Beachcombers

April 13th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

In St. Petersburg, Florida for annual visit with BSK’s very frail 95-year-old Mom (the brave lady hangs on and seems to enjoy seeing her family). BSK had the good idea of renting a 3-bedroom, 2-bath condo facing the Gulf of Mexico. SJ and family motored down from frozen Brooklyn for some much needed warm Florida sun; white, powdery sand beaches and sea swimming. HG/BSK arrived on a Saturday, did some necessary shopping for essentials, basked in the hot sun (temps in the high 80’s), swam in the warm sea, loosened muscles in a hot tub, showered and drank cold white wine on the sea facing terrace. Sunset over the Gulf was a dramatic blaze of color. Appetites well honed, HG/BSK were off to Leverock’s Restaurant for some traditional Gulf Coast seafood. Started off with some Gulf oysters (bland when compared to the briny Northeastern variety but tasty when enhanced by horseradish, lemon and hot sauce). Very good grilled Grouper with cole slaw and sweet potato fries. Shared a dessert of Key Lime pie. Went back to the restaurant on Sunday night after late afternoon arrival of SJ family. Easter Sunday crowd had demolished all of the oysters but the group managed to dine lavishly on fried shrimp, steamed snow crab, grilled Grouper, fried onion rings and a giant helping of shrimp and bacon over cheese grits. Shrimp in local St. Pete restaurants come from shrimp fleets (many manned by Vietnamese emigres) operating out of New Orleans and Galveston. These shrimp are fresh, juicy and much better than the frozen, tasteless variety served in Northern states. Happy mouthfuls.

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Home Sweet Home

April 12th, 2015 § 1 comment § permalink

Back in New Mexico. Blue skies. Bright sun. Temperatures in the 60’s. Much cooler when the sun goes down making HG/BSK’s living room fireplace a colorful and warming amenity. Delightful reunion with Toby, HG/BSK’s much loved dog. Polly B., neighbor, friend and much lauded photographer, gave HG/BSK a homecoming dinner. This was followed by a brief visit from Antony and Claudia C. (A talented couple: He manages a mutual fund and she’s a journalist-author-radio interviewer). BSK’s magical meat loaf for dinner. HG is taking advantage of the brief stay in the Land of Enchantment by ingesting loads of menudo and green chile smothered enchiladas at favorite neighborhood eateries. Next week HG/BSK will be off to Florida (St. Petersburg) to visit BSK’s 95-year-old Mom. Since it will be Spring Break, HG/BSK will be joined by SJ and family for five days at a beachfront condo. The Brooklynites need to thaw after the vicious, frigid and almost endless Northeast winter. Anticipate much sun, sea and seafood fun in St. Pete.

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VANCOUVER (Farewell)

April 9th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

Last day in Vancouver. Wistful HG/BSK derived comfort from knowing there would be a return. Strolled and drove through many Vancouver neighborhoods including Point Grey (spectacular views, posh homes); Jericho Beach (salt air and sand beneath the toes); Mt. Pleasant (hipster heaven); Commercial Drive (the 60’s are still alive); East Side bordering Chinatown (still a tragic cesspool of drug addict horror). Walked through Stanley Park, most beautiful of all urban parks replete with delightful beaches, bike paths (stirring views), a cricket ground, a world class aquarium,a giant swimming pool, totem poles and other attractions. Visited Gourmet Warehouse on Hastings Street, the wonderland of housewares, spices, pasta, grocery items and more…much more. Sampled a lovely variety of olive oils and balsamic vinegars. Bought Aleppo pepper, Slap Yo Mama Creole Mix, Feridies Salted Peanuts (the best) and sundry other useful and tasty items. Dinner at bustling, reliable Congee Noodle House (located across the street from HG/BSK’s former Vancouver loft). Sliced pork with red peppers, green peppers, onions and black beans; spicy minced pork with silky tofu; fried squid (alas, a limp loser this time); fluffy rice and Tsing Tao beer. HG will miss CNH’s “Chef’s Special Chicken”, rice crepes stuffed with pork; wontons, shrimp dumplings, roast duck, fried minnows and smelts; all of the scrambled egg dishes. Plus, of course, the incomparable congee (some 40 varieties). And, a big bill is as rare as a CNH waitperson smile.

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Vancouver (Day Eight)

April 8th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

Another sunny morning (Hey!! Vancouver is going to lose its rep for incessant moisture). Heartened by the rays, HG/BSK drove to the University of British Columbia Botanical Gardens. Founded in 1916, the Gardens cover 110 acres and contain some 12,000 plants. Only a few of the rhododendron were in bloom but HG/BSK gloried in the magnificent magnolias (largest blossoms the duo had ever encountered). Strolled through a forest of soaring (almost skyscraper heights) trees from British Columbia as well as exotic trees from Eastern United States and Asia. The forest floor was carpeted with lush ferns and the sun dappled greenery revealed new visual wonders at every turn. Sun disappeared. Misty rain appeared. HG/BSK spent the afternoon in a Mt. Pleasant coffee shop taking care of various chores on HG/BSK’s laptops. Dinner with Jamie S. and ever-elegant Karen St. John at Pidgin, an inventive restaurant in the Gastown neighborhood (still edgy on its fringes but now a center for trendy fashion and dining). Had some daring (but delicious) things like kohlrabi “dan dan” noodle salad with tofu and almonds; raw scallops with “piquant” radish; pork belly rice bowl with Asian pear kimchi and quail eggs. Only loser was the salmon with apple pistachio puree. The “sous vide” cooking method reduced the salmon to mush, giving it a strong resemblance to Gerber’s Baby Food. But, the misdemeanor was forgotten as the table dipped into a creative dessert of crisp pastry, fruit and sorbet. Atmosphere and service were pleasant with very attractive lighting. (Postscript: In a previous post about Annalena Restaurant, HG noted–with a question mark–the word “panagrattato” as an ingredient in a dish. Bilingual daughter Lesley R. pointed out the word means “breadcrumbs” in Italian. A pretentious flourish by the Annalena menu writer).

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Vancouver (Day Seven)

April 6th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

The University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver is, in HG’s opinion, the most beautiful museum in the world. At the risk of being precious, HG would describe the building as a work of visual poetry expressed in concrete. It is a masterpiece by the great Canadian architect, Arthur Erickson. HG/BSK have visited many times and are always astonished. So, on this rare sunny day HG/BSK motored around the beautiful campus and the striking residential areas before arriving at the museum for another visit. The Great Hall has an imposing collection of lofty totem poles from the First Nation villages along British Columbia’s coast. There are also giant hand carved canoes for passage in the seas and rivers as well as giant bowls, spoons and ladles (all fashioned from wood) for use in potlatch feasts. A special rotunda houses a virtuoso example of wood sculpture, “The Raven and the First Men” by First Nations artist Bill Reid. The museum is not devoted solely to the First Nations. There are major collections of South Pacific, African and Chinese art and artifacts. The museum is mind expanding. Of course, this honed HG/BSK’s appetites so the duo had a late lunch at Rodney’s Oyster House in the Yaletown neighborhood. Some two dozen oysters from the British Columbia and Washington coastlines. Wonderful variety of tastes and textures. HG/BSK’s favorites were the deep shelled Kusshi oysters, a new taste discovery for HG/BSK. When asked for the provenance of the Kusshi oysters, the obliging shucker wrote: “Deep Bay Bowser, Baynes Sound, Vancouver Island.” HG/BSK judged the Kusshi as being a worthy competitor of Johnny Flynn’s Colville Bay (Prince Edward Island) wonders for the title “World’s Best Oyster” Tonight, HG/BSK supped in their loaned condo: Pan fried Weisswurst, sauerkraut, wee boiled potatoes, Cornichons, Sweet mustard. Cold Canadian ale. Followed by cheeses and buttered baguette plus a few glasses of red wine. Butter tarts for dessert and (for HG) a snifter of brandy. Finale of a stimulating day.

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Vancouver (Day Six)

April 4th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

Off to that wondrous gem of Vancouver, The Public Market on Granville Island. This is one of the great markets of the world–bustling, colorful, well organized. Counters of fresh fish–salmon (incomparable), sole, halibut, etc. Plus specialties like spiny sea urchins (a delight for Uni lovers), salmon caviar, wood smoked salmon (in a separate building about 50 yards away is The Lobster Man for lobster, mussels and oysters). Two large shops offer superb meat. There’s a chicken shop, stall after stall offering flowers, fruit and vegetables from nearby farms. Terra bakes superb baguettes and scones. A tiny shop stocks a variety of milk products—milk, sour cream, yogurt and butter. There are two large operations that sell cheese, fresh pasta, olives, olive oil and everything else necessary for Italian cuisine. A score of shops that sell specialties–Indian spices, Chinese herbs, nuts, chocolate, Canadian wines, pastries (including that Canadian specialty, butter tarts, unavailable in the USA), etc.,etc., ad infinitum. HG/BSK purchased yogurt and fruit (for breakfast), crisp salad greens, tiny potatoes. Baguette from Terra. Thus provisioned, HG/BSK arrived at their favorite shop—-Oyama. The name is Japanese but this is a French-Canadian place that stocks every conceivable variety of sausage, ham, bacon, mustard, pate, terrine, rillette, etc…Plus, three dozen beautifully curated and aged cheeses. It is charcuterie heaven. BSK’s favorite is the delicious pheasant pate while HG relishes the garlic head cheese. Both love the suave duck pate and the perfectly sliced prosciutto (from Parma). Cornichons, sweet mustard, duck and pork rillettes; Bavarian Weisswurst, sauerkraut were added to their order plus camembert and cumin gouda cheese. Lunched at Stockpot, purveyor of great soups. HG had old fashioned chicken noodle while BSK opted for vegetable. Tonight HG/BSK will devour the Oyama charcuterie and cheeses with a big green salad, crusty bread and plenty of red wine. Weisswurst, sauerkraut, little boiled potatoes, cornichons and sweet mustard are scheduled for tomorrow night.

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Vancouver (Day Five)

April 1st, 2015 § 1 comment § permalink

Misty day. Shopping excursion to Lululemon Lab on Broadway near Cambie. Spacious store that is divided into a retail area and a sample making factory. The clothing, in price and style, soars above Lululemon’s wares in their usual shops. HG/BSK discovered Vancouver based Lululemon when the company had one store (in the Kitsilano neighborhood) and concentrated on Yoga apparel. Since then, Lululemon has become a public company and an international brand. With a few missteps from time to time, it continues to create comfortable and durable clothing. Lululemon Lab was having a sale and the combination of markdowns and the strengthening US dollar vis a vis the “Loonie” (Canadian dollar) revealed some bargains. BSK bought some great duds and HG scored a tee shirt and sweatshirt, both very stylish. Lots of pleasant strolling and window shopping. Perfect meal at Maenam, a beautifully designed restaurant on Fourth Avenue in Kitsilano. Hoi malaeng puu bai horapha. Translation: Steamed mussels with lemongrass and Thai basil served with pungent sauce. Som tam. Translation: Green papaya salad with long beans, carrots, garlic, roasted peanuts, chiles. Super crunchy. Pad ga pao neua. Translation: Minced stir fried hanger steak mixed with chiles, garlic and rice. Topped with a fried egg. Dishes were light and full of flavor. Not mouth numbing Thai firebombs.

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