Italians.Think Radical. Eat Conservative?

October 12th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

A wise observer of the Italian culinary scene said that Italians can be outrageous radicals in their political life and crazy innovators when it comes to fashion, furniture design and housewares. But, when they sit down at the table they want the kind of traditional, comforting food they associate with home and Mama. In that respect, Jewish-American HG is truly Italian.

Or is he? Seems that high end Italian restaurants would beg to differ and Frank Bruni, a food writer respected by HG, did a piece in last Sunday’s Times Travel Section about these new, frighteningly creative (and expensive) restaurants in Italy. One restaurant offers its patrons a surgical scalpel to open a little plastic ball containing a raw egg yolk and caviar. HG gathers that if the diner doesn’t have the hands of a surgeon the tasty, one swallow morsel will land on the diner’s lap (along with some blood, one presumes). Madness.

HG and BSK will be in Bologna in November. And what HG wants are those tasty and traditional treats: Bollito misto. Tortellini in brodo; culatello, mortadella and steaming bowls of tagliatelle with Bolognese ragu.

HG can hardly wait to pour some red wine and bask in the joy of Bologna’s trattorias and osterias.

The radical founder of Futurism, Marinetti eating pasta at Milan's Biffi restaurant, 1930.

A Food Faux Pas.

October 11th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

Writing about New York’s late, lamented Balkan Armenian Restaurant, HG recalled a disastrous breach of manners he perpetrated at this resolutely Armenian eatery. At the conclusion of a delightful meal, HG was approached by the restaurant’s very genial and welcoming proprietor, Ed Berberian. “Would you like something else?,” he said.
HG thought about the BA’s thick, sweet, comforting coffee brewed in a little copper pot. “Yes, some Turkish coffee, please.”

The air turned frigid. Berberian’s face turned to stone. He hissed, icily: “You mean Armenian coffee.” A shamed nod and murmured apology from HG.

Proud HG

October 10th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

In case you HG followers hadn’t guessed, the post entitled “Oh My!” was written by SJ. This is a man who can taste and write and convey tastes in words. HG is proud and fortunate. When HG was a Broadway press agent (back in the dark ages) columnist Walter Winchell was the acknowledged media king. In that era before television, WW’s newspaper column and radio program reached millions, influenced government policy and made and broke careers. When HG sent his first contribution to the Winchell column, WW printed it and responded in a brief note: “Keep ’em coming, Keed–WW.”

And, so HG says to SJ: “Keep ’em coming, Keed.”

Putting Some Seoul On The HG Plate.

October 10th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

HG and BSK cook Turkish kefta, Armenian eggplant, French Boeuf Bourguinon, Spanish paella, Moroccan couscous and loads of Italian pasta. But, no hearty, spicy Korean fare. Now, we are ready to get some Seoul stuff going. The package from the excellent Korean online food source, HMart.com arrived today. Chili paste, dry pepper, malt syrup and other staples of the Korean kitchen. Armed with Cecilia Hae Jin Lee’s “Quick & Easy Korean Cooking” the greedy duo is about to begin. HG will keep you informed of progress (or lack of it). Very much want to try black sesame rice porridge, a type of Korean congee topped with honey and toasted pine nuts. HG fancies shozu, the vodka-like Korean spirit. Have not been able to source it. Will have to be content with 100% agave tequila and Sam Adams Oktoberfest Lager chasers. May wind up with face in the kimchi.

Oh My!

October 9th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

SJ Here. Last night my good pal Jay brought over some Pepperoncini that a friend of his had smuggled over from Italy. Tightly packed in a jar of golden oil, the peppers were finger length and a glorious vision of home made craft. I slipped one of these bad boys out of the jar and chomped into it. Oh My. The flavor was like a great short story that unfolds in stages — the first bite, crisp and almost pickle like; then a whoosh of unctuous fat tingling with licorice undertones and finally a revelation of almost meaty flavors with an umami tang of woody mushrooms. Amazing.

I’ve never tasted anything like them and pestered Jay for more information. The following description of these glorious peppers is taken verbatim from the Pepper Smuggler himself:

“These Pepperoncini are cured in a broth called Salamoia, which is a brine consisting of Sicilian Lemon, onion, olive oil and finochietto (baby fennel seed). After soaking in the brine for several weeks, they are then placed into barrels with sea salt and cured for one year. This is where the maloactic fermentation takes place. The peppers are sliced lengthwise and the belly of a tuna is inserted prior to the curing.”

Fast And Good.

October 9th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

HG doesn’t want to sound like a press agent for Whole Foods a.k.a. Whole Paycheck but the pricey grocer does deliver with some quality items. Namely the chicken, feta and spinach sausages. They are healthy and good. HG/BSK will enjoy them tonight over a mixed green salad. Accompaniment will be fast fried Santa Fe Farmers Market shishito peppers. Preceding will be sliced turnips and radishes (also from SF Farmers Market), feta cheese, olives and eggplant caviar (check out the David Lebovitz recipe on the Internet).

New York Times Magazine Slips Up.

October 8th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

Sunday New York Times had a “Food and Drink” issue. Some good stuff from Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman. And a few nasty/dopey items. Christopher Buckley did a short essay: “What’s The Golden Rule of a Business Lunch?” He used this as a springboard to dis Ed Berberian’s Balkan Armenian Restaurant, an ethnic gem that shut its doors some years ago. Buckley seems to have inherited all of his late father’s (the conservative/reactionary William F.) snarkiness and has coupled it with an uneducated palate (probably honed at a white bread prep school). The Balkan Armenian (on E.27th near Lexington) was the type of small, affordable. family restaurant that made Manhattan so delightful for residents and tourists. It had a wonderful pastry appetizer (cheese borek), stuffed vine leaves, Armenian chopped eggplant, the best lamb (not mutton, as Buckley stated) kebabs, rice pilaf. All tasty treats. And, the desserts? Heaven. An HG favorite was Ekmek Kadayiff with Kaymak. This was a sweet, but not too, pastry topped with the Armenian version of English clotted cream. HG tastes it in his dreams. HG took BSK there on their second date (March 1963) and BSK sure knew she wasn’t in Ohio anymore.

The other goof by the Times was perpetrated by the usually perceptive movie critic, A.O.Scott. He called “Ratatouille” the best food movie ever made. Could he have been kidding? While Ratatouille was sly and knowingly funny about French cuisine and the shadowy world of restaurant kitchens — it is in no way the best. Anyone who loves film and food knows the best “food” movie ever made is the Japanese-language “Tampopo.” Mixing humor, eroticism and a satirical riff on “Shane” and other Hollywood westerns, Tampopo will have you lusting for Ramen, dreaming about oyster diving girls and speculating on the reality of fresh, Japanese wild boar sausages. It is a paean to the joys of eating, to the joys of movies and to the joy of life.

Give yourself a treat. Rent the movie today.

By Popular Demand.

October 7th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Good news for all lovers of Asian cuisine. SJ has agreed to do regular posts on great eating in Chinatown, Sunset Park, Flushing (and maybe some other Queens neighborhoods). SJ has a fine tuned palate and turns out rollicking prose. Get your chopsticks ready, let SJ be your guide and enjoy.

Polo Grounds Nostalgia.

October 5th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Baseball playoffs. World Series. Pro football. Sports and autumn colors are in the air. HG has heard rumors of much improved food at various stadiums. Upscale stuff. Old fogey HG is suspicious. Still believes the best stadium food is the traditional hot dog. A great one was served at the late, lamented Polo Grounds. The Polo Grounds was located in Manhattan’s upper Harlem neighborhood, West 155th Street (Coogan’s Bluff). It was a lovable, rickety place filled with history. It was the home of the New York Football Giants and Baseball Giants. It was where Bobby Thompson of the Giants hit his home run off Ralph Branca of the Brooklyn Dodgers — “The Shot Heard Round The World” — that put the Giants in the World Series. HG had many great Polo Grounds experiences watching Mel Ott, Emlen Tunnel and many other heroic figures.

The busy men’s bathroom had an attendant — Old Sam. HG never forgot his chant: “No matter how you shake and dance the last drop always falls in your
pants. After you’ve had your little pee, don’t forget to remember me — Old Sam.”

Home Sweet Home

October 4th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Back to the sun drenched HG/BSK New Mexico paradise. Adding to the splendor of mesas and cliffs are the trees in all their Fall glory — a resplendent golden shimmer. The Santa Fe Farmers Market remains lively, colorful, eccentric. The air is filled with the smell of roasting chilies. The best little chilies in the world — Shishitos and Patrons — sizzle in pans so customers can sample. Shisitos are skinny (and can back some heat). Patrons are plump, succulent and mild. HG and BSK sampled Patrons in Madrid (where they are a staple at bars and bistros) and became instant converts. Also at the market: ripe tomatoes; tiny fingerling potatoes; green onions; leeks and other good things.

No corn. Few apples. These autumn glories seem to have been knocked out by the destructive forest fires that plagued New Mexico this summer. Lots of music at the market including a guitar and bass fiddle duo that played and sang the best version of an HG country favorite — “Dixie Cannonball.”

And, the people crowding the market? As diverse and outrageous as ever. A reasonable sampling of former movie stars — now properly matured. As a sage Hollywood observer once reported: “At a certain age there is a choice. Santa Fe or Forest Lawn.”