La Mesita Eatery: Down Home Goodness

October 21st, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Happy to be back in The Land of Enchantment where the trees are golden, russet and red. The skies are blue. Autumn breezes are refreshing. Cool nights call for a blaze in the living room fireplace. Pals Karen K. and David F. treated HG/BSK to a dinner at La Mesita Eatery, a family owned and staffed restaurant in Pojoaque, minutes from HG/BSK’s home. Karen and David touted the fried chicken. HG was dubious when HG found out the bird was deep fried rather than pan fried. A version of the Kentucky Colonel’s crap was anticipated. The chicken arrived. Big portion. Delicious, greaseless crunch cloaked an interior of juicy, flavorful free range chicken. A revelation. Wow!! Accompanied by down home mashed potatoes topped with fried onions. HG drank a great California IPA. A true, no frills comfort meal. Blessings upon you, Karen and David.

Sorrel Sauce

August 25th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Many years ago in Paris, HG/BSK dined with HG’s beloved sister, Beulah Naomi, and her husband, Daniel Katz, at the bustling, art deco brasserie, Le Vaudeville, near the Bourse (French stock exchange). Vaudeville was a splendid brasserie in those days. It has gone downhill since taken over by a restaurant chain. HG/BSK started the meal with a big platter of oysters (and a bottle of crisp Muscadet). Beulah and Dan were happy with their starter of marinated herring. HG/BSK went on to mains of steamed cod and mashed potatoes with black truffles. Beulah and Dan ordered saumon a l’oseille (salmon with sorrel sauce) and boiled potatoes for their main dish. It was a “Voila !!!” moment for Beulah. She chortled with delight with each forkful. BSK brought back this happy memory last night with BSK’s version of this dish. BSK’s sorrel sauce: chopped sorrel (from the BSK herb garden);butter, chicken broth, shallots, lettuce and an egg yolk). All the ingredient cooked gently and swirled into an unctuous topping for a thick slab of salmon. The fish was purchased at Prince Edward Island’s ByThe Bay Fish Mart. The salmon is farm raised under excellent conditions in Nova Scotia. HG/BSK pan broiled the fish very carefully (overcooked salmon is disastrous). The fish was perfect. The sauce was lush and herbaceous. Only wish that Beulah was here to enjoy it.

Northeast Feasts

June 10th, 2017 § 2 comments § permalink

Yes, life in New Mexico is gratifying. But, the Land of Enchantment is landlocked. The northeast coast of New England, the waters around New York City and, of course, HG/BSK’s summer paradise on Canada’s Prince Edward Island, provide some of the world’s best seafood. (Whole Foods in Santa Fe manages to fly in some pretty good fish and shellfish. However…) In Providence, HG/BSK and brilliant and beautiful granddaughter, Arianna R., celebrated BSK’s birthday with a sea feast at Hemenway’s, one of the best eateries in the city. A dozen briny oysters and a dozen little neck and cherrystone clams (Rhody clams are the very best). Rhody clam chowder (A clear pungent broth, not the usual creamy New England chowder which HG/BSK abhor). Rhody’s official state dish of fried calamari with hot peppers. Clams Casino. Broiled sea scallops wrapped in bacon, Thick cut fried potatoes. Desserts were excellent bread pudding and pecan tart (enhanced by a chocolate sorbet). Very good draught ale and a fine bottle of chilled muscadet. Anchors aweigh, indeed. The next day, HG traveled via Amtrak to New York City for a festive reunion with restaurateur daughter Victoria F. (With chef/husband Marc Meyer, Vicki owns and runs four splendid New York restaurants–Cookshop in Chelsea, Vic’s in NoHo, Rosie’s in the East Village, Hundred Acres in SoHo). HG met Vicki for a brunch at Maison Premiere, a charming restaurant in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. The restaurant specializes in oysters and on this Sunday night it was filled with hip, young people drinking the house absinthe and slurping away at oysters. Generous Vicki regaled her Dad with Raspberry Point oysters (from PEI ) and Long Island clams. As a surprise, Vicki ordered two oyster shooters: Oysters topped with Beluga caviar. Oh, my!! Drank very good Muscadet. After almost two hours of feasting, Vicki and HG were joined by SJ. More oysters (Chesapeakes), more clams, more wine and a savory brandade.Thanks, Vicki for your beauty, kindness and incomparable generosity. HG and SJ took off for Keens Steakhouse on Manhattan’s W. 36th Street. The venerable Keens (founded in 1885) is one of the most beautiful dining rooms in New York. Mutton chops, roast beef and steaks are the specialties. Carnivore heaven. Prices appear to be super expensive, but fear not: Portions are so huge that one shared entree easily satisfies two hearty eaters. HG and SJ shared crab cakes, prime rib, creamed spinach and Coffee Cantata (a dessert extravaganza of coffee ice cream, hot fudge and whipped cream. Also ordered the Prime RIb hash (topped with a perfectly fried egg). Had just a taste. It went into a doggy bag (as did much of the prime rib) for a next day meal at SJ’s household. Every aspect of the meal was great and the service was beyond compare. Prime ingredients cooked with straightforward professional simplicity. The day ended at the Airbnb apartment of SJ’s friend where the two guys drank good ale and watched Durant and Curry destroy the Cavaliers. Off to Providence the next morning with coffee and a bialy provided by SJ. A thoughtful gesture by SJ.

BSK Dinner Delights

April 21st, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

SJ, EM, Handsome Haru and Teru, Princess of Cuteness (and artistic creativity), are back safely in Brooklyn after their happy New Mexico visit. SJ and EM regaled HG/BSK with culinary delights but in their absence, BSK is performing the usual wonders in the kitchen. Dinner last night was an example. BSK made HG’s favorite comfort dish: Stracciatella with baby spinach and orzo. This is Italian with a BSK twist. HG first tasted stracciatella at The Italian Pavilion restaurant (long closed) on Manhattan’s posh Upper East Side. The dish was simple. Beaten eggs stirred into hot chicken broth . The trick was to add the eggs slowly so “strings” of egg formed in the broth. The Italian Pavillion served it with parmesan toast. The waiter adorned the dish with grated parmesan and black pepper flakes from a big grinder. Quite lush. BSK adds a variation: Baby spinach, orzo and lots of parmesan are stirred into the broth and egg mix. This gives the soup a filling heartiness equal to a main dish. Thus, HG/BSK had small bowls as starters (the remainder will be tomorrow’s lunch). Main dish was BSK’s version of chicken schnitzel (as served at Santa Fe’s Compound Restaurant). BSK flattened chicken thighs into thin paillards (BSK is skilled in the use of a rubber mallet). Dipped the chicken in beaten egg and then panko crumbs. Fried them in sizzling canola oil. Made a wonderful sauce of virgin olive oil, butter, white wine, lemon juice, dijon mustard and capers. Poured it over the crisp (not greasy) chicken. Sublime.

Chow Fun and Pasta Treats

March 31st, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

HG is a pasta lover and has happy memories of a number of pasta dishes consumed, with gusto, in a variety of locales. In Venice: Linguine a la Vongole (clam sauce); Linguine con Seppie (juicy cuttlefish with their own ink). Bologna: Spaghetti Bolognese (meat and tomato ragu). Bergamo: Pasta with shavings of white truffle. Belleville,N.J.: Cavatelli in a sauce of ricotta and tomatoes. Served at Belmont Tavern as a prelude to Stretch’s Chicken. North Arlington, N.J.: Fettuccine Alfredo prepared table side by the maitre d’ in a spacious (name forgotten) restaurant. And, of course, BSK’s pasta with pesto. BSK’s splendid carbonara and matchless Spaghetti a la Norma (eggplant). Linguine with Prince Edward Island mussels and clams. BSK has delighted HG with these wondrous dishes during their 54 years of co-habitation in New York, Montclair,N.J.; Golden and Denver, Colorado; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Vancouver, B.C; Fire Island; Nantucket and Prince Edward Island. Recently, HG has discovered a new pasta favorite at Santa Fe’s Saigon Cafe, home of splendid Vietnamese pho. At the suggestion of waitperson, Hua, HG switched from pho to Chow Fun. Broad noodles, cooked al dente, are stir fried in soybean oil with sliced onions, scallions, bean sprouts and steamed tofu. It is served with a plate of garnishes: Mint, flat leaf parsley, cilantro and jalapeno peppers. This is health conscious eating at its best.

Smetana

March 17th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Sour cream was omnipresent on the family table when HG was growing up in The Bronx. HG’s late Mom called it “smetana” (the Russian name). Though not observant of Jewish dietary restrictions, Mom confined sour cream to “dairy” (non-meat) dishes. Sour cream accompanied blintzes. Mom sneered at jam. Considered it an aberration of “galitzianers” (Galicans), Jews fixated on sweets. Kasha varnishkes (buckwheat groats and Italian “farfalle”) was topped with smetana as was cold beet borscht and “schav” (sorrel soup). Typical summer lunch was a bowl of sliced bananas (or seasonal strawberries, blueberries, blackberries) with ample smetana. There was a vegetable variant: chopped onions or scallions, cucumbers and radishes. Smetana covered bowls of cottage cheese or pot cheese (lots of kosher salt and black pepper). Mom always bought sour cream, cheese and butter at Daitch Dairy. Considered their products superior. HG/BSK continued that tradition when they lived on W. 79th in Manhattan and there was a Daitch Dairy on the southwest corner of Broadway (the cream cheese was epic and a ‘shmear” on a warm bialy turned morning coffee into a happy ritual). Sour cream plays a big role in fiery New Mexico cuisine. A scoop brings cool to a palate singed by chiles. HG/BSK like to top Goya black beans with chopped onion and sour cream. Mixed with Greek yogurt, sour cream accompanies a variety of BSK’s lamb, middle eastern and Indian dishes. HG is looking forward to Final Four and NBA playoffs. HG’s TV dinner will be small boiled potatoes covered with sour cream. Much salt and pepper, of course. Dill pickles. Icy vodka. Beer chasers. Smetana heaven.

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Thursday, March 23rd: Oni Sauce Pop-Up in Manhattan

March 16th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Yes, if you love down home, authentic Japanese cooking this is the culinary event of the year. Vicki Freeman and Marc Meyer are doing five pop up restaurants at 33 Great Jones Street right next door to their celebrated Vic’s Restaurant. Vicki thinks her sister-in-law Maiko Sakamoto aka Exquisite Maiko is the best Japanese chef in New York and HG agrees. There is no other chef HG/BSK would rather dine with. Maiko’s stand–Oni Sauce– is one of the stars at Brooklyn Smorgasburg and Vicki has been pleading with her to do a tasting menu of all the wonders she’s tasted at Maiko’s Brooklyn home. Maiko relented and now you’ve got your chance. Maiko and Oni Sauce will be doing a 12-course tasting menu on March 23. There are two sittings: 6:30 PM and 9:00 PM. Limited seating, so act fast. Expect among many other delights: Sake steamed clams. Fluke carpaccio. Mackerel tataki. Pork belly and daikon radish stew. Reserve at Eat@onisauce.com . Cost is $75 per person. Much cheaper than air fare to Tokyo or Osaka (plus hotels, etc.). You’ll leave the Oni Sauce experience with a happy, enlightened appreciation of what Japanese cuisine is all about.

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Choucroute At Home

March 12th, 2017 § 4 comments § permalink

Surprisingly, HG has never had good choucroute in Paris. For the uninitiated, choucroute is an Alsatian dish of simmered sauerkraut topped with a variety of piggy parts: Pork knuckle, smoked pork chops (kassler ripchen); frankfurters, bratwurst, thick cut bacon, sausage, etc. At Brasserie Boulingrin in Rheims, HG was occupied by butter drenched sole meuniere while a waiter walked by with a sumptuous, huge platter of choucroute. HG will certainly order it when (hopefully) HG/BSK get back to Rheims. Choucroute at two Paris stalwarts. Chez Jenny and Brasserie Balzar, lacks zest. Last night was chilly in New Mexico so dinner was hearty. BSK answered the dining challenge by constructing an estimable choucroute. BSK simmered the sauerkraut in a base of olive oil, sliced apples and white wine. Killer kraut. Cut up a Smithfield Farms Polish Kielbasa and let it heat with the kraut. Topped it with boiled all beef frankfurters. Accompanied the dish with small boiled potatoes. Three kinds of mustard on the table: Super hot Keen’s, Maille Dijon, Maille Whole Grain. Kosher dill pickles. Bass Ale. Let the winds blow. All is merriment in the HG/BSK household.

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Grits

February 8th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

HG loves grits. There was a time when you had to travel south to get a bowl of grits. Now grits making an appearance on menus all over the USA. Shrimp and grits (An HG favorite) is being devoured at a half dozen Santa Fe eateries. Best ever shrimp and grits were served at Chicago’s Soul Kitchen (closed, alas) and best cheese grits were found up north at the lovely Griswold Inn, Lyme, Conn. HG isn’t snobbish about grits. Enjoys them at Waffle House topped by eggs and flanked by crisp fried potatoes. Quaker Oats Instant Grits provide a quick and pleasant breakfast when adorned with a lump of butter, salt, pepper and a dash of Tabasco. (Don’t sneer. Try it). For some peculiar reason, grits are not sold on Prince Edward Island. Maybe they represent a challenge to the Island’s omnipresent and delicious mineral rich potatoes. So, when HG/BSK voyage to the family summer home on this serene and beautiful Canadian isle, HG/BSK always pack a few bags of Geechie Boy Mill white grits. SJ, a guy who knows what’s good, gifts his parents with this splendid product. Geechie calls its product “Stone Ground Goodness.” Accurate. These grits ascend to heaven when topped by BSK’s perfect poached eggs.

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Broadway

January 16th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Here’s some New York nostalgia: In HG’s younger New York days, Broadway (between 42nd and 57th Streets) was one of the great eating thoroughfares. HG has written memories of that Broadway (When The Great White Way Was Appetizing and The Roast Beef Sandwiches of YesteryearR). Just off Broadway, on Seventh Avenue, was Heartburn Heaven–the Stage and Carnegie Delicatessens, pastrami purveyors. And, there was the Brass Rail and its fabulous “French Dip” roast beef sandwiches. Sadly, all are gone and so has old fashioned New York, Jewish-influenced restaurant cooking. Turf, Jack Dempsey’s and Lindy’s served sublime cheesecake. Now, if you want traditional high cal New York cheesecake you’ve got to to Brooklyn and Junior’s on Flatbush Avenue. And breaking with the trend, Frankel’s, a new Jewish-style appetizing and deli, has opened up in Greenpoint. Yes, Brooklyn is keeping some of those old time tastes alive.

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