Hotels (Part 2)

September 29th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

De luxe. (HG loves that phrase. Very reminiscent of the 1930’s). Super luxury. And, that’s what HG/BSK experienced on some of their trips abroad. (Of course, there were some clunkers). An HG/BSK favorite is La Mamounia in the colorful city of Marrakech, Morocco. Splendid lobbies and lounge areas. Beautiful bedrooms overlooking the lush gardens where Winston Churchill once painted. HG/BSK breakfasted on their room’s terrace. Exquisite. Exercised with personal trainer, Abdul. Swam in the giant pool. Poolside lounges were occupied by attractive Frenchwomen in topless bikinis. Eye candy for HG. Savory Middle East buffet in the pool area’s dining section. Spectacular. Vacationing at Mamounia is expensive. Worth it. Another de luxe establishment is the venerable Savoy in London (never liked the equally sumptuous Dorchester and Claridge’s). Wonderful bedroom with super mattress on bed and linen sheets. Giant tub in bathroom, perfect for pre-theater bath. HG/BSK were very fond of the Savoy Grill. Glamorous art deco interior and superb food. Never slept at The Connaught in Mayfair. Decades ago, HG/BSK often dined at the hotel restaurant. HG can state, without reservation, this was the best restaurant in the world. Beautiful antique decor with comfortable seating. Gentle lighting. Nicely spaced tables. Impeccable, warm and professional service. The food was beyond superlative. Great French dishes (critics said the best French restaurant wasn’t in Paris, it was London’s Connaught). HG/BSK concentrated on the English classics: Oysters, smoked salmon, Dover sole, mixed grill with souffle potatoes; steak and kidney pie; boiled silverside with pickles and hot mustard, etc. Restaurant “modernized” its cuisine in recent years with unfortunate results. Too bad. London’s Hotel Wilbraham near Sloane Square was HG/BSK’s home in their frequent visits to the city long ago. Not luxe at all. Just comfy, inexpensive and shabby genteel. As expected, it has been refurbished and is now very expensive and posh. The old character has been lost. HG/BSK have forgotten the names of two hotels –one in Berlin and one in Tokyo–that were very memorable. Both super modern hotels with dazzling upper floor views. The breakfast buffet at the Berlin hotel was dazzling and extensive. Every variety of egg dishes.. Pancakes. Waffles. Jams, jellies and syrups. Numerous yogurts. A multitude of cereals, hot and cold. Fruits, both fresh and cooked., Salads. Breads, rolls, croissants, brioche, muffins, crackers. Smoked salmon and other fish. Scores of cheeses. Bacon. Ham. Many sausages (some, German specialties). Cake. Cookies. Pies. Pastries. Coffee, tea, fruit juice, wine and champagne; Bloody Marys and Mimosas. All available. HG/BSK would begin their day with exercise in the hotel gym and swim in the pool. Shower. Then, with raging appetites, attack the buffet extravaganza. Worked off the calories with long bike rides through the Berlin streets on the way to museums and landmarks. In Tokyo for the marriage of SJ and Exquisite Maiko, HG/BSK occupied a high floor bedroom with panoramic views of the city. Made New York look like a small village. The bathroom had the usual Japanese wonder toilet. Excellent gym and soothing hot baths. Thankfully, breakfast was English/American. HG loves Japanese cuisine but doesn’t fancy the traditional Japanese breakfast of grilled fish, miso soup, rice and pickles. Bleakest hotel room ever was in Prague soon after the Czech liberation. Didn’t matter. Prague was a glory.

Hotels (Part One)

September 27th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

During HG’s many trips throughout the United States, Europe, Africa (the Moroccan cities of Tangier, Casablanca, Fez and Marrakech); South America (Cartagena, Buenos Aires and much of Brazil); Japan (Tokyo and Kyoto), HG (and BSK) have stayed in luxury hotels, businessperson hotels, chain highway motels, “tourist courts”, etc. There were some memorable experiences. HG had two New York favorites The Algonquin on W. 44th and The Carlyle on the upper east side. When owned by the late Ben Bodne, the lobby of The Algonquin had the air of a fading, aristocratic lounging space in a distinguished English country great house. Gently faded carpet, comfortable sofas and chairs upholstered in gently worn fabric. Mahogany tables and chests that showed their age. Gentle, flattering light. There was no better place for conversation while sipping a cocktail. Despite its literary reputation and hosting of many eccentric and unruly poets and artists, Algonquin customers were very resistant to change. When carpet, upholstery or furniture had to be replaced, Bodne made sure that it was carefully aged so that no change was evident. Dining at the Algonquin was a delight. Oak Room for lunch and Rose Room after theater. The Oak had very good roast beef (plus sweetbreads on Virginia ham; seafood salad; coconut ice cream ball for dessert). The Rose had a joyously flamboyant maitre d’ and served creamy chicken curry. HG/BSK spent two nights in an Algonquin suite some 30 years ago. Arrived in a snowstorm. As expected, the suite was warm, comfortable and timeless. Loved it. The Carlyle had a modest lobby but it was always adorned by beautiful, fashionable women and an occasional movie star. The late Bobby Short was a fixture in the Cafe. The Bemelmans Room was an intimate cocktail lounge decorated with New York and Paris murals (yes, “Madeline” is on the wall) by the late, inimitable artist/writer, Ludwig Bemelmans. HG enjoyed many an expensive, perfectly crafted martini there when business brought HG uptown. HG must (for sentimental reasons) mention plain spoken Motel City on far W. 42nd Street as a fave. HG resided there after a life change. The motel owners owed HG considerable money for publicity services so rent was charged against the debt. And, that was the time when HG met the love of his life, BSK, lucky HG’s wife, partner, companion for 55 years.

BSK: The Sommelier

September 26th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

No, BSK is not a wine expert like pal Peter H. or Prince Edward Island neighbor, Peter E.. But, without any formal training, BSK knows how to pick drinkable (even lush) and affordable wines. This is a challenge on PEI where taxes and government regulations greatly inflate the price of wine and spirits. Nevertheless, BSK explores the aisles of government liquor stores and picks winners. BSK’s selections come from Chile, Spain, Argentina, Portugal and Sicily. BSK has also discovered affordable vintages from Ontario and British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. BSK’s red wine choices vary but her white wine choice is almost aways sauvignon blanc (in jug size) from Jackson-Triggs, the Canadian vintner. This is BSK’s choice for a pre-dinner cocktail, usually sweetened with a splash of cranberry juice. HG, of course, sticks to vodka based beverages. BSK really displays her sommelier abilities when HG/BSK are resident in New Mexico. BSK picks out tasty bargains galore at Santa Fe’s Trader Joe’s. However, BSK’s favorite shop is Kokoman, the liquor store close to HG/BSK’s Jacona home. Despite its bleak exterior plastered with beer ads, this is a wonderland of everything alcoholic. Wines from all over the world ranging from low cost to three figure rare French vintages. BSK is friendly with the wine director and he directs her to many outstanding choices. Surgery and radiation some 26 years ago, coarsened HG’s wine palate. As years go by, BSK’s wine tasting abilities continue to improve. As the country song puts it: “What My Woman Can’t Do, Can’t Be Done.”

CHATHAM, NJ – MARCH 11, 2017: Red wine aisle in a Bottle King store. Bottle King is the largest New Jersey retailer of wine, beer and spirits.

Blum’s Corn

September 25th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

For the last ten Prince Edward Island summers, HG/BSK and family have consumed scores upon scores of local, seasonal sweet corn on the cob. Most of it has come from Blum’s, a fresh corn farmer working from a truck in the Town of Montague. For years, BSK exchanged corn cooking lore with the woman who sold the good stuff. She’s been replaced by an efficient gent. No chat. BSK, a midwestern corn maven, has been concerned about Blum’s. Early ears were a bit gummy, lacking the champagne-pop and sweetness of Blum’s usual variety. However, Blum’s has made a dramatic turnaround. Back to scrumptious. HG/BSK have discovered that two (or two and a-half) ears make a complete meal (when washed down with lots of red wine, of course). HG/BSK tummies have shrunk in maturity. Can’t knock off burgers in traditional American fashion after a corn feast. HG/BSK now follow their corn gluttony with a modest salad. If there’s left over corn, corn pancakes for breakfast or the kernels are added to BSK’s splendid fish/clam/mussel/bacon/potato/herb chowder. Corn pudding may also be in the future.

Easy Pho

September 24th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Atlantic Super Stores in Prince Edward Island provide the means for a big, hearty, convenient, easy (and cheap) bowl of Vietnamese Pho for HG’s lunch as summer retreats and autumn brings cool and crisp days. The supermarket always has containers of Pho broth in stock (as well as Ramen broth and Thai Tom Yum.) Few things are better than watching the whitecaps from the wall of windows in HG/BSK’s oceanfront PEI paradise. That’s the visual delight. Pho is the culinary delight. Yo Yo Ma on the sound system is the auditory delight. HG heats the Pho broth to the boiling point. In another pot filled with boiling water, HG cooks rice vermicelli noodles (they are done in three minutes and get a rinse of cold water to stop the cooking). The noodles go into the pot with firm tofu, a few leaves of spinach (or watercress), bean sprouts. Flavored with sesame oil and chili oil. Topped with chopped scallions. Green tea to drink. With the Ramen broth, HG will add poached and shredded chicken breast. Tom Sum will get a few Tiger Shrimp (sorry, allergic BSK). Are these store bought broths the equal of those long simmered wonders in Vietnamese and Thai restaurants? Well, no. But, they are very good and HG will continue happy home slurping.

Canadian Health Care

September 24th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

HG is a very lucky guy. HG possesses a Canadian Health Card. That means HG is eligible for the efficient, professional, timely (and free) Canadian health system The contrast with Der Trumperer’s ludicrous American health system is laughable. Here’s today’s example. HG has had an annoying cold and persistent night time cough for some weeks. HG has COPD. This means HG is always alert to the possibility of pneumonia. (Last attack put HG in a London hospital). So, thoughtful BSK called the Montague, Prince Edward Island, medical clinic and made an appointment yesterday for HG to see a doctor. Quick answer. Appointment this morning. No waiting. Met the usual (for PEI) caring and professional nurse and doctor. Thorough check of all symptoms, health history and vital health issues (oxygen intake, blood pressure, breathing, etc.). This was followed by diagnosis, prescriptions, actions to be taken. Among other things, HG will be enrolled in PEI’s COPD “Action Program” which offers speedy treatment for COPD sufferers. The prescriptions cost $18 (US). No charge for anything else. The despicable Republicans in the “democracy” south of Canada continue to attack Canada’s universal health care system as over-burdened, inefficient, impersonal, etc. HG can only contrast today’s experience in Canada with what would have occurred under similar circumstances in HG’s home town of Santa Fe. Despite the fact that Santa Fe is more efficient and manageable than the large American cities, there would have been a massive cluster of phone calls, delays, long waits, etc. HG would not have seen HG’s family doctor for weeks and it would be months before seeing a COPD specialist. Lucky if HG got ten minutes of their time. And. Medicare and health insurance cost HG/BSK more than $10,000 a year. O, Canada !! Maple Leaf Forever !!

Nova Scotia

September 20th, 2018 § 2 comments § permalink

Yes, Nova Scotia is the “spiritual” home of the wonderful cold-smoked salmon — beloved by New Yorkers — known as “Novy.” HG/BSK buy Novy at By the Bay Fish Mart in St. Peters, Prince Edward Island. Very inexpensive. HG/BSK dine on many pounds during their stay on the Island. On a clear day, you can see Nova Scotia from PEI’s beaches. The province produces many good things. HG’s pre-dinner drink always has a base of Blue Lobster Vodka produced by Nova Scotia Spirit Co. It’s the best and at 80 proof carries a wallop. (The spirit has won many international prizes). BSK’s favorite cheese is Feta produced in Aylesford, Nova Scotia, by Holmestead. The company’s motto is “Far away taste made here at home.” The Feta is crafted using traditional hands-on artisanal techniques to produce an authentic Mediterranean taste evocative of Greek and Bulgarian Feta. BSK stuffs omelets with the cheese and showers BSK’s salads of home grown tomatoes and cucumbers with this flavorful Feta. HG/BSK have happy memories of dining at Maple, a great restaurant (long closed) in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The chef was Michael Smith who went on to renown as the host of a Canadian TV cooking program. Currently, he and his wife own and run the beautiful Inn at Bay Fortune on PEI. As expected, the cuisine is extraordinary. HG/BSK and family have enjoyed his special multi-course feasts where everything but the freshly shucked (all you can eat) Colville Bay oysters, is cooked over wood fires.

White Lightning

September 20th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Yes, HG refers to moonshine, the original North American whiskey. It is un-aged and typically distilled from corn. Powerful (usually 100 proof but as high as 190 proof).  Clear and colorless (since it is not aged it  doesn’t acquire the color of whiskey aged for a lengthy period in oak barrels). Moonshine was brought to the New World by Scotch and Irish immigrants and was illegal in the United States until 2010. From 1900 to 1948, Prince Edward Island was a completely dry province and moonshine became a big business both on the island and smuggling it into the US during Prohibition. The moonshine tradition has remained strong even after the “dry laws” were repealed. There are now hundreds of amateur/illegal distillers on the island alongside professionals like the Myriad View Distillery (who made the move from bootlegging to respected business in 2010). Basically, PEI people love the taste of moonshine, they hate paying taxes and they have a “propensity” for smuggling. Dinner last night at Ocean Mist Farm, home of BSK’s sister, Noel, and husband, Yossi. Some weeks ago, Noel gifted a neighbor with some bales of straw and, in return, was given a big mason jar of home-distilled moonshine. Following a sumptuous meal of Noel’s hummus, Yossi’s smoked trout, Island sweet corn on the cob, Ocean Mist peppers stuffed with chopped lamb (also from Ocean Mist) and a dessert of rice pudding,  HG had a blast of moonshine. Since HG preceded this with pre-dinner vodka, dinner red wine and post dinner Bagaco, the excellent Portuguese marc produced by PEI’s Matos Winery (this was a generous gift to HG  from thoughtful Yossi), HG feared the White Lightning might send HG to oblivion, No fear. HG managed to stay sober (moderately) and made the walk to the automobile for return home without assistance. Hardy old guy.


September 18th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

A lucky meeting. HG, pockets jingling with beach glass after a long walk on the beach off Prince Edward Island’s Maclaren Road, spotted a familiar figure near the beach entrance. It was Winfried S., the distinguished Swiss publisher. HG/BSK met Winfried and wife a few years ago. Charming couple. Publishers of the German translations of Donna Leon’s Venetian detective novels. At the time, they were vacationing at one of the chalets on Maclaren Road and they had returned. Winfried, now retired, is a consultant to various publishers and was soon leaving for the Frankfurt Book Fair. He told HG that the field around his chalet was filled with chanterelle mushrooms. And, he made a lovely offer: Drive to the entrance of the cluster of chalets, and he would give HG/BSK some bags of freshly picked mushrooms. Happy HG. Chanterelles are HG’s favorite fungus (morels are the runner up). HG/BSK drove home with a very large amount of these good things. BSK cooked a bunch of them with chopped onions and herbs plus a generous hunk of butter and white wine. Mixed them with orzo and served them as an accompaniment to roast spatchcocked chicken (a BSK signature dish). The chanterelles were earthy, fragrant with a subtle spiciness. Joyous meal.

Condiment Madness

September 18th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

HG/BSK’s brilliant daughter, Lesley R. glanced inside HG/BSK’s refrigerator and exclaimed: “There are so many condiments, you have no room for food.” True. HG has rarely met a condiment he doesn’t like. In the fridge were Kalamata olives, Bubbie’s bread and butter pickles; French cornichons, preserved lemons, hot and mild jarred peppers. For Indian cuisine: Major Grey’s Chutney and sour mango pickles. For Mexican cuisine: Salsas and chile sauce ranging from mild to super hot. Also, fresh pico de gallo. For Japanese cuisine: Pickled ginger, bulldog sauce, wasabi. For Chinese cuisine: Hoisin sauce, sambal oelek; garlic and chile sauce, oyster sauce. For Vietnamese cuisine: Nuoc cham and fish sauce. And, the traditional staples: mustard (four types); Heinz ketchup and Hellman’s Mayonnaise. This list is from memory. HG may have missed a few condiments. As is customary among youngsters, youthful HG slathered many dishes with ketchup. These days, HG uses it only when mixed with mayo to make Russian dressing. BSK uses Dijon mustard for salad dressing and HG utilizes it to accompany sausages. (A PEI woman makes an outstanding horseradish mustard, a BSK favorite with pork dishes). Yellow delicatessen mustard is only useful when spread on the occasional frankfurter.

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