Epic Atlanta Wedding

June 6th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Last weekend, HG nephew Paul Freeman and wife Vicki celebrated the marriage of their youngest daughter, Staci, to Jack Spangler. The festivities were epic. Made coronations and state dinners look a bit shabby. The site was the St. Regis Hotel in the stylish Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta. Paul, a daring and successful real estate developer, built (and sold) the luxurious hotel (site of one of Atlanta’s best restaurants). Floors of condominiums (also developed by Paul) top the hotel. Paul and Vicki occupy the entire 25th floor. The apartment is a virtual European palazzo. with glorious views of the entire city. (Superlatives don’t come close to describing the space, wine storage, comfort and luxury). And, they have the advantages of the hotel’s pool and spa. Plus room service, HG presumes. Atlanta’s airport is huge. However, due to Paul’s planning, HG/BSK’s arrival was flawless as HG/BSK were whisked to the wedding rehearsal dinner hosted by the Spangler family. Site was a brewery and some 100 guests feasted on down-home barbecue, macaroni and cheese, etc. HG/BSK slept peacefully in a royally appointed guest bedroom in the Paul/Vicki palazzo. Pleasant coffee and yogurt breakfast. Then off to an hour of cycling and weight exercise in the hotel fitness center. Among the pre-wedding activities: Makeup professional enhanced the faces of the female wedding guests; family photos; signing of traditional Jewish documents outlining the responsibilities of the marital couple. The wedding itself was a spectacle. Magnificent floral arrangements. Beautifully decorated “chupah” (the arch that houses the exchange of vows and Rabbinical invocations). Given the ecumenical nature of the event, a Priest also participated. Staci, of course, looked beautiful. Jack, a handsome young man, was properly serious. Most moving moment: Paul wiping away tears of emotion as he walked Staci to the “chupah.” HG was provided with a vodka on the rocks since the wedding took place at HG’s usual cocktail hour. Following the ceremonies, folks descended upon a buffet of sushi and sashimi. Waitpersons dispensed very good beluga caviar. The beverage, naturally, was champagne. Then, into the ballroom for dinner, music and dancing. Once more, the flowers and lights were dazzling. Dinner was served from a buffet and the choices were happy ones. Sea bass. Vegetarian. Cold seafood. Lobster. Prime rib. HG drank much white wine and relished the cold seafood. Went back for seconds (and thirds) for oysters, shrimp and crab claws. HG’s dream dinner. Many joyous moments for HG/BSK. Happy reunions with HG’s niece, Melanie, and husband, Rick; HG niece Laurie, and husband, Bob; HG cousin, Freeman Shore. Plus grand-nephew, Adam Freeman and family. Adam has turned into a successful businessman with a loving family. A real “mensch.” Also enjoyed chatting with Lianne, P. and V.’s eldest daughter, and her male companion. No, HG wasn’t the oldest person in the room. That was Millie West, 100, Vicki’s Mom. Tablemates included HG daughter, Victoria Freeman, and husband, Marc Meyer (the renowned New York restaurateurs approved the cuisine); HG’s Boston nephew, Jonathan Katz (a successful real estate owner/manager), wife, Barbara, and children, Nicola and Alexander. Barbara is a particular favorite of HG/BSK (and the Riva family of Rhode Island). Barbara is svelte, ageless. Her taste is flawless. Always dressed, with restraint, in designer fashion. What makes her both lovable and annoying is the fact that she can consume a lot of food and not gain an ounce. To the delight and bemusement of the dinner group, Barbara secured from the buffet an 18-inch rib bone which she gnawed happily “It’s the best part,” she said. The music rocked. Back up singers (and dancers) were lovely and talented. Wedding guests danced with abandon. The traditional hora (to Hava Nagilah) was spirited. To sum up: A wonderful spirited and spiritual event, planned, orchestrated and choreographed with great attention to detail by Paul and Vicki. (the party extended into the next day with a delicious brunch). A costly affair, yes, but it was much more than that. It exemplified Paul and Vicki’s generosity and hospitality; their love of family; their commitment to Jewish life in the United States and Israel; their belief in marriage. And, of course, they value friendship. So, thank you, Paul and Vicki. HG/BSK send you our love and appreciation.

Oysters!!

June 5th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

An ornament of Rhode Island is the Bristol Oyster Bar in the beautiful, historic town of Bristol (home of the oldest Fourth of July Parade). It occupies an old bank building and its 4 to 6PM “buck a shuck” event is a joy for oyster lovers. Very hungry HG/BSK and brainy and beautiful granddaughter Arianna R. arrived to feast. HG ordered 42 oysters from Rhody bays and sea shores. Plus, six littleneck clams. Wow. The bivavles were chilled nicely, shucked expertly and full of briny oceanic flavor. These were the best American late spring/early summer oysters HG ever tasted. Prince Edward Island oysters (which HG/BSK will devour when they arrive at their oceanfront paradise next week) are harvested in northern climes and are delicious in all seasons. Clams, of course, are year-rounders and Rhody clams are the best. Drank a nice bottle of Muscadet. Went on to pork belly confit (splendid!!) with pickled vegetables and waffle potato crisps. Feta cheese and tomato mixed salad. Desserts were bread pudding and cheesecake, Both very good. HG/BSK drank a glass of favorite merlot: The Velvet Devil from Washington State. Hey, life’s good.

Chonquing House. Busy At Last.

June 4th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

No Rhode Island visit by HG is complete without a meal at Chonquing House, the very good Szechuan restaurant. HG/BSK began eating at Chonquing when it was located in a bleak retail strip in Seekonk, MA. HG loved the food (BSK was restrained in her enthusiasm). HG always worried about Chonquing’s future because the restaurant was inevitably empty. Sometime last year, Chonquing moved into a larger and more elaborate space on Wickenden Street (the location of a number of restaurants) in Providence. HG/BSK and the R. family dined there last year. Food was excellent. Customers sparse. Once more, HG was anxious. Decided to eat there en famille last night. Learned (happily) that the restaurant was still in business. Reservation was 7:30. Restaurant was jammed, boiling with happy customers. And, more kept pouring in. Seated at a nice round table, the group sipped good Rhode Island IPA and shared a dish of wontons in hot chile oil. And, that was it for one hour. Obviously, the kitchen was overwhelmed. When the food arrived it was sensational. Sliced fish in wine sauce. Cumin lamb. Ma Po Tofu. Family Style Tofu. String beans with pickled vegetables. Spicy fried chicken. Eggplant in garlic sauce. There may have been more, but HG didn’t take notes. Happy time. Keep those woks sizzling, Chonquing.

Tony’s Seafood

June 2nd, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Tony’s Seafood in Seekonk, Ma. (just over the border from Rhody) is one of the great seafood retailers. Sparkling fresh fish, shellfish and crustaceans. Fine prepared sauces and salads. In addition, there is a carefully curated selection of wines, pastas and condiments. The owners are a Sicilian fisherman family that arrived in Rhode Island in the 1900s. The retail store opened in 1947 followed by a thriving wholesale operation. Family owned. Family operated. Service is warm, friendly and informative. For the last days, BSK and gifted daughter Lesley R. have been building meals around Tony’s sea scallops. They are big. Super fresh and juicy. (HG has posted about their use in a savory chowder). Besides the chowder, HG/BSK and the R. family have enjoyed sauteed scallops atop fresh greens and accompanied by creamy polenta. Also, in a pasta enriched by fish stock, onions, garlic and herbs. Yes, HG/BSK can obtain tasty scallops harvested off the Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia shores. And, in Santa Fe, Whole Foods carries tasty (super, super expensive) sea scallops. But, none of these bivalves compares to Tony’s wonders.

Ups and Down in Rhody

June 1st, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Ups and down dining in Riverside, Rhode Island. A big up was dinner prepared by Lesley R. (with some modest sous chef aid from BSK). The feature was a steaming bowl of Fregola Sarda, a Sardinian pasta. Lesley R. added some white wine to the Fregola and cooked it with a variety of good things. Chunks of swordfish (nicely underdone). Upscale jarred Italian tuna. Onions. Garlic (plentiful). Hot pepper. Black olives. Tomatoes and lots of chopped mint and basil. Olive oil was added at the table. Not familiar with Fregola? Semolina flour is formed into tiny balls and toasted. When cooked, it has a flavor reminiscent of kasha (buckwheat groats). The shape is akin to Israeli couscous but is much more robust. Sardinians often use Fregola in a soup/stew of clams, tomatoes, garlic, etc. HG/BSK cooked this at their Prince Edward Island paradise using Island quahogs from By the Bay Fish Mart in St. Peters, PEI. Will repeat the lusty dish this summer. The down of the Rhody day was HG’s lunch at the Blount Seafood truck near the Riverside carrousel. Normally delicious, HG suffered this visit with a heavy-crusted, flavorless fried fish. Unpleasant New England clam chowder (glutinous stuff with no brine, mini amount of clams and lots of potatoes). BSK enjoyed her fried clams and French fries. Go figure. HG had a splendid lobster roll (melted butter and no mayonnaise) at Blount last year. Will try again.

Unchanging Keens

June 1st, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

HG/BSK, during HG/BSK’s New York years, relished four landmark historic restaurant interiors. Luchow’s (long closed). Brooklyn’s Gage & Tollner’s (long closed). Plaza Hotel’s Oak Room restaurant and bar (closed except for special events). And, Keens Chop House. Still open with beautiful interior unchanged. Walls and ceiling filled with Church Warden pipes. Traditional painting of nude woman over the bar. Soft, flattering lighting. So, HG/BSK lunched at Keens with SJ and HG daughter Victoria before boarding a train for Providence. Started with a cold platter of oysters, clams, shrimp and lobster. All perfect. Drank sparkling Prosecco. Vicki had a big dish of grilled vegetables. BSK’s choice was a steak salad. SJ and HG shared the signature mutton chop with mashed potatoes and creamed spinach. (crock of fiery English mustard as a condiment). HG drank some good cabernet sauvignon. Lovely New York meal. As a grace note, one of the Keens’ managers, picked up the wine tab. It was a nod to the birthday lady. His daughter works at Shuka, Vicki and husband Marc’s Soho middle eastern restaurant. If HG remains mobile, the hungry fellow will want to return to Keens one day for English cut roast prime rib (a BSK fave).

Wu’s is a Wow (As Is The Birthday Girl!)

May 30th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

HG’s daughter Victoria continued to generously captivate our palates. The Shuka graduation celebration dinner was an extravaganza. Not only was the food stupendous (thanks, chef Ayesha) but Vicki brought SJ from Tokyo. Happy, happy surprise. The next night Was Vicki’s fabulous birthday banquet at Wu’s Wonton King on East Broadway. Vicki’s family, friends and business colleagues (30 in all) gathered around three round tables and, curated by Vicki and husband, Marc, had one of the great Chinese banquets of all time. The parade dish was an enormous snow crab. It was displayed live before being steamed and crisply fried with juicy, full-of-flavor crab meat tucked away in the shells. HG usually finds snow crab tasteless. Not this big boy. Lush. More seafood followed. Tender, crisp fried squid and large prawns. Steamed flounder in a rice wine and garlic sauce. Baby shrimp with softly scrambled eggs. Wonderful wok sauteed chicken. Eggplant. String beans. Chinese greens and broccoli. Meal ended with noodles (to ensure longevity). Much superior white wine and cold beer was drunk. Happiness reigned. (HG probably didn’t mention all the dishes served. HG was so busy eating, aided by Marc, that HG couldn’t take notes). Wu’s exterior is bleak. But, the inside is bright and cheery. Service is impeccable. Thanks, Vicki and Marc, for introducing us to the wonders of Wu’s.

Shuka Celebration. SJ Surprise

May 30th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

It was a magical moment. Startling. Graduation celebration party was at Shuka, the extraordinary middle eastern restaurant in New York’s Soho. Shuka is part of the mini-dining empire of HG’s daughter, Victoria and her husband, Marc, the farm-to-table pioneer and celebrated chef. After warm greetings from Victoria, a stylish gentleman with a short white beard and fashionable greying hair strolled in. That can’t be HG/BSK’s son, Sj. He’s in Tokyo. But, yes, it is SJ. In person. Joy overflowed. Victoria decided that family celebration and her 60th Birthday party (the next night) would not be complete without SJ. So, with her abundant generosity, she arranged and paid for it all in deep secrecy. Yes, Vicki is incomparable. And, so was the feast. Mezze: Crisp chickpeas. Spiced olives. Dates. Marinated Kohlrabi. Tarasalmata. Small plates and vegetables: Crispy cauliflower. Zaatar fried potatoes. Roasted carrots, Asparagus.. Beets. Salads. Dips: Whipped feta with pistachios.. Hummus. Fried Halloumi (fried cheese balls). And, then kebabs galore. Shrimp. Chicken. Steak. Lamb. Swordfish. For HG, the lushest accompaniment was Labne, the thick yogurt made every morning by Shuka’s wonder chef, Ayesha. Gracious Ayesha, whose very presence is nourishing, came to the table for much-merited applause. Lesley and Massimo had arranged that they would pay for the meal. Not on the cuff. But, as usual, Vicki wouldn’t accept payment. Massimo was allowed to leave a tip. The food was celestial. SJ’s merry presence was life-enhancing. Thanks, Vicki. And, Ayesha.

Sofia Graduates

May 28th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

May 20th was graduation day. Perfect weather. Sunny. Slight breeze. The ceremonies and the crowd of happy parents, siblings, friends, alumni, etc. were handled graciously and efficiently. Columbia knows how to to do things right. HG was placed in a comfortable wheelchair and a pleasant member of the Columbia grounds staff wheeled HG to HG’s seat. BSK; Lesley, Massimo and Arianna R. all looked stylish. A student band played rousing Dixieland to usher the grads to their section. Sofia R.looked smashing in her sky blue cap and gown (Columbia colors). Speeches were short and eloquent. Sofia’s family cheered as Sofia received her diploma and it was announced that she was graduating with honors—Summa Cam Laude and Phi Beta Kappa. Walked to a pizza brunch at Marlowe’s on Broadway. Toasted the grad with chilled Provencal rose. In the evening, the group dined at Ahwadh, a very good Indian restaurant on Broadway. The group of eight (Sofia’s boyfriend, and her longtime Rhody pal and neighbor, Kristen) joined us. Appetites were ferocious. Vegetarian dishes: Eggplant. Okra. Lentil dal. Spinach with paneer (indian cheese). Breads: Onion kulcha, Papadums: Meats and chicken: A lusty variety of goat, lamb and chicken. Some were stewed. Some were grilled. All delicious. Drank chilled rose and Taj Mahal beer. Mint and fiery chili condiments. Plus more than a dozen dishes that HG hasn’t mentioned. Many things were cooked Murgh style which means long simmering in special pots. Produced savory results.

Zabar’s Feast

May 26th, 2019 § 2 comments § permalink

Arrived in New York for graduation festivities. Arianna R., HG/BSK’s beautiful and brainy granddaughter received her MBA a week earlier in Providence. Equally brainy and beautiful granddaughter, Sofia, was slated to get her BA from Columbia (Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa) in graduation ceremonies on Monday. Longtime pals, Peter and Susan H., made their spacious Riverside Drive available for the Freeman and R. family (P. and H. were away visiting their daughter, her husband, and a new baby). A very gracious and generous act (typical of P. and S.). Sofia was off to Zabar’s, the long time West Side culinary institution. Came back with an overwhelming feast of Jewish delicacies. Nova Scotia smoked salmon. Sable (best ever). Whitefish salad. Scallion cream cheese. Potato salad. Coleslaw. Pickles. Olives. Onions. Capers. Corned beef. Pastrami. Zabar’s mustard. Bialys. Traditional Jewish rye bread. A meal full of joy and memories as the feast and the H. apartment evoked HG/BSK’s days on the West Side some 47 years ago.