Vegetable Burgers. Why?

March 24th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

New York Times just did a big piece on vegetable burgers. The claim is that these horrors are good to eat. HG doesn’t buy it. Who needs veggie burgers? Have we run out of cows? There are so many good things to do with vegetables rather than dicing them into some semblance of a true burger. Reminds HG of the protose steak that was served at New York’s old time Kosher, non-meat restaurants. These eateries obeyed the Mosaic dietary rule that meat and dairy products not be eaten in the same meal (Kosher law contains a great more complexity than “no meat with your dairy,” but let’s leave that to the Talmudical scholars). Anyway, meatless meat was a concession to Kosher Jews who wanted a taste of flesh with their dairy. Enter the horrifying protose steak. HG believes it was made of soy, barley and wheat products. It most assuredly did not taste like meat. HG believes it tasted like a veggie burger. It was awful.

If you want a non-meat burger-like product why not tuck some falafel (Israeli fried chick pea balls) into a pita with lettuce, onion, tomato, yogurt? Add the hot sauce of your choice (harissa, sriracha, sambal oelek or just plain Tabasco). Now, that’s a veggie burger worth eating.

Rule, Britannia!!

March 24th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

If you have the misfortune (like HG) to be diagnosed with a pesky strain of European pneumonia make sure you are in London and check into University College Hospital. HG had superb care there. And, the food wasn’t bad. What HG liked was a patient could opt for vegetarian, halal or Afro/Caribbean food. HG chose Afro/Caribbean and it had some spice and zest to it. Thank you, Doctors McAnn and Crummy.

Puff Away, Enchanting Parisiennes.

March 21st, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Lux Cafe in Paris’ Montmartre neighborhood is located half way up steep Rue Lepic from naughty Pigalle. It should be the ideal bar/cafe in which to sip a drink, nibble some treats and people watch. It looks pleasantly antique and slightly disheveled. The juke box delights with old rock and roll and soul.

Parisian restaurants, bistros, cafes and bars are strictly no smoking. The outdoor cafe areas are another story. They are nicotine heaven. HG sipped a chilled pear eau de vie in Lux’s outdoor cafe seating area as he read his International Herald Tribune. HG was surrounded by voluble young women. The lovely things all wore the current fashion uniform. Short skirt with black leggings, tall boots and a snug, short down jacket. This was varied by some fashionistas who wore very skinny jeans. A pretty sight. However, each stylish woman seemed to be puffing away on what seemed to be at least three cigarettes at once. The Lux outdoor cafe floated in a blue haze and HG smelled like a Gauloise. This tobacco onslaught keeps Lux from being perfect. One can, of course, sip a drink at the indoor bar. But, then you are surrounded by grizzled, grumbling old guys not winsome young things.

Win some. Lose some.

Guacamole Especial at Gabriel’s

March 21st, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Farewell dinner for Glorious Granddaughters at Gabriel’s in Tesuque, NM (a few miles north of the Santa Fe Opera). Guacamole Especial is big time at Gabriel’s. A cart is wheeled table side and a skilled specialist with a P.H.D. hand mixes avocados, tomatoes, onions, fresh oregano and cilantro, lime juice…and some secret ingredients. The sublime guacamole is served with appropriate ceremony in a Molcajete bowl made of volcanic rock. All agreed this was the best guacamole ever. It was followed by carnitas (shredded marinated roast pork) topped with lightly stewed tomatoes and squash; beef chimichangas (deep fried burritos); charro beans; corn tortillas; more guacamole and pitchers of sangria. Sopapillas (Mexican popovers) with honey and flan for dessert. Much tasty fun. Gabriel’s has a beautiful terrace (opens in May) and HG intends to spend some hours there sipping margaritas and dipping into Guacamole Especial. La dolce vida in The Land of Enchantment.

Smetana and Greek Yogurt

March 20th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

HG is a devoted fan of that wonderful writer, Ian Frazier. HG is currently engrossed in Frazier’s “Travels in Siberia.” There is a direct link between Frazier’s diet on his Siberian voyage and HG’s diet as a youngster in The Bronx. The staple Siberian food is cottage cheese and smetana (sour cream) which Frasier ate at least twice a day during his rugged travels. Little HG also had a robust ration of smetana daily. Sour cream was always called “smetana” in the HG household, a reminder of HG’s Russian ancestry. HG had smetana with boiled potatoes. Smetana with borscht. Smetana with schav (cold sorrel soup, a summer treat). Smetana with cottage cheese, pot cheese, farmer cheese. Smetana with herring. Smetana with kasha. Smetana with chopped scallions and radishes. Smetana with every variety of fruit. The little guy ingested an awful lot of smetana.

This sour cream wasn’t the pallid stuff you find in supermarket containers these days. Bronx smetana was a local product, bought at local stores where butter didn’t come in packages but was cut from a giant tub. The closest you can get to Bronx smetana is Greek yogurt. Happily, it’s easily available. Followers of HG may note that HG adds Greek yogurt to many dishes. Childhood food comforts live forever.

Getting Even With The White Guys.

March 20th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Big disappointment in Taos today. Promised Glorious Granddaughters Ms. A. and Ms. S. a trip to Taos, NM to see the famed, still functioning Taos Pueblo. Alas, when we pulled up to the Pueblo road it was roped off and a big “Closed” sign was prominent. This often happens at the Native American pueblos in New Mexico. Their website says “Open” but when you get there all is closed. Getting even with the palefaces? A bit of inconvenience to combat a policy of genocide?

Of course, the gaming casino next to the Pueblo was open and busy. Consoled ourselves with some super green chili smothered breakfast burritos in the Doc Martin’s Restaurant in the historic Taos Inn. Went to the Millicent Rogers Museum to see the superb collection of silver, torquoise, pottery, weavings, santos, etc. A lovely overview of New Mexico’s complex culture. Saw a beautiful group of Doel Reed’s acquatints at the Fechin House/Taos Art Museum. Ended the day by visiting the most painted and photographed church in the United States: San Francisco of Assisi in Rancho de Taos. It is pure sculpture, always changing as the light changes. Glad we saw it at the end of the day because Taos itself, the town and region of artistic glory, has become a mockery of itself, a tourist trap. A pity.

Hot Springs And Tempura. Life’s Okay.

March 19th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

HG, BSK and Glorious Granddaughters Ms. A and Ms. S. hit fun and funky Ojo Caliente Hot Spings nestled in the hills of Taos County, N.M. We dunked and lolled for hours in pools that promised various benefits due to the mineral composition of the water. HG felt very svelte in his Speedo since much of the Ojo Caliente clientele verged on the plus size oversize. As he sweltered HG chatted with a professor of rhetoric, a 300-pound poet, a hospice specialist who prepared folks for the long journey that has no return ticket. Sweet people. After a final dunk in a 105 degree caldron, HG swam for happy minutes in a 81 degree pool. Then cleansed in a big, delicious private tub.

It was a very clean, relaxed, mineral healthy HG and famille that motored back to Santa Fe. All were ravenous. Went to Shohko Cafe where much miso soup, gyoza, shrimp and vegetable tempura were devoured. There was also a very nice roll of salmon, cucumber and avocado. Also some New Mexico chili peppers stuffed with shrimp, fried tempura style and sauced with Thai sweet chili. A family clean in body, spiritual in mind and full in tummy.

Salad Sorcery And Deft Pizzas

March 18th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

Beautiful and brilliant granddaughters (this is not Grandpa excess and overstatement) Ms. A and Ms. S. are visiting. After a hike among ancient Native American cliff dwellings the young ladies were hungry so HG and BSK took them off to “O” The Eating House in Pojoaque (New Mexico of course!).

Creative salads and thin crust pizza. Salad one: Hand crafted, creamy buratta on top of paper thin slices of pear dressed with lemon oil; topped with roasted hazelnuts. Salad two: A deconstructed Caesar featuring a poached egg and deep fried, breaded anchovies. Salad three: A toasted round of artisan goat cheese atop frisee dressed with an assertive vinaigrette. The pizzas: A conventional mozzarella and tomato made brilliant by the addition of handmade fennel sausage; sublime combination of guanciale (cured pig jowl), roasted eggplant and fried onions and peppers. Civilized dining in The Land of Enchantment.

Southern Comfort (The Food, Not That Sweet Alcohol Crap).

March 17th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

HG spent some early formative years in the Deep South and has never lost his taste for comforting, spicy, nutritionally incorrect southern cooking. The foundation for many great dishes is stone ground grits. You can cook grits in milk or stock (depending on whether you’re using them for breakfast or dinner). You can stir in cheese or gently sauteed garlic. An unbeatable comfort breakfast is grits topped with poached eggs and bacon.

HG first tasted shrimp and grits (with Tasso ham) at the late Soul Kitchen in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. The shrimp had been cooked in a dark, spicy New Orleans roux and then poured over buttery, creamy grits. Yowzah, Yowzah, boys and girls, mighty fine eating. Hit Google for a load of shrimp and grits recipes and choose one heavy on spice. HG also likes fried catfish with grits (for an HG recipe Click Here) Add some collard greens (or garlicky sauteed spinach) to your plate. Dot the grits and spinach with a bit of butter. Pass the Tabasco or Frank’s Hot Sauce. Let the good times roll.

Opposites Attract

March 16th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Sweet watermelon and briny Greek feta cheese make a great combo. Chunks of melon, cubes of feta, some good olive oil, lemon juice and chopped mint. You’ve got a salad. HG suggests you follow it with some rare grilled lamb chops. Look for Colorado lamb. It’s the best. If not available, Trader Joe’s New Zealand lamb chops are quite good. Modestly priced, too. Welcome to Spring.