melt that I added asparagus and artichoke hearts to (artichokes were frozen and plain). Not wanting to eat too much wheat, I had cooked up some brown rice as a substitute for any bread. Peach crisp and a glass of milk was my dessert.

My concern about the food is the additives and preservatives. I called the company to speak with both a counselor and dietician. All are approved and am told that it doesn’t mount to a great deal. Considering those who eat frozen meals and other foods with this stuff, I don’t think it will affect me.

Nu-Kitchen allows you to choose your meals from a list of what is offered that week. Nutrisystem does the same for a 28-day plan. I asked the counselor to email me a list of those meals that contain a sugar alcohol, which can sometimes bother my tummy. I also asked for a list of those that contain garlic, as my poor tummy does not do well on what I believe to be powered vs fresh garlic. Products that did not contain wheat were also requested.

Next. Nutrisystem has a plan for men and women. The packaged or frozen meals are not of a higher or lower calorie count, nor quantity of food for either. You have to add food to Nutrisystem’s daily plan that includes vegetables, greens, milk, and even protein. Thus a snack may be a salad of greens and vegetables with 2 ounces of tuna. The men’s plan adds more carbohydrates and an extra dessert.

I went back to Nu-Kitchen until Wednesday. The packet for the Nutrisystem’s Women’s Plan arrived with a guide, meal planner to write a daily log and a DVD called Woman’s Walk...”the fun way to walk away the extra weight…at home!”

I’m not going to say that I loved everything I ate so far. I’m out to be the biggest loser and do not want to resort to pills, shakes or going to the gym for that matter. Thursday, the 29th, I will be interviewing a woman who has lost much weight using Nutrisystem on my radio show, Whirl With Merle on . Jackson Hole, WY will be the travel topic and NY Sharks owner Andra Douglas will chat about the IWFL partnering with USA Football.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Nutrisystem Update

Having a choice of Nutrisystem "shelf" food and Nutrisystem frozen foods. I know that I need to lose weight so, I am willing to sacrifice my gourmet tastes. So far the only thing I really didn't care for with the "shelf" food is something with eggs as I'm used to eating fresh eggs. However, I'm not finding anything distasteful enough that I don't want to eat it. With Nutrisystem I am having to buy some food as well. I don't think that any "shelf" food contains fish, so I will be providing salmon or tuna as an added protein. Needless to say I will be hunting down some fruit, veggies and salad. So far I am putting frozen cherries or blueberries in with my dry cereal.

Nu-Kitchen has fresh meals. The meals are delivered daily and I don't have to add food. The food is much tastier than the Nutrisystem food, but that should be expected. In fact it's quite "gourmet". There I do get fish.

I am drinking lots of water and tea. I love rooibos tea as not only does it have a great flavor but is full of know...the stuff you get from tastes great!

I am now revealing that my weight just before I began this is....199 lbs...the most that I have EVER weighed! What I need now is lots of support!!!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


“It’s my second kitchen”, reveals James Joquico. “My family doesn’t have to cook these authentic Filipino dishes that remind me of being back home and I don’t have to wash dishes afterwards.” He was referring to Mama Meena’s Family Restaurant, located at 94- 20 Jamaica Avenue (718-696-8882), an eatery that is well worth crossing over to the less busy east side of Woodhaven Blvd.

FYI. The Philippines (Filipino: Pilipinas, officially known as the Republic of the Philippines (Republika ng Pilipinas; RP), is an archipelagic country located in Southeast Asia with Manila as its capital city. It comprises 7,107 islands in the western Pacific Ocean, sharing maritime borders with Indonesia, Malaysia, Palau, the Republic of China (Taiwan), and Vietnam. With so many food influences it appears to my palate that the makeup of the various ingredients and spices creates its own gastronomy.

Chickens are only purchased “fresh killed”. “I find it to be the best way to get the most flavor from the chicken and worth the extra cost”, said co-manager Wilhelmina Prego…aka Mama Meena.

I found their menu to be greatly explained except for a few ingredients that I was unfamiliar with. Milkfish is equivalent to silverfish, galunggong is similar to scrod, sinigang is a tamarind broth, miki-bihon are yellow noodles and atsara is pickled vegetables. Having indulged with more than one visit, this is what I sampled.

Chicken Tinola – A big bowl of chicken soup with both white and dark meat chicken parts, sliced ginger, lemongrass, green papaya and pepper leaves. I think this one tops the health value of Jewish Chicken Soup

Beef Sinigang is another big bowl soup creation. This one has beef short ribs (off the bone), and vegetables in a tamarind broth. I’m not sure if the same vegetables are used all the time considering that they are fresh and thus seasonal. Mine had: Japanese eggplant, long string beans, okra, and something leafy. The tamarind fruit is both ind is a sweet and tart. Oh, I forgot to mention the long green chili pepper sitting atop. Crack it open for that added hot spicy flavor.

Appetizers of: Lumpia Shanghai – seasoned ground pork is stuffed into egg roll wrappers and fried. One of MM’s specials, it’s served with a sweet chili sauce; Quikam – ground pork and veggies wrapped in been curd skin, fried and served with the sweet chili sauce. Different textures. Different flavors.

One noodle dish is called Pancit Bihon, rice noodles sautéed with shrimp, chicken and veggies, speaking of which this really great vegetable dish of long string beans and squash was sautéed with coconut milk (Ganitaang Sitaw At Kalabasa).

If you want a late breakfast Ginisang Ampalaya is a great concept. Think of it as going to an omelet station and getting some more unusual items. It’s actually bitter melon with shrimp, pork slices, tomatoes and eggs. If you’ve never had bitter melon, I found that my bitter bud took it a whole lot less bitter than either escarole or collard greens (not that it looked like either of them). .

A popular beef item, Kare-Kare gave oxtail “stew” a new and unconventional taste. The oxtail is cooked in a rich peanut sauce with mixed vegetables. Not being salty (as their food tends not to be), it is served with a sautéed shrimp fry, which could be described more as a thick fish sauce. Small amounts of this add to the already great flavor.

“Sweet and sour” can be sampled with a whole striped fried sea bass. The sweet and sour sauce had a combo of veggies with pineapple that appeared “Hawaiian” style. I found it to be a bit milder than many of the sweet/sour ilk from other restaurants.

Jasmine rice is used and very little salt seems to be added to the cooking. I think that it’s due to your being able to use a salty fish sauce that’s placed at the table the way you might use parmesan cheese in an Italian restaurant, soy sauce in oriental eateries or sumac in a Persian restaurant.

Choices of juices include orange, mango, coconut and one called calamansi, derived from a fruit similar to a key lime. Then there’s this melon drink. Cantaloupe is shredded and put into a tall glass of water, sweetened just a bit, then adding milk and crushed ice.

Sago At Gulaman. That’s their signature cold beverage. A banana essence and caramelized sugar is the base for the taste. You know those pearl looking balls in a bubble tea? Add that plus little squares of a colored but unflavored vegetarian gelatin (vs. Jello, which is made from animal by-products).

Say, “Halo” to their signature dessert. If you think that drink sounds interesting wait until you try the Halo-Halo, which means “mix-mix” in Filipino. Mixed tropical fruit, red and white beans, purple yam, milk and leche flan goes into a deep glass dish and topped with crushed ice. For an extra buck you can get a scoop of ice cream added. The ice cream in my dish was coconut with purple yam. You are given a spoon and straw. In order to truly enjoy this concoction you “mix, mix” and take your time.

Take a plantain, roll it up with jackfruit, fry it and serve it with a scoop of a coconut with purple yam ice cream. This dessert is called Turon A La Mode. You could have recorded “yummy” noises constantly escaping my mouth.

I curiously calculated a satiating five-course shared meal for four people consisting of: two Sago At Gulamans and two melons to drink; a Quikiam and Lumpia Shanghai as an appetizer; one Beef Sinigang for soup; Pancit Bihon and Ginisang Ampalaya as the entrees; and one Halo-Halo with the added scoop of ice cream and two Turon A La Modes for dessert. The price came to about $65 to include tax and gratuity!!!! The menus say that prices are “subject to change without notice”.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Schmidt's Chocolates

I'm lucky enough to have a chocolate store nearby. Schmidt's Chocolates on Jamaica Avenue have been around for 82 years!!! It still maintains that old soda fountain looking style, but due to a fire about 20 years ago, it's just loaded with handmade chocolates. Even most of the centers are handmade, too. Margie Schmidt (as it went down the generations) owns the place and makes most of the chocolates. Many times I go in there just for the smell of it!!! Check out the youtube!

Saturday, January 17, 2009


You've heard about Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon? Well now you can go to and do one linking my name to another movie actor. Just getting ready to start the Nutrisystem livit. You'll soon be seeing a youtube of me of my "before" stage. I'm hopping on the scale tomorrow. Having my last Fairytale Brownie for a long while. Went off to a restaurant, Mama Meena's Family Restaurant for Filipino food. Had chicken soup, grill skewer of chicken and a veggie dish that had long beans, squash and coconut milk. It will be quite a long time before I eat this one....but it was soooooo good. You'll be seeing youtube on this place pretty soon.

Friday, January 16, 2009


Due to US Air's crash landing on the Hudson River, President Bush is issuing his last act of congress before leaving office. It seems that he intends to send troops to Canada having heard that geese from that country were responsible for what he feels is an act of terrorism. Bush has requested the Canadian govt. to turn over the head goose, but it seems that they are not responding. Bush argued that the attack was one of a "Kimasabi", claiming that these geese sacrificed their lives to get down one of our planes. It is believed that Bush had recently gotten around to viewing an old South Park movie.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Nutrisystem On Ice

I attended an event called Nutrisystem on Ice at Rockefeller Center.  It was bitter cold so that ice skating part was nixed for me.  It was all about the latest in Nutrisystem.  I may be taking the challenge on this and do the program as weight loss is much needed.  I'll be posting photos and perhaps youtube.  I mean I have to give a "before" photo.  You can't really tell my weight from sitting down on that cushy chair.  On tomorrow's radio show I'll be munching on a clambake sent from Woodman's a place in Mass that in famous for their fried clams.  No clams to munch but I will dive into a lobster, steamers and chowder and will top the meal with a Fairytale brownie.  THEN I'll have a photo taken.  So, I'm having Dr. Jay Satz a developer of Nutrisystem and a guy named Mark Newhouse who is a co-founder of a place called NuKitchen.  

Monday, January 12, 2009

Can A Sunday Brunch Be Too Pricey?

Garden City Hotel is purported to have the best Sunday Brunch in New York and at one time voted the best in the country. What could command an approximate $80 price? Are the eggs fresh out of the chicken? Do they grow their own wheat for the breads and pastries? 

For a much more tastier and cost conscious way to look at this, reserve the 3:00 p.m. seating while thinking “8-course Sunday Dinner”. How about a Mimosa made with Blanc de blancs Sparkling Wine or Bloody Mary using Absolut Vodka while you’re relaxing or perhaps chatting with your party. 

A plate of fresh fruit becomes your first course consisting of: pineapple, blueberries, cantaloupe, honeydew and grapes with a side of berry dressing. This is followed by a mesculin salad with endive, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, grilled vegetables, artichoke half and feta cheese. 

There are two fish appetizer courses, the first being your choice of sushi, sashimi, and maki rolls. The second is a cold platter of shrimp, snow crab legs, a whole lobster (already broken up for you) and various smoked fish with the works. 

Prime Rib with a side of maple glazed baby carrots is followed by a choice of: Lamb stew with root vegetables; Chicken breast stuffed with spinach and goat cheese accompanied by garlic mashed potatoes; Butternut squash risotto with shrimp and wild mushrooms; or Chorizo crusted tilapia with tomato-cranberry bean ragout. 

A dessert platter arrives with various pastries such as tiramisu, a hazelnut cake, some chocolate offerings and the opportunity to just dip some fruit or whatever in a chocolate fountain. 

You still have that cheese course coming out keeping in mind that most of the cheeses (as does the produce) are local. Can you say, “freshest”? 

Lastly is that cappuccino, latte, espresso or just plain coffee or tea to wash down that meal. 

If that isn’t worth the price as an 8-courser, consider that there’s no limit to either the mimosas or bloody Mary drinks as well as any of the food. 

But wait! That’s not all! Let’s not forget the “breakfasty” items such as the omelet station, waffles with berries and fresh whipped cream, pancakes with real maple syrup, and the chaffing dish of sausages and bacon. Rolls, sweet buns. I also don’t want to leave out an array of cold salads with pasta and such. 

Eat to your stomach’s content. You may even want to take home a “person” bag….NOT! Sorry. You have two hours to enjoy each morsel and not to worry that something will be “gone”. 

Here’s the 101 on the brunch. You have a choice of three rooms. The Rein Restaurant seems less dressy as its “lounge” atmosphere lends itself to a bar and a few televisions. The Polo Restaurant has a more “white glove” appearance. There is a private room in this restaurant, a “wine cellar” in case you have a very large party. Reservations are a MUST! There Sunday Brunch is a sellout! The Garden City Hotel is located at 45 Seventh Street in Garden City (as you may have guessed), Long Island. 516-747-3000.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Polly Bergen

Wow!  Was watching Desperate Housewives and saw Polly Bergen.  She'll be on later this evening...I mean tomorrow morning at 3:30 on the really old To Tell The Truth...the one that had Bud C. as the host. 

Provincetown timeshare rental

I have this fabulous timeshare week in Provincetown that I'd love to rent. Week of June 6 to the 13th. 1-bedroom unit with bath and a half. Place sleeps 4 and has a full kitchen. Separate bedroom and pullout queen sofa in livingroom. Outdoor pool and tennis courts. Laundry facilities on premises. Free parking.  Located at East end. Cheap shuttle bus can take you around and you can come in by ferry. Cost for the week is $625. 

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Watched the Monk marathon.  I can't believe that this is going to be the last season!!!!  I think the shows are hilarious.  Is anyway else upset about this?  I wonder who we can complain to.  I did hear a remark at the end of one of the shows last season about writers not renewing a contract.  Well, what the hell...get new writers!!!!

Whirl With Merle - It's A Humorous Life

Here is where I talk about my book,

Friday, January 9, 2009

Meet Merle

Alas, I lived my entire life here in New York City, born in June of 1949. That makes me a Gemini. Why is that important? I was never sure whether it was boredom, my willingness to takes risks, or just plain logic in getting that my experiences were the only true realisms.

Having skipped two years of school and learning to play several musical instruments, my calling turned out to be in show business as a comedian/singer/actress. Movies, theatre, a bit of television and night clubs.

I began traveling at the age of 21 when I went cross country. Loved it! It wasn.t until 1985 when I wrote an article for a local newspaper. My niche was on travel, dining and entertainment, the escapes or escapades of life. Show biz was put on hold and I let everyone else do the news thing. Presently, I get to combine both by show biz career as a radio personality and writing for several publications across the country.

In 2002 I found another niche. I got involved with the New York Sharks, a women's tackle football team. As their publicist I shoot for big! It's all about risks and what I will do to acknowledge the team.

There is one philosophy that I have maintained: acknowledging that I am an arsehole. Why? This way I never got to go through life saying, "Hey, I.m not going to do that. I'll look like and arsehole!." Problem solved.