Andrew MacDonald: Mussel Master (And Oysters, Too).

August 30th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

The name — Mussel Interpretive Center — is not one to set the taste buds tingling. So, ignore the name for the moment.

Here’s the set up. The Center is one of the stores in the pleasantly grey shingled group of buildings facing St. Peter’s Bay in the town of St. Peter in Prince Edward Island.

One part of the Center is a rather bleak dining room surrounded by the none too exciting implements of mussel farming (one can also watch a video devoted to the bivalve). The rest of the space is the domain of the MacDonald family — father Andrew and sunny faced young daughters, Katie and Sarah. Here you can buy hard shell clams (quahogs), oysters and, of course, bags of freshly harvested mussels. Best of all, one can feast on HG’s daily luncheon treat, the MacDonald mussel chowder. This is simply the best chowder imaginable. A creamy (but not heavy) broth filled with plump, flavorful mussels. Diners can also have big platters of perfectly steamed mussels or quahogs with melted butter (pus a bit of tabasco) and a crisp biscuit with butter.

There’s another treat Chez MacDonald– South Lake oysters on the half shell. Big, briny, lush. At $1.35 an oyster they are an affordable sea dream realized. Andrew MacDonald shucks them perfectly with the deft touch of a brain surgeon. Not a drop of brine is wasted. Not a chip of shell mars the exquisite oyster.

Beyond the wonderful eats to be had at the M.I.C., the MacDonald family are a joyous presence. Andrew, Katie and Sarah take real pride in their establishment and they extend a genuine feeling of welcome to all customers.

Italian Golden Oldies

August 25th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Clams Posillipo used to be on the menu of every Italian restaurant in New York. Disappeared in recent years (along with a number of other tasty classics). BSK revived it last night due to the availability of juicy (and inexpensive) Prince Edward Island little neck clams. The dish is simple. Clams in the shell are cooked in chopped canned tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, parsley and a bit of clam broth (add some tomato paste for a thicker sauce/soup). Hot pepper flakes sprinkled on top to taste. Accompanied by plenty of crusty bread for dunking.

Earlier in the day, BSK made a big batch of pesto with freshly picked basil and walnuts. Mixed it with spaghetti, yellow beans, halved cherry tomatoes and tiny (scrumptious) PEI potatoes. Drank lots of Chilean red wine.

HG relished these Italian classics. A tasty voyage into the past.

A Naughty Gift.

August 23rd, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

HG’s brilliant, cherubic, handsome grandson, HS, presented HG with a gift: An 80 gram package of Hawkins Cheezies, the Canadian answer to Cheetos. HS, with wisdom beyond his five years, knows HG’s weakness. As mentioned in an earlier post, HG loves Cheetos. Could these northern Cheezies with their proclamation of “Vrai Fromage Cheddar” challenge the Cheeto as HG’s favorite guilty pleasure? Well. That’s what taste tests are made for. HG sampled ten of the little orange devils. Wow! Crispy, salty with the bite of real aged cheddar — similar to a fancy cheese straw, but better. Hands down triumph for our friendly neighbors to the North. Thanks Grandson HS!

And with that salty, crispness lingering on his palate HG recalls another guilty love — the Frito. And not just a Frito, but that ultimate triumph of New Mexican proletarian cooking: The Frito Pie. Oh, yes. The Frito Pie is constructed of chopped meat on a bed of Fritos flavored with red chile sauce (no, not that stuff in a bottle but a fiery, long simmered sauce made from Hatch chiles.). It is topped with grated American cheese, chopped onions and salsa. As the saying goes: Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it.

Cheezies and the Frito are not exactly health foods. Much salt. Enormous amounts of calories. More cholesterol than you can imagine. But what would a guilty pleasure be if it did not actually make one guilty? So, do HG a favor and don’t tell his Doc.

Maple Leaf Forever.

August 21st, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

HG loves Canada. The cities. The farmlands. The mountains. The waters — the Atlantic and the Pacific and everything in between. Most of all, the people. Sane. Rational. Accepting. Of course, HG is most influenced by the fact that that BSK, the love of HG’s life, is a Canadian.

SJ informed HG today that Canadian food is having “a trendy moment in New York.” (see Robert Sietsema’s fine Article on the Subject HERE)HG is puzzled. Of course, there is wonderful food in Canada and chefs who take advantage of great seafood, beef, lamb, organic vegetables. Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal are world class foodie cities. But, the predominant influence in Vancouver is Asiatic. Toronto is international and eclectic. Montreal is very French, of course, but there are Jewish influences and some restaurants that feature hefty Quebec dishes (a lot of fat and maple syrup as befitting a climate that can get super chilly). The only uniquely Canadian food HG knows is poutine, a mixture of cheese curds and gravy usually served over French fries. It is ubiquitous in Montreal and the entire Francophone region. It is even on the menu at McDonald’s. How does it taste? Vile. Montreal gourmets are proud of Montreal bagels (totally inferior to New York’s H & H product). They also tout Montreal smoked beef, mentioning it as a competitor of New York pastrami.They must be kidding.

HG’s favorite taste of Canada is the huge array of oysters at Rodney’s Oyster Bar (Vancouver and Toronto). Perfectly shucked. Served with freshly grated horseradish. Nicely priced wine list. Canada at its natural, unpretentious best.

Summertime Maiko Magic

August 18th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

HG’s daughter-in-law, Exquisite Maiko, made summertime magic last night. Here were the dishes: Cucumber Salad (Maiko thinly sliced some seedless cucumbers. Salted them for 1/2 hour and then squeezed out all water. Marinated them briefly in vinegar and sugar and served them with a dressing of sesame oil, vinegar and soy sauce. Decorated with halved cherry tomatoes).

Chirashi Sushi (Vinegared Sushi Rice with nori, Japanese preserved vegetables and strips of egg crepe).

A Japanese Take on Gambas al Ajillo (Maiko did quick stir fry of tiger shrimp and garlic and finished it with a light dusting of Spanish smoked paprika and soy sauce. It’s all in the timing Maiko shrimp are juicy and bursting with flavor.).

Sauteed Sole with Kombu and Garlic Chips (Maiko slow cooks thin slices of garlic in vegetable oil. The key is slow cooking. Drains the brown chips on a paper towel. Maiko dusts sole fillets in salt and black pepper. Adds some soy sauce. Sautees gently. Tops with garlic chips and crisp pieces of kombu).

Don’t you wish you were dining Chez HG, BSK, SJ and Exquisite Maiko last night? Grandson Haru liked it as well.

Lin’s Takeout: Gem Of St. Peter’s Bay

August 18th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

SJ here! In a previous post, Hungry Gerald lauded the Scallop Burger at Lin’s Takeout as “better than Pastrami.” Well, nothing is really “better” than Pastrami. Different, yes. Enjoyable, yes. But, Better? Hmmm. That said, Lin’s Takeout is simply terrific. The lauded Scallop Burger is a wonderful thing. The view of St. Peter’s Bay is a joy. And…The fish! Yes Lin, who can gently saute a scallop, also turns out to be a wizard with the deep fryer. She produces crisp, not-greasy and not over-breaded pieces of Haddock with stunning, hand cut, PEI sourced French Fries (or chips to these Anglo-Canadians). These fries have character and the real minerally flavor of fresh potatoes (A PEI potato farmer informed SJ that most of the Potatoes we eat in the states are up to a year old!). The fish is perfection — crack that crust with a fork and the briefest whisp of steam escapes revealing perfectly fresh, white, flakey haddock. Splash some malt vinegar on the whole, take a deep breath of that glorious rose-scented air of St. Peter’s Bay and dig into one of the finest Summertime treats.

Bad New York Treats. And some Overlooked Ones.

August 17th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

HG never fancied that New York street treat, the “dirty water” hot dog. HG found the fat, soft, salty pretzels that were sold on many Manhattan streets to be a glob of soggy vileness. Even worse was the sad excuse for a Knish that was hawked alongside the dogs and pretzels.

HG did fancy hot chestnuts (especially on a cold Fifth Avenue winter day). But then again, HG just loves chestnuts in many different forms.

For a real New York only inexpensive treat, HG turned to the indoor pleasures of Chinese-Cuban restaurants. After Battista had fallen many Havana based Chinese restaurant owners made their way to NYC because of the large Chinese population. These newly arrived entrepreneurs found a great niche by blending Chinese favorites with the Cuban dishes of their abandoned city. These restaurants flourished (hope they still do) in Washington Heights and on Broadway north of 145th Street. There were a number on the upper West Side as well. Have these been pushed out by chains and upscale retailers?? (Nope, says SJ. La Caridad on 78th and Broadway still dishes out some fine Cuban-Chinese) The dishes HG liked were Moors and Christians (white rice and black beans) and Cubanos (roast pork, ham, pickle and cheese sandwiches pressed into savory yumminess on a grill). Good company for these dishes was an avocado-sweet onion-orange salad followed by a bracing Cuban coffee.

HG knows that the Vietnamese sandwich has burst into the forefront of cheap NYC food favorites, but for HG the classic Cubano remains tops.

Max Is Wrong.

August 16th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

The great English caricaturist, theater critic, wit and prose master, Max Beerbohm (known as The Incomparable Max) once made this cynical observation: “Why do strawberries picked in a fresh, dewy meadow never taste as good as strawberries purchased at a greengrocer?”

Funny stuff, Mr.Incomparable. But, not true. HG thought about the English dandy as he strolled to HG’s beachfront on a path lined with raspberry bushes. HG’s progress was slow due to many nibbles of drenchingly sweet, juicy berries plucked off the bushes. Delight.

Sea Bounty

August 15th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

SJ and famille are on Prince Edward Island. That means oyster shucking time. Most oyster lovers are familiar with PEI’s Malpeques. Certainly a tasty, briny oyster. But, it’s not the only Island oyster. Here are some other varieties.Colville Bay, Raspberry Point and South Lake. HG’s favorite is South Lake. Perfect in size. Perfect balance between brine and sweetness. Let’s start shuckin and pass the India Pale Ale.

Theresa: Sweet And Simple–Like PEI.

August 14th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

HG and BSK are big fans of a lady we know only by her first name, Theresa. That’s the name that adorns various mason jars of good things — pickles, chow chow, relishes, jams jellies — available at various farm stands on Prince Edward Island. Theresa’s strawberry jam is a breakfast staple. Here’s the list of ingredients: “Strawberries. Sugar.” That’s it. Short and to the point. No preservatives, chemicals, pectin, gelatins, etc. A simple taste — “Strawberries. Sugar” — and so good. Somehow it seems symbolic of the soft green hills and soaring surf of this gentle island.