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.

Paul Bocuse Vinegar Chicken

June 21st, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Paul Bocuse (1926-2018) was one of France’s most famous and innovative chefs. His Lyon restaurant, L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges, was a three-star landmark. Not modest, he topped the restaurant building with a large neon sign spelling out “Paul Bocuse.” (He noted that although God is very well known, the church bells still had to ring every morning). Bocuse’s restaurant featured some very elaborate dishes alongside some simple, hearty Lyonnaise specialties. One of them was Vinegar Chicken. BSK cooked it last night and it was chilly night pleasure. Skin on chicken thighs were dredged in flour and browned in olive oil. Bocuse’s original recipe called for the bird to be browned in seven tablespoons of butter (a bit excessive). Softened shallots, garlic, tarragon and thyme in chicken juices and a bit of butter. Added red wine vinegar and Japanese rice wine vinegar. Raised heat until acrid vinegar odors were diminished. Thickened the sauce with plentiful butter. (In Lyon, a big dollop of creme fraiche is swirled in the sauce). Pan was covered and the chicken was braised until done. Served with basmati rice (first rinsed and then cooked so that each kernel was separate and slightly al dente) plus a kumatoe and sweet onion salad. HG contemplated adorning the kitchen in HG/BSK’s Prince Edward Island oceanfront paradise with a neon “BSK.” The excellent woman’s cooking deserves fame.

Le Vaudeville Reborn

June 15th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Le Vaudeville brasserie in Paris has one of the best interiors in that fabled city. Lots of marble and brass. Art Deco flourishes and other influences. Fabled stained glass door to the men’s room. During its glory days it was frequented by HG/BSK and was a favorite of HG’s late sister and brother in law, Beulah and Daniel K. Great traditional dishes: Cod with truffle-infused potato puree. Steamed mussels. Oysters. Grilled pig’s foot. Sole. Salmon in sorrel sauce (a Beulah fave). Marinated herring. Tete de Veau. And, much more. Best desserts: Creme caramel and ile flottante. A happy place. Then, it was taken over by the Flo chain. Industrialized food. Plummeted downhill. HG/BSK had a disastrous meal and vowed never to return. Now there’s good news. The brasserie has been taken over by new owners. Refurbished terrace. Bar serving champagne and snacks. Alec Lobrano of “Hungry for Paris” just ate there and gave the food and service a glowing report. Lobrano (in a dead heat with SJ as world’s best food writer) can be relied upon. If HG manages to get back to Paris, Le Vaudeville (and Le Stella) will be the favored brasserie destinations for HG/BSK.

Innards Finale: Lungs, Spleen, Heart, Gizzards

May 2nd, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Lungen mit Miltz was on the menu of traditional New York Jewish restaurants (all gone) of yesteryear. (Gluckstern’s also served tripe). Like the African-Americans of the racist South, the impoverished Jews of pre-World War Two Europe ate every bit of the cow, inside and out. (Unlike the African-Americans, Jews, of course, didn’t eat swine). Lungen mit Miltz was a stew of lungs and spleen. Lots of garlic, onion and chicken fat gave it flavor. This was a dish not favored by HG but relished by HG’s late, beloved father. When little HG accompanied his father on a clothes buying expedition to the Lower East Side, Dad and Son lunched at a plain spoken “Romanian/Jewish” eatery. Dad had the lungen stew plus P’tcha, jellied calf’s foot. Son had karnezlach, garlic and onion infused ground beef, shaped into fat cigars and broiled. Accompanied by Mamaliga, the Romanian version of polenta. Both dishes were anointed with plentiful chicken fat poured from a pitcher on the table. Seltzer was the beverage. The only, time HG ever had spleen was in the form of a sandwich (bread was a soft bun) on the street in Palermo, the colorful Sicilian city. It was okay, not great. HG ate braised heart in French bistros on the far West Side that catered to French seamen. A strong taste. Not for the faint hearted. HG tasted grilled chicken gizzards once at a Japanese restaurant (accompanied by SJ). Tasty. However, HG has learned that “Gesiers” (duck gizzards) are superior. Usually served as part of a salad in Paris bistros. Must try if HG ever gets back to Paree.

More Innards: Tripe

May 1st, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Tripe. Yes, it’s an unattractive word. Tripe is the stomach lining of a cow. Prepared properly, it is a delicious dish. Here in New Mexico, tripe is thoroughly soaked and cleansed and then slowly braised with pig feet for flavoring. Plus onions, garlic, oregano,etc. The pig feet are removed after cooking (though some very Mexican eateries in southern New Mexico serve the pig feet). This Mexican tripe stew is called Menudo and it is a food passion for HG. For health reasons, HG limits Menudo intake to one bowl a week. That’s because, though low in calories, Menudo contains unhealthy fat. Many Menudo fans add posole to their bowl for a very filling meal. Not for HG, just chopped onions, Hatch green chile and squeezes of lemon. Sometimes, HG crumbles a Saltine cracker in the savory broth. Best Menudo is served at El Parasol in Pojoauque on Highway 285. Close by is Sopaipilla Factory which serves a more sophisticated version of Menudo. The tripe stew is also available at Brazos in Santa Fe and Agelina’s in Espanola. The French, naturally, are big fans of tripe and cook it in a variety of ways. Lyonnais favorites are thin pan fried breaded pieces of tripe with onions and garlic. Usually served with potato puree. Also, tablier de sapeur (fried and breaded honeycomb tripe which is first boiled and marinated in white wine). A Paris favorite is a stew called tripes a la mode de Caen. Originating in Normandy, tripe is baked (between 7 and 14 hours) with a calf’s foot, onions, celery, spices, white wine and a generous shot of Calvados. It is a specialty at the venerable Paris restaurant, Pharamond. The rowdy all night bistro, Chez Denise, offers “Tripes au Calvados” for 23 Euros. It is a very large pot of tripe and it takes a hero with a big stomach to finish it. Tripe used to be on the menus of many old style Italian and French restaurants in New York. Then it disappeared. Now making a modest comeback. Victoria Freeman (HG’s beloved daughter) and husband/chef Marc Meyer introduced Menudo at their ultra-authentic Mexican restaurant, Rosie’s. Their convivial Margarita-sipping clientele would have none it. Took it off the menu before sad HG could savor.

More Innards: Sweetbreads

April 30th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Sweetbreads are the thymus gland of a cow. When cooked properly, they are one of the truly sublime delicacies. They have always been a staple on the menus of fashionable restaurants in New York. Veal sweetbreads are the best. In Paris, sweetbreads (ris de veau) are served in scores of eating places catering to budgets big and small. They are usually sautéed and served with a variety of sauces. The trick is in making the exterior crispy while keeping the interior meltingly soft. HG’s favorite sweetbreads dish was served at the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel. The sweetbreads were presented on a slice of lightly fried Virginia ham and topped with a generous amount of Béarnaise sauce. Very good sweetbreads were obligatory as part of the vast appetizer presentation at Jewish weddings, Bar and Bas Mitzvahs. BSK got a surprising (and shocking) revelation about culinary overabundance at the first New York Bar Mitzvah feast BSK attended with HG after their marriage. The event was at a fancy Queens catering hall. There were two appetizer tables–cold and hot. Cold featured chopped liver, smoked salmon, sable, whitefish, kippered salmon, red salmon caviar, egg salad, herring salad, potato salad, whitefish salad, olives, pickles, sliced onions, scallions, celery, Greek salad, green salad plus cheeses, bread and rolls. The hot table held sweetbreads, sliced tenderloin steak, baby lamb chops, pigs in a blanket, Greek spinach pastry plus bowls of a mushroom, wine and onion sauce. Glass of white wine in hand (later replaced by red), BSK took modest helpings of all the good things, cold and hot. HG, with a frequently refilled glass of vodka, attacked everything with gusto. After more than an hour of eating and drinking, BSK said: “Wow!! What great food. I overdid. I ate too much.” Then a voice sounded over the loudspeaker system. “Ladies and Gentlemen: Dinner is served. Please take your seats in the dining room.” Astonished BSK said: “They’re kidding. This is a joke.” “Nope,” replied HG.

More Innards: Liver (Calf and Chicken)

April 28th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

During HG’s youth (many decades ago), liver and onions were served at all working class diners (“greasy spoons”) in New York. The liver was a thin slice with a grey interior. Young HG would give the unappetizing slice a big hit of mustard and gobble it up. Unlike the health police of today, HG’s late Mom insisted “Liver is good for you” and served HG many overcooked portions. Mom redeemed herself with chopped calf’s liver. Her version contained chopped onions (sometimes a bit of hardboiled egg) and an abundance of chicken fat. Some kosher salt, ground pepper, Stuhmer’s pumpernickel bread, cold beer—and Mom’s chopped liver. Eastern European heaven. HG never realized how delicious calf’s liver could be until he had a broiled slice at a modest Paris bistro. A thick slice with a juicy, pink interior. The liver had been marinated in Xeres (sherry) vinegar and served with a splash of melted butter. Accompanied by potato puree. Simple French cooking at its best. Chicken livers are one of HG’s favorite bits of offal. Greek owned New York and New Jersey diners used to serve them over rice pilaf. The liver were dusted in flour and fried to a brown exterior and pink interior. Good eating. Surprisingly, the New York chain of Schrafft’s restaurants (long closed) served a hearty dish of scrambled eggs with chicken livers. In France, chicken livers are often served as a topping for green salad. Sautéed chicken livers are the foundation of Spaghetti a la Caruso, a favorite pasta dish of the great Italian tenor, Enrico Caruso. Try this lusty pasta variation and you might warble some arias.

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