The best tamales in the world are being made at a counter in the Whole Foods Market,Cerillos Road,Santa Fe,NM. A Mexican family creates magical pork,turkey mole,chicken and vegetable tamales. If travels take you to The City Different pick up a dozen for your freezer.
The full name of the inventor of the Takee Cup was Tuck Yee Lee. The late Mr. Lee also ran a successful frozen chow mein and chop suey factory in Greenwich Village. He was not on the cutting edge of Chinese cuisine. Formulating the Takee Cup seemed to have exhausted his creativity.
Today was chilly in Santa Fe. Brought me back to my childhood and two cold weather street food treats we little guys enjoyed. Sweets and Mickeys. A sweet was a hot,baked sweet potato. They were sold every day by an old man who pushed a black metal coal burning stove through the streets of The Bronx. The sweet came with a rather generous hunk of butter and the treat cost 2 cents. The mickey was even cheaper. It was an Idaho potato stolen from the stand of a local greengrocer. We roasted them in a wood fire in an empty lot. This was classified as very bad behavior by our all-knowing mothers. Our clothes would be sniffed when we came home for dinner and if there was the odor of wood smoke about us we were in for punishment. In my home that mean a lot of shouting. Punishment was more physical for my little Irish and Italian buddies.
The Takee Cup was an ambulatory treat available decades ago on the boardwalk at Edgemere,a working class summer vacation neighborhood of Rockaway Beach,N.Y. The Takee Cup,oval in shape,was fashioned of fried chow mein noodles. It was filled with chow mein. A squirt of soy sauce. A dab of hot mustard. Plastic fork in hand you strolled the boardwalk and when finished with the interior you munched on the tasty,crispy noodle cup. I marveled at the aptness of the name—Takee. Redolent of the Orient (at least as interpreted by New Yorkers of a certain generation} and descriptive in terms of the snack’s mobility. Lately I learned the bitter truth. The snack was originally named The Tuckee Cup after its inventor,a Mr. Tuck Lee. A large sign proclaimed The Tuckee Cup. When the boardwalk shop closed for the winter, bad, bad boys changed the “T” in the sign to an “F.” An indecency was created. Every year the proprietor repainted “the sign. He got tired of it. Thus,”Takee” was born. By the way,it cost 15 cents and it was mighty tasty.
The great German/Jewish poet and man of letters Heinrich Heine (1797-1856) said, after demolishing a platter of stuffed cabbage at a Jewish restaurant in Vienna: “What a noble religion we have.” The prescient Heine, on a darker note, said: “Where they have burned books they will end by burning people.” Sidebar: There is a just-restored white marble monument to Heine, “Lorelei,” on a plaza opposite the art deco Bronx County Courthouse (the Courthouse is featured in Tom Wolfe’s novel “Bonfire of the Vanities.”)
As a journalist, Joyce Wadler of the New York Times is in class by herself. She can craft a sentence that does somersaults, cartwheels and pratfalls. She dazzles. Look for her byline. It usually appears in the Home section on Thursday. Ms. Wadler can make an ordinary interview on the most mundane subject worth reading and then rereading in case you’ve missed some of her cunning ploys. Another witty woman is Lesley Freeman Riva. She writes, wonderfully, on food and family on the Atlantic Food Channel blog. Yes, she is the daughter of Hungry Gerald but nepotism is not an issue. She’s been winning journalism awards,writing books and winning praise from readers and editors for almost 25 years.
With no help from me, I assure you. And, she keeps friends and family very well fed, indeed. Do not miss her insights on Italy, Italian food and lunch as the most important element of an Italian education. She is married to a distinguished Italian Professor. She has lived for long periods in Venice, Florence, Bologna, Siena and has traveled throughout Italy. She and her two daughters are fluent in Italian though, it is charged, the girls have Venetian accents.
Tonight is a repeat of yesterday’s triumphant Thanksgiving dinner. Yesterday we attacked the food. Tonight we get a chance to savor. Tomorrow: Turkey sandwiches (with lots of Russian dressing and Bubbie’s sweet and sour pickles).
Sunday: Turkey Tacos (Avocado slices,chopped sweet onion,chipotle mayonnaise,cilantro. Tomatillo salsa and pico de gallo on the side). Monday: Turkey vegetable soup with DiCecco egg noodles.Tuesday: Sirloin steak pan broiled very rare in the Tuscan fashion and topped wiith olive oil and garlic. Bye,bye Birdie!!
Jamie Sikorski is a big,handsome gourmand who lives, eats and drinks excellent wine in what may be the world’s best food city–Vancouver,British Columbia. Jamie is always planning to go to Paris with me for some non-stop fressing and guzzling. He never makes it. Excuses. Business pressures. Personnel problems. He lies. The stark truth is that he cannot
tear himself away from the Public Market on Granville Island.
This is the home of Oyama,the ultimate purveyor of charcuterie. Think pates,terrines,rillettes,duck confit and almost limitless variety of hams and sausages. There are superb steaks and legs of lamb at Lombardi’s. Fresh fish shops. A cheese purveyor with more than 100 varieties in peak condition. The next door Lobster Man with oysters,mussels,clams,shrimp and..you guessed it..lobsters.
Tons of fresh fruits and vegetables straight from the Fraser and Okonagan Valleys. Sometimes Jamie meanders over to Fourth Avenue in the Kitsilano neighborhood for marinated,spatchcocked free range chickens and succulent Berkshire pork chops. When not cooking you can find Jamie
at Chonquing Szechuan for dim sum and cool noodles in a fiery sesame sauce. He is a devoted patron of Tojo, best Japanese restaurant outside of Tokyo and Kyoto.He can be found at Vij’s,the deservedly famous Indian fusion restaurant where patrons line up at 5:30 PM in hopes of snaring a table. Jamie likes West and Cru and scores of other wonderful high and low cuisine restaurants. But,since he is a serious wine collector with a giant climate controlled wine cellar in his modernist condominium triplex, he likes to dine at home with the best of France,Napa and Okanagan at his fingertips.
His dining venue is his rooftop terrace—about the size of a rugby pitch–which overlooks the high rise spires of downtown Vancouver. It is a serious dining terrace. A special crane had to lift the state of the art Italian barbecue to its designated position. Jamie is a lavish host and his terrace dinners always include many attractive women. So,it is understandable when I say to Jamie: “How about a week in Paris this February?” he responds: “Absolutely.Positively. Surely…..but,but.”
Sorry about my snarky comments about the Thanksgiving gobbler and all the fixins. Wife Sharon reached new heights yesterday. Silky butternut squash soup heightened with cumin and cayenne. A noble bird roasted on a bed of aromatics
and root vegetables. Cornbread and sausage stuffing. Mashed potatoes made by Hungry Gerald maximizing butter,sweet cream and sour cream. Haricot verts. Brussel sprouts sauteed with garlic and pancetta. Two types of cranberry sauce…traditional and chutney (cranberries cooked with a lot of ginger and orange zest). A gallon of zesty gravy.Two pies. Apple baked by Sharon. Pecan baked by Trader Joe. Vanilla and butter pecan ice cream. Cognac. Seconds were not enough for me. I had thirds. Was contemplating a fourth helping of everything when good sense prevailed. Sharon looked at my heaping plate and said,slyly:”Carbonara anyone?”
Another word or two on Pechter. The late comic genius,Zero Mostel, explained his much more than robust physique thusly:”I suffer from Pechter’s syndrome.”