Brussel Sprouts

October 16th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

For years, for decades really, this is a much maligned vegetable. Like kale, brussel sprouts have become surprisingly trendy. HG presumes the vegetable’s former bad reputation was caused by institutional lunches where they were overcooked into mush. Gifted Daughter Lesley R. is an expert brussels sprouts cook. She separates the leaves and gives them a squick stir fry in olive oil, garlic and herbs. For festive occasions she adds crumbled bits of crisp bacon. Lesley’s brussels sprouts are a very delicious accompaniment to almost any dish–fish, meat or fowl. Last night’s dinner was rare rib steak with Lesley’s sprouts plus quartered Prince Edward Island potatoes roasted to crispness in the oven. Good eating on a rainy, windy night (PEI is feeling the after effects of Hurricane Michael). BSK always liked brussel sprouts. They accompanied the Sunday roast beef when young BSK lived with her grandparents in Sarnia, Ontario. BSK’s loving grandmother told the little girl that brussel sprouts were “fairy cabbages”. That made the vegetable desirable.

Magical Mushrooms

October 15th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

NO, HG isn’t referring to the mushrooms that are mind altering and take the eater for a trip similar to an LSD journey. The three great mushroom varieties–porcini, morels and chanterelles–take the eater on a joyous, rollicking trip to the palate, the mouth and the stomach. Gustatory joy. Last night, Gifted Daughter Lesley cooked a big batch of recently picked chanterelles (among other charm points, Prince Edward Island is a virtual larder for the forager) in a mix of butter, olive oil, shallots, garlic and parsley. The mushrooms kept their integrity, retained flavor but turned meltingly, soft. They flanked Lesley’s extraordinary polenta. Lesley alters cooking proportions by adding more water to the bubbling polenta plus a big chunk of cream cheese. This is all whisked vigorously and the result is heavenly, lumpless, creamy polenta. Lovely with mushrooms but also good with sausages, stews and ragouts. After a pause dedicated to appreciation of Lesley’s skills, the meal continued with the last of the T-Day turkey and stuffing (with beaucoup BSK gravy). Plus tasty braised fennel. Plentiful red wine. Vanilla ice cream with sweetened roast chestnut puree for dessert. The good life keeps marching on.

Porcini Feast

October 11th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Porcini are HG/BSK’s favorite mushroom (morels are a close second and chanterelles are third). Thanks to friend Winfried S., BSK has been harvesting an abundance of chanterelles. This week (following Winfried’s directions), BSK, Lesley and Massimo R. went off to forage porcini. Their efforts were successful. Filled up a big bag of the fungi. (Checked with neighbor and mushroom foraging expert, Molly E., who pronounced the mushrooms as perfect and not poisonous) They became the basis of the best pasta dish in HG’s long history of Italian dinners. Dinner began with white wine and South Bay oysters (in season and delicious). Lesley cooked the porcini in olive oil and butter; much chopped garlic; shallots; parsley and thyme. Served over perfectly al dente Garapolo papardelle. HG lifted his plate and inhaled the earthy aromas. First forkful filled HG’s mouth with pleasure. Judicious sprinkle of smoked pepper and sea salt. Didn’t want the plate to empty. Ate slowly. The wine was Faust Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (2016). A gift from Viki F. (wife of HG nephew Paul F.). A splendid, rich wine. Perfect accompaniment. As the pasta/porcini delight came to a close, HG glanced at the plates of his companions. Not a tiny scrap left. Clean Plate Rangers. HG finished the meal with BSK’s lovely, custardy plum clafouti. Dining perfection had been achieved.

Canadian Thanksgiving

October 10th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Monday was Canadian Thanksgiving Day and HG/BSK, family and friends celebrated exuberantly. At the dinner table (in addition to HG/BSK) were Gifted Daughter Lesley R.; son-in-law Ufficiale Massimo; BSK’s sister Noel M. and husband Yossi; N & Y’s friend and neighbor, Amran, a kibbutz-bred Israeli who is a dedicated organic farmer. Accompanying Amran were his wife, Marina, plus son, Daniel. Marina is from Turkmenistan (it borders Iran). She described the Turkmenistan version of latkes. Sounds great. Promised she’d make them for HG. Marina said In Turkmenistan they are often served with grilled chitterlings. HG is not fond of this bit of offal. Have never dreamt of this latke combo (might be favored by Jewish-Southern-African-Americans). Jolly group. Feasting began at 4:30PM with cups of butternut squash soup (derived from a recipe of HG’s beloved late sister, Beulah). No soup for HG. A Bloody Mary (size L) for the old guy (Nova Scotia Blue Lobster Vodka, of course). After toasting the group’s good luck to be living in gentle and beautiful Prince Edward Island, serious eating began. The center piece was traditional: A big, gently browned, juicy turkey. Side dishes included mashed potatoes (contributed by Noel); pearl onions; BSK’s stuffing and cranberry sauce (state of the art); brussels sprouts with bacon; haricots vert. And, at HG’s fervent request, a big pot of turkey gravy. No cornbread (or mix) on PEI but Marina brought a big loaf of her home baked challah (splendid for soaking up gravy and constructing breakfast French toast with maple syrup). Two salads: Marina’s Russian salad (lush) and a roasted beet, fennel, walnut and blue cheese salad. Lovely, custardy plum and blueberry clafouti for dessert. Espresso. Brandy. The dazzling kitchen combo of BSK and Lesley R. orchestrated the best turkey feast HG has ever had in HG’s long history of overeating (and drinking).

Neighborly Dinner

October 8th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Dinner Chez HG/BSK with across the road neighbors Peter and Molly E. Charming people with powerful intellects. Both retired educators (Peter was chair of the Department of Education for Antioch University, New England). They raise chickens at their Prince Edward Island property and at their new Hampshire home. Molly also brews a wonderful elderberry liqueur from locally foraged berries. Happily, brought some home brew (looking forward to tasting it) as a dinner gift. Molly has a blog about healthy eating (fastingme.com) and Peter writes about the proper pairing of food and wine. They have done much travel in France (Molly is fluent in the language). So, BSK’s dinner was classic French bistro. Oysters (South Lake/PEI); roast spatchcocked chicken; potato/cauliflower gratin; blueberry clafouti for dessert. Molly assisted HG in the oyster shucking and the dinner rolled on with much wine and laughter. Another joyous PEI dinner (or Supper as it is called on this blessed isle. Dinner is Lunch).

Bobo

October 5th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

HG often reads the Prince Edward Island Guardian (“We cover the Island like the dew”) with a second cup of breakfast latte. A story caught HG’s attention yesterday: It concerned a dog lover’s organization in Britain that was teaching Newfoundland dogs to swim, search and rescue. Yes, that was their function living on the ships of the Newfoundland and Labrador fishing fleets where they originated. But, when these gentle giants moved inland as household pets in the United States and Canada these skills were lost. So glad these dedicated Britons are trying to bring them back. Bobo was the name of HG/BSK’s Newfie companion on HG/BSK’s horse ranch in the Colorado Rocky Mountain foothills. Gentle and loving with children, obedient, very intelligent. For example, when HG was ready for sleep, HG would pat Bobo on his massive head and say: “Bedtime, Bobo.” Without any urging, Bobo would rise and hop down the stairs to the garage level (because of his heavy coat, Bobo liked to sleep in the cool garage). Using his paw, Bobo would open the garage door. Would carefully close it behind him before he slept. The procedure was reversed at breakfast time. Big dogs like Bobo (he weighed 150 pounds) don’t have much longevity. In the vet’s office, just before his demise, Bobo turned to HG, licked his hand and received a final nuzzle. One, last soulful look at HG. Goodbye. HG sobbed. Tears rolled down HG’s face. HG vowed. No more dogs. The end is too heartbreaking. However, many years later came Toby, The Wonder Dog. HG will be 89 in one month. The odds are in favor of Toby outliving the old guy.

New Friends

October 3rd, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Winfried and Tatiana S. are distinguished figures in Swiss book publishing. A delightful, erudite couple. They are HG/BSK’s new friends. They rent a chalet in a cluster of summer rental cottages on Maclaren Road just minutes from HG/BSK’s home in Prince Edward Island. Winfried learned about this obscure vacation spot through an ad in a German language periodical which he was scanning some years ago while waiting for a plane at the Berlin Airport. Have now vacationed here for a number of summers. Winfried and Tatiana have the proper temperaments for PEI’s soothing, laid back, friendly, sea and sun environment. HG/BSK met W & T five years ago. Renewed the acquaintance last week when HG and Winfried encountered each other on the Maclaren beach. The meeting resulted in a gift to HG/BSK of two bags of lovely chanterelle mushrooms Winfried picked near his vacation chalet. They were delicious. W & T dined at HG/BSK’s home last night. Winfried joined HG in drinking icy vodka with freshly shucked South Lake oysters. Winfried admired HG’s swift and expert shucking (HG is not modest about his mastery of this essential oyster lover skill). Then, on to BSK’s lovely sea food chowder/stew of haddock, mussels, potatoes, garlic, olive oil, onions,clam broth and smoky bacon. Plus, many kernels of Blum’s sweet corn. Abundant white and red wine was drunk. Dessert was butter tarts (the Canadian treat that doesn’t travel to the USA) and French Vanilla ice cream. Matos Bagaco, PEI marc that’s better than grappa, was the finale. Much lively conversation. Discovered that all of us love books. Not Kindles, internet devices, etc. Physical books with binding, covers, book covers, etc. Books that you hold in your hand and turn the pages (and go back to refresh a memory or perception). HG/BSK, W & K are kindred spirits.

Hotels (Part 2)

September 29th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

De luxe. (HG loves that phrase. Very reminiscent of the 1930’s). Super luxury. And, that’s what HG/BSK experienced on some of their trips abroad. (Of course, there were some clunkers). An HG/BSK favorite is La Mamounia in the colorful city of Marrakech, Morocco. Splendid lobbies and lounge areas. Beautiful bedrooms overlooking the lush gardens where Winston Churchill once painted. HG/BSK breakfasted on their room’s terrace. Exquisite. Exercised with personal trainer, Abdul. Swam in the giant pool. Poolside lounges were occupied by attractive Frenchwomen in topless bikinis. Eye candy for HG. Savory Middle East buffet in the pool area’s dining section. Spectacular. Vacationing at Mamounia is expensive. Worth it. Another de luxe establishment is the venerable Savoy in London (never liked the equally sumptuous Dorchester and Claridge’s). Wonderful bedroom with super mattress on bed and linen sheets. Giant tub in bathroom, perfect for pre-theater bath. HG/BSK were very fond of the Savoy Grill. Glamorous art deco interior and superb food. Never slept at The Connaught in Mayfair. Decades ago, HG/BSK often dined at the hotel restaurant. HG can state, without reservation, this was the best restaurant in the world. Beautiful antique decor with comfortable seating. Gentle lighting. Nicely spaced tables. Impeccable, warm and professional service. The food was beyond superlative. Great French dishes (critics said the best French restaurant wasn’t in Paris, it was London’s Connaught). HG/BSK concentrated on the English classics: Oysters, smoked salmon, Dover sole, mixed grill with souffle potatoes; steak and kidney pie; boiled silverside with pickles and hot mustard, etc. Restaurant “modernized” its cuisine in recent years with unfortunate results. Too bad. London’s Hotel Wilbraham near Sloane Square was HG/BSK’s home in their frequent visits to the city long ago. Not luxe at all. Just comfy, inexpensive and shabby genteel. As expected, it has been refurbished and is now very expensive and posh. The old character has been lost. HG/BSK have forgotten the names of two hotels –one in Berlin and one in Tokyo–that were very memorable. Both super modern hotels with dazzling upper floor views. The breakfast buffet at the Berlin hotel was dazzling and extensive. Every variety of egg dishes.. Pancakes. Waffles. Jams, jellies and syrups. Numerous yogurts. A multitude of cereals, hot and cold. Fruits, both fresh and cooked., Salads. Breads, rolls, croissants, brioche, muffins, crackers. Smoked salmon and other fish. Scores of cheeses. Bacon. Ham. Many sausages (some, German specialties). Cake. Cookies. Pies. Pastries. Coffee, tea, fruit juice, wine and champagne; Bloody Marys and Mimosas. All available. HG/BSK would begin their day with exercise in the hotel gym and swim in the pool. Shower. Then, with raging appetites, attack the buffet extravaganza. Worked off the calories with long bike rides through the Berlin streets on the way to museums and landmarks. In Tokyo for the marriage of SJ and Exquisite Maiko, HG/BSK occupied a high floor bedroom with panoramic views of the city. Made New York look like a small village. The bathroom had the usual Japanese wonder toilet. Excellent gym and soothing hot baths. Thankfully, breakfast was English/American. HG loves Japanese cuisine but doesn’t fancy the traditional Japanese breakfast of grilled fish, miso soup, rice and pickles. Bleakest hotel room ever was in Prague soon after the Czech liberation. Didn’t matter. Prague was a glory.

Hotels (Part One)

September 27th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

During HG’s many trips throughout the United States, Europe, Africa (the Moroccan cities of Tangier, Casablanca, Fez and Marrakech); South America (Cartagena, Buenos Aires and much of Brazil); Japan (Tokyo and Kyoto), HG (and BSK) have stayed in luxury hotels, businessperson hotels, chain highway motels, “tourist courts”, etc. There were some memorable experiences. HG had two New York favorites The Algonquin on W. 44th and The Carlyle on the upper east side. When owned by the late Ben Bodne, the lobby of The Algonquin had the air of a fading, aristocratic lounging space in a distinguished English country great house. Gently faded carpet, comfortable sofas and chairs upholstered in gently worn fabric. Mahogany tables and chests that showed their age. Gentle, flattering light. There was no better place for conversation while sipping a cocktail. Despite its literary reputation and hosting of many eccentric and unruly poets and artists, Algonquin customers were very resistant to change. When carpet, upholstery or furniture had to be replaced, Bodne made sure that it was carefully aged so that no change was evident. Dining at the Algonquin was a delight. Oak Room for lunch and Rose Room after theater. The Oak had very good roast beef (plus sweetbreads on Virginia ham; seafood salad; coconut ice cream ball for dessert). The Rose had a joyously flamboyant maitre d’ and served creamy chicken curry. HG/BSK spent two nights in an Algonquin suite some 30 years ago. Arrived in a snowstorm. As expected, the suite was warm, comfortable and timeless. Loved it. The Carlyle had a modest lobby but it was always adorned by beautiful, fashionable women and an occasional movie star. The late Bobby Short was a fixture in the Cafe. The Bemelmans Room was an intimate cocktail lounge decorated with New York and Paris murals (yes, “Madeline” is on the wall) by the late, inimitable artist/writer, Ludwig Bemelmans. HG enjoyed many an expensive, perfectly crafted martini there when business brought HG uptown. HG must (for sentimental reasons) mention plain spoken Motel City on far W. 42nd Street as a fave. HG resided there after a life change. The motel owners owed HG considerable money for publicity services so rent was charged against the debt. And, that was the time when HG met the love of his life, BSK, lucky HG’s wife, partner, companion for 55 years.

BSK: The Sommelier

September 26th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

No, BSK is not a wine expert like pal Peter H. or Prince Edward Island neighbor, Peter E.. But, without any formal training, BSK knows how to pick drinkable (even lush) and affordable wines. This is a challenge on PEI where taxes and government regulations greatly inflate the price of wine and spirits. Nevertheless, BSK explores the aisles of government liquor stores and picks winners. BSK’s selections come from Chile, Spain, Argentina, Portugal and Sicily. BSK has also discovered affordable vintages from Ontario and British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. BSK’s red wine choices vary but her white wine choice is almost aways sauvignon blanc (in jug size) from Jackson-Triggs, the Canadian vintner. This is BSK’s choice for a pre-dinner cocktail, usually sweetened with a splash of cranberry juice. HG, of course, sticks to vodka based beverages. BSK really displays her sommelier abilities when HG/BSK are resident in New Mexico. BSK picks out tasty bargains galore at Santa Fe’s Trader Joe’s. However, BSK’s favorite shop is Kokoman, the liquor store close to HG/BSK’s Jacona home. Despite its bleak exterior plastered with beer ads, this is a wonderland of everything alcoholic. Wines from all over the world ranging from low cost to three figure rare French vintages. BSK is friendly with the wine director and he directs her to many outstanding choices. Surgery and radiation some 26 years ago, coarsened HG’s wine palate. As years go by, BSK’s wine tasting abilities continue to improve. As the country song puts it: “What My Woman Can’t Do, Can’t Be Done.”

CHATHAM, NJ – MARCH 11, 2017: Red wine aisle in a Bottle King store. Bottle King is the largest New Jersey retailer of wine, beer and spirits.