What a great day. A day unique in American history. Yes, BSK and all of her pals were in downtown Santa Fe for the Woman’s March (the crowd was beyond all expectations). HG, a bit under the weather, couldn’t attend. Watched the Washington march on TV and was moved by the passion and fiery eloquence of the speakers. HG is convinced that the march isn’t a one-shot. There is real commitment to organize, vote, fight and obstruct this swine who has usurped the Presidency with the help of Putin. Typical of this pig on a day of the largest protest in American history, Mr. Oink launched an attack on the media for underestimating his inauguration crowd. And during his CIA appearance, Piggy characterized his deprecation of the intelligence services as as example of media untruth. Will his attacks on the media go beyond words? Let’s not mince words. Trump is a proto-Fascist. And his “Alt Right” supporters are Nazis. As an American Jew my answer to Trump and his Nazi and dictator pals is: “Never Again.” This is a crisis point in American history. Today was heartening. But, this is just the beginning of a fight to save the American democracy. As, HG writes this, HG is suffering hunger pangs: HG’s dinner preparations are delayed as HG waits for BSK to return from a community meeting. BSK is organizing opposition to electrical towers that would injure the environment, create health risks and despoil religious sites. BSK was at Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” historic moment in Washington. BSK picketed, protested and organized to battle the needless, futile Vietnam War. And, there’s lots of fight and smarts left in BSK. And, she’s not the only one. Get Ready Piggy.
Thin rice noodles (often called rice “vermicelli” or “rice sticks”) are a staple of Asian cuisine and an HG favorite ingredient. Thai Kitchen makes a tasty and economical lunch dish—instant rice noodle soup (variety of flavors). HG likes to give the soup protein in the form of sliced tofu. Scallions or a handful of bean sprouts adds crunch. A dinner favorite is a home-cooked version of Pho, the heartening Vietnamese standby. BSK boils Whole Foods Pho broth and adds a plenitude of shredded chicken. HG plunges a big bag of rice sticks in boiling water. Takes it off the heat immediately, and lets the noodles steep until softened (10 to 20 minutes). Refreshes them with cold water while shaking them in a colander. They are added to the broth and chicken. Lots of garnishes on the table: Mint leaves, chopped scallions, bean sprouts, cilantro. HG/BSK like two unconventional toppings: Avocado slices and bean curd. Sriracha and soy sauce to taste. Nice East meets West (or Southwest) dish.
Here’s some New York nostalgia: In HG’s younger New York days, Broadway (between 42nd and 57th Streets) was one of the great eating thoroughfares. HG has written memories of that Broadway (When The Great White Way Was Appetizing and The Roast Beef Sandwiches of YesteryearR). Just off Broadway, on Seventh Avenue, was Heartburn Heaven–the Stage and Carnegie Delicatessens, pastrami purveyors. And, there was the Brass Rail and its fabulous “French Dip” roast beef sandwiches. Sadly, all are gone and so has old fashioned New York, Jewish-influenced restaurant cooking. Turf, Jack Dempsey’s and Lindy’s served sublime cheesecake. Now, if you want traditional high cal New York cheesecake you’ve got to to Brooklyn and Junior’s on Flatbush Avenue. And breaking with the trend, Frankel’s, a new Jewish-style appetizing and deli, has opened up in Greenpoint. Yes, Brooklyn is keeping some of those old time tastes alive.
An early morning errand in Santa Fe gave HG the opportunity to breakfast at Tecolote Cafe on St. Michael’s Drive. Tecolote is open for breakfast and lunch only. And, if you eat one of their chile based New Mexican platters you can skip meals until the next day. Servings are HUGE and tasty. Breakfast burritos are epic. Tecolote is a family owned and run restaurant that has been serving hardworking New Mexicans for many years. HG wanted a modest breakfast–two poached eggs sided with home fries. Plus a basket of home baked products. The breakfast wasn’t modest. The home fries were a virtual mountain of crisp (just greasy enough) goodness. The poached eggs were perfect. The bread basket contained warm biscuits and pleasant muffins. Lots of butter and strawberry jam. Endless cups of coffee. Down home generosity. HG’s dining neighbors were five very mature, large stomached construction guys (there were rolled up construction plans on a chair). The table was buried in big platters of carne adovado (red chile pork stew), posole and beans. Everything was covered in melted cheese and fried eggs. Stacks of tortillas. Pitchers of iced tea. The rugged gourmands were still eating when HG left.
Watched Clemson roll back The Tide in one of the most exciting (and satisfying) football games ever watched. Neighbor/pal David F. watched the game with HG/BSK. David insisted that HG stick to Vodka Viracocha throughout the game. David vouched for the potency and purity of the spirit. No hangover, he vowed. He was right. HG slept like a babe and awakened with a clear head. No need for menudo (the tripe stew that is the traditional New Mexico cure for morning after distress). Yes, New Mexico is famous for Hatch chiles and green chile stew. But, in addition to Viracocha (distilled in Alcalde, NM.) some very good rye and bourbon whiskeys are crafted in the state as well as small batch beers and ales. Gruet produces wonderful sparkling wines. Sacrilege: HG prefers Gruet over most champagnes. Don’t know much about New Mexico still wines. Tasted one. Insipid.
HG/BSK and neighbor/pal David F. (distinguished novelist, educator, historian and former college football star) will be watching Alabama battle Clemson tonight. New Mexican cuisine is being readied. Authentic chile (no beans). Pork tamales with red chile sauce. Two salsas: Fiery jalapeno and mild tomatillo. Garnishes: chopped onions, cheddar cheese, colby jack cheese, smoky chipotle peppers in sauce. BSK will drink a robust Spanish garnacha. HG and David will be bad boys. Two types of potato vodka are in the freezer to be drunk with beer chasers. Vodka Viracocha, an 80 proof spirit distilled in Alcalde, NM, is David’s favorite. HG will be swallowing Karlsson’s Gold Vodka from Sweden (also 80 proof). HG can’t resist the distiller’s claim: The first vodka distilled from “Virgin New Potatoes.” Moderation will not be observed. If there is a hangover, HG will eat a bowl of menudo (New Mexican tripe stew) the next day. This is the traditional hangover cure in The Land of Enchantment. Tastes good and it works.
Winter is here in sunny New Mexico. Yes, the sun is shining and snow vaporizes rapidly, but temperatures slide into the teens at night and wind adds to the chill. This calls for fires to be blazing in the living room fireplace and in the bedroom kiva. Adding to the warmth is BSK’s emphasis on comfort food. One night, there was a a saute of chicken thighs with a sauce of wine, lemon juice, garlic (much) and hardy rosemary from the herb garden. BSK accompanied this with a smashed potato and cauliflower mix enriched with chicken stock, sour cream, butter and chopped scallions. On the next night there was a platter of shakshuka, the Israeli dish of poached eggs (from neighbor/pal Karen K’s noble chickens) atop a mix of sauteed peppers, onions, tomatoes. Heat was applied with Trader Joe’s fiery harissa. HG made a big bowl of Greek yogurt mixed with garlic,olive oil, Aleppo pepper, sumac, cumin. Slices of ciabatta soaked up the sauces. Much red wine was drunk and HG fortified his body and soul with after dinner grappa. Jack Frost was defeated soundly.
Daughter Lesley R, and husband Massimo (plus their gorgeous and brilliant daughter, Sofia) returned from France and the Piedmont region of Italy in time for holiday celebrations at their Riverside, R.I., home. This meant gifts of French pate (from force fed geese) and white truffle products (from Piedmont’s annual white truffle festival). These gifts can only be described as the real deal. No insipid chicken liver pate (mousse?). No vile and dubious truffle oil (destroyer of many dishes). Armed with the authentic products created by artisans (and nature), BSK created a spectacular dinner for New Mexico guests. Pate on buttered toast accompanied by a chilled bottle of Gewurtztraminer. Then steaming bowls of papardelle with a melange of wild mushrooms, abundant truffle butter (made in Alba) and real deal truffle oil (no synthetic flavoring) was stirred into the pasta. Ah, the fragrance!! Ah, the taste !! Robust Malbec was the drink. A few days later, HG/BSK followed a Lesley R. hint and melted slices of pate on pan broiled rib steaks. Ecstasy. HG’s after dinner beverage was mellow Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon. An All-American digestif.
A highlight of HG/BSK’s holiday in Brooklyn/New York/ Rhode Island was a feast hosted by Restaurateur Daughter Victoria (Vicki) at her eponymous Italian restaurant, Vic’s, on Great Jones Street. Vic’s is one of Vicki’s four New York restaurants (the others are Cookshop, Rosie’s and Hundred Acres). Hillary Sterling is the chef at Vic’s and she turns out wonderful, creative, Italian food with an emphasis on local, very fresh ingredients. Comfortably seated in the sparkling dining room, HG/BSK and SJ were regaled with vegetable starters: Brussell sprouts with anchovies,chiles and lemon; squash with schmaltz (chicken fat), golden raisins and garlic; cauliflower with hazelnuts, harissa and bread crumbs. These were dishes that could turn a carnivore into a vegetarian. The veggies were followed by baby squid with pickled peppers (a glorious take on the classic Rhode Island dish) and a roasted duck leg. The pasta tasting course was original: Borsa (“little purses” filled with ricotta; Mafaldi; Tortellini; Spaghetti with clams and green chiles. Wow !! Much splendid wine and a grappa to finish. The next day, HG met Vicki for their traditional three hour holiday lunch at Balthazar. The duo had much to talk about as they dug into a giant plateau de fruits de mer: Oysters, clams, mussels, shrimp, ceviche, lobster. Fabulous. Bottles of Balthazar’s very good Muscadet. Vicki made a prior arrangement with Balthazar to pay the bill and then sent HG back to Brooklyn via Uber. Vicki, you are generosity personified.
Time for the annual holiday season visit to Chong Quing House in Seekonk, Massachusetts, for the
F & R family fiery Szechuan feast. HG/BSK, Massimo and Lesley R., granddaughters Arianna and Sofia R. (a brilliant and beautiful duo) were seated at a round table with a big “Lazy Susan” on top. HG believes CH is superior to any Szechuan eatery (hmmmm….says SJ) in New York and the holiday meal confirmed HG’s opinion. Starters were steamed pork dumplings and dumplings in hot oil. Faves of the young women, the dumplings were marginal. CH is not a place for dumplings. But, the food? Ah!!! Cumin lamb; family style bean curd, pepper and salt shrimp; sliced fish on a bed of hot peppers, eggplant in garlic sauce; pickled string beans with scallions. Bowls of fluffy rice plus Bass Ale and Samuel Adams Lager. Great, balanced meal. No doggy bags. Not a morsel remained on the platters.