Classic Rhody Lunch

December 10th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

HG/BSK treated themselves to a classic Rhode Island lunch at Hemenway’s, the very good, very comfortable seafood restaurant in downtown Providence. Hemenway’s has a handsome, snug oyster bar; a cocktail bar and nicely spaced tables for family dining. HG/BSK have dined there many times and have found the service to be warm, friendly and efficient. A very well run establishment. On this cold grey New England day, HG/BSk made themselves comfortable in the oyster bar. Three Cape Cod oysters for BSK. Excellent, judged BSK, but not as superlative as the big, lush, briny meaty oysters HG/BSK recently devoured during their recent stay in the beautiful French city of Reims. HG took pleasure in six cherrystone clams on the half shell. Perfectly chilled and shucked, HG judges Rhode Islanders to be the best clams in the world. This is not a superficial judgment: HG’s first job (73 years ago at age 13) was as a clam and oyster shucker at Harbor Rest Inn in Rockaway Park, N.Y. HG devoured scores of clams. Then went on to clam gluttony at such clam-on -the-half-shell shrines as Lundy’s at Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, and Nathan’s of Coney Island. Plus there were decades of clam gathering and eating during Fire Island summer vacations. The clams were dug from the bottom of Great South Bay whose shores bordered Fire Island. (Joseph Mitchell, the late New Yorker writer who wrote about clam gathering and eating, would have called this massive clam ingestion a Mess o’ clams.). HG/BSK continued their Hemenway’s lunch with Rhode Island-style clam chowder. This is a clear chowder (no cream or milk as in New England-style or tomatoes as in Manhattan-style). Hemenway’s version emphasizes strong broth, lots of clams, smoky bacon. a bit of onion and celery, potatoes. Perfect. To complete the lunch, HG/BSK shared a portion of Rhode Island’s official appetizer: Fried squid with hot peppers. A don’t miss dish. Ordinarily, HG/BSK would have accompanied their meal with a bottle of cold Muscadet. But, since HG is limiting his alcohol drinking, the duo had to be satisfied with a bottle of San Pellegrino sparkling water. Surprisingly, the wine wasn’t missed.


PEI Bivalves

August 25th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

Among the pleasures of summer on Prince Edward Island is the abundance of excellent bivalves–oysters, clams, scallops and mussels. Prices of these good things are much lower than in the United Sates. And, they are just-caught, right-off-the-boat fresh. While two of SJ and EM’s Brooklyn pals (with three lively kids) were visiting PEI, a festive dinner of bivalves fed the group. First course was Malpeque oysters shucked by HG. These were a revelation. They tasted like the very best Fines de Claire HG had consumed at Paris brasseries. HG usually favors Colville Bay oysters in the fall and late summer (they are a bit milky from spawning during mid-summer) or Savage Bay oysters, plump and mild. Malpeques are now first choice. They have long been the oyster most exported from PEI. At a 1900 food exhibition in Paris, they were awarded a prize as the world’s best tasting oyster (the flavorful guys haven’t gone downhill since then). BSK grilled some of the oysters on the barbecue (Modest disagreement. BSK and EM love grilled oysters. HG demurs). Earlier in the day, there was clamming on the shore of St. Mary’s Bay. The Brooklyn group learned fast and some 54 quahog were dug. They were steamed with four pounds of mussels. All of the bivalve juices enhanced BSK’s savory sauce of olive oil, garlic, onions, herbs, etc. Mussels, clams and sauce topped perfectly al dente Garofalo linguine. A caveat from HG. The mussels were disappointing. The flavor was pleasant but the mussels were tiny, a far cry from the plump juicy mussels that have long been a PEI signature. What has happened? The long, harsh winter? Ecological changes in St. Peters Bay and other mussel farming locales? HG hopes conditions change so the mussels return to their former splendor.


From The Sea And Sand to the Table

August 4th, 2015 § 4 comments § permalink

There is something very heartening about dining on food you’ve planted, harvested or caught. There is nowhere better to do this type of foraging than Prince Edward Island. There, abundance describes “found foods”. On yesterday’s grey Prince Edward Island morning, SJ, Gorgeous Granddaughter Sofia and Handsome Haru drove to a harbor near Panmure Island and fished for mackerel. Garnered a dozen gleaming beauties. Later in the day, HG/BSK, Exquisite Maiko, darling little Teru joined them at Noel and Yossi M.’s nearby home. They were greeted by the baa-baa sounds of three adorable sheep (much admired by Teru). After examining the lettuce crop, the cherry trees and unearthing a gigantic horseradish root, the group was off to gather quahogs (hard shelled clams) from the shore of St. Mary’s Bay. Some of the group dug into the shoreline with clam rakes. HG/BSK, veterans of many years of clam hunting in Long Island’s Great South Bay off Fire Island, simply wriggled their toes in the muddy shore bottom. The seasoned HG/BSK toes could feel the difference, when they hit a hard object, if it was a clam or a rock. The collective effort produced some 30 clams. Tea and butter tarts at the M. residence. Back home with the catch the group was met by Adam S. (noted composer, Academy Award Nominee and founder of the power pop group Fountains of Wayne and SJ’s close friend since infancy). With Adam were his two young daughters; sister Laurie and her son and daughter, Handsome Haru acted as host of the younger set and took them off to explore bluffs and beach. The elders devoted themselves to vodka, tequila, white wine and laughter. EM got busy with mackerel. Fileted the fish with her usual expertise and saved some of them (preserved with salt) for later grilling For dinner, EM chopped some filets for her superb tataki and marinated some slices with onions and cherry tomatoes. A fabulous way to start dinner. The rest of the folk got busy with clams, scrubbing them clean, steaming and then chopping the big clams and cooking the smaller ones in a savory sofrito of clam juice, white wine, garlic and parsley. The sauce and clams adorned Garofalo linguine which the table of nine adults consumed with gusto. The younger set dined at the sun porch table on penne with oil, garlic and parmesan. Many happy and loud sounds were heard from that vicinity. The adult table was quieter but equally joyous. A glorious sunset added to the merriment.


HG to The Rescue — A 44th Festivity

September 1st, 2014 § 4 comments § permalink

An added Prince Edward Island joy. HG/BSK can see a lot of BSK’s sister, Noel M., and her husband, Yossi. The couple are now in residence on a magnificently verdant property in the town of Gasperaux, not far from Panmure Island on PEI’s southeast coast. Just a few minutes away is St.Mary’s Bay, a renowned site for clams and oysters. So, a clamming expedition was planned. The aim was to gather the bivalves for linguine and clam sauce, the centerpiece of a dinner celebrating Noel and Yossi’s 44th wedding anniversary. Noel and Yossi have a vast collective of talents (a championship level of equestrian performance and training skills; music; construction; special education and during Yossi’s Israeli days, paratrooping and other military service). Clamming, however, is not one of their talents. Their uneducated toes came up with only a single clam in an hour of effort. BSK was hampered by being the official expedition photographer. BSK still managed to garner a half dozen. Soaring in to save the day were HG’s talented feet, honed by decades of Fire Island/Great South Bay experience, which plucked some two dozen from the Bay bottom. A bucket full of the clams — chowders, cherrystones and little necks (all called Quahogs on PEI) — provided a beautiful sight. Dinner started with quickly grilled squid Rhode Island style (smothered with garlic, olive oil and super hot pickled peppers). This was accompanied by a platter of sliced seasonal tomatoes, Nova Scotia feta cheese and Kalamata olives. A salad of mache rosettes dressed simply with a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. BSK’s main dish reached new heights through the freshness of the clams, the briny quality of the broth, the exquisite balance of oil and garlic and the al dente quality of Garafolo linguine (the best packaged pasta). Dessert was a sampling of pecan butter tarts (plus raisin tarts for Noel, a butter tart traditionalist) and vanilla ice cream. Cocktails before dinner. White wine with dinner (tea for Noel, not a fan of alcohol). A happy evening indeed.

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Legal Clams

January 18th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

HG’s holiday voyage (Providence and Paris) began with Gifted Daughter Lesley R.’s linguine con vongole (utilizing loads of luscious Rhode Island clams). It ended with a clam feast at the Legal Sea Food outpost at Logan International Airport in Boston. HG is a big fan of Legal. HG recalls grilled Dover sole on the Legal menu in years past that was as good as anything in London or Paris at a tiny fraction of the price. Though the heavenly sole has disappeared, there are plenty of unsurpassed Rhode Island clams. HG had a dozen on the half shell. A fresh, briny kiss from the salt waters. BSK ate her favorite fried calamari done Rhode Island style (with hot peppers). HG/BSK dove into a nice fry up of clam bellies and onion rings. Washed it down with pinot grigio (for BSK) and Sam Adams ale (for HG). Back in New Mexico, HG will have to put clam feasting on hold until summer at HG/BSK’s ocean home on Prince Edward Island. PEI quahogs are very good though they don’t reach the heights of the Rhody guys. The consolation is Colville Bay oysters. HG will do lots of shucking. If you read Hungry Gerald, you are, obviously, a fan of fine prose and fine food. With that in mind, HG recommends a reading of the “Chowder” chapter in Moby Dick. Melville describes (and gives a recipe for) the chowder served to Ishmael and Queequeg at The Pots. You can find it online and in the great novel. Sail on, sail on, Pequod.


Beautiful Bivalves

December 30th, 2013 § 1 comment § permalink

HG/BSK are at the warm and welcoming Rhode Island home of Lesley and Massimo R., their daughter and son-in-law, for the family holiday festivities. And, the feasting continues. Arriving from a day at the utterly delightful New Bedford Whaling Museum, HG/BSK were greeted with glasses of pinot grigio and a platter of smoked scallops and room temperature shelled mussels (with appropriate sauces, of course). This was followed by bowls of steaming linguini with white clam sauce enriched with bottarga (dried and pressed mullet roe). Wow!! When HG is in the glorious little Ocean State, HG wolfs down many a clam–raw on the half shell; stuffed with savory garlic infused bread crumbs and topped with bacon (clams casino); in clear and briny clam chowder (no cream) and, of course, enriching al dente linguini. HG is convinced that Rhode Island clams (sorry, Long Island) are unsurpassed.


Rhode Island Clams

December 29th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

HG enjoys good (and eccentric) Rhode Island cuisine: Fried calamari with hot pickled peppers. Del’s Frozen Lemonade. New York Systems (wieners on a bun with celery salt, onions, mustard and a unique, Greek influenced meat sauce). Briny, clear clam chowder (no cream or tomatoes). Snail salad. HG does not share the Rhode Island obsession with Dunkin’ Donuts (highest per capita doughnut consumption in the US). But what stands Rhode Island apart is the quality of their clams. Yes, HG, a long time enthusiast for Long Island clams, must confess. Rhode Island clams are the best. They are tender, full of brine and juicy with clam goodness. Ornaments of the sea. HG and BSK are at the Riverside, R.I., home of Daughter Lesley and Profesor/’Dottore Massimo R. for family Christmas. Their home faces Naragansett Bay and their dining room is the venue for many sea treats. Tonight the treat was clam chowder prepared with potatoes, onions, tarragon and many, many, many juicy cherrystone clams. Lesley treats clams with respect. Never overcooked. The big, steaming bowls were a joy. There was a lovely bottle of white wine from Romagna. HG finished the meal with Stilton, grapes and Beaujolais. Grappa for a friendly nightcap.

Sad, sad, sad.

December 17th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

HG is downcast. Boston’s Locke-Ober, the great, venerable (in business for almost 150 years) restaurant has closed and its equipment and memorobilia are being sold. Another wonderful, gracious culinary landmark has bitten the dust. Ah, Locke-Ober. Heaven on a cold New England night. Dark wood. Old paintings. Big, comfy chairs. Soft lights in old fixtures. Professional waiters. And, the food. Oysters and clams from the New England coast, briny, cold and shucked with finesse. Old fashioned dishes like Lobster Savannah; calf’s liver with bacon and onions; broiled Boston scrod. The best gratin dauphinois this side of Paris. Perfect, crisp onion rings. A wide selection of foraged wild mushrooms. One of the few places in the United States where steak tartare was done right. And, HG’s favorite dessert, a house specialty: Indian Pudding topped with creamy vanilla ice cream. HG must stop. Eyes have become misted.

Farewell Feasting

August 15th, 2012 § 2 comments § permalink

The family Riva has left for Providence. The distinguished clan has to get on with careers and education. But, before leaving Brilliant Lesley R. cooked up a storm. One night BLR took advantage of Prince Edward Island’s abundance of flavorful little neck clams and new potatoes. She smashed boiled potatoes with olive oil, garlic, onions and lots of parsley and other herbs. The clams got a good scrubbing before being placed on the potatoes. Some tasty Hungarian sausage was parboiled, sliced, sauteed and added to the mix. Chopped tomatoes, white wine and more parsley went into the pot. It got a nice roast in the oven. Done when the clams opened. Their brine added just the perfect sea note to the dish. On another night, BLR was inspired by her many stays in Venice. A big chunk of halibut was roasted in the oven in a bath of white wine and a dash of clam juice. When done the halibut and its winey juices joined a garlic and herb soffrito. The flaked halibut was served over fresh pasta gilded with olive oil and red pepper flakes. There was a lovely salad of sliced tomatoes and sweet onion. Earlier in the day, BLR walked out into the meadows and picked a bucket of blueberries. These were the basis for her signature blueberry crumble with vanilla ice cream. Summer dining at its best.

Cataplan Seafood Stew.

October 27th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

What’s a Cataplan? It’s a hinged, oval-shaped copper pot. Cataplans are used throughout Spain and Portugal to make seafood stews. It’s a bit tricky to handle (watch out for hot steam when you snap open the hinged cover) but it’s the perfect culinary device to get all the flavor out of steamed seafood. BSK used it last night to very good effect. As usual she started with a flavorful saute of sweet onions, garlic, chopped pancetta and, best of all, sprigs of tarragon from BSK’s kitchen garden. Sliced fingerling potatoes from neighbor organic farmer Gary G. were put into the mix to soften. Then came St. Ours Clam Broth. This is a really flavorful clam broth powder (reconstitute with boiling water) that’s much better than the bottled stuff you get in supermarkets. Next into the cataplan were Atlantic cherrystone clams. Then Prince Edward Island mussels. When all of the bivalves were just about open, BSK tossed in some chunks of cod fillet. Served ourselves from the cataplan (which was immediately locked again to keep second helpings hot). Dipped crusty bread and had a joyous time. Take a tip from HG and the folks on the Iberian peninsula and buy a cataplan.

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