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.

Holiday Feasting (Day Eight)

December 31st, 2014 § 1 comment § permalink

Warm, sunny, cloudless day. HG/BSK, SJ, EM, Haru and Teru; Gifted Daughter Lesley R., were off to that ornament of Providence, RI, Roger Williams Park Zoo. HG hasn’t visited a zoo in some years and was astonished at the beauty of Zebras, Giraffes, Flamingos, Cranes and Boa Constrictors. Much to the delight of the little ones (and the bemusement of adult viewers), the Elephant performed some necessary functions in what could only be described as elephantine proportions. The group found the lethal grace of the Snow Leopard mesmerizing and the Red Panda hit new heights of cuteness. The zoo, for a few hours,turned our group into children. Happy, wondering children. In the evening, Lesley R. outdid herself in the kitchen and produced a dinner that can only be described as deeply satisfying. Tender brisket in an assertive, rich tomato licked sauce. Ultra-tender Fennel braised in butter and stock. Haricot verts stir fried with shallots and herbs. Moroccan carrot salad, redolent with cumin and cinnamon. And, as a crowning glory, SJ made his state of the art mashed potatoes, a lighter than air balance of potatoes, salt butter and cream. Profesore Massimo R. poured three splendid Italian reds: A Barolo, a Montepulciano and a Chianti. A pause. And, then came desserts: A tart/sweet cranberry tart in a walnut crust (baked by Lesley R.) flan (left over from the previous evening); strudel (baked by friend/neighbor Diane). A big bowl of whipped cream. Vintage port. Grappa. Limoncello.This is the kind of meal HG loves: Abundant, Powerful tastes. Perfect balance of the rich and austere, the bitter and the sweet. The kind of meal Lesley R. produces with no histrionics and little fuss. HG is a proud Pop.

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Holiday Feasting (Day Seven)

December 31st, 2014 § 1 comment § permalink

Christmas.Day began with warmed Panettone, marmalade and coffee. Rain ceased. Sun appeared. Lovely meandering walk around the Riverside, RI, shore following the excitement of present opening. Imaginative gifts. Mexican good luck amulets from Gifted Daughter Lesley R. A large collection of mini photo cards (created by Exquisite Maiko) depicting the family and little ones. SJ gave HG Geechie Boy grits and some other culinary wonders including a bottle of handcrafted rye whiskey. Gorgeous Granddaughter Sofia displayed one of her distinctive talents by fashioning a book cover for HG which satirized hilariously one of HG’s traditional and well-worn Christmas jokes. The traditional gifts of books, carefully curated, from Lesley and Massimo R: A winter’s worth of stimulating reading. A beautiful sweater and a colorful watch from BSK. Colorful socks from Lesley R. (HG receives them with joy every Christmas). This just skims the surface. Lots of generosity, originality. And, love. Dinner was a replay of the Seven Fishes with a happy addition. SJ, The Latkes King, made a big batch of crisp potato pancakes (a bow to our collective Jewish heritage). HG covered five raw Dutch herring filets with chopped onion. Gave them a squeeze of lemon and a shower of ground pepper. Flanked them with SJ’s latkes and sour cream. Drank cold half-and-half. Also managed to knock off some smoked yellowfin tuna gilded with very good, fruity olive oil. Happy jingles, one and all.

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Day After Christmas Feasting

December 29th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

There are idiosyncratic dining customs in the HG/BSK family. Christmas eve dinner, of course, is a Feast of the Seven Fishes (done Eastern Europe/Jewish style). On Christmas Day, after a mad, 5-hour present opening session (it is a generous family), cooking doesn’t seem like a good idea so it is a time for enjoying the smoked fish wonders left over from the Christmas Eve feast. Thus, the big time dinner takes place on the night after Christmas. And, at this event Gifted Daughter Lesley R. strutted her stuff. Read and be envious: LR made a brandade that was the ultimate. Creamy. Garlicky (but not too). Popped in the oven to give it a crisp brown crust. Served with toasted bread and (an HG innovation) endive spears. Next course was papardelle (from The Italian Corner in East Providence) in a sauce of exquisitely sautéd mushrooms (a mixture of varieties – some fresh, some dried). Brilliant LR sautés them for various amounts of time to insure their moisture disappears and their flavor remains). A reasonable family might call it quits after the pasta. Not the HG/BSK Clean Plate Warriors. LR made exquisite veal rollatini (thin scallopine rolled around prosciutto, gruyere and sage). Browned and then finished in the oven. Accompanied by ultra lush braised fennel. Dessert was flan and Italian nougat. Sheer happiness.

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Panettone

December 25th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

A holiday delight is Panettone, the Italian sweet bread/cake that makes its appearance on grocery shelves just as the happy days of Thanksgiving and Christmas occur. Panettone is a yeast cake enriched with butter, orange peel and dried citrus fruits. It is enclosed in paper and packaged in a box that has the shape of a squashed obelisk. Not too sweet. Not too rich. It is delicious and versatile. Good toasted and buttered. Delightful when gently warmed and drizzled with honey or coated with marmalade. Pleasant with a glass of chilled prosecco or moscato. Splendid dessert when topped with vanilla ice cream. HG likes it best at breakfast with a mug of steaming cafe au lait. Obligatory on a Christmas morning such as today with excited kids wallowing in the paradise of over-abundant gifts.

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Christmas Restaurant Nostalgia The Finale: Bickford’s & The Automat

December 22nd, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Some 60 years ago, HG was a New York journalist. There was a pleasant custom at International News Service/International News Photos (where HG was employed). Jewish journalists would volunteer to replace their non-Jewish colleagues on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day so the non-Jews could enjoy these holidays with their family. And, that’s why HG worked at the news desk on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Where to have dinner? HG’s favorite dining places were closed. The shot-and-beer-chaser bars were open but populated by maudlin or surly drunks. HG’s workplace was on E. 45th, just east of Third Avenue ( at the time, the El was still rumbling overhead). Nearby Lexington Avenue had a Bickford’s Restaurant on the northeast corner of 45th and a Horn and Hardart Automat on the southeast. So, Christmas Eve HG dined (with good appetite) at Bickford’s. The special of turkey with all the fixings (and extra gravy upon HG’s request) was tasty. Dessert was pumpkin pie a la mode and HG “corrected” his coffee with cognac from HG’s concealed flask. Christmas Day found HG at the Automat. Three hot casseroles were lined up before HG (plucked from the Automat’s windowed wall of savories): Beef Pie, Macaroni and Cheese, Baked Beans (topped with a strip of bacon). Coconut custard pie for dessert. “Corrected” coffee. Well meaning friends expressed concern that these meals might prove depressing. They were not. Yes, HG’s fellow diners were not a jolly group. But, the lonely folk were quiet and unobtrusive, allowing HG the peace in which to read a bundle of newspapers while sipping brandy-laced coffee.

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Christmas Restaurant Nostalgia Part 2: The Oak Room

December 12th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

The Oak Room of New York’s Plaza Hotel was a wonderful place for winter holiday dining. A dignified room with, of course, dark oak paneling and chandeliers that cast a flattering light. Discreet Christmas decorations. Very attractive, elegantly attired clientele. (The debonair movie star Cary Grant was once at a table adjoining HG/BSK’s. Happily, he looked and sounded just like Cary Grant). HG/BSK always had one meal. A super-dry Martini for HG and a white wine spritzer for BSK. Smoked salmon with lightly toasted, thin slices of rye bread, capers, lemon, olive oil, black ground pepper. This was followed by tournedos of beef with souffle potatoes and braised celery topped with beef marrow. Chocolate pots de creme for dessert. Cognac and coffee. Thus fortified, it was off into the crisp night to behold the magic of the light-and-icicle festooned Plaza fountain. New York at its best.fountain-plaza-hotel

Christmas Restaurant Nostalgia Part One: Luchow’s

December 11th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

The very best restaurant in the world during the Christmas holiday season was the long gone (opened in 1882 and closed in 1986) temple of German gastronomy, Luchow’s on New York’s East 14th Street. An interior of dark oak, smoked glass and crystal. Every inch was festooned with colorful decorations and pine wreaths. Noisy and jolly. A German oompah band playing the songs of the season. HG/BSK’s kids loved it and, restraining intense excitement, displayed excellent restaurant manners. The food? Ah, the food. For the kids there were grilled bratwurst with home fried potatoes. BSK usually had a starter of smoked salmon and a main of crisp skinned roast duck with red cabbage and a buttery potato puree. For HG there was a triple header: Rollmops (pickled herring rolled around dill pickle); pfefferlinge (ragout of wild mushrooms in a peppery sour cream sauce); schlemmerschnitte (steak tartare topped with abundant beluga caviar). For dessert: Baked Alaska flamed in brandy. (Once a waiter set his apron on fire while setting the desert alight and the tension before the flames were put out only added to the exhilaration of the dinner). The kids drank Shirley Temples. BSK had appropriate white and red wine. HG had (much, much) robust dark beer. Joy was unrestrained.

An ornate tree in Luchow's during NYC Christmas season.

Endless Feast

December 27th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Feasting and festivities seem to go together. The Day After Christmas Dinner was a festive feast for a table of 12. And, the dozen members of La Famiglia were of good appetite. Mushroom soup (shitakes, cremini, porcini). Brisket and gravy; haricots vert, kale salad; SJ’s super-buttery, creamy, smooth mashed potatoes. Plus an unusual dish of Middle Eastern carrots (abundant cumin and garlic). Pear Clafouti and whipped cream for dessert. Excellent wines (white and red). Time for confession: HG overdid the pre-dinner vodka and the post-dinner Lesley R.-crafted limoncello. Head and tummy whirled about at bedtime but had eased by morning wake-up. Obviously, the purity of HG’s soul and the organic integrity of Lesley R.’s cuisine banished the toxins.

Joy To the World (and HG)

December 26th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

This might be the best Christmas holiday ever. It began with the surprise gift to Beautiful Granddaughter Sofia R. of Pippy, certainly the most enchanting puppy HG has ever encountered. Then the traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes (Jewish-Japanese-Italian style as befitting the multi-ethnic group). Three types of smoked salmon; smoked tuna; wasabi enhanced flying fish roe (Tobiko); whitefish; sable; red salmon caviar. All prime stuff from Russ & Daughters on New York’s Lower East Side. SJ also provided the table with plenty of scallion cream cheese and superior Kosar’s bialys, bagels and that baked rarity — the old fashioned “pletzel” (onion roll). Big bowls of sour cream plus raw onions, capers, lemon wedges and three varieties of pickles (sour, half-sours and green tomatoes). Lesely R. made her ethereal blinis and crepes while SJ sizzled his superb, crisp potato pancakes. But, for HG, the star of the feast was herring, namely raw Dutch herring from the cold waters of the Netherlands coast. HG coated the delicious morsels with chopped raw onions. Chilled Tito’s Vodka. Black and Tan (Guinesss Stout and Bass Ale, mixed half-and-half). HG drank these accompaniments to happy excess. Christmas morning, HG received gala gifts — a cane topped with the ivory head of a fierce eagle from Lesley and Massimo R.; a soft and warm flannel nightshirt plus nightcap; A Russian faux fur hat emblazoned with the hammer and sickle (warming gifts from BSK who likes a Heated Hubby); old time candy bars and a wanted book from SJ; a copy of the latest installment of Robert Caro’s monumental biography of LBJ and other literature from L. and M. R.; granola of the gods handcrafted by Gifted Granddaughter Arianna R. L. and M.R. gave BSK the complete Hellen Mirren/ “Prime Suspect” DVDs (perfect for chill weather viewing), SJ presented BSK with her own website, putting BSK’s glorious pottery online. Everyone else received thoughtful and glorious gifts. Wishes were fulfilled. Joy was unconfined. Sometimes materialism is sheer fun. Christmas Day dinner was a rerun of the previous feast with the addition of chopped liver plus pastrami and tongue from Katz’s Deli in New York plus smoked ham sourced by SJ from the illustrious Polish butcher, Jubilat Provisions in Brooklyn. Because of eccentric schedules and the arrival of Restaurateur Daughter Victoria F. on the day after Christmas, the Christmas dinner of brisket and assorted good things will be delayed for a day. Worth waiting for. (Also, HG must fully recover from much ingestion of an after dinner alcoholic digestif, Limoncello, handcrafted by Lesley R. for her bibulous Dad).