Chanukah. Christmas. Kwanza. Yes, it’s holiday time. Won’t let Trumpery put a damper on family fun and feasting. HG/BSK will be in Providence (and three days in New York). Alas, Toby, The Wonder Dog, will be in in New Mexico. But, happily he will be in the loving care of Vicki, our house sitter, and her dog, a Toby buddy. In New York, HG will have his annual (Is this the sixth?) holiday lunch with restaurateur daughter Victoria (Rosie’s, Vic’s, Hundred Acres, Cookshop). It will feature fruits de mer and Muscadet at Balthazar. In Brooklyn, HG/BSK will celebrate SJ’s birthday at Mister Hotpot with Exquisite Maiko, Handsome Haru and Teru, the little queen of cuteness. In Providence, HG will lure gifted and busy daughter, Lesley, to a big time a deux feast of oysters and Rhode Island clams at Hemenway’s. A visit to HG’s favorite Szechuan restaurant (In Seatucket, of all places) is obligatory. There may be a Peruvian feast in the offing. And, on Christmas Eve (and Christmas morning) there will be blini, caviar, smoked salmon, potato pancakes, cream cheese, sable, herring, etc. SJ is an early standby on the Russ & Daughters line on Christmas Eve day and motors these wonders to the Providence table. Massimo R., HG/BSK’s much loved son-in-law, will adorn the holiday dinner table with great cheese, bread and wine. And, what will be the feast on Christmas Day? Turkey, brisket, roast beef, osso bucco? Whatever. Be assured. Lesley will make it memorable.
Alan and Gail S. are the house guests from heaven. HG/BSK’s Colorado pals (Alan’s a distinguished lawyer and Gail is a long time Colorado legislator and a recent congressional candidate) checked into HG/BSK’s casita Saturday afternoon. They brought with them: Wine (including a remarkable sparkling French rose); Colorado grass fed beef steaks; fabulous granola, pate, chocolate chip cookies. They made instant friends with Toby, The Wonder Dog, who is usually wary of strangers. Contributed to the stimulating dinner party that night. And, applied their considerable energy to the cleanup. A and G spent Sunday afternoon in Santa Fe visiting relatives and museums. Returned with a gift book and museum brochures. Sunday dinner, Alan cooked steak to perfection and made a wondrous sauce. Left Monday with praise for BSK’s breakfast poached eggs. These are extraordinary folks who combine intellectual brilliance with irresistible human warmth.
Gathered around HG/BSK’s New Mexico fireplace last night was a group of talented and entertaining people: Friends and neighbors David F. (historian, novelist, educator) and Karen K. (movie producer and Dessert Queen); Visiting friends from Crested Butte: Alan S. (distinguished attorney) and Gail S. (long time Colorado legislator and recent congressional candidate). Spirited discussion of recent political catastrophe and local environmental challenges. Potato vodka for HG and David F. Red wine for Alan S. White wine with splashes of Aperol for the women. On to the table: BSK’s chicken curry and HG’s Chinese spicy eggplant. Bowls of rice and raita. Chutney. Indian pickles. Sriracha. Much wine: Sauvignon blanc, Tempranillo, Valpolicella, Cabernet. This was followed by French cheese ( much like a ripe Brie), crackers and a fabulous nut and honey spread. Two desserts: The Dessert Queen’s Baclava and Gail S.’s chocolate chip cookies. Kuma, David F.’s giant and gentle white dog, and Toby, The Wonder Dog, participated in the festivities. A wonderful evening.
Generous and thoughtful daughter, Vicki F., the New York restaurateur (Cookshop, Vic’s, Rosie’s, Hundred Acres), birthday gifted HG with a lush package from Zabar’s, the Upper West Side food landmark. Happy 87 (can’t quite believe this number). The package contained: American farm raised caviar (as good, or better, than the Iranian and Russian products); Alaskan Salmon red caviar; blini; creme fraiche. The makings for an indulgent feast. Invited David F., friend, neighbor and HG’s favorite vodka drinking companion. Meal began with the American caviar on gently warmed blini topped with creme fraiche and a bit of finely chopped onion. HG and David F. accompanied it with copious icy vodka. (BSK drank sauvignon blanc). BSK then made BSK’s inimitable feta cheese omelets. Brown edges with soft, flavorful interiors (the French describe such omelets as “baveuse”). The dreamy and creamy omelets were topped with the Salmon caviar, sour cream and chopped onions. Jollity reigned as copious vodka and wine were consumed. Meal concluded with an endive and watercress salad plus ripe Comice pears with chunks of parmesan. Yes, much joy can still be found in a very divided America. Many, many thanks, Vicki.
As one may have gathered from precious posts, HG is very fond of dining in Vancouver, Canada’s magical city in the northwest. Because of its large Asian population, there are scores of very good Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Malaysian and Vietnamese restaurants. So, when in that city, HG focuses on those cuisines (with a few side trips to Rodney’s for superb oyster platters). HG/BSK’s pals, Jamie S. and Karen C., are authoritative and enthusiastic members of the Vancouver dining-out community. They touted the hottest restaurant in town, Osteria Savio Volpe (have to reserve weeks in advance). HG/BSK joined them there for an Italian meal that combined innovation with tradition. Savio Volpe is a beautiful, gently lit restaurant. Service is both friendly and professional. Everything combined to make the meal joyous and memorable. As suggested by management, the foursome shared a number of dishes. Consumed in this order: White anchovies with grilled leeks, egg, aioli, olives and bread crumbs; kale salad with lemon pepper dressing and Romano cheese. Main dishes: Robust roast suckling pig enhanced by a flavorful sauce; rare top sirloin with charred onion and horseradish crema. HG consumed only modest portions of these mains since HG concentrated on a dish shunned by BSK, Jamie and Karen: Tripe alla Calabrese in a sauce of tomatoes, chile peppers and Pecorino cheese. It was served in a bubbling stew pot with hunks of very good grilled bread (to sop up the sauce). HG is a big fan of New Mexico green chile Menudo (tripe stew). However, HG must confess: Savio Vople’s tripe stew is the greatest tripe dish HG has ever tasted. Yes, better than Tripes a la mode de Caen in Paris and the various tripe dishes served in Bologna or Florence. The festive meal ended with a giant “Tiramisu Sundae” which combined pastry, gelato, hazelnuts and a dash of Marsala. The foursome contemplated their foodie good fortune with snifters of limoncello and grappa. Viva Italia!! and Viva Savio Volpe!!
One thing New Mexico does not have is Dim Sum. There are fewer happier sights than a well lit, vast, busy Chinese restaurant serving weekend dim sum. Everything is savory, inexpensive and the little tastes provide a multitude of Asian flavors. So HG is left thinking of his recent trip to Vancouver’s Dynasty Restaurant . The place was jammed when HG/BSK, Karen C. and Jamie S. arrived for a noon feast. There were big tables seating multi generations of Chinese. Other big tables seating a variety of ethnicities. Vancouver is one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities and this is reflected in the staggering array of restaurants. A unifying element is that the entire population is obsessed by good food. The HG/BSK party relished shrimp dumplings (har gow); steamed pork buns; turnip pancakes; black truffle dumplings (a first); scallop and tobiko dumplings; pastry stuffed with ground pork; steamed spare ribs with lychee and peppers; fried eggplant with fish cake. Dessert was mango pudding and coconut cream pastry. November rain (as usual) dampened the Vancouver streets but Dynasty was a dry, warm haven of joy.