Generous and thoughtful daughter, Vicki F., the New York restaurateur (Cookshop, Vic’s, Rosie’s, Hundred Acres), birthday gifted HG with a lush package from Zabar’s, the Upper West Side food landmark. Happy 87 (can’t quite believe this number). The package contained: American farm raised caviar (as good, or better, than the Iranian and Russian products); Alaskan Salmon red caviar; blini; creme fraiche. The makings for an indulgent feast. Invited David F., friend, neighbor and HG’s favorite vodka drinking companion. Meal began with the American caviar on gently warmed blini topped with creme fraiche and a bit of finely chopped onion. HG and David F. accompanied it with copious icy vodka. (BSK drank sauvignon blanc). BSK then made BSK’s inimitable feta cheese omelets. Brown edges with soft, flavorful interiors (the French describe such omelets as “baveuse”). The dreamy and creamy omelets were topped with the Salmon caviar, sour cream and chopped onions. Jollity reigned as copious vodka and wine were consumed. Meal concluded with an endive and watercress salad plus ripe Comice pears with chunks of parmesan. Yes, much joy can still be found in a very divided America. Many, many thanks, Vicki.
As one may have gathered from precious posts, HG is very fond of dining in Vancouver, Canada’s magical city in the northwest. Because of its large Asian population, there are scores of very good Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Malaysian and Vietnamese restaurants. So, when in that city, HG focuses on those cuisines (with a few side trips to Rodney’s for superb oyster platters). HG/BSK’s pals, Jamie S. and Karen C., are authoritative and enthusiastic members of the Vancouver dining-out community. They touted the hottest restaurant in town, Osteria Savio Volpe (have to reserve weeks in advance). HG/BSK joined them there for an Italian meal that combined innovation with tradition. Savio Volpe is a beautiful, gently lit restaurant. Service is both friendly and professional. Everything combined to make the meal joyous and memorable. As suggested by management, the foursome shared a number of dishes. Consumed in this order: White anchovies with grilled leeks, egg, aioli, olives and bread crumbs; kale salad with lemon pepper dressing and Romano cheese. Main dishes: Robust roast suckling pig enhanced by a flavorful sauce; rare top sirloin with charred onion and horseradish crema. HG consumed only modest portions of these mains since HG concentrated on a dish shunned by BSK, Jamie and Karen: Tripe alla Calabrese in a sauce of tomatoes, chile peppers and Pecorino cheese. It was served in a bubbling stew pot with hunks of very good grilled bread (to sop up the sauce). HG is a big fan of New Mexico green chile Menudo (tripe stew). However, HG must confess: Savio Vople’s tripe stew is the greatest tripe dish HG has ever tasted. Yes, better than Tripes a la mode de Caen in Paris and the various tripe dishes served in Bologna or Florence. The festive meal ended with a giant “Tiramisu Sundae” which combined pastry, gelato, hazelnuts and a dash of Marsala. The foursome contemplated their foodie good fortune with snifters of limoncello and grappa. Viva Italia!! and Viva Savio Volpe!!
One thing New Mexico does not have is Dim Sum. There are fewer happier sights than a well lit, vast, busy Chinese restaurant serving weekend dim sum. Everything is savory, inexpensive and the little tastes provide a multitude of Asian flavors. So HG is left thinking of his recent trip to Vancouver’s Dynasty Restaurant . The place was jammed when HG/BSK, Karen C. and Jamie S. arrived for a noon feast. There were big tables seating multi generations of Chinese. Other big tables seating a variety of ethnicities. Vancouver is one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities and this is reflected in the staggering array of restaurants. A unifying element is that the entire population is obsessed by good food. The HG/BSK party relished shrimp dumplings (har gow); steamed pork buns; turnip pancakes; black truffle dumplings (a first); scallop and tobiko dumplings; pastry stuffed with ground pork; steamed spare ribs with lychee and peppers; fried eggplant with fish cake. Dessert was mango pudding and coconut cream pastry. November rain (as usual) dampened the Vancouver streets but Dynasty was a dry, warm haven of joy.
A few days have passed but HG is still happy to be back home in New Mexico. Arrived the night before Thanksgiving and glad to be out of the auto and sipping vodka before the flames in the fireplace. While motoring through New Mexico on the last leg of the journey from Vancouver, HG/BSK stopped at Bode’s General Store in Abiquiu (very close to the Georgia O’Keeffe home). Picked up Italian parsley, milk, orange juice, yogurt, etc.. Bode’s is a unique county store with meandering shelves that contain everything from De Cecco pasta to hunting knives, ammo, tools and other essentials for the rugged life. In contrast, the freezer has a surprising variety of gourmet gelatos. BSK made a very comforting homecoming dinner of spaghetti in a savory sauce of tomatoes, tuna,capers, garlic, olive oil, anchovies and chopped parsley. Toby, The Wonder Dog, was glad to reunite with HG/BSK but slightly bemused about all the changes inn his doggy life.
For the first time in 53 years of marriage, HG/BSK were alone for the traditional Thanksgiving Day dinner. No children, grandchildren, relatives or friends. Just HG and BSK in New Mexico. No cooking for BSK. Thoughtful house sitter left an entire traditional feast in the refrigerator: Turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes with walnuts, squash, gravy, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. All very good. HG/BSK had leisurely swims in their heated lap pool. Pre-dinner drinks before the fireplace. Flickering candles on the table. A very good bottle of 10-year-old Spanish Tempranillo. Music. Intimate and romantic dinner as HG/BSK reflected on their good fortune in having a wonderful family that is a source of continual joy. (Plus, of course, the companionship of Toby, The Wonder Dog).
The high rise glass and steel tower, which is HG/BSK’s temporary residence. in Vancouver has a 350-foot pool and a whirlpool hot tub. A big fitness center with scores of varied exercise machines. So, this morning, HG swam one mile and BSK ran, cycled, stretched, etc.. Yes, it is imperative to exercise in Vancouver because the lure of great food is omnipresent. Here are some of the food experiences HG/BSK have enjoyed: Picked up a slab of pheasant pate plus some unctuous duck liver and truffle pate; jambon de Paris and cornichons at Oyama in the Granville Island Public Market. A baguette and grape bread (for breakfast) from Terra Bread and lush Winnipeg cream cheese from the Market’s cheese counter. Oyama is owned and run by French-Canadians and their pates, rillettes, terrines, sausages, hams, etc. beat anything offered in Paris. Vancouver, of course, is a very Asian city so HG/BSK tried a new Vietnamese restaurant, Mr. Red Cafe, in the Kitsilano neighborhood. This is North Vietnamese cooking with many different menu items than the usual cuisine offered in Vietnamese restaurants in the United States. HG/BSK enjoyed crisp-skinned “Turmeric Fish” and mango salad. Went back to Peaceful Restaurantfor a lunch of spicy Dan Dan Noodles and lamb dumplings. These dumplings are very much like traditional soup dumplings. The diner takes a little nibble and drinks the broth before eating the cumin scented lamb. Returned to Congee Noodle House on a rainy day for comforting mushroom and scallop congee. Congee Noodle Hose still makes great congee but the other offerings have gone downhill. Sad. However, the predominantly Asian customers seemed to be relishing various noodle dishes. So, if you get there, confine yourself to congee and noodles. Wide noodles with prawns looked good.
BSK’s show of her hand crafted, one-of-a-kind ceramic vessels, sculptures, expressions and masks was attended by enthusiastic friends, collectors and dealers. Show was at Karen C.’s beautiful Vancouver town house. Much good food. And, generous Jamie S., the co-host, was lavish in pouring a lovely rose, a flavorful white and a robust red. HG/BSK met old friends from HG/BSK’s days in Vancouver when HG/BSK owned a series of lofts and a modernist town house. Conversed with new acquaintances and were pleased to welcome Adam and Meredith C.. Adam is the son of two of HG/BSK/s favorite people, Antony and Claudia C.. Young Adam looks like and sounds like his distinguished Dad. Meredith is a clever sparkler. BSK made some sales, evoked interest from dealers and was questioned about doing custom pieces. A wonderful day that began at 11AM. HG/BSK reluctantly left at 10:30 PM. Jamie was still pouring. Karen was still full of energy and the joyous group was still laughing as tired HG/BSK left. Among the pleasures of the day, besides the joie de vivre of Canadians, was the presence of Kaiser, Jamie’s delightful frisky (but well behaved) Havanese. Made up for the absence of Toby, The Wonder Dog, HG/BSK’s New Mexico companion.
Vij’s is one of the ornaments of Vancouver. It is an Indian fusion restaurant and as close to being perfect as any eatery can be. It was located on 14th Avenue just east of Cambie. When HG/BSK were part time Vancouver residents for some ten years, HG/BSK ate there at least once a week. No reservations. HG/BSK would join a line waiting for the 5:30 PM opening. Only way to get seated without a long wait. Vij’s has moved some blocks south on Cambie into a much larger, luxurious space with perfect lighting and acoustics. As always, there is lovely blend of warm, attentive service and restaurant professionalism. Founder/owner Vikram Vij has always promoted wine as the right accompaniment for his food. This is reflected in a new, vast wine list. Many affordable bottles and rare vintages for high flying oligarchs. HG/BSK drank Beaujolais Villages and dined on grilled vegetables in a mung bean curry; ling cod in a tomato based sauce; Vij’s signature dish of pink lamb “popsicles” in a cream curry. Warm naan slicked with a variety of spices and basmati rice. Palate cleansing kulfi and a creative Indian version of carrot cake were the desserts. Opulent meal. Memorable.
Tojo’s, located on Broadway in Vancouver’s Fairview neighborhood, has long been acknowledged as one of the best Japanese restaurants in North America. Perfect place to celebrate HG’s 87th birthday. Yes, the political situation in the United States is dismal. However, HG/BSK have much to be thankful for. HG remains reasonably healthy, active. Appetite is robust. Love for BSK is sustaining. HG is grateful to have a brilliant, humane, talented family. So, political woes were left behind as HG/BSK feasted at Tojo’s. Tuna tataki on a bed of shaved daikon. Baked oysters (indescribably delicious). Age tofu (perfectly fried cubes of lush, creamy tofu). Unagi on fluffy rice. Baked Pacific sablefish (black cod) with “Tojo’s special marinade”. Unusual Japanese version of creme brûlée for dessert. Drank a pleasant French sauvignon blanc. Lovely evening.
Oh, joy. HG/BSK are in Vancouver, the beautiful, cosmopolitan city in the land of liberty–Canada. Living in a high floor of a glass and steel tower adjacent to the city’s hockey stadium, home of the Vancouver Canucks. Wonderful views of skyscrapers and city lights plus a little terrace facing the mountains and English Bay. Good workout area (BSK’s domain) plus a 350-foot long pool and whirlpool (HG’s hangout). Exercise is necessary since Vancouver is food city of renown. The Asian food is the best on the continent. On arrival, HG/BSK dined at Congee Noodle House. Bowls of steaming congee with sliced scallops and mushrooms. Small plates of “Chef’s Special Chicken”, barbecued duck and, for HG, pork and shrimp wontons. Next day went shopping on Fourth Avenue in the Kitsilano neighborhood. (The most beautiful women in Vancouver shop on this lively avenue)). Lunched at Peaceful Restaurant. Szechuan Ma Po Tofu and string beans with shredded pork. Very tasty with restrained notes of heat and oil. Beautiful, well designed place. Election gloom is beginning to lift from HG/BSK.