Back home again in the Land of Enchantment. New Mexico has never looked better. After years of drought, the skies have given up their liquid manna which means the HG/BSK meadow is lush and green and trees are bursting with shimmering leaves. The fish in the pond seem to have had a merry time procreating. Their numbers have tripled and reflecting HG/BSK’s favorable opinion of racial diversity the fish are a virtual Rainbow Coalition: Golden, black, white, striped, pink, etc. There are touches of color in the trees and soon the autumn hues will replace green. It has been a wet summer in HG/BSK’s Santa Fe/Jacona/Pojoaque neighborhood. There has been some flooding in the area but no damage to HG/BSK/s paradise. HG/BSK marked homecoming with long swims in the indoor pool (decorated with BSK paintings) followed by a traditional dinner of pork chops (dusted with adobo), cannelloni beans, fried peppers and onions, mache salad and abundant red wine. Is life good? As they say in the American hinterlands: “You betcha!!”
Denver was the place and the HG/BSK New Mexico home was the destination. This meant a six hour drive in the crystal clear sunshine of the West. HG/BSK have done this trip many times and have created certain traditions. A few miles north of Trinidad, Colorado (on I-25) is a sign announcing the Ludlow Massacre Memorial constructed by the United Mine Workers union. Yes, there was a massacre in Ludlow, Colorado, where between 19 to 25 striking coal miners (including women and children) were murdered in 1914 by the Colorado National Guard, coal company police and strike breaking thugs/scabs. When HG (former member of the Newspaper Guild) and BSK (former member of Actors Equity) see the Ludlow sign the duo raise their clenched fists and shout: “Solidarity, Brothers and Sisters.” Once a labor union member, always a member. Some more Ludlow information: There was violent revenge by labor unions after the massacre. Mine property was attacked throughout the United States. It is estimated that between 90 to 200 lives were lost around the US making the national coal miner’s strike the deadliest in American history. The Rockefeller family owned the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, largest of the mining companies involved in the Ludlow strike. Public outrage was aimed at the Rockefellers. Some observers believe the ambitious Rockefeller philanthropies were an attempt to cleanse the family name. HG/BSK stopped at a salubrious rest stop near Trinidad to devour jumbo-sized, tasty Whole Foods sandwiches. HG/BSK mused that the Trinidad area is known these days, not for its proximity to a labor landmark, but for the fact that Trinidad was for a time a center of trans-sexual surgery. The Ludlow Massacre site was declared a National Monument in 2009.
Smooth, pleasant flight from LaGuardia to Denver on Southwest Airlines. Picked up the HG/BSK car and were off to Applejack, the giant liquor and wine shop (biggest volume in the USA) in Wheat Ridge. After paying inflated prices (because of high Canadian taxes) for plonk during the last three months on Prince Edward Island, it was a delight to revel in Applejack’s bargain prices for superior wines. HG was off to the Walla Walla, Washington section for the lush House wine and Steak House Wine bottled by Charles Smith. Yes, Walla Walla is a funny name but you will only smile with pleasure not derision when you drink the robust reds from the town and its environs. HG also picked up some nice reds from Peter Lehmann, HG’s favorite Australian vintner. BSK was in charge of whites and she filled her cart with sauvignon blancs from New Zealand’s Marlboro region and pinot grigios from Italy’s Friuli and Venezie regions. The excursion sharpened HG/BSK’s appetites and the duo stopped at the Hillstone Restaurant in Cherry Creek. Hillstone is a chain restaurant, a very professional, upscale and delicious chain restaurant. Modest prices for a menu of pure comfort food. Not reaching for the gourmet stars but providing very tasty and approachable dishes. One big surprise, however — HG/BSK reveled in a Kampuchi roll that would have been worthy of a sushi master. Constructed of yellowtail, chopped spicy tuna, avocado and topiko, it was a revelation. The restaurant is beautifully designed, decorated with superior art and the service is worthy of a Michelin-starred establishment. Good night’s sleep at a Marriott where (after watching some football) HG and BSK remarked upon the ability of big American chain hotels to provide clean rooms, good TV, comfortable beds and showers that have plentiful hot water and great water pressure at affordable prices. In Europe one would only find those services at the most expensive hotels. Notch one up for the U.S.A..
Last week HG/BSK celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary with an extraordinary party and meal at New York’s Dim Sum a Go Go. The celebratory feasting did not end there but continued the next day at a Sunday Brunch generously provided by Restaurateur Daughter Victoria F. at her beautiful Hundred Acres restaurant in Soho. Here’s the menu (read it slowly and let your mouth water and your complexion turn green with envy): Appetizers: (1) ricotta fritters with Hudson Valley honey and powdered sugar. (2) grilled flatbread dressed with arctic char “lox”, whipped cream cheese, dill and pickled onions. Entrees: (1) buttermilk pancakes with New York blueberries and vanilla whipped cream. (2) soft scrambled eggs with summer squash, spring onions, chives, gruyere cheese, sour cream and corn bread. (3) goat cheese-sage bread pudding with poached eggs, wilted spinach and lemon butter. Sides: fruitwood smoked bacon, jalapeno grits. Drinks: Hundred Acres punch (Prosecco, Aperol and freshly squeezed juices) and coffee. It all tasted even better — if that is possible — than it sounds. That night HG/BSK joined SJ at Full House, a little known, superb Chinese restaurant on Bowery a touch North of Hester. Soup dumplings. Scallion pancakes. Minced flounder with tiny, tender bok choy and crab roe; sliced fish with wood mushrooms; braised eggplant. Wine, beer, chilled sake. Sesame balls for dessert. Light, creative cooking. Attentive service. Happily, the place seems undiscovered by food writers and critics unlike Hundred Acres where the crowds keep filing in for the best brunch HG has ever had.
HG/BSK are blessed. Nearly a week has passed and they are still basking in the warmth of the wonderful 50th anniversary festivities arranged by HG/BSK’s children in New York City. Although the visit was short, HG would like to share some New York impressions: New York seems more diverse than ever as its Asian, Mexican and Central American populations have boomed. Great style on the streets. Lower Manhattan’s Chinatown (where HG/BSK spent most of their time this three-day trip) still boils with energy and a unique entrepreneurial spirit. Every inch of sidewalk is occupied by somebody selling arcane vegetables, fruit or seafood to a critical and knowing public. The wide range of sea creatures for sale in the local markets is extraordinary. Yes, the Chinatowns in Flushing and Sunset Park have seized dining leadership but there’s still some great food in Manhattan’s Chinatown (Full House, Big Wong, Dim Sum a Go Go, Bo Ky, etc.). Incidentally, Elizabeth Street between Grand and Hester, is filled with salons offering very good, cheap haircuts. HG recommends Tease, where the old guy was beautified for a modest price. Judging by the early dining crowds at Hundred Acres and other Soho eateries, weekend brunch seems to be a New York obsession. Whizzing by in a taxi, HG was astonished by glimpses of the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, world capital of culinary coolness. The once dingy locale has exploded with tall apartment towers of glass and steel, many jammed against the traffic roaring, fume spewing highway. HG, who lives in quiet and pure air in New Mexico and Prince Edward Island, takes a dim view. Oh well, different strokes.
The 50th Wedding Anniversary party for HG/BSK was a night of utter joy and a few happy tears. The venue was Chinatown’s Dim Sum Go Go. Gifted Daughter Lesley and SJ arranged the Saturday night party and every detail — flowers, food, wine (provided by Restaurateur Daughter Victoria) — was perfect. The restaurant reserved its top floor for the party and the room was filled with family and friends in a happy and hungry mood (the observant Jewish contingent had just finished their Yom Kippur day of repentance and fasting and was more than ready to break the fast). SJ and Lesley know food so — oh joy! — the buffet began with platters of world class dim sum which included (to the pleasure of shrimp-allergy afflicted BSK) a selection of creative and delicious vegetarian options. This was followed by tray after tray of the best in Chinese cuisine: sauteed Chinese chives, crispy roast chicken buried in fried garlic; garlic and ginger pork; springy rice noodles with vegetables and much more. The wine flowed. Naturally, brief speeches followed. The deserved star of the evening was BSK (looking lovely, chic and ever young as per usual). Lesley portrayed her Mom as a valiant, loving and dedicated person who–without fanfare and ego preening–did all the things necessary to create and maintain a close, functional and loving family. This made BSK momentarily tearful but BSK accepted the tribute with customary BSK grace. SJ made some graceful remarks. HG promised BSK that HG’s speech would contain no sexual or anatomical references. That explained its brevity. HG did point out, however, that a Chinese restaurant was the right venue for the celebration since HG/BSK’s first date more than 50 years ago was at Bo Bo’s, once a favored Chinatown restaurant. The duo’s love for each other and Chinese food continues.
Arrived at LaGuardia Airport following the usual flight delays and discomforts. Friday night traffic in New York was a mad maze and HG/BSK were mighty hungry after checking in at the Hanbee Bowery Hotel in Chinatown. SJ provided the remedy. A block from the hotel was Ninh Kieu, a wildly eccentric Vietnamese restaurant with steaming bowls of beef pho, crispy spring rolls, stir fried water spinach and thin squares of pork grilled with lemongrass. Next morning HG/BSK met Vancouver pals Jamie and Karen, plus HG’s Restaurateur Daughter Victoria at Big Wong King, a traditional Cantonese restaurant on Mott Street. Grim decor. Abrupt service. Super busy (with good reason). This is real Chinatown. Fresh, flavorful cheap food. The group had two types of congee — pork and fish. No stinting on the ingredients. Just the best congee ever. Spicy Mo Pu Tofu and exquisitely cooked firm slices of eggplant in garlic sauce. Crispy Chinese crullers accompanied the congee. Rice crepes and tea. A happy meal for next to nothing. Tonight is the 50th Wedding Anniversary Party for HG and BSK. Dim Sum A Go Go is the venue. Some 50 years ago, HG and BSK’s first date was in Chinatown. So, the non-stop Chinatown fressing brings back many joyous, tasty and sentimental memories.
This week we left gentle, green Prince Edward Island in a deluge. Thought we might see Noah coming around the bend at any moment. Yes, heavy moisture but not the roaring floods that hit Colorado, HG/BSK’s former home. Sad moments as HG/BSK approached the Charlottetown airport. Will miss our Prince Edward Island neighbors,the Peretts and the Eppigs. Sheryll and Gladys at By the Bay Fish Mart. Caretaker Chris. Postmaster Ceyline. Colville Bay oyster king Johnny Flynn. Andrew MacDonald (and his superb mussel chowder). The Cardigan Market and the Charlottetown Farmers Market. Blueberry and raspberry picking on our fields. The sweet guys who mow our lawn. The sun, the sea, the beach glass, the breeze carrying a whiff of salt and beach grass. Sunsets and endless ocean views from every room in the HG/BSK home. Our kids and grandkids who love PEI. Cuisine by Exquisite Maiko and Gifted Lesley. Until next year…..
Little HG grew up with boiled-to-death cauliflower and broccoli. Discerning small fellow hated them. Now, due to BSK’s deft and creative touch, they are HG favorites. BSK cuts cauliflower into florets. Brushes them with garlic infused olive oil. Roasts them until brown and crisp. Good stuff. BSK sautés blanched broccoli florets with olive oil and garlic. Very good with fish or chicken. Sometimes, BSK purees some of the broccoli, adds it to the garlicky, anchovy infused florets and serves it over pasta. Enhances the plate with a dash of raw olive oil and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes (HG/BSK first tasted this dish at Delsomma Restaurant in New York and BSK has made it even better). HG likes to mix cauliflower florets with (naughty, naughty)gorganzola, cream, butter and parmesan and serve it over fettucine or pappardelle. Mighty good (and fattening) when devoured with a fruity red wine. Hey, you only live once (even though cholesterol rich stuff like this can shorten the sojourn).
Bigger is better in oyster land. HG loves a big, plump briny oyster. There are those that fancy the little guys — the west-coast Kumamotos and such. Patricia Wells, the excellent restaurant critic, cooking teacher, food authority is a member of that party. HG is in opposition. This week HG stopped at Colville Bay Oysters in Souris, Prince Edward Island. HG asked the genial proprietor, Johnny Flynn, for a dozen of the biggest oysters in the house. Johnny picked out some bruisers, each between three and four inches in length. Thick oysters, their shells tinted slightly green (a signature of Colville Bay) filled with luscious brine. They were, without question, the best oysters HG ever tasted. Perfectly balanced between sweetness and sea brine. The texture? It was like eating oyster steaks. The dozen cost 14 dollars. HG was curious about the price of oysters and checked out the oysters at some of HG’s favorite Parisian brasseries. Big, high quality oysters sell for five bucks each. Obviously, the inexpensive brasserie-served plateau de fruits de mer is now, like the inexpensive New York apartment, just a fond memory. HG will confine oyster gluttony to Prince Edward Island. Affordable. And, Johnny Flynn’s product is better than anything the French, British or Irish shores can produce. (BSK insists on a positive mention of Colville Bay’s regular sized oysters: They are of the same delicious quality as the bigs, just smaller and will make most oyster aficionados very happy.)