End of a perfect day on Prince Edward Island. HG and Toby, The Wonder Dog, walked by the sea (HG gulped big drafts of salty intoxicating air. Toby bounded into the ocean. Bounded out. Too cold. Too salty.). HG shucked a dozen Savage Harbor oysters (from the By the Bay Fish Mart in St. Peters). Big, briny wonders. Given the strengthening of the US dollar, these cost about 80 cents each. Vodka on the rocks for HG as HG gobbled up the bargain bivalves au naturel. BSK topped them with shallot vinaigrette and sipped white wine. This was followed by Asian chicken salad (Chicken from last night’s savory spatchcocked bird). Shredded chicken was mixed with radish, cucumber, fennel, scallion, sweet onion, carrot slices plus cooked and chilled rice noodles. Dressing was BSK’s invention: Grated ginger and garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil and mirin. Canadian pecan butter tarts for dessert. (one of the thoughtful homecoming gifts provided by Sharon’s sister Noel M. and husband, Yossi M. They now live on PEI for much of the year and their presence is a blessing.) HG/BSK’s dinner was enhanced by a Mozart string quartette and views of sea and sunset outside a 60 foot window expanse. Yes, HG/BSK have relished many sunsets: The sunset over Great South Bay from the Fire Island rear deck. The sunset over Vancouver’s English Bay from the Mt. Pleasant loft. The sunset over the Hudson River from the 12th floor Upper West Side apartment. But, none were as panoramic, dramatic, colorful and long lasting as the sunsets HG/BSK enjoy on PEI summer nights.
As HG noted in a recent post, Bob’s Clam Hut in Kittery, Maine has been a traditional dining stop for fried clams and other casual New England treats when HG/BSK would motor through the state on the way to Prince Edward Island. Bob’s is famous and possibly the busiest (and most efficient) clam shack in New England. Well, this recent roadside meal was disappointing. HG ordered the seafood basket (fried clams, scallops, haddock, cole slaw, tartar sauce and fried onion rings). At a price of $34.95, HG/BSK expected an abundant amount of food. Wrong. Skimpy for the price. Anticipated clam bellies but got leathery strips. The haddock was ordinary. Scallops were very good. The scant portion of onion rings was just okay. The modest Blount Clam Hut in Riverside, R.I., is much better. HG/BSK will give Bob’s another chance when they drive back to the United States in the fall. Will order scallop rolls. HG thought HG/BSK would stop in Bangor and try the Zen Asian Cafe. Timing was wrong. Continued to drive and stopped in Pocologan, New Brunswick for the night. Destination was Clipper Shipp Beach Motel. The motel is in a time warp. Very 1950’s. Spotlessly clean. Comfortable big beds. A shower with plenty of hot water and good pressure. Clipper Shipp’s motto is: “A Room With A View.” The motel fronts on the Bay of Fundy and the sea view is lyrical. Very hungry HG/BSK went to nearby BayBreeze Motel and Cafe (also sporting a great view of the Bay of Fundy). Thought it might be too late for food. Were delighted to find the cafe owners seated in the empty, plainspoken dining room. The husband and wife team looked as if we had interrupted an argument but, happily, they agreed to feed HG/BSK. Two platters of mixed fried seafood–clams, cod, scallops with French fries and cole slaw. Much better than Bob’s at half the price. Delicious clam bellies. BSK had a glass of white wine and HG had a few shots of vodka washed down with a Moosehead Ale. Happy, surprising meal. Breakfasted there next morning. Dishwater coffee and terrible griddle cakes with synthetic tasting Aunt Jemima Syrup. Win some. Lose some.
In HG’s opinion, the recent Supreme Court decision about marriage isn’t about marriage. It is about equal rights under the law. This was long due recognition that LGBT citizens (Lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgendered) have equal rights (and obligations) under the law. The last paragraph of Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion summed it up eloquently: “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
The dissenting opinions were, as to be expected, mean spirited. Justice Scalia disgraced himself by referring to the decision as a “putsch”, a term that is familiarly used to describe Adolf Hitler’s first attempt to seize power in Germany. HG is a Marxist and views most events through the lens of economics. HG grew up in New York City. The LGBT community was imperative in helping to make the city viable as an economic entity through its leadership role in theater, music, dance, art, design, fashion, publishing, communications and dining. This leadership made New York a tourist destination and a place where the wealthy and the fashionable wanted to live (and invest). And, of course, the city’s creative luster lured the talented young from all over the world. New York’s LGBT population made a disproportionate contribution to this New York and their creative labor generated taxes and paid for urban services. In addition, gays were the most intrepid pioneers of urban renewal. Gays brought their daring and design sense to battered neighborhoods, making them desirable. (developers soon piggybacked and the neighborhoods became pricey). Meanwhile, LBGT citizens were obligated to pay their taxes like everyone else but did not enjoy the same rights. In order to survive, most LBGT persons had to lead hidden, furtive lives. HG always wondered why New York’s LBGT population didn’t revolt or refuse to pay their taxes. While helping to make New York rich and colorful, LBGT persons were targets of vicious police actions and condemnation by organized religion. Sad to say, progressive citizens fought against anti-semitism and racial hatred, but rarely voiced any opposition to the mistreatment of the LBGT population (Feminism, as a mass movement, was far in the future). It took many decades of effort but justice (hopefully) has been achieved. Yes, the Scalias and Clarence Thomas’ will continue to spew their hatred but it seems unlikely that the clock can be turned back. Equality, not marriage, is the point. Marriage seems to be a rather frayed institution these days. But, as a mordant observer explained his strong support of same sex marriage: “They’ve got a right to be as miserable as everyone else.”
Pete Wells, the New York Times restaurant critic, recently rewarded Blanca, an edgy restaurant in Brooklyn’s gritty Bushwick neighborhood, three stars. At Blanca, customers sit at a counter and are served slivers of “inventive” food for $195 a person. No wine on its list sells for less than $80. According to HG’s figuring, this means a check for about $800 (or more) for dinner for two (food, wine, tax, tip). According to comments by Wells’s readers, you’ll still be hungry after dinner and in the mood for pizza or a burger. The direct opposite of Blanca is Los Andes in Providence, a restaurant much loved by HG and family. HG/BSK, Gifted Daughter Lesley R. and Brilliant Granddaughter Arianna R. dined there while visiting Rhode Island. As always, it was jammed with happy people of every ethnicity and color. Music from a Peruvian band. Los Andes is truly joyous. Once you enter, any vestige of gloom or depression disappears. HG sipped a favorite cocktail: Pisco Sour. Perfect, not too sweet sangria was poured. HG/BSK and their two companions shared some super generous portions of fresh and flavorful Latin-American and Peruvian food. A ceviche platter of tilapia, onions and herbs. A ceviche cocktail (served in an oversized Martini glass) of shrimp, squid, tilapia, mussels, etc. (HG would be happy to spend an evening sipping Pisco Sours and devouring these lush ceviche “cocktails”). Unusual Peruvian whipped potatoes with shredded chicken. A two-inch thick grilled swordfish steak. Rib eye steak (rare) from the Argentine barbecue “parilla.” Flan and an unusual meringue for dessert. Check the Los Andes website for full descriptions of these dishes and scores more. Prices are very reasonable, $30 to $40 per person (with wine). You will leave Los Andes very happy and very full. Service is efficient and pleasant. Los Andes is a professional operation, delivering excellent food with consistency. Deservedly popular, reservations are a must. Worth a special trip to Providence.
The Providence, R.I., area has become one of the great culinary destinations in the United States. In previous posts, HG has lauded the joyous Los Andes restaurant and the down to earth Blount Clam Shack. (Splendid cooking is always provided by Gifted Daughter Lesley R. at her home. But, of course, this is only available for fortunate family and friends). Before leaving for Prince Edward Island, HG/BSK, Lesley and Brilliant Granddaughter Arianna R., dined at Metacom Kitchen in Warren, a town that’s a short drive from Providence. Metacom offers a cuisine that utilizes the flavors and spices of many cultures—Italian, French, Japanese, Chinese, Indonesian, etc. Every ingredient in a Metaom dish is fresh, seasonal and treated with respect; a respect tempered by a creativity that makes it memorable. Here are some of the things the happy quartet tasted: Freshly shucked oysters on the half shell nestled on an excellent Japanese seaweed salad. Usually, HG prefers oysters to be served au naturel. No sauce. For HG, the natural brine is enough. But, at Metacam the oysters were served with a light lemongrass sauce that enhanced but did not overpower the oysters. This was followed by plump mussels, steamed in an inventive broth of green curry, zucchini, dry vermouth. Poached cherry tomatoes added a dash of color. The extraordinary broth was soaked up by squares of house baked focaccia and an herbal compound butter. Then some dishes were variations on Italian themes. Feather light polenta gnocchi in a sauce of shredded, braised veal breast; young turnips, pea greens and pecorino romano cheese. Porchetta with a tonatto sauce. Earthy tagliatelle with shredded duck confit and porcini mushrooms. There was a shift to a French Provencal specialty: Crisp fried rectangles of chickpeas with aioli. There were two conventional but perfectly prepared dishes: MK Burger, with sharp cheddar, lettuce, tomato, aioli and chickpea fries. Roasted black sea bass with couscous. Desserts were lush. Green apple cobbler with creme anglais, Marcona almonds and vanilla ice cream; creme brûlée; cheesecake with a spiced pistachio crust. Two very good Italian wines were served (both specials that evening)–a Pinot Grigio and a Sangiovese. Service was by a charming young woman. Prices were modest. Decor was soothing and contemporary. Metacom is everything a modern American restaurant should be.
James Salter, the excellent writer who was a great favorite of other writers and knowing appreciators of exquisitely crafted sentences, is dead at age 90. HG never met Salter but HG feels he has lost a friend. Salter wrote novels, short stories, novellas, screenplays, criticism and much else. All wonderful. HG’s bedtime companion is a book he wrote with his wife, Kay: Life Is Meals: A Food Lover’s Book of Days. (HG did an appreciation of the book. Check the archive). It stands with A.J. Liebling’s “Between Meals” as an HG favorite work about dining — erudite and appetizing. Salter had a wit as dry as a flinty glass of Chablis. He once observed that most men have self delusions: That they look younger than they are. That they are good drivers. That they are good in bed. Thanks and farewell, James. HG thinks of you as a civilized companion whose works continue to delight and illuminate.
HG is very fond of fried fish. Fish and chips is a meal. For a snack (or a very light lunch) a fish sandwich is just right. Like many great edibles, a fish sandwich must be simple; and the key to elevating that simplicity is that every element of a fish sandwich must be correct. The buttered bun must be soft with a crisp, toasted surface. There must be high grade tartar sauce and a sprinkle of Tabasco. The fish should be cod or haddock, fried to a greaseless crisp. During HG’s summer sojourn on Prince Edward Island, HG often lunches on a fish sandwich at Rick’s Fish and Chips on St. Peters Bay. An exemplary nosh. Fish sandwiches do not abound in landlocked Santa Fe where HG lives for much of the year. HG’s craving sometimes forces HG into Burger King for a sad fried fish sandwich — for shame, for shame. Today, HG/BSK stopped at Blount Clam Shack in Riverside, R.I., for a quick lunch. Ordered a specialty: “The Fish Reuben.” This is a generous piece of fried cod topped with Swiss cheese, cole slaw and tartar sauce served on a buttered, grilled bun. This is the gold standard of fried fish sandwiches. Sea heaven on a bun. The Shack also offers a “Fish BLT.” In this version the fried cod is topped with lettuce, tomato, smoked bacon and mayo. Must try.
HG/BSK (accompanied by Toby, The Wonder Dog), will soon be motoring through Maine, on the way to HG/BSK’s oceanfront home in the green, blessed, gentle paradise known as Prince Edward Island. HG has packed plenty of oyster knives, clam knives and protective gloves. Lots of shucking is anticipated as HG/BSK will bring bivalve deprivation to Johnny Flynn’s Colville Bay oysters and By the Bay Fish Mart quahogs. There will be some obligatory food stops in Maine. Bob’s Clam Hut in Kittery (in business since 1956) is the ultimate in clam shacks. Unsurpassed fried clams, oysters, scallops and fish. Great potato fries and onion rings. Home made sauces (chipotle mayo is an HG fave). Huge lobster rolls. Very busy but very efficient. Calvin Trillin, the wonderful writer, always stopped there on his way to and from his Nova Scotia vacation home. In Bangor, HG/BSK will dine at Zen Asian Bistro, a restaurant that offers Thai, Japanese and Vietnamese specialties. HG/BSK have never tried it but the menu looks good. HG is very fond of Bangor. It was the home of relatives (HG’s Mom’s side): The Cohens, Nyers and Alperts. These immigrant Jews, a number of whom trekked across Russia from Belorussia during World War One, somehow wound up in this gritty town when it was the center of the lumber industry. They made a big contribution to Bangor. One son became a distinguished district attorney. Another founded the Maine ski industry and was named Maine’s “Businessman of the Year.” And, one of the original immigrants (two years old when he arrived in Bangor), was diminutive (just five-feet-two) but brave, skilled and courageous. He was the captain of a merchant marine ship during World War Two and led his ship safely through mines and German submarines to deliver needed war material to Britain. During the late 1920’s (just before little HG arrived), HG’s family would travel to Bangor for their summer vacation. They swam in the sea off Bar Harbor. When HG’s Mom would describe the temperature of the water, she would shiver dramatically and make loud B-r–r-r!! sounds.
Gifted Daughter Lesley, husband/Profesore Massimo R., their two daughters (Arianna and Sofia) plus Civilized Dog, Pip, live on Naragansett Terrace, a lovely street in Riverside, R.I. (little town minutes from Providence). The street fronts on Naragansett Bay so the water views and sunsets are exhilarating. Homes are well kept with colorful gardens. Many are old homes (once occupied by tugboat captains, pilots and other seafarers) that have been updated without too many jarring modernist details. It is a quiet, neighborly street, a throwback to an America of the distant past. There are some very pleasant amenities. One is Crescent Park, a short walk away. The Park is home to the Crescent Park Carousel. It was built in 1895 by ID. Looff, a famous carousel designer at the turn of the century. It was built as part of a real estate promotion (Naragansett Terrace was being developed as a second home community for urban residents of Providence and other Rhode Island cities). The Carousel is the largest and most elaborate of Looff’s works with 62 beautiful hand carved horses and four elaborate chariots. It fell into disrepair but was saved in the 1970’s by local residents and in 1987 was designated a National Historic Landmark. The Park is also home of a Blount Clam Shack. Blount is a big Rhode Island and Massachusetts company (largest producer of clam chowder in New England and the largest producer of lobster bisque in the United States). In recent years Blount has opened a few clam shack restaurants in Rhode Island featuring traditional clam shack dishes like clam chowder, fried clams, lobster rolls, etc. HG/BSK lunched at the Crescent Park location today and it was splendid. HG/BSK had “Clambake Chowder”: clams, potatoes, chourico and corn in a clear, briny broth. “Chowda” as it should be. Then some clam belly rolls with excellent cole slaw and tartar sauce. Cape Cod potato chips. Perfect New England cuisine. HG walked it off by strolling with Toby, The Wonder Dog, and Pip, Lady Dog of Grace and Intelligence. Though small in size, Toby has a very stentorian bark (like those advanced little audio speakers). Toby utilized his loud bark whenever he spotted a neighborhood dog. Pip kept silent. Understanding, but still disdainful, of Toby’s bad manners.
It is not simple (or cheap) to ship a dog by air from Santa Fe to Boston. Toby, The Wonder Dog, is too big to qualify for passenger travel. Has to go via cargo in a specified (expensive)) crate. Lengthy intricate paperwork required. Compliance with complicated TSA regulations. HG/BSK arrived at Santa Fe Airport at 5:45 AM for 8 AM flight to Denver (plane change for Boston). The Santa Fe Airport is a small 1930’s architectural gem (looks like it was built by CCC/WPA craftspersons). Personnel are chosen for a high degree of incompetence. Though BSK made meticulous arrangements for Toby (and BSK is always relentlessly thorough) United Airlines was in a state of regulatory confusion. Toby finally was placed in a crate some 15 minutes before flight time (almost two hours of computer nuttiness). Toby (and HG/BSK) made it to Boston safe and sound. Surprisingly, The Wonder Dog, seemed unruffled by his first experience flying the friendly miles. Met by Gifted Daughter Lesley R. who managed to negotiate the insane traffic between Boston and Providence. Roads are still a nightmare after the expenditure of billions on The Big Dig, the decade long construction project that was designed to unclog Boston’s arteries. Much joy at the end of a long day. Toby frolicked happily at Lesley’s Riverside R.I., home with Pip, the charming and welcoming family dog. With the sun setting over the waterfront landscape, Lesley provided a lush meal of Rhody sea specialties: smoked bluefish pate, snail salad, steamed little neck clams in a olive oil-wine-garlic-parsley sauce; fish cakes made of fresh cod (remoulade sauce); radish and fennel salad. Vodka before dinner and white wine with the food. Red wine with Robbiola cheese and a unique Italian honey and wine marinated whole walnut. Extraordinary. Meal was a pot of gold after a long day of travel.