Wu’s is a Wow (As Is The Birthday Girl!)

May 30th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

HG’s daughter Victoria continued to generously captivate our palates. The Shuka graduation celebration dinner was an extravaganza. Not only was the food stupendous (thanks, chef Ayesha) but Vicki brought SJ from Tokyo. Happy, happy surprise. The next night Was Vicki’s fabulous birthday banquet at Wu’s Wonton King on East Broadway. Vicki’s family, friends and business colleagues (30 in all) gathered around three round tables and, curated by Vicki and husband, Marc, had one of the great Chinese banquets of all time. The parade dish was an enormous snow crab. It was displayed live before being steamed and crisply fried with juicy, full-of-flavor crab meat tucked away in the shells. HG usually finds snow crab tasteless. Not this big boy. Lush. More seafood followed. Tender, crisp fried squid and large prawns. Steamed flounder in a rice wine and garlic sauce. Baby shrimp with softly scrambled eggs. Wonderful wok sauteed chicken. Eggplant. String beans. Chinese greens and broccoli. Meal ended with noodles (to ensure longevity). Much superior white wine and cold beer was drunk. Happiness reigned. (HG probably didn’t mention all the dishes served. HG was so busy eating, aided by Marc, that HG couldn’t take notes). Wu’s exterior is bleak. But, the inside is bright and cheery. Service is impeccable. Thanks, Vicki and Marc, for introducing us to the wonders of Wu’s.

Shuka Celebration. SJ Surprise

May 30th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

It was a magical moment. Startling. Graduation celebration party was at Shuka, the extraordinary middle eastern restaurant in New York’s Soho. Shuka is part of the mini-dining empire of HG’s daughter, Victoria and her husband, Marc, the farm-to-table pioneer and celebrated chef. After warm greetings from Victoria, a stylish gentleman with a short white beard and fashionable greying hair strolled in. That can’t be HG/BSK’s son, Sj. He’s in Tokyo. But, yes, it is SJ. In person. Joy overflowed. Victoria decided that family celebration and her 60th Birthday party (the next night) would not be complete without SJ. So, with her abundant generosity, she arranged and paid for it all in deep secrecy. Yes, Vicki is incomparable. And, so was the feast. Mezze: Crisp chickpeas. Spiced olives. Dates. Marinated Kohlrabi. Tarasalmata. Small plates and vegetables: Crispy cauliflower. Zaatar fried potatoes. Roasted carrots, Asparagus.. Beets. Salads. Dips: Whipped feta with pistachios.. Hummus. Fried Halloumi (fried cheese balls). And, then kebabs galore. Shrimp. Chicken. Steak. Lamb. Swordfish. For HG, the lushest accompaniment was Labne, the thick yogurt made every morning by Shuka’s wonder chef, Ayesha. Gracious Ayesha, whose very presence is nourishing, came to the table for much-merited applause. Lesley and Massimo had arranged that they would pay for the meal. Not on the cuff. But, as usual, Vicki wouldn’t accept payment. Massimo was allowed to leave a tip. The food was celestial. SJ’s merry presence was life-enhancing. Thanks, Vicki. And, Ayesha.

Sofia Graduates

May 28th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

May 20th was graduation day. Perfect weather. Sunny. Slight breeze. The ceremonies and the crowd of happy parents, siblings, friends, alumni, etc. were handled graciously and efficiently. Columbia knows how to to do things right. HG was placed in a comfortable wheelchair and a pleasant member of the Columbia grounds staff wheeled HG to HG’s seat. BSK; Lesley, Massimo and Arianna R. all looked stylish. A student band played rousing Dixieland to usher the grads to their section. Sofia R.looked smashing in her sky blue cap and gown (Columbia colors). Speeches were short and eloquent. Sofia’s family cheered as Sofia received her diploma and it was announced that she was graduating with honors—Summa Cam Laude and Phi Beta Kappa. Walked to a pizza brunch at Marlowe’s on Broadway. Toasted the grad with chilled Provencal rose. In the evening, the group dined at Ahwadh, a very good Indian restaurant on Broadway. The group of eight (Sofia’s boyfriend, and her longtime Rhody pal and neighbor, Kristen) joined us. Appetites were ferocious. Vegetarian dishes: Eggplant. Okra. Lentil dal. Spinach with paneer (indian cheese). Breads: Onion kulcha, Papadums: Meats and chicken: A lusty variety of goat, lamb and chicken. Some were stewed. Some were grilled. All delicious. Drank chilled rose and Taj Mahal beer. Mint and fiery chili condiments. Plus more than a dozen dishes that HG hasn’t mentioned. Many things were cooked Murgh style which means long simmering in special pots. Produced savory results.

Zabar’s Feast

May 26th, 2019 § 2 comments § permalink

Arrived in New York for graduation festivities. Arianna R., HG/BSK’s beautiful and brainy granddaughter received her MBA a week earlier in Providence. Equally brainy and beautiful granddaughter, Sofia, was slated to get her BA from Columbia (Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa) in graduation ceremonies on Monday. Longtime pals, Peter and Susan H., made their spacious Riverside Drive available for the Freeman and R. family (P. and H. were away visiting their daughter, her husband, and a new baby). A very gracious and generous act (typical of P. and S.). Sofia was off to Zabar’s, the long time West Side culinary institution. Came back with an overwhelming feast of Jewish delicacies. Nova Scotia smoked salmon. Sable (best ever). Whitefish salad. Scallion cream cheese. Potato salad. Coleslaw. Pickles. Olives. Onions. Capers. Corned beef. Pastrami. Zabar’s mustard. Bialys. Traditional Jewish rye bread. A meal full of joy and memories as the feast and the H. apartment evoked HG/BSK’s days on the West Side some 47 years ago.

Rhody and Nantucket Scallops

May 24th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

HG/BSK are very fond of sea scallops. Of course, nothing quite compares to Nantucket Island bay scallops Their season is brief and they lose a lot of flavor when they leave the Island. Freezing turns their delicate flesh into little balls of cotton. Best eaten raw, minutes after they are pulled out of the bay. HG/BSK get misty-eyed when HG/BSK recall their residence on Nantucket. Caretaker/friend Al K. was an expert scalloper (family had been on Nantucket for many, many generations). Carrying a big bucket of bay scallops harvested minutes before, he invited HG/BSK to an outdoor feast. Armed with glasses of chilled white wine, HG/BSK ate dozens of the raw, sweet morsels. Al shucked. HG/BSK ate. Bivalve heaven. HG/BSK also reached celestial climes at the Riverside, RI, home of the R. family, night before battling traffic jams on the way to granddaughter Sofia R.’s Columbia graduation in New York. It seems that Rhode Island not only has the best clams and squid, but the biggest, juiciest, most flavorful sea scallops HG/BSK ever tasted. Gifted daughter Lesley R. exalted these sea wonders in a chowder (no milk or cream) of fish stock and clam juice flavored with garlic, saffron and many herbs. Added a bit of cod. Cooking perfection. The meal concluded with a cheese platter. HG was enthralled by the ripe robiola and a blue cheese (gorgonzola ?). HG added a bit of sweet to HG’s cheese assortment. Armenian preserved pumpkin in syrup (a gift of an R. friend/neighbor). Superb climax.

Worth The Wait

May 23rd, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Final travel to Riverside, Rhode Island, was short (in terms of mileage but very long in time (traffic jams, construction, etc. on New England Thruway). Arrival at the home of daughter Lesley R.; son-in-law Massimo and granddaughter Arianna, was festive. Toby, The Wonder Dog, had a joyous reunion with Pip. the R. family’s super-intelligent and gentle dog. HG/BSK were refreshed with steaming cups of tea (and some yogurt and honey for HG). Appetites raged as the family arrived at O Dinis, the joyous, noisy, no-reservations restaurant in East Providence. Every table was filled with happy, hungry folks eating hearty O Dinis cuisine. A half hour wait. Cane-wielding HG turned down many kind offers of a seat but finally succumbed to sitting on a bench and sipping white wine provided by thoughtful Lesley. (HG thanked a diner for his concern about HG. Before leaving, the gentleman sent a glass of red wine to the Freeman/R. table.) Food was spectacular. Juicy shrimp in a spicy sauce. Steamed littleneck clams (Rhody clams are the best) in a lush sauce of garlic, herbs, olive oil and clam juice. The O Dinis specialty: Pork and clams. A surprise was a dish of grilled tuna belly with boiled potatoes and a wondrous sauce. One of the best fish dishes. Lots of wine and Portuguese bread to soak up the many fragrant garlic juices. (Dracula wouldn’t stand a chance when confronted with O Dinis food). At bedtime, HG sipped some Kentucky bourbon. A most happy fellow.

Road Cuisine (Day Four)

May 21st, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Destination: Lewisburg, Pa. (Site of a federal prison and nearby Bucknell University, the late Philip Roth’s alma mater). Hunger seized HG on the road. Not much dining available. Settled for Burger King. Don’t scoff. The burgers are the usual crap. However, the fish sandwiches are a treat. Real fish (not “fish product”) crisply fried. No grease. Bun is layered with lettuce, tomatoes, pickle chips and an adequate tartar sauce. No, not as great as the haddock sandwiches at Rick’s Fish and Chips in St. Peters, Prince Edward Island. but, quite tasty. Stayed at an upscale Holiday Inn. BSK worked out in the fitness center and followed with BSK’S usual super hot shower. HG swam many laps in the warm indoor pool and soothed HG’s mature muscles in a hot tub. HG/BSK took their raging appetites to the Reba and Pancho Restaurant. Shared a “Skinny Pizza.” Super crisp and topped with a quality mix of mozzarella and tomatoes. BSK followed this with gently sauteed haddock served over a salad of Canellini beans and fried Calamari. It was knit together with a sauce of mint, parsley, olive oil and butter. BSK pronounced the dish inventive and delicious. On PEI, fresh haddock will get this treatment. Can hardly wait. HG dined on a juicy crab cake floating on spicy chile broth enriched by a julienne of garden vegetables. Drank Spanish Rioja. Back at Holiday Inn, HG completed a perfect day by sipping bourbon and watching the Warriors snatch a victory in the NBA playoffs after falling far behind.

Road Cuisine (Day Three)

May 18th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Destination: Ashland, Ohio. HG/BSK motored through the territory of BSK’s teen-age (and pre-teen years). Mansfield. Galion. Bucyrus. Crestline. Lakes and parks where BSK frolicked with BSK’s first boyfriend. No nostalgia from BSK. Just kept accelerating. Still lunching at the chains. This time it was Chick-Fil-A. HG must confess. Enjoyed it. Big bowl of chicken soup. Lots of shredded chicken. Firm, not mushy, pasta. Pleasant vegetables. BSK had a chicken sandwich and liked it. Downside was the potatoes. These were “waffle fries.” Not crisp. Not hot. Zero taste. However, the service was extraordinary. Efficient but super friendly and caring. HG left with a tip-top vanilla milkshake to be consumed while driving. Made the miles skip by. Dinner in Ashland was at Jake’s, a local steak and casual food chain. BSK said this was Amish country and the steak was bound to be good. HG was dubious. As always, BSK was right. BSK had a big-time, medium rare sirloin. Gave HG a taste. Superior. BSK accompanied the steak with onion rings and Caesar salad. HG had a burger with pepper jack cheese and fried jalapenos. Adequate. Not sensatiĆ“nal. There were consolations. HG’s side of mac and cheese was among the best ever and HG’s icy black-and-tans (glasses of half Anchor Steam Beer and half Guinness Stout) brought back HG’s happy nights in New York’s Third Avenue Irish bars of long ago.

Road Cuisine (Day Two)

May 17th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Destination was Collinsville, Ill. (some miles east of St.Louis). Always stirring to gaze out the auto window and see the mighty arch and the Mississippi River. Lunched at reliable Waffle House. A big bowl of buttery grits with two runny poached eggs. That’s how you spell All-American comfort. HG topped it off with a waffle, orange juice and many cups of coffee. Chicken fancier BSK had her usual chicken salad (WH does it with grilled chicken and holds off on ladles of mayonnaise). Dinner in Collinsville was Bandanas, a local bar-b-q chain. Big, juicy pork ribs. Very flavorful. Didn’t need any sauce. Fine cole slaw. Sweet potato fries. Savory beans. Icy beer. HG is very fond of the barbecue belt that runs through Missouri into southwestern Illinois. Calvin Trillin, a devotee of Arthur Bryant’s Barbecue in Kansas City (his favorite is “burnt ends”), might sneer at Bandanas. But, HG/BSK had a rollicking good time there.

Road Cuisine (Day One)

May 15th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Yes, HG/BSK (plus Toby, The Wonder Dog), are on the road again (thanks, Willie). Destination: Prince Edward Island and HG/BSK’s ocean front paradise. But, first HG/BSK will stop at Providence, the base for HG/BSK’s New York/Atlanta festivities (you will learn more in coming days). First-day lunch was a Subway wrap consumed in the car. Messy. Never again. Hate eating in the car. Food dribbles on HG’s clothing. Dinner was at Kwan’s Kitchen in Quail Springs, an Oklahoma City burb. Was great on the last visit. Now it’s uneven. Had super-sized pork pot stickers. Flavorless. Peking duck. Excellent thin pancakes to wrap the meat which, alas, was quite dry. BSK liked a platter of fried string beans with gently fried rectangles of potato.HG thought it so-so. The bonanza (at least for HG ) of the evening, was a platter of shrimp dim sum. Shu mai. Shrimp balls. Other fried and steamed shrimp delights. Best dim sum ever (and HG has consumed much New York, Brooklyn and Flushing dim sum). Sadly, BSK is allergic to shrimp (and other crustaceans) so BSK could only observe HG’s pleasure, Did that with customary grace.

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