HG likes barbecued pork ribs. HG has consumed them in Texas, Georgia, North Carolina. HG has had great ribs in Memphis and SJ’s Brooklyn ribs. And, of course, HG has consumed many pounds in Chinese restaurants in New York and Vancouver. HG states that Exquisite Maiko’s ribs are a contender for the title of The Best. Spicy with an indefinable whiff of Japanese scent and flavor. No need for any sauce. Had them last night in PEI. EM marinated the ribs for two days in a mixture of sake, sesame oil, salt and pepper, ginger, garlic, marmalade, honey and an extraordinary secret — Gerber’s Baby Peach Puree. One would never guess. The Exquisite One served them with a big green salad and a very special side dish — edamame grilled in the oven with olive oil, sea salt and Japanese pepper. It was a Japanese version of ribs and beans, a dish HG often relished in Harlem during his college days. EM put nostalgia to rest. The EM version was infinitely better.
The family Riva has left for Providence. The distinguished clan has to get on with careers and education. But, before leaving Brilliant Lesley R. cooked up a storm. One night BLR took advantage of Prince Edward Island’s abundance of flavorful little neck clams and new potatoes. She smashed boiled potatoes with olive oil, garlic, onions and lots of parsley and other herbs. The clams got a good scrubbing before being placed on the potatoes. Some tasty Hungarian sausage was parboiled, sliced, sauteed and added to the mix. Chopped tomatoes, white wine and more parsley went into the pot. It got a nice roast in the oven. Done when the clams opened. Their brine added just the perfect sea note to the dish. On another night, BLR was inspired by her many stays in Venice. A big chunk of halibut was roasted in the oven in a bath of white wine and a dash of clam juice. When done the halibut and its winey juices joined a garlic and herb soffrito. The flaked halibut was served over fresh pasta gilded with olive oil and red pepper flakes. There was a lovely salad of sliced tomatoes and sweet onion. Earlier in the day, BLR walked out into the meadows and picked a bucket of blueberries. These were the basis for her signature blueberry crumble with vanilla ice cream. Summer dining at its best.
HG grew up in The Bronx of the 1930’s and 40’s. The Bronx was, and still is, a borough of neighborhoods, each a little village with its own landmarks and legends. The family unit dominated these neighborhoods making the streets safe because neighbors, family and friends were always watching, alert to any danger or strange occurrence. Little HG spent most of his waking hours on the street — a street filled with his contemporaries — boys armed with pink “spaldeens” and eager to play punchball and stickball and stoop ball and box ball and “association” football. These were afternoon activities. Night games were ring-o-leevio, hide-and-seek, johnny-on-the pony, kick-the-can. It was a world of small shops, fruit wagons (pulled by horses), street food sold by the desperate vendors trying to get by during the Great Depression. There were street singers who bellowed sentimental songs and were rewarded by nickels and dimes tossed from apartment windows. Few cars, but silence did not reign on Bronx streets. The knife and scissor sharpener made his presence known by shouting as did the man who bought old clothes for pennies and the various junk collectors. For HG, the happiest sound was the noise of the Bungalow Bar and Good Humor. Frozen treats for a nickel (Bungalow Bar) and a dime (Good Humor). The best evocation of those days can be found in World’s Fair, the remarkable novel by E.L. Doctorow.
Daughter Victoria and husband, famed chef Marc Meyer, have joined La Famiglia on Prince Edward Island. They came bearing cases of extraordinary wine, glorious salumi, cheese, anchovies, a big box of Meyer flatbread…and more. With appetites honed by salt water and sun, La Famiglia dinners have taken on epic proportions. MM has been on a roll. Here are some of his creations: Rounds of oil brushed toast topped by sardines and an MM shallot sauce; cod with salsa verde; tagilatelle with an unbelievably fragrant and robust pesto; a Caesar salad that makes all others pale in comparison. Yes, and his fresh haddock brandade. HG watched with awe and admiration as MM prepared and cooked food with respect, concentration and awesome knife skills. MM showed the difference between a chef and a good home cook. All paid MM the appropriate tribute: We overate. MM cooking can be sampled at his and Victoria’s three New York restaurants — Cookshop (Chelsea), Five Points (Noho), Hundred Acres (Soho). We hear there may be a fourth — in a historic Brooklyn location. Good luck, Dynamic Duo.
Big birthday dinner for Brilliant Daughter Lesley R. Up from New York, and leaving behind their trio of New York restaurants (Cookshop, 100 Acres, Five Points), are Restaurateur/Daughter Victoria and husband/chef Marc Meyer. Armed with Prince Edward Island’s auspicious sea bounty, Marc made the ultimate brandade for the birthday dinner — screamingly fresh haddock poached in milk and whirled in the blender with olive oil, garlic, boiled potatoes and a bit of sweet cream. Then popped under the broiler to develop a brown crust. Magic. Better than classic salt cod brandade in Paris or creamy mantecato in Venice. Marc has the touch. There was also lots of lobster and steamed soft shell clams. Melted butter. Lemon juice. Tabasco. A jolly family time as all wished BLR scores of happy returns.
A rainy day on Prince Edward Island (welcomed by farmers and decried by vacationers). So, it was off to the tiny village of Chepstow just beyond more populous Souris, a scenic town with spectacular views of bays and harbors. The object of HG and BSK’s motor jaunt to Chepstow was to examine the fresh seafood (all caught by local fishers) at the Bergayle Fisheries shop. All of the fish glistened with freshness and clumps of just cooked crimson lobster looked tempting. HG and BSK brought home two pounds of cod for Brilliant Lesley R.’s cod and potato stew, a hearty dish with overtones of southern France and the Iberian coast. BLR started with a base of onions and garlic gently sauteed in olive oil from Puglia, Then came very thinly sliced PEI new potatoes, a specialty of the Island. White wine and clam broth were added, plus grindings of black pepper and some smoked Spanish paprika. When the potato-onion-garlic base was just about done, BLR added the chunks of cod, some thinly sliced tomato, and popped it in the oven to finish. BLR follows the counsel of the great chef, Eric Ripert of New York’s Le Bernardin. The enemy of seafood is overcooking. Less is more. BLR finished the dish by giving it a pungent dusting of chopped Kalamata olives, parsley, garlic scapes and scallions. This was followed by green salad and Canadian cheeses. Profesore Massimo R. had, earlier in the day, discovered an aged New Brunswick goat cheese. HG dug into it and received a collective tongue lashing from his table mates. HG had displayed bad cheese manners. He had dug into the center of the cheese instead of correctly cutting a small wedge incorporating both rind and center. HG promised to behave better in the future.
Mock Turtle sang to Alice: “Soo-oop of the e-e-evening, Beautiful, Beautiful Soup.” True in Wonderland. True on Prince Edward Island. This was HG’s thought as he spooned some of Exquisite Maiko’s Hot and Sour Soup into his bowl. Hot and Sour Soup is a staple on the menus of many Chinese restaurants and it is usually an oily mess thickened with corn starch into an almost paste-like consistancy. Not Maiko’s. Her soup, dotted with Napa cabbage, mushrooms and bean sprouts, was light and invigorating; the veggies kept their integrity and the broth was fiery without being numbing. BSK is another master (or should it be mistress?) of soup. When HG has had some minor illness HG has been sustained by BSK’s bowls of chicken broth into which she has beaten an egg and enriched with parmigiano cheese. BSK makes great zucchini, spinach, broccoli and sorrel soups. She never uses cream and enhances her soups with a wise variety of herbs and spices. Great hot or cold and always delicious with a dollop of Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of cayenne. Thrifty BSK makes a green soup which utilizes all the leftover vegetables (cooked and raw) in the refrigerator. All are chopped up and go into a kettle of steaming chicken broth (BSK favors Trader Joe’s Organic Free Range Chicken Broth). After a puree in the food processor it becomes magical stuff with heady overtones of adobo, cayenne and cumin. For a flavorful late night meal all that is required is the addition of a cheese board, good bread and lots of red wine.
Cuisine at the family home on the Prince Edward Island shore has taken a turn toward the robust. Last night Exquisite Maiko presented her super flavorful pork belly in Bonito broth (HG has waxed lyrical about this dish in a previous post). This time, creative EM enriched the dish with big chunks of daikon radish. EM does much to the radish to bring it to a high degree of succulence. The precise procedure is an EM secret. Best not to pry. This was preceded by EM’s marinated mackerel sashimi, a delicious treatment of an often neglected fish. The night before, Brilliant Lesley R. produced her version of Stretch’s Chicken, the signature dish at the eccentric Belmont Tavern in Belleville, N.J. (HG has paid tribute to the Belmont Tavern in a previous post). BLR procured a big free range chicken at the Cardigan Farmers Market and cut the bird into manageable pieces. BLR browned the bird pieces in a big pan and then simmered them in garlic, anchovies, rosemary and lots and lots of wine vinegar. Served with roasted potatoes and fresh yellow beans. A knockout of a dish. BLR had managed to transport New Jersey Italian soul food hundreds of miles north to PEI. A very tasty achievement.
HG loves scallops and eats them often since BSK is allergic to crustaceans (shrimp, lobster, crabs). Luckily, bivalves (oysters, clams, scallops) create no problem for the beautiful lady. BSK lustily indulges in all other sea creatures (with the exception of eels and Chinese jelly fish salad). The waters between Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia contain superb sea scallops. BSK honors them in the kitchen by giving them a quick saute resulting in a crisp exterior and a lush, juicy interior. Last night BSK prepared two pounds of scallops flanked by steamed bok choy. Exquisite Maiko added to the festivities by preparing cold soba in mentsuyu broth. There were a host of toppings — slivers of egg crepes, scallions, cucumbers, nori, tomatoes, garlic scapes. Perfect summer dining.
The best scallops in the world are Nantucket Bay scallops. Unfortunately, the season is very short and when frozen these morsels quickly lose their flavor and texture. HG and BSK owned a Nantucket home many years ago. They had a friend, a Nantucket native (family had lived on that magic isle for countless generations). who often went scalloping. He once invited HG and BSK to enjoy his catch in the traditional Nantucket way — raw, straight from the shell, no seasoning. Unforgettable, tasty experience.
Consistent readers of Hungry Gerald may have noticed that HG eats a lot of fish and vegetables plus quarts of olive oil and an abundant amount of garlic. Reasonably healthy stuff. HG enjoys the sea, Prince Edward Island and New Mexico. Most of all he enjoys (and loves) BSK and his wonderful family of food and wine and art and literature and music lovers. Thus, HG wants to live a long time. Legend has it that garlic keeps vampires away. HG presumes it also scares the Moloch Hamoves (The Angel of Death). But, there are times when HG neglects oil and garlic and revels in the forbidden meaty flavors of pig (Tamworth and Berkshire pigs, of course). Like last night. HG spread wheat bread with a product he obtained from Lloyd’s Specialty Meats at the Cardigan Farmers Market — potted meat. That was the Scotch-Irish description. But, in realty it was rillettes, that robust staple of Parisian bistros. Essentially, potted meat (or rillettes) is lard, pork shoulder and pork spare ribs cooked down into a jam-like spread. In fact, the French often refer to it as confiture de cochon (pig jam). No matter what you call it, it is delicious. Not exactly on the cardiologist’s most recommended list of heart-healthy snacks. HG sprinkled his potted meat with Maldon smoked sea salt flakes and accompanied it with local mustard pickles. HG Followed this with fettucine made carbonara style with raw eggs, back bacon, parmigiano cheese and ground black pepper. Plus fried discs of young zucchini and some just picked green peas. As a further bow to healthy living (and it tasted good — a big green salad.