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.

Portuguese Providence

November 2nd, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Arrived at the Riverside,Rhode Island home of Gifted Daughter Lesley, R., husband, Profesore Massimo R., brilliant granddaughter, Arianna R.. And, of course, Pip, The special friend of Toby, The Wonder Dog. Joyous canine reunion. Dinner was at funky, down home family favorite, O Dinis, in East Providence. Savory rustic Portuguese cooking served in generous portions. Big shrimp in a garlicky red sauce. Steamed clams (Rhody has the best clams) in a white wine, lemon, parsley and garlic sauce. (Yes, more garlic. Dracula would be demolished at O Dinis). Grilled chourico sausage. Pan broiled mullet. Clams and pork in a wine sauce with (You guessed it!!) garlic. Great flan for dessert.

O, Canada!!!

June 6th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Motoring though Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. Destination: Clipper Shipp Motel in Pokolagan, New Brunswick. The motel is a throwback to the 1950’s with spacious suites filled with comfy overstuffed furniture. Efficient Wi-Fi. Giant TV screen. And, beautiful views of the Bay of Fundy with its unusual tides. Toby, The Wonder Dog, enjoyed his stroll on the beach with BSK. A harbinger of PEI. Icy vodka in hand, HG perched on a viewing platform and basked in the scenery and the luxury of being in a democracy with a humane leader, universal health care and a welcoming attitude towards a diverse set of immigrants. Dined on the left-over sandwiches from The Italian Corner in East Providence augmented by prosciutto. Drank Montepluciano d’ Abruzesse (purchased just over the Canadian border). HG had always been beguiled by the fact that the late Virgil Thompson, eminent composer and music critic (who lived in the Hotel Chelsea on Manhattan’s West 23rd), often dined in a nearby Popeye’s fried chicken establishment. So, midway on the trip to Canada, HG ate some Popeye’s product. Fried fish and macaroni and cheese. The mac and cheese was mushy but comforting. The fish was spicy and crisp. (BSK thought it too heavily breaded). Next time, HG will try the chicken and red beans & rice.

Festive Finale

June 5th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Last meal in Rhode Island before setting off to Prince Edward Island. And, the finale was festive, full of culinary fireworks. The venue was Bristol Oyster Bar in the historic town of Bristol. They do a “buck a shuck” oyster night on Tuesday. Decided to do a reprise of the oyster feast HG/BSK (and Lesley R.) enjoyed during our Christmas season visit. Of course, this time HG overdid. Three dozen oysters, chilled, briny, nicely shucked. All from Rhode Island waters: Moonstones, Quonrie Rocks, Point Judith Salts and Aquidnacks. Then, on to a ceviche of fresh raw scallops with crispy potato chips, cucumber, lime, cilantro and ginger. Steamed “Drunken” little neck clams in a mind-blowing sauce of beer, onions, garlic (grilled bread to soak up the deliciousness). Cajun tuna (cooked rare) with potato crisps, parsnip chips, spicy New Orleans mayo and chimichurri cream. Mussels in a garlic and wine broth topped with salt and vinegar potato sticks gilded with a red pepper coulis. Fried oysters in a cornmeal crust with pickled red onions, lime and cilantro. Cajun pork belly confit on a bed of parsnip puree with an array of house made pickles. Fresh local green salad with goat cheese, parsnip chips and marinated vegetables. (Hey, don’t characterize us as gluttons. These are all modest small plate portions). To drink: Sancerre for BSK and Brilliant/Beautiful granddaughter Arianna R. Black and Tan (Guinness and IPA ale) for HG. Happy heads and tummies. Off to bed to get an early start on Canadian motoring.

Chong Qing House Lives

June 3rd, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

HG was devastated to learn that Chong Qing, the Chinese restaurant in Seekonk, MA. (just over the Rhode Island border and short drive from the R. home) had closed. Owner said there were not enough Chinese in the area to support his very authentic cuisine. Eating there was a culinary highlight on stopovers in Rhode Island to and from Prince Edward Island. Big smiles yesterday when HG learned the restaurant, now called Chong Qing House, had reopened on Wickenden Avenue in Providence. HG called the owner and learned his cuisine had remained intact in the new location. Plenty of dishes featuring innards beloved by the Chinese. And, of course, frogs. HG’s favorites have remained intact — that was the assurance given by the owner. Salt and pepper shrimp. Eggplant with garlic. Fried string beans. Fiery Ma Po tofu. Cumin lamb. Szechuan wontons in chile oil. Black pepper chicken. Sliced fish and sour cabbage soup. Beer duck and tofu in hot pot. Shredded pork belly with smoked bean curd. The menu covers all the bases. HG suffers from Chinese food deprivation. BSK does not share HG’s obsession. When the duo lived in New York, HG always wanted to dine in Chinatown. BSK would be pleased to try other ethnic cuisines. In any case, when HG returns from PEI in the fall, HG is confident that BSK and the R. family will join HG in the Chong Qing pleasures.

O Dinis

May 30th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Rhode Island is one of the great culinary destinations. Eccentric and tasty. HG has written about New York Specials (hot dogs drenched in an odd chili-tomato sauce); Dell’s icy lemonade, stuffies, calamari with hot peppers, clam bakes, grilled pizza, etc. A new discovery for HG yesterday was O Dindis. This is a plain spoken, authentic, family oriented Portuguese restaurant. Famished HG/BSK arrived in Providence ready for a hearty dinner. And, that was what O Dinis provided. First, a bottle of chilled Vinho Verde. Then, appetizers of little neck clams in a white wine and garlic sauce plus shrimps in a tomato based garlic sauce (with just a touch of heat). Thankfully, there was a platter of Portuguese bread to soak up the lush sauces. BSK and Arianna R. shared a giant serving of the house specialty: Clams and pork Alentajana. This is a stew of pork tenderloin and potatoes topped with steamed little necks in a pungent sauce.(Rhody clams are the best). HG ate a king-sized slab of nicely grilled red snapper with boiled potatoes. These potatoes were not mundane. Perfectly cooked and when slathered with the two sauces, onion and garlic, were heavenly. Drank a very good Portuguese cabernet (Portuguese reds have been underrated). Dessert was splendid flan. HG wants to go back to O Dinis with a crowd so the greedy boy can taste many things on the menu: Cod in a dozen varieties; bife a case (steak topped with a fried egg accompanied by rice, onion/garlic sauce, fried sliced potatoes); seafood stew (a Portuguese version of Mariscada); etc. And, the prices are very modest.

Reba & Pancho’s

May 29th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Last stop before Providence (and reunion with brilliant and beautiful granddaughter Arianna R.) was Lewisburg, Pa. A bit of irony. Lewisburg is the home of Bucknell University, the alma mater of (sadly) the late Philip Roth. Since, realistically, HG’s years are dwindling down to a precious few, as the song puts it, HG recalls Roth’s brilliant short novel, “Everyman”, based on the eventual fate of all humans. But, all gloomy thoughts were banished as HG dined at Lewisburg’s Reba & Pancho’s restaurant. It would not be surprising to find a restaurant like R & P’s in Paris, New York or any other big time culinary center. However, Lewisburg? Simply put, this is a great restaurant in every detail. Interior design. Service. Food. Wine. Ambience. HG/BSK started their meal by nibbling on a freebie of toast crisps, roasted almonds and extra virgin olive oil. Glasses of chilled Italian Soave. Appetizer of perfect slim pomme frites enlivened with a melange of fried herbs and a tangy aioli. Main dishes were mind blowing. BSK had a juicy pork chop on a bed of herbaceous and creamy polenta. HG had a giant crab cake (sorry, Baltimore, this was the best crab cake HG ever consumed). This crisp wonder was loaded with lush chunks of crab bound together by a minimal filling The sauce of a puree of poblano and other peppers complemented the sweet crab meat perfectly but did not overwhelm it. HG/BSK drank a favorite Italian wine, Montepulciano d’Abruzesse The Paris bistro overtones continued with two nicely executed desserts, classic creme brûlée and chocolate mousse. Yes, no need to fly to Paris for a perfectly executed meal. Just get on the road to Lewisburg.

Steak Row

May 11th, 2018 § 1 comment § permalink

There was a time (namely the 50’s and 60’s) when New York City was world capital of steak. And, the carnivorous center was Steak Row (E.45th Street from Lexington to First and its environs). The Daily Mirror was published an E. 45th and the Daily News on E. 42nd. In addition, the area housed lots of news and wire services, and feature syndicates. Some of the steak houses had news related names: Pen and Pencil, Press Box. The Editorial, Front Page, Late Edition, Fourth Estate. Other steak joints on 45th and the surrounding area were Joe and Rose, Palm, McCarthy’s, Pietro’s, Danny’s Hideaway, Assembly, Mike Manuche’s and Christ Cella. In the west side theater district there were Gallagher’s and Frankie & Johnny. On 23rd Street, the wonderful Cavanagh’s. Of course, in Brooklyn the kingpin was Peter Luger’s (still reigning). Of them all, HG’s favorite was Christ Cella. Not content to serve the best steaks, salads and cocktails HG ever savored, Christ Cella would greet the spring season with the ultimate platter of shad, shad roe and bacon (Christ Cella was one of HG’s seven favorite New York restaurants of all time. The others were Le Pavillon, Fornos, Luchow’s, Gage and Tollner, Gitlitz Delicatessen and Keen’s. Only Keen’s remains). When HG/BSK lived in Colorado, their favored dining spot was the Denver branch of Palm. Unlike Palm on Second Avenue in New York (“Where Tough Guys Feed Big Shots”), The service was gentle and friendly in the western mode. HG’s favorite dish was sliced rare sirloin served over a tossed salad. BSK replicates this dish, improving it with lush blue cheese dressing. Like New York, Denver Palm adorns its walls with cartoons of local celebrities. As a leading local PR pro, HG felt like a Big Shot as HG dined beneath a flattering cartoon of HG’s handsome mug.

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.

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