Winter is here in sunny New Mexico. Yes, the sun is shining and snow vaporizes rapidly, but temperatures slide into the teens at night and wind adds to the chill. This calls for fires to be blazing in the living room fireplace and in the bedroom kiva. Adding to the warmth is BSK’s emphasis on comfort food. One night, there was a a saute of chicken thighs with a sauce of wine, lemon juice, garlic (much) and hardy rosemary from the herb garden. BSK accompanied this with a smashed potato and cauliflower mix enriched with chicken stock, sour cream, butter and chopped scallions. On the next night there was a platter of shakshuka, the Israeli dish of poached eggs (from neighbor/pal Karen K’s noble chickens) atop a mix of sauteed peppers, onions, tomatoes. Heat was applied with Trader Joe’s fiery harissa. HG made a big bowl of Greek yogurt mixed with garlic,olive oil, Aleppo pepper, sumac, cumin. Slices of ciabatta soaked up the sauces. Much red wine was drunk and HG fortified his body and soul with after dinner grappa. Jack Frost was defeated soundly.
Daughter Lesley R, and husband Massimo (plus their gorgeous and brilliant daughter, Sofia) returned from France and the Piedmont region of Italy in time for holiday celebrations at their Riverside, R.I., home. This meant gifts of French pate (from force fed geese) and white truffle products (from Piedmont’s annual white truffle festival). These gifts can only be described as the real deal. No insipid chicken liver pate (mousse?). No vile and dubious truffle oil (destroyer of many dishes). Armed with the authentic products created by artisans (and nature), BSK created a spectacular dinner for New Mexico guests. Pate on buttered toast accompanied by a chilled bottle of Gewurtztraminer. Then steaming bowls of papardelle with a melange of wild mushrooms, abundant truffle butter (made in Alba) and real deal truffle oil (no synthetic flavoring) was stirred into the pasta. Ah, the fragrance!! Ah, the taste !! Robust Malbec was the drink. A few days later, HG/BSK followed a Lesley R. hint and melted slices of pate on pan broiled rib steaks. Ecstasy. HG’s after dinner beverage was mellow Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon. An All-American digestif.
A highlight of HG/BSK’s holiday in Brooklyn/New York/ Rhode Island was a feast hosted by Restaurateur Daughter Victoria (Vicki) at her eponymous Italian restaurant, Vic’s, on Great Jones Street. Vic’s is one of Vicki’s four New York restaurants (the others are Cookshop, Rosie’s and Hundred Acres). Hillary Sterling is the chef at Vic’s and she turns out wonderful, creative, Italian food with an emphasis on local, very fresh ingredients. Comfortably seated in the sparkling dining room, HG/BSK and SJ were regaled with vegetable starters: Brussell sprouts with anchovies,chiles and lemon; squash with schmaltz (chicken fat), golden raisins and garlic; cauliflower with hazelnuts, harissa and bread crumbs. These were dishes that could turn a carnivore into a vegetarian. The veggies were followed by baby squid with pickled peppers (a glorious take on the classic Rhode Island dish) and a roasted duck leg. The pasta tasting course was original: Borsa (“little purses” filled with ricotta; Mafaldi; Tortellini; Spaghetti with clams and green chiles. Wow !! Much splendid wine and a grappa to finish. The next day, HG met Vicki for their traditional three hour holiday lunch at Balthazar. The duo had much to talk about as they dug into a giant plateau de fruits de mer: Oysters, clams, mussels, shrimp, ceviche, lobster. Fabulous. Bottles of Balthazar’s very good Muscadet. Vicki made a prior arrangement with Balthazar to pay the bill and then sent HG back to Brooklyn via Uber. Vicki, you are generosity personified.
Time for the annual holiday season visit to Chong Quing House in Seekonk, Massachusetts, for the
F & R family fiery Szechuan feast. HG/BSK, Massimo and Lesley R., granddaughters Arianna and Sofia R. (a brilliant and beautiful duo) were seated at a round table with a big “Lazy Susan” on top. HG believes CH is superior to any Szechuan eatery (hmmmm….says SJ) in New York and the holiday meal confirmed HG’s opinion. Starters were steamed pork dumplings and dumplings in hot oil. Faves of the young women, the dumplings were marginal. CH is not a place for dumplings. But, the food? Ah!!! Cumin lamb; family style bean curd, pepper and salt shrimp; sliced fish on a bed of hot peppers, eggplant in garlic sauce; pickled string beans with scallions. Bowls of fluffy rice plus Bass Ale and Samuel Adams Lager. Great, balanced meal. No doggy bags. Not a morsel remained on the platters.
Rhode Island is called (rightfully) The Ocean State. Lots of shoreline and lots of splendid, fresh fish, squid, oysters and clams. HG/BSK and Lesley R. lunched on sea treats at Hemenway’s, the very good seafood restaurant in Providence. Rhody clams and oysters are among the world’s best, so that was the first course. BSK and Lesley R. do not share HG’s love of raw clams on the half shell so HG had all of the delectable little necks while a variety of oysters from the Rhody shores (plus a few from Massachusetts and Connecticut waters) were shared. All were delicious and briny, full of sea pleasure. On the table were giant shrimp and a half lobster, not local but perfectly sourced and cooked. BSK had a big bowl (a small cup for HG) of Rhode Island clam chowder. This is the best chowder, relying solely on an abundance of chopped clams and clam broth (plus potatoes, onions, bacon and herbs). No tomatoes as in Manhattan clam chowder or cream as in New England clam chowder. Simple, pure clam goodness. Clams Casino and a bottle of chilled Muscadet completed the meal. No room for a Rhody specialty: Fried squid with hot peppers. Next time.