April 14th, 2012 § § permalink
One of the joys of a New York City spring was a great dish that appeared in a few restaurants at that time of year. HG refers to shad and shad roe. HG enjoyed it at two (long departed) New York restaurants — Christ Cella on E. 44th in Manhattan and the beautiful, venerable Gage & Tollner in downtown Brooklyn. Gage & Tollner was one of a kind — the oldest restaurant in Brooklyn and a mellow paradise of mahogany, tile floors and working gaslights. The restaurant was very much the favorite of the aristocratic old families who inhabited the gracious brownstones of Brooklyn Heights. Waiters were courtly, dignified African-Americans (many had been at G & T for decades and had service stripes on their jacket sleeves to prove it). G & T served a big platter of broiled shad and sauteed shad roe drenched in lemon butter and accompanied by parsleyed new potatoes, a rasher of crisp bacon and cole slaw. HG’s beverage of choice while relishing this dish was ice cold Ballantine’s India Pale Ale.
World headquarters of shad and shad roe was the town of Edgewater on the New Jersey banks of the Hudson River just north of the George Washington Bridge. Edgewater was the home of rivermen who netted shad in the Hudson for generations (for more information on the Hudson River Shad runs, refer to Joseph Mitchell’s wonderful essay The Rivermen collected in his book Up In The Old Hotel). HG once arranged a memorable shad and shad roe feast for journalists in Edgewater. The rivermen built a giant fire of wood and charcoal. Shad filets were nailed to oiled maple flanks and these were propped around the blaze. They were cooked to an astounding degree of succulence. Meanwhile, over charcoal barbecues the roe and bacon sizzled in big cast iron pans. This was a job for the women of Edgewater and these admirable ladies also provided extraordinary potato salad and cole slaw. Yes, it was a feast for the ages. Doubt whether it could be repeated today.
April 11th, 2012 § § permalink
Daffodils. Tulips. Forsythia. Hyacinths. Greening grass. Budding trees. Green willow fronds. Spring is upon us here in New Mexico and it’s Row-Zay time. Yes, it’s time to sit outdoors beneath brilliant blue skies and drink lots of friendly rose wine. Hey, that’s what they do in Spain and HG enjoys paying homage (if it involves drinking and eating) to New Mexico’s Hispanic heritage. Ancona almonds. Kalamata olives. Piquillo peppers. Anchovies. Thin slices of a ciabatta loaf. These are nice accompaniments. French Tavel is HG’s favorite rose but it has become too pricey for everyday drinking. HG makes out just fine with six bucks-a-bottle La Ferme Julien (French) and Albero (Spanish). California’s despicable White Zinfandel has given rose a bad rep. Ignore it. Buy HG recommended roses and have lots of fun in the sun.
April 9th, 2012 § § permalink
There are times when HG and BSK can be found at the Farmer’s Market choosing only the freshest, local produce and humanely raised local meats. At those times our carbon footprint is so light as to be negligible; other times the supermarket shelf is our larder and our footprint is more like a size 13 combat boot — RIght now is one of those times! Delicious jars of Piquillo Peppers from Spain are starting to appear on supermarket shelves. Take advantage. These are much better than Italian roasted peppers. Wonderful with anchovies or some chunks of fresh mozzarella.
HG has fallen for a sweet treat that can be found at Trader Joe’s — Petit Palmiers. A palmier is a delightful, lacy, crisp cookie made from puff pastry. Nice with morning coffee, dessert ice cream or as a companion to the evening’s last glass of red wine. In Paris, HG always nibbled at his Petit Palmiers with morning cafe au lait, finding them preferable to croissants. Yes, you can still get a good baguette in Paris but croissant baking seems to be a declining craft.The palmier has much in common with “kichel”, the sugared pastry that was produced by Bronx Jewish bakeries and consumed in quantity by HG’s father accompanied by many cups of very strong tea.
April 7th, 2012 § § permalink
An old friend, the multi-talented Donald M., reported that he has planted fig trees in his Nyack, NY, garden. Donald has Italian ancestors so HG presumes figs will soon appear. In The Bronx of HG’s youth, many Italians grew figs in their back yards — and in fact SJ reports that the yards of his Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn neighborhood are dotted with fig trees. Cold climates are not hospitable to figs so the Bronx Italians carefully wrapped them and nurtured them during winter months (presume the same care occurs in Brooklyn).. HG understood all the loving care and attention when he tasted his first plate of San Daniele prosciutto and fresh figs. A sexy dish by all counts and pure bliss to devour. HG will indulge when the figs come to market here in Santa Fe. A cold bottle of Prosecco awaits to awaken the senses even more.
April 4th, 2012 § § permalink
Its true: Santa Fe doesn’t immediately pop up when thinking about Japanese food. While you do find a lot of New Mexico chili peppers, there’s also very good Japanese (and Italian) food available. HG’s favorite for sushi, sashimi and tempura is the very good Shohko Cafe. But, for delightful creativity and outstanding ramen and izakaya-style food, Shibumi Ramenya is the place. Here’s the lunch HG and Gifted AR, HG’s granddaughter, had recently. Started with a delightful burdock and carrot salad — slivers of burdock root and carrot sprinkled with sesame seeds and spiked with some fiery sesame oil. Healthy and delicious. Then, spicy pork gyoza, which, for some reason, reminded HG of the beef stuffed kreplach that HG’s Mom used to craft. Be assured, Shibumi’s very unkosher gyoza are better. Followed by big bowls of Tonkotsu ramen soup with springy noodles and melt-in-your-mouth slices of korubata pork. And, then the perfect dessert of strawberries and blackberries with custard and jam. Heaven. Will soon be back to sip superb sake and browse through the array of small plates utilizing the grill (yakitori) and the fryer (tempura). Must try the barbeque pork belly with eggplant; the cod and potato croquettes; the chicken yakitori and many other mouth watering plates. It’s all a tribute to chef/owner Eric Stapelman, a man totally dedicated to freshness and flavor. Before lunch, Eric gave HG and AR a tour of his back yard garden where he’s growing his own tomatoes, greens and herbs. From the garden to the plate with a touch of magic. That’s what Stapelman and Shibumi are all about.
April 2nd, 2012 § § permalink
SJ here. As a dedicated hunter of all sorts of obscure, ethnic food treats, you learn to read the signs — the tells — of a great culinary experience: a line of taxicabs in front of Pakistani take-out, absolute unfamiliarity in English, a certain grittiness mixed with equal parts pride…the list goes on and I was fairly certain my ability to read those signs was infallible. Well, pride is a bitch. What comes up must go down, and so shall I share with you a cautionary tale of When Bad Food Happens To Good Food Hunters:
She had it all. No English. A mouth full of metal. Enthusiasm. A kitchen made up of various coolers and snap lid trays hauled around in a red shopping cart. I had noticed her for a week dishing out food for the Central American workers in the Chinese owned glass and vegetable wholesalers that line Broome Street. I finally decided to make my move and pick up whatever it was she was dishing out. She was thrilled. With what little Spanish I possess I came to understand that she had a chicken stew, with a kind of bean soup and a side of mashed eggplant; and a dish of baccala which did not look appetizing. Sure! I thought. $5 for this awesome meal served out of coolers in between glass cutting machines and a smiling Guatemalan wearing an shirt covered in hand drawn pentagrams and the names of Nordic Black Metal bands — AWESOME! As she dished out the food, I had dreams of writing posts in Chowhound about the brilliance of the meal and how those posts would cause food lovers to wait on line for this incredible street food experience and how one day my hero Robert Sietsema would feast on her chicken and then search me out to thank me for this incredible culinary find and how then we would become best friends and go to Flushing and eat banquets of dumplings together and…..and….and then I tasted my meal.
If it were disgusting, wretched, horrific even — I would have been happier! It would have been an experience I could boast about and say: Remember that time I had that crazy Central American special chicken that tasted of tires and old socks? Unfortunately the Broome Street chicken was just not good in the most boring way. The chicken was very dry and over-cooked. The stew itself had no strong flavors. The eggplant thing tasted of baby food and the bean soupy thing had no zing, no nothing!!!! For all its gritty surroundings and strong, ethnic profile, the meal was as bland as something served up in a hospital. My secret, ethnic food vending lady turned out to be a Midwestern housewife in disguise.
The signs had proved wrong. My arrogance was shattered. My friendship with Robert Sietsema never happened. It will take me some time to recover. Thanks Broome Street Chicken!
April 2nd, 2012 § § permalink
March was NCAA Final Four time and soon the NBA will start in with the playoffs. This is B-Ball heaven for HG which demands some serious marathon TV viewing. And, other than HG’s beloved son and B-Ball maven SJ, the best companion for watching hoops madness is a hearty plate of Posole A La HG. Here’s how you do it: Brown ground pork with a whole diced onion and four cloves of chopped garlic. Saute until the pork is evenly browned and the onions are starting to get transparent. Season with a healthy dusting of Goya Adobo powder and add a drained can of posole (white hominy) plus a can of magical RoTel Diced Tomato & Green Chili. Toss in some canned chipotle peppers (this will add heat and smokiness). A few pinches of dried Mexican oregano is a good idea. Heat some good chicken broth (HG likes Trader Joe’s Free Range Chicken Broth) and add it to the pork mixture. Add enough broth to bring the dish midway between a soup and a stew. If you want more heft, you can add a can of drained Goya Black Beans. Garnish with avocado slices, chopped raw onions or scallions, lime wedges, more chipotles and oregano to taste. HG likes to top his bowl with Fritos or Tom’s Corn Chips.To drink: Shots of tequila chased by Corona or Tecate beer topped with lime. Hoops Heaven.
James Naismith - Father of Basketball
April 1st, 2012 § § permalink
Yes, the great family ritual feast — the Seder — will be celebrated in Jewish and many non-Jewish homes (the Obamas will have a Seder) when Passover comes along this month. Like most great Jewish holidays, Passover and the Seder that goes aong with it exemplifies the theme: “They tried to kill us. They failed. So, let’s eat.”
HG loved the family Seder of his youth. There was gefilte fish (made from scratch by HG’s Mom and served with blazing horse radish hand grated by little HG). Chicken soup with matzo balls (best in the universe). Brisket. Knaidlach (dense matzo meal dumplings that soaked up the lush gravy in the absence of challah or rye bread, forbidden at Passover). Tzimmes (A sweet and tangy carrot stew cooked with honey, ginger and chicken feet. HG was not fond of the chicken feet). Dessert was fruit compote of prunes and apricots plus kosher-for-Passover macaroons. Hot tea served in a glass (HG’s father drank it with a sugar cube clutched in his teeth). Schapiro’s sweet malaga wine was served during the meal along with Horowitz-Margareten matzos (the brand favored by HG’s discerning Mom). Though a life-long Socialist who was skeptical of religion, Hershele Zvi Freimann (HG’s Dad), donned a prayer shawl and yamelkeh (skull cap) for the reading of the Haggadah (Passover prayer book).
The HG family Seder was not a sober affair. There was the aforementioned sweet wine. Little HG was allowed to drink as much of this wine as HG wanted and — foretelling the future — HG wanted a lot! There was also vishniak, a sweet, very potent cherry brandy home brewed by Hershele Tsvi Freimann. HG was allowed only a tiny sip of this fire brew. Best of all, there were the sweet, wrinkled cherries that had been long marinated in the vishniak. HG managed to snare a few of these super-alcoholic goodies which made the little chap a happy and drowsy fellow.
There was a somber note in these festivities. The “blood libel” was very much alive in the Belorussia of HG’s parents youth. The “blood libel” was the claim that Jews killed a Gentile child at Passover because the child’s blood was an essential ingredient in making matzos. This is a claim still being made by some Jihadists, neo-nazis and other rabid Jew haters. HG’s parents both recalled the murderous “blood libel” pogroms in Kishinev, a city in Bessarabia (then part of Rumania). Hundreds of Jews were killed. These dark thoughts were banished from the Seder table by vishniak and the hope that HG, his sister and brother would never experience such horrors.
Victims of the Kishinev Pogrom