Unagi and Uni: Love or Hate

July 28th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

HG/BSK are, for the most part, very united in their food tastes. However, HG likes steak and lamb blood rare and pork chops pink. HG likes fish cooked very briefly. BSK takes a more conservative approach to these edibles. The big taste divergence in HG/BSK’s 56-year marriage is about Unagi and Uni. These are wonderful staples at Japanese restaurants and sushi bars. Both are loathed by BSK. Broiled Unagi (freshwater eel) on a bowl of rice (Unagi Udon) is an HG favorite. The dish is enhanced by the sweet and pungent Unagi sauce made by simmering a mix of mirin, sake, sugar and soy sauce. Uni (the interior of a sea urchin) has a very distinctive iodine-rich taste, something like custard that has been infused by seawater. Love it or hate it. It usually tops sushi. In Paris, Le Stella brasserie serves a fresh sea urchin which is always ordered by HG. The top is cut off and one digs into the lush interior with a spoon while avoiding the porcupine-like surface. HG first tasted Uni at Sloppy Louie’s Restaurant at the old Fulton Street Fish Market in New York. Louis Morino, the owner, liked to serve unusual fish market finds at his (not Sloppy at all) eatery. HG ate four (10 cents each) and a love affair was born. One of the best pasta dishes HG ever consumed was on the Palermo waterfront: Linguine with sea urchin sauce. (Palermo rewards the adventurous eater. A favorite street food is spleen on a bun). As for Unagi, it must have mighty health benefits. Exquisite Maiko’s late grandfather ate Unagi every day until his death at 102. Whole Foods used to sell grilled Unagi at its fish counters. Discontinued. Sad.

Musical Joy

July 27th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Prince Edward Island is very musical. Ceilidhs (a Celtic word meaning gatherings of locals for traditional evenings of music, song and step dancing) are a feature of Island life. It appears to HG/BSK that almost every Islander plays a musical instrument. Fiddles and guitars are the favorites. The Scotch/Irish heritage of the Islanders is reflected in the music. The largest celebration of traditional music is the Rollo Bay Fiddlers Festival held at the foot of a beautiful hillside near the Town of Souris. The Festival (July 19-21) attracts many hundreds. Scores arrive in campers and enjoy all three days of music and dance events. The performers include many Islanders, of course, but also musicians from all over Atlantic (and other sections) of Canada. This year there was a lovely woman singer from Australia. Shaded from the blazing sun, HG/BSK enjoyed three hours of lively music featuring virtuoso fiddlers. Back home, HG relished a cooling shower followed by a super cold Myriad View Strait Gin (world’s best) mixed with dry vermouth and lemon juice. Shucked Colville Bay oysters (for BSK) and Savage Harbours for HG. Dinner was one of the best bowls of pasta HG has ever devoured. BSK invented a delightful pesto of fresh green peas, garlic scapes, lots of mint and olive oil. This was mixed with sauteed zucchini and ricotta cheese. The pasta was tagliatelle. Drank cold rose. A day and a dinner of joy.


Farm (and Sea) To Table Dining

July 25th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Potatoes, mussels and oysters are among Prince Edward Island’s leading exports. These products are wonderful. And, they are all harvested moments from HG/BSK’s oceanfront home. Yes, true farm (and sea) to table eating is easily available on PEI. It’s strawberry season so HG/BSK’s days begin with Greek yogurt smothered in these sweet and juicy fresh berries. And, yellow beans, cherry tomatoes and garlic scapes are now being harvested. So, last night BSK prepared a dish glorifying PEI terroir. Yellow beans were gently cooked al dente and tiny potatoes (from the Martonovich Ocean Mist Farm) were boiled. BSK sauteed a pound of fresh sea scallops. All mixed together. Splash of extra virgin Italian olive oil and a shower of chopped garlic scapes and tomatoes. Yes, that’s veritable eating good in (and from) the neighborhood.

Kingsbridge Road

July 24th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

HG spent youthful years in the Jewish-Irish-Italian neighborhood of Kingsbridge Road in The Bronx. No Republicans. No Protestants. Kingsbridge Road was a bustling venue of meat markets (kosher and non-kosher); greengrocers; “dairy” stores; fish shops; “appetizing” stores; bakeries, etc. Dining was done at home. Restaurants were scarce. Most prominent was Tower Delicatessen, which served an overpowering multi-course 50-cent dinner (plus splendid corned beef, pastrami, hot dogs, knockwursts, etc.). Today, Kingsbridge is a very diversified neighborhood with many Cuban, Dominican, Puerto Rican, Mexican, Vietnamese, Russian and South American families. A stable, family-oriented, almost crime-free environment (still virtually no Republicans). And, restaurants galore. Here are some: Com Tan Ninh Kieu (best Vietnamese in the Bronx); La Cocina (Mexican); Caridad (Cuban); El Mangu Sabroso (Middle Eastern); Perista (Greek specialties plus encyclopedic breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes); Montezuma (Mexican and Cuban); Fordham (Philly cheesesteaks and huge ice cream sundaes); New Capitol (excellent old time diner food). Walk a few hundred yards northeast at the termination of Kingsbridge road and you’ll find Fordham Road and Gyro King (pita wraps) and Bulbap Grill (fiery Korean dishes). In another direction, walk downhill (west) where Kingsbridge terminates at Broadway. Along many blocks of Broadway, there are over a score of good Cuban and Dominican eateries including some exemplary steak houses. And, at 235th Street and Johnson Avenue in Riverdale is the best traditional Jewish delicatessen/restaurant in New York, Liebman’s. Besides corned beef, pastrami, etc., there’s lots of old time Jewish soul food like kasha varnishkes, chicken in the pot and stuffed cabbage. Yes, when it comes to food the Kingsbridge nabe is challenging Brooklyn.

Lentils A La BSK

July 23rd, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Last night BSK cooked a BIG pot of green lentils. Unsure of precise portion measurements, BSK cooked enough to feed a military platoon. No matter, they will be eaten to the last morsel since they are so good. BSK cooked them in part water, part chicken broth plus leeks, garlic, green onions, thyme and dashes of tomato paste and hot sauce. They were good company for a pound of fresh haddock filets. HG dipped the fish in beaten egg, rolled them in Canadian fish fry mix and fried them for less than a minute in very hot oil. Frank’s Hot Sauce and PEI mustard pickle were the condiments plus some chopped cherry tomatoes and scallions. Argentine Malbec was the drink. Lovely dinner. Finished with the surprisingly good peanut brittle from the Atlantic Superstore in Charlottetown. HG was introduced to green lentils (as a salad served cold with olive oil and lemon juice) when he was a youngster in New York. They were part of the all you can eat starters (shredded carrots, pickled beets, etc.) that were served at Larre’s, the pleasant and very inexpensive French restaurant that was a hangout for French art world expatriates during World War Two. HG enjoys lentils in many forms. BSK’s red lentils soup is a warming pleasure as is Indian dal (made with yellow lentils it is not favored by BSK). In yesteryear New York, many restaurants (and some diners) served super hearty brown lentil soup enriched by many slices of boiled or grilled frankfurters. Very filling. A large bowl quelled hunger in satisfying fashion.

PEI Oysters. Big And Small.

July 22nd, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Prince Edward Island is one of the word’s most renowned oyster growing areas. PEI oysters are a staple on HG/BSK’s dinner table. Expertly shucked by HG, they are accompanied by white wine and ice (for BSK) and a Bloody Mary or tequila with dry vermouth and lime juice (for HG). BSK has oysters with a drop of Paris-inspired shallot vinaigrette while HG shuns all adornments. BSK’s favorite oysters are Johnny Flynn’s Colville Bays (available at The Lobster Shack on the Town of Souris waterfront.) They are very good, admits HG, and HG likes the green tinted shells (as illustrated). But, HG prefers the mix HG buys at Island Shellfish in the Town of Morell. First of all, they are inexpensive: 75 cents (US) an oyster. At this number, it makes HG look angrily at New York and Paris oyster prices which are four times as much. Malpeques are the PEI oysters most seen on USA restaurant menus. They are splendid. HG buys them in two sizes: Giant Superiors and Standard (still pretty large). HG also buys Savage Harbours and Red Head Selects, two locals that are rarely exported. HG often shucks the Malpeque Superiors, dips them in beaten egg, dusts them in Canadian fish fry mix and fries them swiftly in very hot canola oil. The result is sublime. HG is thinking about serving these on softly scrambled eggs, a variation of San Francisco’s Hangtown Fry. Patricia Wells (and some other food critics) believe small oysters have the best flavor. HG disagrees. HG likes them big and plump with lots of brine to slurp.

Summer Lunches

July 21st, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

In decades past, chain smoker HG would wake early. Read the home delivered New York Times. Breakfasted on cigarettes (numerous) and cups of black coffee. This unhealthy regimen (which dealt HG an almost fatal health blow in later years) left HG ravenously hungry at lunchtime. HG has happy memories of summer lunches HG enjoyed with BSK and friends. A Montclair, N.J., lunch stands out. HG/BSK lived in a Stanford White mansion with an outdoor pool and wisteria-draped pergola which shaded a dining table where HG/BSK had al fresco lunches and pre-dinner wine or (for HG) super chilled Martinis. The guest one summer day was Sue H., the food editor of a magazine with a large national circulation. After many swims, BSK served lunch. Fresh mozzarella (from a local Italian grocery); sliced ripe New Jersey tomatoes and basil (both from BSK’s garden); a splash of extra virgin Italian olive oil. Main dish was linguine with basil pesto. Ripe nectarine for dessert. Chilled Beaujolais Noveau was the drink. Drank copiously. Sue H. pronounced the lunch the best she ever ate. Naps followed. On the Fire Island beach off Long Island, youthful HG/BSK played Kadima and bodysurfed in the Atlantic. Lunch was a big salad of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, olives and imported jarred tuna. On Nantucket, HG/BSK and family walked to a nearby shop for lusty brown bread sandwiches of cheddar cheese, avocado and chutney. These summer days on Prince Edward Island, breakfast is hearty and dinner is epic. Lunch is an afterthought. HG usually skips it and BSK eats some dinner leftovers. Must confess. HG/BSK do miss Joisey mozzarella and best in the world Joisey tomatoes.

Poke Bowl

July 20th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

The poke (poh-kay) bowl originated in Hawaii and is an HG favorite. Simple dish. Sushi grade tuna chunks are marinated in sesame oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, red pepper flakes and chopped scallions. Served over warm rice and accompanied by lettuce salad. Perfect warm-weather meal. Whole Foods in Santa Fe sells good poke. Easy dish to make at home. However, you have to find sushi-grade tuna at a fish counter. This is difficult on Prince Edward Island. PEI fishers catch some of the world’s best tuna. The boats dock at the Village of Naufrage where, after inspection by government officials, the fish are purchased by Japanese and are off to Tokyo by jet plane. They fetch premium prices at the Tokyo fish market. Alas, almost none of this tuna makes it way to PEI fish counters. However, a shop on the Town of Souris waterfront sells a pleasant poke bowl. HG/BSK often share a bowl as an alfresco meal. So, where do they get the tuna? Must have a hook-up at the docks.

The Elusive “Ch” Sound

July 20th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

There are many Yiddish words that contain a “ch” sound that can elude non-Yiddishists. Some of these words are: tuchis (buttocks); chuchem (wise man); chazer (pig); chalerya (cholera); chutzpah (extreme self-confidence). The “ch” sound is gutteral. It is achieved by something like a slight clearing of the throat. There are exception to the rule. “Cholent” for example, This is a dish of meat, potatoes, onions, garlic, etc. baked in the oven for 24 hours. Not an HG favorite. It is pronounced “chawnt” with a soft “ch” as in English “champ.” HG mastered the Yiddish “ch” sound early in life since HG, with affection, called HG’s late Mom, “Chaika”. a Yiddish rendering of “Ida.” BSK, through her loving association with HG, has conquered the Yiddish “ch.” A s the country song says: “If My Woman Can’t Do It, It Can’t Be Done.” BSK can do it all.


July 18th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Squid (aka Calamari) is a fixture on American restaurant menus. And, for the most part, it’s terrible. Heavily breaded and deep-fried, it’s tasteless. And, when overcooked the squid is rubbery. For some reason, squid is prepared masterfully in Rhode Island. The squid is fried with hot pickled green peppers. It’s great and it’s Rhode Island’s official state dish, a well-deserved honor. HG likes to fry squid, rings and tentacles, in a very hot oiled pan. A very quick crisping. The squid goes on top of a bowl of spaghettini enriched with a sofrito of olive oil, garlic, parsley, anchovies and a splash of clam juice or white wine. Dusted with red pepper flakes, this is good eating. Surprisingly for an island surrounded by salt water, Prince Edward Island fish counters and stores rarely carry squid. Whole Foods in landlocked Santa Fe always stocks fresh squid. Go figure.

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