Victoria Feasts

January 6th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

A highlight of HG/BSK’s holiday in Brooklyn/New York/ Rhode Island was a feast hosted by Restaurateur Daughter Victoria (Vicki) at her eponymous Italian restaurant, Vic’s, on Great Jones Street. Vic’s is one of Vicki’s four New York restaurants (the others are Cookshop, Rosie’s and Hundred Acres). Hillary Sterling is the chef at Vic’s and she turns out wonderful, creative, Italian food with an emphasis on local, very fresh ingredients. Comfortably seated in the sparkling dining room, HG/BSK and SJ were regaled with vegetable starters: Brussell sprouts with anchovies,chiles and lemon; squash with schmaltz (chicken fat), golden raisins and garlic; cauliflower with hazelnuts, harissa and bread crumbs. These were dishes that could turn a carnivore into a vegetarian. The veggies were followed by baby squid with pickled peppers (a glorious take on the classic Rhode Island dish) and a roasted duck leg. The pasta tasting course was original: Borsa (“little purses” filled with ricotta; Mafaldi; Tortellini; Spaghetti with clams and green chiles. Wow !! Much splendid wine and a grappa to finish. The next day, HG met Vicki for their traditional three hour holiday lunch at Balthazar. The duo had much to talk about as they dug into a giant plateau de fruits de mer: Oysters, clams, mussels, shrimp, ceviche, lobster. Fabulous. Bottles of Balthazar’s very good Muscadet. Vicki made a prior arrangement with Balthazar to pay the bill and then sent HG back to Brooklyn via Uber. Vicki, you are generosity personified.


Future Feasting

December 11th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

Chanukah. Christmas. Kwanza. Yes, it’s holiday time. Won’t let Trumpery put a damper on family fun and feasting. HG/BSK will be in Providence (and three days in New York). Alas, Toby, The Wonder Dog, will be in in New Mexico. But, happily he will be in the loving care of Vicki, our house sitter, and her dog, a Toby buddy. In New York, HG will have his annual (Is this the sixth?) holiday lunch with restaurateur daughter Victoria (Rosie’s, Vic’s, Hundred Acres, Cookshop). It will feature fruits de mer and Muscadet at Balthazar. In Brooklyn, HG/BSK will celebrate SJ’s birthday at Mister Hotpot with Exquisite Maiko, Handsome Haru and Teru, the little queen of cuteness. In Providence, HG will lure gifted and busy daughter, Lesley, to a big time a deux feast of oysters and Rhode Island clams at Hemenway’s. A visit to HG’s favorite Szechuan restaurant (In Seatucket, of all places) is obligatory. There may be a Peruvian feast in the offing. And, on Christmas Eve (and Christmas morning) there will be blini, caviar, smoked salmon, potato pancakes, cream cheese, sable, herring, etc. SJ is an early standby on the Russ & Daughters line on Christmas Eve day and motors these wonders to the Providence table. Massimo R., HG/BSK’s much loved son-in-law, will adorn the holiday dinner table with great cheese, bread and wine. And, what will be the feast on Christmas Day? Turkey, brisket, roast beef, osso bucco? Whatever. Be assured. Lesley will make it memorable.


Annual Victoria Lunch

December 18th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

Every year at Christmas season HG meets restaurateur daughter Victoria for lunch. (The tradition started five years ago.) Vicki manages to obtain a comfortable corner table for two at Balthazar. This is no mean feat since the French style brasserie is preposterously busy during the holiday period, even packed at the usual “dead’ hours like 4PM. HG usually sees Vicki at one of the four restaurants she runs with husband/chef/partner Marc Meyer (Cookshop, Hundred Acres, Vic’s, Rosie’s). This means HG and Vicki don’t have the opportunity to review life, voice opinions, etc.. HG has to share Vicki with customers, chefs, waitpersons, etc. Thus, the Balthazar lunch. As usual, the duo dove into a mammoth plateau de fruits de mer–oysters, clams, mussels, shrimp, lobster, ceviche. Superb, fresh-from-the-sea quality. Downed two carafes of the house Muscadet. Finished with creme brûlée and a (comped) wedge of cheesecake. Lunch began at 1:30. Finished at 4:30. Three hours of delightful father-and-daugher companionship. Lucky HG. One would think that after this briny marathon, HG would be through with food for the day. One would be wrong. At 8PM, HG/BSK, EM, Handsome Haru and super cute Teru were knocking off big bowls of ramen at Naruto Ramen on Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood. The special “Naruto Ramen” is a soy broth based noodle soup with a hard boiled egg, roast pork, scallions, dried seaweed, fish cake and bean spouts. A hearty dish, indeed. There was also a platter of very good gyoza and some fried rice (for Teru). Surprise of the night: Japanese pomme frites. The spice dusted French fries were the best HG has ever tasted (BSK agreed). They were served with a fiery dip. HG wondered: “Where have these Asian spuds been hiding all these years?” HG drank some icy sake: “Ozeki One Cup.” BSK drank Sapporo draft beer. Great casual dining.


Holiday Feasting (Day Four)

December 27th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

This was a day of full time New York fressing for HG. Late awakening after SJ’s rousing Uzbek grand bouffe birthday party. HG/BSK had a Vietnamese brunch at Nam Son on Grand Street. Cha Gio, pork and vegetable spring rolls wrapped in lettuce and mint. Dipped in tangy fish sauce. Some crunchy salads topped with sliced shrimp and shredded chicken. HG/BSK separated. BSK went off to Brooklyn to frolic with grandson Haru and HG stayed at table with a big bowl of exceptional pho topped with tender, raw top sirloin. A pleasant long walk to Soho pausing at shops and galleries. An unexpected encounter. HG was wearing his ankle length Issey Miyake fur collared down coat, an imposing garment. A young, lively bearded chap approached. “That coat! That coat! I must take your picture.” It was Mordechai, the men’s style authority whose blog, Mister Mort, often features colorfully dressed old guys. He and SJ are friends. It was a pleasant coincidence. HG arrived at jam packed Balthazar, the big brasserie that far outperforms the brasseries of Paris. HG was seated with Restaurateur Daughter Victoria and her half brother, Harry Segal, a talented man who much resembles his brilliant, late father, Fred Segal, HG’s one time close friend. Victoria ordered a huge plateau de fruits de mer, a Balthazar specialty. HG couldn’t do it full justice but he did mange to knock off some oysters, crab, clams and shrimp. Plus glasses of the good house Muscadet. After a quick hotel shower, HG was picked up by the SJ family and all were off to Congee Village on Bowery for a dinner of congee with gingko nuts, fried squid; crisp skinned soy chicken; steamed tofu with shrimp, sliced fish, vegetables; pea shoots; crisp Hong Kong noodles. Chinatown cuisine at its best.


Holiday Feasting

December 22nd, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

HG/BSK are going east for the traditional feasting and gifting jamboree with their joyous Anglo-Irish-Canadian-American-Italian-Jewish-Japanese family (Quick! Please have eligibles marry an African-American and a Latino so we can complete our Rainbow Coalition). Festivities will start in New York a few days before Christmas where HG/BSK will dine at Vic’s, the much-lauded new restaurant venture of HG’s daughter, Restaurateur Victoria F. Scheduled is a dim sum feast at Dim Sum Go Go in Chinatown with the SJ family (and Victoria). Also on schedule is an Uzbekistan Grand Bouffe in Queens celebrating SJ’s birthday. And, while BSK is doing some last minute shopping, HG will knock off some oysters and wine with Victoria at Balthazar, the brasserie which keeps the old time Paris traditions alive. (Yes, the best Paris brasserie is located in New York). Christmas Eve means the traditional Jewish Feast of the Seven Fishes (courtesy of SJ and Russ & Daughters). And, what surprise will Gifted Daughter Lesley R. spring on Christmas Day? Brisket? Osso buco ? Bollito misto ? Traditional turkey? And, is there a new Rhode Island restaurant to be tried? HG has heard rumors about an Indian restaurant in Bristol. Of course, there is old standby Hemenway’s which serves splendid New England oysters as well as Rhode Island clams on the half shell (best in the world), an HG favorite. Hey, food lovers, are you envious? You should be.


New York Politesse

January 10th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

New York has been characterized as a rude, uncaring city. Wrong. HG finds New Yorkers polite and courteous. The city is filled with people who are patient with tourists, the aged and the infirm. HG now uses a walking stick to aid locomotion. Invariably, HG is offered a seat on the subway and assistance if walking up steep stairs. These offers often come from some very unlikely people. HG declines but is moved by the offers. On a recent trip, HG popped into the busy, remarkable Japanese clothing store, Uniqlo. Great values (a cashmere turtleneck of high quality for 59 bucks). Busy, busy place during this pre-Christmas season but the staff is smiling, helpful and friendly. Shopping made HG hungry. Off to nearby Balthazar for an afternoon snack of frisee salad (very fresh frisee, lots of crisp lardons, perfectly poached egg, tangy dressing — as good as Chez Georges in Paris) plus a glass of Fleurie and good bread and butter. After the snack HG set off for the downstairs men’s room. Steep stairs. Matre ‘d interrupted HG. “Follow please, M’sieu.” HG was led to a private ground level facility used by the restaurant’s staff. HG gave thanks. “No problaim, M’sieu.” That’s Noo Yawk courtesy. And style.

Balthazar Excess

December 30th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

HG has a Christmas tradition. When in New York around the holidays, HG lunches with Restaurateur Daughter Victoria (Five Points, Cookshop, Hundred Acres) at Balthazar, the great, huge, bustling brasserie in Soho. The place is a miracle. From the age-dappled mirrors to the polished brass to the gleaming dark wood, It looks like, feels like, smells like, sounds like (loud) an old school Parisian brasserie. Service is deft. Given the extraordinary turnover, the food is surprising — ranging from good to excellent. The bread (especially the flavorful dark) is noteworthy and the Macon and Beaujolais Villages sold by the carafe are a value. The HG/Victoria lunch is an epic, lasting between three and four hours. (Victoria says it is a matter of making up for the years when we were out of touch). The centerpiece of the traditional lunch is Le Grand Plateau de Fruits de Mer. Victoria (who really knows food costs) says it is a bargain at $90. Le Grand is a two-tiered tower of oysters, clams, whelks (bulots in Paris); room temperature steamed mussels; sea scallop seviche; giant prawns; cracked crab and calamari salad. A preposterous amount of sea critters. Accompanied by appropriate condiments, lots of buttered dark bread and many, many glasses of chilled Macon, HG and Victoria had a joyous and gluttonous feast. But, the meal didn’t end there. The duo shared some brandade and finished with a shared dessert of profiteroles doused with lots of warm chocolate syrup. An offer of grappa was turned down. Enough, surprisingly, is enough. HG, BSK and friend Stevie P. returned to Balthazar the next day to lunch on duck confit, steak tartare, watercress salad, pommes frites, onion soup and creme brulee. Equally good but restrained.

Baccala, Bacalao, Etc.

May 11th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Yes, salt cod is spelled in different ways in Portugal, Italy, Spain, Brazil, France and other countries where it is enjoyed and appreciated. It needs a good soaking in many changes of water before it can be cooked but that’s time well spent because it is a staple of many wonderful dishes. An HG favorite is Brandade, a puree of salt cod, potatoes, sweet cream and garlic — lots of garlic. HG eats it with slices of garlic rubbed, toasted sourdough bread. Cold Muscadet or Macon-Village Chardonnay is a pleasant accompaniment. HG likes the Brandade at both Balthazar, the busy New York brasserie and Jonathan Waxman’s Barbuto Restaurant in Greenwich Village.

Salt cod has an affinity for garlic. The Provence feast of poached salt cod and vegetables (cooked and raw) is served with an abundance of aioli, a garlic enriched mayonnaise. HG is looking forward this weekend to BSK’s Basque salt cod (cooked with olive oil, white wine, tomatoes, capers, parsley and, of course, garlic). BSK will serve it with her smashed potatoes gilded with Sicilian olive oil. And, to make sure that vampires are kept at bay, HG will make plenty of aioli (HG will add some cayenne for a bit of a bite).

While no garlic was served in the dish, SJ once made HG salivate with a description of an improvised feast in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica consisting of chunks of sat cod and yam roasted over an open fire with a hefty dose of margarine. And in Rome’s Campo Di Fiori there is a busy, little joint that apparently serves salt cod fritters to die for. HG bets there is garlic in those fritters.

In the Italian-Irish-Jewish Bronx nabe where HG was reared, lengths of dried salt cod were displayed like cord wood in every Italian food store. Now you can find it in cute little wooden boxes at the fish counters of supermarkets. Progress: The wooden box salt cod has less bones.

Salt Cod. Versatile. Delicious.

July 28th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

HG is a big fan of salt cod. It needs a good soaking in cold water (with frequent changes of the water). Then a gentle poaching or baking or whatever suits your fancy.

HG is a particular fan of the rich, luxury of a brandade (salt cod that has been pureed with some boiled potato, a lot of garlic, sweet cream and olive oil). Served with garlic rubbed toast (HG believes in keeping the vampires away) and chilled white wine it is a lush treat. You can get very good brandade at Balthazar, Five Points and Barbuto in downtown New York. The ultimate is at Rech, the classy brasserie in Paris.

Salt cod is good done in Mediterranean style — baked with thinly sliced onions, potatoes, garlic, olive oil and slivers of green olives. Try it cold as a simple Italian salad with parsley, garlic and olive oil. Or mix it with white beans. Salt cod makes great fish cakes.

When young, HG’s children, LR and SJ hated salt cod so much they stole a wooden box of the stuff from the pantry and buried it in the back yard. The years have made them change their minds.

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