HG: Steak Patriot

April 29th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

HG rarely waves the flag, believing, to paraphrase Dr. Johnson, that patriotism is the last refuge of fools and knaves. However, when it comes to steak, HG is a red-blooded, Yankee Doodle boy. Nothing compares to American steak (prime,of course). HG never had a good steak in Paris. Much lauded steak frites in a Paris bistro would get thumbs down from discerning New Yorkers (men and women who learned to eat steak on Steak Row and at Peter Luger’s). Alec Lobrano, the most informed and fair minded of Paris food writers, likes the steak at Le Severo in that city. HG and BSK sampled the steak there and found it only passable. However, steak tartare at Severo and at Le Stella and many other Paris eateries is exemplary. German restaurants in New York prepared great steak tartare in years gone by (Luchow’s covered its steak tartare with a generous layer of black beluga caviar). The great raw beef dish disappeared along with New York’s most fabled German restaurants.

If you rent an apartment in Paris, visit the Hugo Desnoyer butcher shop in the 14th and buy a rump steak (Lobrano’s suggestion) and grill it at home. And, if you’re renting a New York apartment, pick up a New York strip at Lobel’s on Madison Avenue. One pound strip: $47.98. (Hey, you only live once).

Vodka Enhanced

April 28th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

After HG’s late afternoon exercise ritual of varied stretches and 45 minutes of swimming in the lap pool, HG tries to mitigate the health benefits he has accrued by diving into a large glass of vodka on the rocks. HG is not a believer in the high priced vodkas. Just hype and advertising. However, HG does enhance his proletarian vodka. Sometimes HG adds a dash of Angostura Bitters or Peychaud Bitters or Fee Brothers West Indian Orange Bitters. (A dash of Peychaud also enhances a mediocre brandy). When HG wants a taller beverage, HG mixes vodka with a bit of Campari, Aperol or St. Germain. (HG does not fancy vodka and tonic). Curiously, vodka was never present in the Belorussian/Jewish immigrant home of HG’s youth. Like many Jewish immigrants of the early 1900’s, HG’s Dad fancied rye whiskey, namely Park & Tilford (pronounced “Pok un Tilfeh”), the favorite tipple in Lower East Side bars. When HG was a journalist in the early 1950’s, HG continued the Park & Tilford tradition at the Mirror Bar on New York’s E. 45th Street. Three shots of P & T for one buck. The house bought the fourth. A nice cocktail interlude.

Southwestern Send Off

April 26th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

A weekend visit from the Family C. Ah, the C’s. Anthony. An Englishman of aristocratic lineage; striking, distinguished good looks. Makes the Earl in Downton Abbey look like an ill-bred commoner. Anthony works in finance and is a specialist in everything Asian. Wife Claudia, journalist, radio personality, a woman of boundless vivacity and a bubbling fountain of information and outrageous, over the top commentary and observation. Son Toby, a musical talent and a quietly attractive, observant young man with gracious manners. (Other C progeny are busy in Boston and England).

Anthony is a car nut — an obsessive collector of swift and beautiful automobiles. Anthony and Claudia arrived at the HG/BSK compound in a jewel of the C collection — an eight year old Aston-Martin convertible lined in lush, creamy Scottish leather. At one point in the weekend, Anthony took HG for a spin on the scenic high road to Taos. With Anthony at the wheel, the Aston-Martin made a sound like the roaring of a pride of lions as it effortlessly passed cars on the winding, steep road. Unforgettable.

Since the C’s will soon be leaving the USA to take up residence in Singapore, it seemed appropriate to send them off with a celebratory southwestern dinner. First, there was some martini and Prosecco drinking under the pergola facing the HG/BSK fish pond (Kindly note the C’s never visit empty handed — this time they bore champagne, excellent wine and a bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin). Then, a feast of slow roasted, spice rubbed pork butt. Bowls of BSK’s pico de gallo (chopped tomatoes, onions, cilantro, hot and sweet peppers); BSK green chile sauce (magic); BSK stir fry of zucchini,onion, garlic and sweet corn); navy beans enriched with Goya Sofrito. A platter of sliced avocado. A mound of warmed tortillas. Much cold beer and Malbec red wine. For dessert: An array of Ben and Jerry’s best. A happy time.

The presiding genius of this meal was SJ. The piggy expert recommended larding the butts with plenty of garlic slivers and giving them a dry rub with abundant amounts of adobo, English dry mustard powder, New Mexican red chili powder, Mexican oregano and Spanish smoked paprika — a true international blend of spices the day before cooking them. Then, a slow roast, in a tin-foil covered pan for 4 hours at 275 degrees, finishing by removing foil and raising heat to 325 for an hour. An SJ recipe winner. A happy, exubrant meal and a bittersweet farewell to the C’s. Silver lining. HG and BSK have promised to visit Singapore early next year to join with the C’s in celebrating Chinese New Year by feasting on Singapore’s mind bending cuisine.

Good…Like Nedick’s!

April 23rd, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Just say the word — Nedick’s — and you’ll get a nostalgic sigh from old New Yorkers (or ex-New Yorkers like HG). Nedick’s was a New York fast food chain that served hot dogs on toasted, buttered rolls. HG would top these superior tube steaks with Nedick’s special mustard relish and wash them down with an ice cold orange drink. Two dogs and a drink — 30 cents — a true recession buster. HG’s favorite Nedick’s location was at 161st Street and Jerome Avenue in The Bronx. Very convenient for a bite after a baseball or football game at Yankee Stadium or a sandlot football game at adjacent McCombs Field (HG was a star halfback on the Barnhills, a rough and ready sandlot team).

Nedick’s is part of HG’s unconscious. Nedick’s was the sponsor of New York Knick broadcasts and when a Knick scored, announcer Marty Glickman would intone: “Good — like Nedick’s!!” A few days ago, HG watched New York Knick Carmelo Anthony light up the scoreboard. At a particularly exciting moment, HG found himself shouting at the TV in the voice of Glickman: “Good — like Nedick’s!!” Marty Glickman has passed on. Nedick’s is gone. Efforts to revive the chain have failed. The old Yankee Stadium is gone, replaced by a shiny new model. HG and the Knicks remain. Functional but flawed.

Lambrusco

April 22nd, 2012 § 2 comments § permalink

Lambrusco is a lightly sparkling wine much identified with the Emilia Romagna region of Italy and the area’s robust cuisine. HG and BSK never drank much of it until son-in-law Profesore/Dottore Massimo R. introduced HG and BSK to it during their recent visit to Bologna. Now they are converts. Lambrusco is a very pleasant warm weather wine. It has a slight sparkle and should be drunk well chilled. Nice as an aperitif and good with spicy food. HG and BSK drink Le Grotte Lambrusco. Available at Trader Joe’s for six bucks a bottle. SJ also recommends the Bianco and Rosse Lambruscos produced by Lini 910 At $15 dollars a bottle they are one of life’s affordable joys.

Good Things From Goya

April 22nd, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Goya is a family owned ethnic foods company whose products are HG essentials. Their tag line is “If it’s Goya it has to be good.” And it is absolutely true. Their Adobo powder is magic. Dust your roast chicken with it before you pop the bird in the oven. It is obligatory on pork chops. Their Sofrito makes any soup or stew sing. A favorite HG quick meal. Cook some rice. Heat a can of Goya black beans. Pour the beans over the rice. Top with chopped raw onions or scaliions. Some Sriracha to taste. South Americans call this dish “moros y cristianos” — Moors and Christians. Slices of orange and ripe avocado are a pleasant accompaniment. A quick dessert is a hunk of Goya guava paste served with some cream cheese (try to find a better cream cheese than that Philadelphia crap). Nice with the last sips of your red wine.

Sauerkraut That Sings

April 18th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Sauerkraut’s ascent to the heavens is Choucroute Garnie, the wonderful Alsatian dish of sauerkraut simmered in wine and then decked with an array of piggy goodies. It is always served accompanied by boiled potatoes, hot mustard and strong horse radish.

Here’s the way HG and BSK did it for a small dinner party last night. BSK sauteed sliced apples and onions in olive oil. Added Bubbie’s sauerkraut (drained) and some cups of of dry, white Riesling. Let it cook for a long, long time at a lazy simmer. While that was cooking, HG tossed some knockwurst into a pot of lightly boiling water — wanted the sausages to heat through but not burst. When done, HG browned bratwurst and some kielbasa. Meanwhile, BSK boiled potatoes and then smashed them (that’s right–the potatoes were smashed and not mashed). Creative BSK mixed the potatoes with some chicken stock, olive oil and chopped scallions. Sublime. Sausages topped the sauerkraut and the whole thing was washed down with plenty of Belgian ale. Great fun. Would have liked some Kassler Ripchen (smoked pork loin) with this dish but couldn’t find any in Santa Fe. But, we did have Bubbie’s sour dill pickles and they added to the merriment.

Vanished Taste Treats

April 17th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

After a basketball game, hockey or boxing match at the old Madison Square Garden (50th Street and 8th Avenue in New York) HG and pals would often go to a long departed German restaurant, Blue Ribbon, located on West 45th. They would devour a huge apple pancake and wash it down with dark beer. The apple pancake was almost 18 inches in diameter and rich with cinnamon, sugar and melted butter. It was thin as a pizza and served on a similar hot, round metal platter. The dish has disappeared. HG hasn’t encountered on a menu for more than 30 years.

The same goes for smoked kippers and eggs, a true breakfast treat that was found in even the most basic New York coffee shop. Gone. Chicken livers seem to have disappeared as well. In New York, the Schrafft’s chain used to serve sauteed livers on buttered toast; French bistros would top salads with them and they were a staple of many pasta sauces in Italian restaurants.

Lamb chops accompanied by grilled kidneys. This was a common pairing (like calf’s liver and bacon). Sure, lamb chops still thrive; but now they’re a solo act – the kidney having been cruelly cast aside.

Mozzarella – The King of Fresh Milk Cheeses

April 16th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Even the word — mozzarella — is delicious. Just roll it around your mouth, let it dance about your tongue and finally just say it out loud. Pretty great, right? Of course, this word-play doesn’t replace the act of eating mozzarella. HG refers, of course, to fresh mozzarella (we won’t even discuss the highly processed Polly O type of packaged mozzarella). It is usually packed in water and best when made that day, but Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s actually sell pretty good mozzarella. TJ also sells buratta — a type of mozzarella with a liquid, creamy center. And, TJ also stocks the best — buffala mozzarella; a mozzarella made from water buffalo milk and imported from Italy. Pricey, but worth it for an occasional treat. HG has never liked smoked mozzarella. But, there’s an exception — the smoked mozzarella made at Joe’s Dairy at 150 Sullivan Street on the northern edge New York’s SOHO. Hand made fresh daily, this smoked mozzarella is smoky on the outside and deliciousy creamy on the inside. HG was introduced to this treat by HG’s distinguished son-in-law, Profesore/Dottore Massimo R. He placed the large, dun colored mozzarella on HG/BSK’s New Jersey kitchen counter. He suggested a taste (the intention was to serve it with lush Jersey tomatoes as a dinner appetizer). It was just too good. It was gone in a flash.

Another great place for fresh, hand made mozzarella is Belgiovine’s Italian Delicatessen on Bloomfield Avenue in Montclair, New Jersey. HG remembers with great joy, driving home with the warmth of a freshly made Belgiovine’s mozzerella radiating through the shopping bag and knowing that sun warmed Jersey tomatos and basil would be there on arrival. Belgiovine’s is also a source for outstanding Italian sausage, bread, ham, fresh and dried pasta. In Rome, HG and BSK discovered a restaurant that served only mozzarella. Awfully good cheese — but not better than Joe’s Dairy or Belgiovine’s.

Easter Sunday At San Ildefonso

April 14th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Last week there was no family and no kids in New Mexico for the Spring holiday season. Therefore: No Seder (although, with grave jealousy, I pored over photos of SJ’s Seder goodies of juicy brisket and Lokshen Kugel). No Easter Bunny. No Easter Eggs. No Easter Basket of goodies. But, don’t feel too sorry for HG. Easter Sunday began with a favorite breakfast. Broad noodles were lightly buttered and topped with poached eggs. Dusted with freshly grated parmesan, Malden sea salt flakes and ground black pepper. Big mugs of Cafe Latte. And, the obligatory Sunday New York Times.

Brilliant sunshine under blue skies. Temperature in the 70’s. Off to the Pueblo San Ildefonso, a scenic ten minute drive from the HG/BSK compound. Watched the mesmerizing Native American dancers. Some forty wonderfully costumed men (many allusions to the earth and animals). Rhythmic chanting, drum beating, gourd shaking. Perfectly timed dance steps. All set against a backdrop of old adobe, dark mesas and the soaring Jemez mountains. A miraculous New Mexico spectacle. Native Americans have been living in San Ildefonso for almost 800 years. Their culture is very much alive.

HG and BSK returned home to a late lunch of Italian escarole and bean soup (with a liberal lashing of Tuscan olive oil). Then, a long afternoon swim in the lap pool. It’s a life. Somebody’s got to live it. Might as well be HG and BSK.