October 31st, 2011 § § permalink
Yes, it’s true. HG, the devoted carnivore, has become a veggie junkie. Dinner last night was HG’s garlicky eggplant caviar, a big platter of sliced radishes and baby white turnips. Ripe, sliced tomatoes with buffala mozzarella (okay, cheese isn’t a vegetable) and lots of basil and very good Sicilian olive oil. Tonight, HG and BSK will have a modest reprise of the turnip, eggplant and tomato appetizers. Then they’ll settle in with penne rigate mixed with a load of cauliflower sauteed in garlic infused olive oil. Tomorrow night plans call for kasha (buckwheat groats) mixed with farfalle (butterfly) pasta. The dish (known as kasha varnishkes) will be topped with fried onions and mushrooms. Greek yogurt on the side. Next night, BSK is contemplating haricots vert and fingerling potatoes in an Indian inspired cumin and mustard seed curry.
Blame the vegetable madness on the superb produce available at the Santa Fe Farmers Market. Star of the market is HG’s organic farmer neighbor Gary (known in the market as Mister G.). You’ve got to get to his stand early to stock up on his incomparable lettuces, escarole, fingerling potatoes, shisito peppers, radishes, turnips, arugula, parsley and many other good things. The knowing gourmets of the Land of Enchantment snap up Gary’s produce quickly.
October 31st, 2011 § § permalink
Notice how the foodie magazines go crazy about turkey and Thanksgiving Day? They’ve got to come up with something new every year so there are insane suggestions regarding the noble bird traditional on the day of family tension and overeating. Soak it in cider. Soak it in bourbon. Rub it with outlandish spice mixtures…Cajun, Jerk, Moroccan, Mexican, ad infinitum.
Deep fry the turkey. Poach the bird. Stick beer cans up the bird’s ass and rotate it slowly over a pit of glowing coals.
Side dish ideas are equally surreal. Stuffing suggestions combine the unspeakable with the indigestible.
HG’s suggestion: Keep it simple. Keep it traditional. Do what Mom or your Grandfather did.
October 28th, 2011 § § permalink
The sixth game of this 2011 World Series was the most exciting baseball game HG ever watched. Brought HG back to his youth when the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers used to battle. HG’S capacity for diamond thrills may have been enhanced by the large amounts of La Pinta Pomegranatee infused tequila HG was downing. Just discovered this unusual tequila (a gift from a thoughtful friend) and it’s now a favorite after dinner drink. Don’t know how widely La Pinta is distributed (pretty well actually! check here.) Worth the effort to find it.
October 27th, 2011 § § permalink
What’s a Cataplan? It’s a hinged, oval-shaped copper pot. Cataplans are used throughout Spain and Portugal to make seafood stews. It’s a bit tricky to handle (watch out for hot steam when you snap open the hinged cover) but it’s the perfect culinary device to get all the flavor out of steamed seafood. BSK used it last night to very good effect. As usual she started with a flavorful saute of sweet onions, garlic, chopped pancetta and, best of all, sprigs of tarragon from BSK’s kitchen garden. Sliced fingerling potatoes from neighbor organic farmer Gary G. were put into the mix to soften. Then came St. Ours Clam Broth. This is a really flavorful clam broth powder (reconstitute with boiling water) that’s much better than the bottled stuff you get in supermarkets. Next into the cataplan were Atlantic cherrystone clams. Then Prince Edward Island mussels. When all of the bivalves were just about open, BSK tossed in some chunks of cod fillet. Served ourselves from the cataplan (which was immediately locked again to keep second helpings hot). Dipped crusty bread and had a joyous time. Take a tip from HG and the folks on the Iberian peninsula and buy a cataplan.
October 25th, 2011 § § permalink
SJ here. Christians have their Church bells. Muslims have the sound of the Muezzin calling the faithful to prayer. In my gustatory devotion, I have the sound of a dim sum cart rattling about while shouts of “Har Gow!” pierce the din of a crowded hall.
My place of worship is now the East Harbor Seafood Palace (714 65th Street in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn). Consistently packed with mostly Chinese clientele, East Harbor is modeled after the huge, dim sum palaces of Hong Kong. It is loud with crowd noise, shouting dim sum cart attendees and the badly amplified voice of the maitre d’ calling waiting diners to their tables. Expect a good 30 to 40 minute wait. Trust me, it is worth it.
I’ve tasted great made-to-order Dim Sum in Manhattan’s Chinatown and in Vancouver and always reveled in the fresh flavors and textures of that methodology. But the carts at East Harbor– owing perhaps to fast turn-around –dish out food that is every bit as fresh as those made-to-order spots and packed with even more flavor. The basics are covered to perfection — Shui Mai, snappishly fresh Har Gow, silky rice noodles, pillowy pork buns, crunchy spring rolls; but the carts keep arriving with things we’ve never seen before: finger length peppers stuffed with pork and crab, garlicky Chinese greens, tiny cockles stir-fried table side in black bean sauce, dumpling varietals with cashews and nuts, and definitely a few things I can’t even name. You see, when the carts keep coming, and you had your 45-minute-starving-to-death wait, you enter into a dim sum frenzy and begin grabbing just about anything for fear that it may all just disappear. At most dim sum spots, this fear is justified — dishes do disappear and the glum Dim Sum car attendants will look at you like a madman if you dare ask if that steamed pork rib dish is going to return. However at East Harbor dishes DO reappear and if you ask for something — crazily enough! — the staff is actually helpful! Yes, East Harbor Seafood has polite staff. They are nice! Nice to us! Nice to my son! They brought water when asked and more chili sauce and even said “no problem” and rushed off to get me some Hoi Sin sauce for my pork buns. This is an amazing thing for a Dim Sum palace — unparalleled actually!
So, the Dim Sum at East Harbor was completely top notch. I would hasten say it is the best in New York, except I know that there are some spots in Flushing that I have not yet tasted. But great dim sum AND a pleasant staff? Don’t know if that will happen in Flushing.
While noshing on our dim sum we noticed that the table next to us was filled with some mighty serious eaters. There were about 15 of them, a family — grandparents down to grand kids — and simply enormous. Each of them hitting upwards of 300+ pounds. All Italians from the neighboring community of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. And they were being brought enormous and extensive casseroles of seafood — lobsters, crabs, prawns, crayfish maybe — and eating it with unmatched gusto. Shells cracking, fingers pulling at shreds of crab meat, juices dripping onto chins — pure joy!
And I didn’t taste it. So, a trip to East Harbor for a non Dim Sum meal is in order and all HG readers should prepare to read all about it!
October 24th, 2011 § § permalink
HG read Sam Sifton’s farewell valedictory in the dining section of the New York Times. Sifton has been upped to National Editor. In the article he recalled the memorable food he’s had as the paper’s food critic. Sifton mentioned lots of fancy food and exotic ingredients. Then he summed up by saying his best meal was at Frankies 457 on Court Street in Brooklyn’s Carroll Gardens neighborhood (SJ’s turf). Sifton, his wife and children, and his brother ate simple salads, pasta, braciola, meatballs plus good wine and bread. Down home, soulful Brooklyn Italian family cooking. And, there’s HG’s secret formula for good dining, a formula Sifton seems to share.. Eat simple, hearty food with people you love. Don’t stint on the wine — and it doesn’t have to be pricey to be good.
October 22nd, 2011 § § permalink
HG’s organic farmer neighbor, Gary G., provides HG and BSK with giant heads of escarole (hard to fit in the frig) at three bucks a bunch. This calls for one of the great comfort dishes — white bean and escarole soup. It all starts with a sofrito of olive oil, chopped onion, browned pancetta, chopped garlic, fresh rosemary and abundant red pepper flakes. Coarsely chopped escarole is softened in the pungent melange. Chicken broth, chopped canned Italian tomatoes are added. A couple of cans of rinsed cannelloni beans go into the pot at the end (Goya is the best brand but Whole Foods 365 is good). Google a recipe to find more exact proportions if you can’t figure it out.
Serve with a dash of good, virgin olive oil or more pepper flakes for fans of the incendiary. The two Frankies of the wonderful Frankies Spuntino restaurants in Brooklyn and Manhattan say the dish is good hot or cold. They often start off their busy cooking days with a cold dish of the soup splashed with plenty of olive oil. HG thinks this tops Cheerios.
October 19th, 2011 § § permalink
It has always been HG”s belief (shared by SJ) that the breakfast burrito at Pete’s Diner on Denver’s gritty Colfax Avenue was state of the art. A big time, flavorful belly buster.
Well, move over, Pete. HG and BSK lunched on breakfast burritos at the rollicking Tune-Up Cafe on Hickox Street in Santa Fe and this is the new champ. The Tune UP serves a Breakfast Burrito that dreams are made of: Organic, thick cut bacon. Perfectly scrambled eggs. Crisp and not greasy fried potatoes. All wrapped in a tortilla and smothered in possibly the best green chili sauce in all of New Mexico. Yes, HG knows this is an inflammatory statement that may provoke disdain and anger among serious green chili heads. But, Tune-Up’s green chili is extraordinary. Dark. Smokey. Just enough heat to tickle but not bludgeon the tongue. Multi-level flavors.
There’s lots more on the menu. Salvadoran pupusas. Mediterranean pasta. Burgers of local, non-biotic-injected beef (served on a brioche bun with garlic mayonnaise). Flatiron steak. And, a long list of Mexican specialties ranging from fish tacos to enchiladas, chicken mole and tamales. You can accompany it all with fairly priced wine. Open all day (seven days a week) from breakfast to brunch, lunch and dinner. Very casual atmosphere, Friendly service. Affordable prices. But, the cooking is serious. Real talent elevates comfort food to new levels.
HG has come late to the party. Tune-Up has been discovered. Guy Fien of Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” visited and did a program (you can see the segment here).
October 16th, 2011 § § permalink
Shout it from the rooftops. Let joy be unconfined and laughter relentless. HG’s pal, Stephanie Pierson, has a new book out: The Brisket Book–A Love Story With Recipes. Twelve lively chapters that tell you everything you want to know about delicious, life enhancing brisket. Barbecue. Your Bubbe’s brisket. Simple brisket. Complex brisket. How to cook it. What to eat with it. What to drink with it. What to do with leftovers (Tacos, anyone?). There’s Cuban brisket, Aquavit brisket, brisket in sweet and sour sauce (HG will pass on that one). The publisher is Andrews McMeel Publishing LLC.
The book has a cautionary note about the noble institution of marriage: “You know what marriage is like at the start–all briskets and blow jobs–then it’s downhill from there.”
October 15th, 2011 § § permalink
HG does not wish anyone to infer from HG’s “Faux Pas” post that he harbors animosity toward Turkey. In fact, HG has long been an admirer of that country, its art, architecture and, of course, its cuisine. One of HG’s heroes is Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, first president of modern Turkey and creator of that secular state. Ataturk was the commander of the Turkish forces at Gallipoli, that misguided slaughter house of World War One where so many young soldiers from Australia, Britain, New Zealand, France, India and Newfoundland lost their lives. Obviously, the present day parallels are many.
In 1934, Ataturk unveiled a memorial to “Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives at Gallipoli.” The inscription reads: “You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore, rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours. You, the mothers who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”