Radish

July 16th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Alexander Lobrano lives in Paris and his books on restaurants and cuisine are essential reading if planning a trip to France. Lobrano recalls meeting the late Julia Child at a Paris bistro. The regal lady was eating sliced radishes with salted butter and drinking chilled white wine. Don’t see that appetizer on many American restaurant menus. HG likes to start a summer dinner with buttered radishes and Maldon Sea Salt. BSK uses sliced radish in BSK’s chopped salads which include tomatoes, fennel, celery, sweet onion, scallions and leafy herbs. Good olive oil makes the salad a treat. HG’s late Mom often served slices of super pungent black radish with her excellent chopped liver; all drenched in chicken fat. Sammy’s Romanian on New York’s lower east side used to serve black radishes as an accompaniment to garlic and chicken fat dishes. Horseradish, of course, it the most searing of all radishes. Rodney’s Oyster Bar in Vancouver, B.C., serves fresh shredded horseradish with its splendid shucked oysters. Nice palate cleanser. As a little fellow, it was HG’s job to grate jars of horseradish for family meals. The powerful fumes from the horseradish made tears pour down HG’s rosy cheeks.

Rhubarb

July 4th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Rhubarb was a staple in HG’s youthful diet. HG’s late Mom pronounced it “roobock” and labeled it “good for you.” Mom often cooked prunes with it to heighten the laxative effect. It was like a nuclear bomb in the colon. BSK likes rhubarb and, since strawberries are in season, today cooked a tart and tangy rhubarb and strawberry compote. HG’s Mom would have approved. HG’s favorite use of rhubarb is in Blueberry-Rhubarb and Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam produced by Prince Edward Island’s Sunshine Farm using all natural ingredients. HG likes these jams as accompaniments to Stilton, Bleu or Gorgonzola cheese. Perfect with the last glasses of red wine at dinner. Nice topping Town crackers smeared with cream cheese or peanut butter. This year, rhubarb has made an appearance on the menus of Paris bistros. It’s an ingredient in both sweet and savory dishes. Since rhubarb is very inexpensive, its inclusion is probably a response to the rising costs of French produce.

Sublime Sorrel Sauce

July 1st, 2019 § 2 comments § permalink

The first time HG tasted salmon with sorrel sauce was at a curious locale: The Coyote Cafe in Santa Fe. This was some years ago when the restaurant was famous for introducing sophisticated versions of Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes. But, on that night the chef had received fresh salmon from the west coast and was eager for HG to taste it. The fish rested in a pool of lush sorrel sauce. Superlative dish. When in Paris, HG/BSK ordered it at the Le Stella and Le Vaudeville brasseries. HG’s beloved late sister, Beulah Naomi, was ecstatic about the Vaudeville version. However, the ultimate sorrel sauce is created by BSK. Fortunately, BSK raises a big crop of sorrel on Prince Edward Island. This means lots of tangy sorrel soup (served both hot and cold) and, of course, sorrel sauce. Last night, HG pan broiled salmon filets and cooked mashed potatoes. BSK made an ample bowl of sorrel sauce and braised a head of fennel. (It was Bob Judd, novelist/poet/advertising executive, who introduced HG/BSK to braised fennel as the appropriate companion to salmon). Yes, the HG/BSK collaboration produced a perfect dinner. HG’s mashed potatoes were original. Spuds a la HG consisted of boiled PEI potatoes mashed with olive oil, warm chicken stock and plentiful grated garlic. No butter. No cream. Very savory dish. A very famous Paris chef, the darling of wealthy gourmands, boasted that his mashed potatoes consisted of four parts butter to one part potato. HG’s comment: Feh!!

bunch of fresh cut green sorrel leaves on white background

Friends, Asparagus and Parisian Memories

April 14th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Karen K. and David F. came to dinner last night and BSK created a lavish feast. It started with plump in-season asparagus. BSK steamed them to firm perfection and gilded them with butter and lemon juice. They were the best asparagus HG ever tasted since a Paris dining event some 52 years ago. Two-year-old daughter, Lesley, was watched over by a baby sitter and HG/BSK lunched in a chic restaurant on Boulevard St. Germain. The meal started with fat white asparagus in a mousseline sauce (the ultimate until last night). After the asperges, HG/BSK enjoyed slices of leg of lamb (rare) accompanied by French fries. Finale was strawberries with creme fraiche. Last night BSK replicated the spirit of that meal by serving a rack of lamb with grilled tomatoes. Instead of fried potatoes, BSK made an Indian fusion dish of turmeric potatoes. The dish is made with chopped onions browned in vegetable oil. Sliced new potatoes are added to the pan with turmeric, cayenne, stock and baby spinach leaves. Cooked until the potatoes soften. Meal ended with sweet black grapes, Belgian butter waffle cookies and glasses of Gruet Blanc et Noir sparkling wine (a New Mexico treasure). This was a meal created by BSK that had international influences. All delicious.

Custard Love

February 24th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Yes, HG is very fond of custard. HG ranks desserts thusly: Custard in its various forms is number one, Ice cream is number two and sorbet is a distant number three. Not really fond of other desserts. (yes, HG will make do with end-of-the-meal red wine companions like halvah or cream cheese and bar-le-duc jelly). Excellent Mexican custard (flan) is made daily by local Latino women and sold at the Pojoaque Super Market near HG/BSK’s Santa Fe County home. Best restaurant flan is at Gabriel’s, the joyous Mexican restaurant ten miles north of Santa Fe on Highway 285. In Italy, HG revels in Panna Cotta, a delightful custard (almost a match for virtuoso gelato). Paris, of course, is custard heaven. Creme caramel, creme brulee and, best of all, Ile Flottante. This dessert consists of puffs of meringue floating on a sea of custardy creme anglais. At Le Stella Brasserie, an HG favorite, they top the dessert with flakes of toasted almonds. The perfect climax to a meal of oysters, beef tartare and pomme frites.

Auspicious Dining

February 10th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

HG/BSK rarely dine at big time, lauded-by-the-critics restaurants. Much too expensive. HG/BSK like to drink wine. Restaurant markups mean that HG/BSK can spend $60-100 on wine and cocktails prior to ordering pricey food. Before dining prices went crazy (Should the greedy landlords be blamed?) HG/BSK had sumptuous meals at the world’s best restaurants. They were expensive but not outlandish. These are some of them. (1) Le Bernardin in New York. Seafood perfection and creativity. (2) Connaught Hotel Restaurant in London (This was years ago before the menu, etc. changed). The best French restaurant ever (And it wasn’t in France). HG/BSK would order English food there: Mixed grill, Dover sole, steak and kidney pie, thinly sliced Scotch smoked salmon. (3) Le Pavillon in New York when it was owned and run by imperious Henri Soule. Lump crabmeat casserole. Roast duck with olives. Smoked eel filets with horseradish whipped cream. (4) The Pool Room of the Four Season (when it was in the Seagram Building). Steaks. Leg of lamb. Desserts. (5) The Oak Room of the Plaza Hotel in New York (years ago). Chateaubriand steak. Braised celery with bone marrow. Pommes souffle. These days when HG/BSK are in London, their favorite spot is J. Sheekey, a relatively affordable seafood paradise. In Paris, it’s Le Stella, a traditional brasserie with oysters, rack of lamb and ile flottante for dessert. Also, modestly priced Ma Bourgogne. Jambon persillade. Escargots. Quenelles. In New York, it’s the wondrous quartet of restaurants owned and run by HG daughter Victoria Freeman and husband/chef Marc Meyer. The restaurants are Rosie’s (Mexican. Located in the East Village); Cookshop (Locavore and Mediterranean. Located on Tenth Avenue near the High Line). Vic’s (Italian and located on Great Jones Street). Shuka (Middle Eastern. Located on Macdougall in the SOHO/Greenwich Village neighborhood). All the restaurants have a joyous atmosphere, warm service, splendid food, imaginative wine lists. And (for New York) they are affordable.

Brasserie Meal

September 12th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

There are fewer culinary experiences better than dining in a brightly lit, lively, traditional Paris brasserie. Alas, a decade ago some of Paris’ most iconic brasseries — Bofinger, Julien, Flo, Balzar, Le Vaudeville — were taken over by budget-conscious, bottom-line focused chain operators. Needless to say, they went into sharp decline, losing their luster. Only Le Stella and Brasserie Ile d’Saint Louis kept the old standards alive. (Chez Jenny is still very good but it’s a one trick pony. Choucroute in various guises). Happily, the esteemed Parisian food writer Alex Lobrano reports that Le Vaudeville has new management, a refurbished art deco interior and superior cuisine. Small plates to share are a pleasant innovation. Its return to goodness is happy news, indeed. Cool autumn weather on Prince Edward Island (it will warm up next week). Responding to chill, HG/BSK will prepare a Chez Jenny meal tonight. Malpeque oysters on the half shell (no brasserie meal worth eating can begin without oysters or bulots or both). Main dish will be choucroute (of course) with local kraut, bratwurst, weisswurst and kassler ripchen. (BSK does wonders with sauerkraut). Much mustard on the table plus BSK’s home jarred dill pickles. Great local Gahan’s ale to drink. No Paris desserts like ile flottante, chocolate mousse, rhum baba with whipped cream, tarte tatin. HG/BSK will have to make do with local French Vanilla ice cream, sliced Canadian peaches and Canadian maple syrup. Maple Leaf forever!!!

Hakata Choten

July 15th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

HG loves ramen, the Japanese dish that takes noodles and broth to celestial heights. (HG’s favorite food movie is “Tampopo”, a Japanese comedy about a female chef’s attempts to make perfect ramen). Unfortunately, HG cannot consume superior ramen. Two locations in Santa Fe served ramen. One closed and one continues to serve second rate slop. Despite the proliferation of Asian and other ethnic restaurants on Prince Edward Island, there is no ramen eatery. Very sad. HG makes do by lunching on noodles from a Korean instant ramen package. Throws away the super sodium-filled flavoring and cooks the noodles in a ramen broth sold by PEI’s Atlantic Superstore. Adds tofu and chopped scallions. A reasonable, if pallid, improvisation. HG/BSK are contemplating a Paris-Venice (or Lisbon) trip. So, it was with pleasure that HG read about the Hokata Choten ramen and gyoza restaurant in Paris. The reviewer was Heidi Ellison in “Paris Update.” Ellison is a sophisticated diner who rarely showers restaurants with exuberant praise. However, in the case of Hokata Choten she went overboard. Referencing “Tampopo”, she said perfect, robust ramen had been achieved. She was also lyrical about the gyoza (they won a prize in Tokyo). Yes, when in Paris, HG will limit HG’s consumption of oysters, steak tartare and savory offal, and become a Hokata Choten diner.

The Staff of Life?

July 10th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Yes, bread is much lauded as an essential food. It has a lengthy history and is mentioned frequently in The Bible. But, HG is not a big fan. HG, a Francophile, knows a French breakfast is most often a chunk of buttered fresh baguette accompanied by cafe au lait. HG passes. Prefers yogurt. However, HG does like buttered baguette with Roquefort or Gorgonzola as a dinner course preceding dessert. Jewish rye, of course is essential, for successful pastrami or corned beef sandwiches. (Remember Annie Hall ordering a pastrami sandwich on white bread with mayo?) HG likes dark pumpernickel bread with smoked fish. HG despises bagels but will eat an occasional bialy. (They have gone downhill sharply. Even the ones from famed Kossar’s). HG only eats croissants and brioche in Paris but their quality continues to decline.(Best croissants came from the long closed Sutter’s bakeries in New York). HG has always been surprised when American restaurant diners stuff themselves with rolls and butter before the meal is served. In civilized countries, bread is only eaten with the meal. HG’s distinguished son-in-law, Profesore/ Uficiale/Dottore Massimo R., would consider it unthinkable to have a meal without bread. Often mops up remaining sauce with a small bit of bread. (the bread for for this purpose is called “a little shoe” in Italian). BSK is a fan of good artisan bread. Likes to toast a slice with bread and cheese for breakfast. This is the major use for bread in the HG/BSK household. Since artisan bread without chemicals gets stale quickly, much is thrown away. As time goes on, HG eats less bread, cheese and meat but more yogurt, fruit, vegetables, seafood and chicken. This is not a health focused diet (witness HG’s devouring of cholesterol rich oysters and tripe plus drinking much alcohol), just preference.

Two Paris Favorites

July 8th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

The late great writer, A.J. Liebling of the New Yorker magazine, wrote about many things: Paris, France, war, food, boxing, women, the press, colorful characters like Earl Long of Louisiana and Col. John R. Stingo. He was a glutton and his gluttony killed him at a too early age. His book about his early days in Paris, “Between Meals,” is a very appetizing (in every way) reminiscence. Liebling wrote some illuminating things about food. He said that a fine meal provided a three fold pleasure, much like making love with a desirable woman. Anticipation. Consummation. Recollection. HG thought about these words as a HG contemplated one more visit to Paris. HG anticipated some happy drinking, noshing and people watching at two very distinctly different cafes: Au Sauvignon in the fashionable neighborhood adjacent to the Bon Marche department store in the Sixth and La Cave des Abbesses in the 18th (lively, touristy Montmartre). At Au Sauvignon you can enjoy the sight of the world’s most elegant women strolling to the department store or favorite shops like Agnes B. HG drinks Beaujolais Villages or Sancerre and nibbles on cheese and charcuterie served with Poilane bread. La Cave des Abbesses is a wine shop primarily. One strolls through walls of wine (some very good values) to a plain spoken back room. That’s where food and drink is served. Locals cluster around a bar and the conversation is loud and bawdy. HG has been accepted as a regular and is the target of good natured comment in heavily accented English. HG’s attempts to speak French when ordering a glass of red wine and a plate of cheese are met with amusement. Happily, La Cave often sells good oysters at a special price of one euro each. HG knocks off a dozen with bread and butter and a carafe of chilled Muscadet. La Cave has two outside tables on busy Rue Lepic. But, HG prefers the noisy, smoky conviviality of the indoor room.

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