Chef Turns Soup Kitchen Into Gourmet Hotspot

Who ever thought a church soup kitchen could outshine the posh eateries of Manhattan? It's happening at Broadway Presbyterian Church, where the in-house cook is serving up some unexpected items for the gratis menu.

Thanks to master chef and former restaurateur Michael Ennes, visitors to his Upper West Side soup kitchen get to sample dishes like barbequed bison steak and something he calls "posted chicken" — chicken that's simultaneously poached and roasted, stuffed with apples and ladled with fresh fennel and broth.

His 'customers,' as he likes to call them, get the choice selections Ennes pulls together from leftovers from some of the finest restaurants in Manhattan, reported London's Independent.

Food charity programs drop off different offerings every day, from which Ennes creates his masterpieces. He gets half-served cakes, day-old bread from Le Bernadin, even octopus at times.

Ennes cooked at restaurants in Florida before running his own in Manhattan, Orfeo, for a few years. Now, he works himself into a frenzy three days a week, creating meals for some of the estimated 260,000 homeless in New York City.

"It's not a question of fancy food," Ennes insists, "it's a matter of giving people real food with real nutrition. The difference between canned vegetables and real vegetables is work ... I am taking nothing away from the art of high cuisine in good restaurants, but here I feel like I am making a difference in people's lives."

Scottish Santa Forced to Don Protective Headgear

Some children on Santa's naughty list got even with St. Nick this weekend while he was delivering holiday cheer to shoppers in Scotland.

As Santa was handing out gold chocolate coins to visitors, not-so-nice kids began hurling mince pies at him from a nearby balcony.

The incident prompted concern for Santa's safety, forcing him to wear a yellow hardhat for his own protection, Reuters reported.

"Health and safety is paramount," said center manager Andrew MacKinnon. "We issued him with a yellow hardhat equipped with a pair of reindeer antlers to make it look more festive."

MacKinnon said a gang of local "neds," or yobs, threw the pies and then ran away.

Last year, the center's Santa was set upon by youths calling a him a "fraud and a fake."

And the Joke Lives On ... and On ... and On ...

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Kevin Campanella plans to seek "serenity now" by celebrating Festivus, a wacky holiday popularized in a 1997 "Seinfeld" episode.

Billed as "Festivus for the rest of us," the holiday celebrated by the Costanza clan on Dec. 23 features an airing of grievances and feats of strength in which a guest must pin the host before the party ends.

In protest of Christmas' commercialism, character Frank Costanza puts up an unadorned aluminum pole instead of a tree. The metal, he says admiringly, has a "very high strength-to-weight ratio."

"I just always loved that episode," said Campanella, 28, a landscaper from Warwick, R.I. "But it's not so much about the show — I think the idea of Festivus is a good idea."

So does The Wagner Companies. The Milwaukee-based maker of hand-railing components is bringing back its line of Festivus poles for the holiday season. The company had plenty of metal rails on hand already and launched the product last year on a whim.

Wagner sold about 250 poles in 2005, with around 100 sales coming from the firm's 120 employees. This season, it sold about 300 poles by mid-December and was on pace to sell twice that number by Saturday, said Leto, whose claim to fame is that he shared a drama class with Jerry Seinfeld at Queens College in New York.

Wagner offers a 6-foot Festivus pole for $38 and a 2-foot-8-inch tabletop model for $30. The setup is simple: a hollow pipe, 1.9 inches in diameter, inserted into a collapsible aluminum base.

The "Seinfeld" Festivus episode developed from series writer Dan O'Keefe's childhood experiences. His father invented the holiday in the 1960s.

"As a kid, we'd come home and there'd be weird decorations," said the 30-something O'Keefe. "There was the playing of strange German and Italian pop music from the '50s. And the airing of grievances was a real thing."

Instead of a pole, his family celebration featured a clock and a bag. (O'Keefe said his father won't say what they symbolized.)

Wagner's Leto acknowledged the irony of making money off a holiday that celebrates anti-commercialism. But the company is having too much fun with the holiday to stop now, he said.

O'Keefe doesn't begrudge Wagner's commercial efforts.

"It sounds to me like they're making a good living — good for them," O'Keefe said. "It's just this joke holiday on a TV show. If they want to make a buck on it, go for it."

Or, as Seinfeld might say, not that there's anything wrong with that.

It's About Time Someone Put One Over on the DMV

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles said ordered two men to get their license photos retaken — this time without the red-painted skin, spray-on hair and fake teeth.

Will Carsola and Dave Stewart posted Internet videos of their pranks, which included Carsola spray-painting his face and neck bright red and Stewart painting the top of his head black and sticking a row of fake buckteeth in his mouth in an Asian caricature.

The videos show the men each entering a DMV office in disguise and returning with real licenses.

"We have sent letters to the individuals that basically require them to appear at DMV to reapply for their driver's licenses and surrender any previously issued licenses" within 15 days, DMV spokesman Bill Foy said.

Stewart and Carsola, both 27, said Wednesday they will get their "real" photos taken, and were surprised at how easy it was to get their driver's licenses, outlandish getups notwithstanding.

The men did the pranks as part of a new movie, "and it escalated from there," Stewart said.

The videos, which appear on YouTube and under "DMV Drivers License Prank" and "Getting over on the DMV," have prompted the state agency to review its current ID-photo policies.

But Foy acknowledged it's difficult for DMV employees to determine whether a customer "looks right."

Pac-Man Fever Hits the Road

BUFFALO, Minn. (AP) — Pac-Man is back. Only this time, he's bigger — and he's gobbling up dots on Highway 55.

Large white dots painted on the highway to deter motorists from tailgating have been joined by a giant, yellow image of the video game icon.

"I drove that road the other day," said an amused Wright County Sheriff Gary Miller, "and drivers were bunched up to figure out what it was."

The oversized Pac-Man has been on the highway for about a month, and the artist or artists behind it have been back to touch it up at least once.

"It's kind of comical," said county highway engineer Wayne Fingalson. "Somebody really did a good job of meticulously putting that (Pac-Man) in the dots."

Tom Dumont, the area traffic engineer for the Department of Transportation, wasn't happy with the addition to the $15,000 project.

"I'd hate to say positive things because I don't want to encourage people to try to paint something on a busy highway. But at least it's made the project a little more noteworthy," Dumont said.

The 7-foot dots are 225 feet apart — the distance officials say is needed for a vehicle traveling at 55 mph to stop in three seconds without hitting the vehicle in front of it. Road signs tell drivers to keep two dots apart.

Patricia Hackman, who teaches driving classes at Buffalo High School, said: "I don't know where Pac-Man came from, but anything we can do to bring more attention to traffic safety, I'm all for it."

Polar Bear Club: Not Just for Old Men Anymore

NORTH SALT LAKE, Utah (AP) — Freezing temperatures, ice on the deck, frosty breath — everyone in the pool!

Swimmers from Bountiful and Woods Cross high schools have been practicing at an outdoor pool because of construction delays at a new indoor pool at the South Davis Recreation Center.

"It's addicting," Bountiful senior Stephanie Child said. "You hate it when you're in the pool, but you love the memories you have after."

The pool at Eagleridge Tennis and Swim Club is 87 degrees.

"We knew they were in a pinch and didn't have a place to swim," said club owner Brad Ferreira, who made the pool available at no charge.

Perhaps the cold practices are making a difference. Woods Cross has won three meets, lost one and placed second in a large district contest. The new pool should be ready by January.

Compiled by's Hannah Sentenac.

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