Man VS Food: Feh!!

May 30th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

COPD is the lung disease which affects HG, the residue of almost a half-century of cigarettes (HG started puffing at age 12). Nicotine addiction led to throat cancer, survived by HG through the skills of a remarkable surgeon, Dr. Victor Schramm. There’s no surgical intervention for COPD. It just calls for steady maintenance to keep it in check and leave HG capable of enjoying the beauties of HG/BSK’s New Mexico and Prince Edward Island homes; the love of HG’s family and the delights of food, wine and Negroni cocktails. So, four times a day, HG inserts ipratopium bromide into a breathing apparatus called a nebulizer and breathes the solution for 10 to 15-minute sessions. To ease boredom, HG watches The Food Network while nebulizing. HG’s favorite programs are “Carnival Treats”; “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives”, “The Best Thing I Ever Ate”; “Man, Fire, Food”; “Burgers, Barbecue and Beer”; “Restaurant Impossible.” The personalities are engaging (even flamboyant Guy Fieri) and there are many useful recipes and cooking tips. However, The Food Network has one vile program which should be banished, the despicable and disgusting “Man Vs. Food”. The program consists of an unattractive man messily eating an enormous amount of food during a short time while being cheered by onlookers. A very unappetizing spectacle. HG has no idea why this glorification of gluttony appears on a network that touts the splendors of food and cooking.

Feta Cheese

May 27th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

HG is very fond of Greek feta cheese. A pleasant lunch is the cheese (happily, a top quality Feta is available in New Mexico); sliced ripe tomatoes (HG loves the “Kumato” brand); Kalamata olives; scallions; a few anchovies—all enhanced by olive oil and a squeeze of lemon, Trader Joe’s demi-ciabatta and a glass of cold rose (with ice) goes nicely with this. If it’s summer dinner, HG/BSK follow this with many ears of buttered, super fresh corn on the cob. Curiously, one of the best feta dishes in HG’s memory was served at Pete’s Diner on Denver’s gritty Colfax Avenue. It was a large, soft omelet filled with melting feta. The French call the omelet’s unctuous interior “baveuse”. Pete’s served the dish with home fries and a dollop of Greek yogurt. Diner cuisine that echoed the owner’s Greek heritage.

Raw Organic White Feta Cheese for Crumbling

Heavenly Halibut

May 24th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

HG, a passionate fan of seafood, has never liked halibut, whether at home or in a restaurant. Dry, tasteless, coarse-textured. Well, due to BSK’s culinary artistry and bargain hunting, HG has had a radical change of mind about the fish. Last night, HG ate pan-seared marinated fillets of halibut. Raising a glass of pinot noir to BSK, HG praised BSK’s kitchen artistry and proclaimed the halibut the best fish dish ever (on a par with the pompano served at Stone Crab Joe’s in Miami Beach). BSK’s halibut was juicy with a silken, buttery texture enhanced by a lemony, herbaceous sauce. Fabulous. BSK had marinated the fillets for an hour in a mix of olive oil, garlic, basil, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Pan-seared the fish in olive oil while basting it a few times with the marinade. BSK was inspired by a New York Times recipe but BSK (as usual) added some tweaks. Pan broiled cherry tomatoes, seared baby spinach and boiled fingerling potatoes completed the meal. A happy note. Halibut is usually expensive. BSK bought it at Whole Foods at a bargain sale. Thanks, Jeff Bezos.

Hairy Houses

May 22nd, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

HG/BSK’s multi-talented son, Jeremy, is now a resident of Tokyo (with wife, Exquisite Maiko; son, Handsome and musical Haru; daughter, Adorable Teru). SJ has a remarkable eye for the majestic, trivial, eccentric and castaway elements of urban life. Indeed, he is a poet of urbanism. When living in Brooklyn, SJ photographed abandoned chairs. Once useful objects of comfort, these chairs now went to scavengers and garbage trucks. SJ called them “Sad Chairs” and they gained attention, with wistful, haunting captions, on the internet. There are few cities larger and more densely populated than Tokyo. However, nature is much admired by Tokyo urbanites. HG has now turned his camera on “Hairy Houses”, small buildings literally smothered in ivy or other greenery. “Hairy Houses” (so named by Adorable Teru) are an upbeat follow up to “Sad Chairs.”

Tree Hugger

May 20th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

“Tree hugger” is the contemptuous label for environmentalists, conservationists and those folks who love nature in all its complex but available beauty. Well, HG is a happy tree hugger. HG/BSK’s five-acre New Mexico property is filled with trees: Cottonwood, ash, Russian olive, locust, elm, blue spruce and more. Despite being high above sea level, the Jacona/Pojoaque valley (15-minute drive north of Santa Fe) where HG/BSK live, is green and fertile. There are many small farms (some are generations old). One of HG’s delights during HG’s pleasant self-isolation is to enjoy the cocktail hour seated on the portale (roofed veranda) and gazing at a favorite tree–a majestic cottonwood. The backdrop for the tree is an organic farm and Las Barrancas (rugged mesas). The slightest breeze sends the cottonwoods leaves into gentle movement. The sun adds glitter, from shining dark green at the top of the tree to flashes of gold and yellow on the lower branches. HG never tires of this sight even as HG’s gaze takes in other trees and calm meadows. For many years, urban HG paid little attention to trees and other foliage. However, there is one happy sight engraved in HG’s memory. HG/BSK had a wonderful dune house on Fire Island, the famed Long Island barrier beach that stretches for miles between Great South Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. No cars on Fire Island. It is reached by ferries from Bay Shore, Sayville and Patchogue. Ferries run from March to October. When HG/BSK and children reached Patchogue to board the first ferry of the year, they were confronted by masses of bright yellow forsythia in full bloom. A happy sight. It meant that a joyous summer of sun, sand, sea was on the way. Constricted by apartment living in New York, the kids welcomed the freedom to roam (but, no swimming without an adult watching).

My Yiddishe Momma

May 18th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

Mother’s Day has passed and BSK was appropriately honored by husband, children and grandchildren. Deservedly so. There are lots of songs about Mother. Sentimental and soporific. However, one stands out for pure schmaltz. It’s the tearjerker: “My Yiddishe Momma.” Big hit in 20’s and 30’s vaudeville as sung by Belle Baker, Sophie Tucker and other lusty Jewish ladies with big voices. Song has legs. You can still hear it today. A good venue would be New York’s Sammy’s Romanian Restaurant, a joint that still dispenses schmaltz in the form of chicken fat and in aged, sentimental melodies. (“Beltz, My Shteteleh Beltz” is a big winner). “My Yiddishe Momma” was written by songwriter Jack Yellen ((1882-1991) in the 1920’s. Google the saccharine lyrics. Yellen was prolific. He wrote hundreds of songs (Big hits were FDR’s theme song, “Happy Days are Here Again” and the standard, “Ain’t She Sweet”) plus many film scores. “My Yiddishe Momme” could reduce Jewish (and other) tough guys to tears. Many, many decades ago, journalist HG would join reporters, cops, detectives, loan sharks, bail bondsmen and other raffish characters (including a Lepke mob hitman) at Moe Dubiner’s bar and restaurant on Stanton Street in the Lower East Side. Perfect spot for late night drinking and conviviality. Closing time was very flexible.The group was often joined by Alice C., an attractive young Broadway press agent. She had run away from home at 15 and was a chorus girl in las Vegas and then a singer and entertainer in Jewish Catskill Mountains hotels. Alice was a very heavy drinker and liking the drinks on the house it encouraged, was often coaxed into singing “My Yiddishe Momma” (in English and Yiddish with many encores). Tears rolled down the faces of the tough guys and there were even some sobs. Drinking even more than usual, Alice befouled herself in the bathroom. HG cleaned her up a bit and brought Alice to her apartment in the Chelsea neighborhood. HG stripped Alice (No, HG and Alice were not lovers, just close pals) and plunged her into a hot shower. Comfortable in a fleece bathrobe, Alice was soon sober (black coffee helped). HG delivered a fierce lecture. You sank low tonight, Alice. You are better than this. You are a brilliant and beautiful woman. No more Dubiner’s. No more booze. Make a life for yourself. Never saw Alice again. Years later HG learned Alice became a doctor (a pediatrician), was married (happily) to another doctor; had two children and lived in a Connecticut suburb. Surprising happy ending. By the way, the best version of “My Yiddishe Momma” is in French, sung by the late Charles Aznavour (“The French Sinatra”). You can hear it on Youtube.

Do I Miss New York?

May 16th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

That’s a song by the delightful pianist/composer/lyricist/singer Dave Frishberg (a Los Angeles resident). Wistfully, Frishberg admits he does. HG, born and bred in New York, does not miss New York. The New York HG loved has vanished. HG/BSK have lived in the west (where the deer and the antelope still roam) for 34 years. And, yes, HG/BSK’s home is truly part of The Land of Enchantment (New Mexico state motto). However, HG does miss New York food. Most of the restaurants HG enjoyed are gone. Happily, The Grand Central Oyster Bar is still serving their lush oyster pan roast. Russ & Daughters, Zabar’s, and Barney Greengrass still provide smoked fish. Manhattan’s Chinatown, Queens’ Flushing neighborhood, Brooklyn’s Sunset Park area are still wonderlands for lovers of Chinese and Asian food. Keen’s is still broiling huge mutton chops and many steak houses serve prime New York strip steaks (none match the wonders of the demised Christ Cella). HG’s all-time favorite restaurant, Gage & Tollner (ah, those clam bellies and shad platters) in downtown Brooklyn, is slated to reopen with refurbished interiors and astronomical prices. Alas, traditional dairy restaurants (Ratner’s, Rappaport’s, Steinberg’s, Famous, etc.) and great Jewish delicatessens (Gitlitz, the old 2nd Avenue Deli, Ben’s in Queens, etc.) are no more. HG expects to encounter them in Jewish Heaven (not too soon, HG hopes). Back to Dave Frishberg. He is the author (and singer) of the baseball song, “Van Lingle Mungo” Yes, Mungo did exist. He was a winning and cantankerous pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers. The song consists of the names of baseball players of the 40’s and 50’s with Van Lingle Mungo as a haunting refrains. If HG is blue (rarely), HG listens to the tune on Youtube. Lifts the spirits. Don’t miss it.

BSK Tweaks

May 15th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

HG loves BSK’s cuisine and that’s because The Wonder Woman always adds an original tweak to her dishes that makes them sing. Okay. Polenta (or grits): BSK adds Hatch green chile cheese curds for a bit of bite and cheesiness (plus parmesan) and cream cheese (for creaminess). Congee: Ginger, garlic, shitake mushrooms (cooked to a silky goodness) plus a surprise. Bonito flakes. Pork chops: Heavy dusting of Goya Adobo. Serves them with Goya black beans (the best) topped with chopped onions. These usually get a dollop of sour cream. BSK gives them some spoonfuls of Mexican crema. Big lift for the beans.

Poached Perfection

May 12th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

Glance down at the illustration. That’s the breakfast dish BSK presented to lucky (and hungry) HG this morning. Pay attention to to those perfect poached eggs. Slightly firm whites. A touch of a fork and yellow golden lush yolks pour over the yellow grits. Oh, my!! The grits are perfectly moist and lush with a wee bit of heat. Yes, that’s the distinctive BSK touch. BSK cooks the grits with Beehive Cheese Company’s Hatch Chile Curds. This brings a Canadian touch (cheese curds are an essential ingredient of poutine, the odd gravy-over-curds combo that’s a Canadian obsession). The New Mexico ingredient is, of course, the green chile. The dish is another original BSK culinary wonder.

Mother’s Day

May 10th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

When HG’s children, Lesley and Jeremy, were young, HG denigrated Mother’s Day as one more crass ploy to stimulate consumerism. Over the years, HG has had a change of mind. After all, in this frightening, dismal world of a murderous pandemic and a fascist fool President, why eliminate a day that celebrates motherhood? So, let’s honor BSK. Besides BSK’s almost limitless skills and talents, BSK is the ultimate Mother, a source of comfort, advice, romantic counsel and more (much, much more) for HG/BSK’s children and grandchildren. Fortunately, BSK’s nurturing quality has been extended to HG for almost 57 years of marriage. Without BSK’s constant care and devotion, HG would not be writing this. HG would be a memory.

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