Worth The Wait

May 23rd, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Final travel to Riverside, Rhode Island, was short (in terms of mileage but very long in time (traffic jams, construction, etc. on New England Thruway). Arrival at the home of daughter Lesley R.; son-in-law Massimo and granddaughter Arianna, was festive. Toby, The Wonder Dog, had a joyous reunion with Pip. the R. family’s super-intelligent and gentle dog. HG/BSK were refreshed with steaming cups of tea (and some yogurt and honey for HG). Appetites raged as the family arrived at O Dinis, the joyous, noisy, no-reservations restaurant in East Providence. Every table was filled with happy, hungry folks eating hearty O Dinis cuisine. A half hour wait. Cane-wielding HG turned down many kind offers of a seat but finally succumbed to sitting on a bench and sipping white wine provided by thoughtful Lesley. (HG thanked a diner for his concern about HG. Before leaving, the gentleman sent a glass of red wine to the Freeman/R. table.) Food was spectacular. Juicy shrimp in a spicy sauce. Steamed littleneck clams (Rhody clams are the best) in a lush sauce of garlic, herbs, olive oil and clam juice. The O Dinis specialty: Pork and clams. A surprise was a dish of grilled tuna belly with boiled potatoes and a wondrous sauce. One of the best fish dishes. Lots of wine and Portuguese bread to soak up the many fragrant garlic juices. (Dracula wouldn’t stand a chance when confronted with O Dinis food). At bedtime, HG sipped some Kentucky bourbon. A most happy fellow.

Road Cuisine (Day Three)

May 18th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Destination: Ashland, Ohio. HG/BSK motored through the territory of BSK’s teen-age (and pre-teen years). Mansfield. Galion. Bucyrus. Crestline. Lakes and parks where BSK frolicked with BSK’s first boyfriend. No nostalgia from BSK. Just kept accelerating. Still lunching at the chains. This time it was Chick-Fil-A. HG must confess. Enjoyed it. Big bowl of chicken soup. Lots of shredded chicken. Firm, not mushy, pasta. Pleasant vegetables. BSK had a chicken sandwich and liked it. Downside was the potatoes. These were “waffle fries.” Not crisp. Not hot. Zero taste. However, the service was extraordinary. Efficient but super friendly and caring. HG left with a tip-top vanilla milkshake to be consumed while driving. Made the miles skip by. Dinner in Ashland was at Jake’s, a local steak and casual food chain. BSK said this was Amish country and the steak was bound to be good. HG was dubious. As always, BSK was right. BSK had a big-time, medium rare sirloin. Gave HG a taste. Superior. BSK accompanied the steak with onion rings and Caesar salad. HG had a burger with pepper jack cheese and fried jalapenos. Adequate. Not sensatiĆ“nal. There were consolations. HG’s side of mac and cheese was among the best ever and HG’s icy black-and-tans (glasses of half Anchor Steam Beer and half Guinness Stout) brought back HG’s happy nights in New York’s Third Avenue Irish bars of long ago.

Road Cuisine (Day Two)

May 17th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Destination was Collinsville, Ill. (some miles east of St.Louis). Always stirring to gaze out the auto window and see the mighty arch and the Mississippi River. Lunched at reliable Waffle House. A big bowl of buttery grits with two runny poached eggs. That’s how you spell All-American comfort. HG topped it off with a waffle, orange juice and many cups of coffee. Chicken fancier BSK had her usual chicken salad (WH does it with grilled chicken and holds off on ladles of mayonnaise). Dinner in Collinsville was Bandanas, a local bar-b-q chain. Big, juicy pork ribs. Very flavorful. Didn’t need any sauce. Fine cole slaw. Sweet potato fries. Savory beans. Icy beer. HG is very fond of the barbecue belt that runs through Missouri into southwestern Illinois. Calvin Trillin, a devotee of Arthur Bryant’s Barbecue in Kansas City (his favorite is “burnt ends”), might sneer at Bandanas. But, HG/BSK had a rollicking good time there.

Road Cuisine (Day One)

May 15th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Yes, HG/BSK (plus Toby, The Wonder Dog), are on the road again (thanks, Willie). Destination: Prince Edward Island and HG/BSK’s ocean front paradise. But, first HG/BSK will stop at Providence, the base for HG/BSK’s New York/Atlanta festivities (you will learn more in coming days). First-day lunch was a Subway wrap consumed in the car. Messy. Never again. Hate eating in the car. Food dribbles on HG’s clothing. Dinner was at Kwan’s Kitchen in Quail Springs, an Oklahoma City burb. Was great on the last visit. Now it’s uneven. Had super-sized pork pot stickers. Flavorless. Peking duck. Excellent thin pancakes to wrap the meat which, alas, was quite dry. BSK liked a platter of fried string beans with gently fried rectangles of potato.HG thought it so-so. The bonanza (at least for HG ) of the evening, was a platter of shrimp dim sum. Shu mai. Shrimp balls. Other fried and steamed shrimp delights. Best dim sum ever (and HG has consumed much New York, Brooklyn and Flushing dim sum). Sadly, BSK is allergic to shrimp (and other crustaceans) so BSK could only observe HG’s pleasure, Did that with customary grace.

Yesteryear NYC Jewish Delis

May 5th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

In HG’s youth, New York had hundreds of Jewish delicatessens, temples of corned beef, pastrami, brisket, tongue and pickles. Many had a counter bowl of chunks of garlic sausage with a sign: “A nickel a shtikel.” (“Shtikel” means small piece in Yiddish.) Rye bread and all the meats were excellent. Pickled cucumbers (sour or half-sour); pickled peppers and sauerkraut were state of the art. Bright yellow mustard was tangy and Russian (or Thousand Islands) dressing was nonexistent. Reuben sandwiches were not served since the sandwich contains a dairy product (Swiss cheese) and most delis were kosher. Kashruth law forbade the mixing of meat and dairy products. Some delis were “Glatt Kosher.” This meant super, super kosher. HG avoided these places. Jewish deli frankfurters were superior, A pair of hot dogs with loads of mustard and sauerkraut cost 20 cents when HG was a boy. Even better was “The Special,” a big, juicy knockwurst. Sadly, only a few traditional delis are left (Katz’s, 2nd Avenue Deli, etc.). Ben’s, a Queens favorite of HG, closed recently. HG dined there often with the late real estate mogul, Sam Lefrak (Before he French-fried his name to “LeFrak). New York’s changing demographics and more sophisticated tastes have now made it much easier to eat sushi than heartburn-producing Jewish food. Cardiologists approve.

Thrillist

February 26th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

HG pays attention to Thrillist.com. The blog pops up on HG’s computer and HG becomes attentive. Good advice on restaurants, travel and a host of other things. Better than Yelp or Trip Advisor. HG doesn’t fancy highway fast food restaurants. But, Thrillist has done a series about what to order at these places. Yes, they have found there are tasty and healthy options. With that in mind, HG/BSK made a strategic stop in Walsenberg (on Highway 25) on HG/BSK’s trip to Denver. Followed the advice of Thrillist. Went to Taco Bell and ordered shredded chicken on soft tacos. Surprisingly good. Very inexpensive. Healthy. Low in calories. Spicy salsa added to the flavors. HG/BSK are Thrillist (and Taco Bell) converts. Hell may now freeze over.

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.

International Treats

January 2nd, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Tasty food evening. Started with Armenian and other Middle Eastern treats in the beautiful new kitchen of HG’s daughter’s close friends/neighbors. HG was introduced to a special caraway seed Aakavit. Pungent stuff. Then off to Cheng Du Taste, a hole-in-the-wall Szechuan restaurant in Pawtucket, R.I.. To get there, five hungry eaters had to follow a winding complex of streets from the Riva Rhode Island home. Well worth it (even with a 15-minute wait). Very flavorful food served swiftly and piping hot. Mo Po Tofu. Chicken with eggplant in garlic sauce. Sliced fish in chile oil. Pork dumplings. Soup dumplings. Pepper and salt prawns. There was divided opinion. HG raved but the others said that since the menu was so similar to the much more convenient Chonquing House in Providence, Cheng Du Taste was’t worth the longer trip. Who to trust? Choose HG since the senior gent has been consuming Chinese food in various locales for some 80 years. Experience counts.

Kwan’s: A Happy Surprise in Oklahoma City

November 7th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Final hotel stay at the upscale La Quinta in the Quail Springs Office Park, Oklahoma City. Short stroll to Kwan’s Kitchen, a spacious and beautiful Chinese restaurant. The food was sensational. On a par with New York, Vancouver, LA or San Francisco. Started with chicken (also available in duck) lettuce packages. The iceberg lettuce leaves were cold and crisp. The chicken mix was the best HG ever ate. Then, there was Mapo Tofu. HG/BSK murmured: “The best.” The tofu was slightly firm but silky. Very similar to the great tofu served with spinach at the Fortune Garden restaurant in Vancouver (first stop when HG/BSK used to arrive at their Mt. Pleasant loft). The Kwan Mapo Tofu sauce hit a very nice balance between fire and flavor. Another dish was sliced eggplant. The slices were dusted with rice flour and fried to a greaseless crisp and topped with sweet/sour chili sauce. Kitchen mastery. HG/BSK shared a sorbet for dessert. The meal’s pleasures were augmented by a good cold bottle of rose’. The check was modest. Go figure. One of USA’s best Chinese restaurants in Oklahoma. Few people in the restaurant on Saturday night. HG is worried about Kwan’s Oklahoma future.

Ups & Downs In Lewisburg, PA

November 4th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

First layover after leaving Rhode Island was Leiwsburg, Pa., site of a notable Civil War battle, a giant federal prison, Bucknell University (alma mater of the late Philip Roth), and Reba and Pancho’s Restaurant. HG/BSK had a spectacular meal there in 2017 (see post in archive) so that’s where the famished duo headed after swims and stretches. Sipped a very good white wine with two spectacular appetizers: A crisp “Skinny Pizza”, goat cheese topping instead of the usual mozzarella; Fundido, a casserole of melted cheese mixed with jalapenos and greens. These starters were state of the art and very filing. HG/BSK realized they had over-ordered. That’s because a platter of pommes frites, crab cake (for HG) and salmon in an unusual sauce (for BSK) were on the way. HG asked the waitperson if there had been any change in the composition of the crab cake. Reply was the crab cake was identical to the one which delighted HG a year ago (this was a lush crab cake composed of lump crabmeat). Big disappointment when HG tasted the 2018 version. Shredded crab meat, not lump, which make the crab cake taste like a very ordinary fish cake. BSK said the salmon was okay but left over more than half. These dishes were accompanied by two more glasses of the white wine. Top flight cuisine returned with two Paris bistro desserts, creme brulee and chocolate mousse. Two complaints: Waitperson deluded HG about the crab cake. Also, did not inform HG/BSK about the price of the white wine. It was $14 a glass, four glasses for $56. If informed, HG/BSK would have purchased a modest bottle. HG’s counsel to folks who want to try R & P, order Mexican inspired dishes, skip the crab cake and ask the price of wine by the glass.

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