Corn Muffins and Other Breakfast Treats Of The Past

October 3rd, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

Nostalgia. There were few better breakfasts than corn muffins smeared with softened butter or good strawberry jam. Do they still exist? Decades ago, they were a regular staple in New York coffee shops and New Jersey diners. These were the real deal. Grainy. Crunchy. True corn flavor. HG thought about them when shopping with BSK on Prince Edward Island. Bought blueberry mini-muffins. Had two with coffee. Crapola !! Feh!! Mushy dough. Tasteless blueberries. Rest of the package went into the garbage bin. There are still appealing muffins in HG’s food universe. Thomas English Muffins with their butter nestling “nook and crannies” have remained tasty. Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods have good crumpets and scones. USA and Canadian croissants disappoint (That’s because the taste of Paris bakery croissants lingers in HG’s memory). Does a Bialy qualify as a muffin? Doesn’t matter. When a New York counterman shouted: “Gimme a Bialy with a shmear!!” (Bialy with cream cheese), HG knew a breakfast treat would appear in a New York Minute.

Quack Quack

February 6th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

Many decades ago, HG/BSK were strolling near the Place Des Victoires in Paris when they examined the menu posted adjacent to the entrance of Chez Georges, a traditional French bistro. Prices were affordable. Dishes offered were classic. HG/BSK entered and found a multi-mirrored long room. Every seat was filled with a chic, happy Parisians. No tourists. The gracious owner welcomed HG/BSK: “A table will soon be vacant. Meanwhile, have a glass of Brouilly.” The meal and the ambiance were fabulous. HG’s main dish was “Steak de Canard”. This was a succulent duck breast cooked medium rare (on the rare side) and served with a saute of wild mushrooms. Last night, BSK combined two traditions: The Chez Georges duck breast and the salad HG/BSK would eat for Sunday dinner with a barbecued duck from the long-closed Bretton Woods Rotisserie near 86th Street and Broadway on New York’s Upper West Side (this was when HG/BSK and children lived in a West Side rent-controlled paradise). Last night in New Mexico, duck breasts were pan broiled to pink perfection and the salad consisted of orange, sweet onion and ripe avocado slices gilded with an unusual vinaigrette utilizing balsamic vinegar and–surprise!!–shreds of stewed prunes and a bit of the stewing wine. Fabulous. Back to memories of Chez Georges. HG/BSK didn’t know this was Julia Child’s favorite Paris restaurant. Deservedly so. HG has joyous memories of of the many meals HG shared there with BSK over the years. Appetizers like frisee with lardons and a poached egg; jambon persille; big bowls of pickled herring passed around the tables as a “take all you want” gift. Robust main dishes: Kidneys in mustard sauce; grilled sole with butter and lemon sauce; steaks with sauce bearnaise, etc. Desserts: baba au rhum and profiteroles…Founded in 1964, Chez Georges is still going strong. Despite a change in ownership, nothing has changed according to food and Paris authority, Patricia Wells. With luck, HG might enjoy some more lusty lunches there.

Beaujolais Nouveau

January 28th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

This is a young (first of harvest) French red wine. When the vintage is right (it isn’t always) it’s HG’s favorite wine. It is so drinkable, that it’s easy to overdo. Alas, HG has done this often. Geroges Duboeuf, who died last week, was the French vintner and wine merchant who made the wine an international favorite. A gifted promoter and merchandiser, he made the third day in November (that’s when Beaujolais Nouveau is released) a jolly, bibulous holiday throughout much of the world. In Paris, a sign goes up in cafes, bars, bistros, restaurants, wine shops: “Beaujolais Nouveau est arivee!!” The result is joyous madness throughout the city. Music and song get louder as the night progresses. Many decades ago, HG/BSK were in Paris when the BN arrived. Escargots, leg of lamb, pommes frites, cheese platter. That’s what HG/BSK ate that night while drinking almost two bottles of Duboeuf’s wine (excellent vintage that year). Happily, the 2019 vintage is splendid. We toasted GD’s memory last night. Two sad notes: The passing of a gifted man who enhanced HG/BSK’S lives. Beaujolais Nouveau. is now $11-13 a bottle. Used to be laughably inexpensive. Sigh.

European Sweets Found On Prince Edward Island

September 25th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

HG meals in Paris or Rome (or Florence) were always predictable. In Paris, meals always started with oysters (plus whelks and mayonnaise if extra hungry). Dessert was creme brulee. In very special restaurants HG chose ile flottante or baba au rhum (doused in rum and smothered in whipped cream). The baba choice was rare since it seemed a bit exuberant after a sumptuous meal. In Rome and Florence, the starter was fresh, hand-pulled mozzarella with endive (a la Caprese) or mozzarella splashed simply with fruity olive oil and accompanied by good bread. Dessert was gelato purchased at one of the exemplary gelaterias (espresso was sipped at a bar). So, how to approximate these treats when resident at HG/BSK’s oceanfront home? Oysters, of course, are no problem since PEI, in HG’s opinion, is the oyster capital of the world. Only insipid factory mozzarella is available. HG may be spoiled by the many years of eating the supreme smoked mozzarella from Joe’s Dairy (alas, now closed) in Greenwich Village or fresh, milky mozzarella from Belgiovine’s in Montclair, N.J. On PEI, HG/BSK replace the cheese starter with corn on the cob or other vegetable treats. Good news is that HG/BSK can now finish their Island dinners with the appropriate sweets discovered this week at the Sobey’s Supermarket in Charlottetown. For HG that means Marie Morin creme brulee (manufactured in Quessoy, France). For BSK, it’s Fiasco salt caramel gelato (manufactured in Calgary, Canada). HG states, with some hesitation, these are as good as any version HG ingested joyously in Europe.

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.


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.


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 Club 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.

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