Down Home Dining In New Mexico

June 19th, 2011 § 3 comments § permalink

HG has long discovered that even the most humble of restaurants (excepting the very worst) have something that they do wonderfully. And, that’s the way it is in Jacona, HG’s New Mexico neighborhood some 15 minutes north of Santa Fe. There’s El Parasol for a wonderfully soothing and earthy menudo. Gabriel’s for the ultimate mixed-at-the-table guacamole. Sopapilla Factory for (you guessed it) sopapillas ( they also do a giant chicken burrito smothered in green chile and a killer bowl of charro beans). All eateries are located on Highway 84/285.

HG never eats New Mexican food in Santa Fe. Too touristy. Santa Fe is HG’s venue for Japanese food: Shohko Cafe for sushi and tempura and Shibumi for Ramen.

On a cross cultural note. Last time HG was in Sopaipilla Factory, HG saw a large gent in a turban, long cloaks, etc, digging into an appetizing and spicy
platter. HG made inquiry. Sikh gent replied: “Tofu carnitas in red chile sauce”).

An Indulgent Lunch

June 17th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Have to mention the tasty lunch HG and BSK shared with La Famiglia following the graduation of granddaughter Ms. A., a young woman who has been showered with more than a score of academic awards. The ceremonies under the stately elms of the Moses Brown preparatory school had dignity, style and a certain bit of reserve that is uniquely New England.

Reserved yes. Short, they were not. Suffice it to say, La Famiglia had much appetite by the time all were seated at Hemenway’s, HG’s favorite Providence seafood restaurant. Chilled Muscadet with an array of good things from the sea: fried oysters with a garlicky mayonnaise, Rhode Island’s special fried squid with hot peppers and clams casino. Then, great seafood salads. The very freshest garden greens. Big, plump shrimp. Chunks of Maine lobster. Maryland lump crab meat. Hard boiled eggs and tomato wedges. All were served with a flavorful dressing that didn’t overwhelm the very generous helpings of crustaceans. Tart key lime pie for dessert. HG and party truly feasted on fruits de mer. Clinked glasses and wished enchanting Ms. A. a brilliant future.

Brooklyn Takes Culinary Center Stage

June 17th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

It was a great party and Riverside, R.I. rocked. More than 60 people gathered to celebrate the graduation of granddaughters, Ms. A. and Ms. S.. There was lots of tangy sangria to drink and daughter LR provided guacamole, Caprese salad; the very best fusili salad; cumin and garlic flavored grilled chicken; chicken satay and other good things.

But, the stars with oak leaf cluster had to go to the Brooklyn Bombshells, SJ and Exquisite Maiko. Big Boss of Brooklyn Bar-Bee-Q SJ brought along his smoker and logs of white oak. There were ribs and pulled pork. HG is at a loss (almost) for words. SJ’s ribs had a kinship to the dry rubbed Memphis ribs served at Corky’s and other Tennessee establishments. But, better. Much better. SJ ribs had heat, spice, juice, tenderness. Incomparable. Big ribs. HG grabbed four before the crowd discovered the treat. The pulled pork? Juicy. Smoky. Just lush piggy that needed just a touch of SJ’s spicy sauce and LR’s cole slaw.

Maiko provided shrimp summer rolls A gossamer rice paper wrapper enclosed shrimp, ribbons of egg, slivers of carrot and Soba noodles. Thoughtful Maiko also provided a vegetarian version for the shrimp intolerant. She also made a rice noodle salad, Vegetables sliced into needle-like proportions. Shrimp. Maiko’s unique dressing.

A saintly guest provided HG’s favorite dessert: English Trifle. Fresh fruit, sponge cake and lots of whipped cream. The party brought graduation week to a lovely close. But, not quite.

The next night was Senior Prom for Ms. A. and photos revealed that she and escort looked like movie stars.

There’s a Yiddish word–“naches”. Naches is the pleasure one derives from the accomplishments of one’s children. Last week, HG and BSK bathed in a warm pool of naches.

Nothing Provincial About Providence

June 14th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Providence, Rhode Island has quietly become one of the great food towns. Lots of great seafood from the Atlantic and Narragansett Bay. The clams — called quahogs in Rhode Island, are unsurpassed. Fried clam bellies. Local oysters. Crabs (soft shells are now in season). Scungili and snail salads are available at many venues. Indeed, the Ocean State lives up to its name (of course, there’s Federal Hill for all of the good things of Italy).

Celebrated Brilliant Granddaughter SR’s 8th grade graduation at the lovely New Rivers Restaurant on the edge of the Brown University campus. World class food. Lots of small plates to start. Smoked trout. Smoked Artic Char. Smoked squid salad. Crunchy falafel, Flavorful tete de veau terrine. Truly an international array. Chilled bottle of Prosecco was perfect for the weather and the smoky appetizers. Mains centered around Berkshire pork and extraordinary fried soft shell crabs nestled on a galette of crispy shoe string potatoes. Wines were an Italian Dolcetto and a California Pinot Noir. Dessert was dense chocolate cake augmented by salted caramel. Nice celebration for SR’s outstanding academic performance.

Disappointment. Obsession Obliterated.

June 14th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Went to Lees Chinese Restaurant in Riverside, R.I. with high hopes but was met with grim disappointment. HG was hoping to revisit an old obsession. HG had been informed that Lees featured a Chow Mein sandwich, the oft posted about treat HG had relished for so many years at Nathan’s Famous in New York. This is what HG got at Lees: A large bowl of celery and onion in a gloppy, dark tan sauce thickened beyond recognition by corn starch. A large plate of crispy chow mein noodles and — surprise!! — a heap of French fries. On top of the noodles was a stale hamburger bun. In other words, a do-it -yourself Chow Mein sandwich. Tasted awful.

The pomme frites, however, even though they were an odd ingredient in a purportedly Chinese restaurant, were splendid. Best HG has had in years. Go figure. HG is now officially cured of his Chow Mein sandwich obsession.

You can’t go home again, said Thomas Wolfe. For HG, eating Lee’s Chow Mein sandwich was like encountering an old girl friend much assaulted by time. Not wise to stir up some old memories.

Ocean State Lunch

June 10th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

A respite for Gifted Daughter LR and Profesore/Dottore MR. These busy professionals never have time for restaurant lunches. HG (resident in landlocked Santa Fe) often dreams about freshly shucked oysters and clams freshly dug from the seashore. The solution: Monday lunch at Hemenway’s, a bright, lively restaurant overlooking the river in downtown Providence. A few dozen oysters (from the shores of Rhode Island, Connecticut, Long island and Rhode Island). A few dozen little neck clams from Rhode Island (known as Quahogs in New England). All sparkling with freshness and full of briny flavors. Then a lobster salad with big chunks of juicy Maine lobster. A platter of fried squid with hot peppers (a Rhode Island specialty).

With sun pouring through big windows and a reasonable amount of Murphy-Goode Fume Blanc being poured, this was memorable New England dining.

Famiglia Food. Pt. 2

June 10th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Last night, Gifted Daughter LR made an unusual pesto: arugula, walnuts, garlic, chives and olive oil. Mixed it with spaghetti, cherry tomatoes, parsley and quick-sauteed asparagus. Nice summery flavors.

Famiglia Food. The Best. Pt.1

June 10th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

HG arrived at waterfront home of Gifted Daughter LR and Profesore/ Dottore MR in Riverside, R.I.. After lengthy travel from Santa Fe, HG was truly hungry….and thirsty. Awaiting HG was a bottle of Vinho Verde (the semi-sparkling, delicious “new” wine of the Minho region of Portugal) and Gifted Daughter LR’s version of a crab and avocado salad (really a nautical guacamole). This is an HG favorite. It was followed by a garlicky stew of Rhode Island clams (best in the world), shrimp and Italian sausage which was served on a bed of creamy polenta. Great bread. Two Vermont cheeses. White grapes.

Dining a La Famiglia. Beats any restaurant.

Bones Bliss

June 8th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

When in Denver HG always dines at Bones, an Asian fusion noodle restaurant in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. HG counsel: Sit at the bar and watch the five person crew do magic.

Small plates are outstanding: slightly fiery shishito peppers (with a real Madrid taste); escargot pot stickers in a slightly sweet Thai chili sauce; Korean barbecued pork ribs on a bed of Kimchi; crab spring rolls; steamed buns with a choice of suckling pig or pork belly. HG usually follows some starters with noodles. There’s a choice of soba, ramen and rice noodles with appropriate additions like chicken, pork or lobster. Some very nice evening specials (last week HG had plump, browned sea scallops resting on a delightful, first-of-the-season sweet corn melange). There are inventive salads and a nicely priced sake and wine list. Dessert is soft ice cream. Lush flavors change nightly. Service is friendly and efficient. Bones proprietor, Christopher is an elegant, stylish and personable guy who brings a touch of class to this lively bistro that is much favored by Denver’s hip, young fashionables.

Forgive And Forget?

June 6th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Seems odd, but at one time New York had more German restaurants than Italian restaurants. In terms of time, the ubiquitous pizza joint is a fairly recent trend. Yorkville, the traditional German neighborhood in the East 70s and 80s (bordered by Lexington Avenue), had lots of German dining spots that fit all budgets. Despite World War Two and the Nazi-loving German American Bund (headquartered in Yorkville and run by the thuggish Fritz Kuhn), New York’s many German eateries flourished well into the 60’s. Luchow’s, of course, was one of the city’s greatest restaurants and did honor to the best traditions of German cuisine, wine and beer.

A particular HG favorite was the Blue Ribbon in the West 40’s, much favored by journalists. HG often lunched on steak tartare (better than any served in Paris then and now), kassler ripchen (smoked pork chops) and grilled bratwurst. The home fries were incomparable. After a boxing match, basketball game or hockey tussle at the old Madison Square Garden (then located at 50th and 8th Avenue), HG and buddies would gorge on the Blue Ribbon’s huge apple pancake (bigger than the biggest pizza) washed down with dark German beer.

The demise of German restaurants in New York, HG opines, had more to do with changed eating habits than politics. Cholesterol fear trumped anti-Nazi sentiments. What remains of German food glory is the great German pork, sausage and cured meat emporium, Schaller and Weber, located on Second Avenue and 85th Street. If you can’t get there order online and enjoy some of the best wintry treats. Oompah.

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