Farewell Feast!

September 1st, 2018 § 2 comments § permalink

All good things, alas, have to end. SJ, Exquisite Maiko, Handsome Haru and Adorable Teru are leaving Prince Edward Island. A few days in Brooklyn and then off to their Tokyo home. Toby, The Wonder Dog, will be sad and missing all the belly rubs, pats and attention. The visit has been wonderful. Much love and laughter. A surprisingly tall and deep-voiced Haru was very helpful and very hungry — he shucked oysters and corn; built shelves, set the table and many other tasks. Teru? Enchanting. A neighbor met her and declared: “This is the most beautiful little girl I have ever seen in my more than 80 years”. True. But, Teru is not only a beaut, she is smart, creative, caring and wonderfully affectionate and loving towards HG. And, of course, EM did her usual spectacular cooking. HG/BSK were dazzled by Japanese cuisine a la EM. Sashimi, tataki, pickled mackerel, congee. tempura, soba in broth, crisp fried fish, home-made gyoza. And, more. Much more. SJ is no slouch in the kitchen. Provided some hearty dishes that hit the spot after long beach days. Farewell dinner was an epic. BSK’s sister, Noel, and husband, Yossi, joined the party bringing with them Yossi’s freshly smoked, moist mackerel. Feasted on all the good things native to Prince Edward Island. Oysters (raw on half shell and grilled on the oven range); steamed mussels; sweet corn; panko crusted hake, wild asparagus, smashed potatoes, salad from BSK’s garden. Dessert was tea and an array of cakes from the Charlottetown Farmers Market. Lots of wine and cold beer. HG managed some pre-dinner vodka and post dinner brandy with Peychaud’s Bitters. Yes, it was jolly meal. But, bittersweet. Tokyo is a long distance from New Mexico and PEI. Oh, well, there’s always Face Time.

Handy Handsome Haru

August 29th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

In the few weeks that HG’s grandson, Handsome Haru was visiting Prince Edward Island, HG was surprised to find the 12-year-old remarkably helpful. He assembled metal shelving in BSK’s studio (a task which his father, SJ, proclaimed eminently frustrating) all by himself without any aid from BSK. Checked on kayaks perched on beach. (Fortunately, heavy winds didn’t dislodge them). And, Handsome Haru raced into the ocean to help HG when waves and slippery rocks caused HG to lose his footing. Special dinner treats for the young oyster lover: One dozen large Malpeque oysters (oysters seem to get bigger as weather cools). Exquisite Maiko, champion shucker, gave HH a lesson in scrubbing and shucking the juicy bivalves. HH shucked four. EM shucked eight. All seemed identical. A kudo for HH. The dozen oysters looked so good that HG had two (best ever) and BSK had one. Generous HH did not object and followed up by tossing the shells into the sea (shells in the bushes surrounding HG/BSK’s Prince Edward Island oceanfront home might attract skunks). The oyster feast was followed by BSK’s lush spaghetti with freshly made pesto (basil was from BSK’s garden). The platter of pasta was surrounded by small PEI potatoes, cherry tomatoes and local yellow beans. Much red wine. Beautiful sunset. Another happy time.

Oyster Strife

June 20th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

HG and BSK have very few food difference. It is one of the secrets to HG/BSK’s long marriage (55th anniversary July 2). However, there are a few — HG likes steak and lamb chops blood rare. BSK prefers them “bien cuit” (well cooked). BSK does not drink hard liquor (a very occasional snifter of Sambuca is BSK’s only concession. HG is a robust consumer of vodka, bourbon, gin, tequila, scotch, rum, marc, pastis, brandy. (Yes, HG overindulges). Those are the only differences. Except for oysters. BSK likes subtle, medium sized oysters. Prince Edward Island is oyster heaven. While oysters in New York and New England diminish in taste during months without an “R” in them, PEI oysters are splendid 12 months a year. BSK’s favorites are Colville Bay oysters with their distinctive green tinged shells and delicious, subtle taste. HG prefers the very large Malpeques HG purchases in quantity from Atlantic Shellfish (Red Head Lane in Morell). These have a briny taste that is like being hit in the face by a Bay of St. Lawrence wave. And, some are truly oversized. A few nights ago, HG chomped down on a four inch, fat Malpeque. It was like eating an oyster steak. Outside of PEI, favorite venues for oysters are Rhode Island (winter months); Paris (despite the stratospheric prices) and Vancouver. BSK likes the Pacific Kumamotos at Yaletown’s Rodney’s Oyster Bar. While Rodney’s other oyster offerings are very good, HG finds the Kumamotos insipid. The very best oyster centered meal is had at New York’s venerable Grand Central Oyster Bar. Six oysters on the half shell as starters. Then, the signature dish. Rich, creamy, lush Oyster Pan Roast. Nesselrode Pie (don’t know if this is till on the menu) for dessert. The meal is a glimpse of bivalve eater heaven.

Heaven? No, Just PEI.

July 14th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Warm (not blistering) sun. Cool sea breezes. Spectacular sunsets over the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Gentle green farmland. Yes, HG and BSK are on Prince Edward Island, once again, for the summer. Happily, Andrew McDonald and his lovely daughters are stlll running their shellfish and chowder emporium at St. Peter’s Bay Landing. After a year’s separation, Andrew gazed at HG with fondness and deftly shucked some South Lake oysters. These oysters never appear in the United States. Plump. Sweet. Briney. They are a PEI secret, happily devoured by local gourmands like HG. Having gobbled oysters in Paris, London, New Orleans, Amsterdam, Florida, New York and locales bordering the Atlantic and Pacific, HG vows these are the best in the world. And, when shucked by Andrew not a speck of shell mars the interior and not a drop of lush brine is lost. Besides oysters, Andrew stocks quahogs, soft shell clams and mussels harvested in St. Peter’s Bay. In addition, a lip-smacking cauldron of mussel chowder is always steaming away. There will be happy feasting ahead.

More More Baltimore! An SJ Post.

February 26th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

SJ here. Last week a photograph of mine of a Chesapeake Bay Oyster topped with a slice of hard boiled egg caused HG such a wave of food envy that he was prompted to write a post about it (see An HG Sin: Food Envy) Well, as much as I love HG, I love to fan the embers of his Food Envy into a roaring fire. Soo….let me tell you a little about that oyster…

Last week, myself, my wife — the aptly named Exquisite Maiko — and our son decided to forsake our beloved NYC for a weekend in Baltimore. The drive down took only about 3 hours and along the way we stopped in Wilmington, Delaware at the Charcoal Pit for absolutely great hamburgers and milkshakes.

The Charcoal Pit is a Road Food classic — been there since the 1950s and still as popular as ever. Places like this often become parodies of themselves, existing in the squinty light of nostalgia — but the Pit avoids that trap by neither seeming cutesy nor precious and instead just serving up good, well made classic food at very reasonable prices.

The last time I had been in Baltimore I went to Obryckis in Fells Point for crabs. They were dumped right on the table onto butcher’s paper, and hammer in hand I demolished a number of these wonderful crustaceans steamed in a heady black-pepper seasoning. I was excited to return and excited for Exquisite Maiko to taste such a regional specialty. Alas, Obryckis has closed (note to all restaurants who close and have websites: MAKE BEING CLOSED THE FOCUS OF YOUR WEBSITE!!!) so we had to find an alternative. Now, not being from Baltimore and not really knowing a lot about the city, it can be hard separating out the tourist crap from something both authentic and authentically good. So, reading between the lines of numerous blog postings and Best Of Baltimore lists, we decided on a spot called Canton Dockside who seemed to be the spot for year-round crabs. Well, we got there and guess what…NO CRABS! Why? Because Canton Dockside gets their crabs in the off-season from Louisiana and this being Mardi Gras week all the Louisiana Crabbers were either too drunk to ship crabs or they wanted to keep all crabs within the state for Mardi Gras. Either way, we were thwarted but soothed ourselves with great broiled crab cakes (light on the mayonnaise and breadcrumbs), plump shrimps steamed with Old Bay Seasoning and a rather horrifying pretzel like thing smeared in cheese and crab dip (the less said about that last dish, the better!).

I also made a new friend in the Baltimore beer known as National Bohemian Beer or Natty Boh.

Extremely cold and extremely yummy!

The next day, we woke up early to take in some real touristy stuff (Huge Aquarium! Dolphin Show!) and get hungry in preparation for my focus — The covered markets of Baltimore. Since 1763, Baltimore has maintained a group of municipally owned covered markets that serve specific neighborhoods. There are seven markets remaining in Baltimore and the largest is the Lexington Market located right in the heart of Down Town. I had heard tell of some serious food happening at this Lexington Market so off we went. Well…I absolutely fell in love. Lexington market is an urban institution — while tourists like myself might pass through, the market is unadorned, gritty and absolutely true to itself.

This is the spot for discount groceries, cheap cell phone plans, butchers that specialize in the rough bits (chitterlings, hog maws, ham hocks, pig ears, fat back and more), fish mongers and stall upon stall of prepared foods — many of which hawk the fact that they accept CDC vouchers and food stamps. So what were in these stalls? Well, oddly, the majority seem to have been taken over by Chinese and Koreans who are serving up a mixture of cheap Chinese and soul food staples — beef and broccoli alongside stewed chicken and dumplings not to mention the happy guy I saw munching away on a scoop-full of pork fried rice accompanied by a bowl of Chitterlings doused with hot sauce.

There is no pretensions of regional food-ways purity here at the Lexington. Its cheap and good? Yes! Lots of fried chicken spots with a heavy focus on the livers, backs and gizzards — not something you see at KFC! Many sandwich spots selling (I think) Baltimore produced smoked meats — courtesy of its Polish and German immigrants. And, fruit salad — big containers of very fresh and very cheap fruit salad. Interestingly, I noticed that you could use your food stamps to buy fruit salad, fruit smoothies and groceries, but not a lot of the heavier prepared foods — I am imagining that this was a bid by the Health Department to influence healthier eating standards. And all the way in back — pretty much a separate enclave all to itself is Faidley’s Seafood.

Faidley’s is a working seafood market hawking the rather impressive bounty of the Chesapeake Bay and other southern water-ways, but they also have a raw bar and a simple lunch counter serving up hot foods. Well, I sidled up to the raw bar — packed with working people simply gorging on oysters and clams and plastic cups of Natty Boh — and ordered myself a half dozen “Prime” oysters. The oyster man was astonishing; as fast and precise a shucker as I have ever witnessed even while keeping up a running commentary as to whether or not (based on his emotional speech at her funeral) Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston ever had sex (Yes! we raw bar denizens agreed). I was asked, as the plate of fat, shimmery bivalves appeared before me, if I wanted an egg with my oysters. An egg? Madness!!! Nope. Just hit me with some lemon and a touch of hot sauce and I am good. Well I slurped those six down and they were cold, briny, firm with a touch of cucumber snap that I just love. Ahhh…The joy of a good oyster. Well, as I let out a sated breath I glanced at my neighbor, who was there with his girl, drinking beers and preparing his oysters with a slice of hard-boiled egg!!! Yes! He had a hard-boiled egg slicer and was layering the egg slices on top of his oysters with horseradish and hot sauce. This guy looked like a serious Baltimorean, so I had to ask if the egg was the Baltimore style? Oh yes he said. So, I had to give it a shot — six more with a boiled egg. Well, they brought them over, I peeled the egg, used the slicer and got to work. My new friend guided me — “You got the horse radish first, then you got to hit it with the black pepper…yeah that’s it, don’t be scared of the black pepper! Then squeeze that lemon right on top and lay that egg right right up on there. Yeah! Hit it with the hot sauce now!” — and then I was ready.

Wow! Oh boy was this a good thing. Somehow, the smoothness of a boiled egg blends with the brine of the oyster and the bite of hose-radish to create something unique that doesn’t distract from the very oysterness of the experience. While I probably won’t be putting hard-boiled eggs on my beloved Prince Edward Island oysters, the whole experience, the specificity of the place, the very real connections that you can make with strangers when you express interest in a local specialty put a giant smile on my face and made those oysters amongst the most special I have ever eaten. Exquisite Maiko (very pregnant at this point and simmering with jealousy that she could not eat an oyster) took in some crab cakes from the counter and pronounced them unbeatable.

Faidley's Crab Cake

So, if you ever find yourself in Baltimore, ignore the Yelp and Google and Yahoo reviews that describe the Lexington Market as being scary and sketchy and filled with drug addicts and homeless people and march your way in and have a chilled Chesapeake Bay oyster topped with hard boiled egg on me. Thank me later and tell HG about it as soon as you can!

Caramels

January 17th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Have always found caramels too sweet. But, a few years ago HG discovered, in Paris, of course, caramel ice cream enriched with sea salt — fleur de sel. Super yum. Trader Joe’s now carries fleur de sel caramel candies. A treat. Haagen Dasz has a nice Dulce Con Leche ice cream. Give a bowl a sprinkle — a very modest sprinkle — of sea salt. An ice cream surprise.

Sea Bounty

August 15th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

SJ and famille are on Prince Edward Island. That means oyster shucking time. Most oyster lovers are familiar with PEI’s Malpeques. Certainly a tasty, briny oyster. But, it’s not the only Island oyster. Here are some other varieties.Colville Bay, Raspberry Point and South Lake. HG’s favorite is South Lake. Perfect in size. Perfect balance between brine and sweetness. Let’s start shuckin and pass the India Pale Ale.

Paris. The Same. Maybe Even Better.

February 12th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

Grey, slightly misty Paris day. Unpacking (always an annoying chore only matched by equally annoying packing). While BSK went off to buy a hair dryer, HG perched at an outdoor table at his favorite cafe/wine shop Cave des Abbesses, on lively Rue Abbesses. Ah, Montmartre. Before strolling to Cave, HG listened to a trio (two guitars and a bass) jazzing at Place des Abbesses. Django time! At the Cave, HG had six splendid oysters (a bargain 7 Euros) a pichet of excellent Touraine Sauvignon Blanc, dry with only a hint of fruit. The passing parade of lovers, intellectuals, artists, loafers and working folk was free. Further entertainment was provided by a funky jazz trio of trumpet, clarinet and castanets.

Joined by BSK, a shopping expedition provided a roast chicken, roast potatoes, a head of frisee, six perfectly ripe wedges of cheese (St. Marcellin, Reblochon,etc.); an array of wine (inexpensive in Paris). Dinner at home. Early to bed. Lots of art to see tomorrow. Maybe the Mondrian/ de Stijl show at the Beaubourg. You will be informed.

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