Latkes: SJ vs Lesley R.

December 30th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Potato latkes are one of the world’s wonder foods. These lush potato pancakes are splendid with pot roast or beef stew. As they are cooked in plentiful oil, latkes are associated with the Jewish holiday of Chanukah. HG is not a celebrant of the holiday. Believes it has become important due to its proximity to Christmas. (“And, for our Jewish friends, Happy Chanukah!!”). Nevertheless, it is a good excuse to eat an abundance of tasty latkes. On HG/BSK’s last night in Rhody, Brilliant Daughter Lesley R., made a big batch of latkes and served them with sour cream and the last of Zabar’s red salmon caviar. Happy. Happy. In year’s past, SJ made the latkes. With the esteemed latke chef in Tokyo, Lesley R. had the burden. Lesley’s version resembled Swiss Rosti. Thin, very crisp pancakes. Lovely balance with the accompaniments (and HG’s vodka, of course). SJ’s version combined crisp exteriors with moist potato/onion interiors. Which were better? Both were sublime and transported the humble spud to higher realms.

Sweet Things

December 28th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

No, HG is not referring to HG’s glorious, beautiful granddaughters, Teru F., Sofia and Arianna R. The reference is (no surprise) to matters culinary. This Christmas holiday at the R. home in Rhode Island, HG is being deluged (happily) with cookies, cakes, pies and desserts. In the morning there are perfect companions for mugs of steaming coffee: Italian Panettone and Jewish Babka. Afternoon tea is enhanced by cookies baked by Lesley and Massimo R.’s neighbors. There are wonderful choices for dinner desserts. Magnificent Key Lime Pie baked by Raphie, a young neighbor. (Thoughtfully, he provides an ample amount of lush whipped cream). Lucy, the R.’s once-a-week housekeeper, calls on her Portuguese heritage (she’s from the Azores) and gifts the family with a giant mound of home made Flan. This is the best Flan ever. Rather than the smooth, almost gelatin-like nature of most flans, this flan has a somewhat grainy texture that adds a toothsome quality to its not-too-sweet taste. Yes, HG is having a high calorie time in Rhody.

Robust. Delicious. Sublime.

December 27th, 2017 § 2 comments § permalink

HG has run out of adjectives. It is silly to try to label a work of art. You’ve got to look at it, hear it, experience it. In terms of food, taste rules. For Christmas dinner, Lesley and Massimo R. collaborated in producing a work of art that met the highest standards of of taste and visual appeal. The prime ingredient was veal shanks–osso buco. Lesley simmered big, meaty shanks in a mix of carrots, celery, onions, garlic, tomatoes, red wine and chicken stock. The pot bubbled gently for some hours until the shanks were fall off the bone tender and the sauce had thickened into a pungent and fragrant essence. Meanwhile, Massimo gave painstaking attention to a pot of arborio rice, creating a risotto that was exemplary in texture, fragrance and lushness. As a side, Lesley R. braised fennel in butter and stock. The suave licorice taste of the vegetable proved to be a worthy counterpoint to the veal and risotto. Generous Massimo decanted wonderful Italian wines: Barolo and Barbaresco. HG will say no more. Don’t want you to go mad with envy.

Think Yiddish, Dress British

December 27th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

That was the slogan on Madison Avenue during HG’s heyday as a New York/New Jersey public relations biggie during the 60’s and 70’s. HG no longer dresses British. Sweatpants and hoodies are more HG’s style. But, HG sure likes to eat Yiddish. Noo Yawk provided the goodies for the HG/BSK and R. family traditional smoked fish feast (a riff on the Italian Seven Fishes tradition) on Christmas Eve. Zabar’s provided red salmon caviar, potato salad, cole slaw and a Jewish rye bread. Russ & Daughters was the source for Nova Scotia (Gaspe Bay) smoked salmon, sable, pastrami cured smoked salmon, tobiko roe, horseradish cream cheese, scallion cream cheese and (a bow to carnivores) chopped liver. Kossar’s, one of the last traditional Jewish bakeries, sent bagels, bialys, onion rolls and a cinnamon babka cake. Sliced onions, olives, sour cream, pickles, capers and lemon wedges were on the table. Lesley R. made yummy blinis and crepes for the caviar and sour cream. Plus a celeriac slaw. Vodka and beer chasers for HG. Chilled white wine for the sensible family members. Though Face Time helped, SJ, Exquisite Maiko, Handsome Haru and Super Cute Teru, were much missed.

New England Delights

December 25th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

There is something magical about New England at Christmas time. The light. The domestic architecture (much reaching back to earlier centuries). The decorations that don’t rely upon plastics. And, of course, the many feasts of the HG family. We started with a New York night in Rhode Island. Zabar’s pastrami, corned beef, cole slaw and potato salad. Plus authentic Jewish rye bread. Lesley R.provided pickles, Russian dressing and her own splendid cole slaw. Using an electric press (for Cubano sandwiches), Gifted Daughter Lesley made toothsome Reubens with an appropriate balance of corned beef, sauerkraut, swiss cheese and Russian dressing. HG preceded the meal with vodka, moved on to beer, drank Beaujolais Nouveau with cinnamon babka from Kossar’s Bakery in New York. Sipped grappa while watching “Kedi”, the endearing documentary about the cats of Istanbul. Pip, the super smart R. dog, watched the film with the family group. When will they do a film about the doggies of Rhode Island, she barked softly?

The next day HG reveled in Rhode Island’s blending of many cultures: Portuguese, South American, Italian, French, Lebanese, Syrian, Asian. HG/BSK and the R. family, decided to focus specifically on Lebanese, Portuguese and Peruvian Food. A morning visit to Fall River, Mass. (short drive from Rhode Island). Fall River was once a center of textile manufacturing and scores of the old mills have been retrofitted for new uses. It’s a great foodie town. First stop in Fall River was Sam’s Bakery. This is a tiny, busy spot that prepares spectacular Lebanese sandwiches. A fresh from the oven pita is folded over a savory spread: spinach and cheese; eggplant; lamb; etc., etc. Extraordinary tastes. Then on to Portugalia. This is a market that occupies the refurbished first floor of an old mill. It is vast, beautifully organized and a wonderland of Portuguese food. Probably the nation’s best source for chourico, linguica, salt cod, tinned sardines and tuna. Plus Marcona almonds, fava beans, Portuguese cheeses and breads. The wine selection is large with many values. As expected, there is a huge variety of Ports. Lot of tempting sweets including crystallized fruits (a BSK fave). HG/BSK left Portugalia with many bags of good things. Alas, HG did not indulge, as he did the year before, in the Chop Suey sandwich that still lingers on at a few of Fall River’s old time Chinese restaurants. However, maintaining a tasty tradition, dinner was at Los Andes, a Peruvian restaurant in Providence. HG has written about Los Andes many times. Check the HG archive for “Los Andes Happiness”, Dec. 30, 2016. The experience depicted was repeated with the same wonderful results.

Rhode Island Culinary Epic

December 23rd, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

HG doesn’t want to exaggerate. However, HG wishes to state, without reservation, that last night was the ultimate culinary highlight of HG’s long and greedy life. It began at Bristol Oyster Bar, a beautiful restaurant on Hope Street in Bristol, Rhode Island. It is owned by Peter Sebring, a man who has spent his life fishing and farming oysters in Narragansett Bay. His salt water passion and knowledge is evident in the fresh shucked oyster platters at his restaurant. HG/BSK, Gifted Daughter Lesley R. and Brilliant Granddaughter Arianna R., arrived at the oyster bar at 5PM to take advantage of the “buck a shuck” offering. That’s right. Dollar an oyster. The hungry quartet knocked off dozens of oysters on ice lined platters. Plus excellent scallop ceviche. Bottle of very good Muscadet. HG was astonished. The oysters, especially the East Beach Blondes, were the best HG ever tasted. Better than Prince Edward Island’s Malpeques or the Rollo Bay gems. Better than the Normandy oysters at Le Stella brasserie in Paris. Back to the R. home in Riverside. A bit of Tito’s Vodka for HG and then a wonderful pasta. Pappardelle with porcini and cremini mushrooms. A Lesley triumph. Lush and balanced. Drank Beaujolais Nouveau. Then came superb taleggio and pecorino. Slices of ripe pear. Fig jam. A robust Cotes du Rhone red. HG sipped an after dinner grappa. Had a Face Time visit with birthday boy SJ and adorable Teru. Food. Family. Love. A shining night during a dark period of history.

A Fortunate Friendship

December 22nd, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

HG/BSK are lucky to have a warm friendship with the remarkable Anthony and Claudia C. As HG has noted before, Anthony is the brilliant manager of a mutual fund that has provided happy returns for investors. Claudia is a journalist, author and incisive radio interviewer. Though American citizens, they remain indomitably English (though Claudia comes from 100% Irish stock). Anthony scoffs, but he is an ornament of the nobility with a patrician education and connections (Oxford graduate and member of Boodles, a very selective gentlemen’s club). Claudia embodies her family’s theatrical traditions and is ebullient, eccentric, stimulating and an enemy of boredom and complacency. A. and C. are fun, generous and progressive. And, kind. For example: They are taking care of Toby, The Wonder Dog, while HG/BSK enjoy family Christmas in Rhode Island. Toby is frolicking with Boodles and Genghis, their endearing dogs. Joyous Toby. The C. log home, high on a mountain slope in Evergreen, Co., is a dream vision of a Colorado home. Huge windows in rooms of lofty ceilings provide panoramic views of mountain ranges, snow covered peaks. Sunsets are an explosion of color. Though constructed of logs, the home is not rustic. There are ancestral portraits. Many artifacts from the C.’s many years in Japan, China and Singapore. Bedrooms of regal luxury. A pool and hot tub regulated by an electronically controlled cover and heating system. Extraordinary. For their evening stay in C. paradise, Claudia prepared a sumptuous dinner. HG overindulged in after dinner sipping of a rare, flavorful single malt Scotch whisky, Laphroaig “Triple Wood.” Blissful sleep on a superb mattress. Thank you, dear friends.

Fast and Simple Flavors of India

December 18th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Yes, we’ve got a President who pushes an “America First” nationalism program that encompasses misogyny, racism and blatant bigotry. However, while Der Trumperer eats his well done steak and pushes his “make the rich richer tax program,” most Americans abandon DT’s extreme nationalism in the kitchen. HG, like most folks, can now obtain the ingredients for Indian, Thai, Chinese and Japanese in local supermarkets (as well as the Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s chains). Ingredients for Mexican, Spanish, Italian and Jewish cuisine are taken for granted. Tonight’s HG/BSK dinner was Indian. Sautéed spinach and tomatoes with paneer (Indian cheese). BSK used the recipe from the always reliable “Vij’s At Home” cookbook. HG took a shortcut. Heated Tasty Bite (very good no chemicals brand) Bengal Lentils. Also heated a can of Trader Joe’s Matar Paneer (a North Indian curry). Condiments included Bedekar Mango Chilli Pickle, Patak’s Indian Style Mango Pickle and Patak’s Major Gray Chutney. Naan bread (Whole Foods). Raita (Greek yogurt with chopped scallions and sliced radishes). Salt peanuts for garnish. Icy ale for HG, Cotes du Rhone red wine for BSK. Lebanese halvah for dessert. Vij has a recipe for “halwa” composed of carrots, green cardamom seeds and brown sugar. No thanks. HG will go with the Middle East on this dessert.

Heavenly Congee

December 16th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

HG has mentioned Ottogi instant rice porridge (“congee” or “jook”) in a number of posts. That’s because congee ranks high among HG’s choices for “comfort food.” Yes, Ottogi is good but it can’t compare to the congee BSK prepared from scratch last night utilizing the Instant Pot. BSK’s congee raised the bar. Flavorful. Rich. Totally satisfying. BSK mixed cooked basmati rice with Trader Joe’s Free Range Chicken Broth. Lots of garlic and ginger. Some squirts of Sriracha to create an undertone of heat. Shredded cooked chicken breast. Garnishes of chopped scallions and salt peanuts. (HG added a bit sesame oil and soy sauce). The congee was so rich that it went nicely with a bottle of fruity red wine. HG and BSK each ate two big bowls. Thankfully, there was enough left over for a hearty breakfast.

Olé Olé Olé

December 12th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

All the people who assist HG/BSK in keeping their New Mexico compound safe, clean, verdant and orderly are Latino. Most have relatives in Mexico and have retained their affection for the culture of that country. HG/BSK’s group are hardworking folk with lots of energy and skills. HG grew up at a time when Mexicans were characterized as lazy. There were cheap little artifacts (possibly manufactured in Japan) that showed a Mexican (cactus in the background) snoozing under a giant sombrero. When asked to do something, the Mexican (a product of racist fantasy) would reply: “Mañana, Mañana.” Of course, this sort of hate and denigration has not disappeared from the Land of the Brave, Free and Racist. Witness Der Trumperer and The Great Wall designed to keep out Mexican drug dealers, rapers and murderers. In the meantime, HG enjoys and respects HG/BSK’s latino and Latina helpers and friends. And, here’s a grace note. Tonight, HG/BSK dined on the best pork tamales in the world gifted by a Latina friend. Some weeks ago, the woman presented HG with a big pot of home made menudo, the Mexican tripe and chile stew that is an HG addiction. Viva Mexico y Nuevo Mexico!!!!