Congee: Like Nestling In Your Mother’s Arms.

March 16th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

Congee is the Queen of Comfort Foods. Soothing. Nourishing. Savory. Infinitely flexible. Essentially, congee is rice porridge. Bears a close resemblance to soupy grits. Doesn’t sound like much. But, HG and hundreds of millions of Chinese can’t be wrong (and not just Chinese, but almost every Asian country has its own version of Congee) It is very yummy stuff, indeed. Very addictive. When the world has been treating you shabbily and Mom isn’t around, turn to congee for comfort.

Okay. How to make it? That very good food blog,, has a sure fire recipe for a big pot of congee. Here goes: 10 cups of stock (chicken or vegetable). Two cups of rice. Two tablespoons Chinese rice vinegar. Five slices of ginger. Tablespoon of kosher salt. Bring these ingredients to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and keep pot covered. Stir occasionally. Cook for one to one and 1/2 hours until it has a porridge-like consistency. Add more stock (or water) if it gets too thick.

Now, you can get creative. Add to your bowl some left over chicken (as HG mentioned in yesterday’s Spatchcocked Chicken Post). Give it a hit of sesame oil. Maybe some sriracha for heat and spice. Sliced scallions. Parsley and/or cilantro. HG likes to top it with Planter’s Salted Cocktail Peanuts (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it). When HG lived in Vancouver he dined often at Congee House, a perfectly named restaurant. HG watched patrons add black hundred year eggs, bok choy, shrimp, duck, roast pork, chicken feet and more to their steaming bowls of congee. As HG said: Congee is flexible. HG’s congee favorite: Buy some shucked oysters at a Whole Foods fish counter. Chop coarsely. Add to your congee with some parsley and a bit of soy sauce. You will be grateful to HG.

London Swings Again

March 4th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

HG and BSK haven’t been in London for ten years. The changes are immense. The city is shining, crackling with energy, spruced up, diverse. A true world city. Makes Paris look a bit diminished and dingy.

Off to the Victoria and Albert. Wandered the sculpture galleries. Wonderful Rodins and Canovas. Outstanding collection of postwar Britons (Eric Gill, etc.) not seen much in USA. Design section with all of the usual suspects (Mies, Corbu, Aalto, Breuer, Ruhlmann, Hoffman,etc.). Beautiful screen of lacquer cubes by Eileen Gray and one of chrome and mirror by Syrie Maugham. Timeless glamour approached in two different ways by two very different female sensibilities. Came away with renewed appreciation of inventive genius of Israeli/Brit Ron Arad. (HG must confess, however, that nothing tops the bravura rhinoceros bar by Lalanne at the Paris Arts Decoratifs).

Tea. Scones. Clotted cream. Marmalade. Strawberry jam. HG and BSK nibbled it all in the V & A’s civilized complex of cafes. A glimpse at the state of English dining 2011: The cafe has a tea bar, of course, but another counter of French treats like pates, terrines, celeriac and lentil salads, etc. A counter offers some very good looking hot meat pies and steak and kidney pies, British staples. There’s deli, fresh salads, soups, etc. All fresh. All savory. This is London mass feeding today.

Dinner at J. Sheekey, the venerable theater district seafood restaurant off Leicester Square. J. Sheekey is a collection of small, nicely lit old rooms lined with red leather banquettes and theatrical photos. Noisy buzz in the air. Deft, professional (but warm) service. Chiiled Muscadet. HG and BSK shared eight oysters from various spots along the British coast. Better than the best of Paris (but missed those French bulots). Then a dish of two razor clams. The long shells were filled with tender strips of the clam, very thin crisps chips of Spanish chorizo, fava beans, chopped herbs, fragrant olive oil. No garlic. Nothing to interfere with the purity of the dish. This was followed by perfectly done John Dory, moist, firm and flaky. The fillets nested on a bit of whipped celeriac and were topped by sea kale and a few long strips of poached celeriac. This was seafood cuisine that followed the Mies dictums: Less Is More. God Is In The Details. Need HG say more? HG got robust with a Welsh Rarebit (splash of Worcestershire) and a glass of Spanish Tempranillo. Sweet Italian Muscat for BSK. Finale: Salted caramel ice cream.

Home to sleep the sleep of the good, the pure and the blessed.

The Uncommon Common Cold: Paree Day Twelve

February 24th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

HG and BSK are spending their last days in Paris in a blizzard of Kleenex and a cacaphony of coughs. This didn’t prevent HG from visiting Welper the venerable, independently owned brasserie on busy Place de Clichy. There was a rumor that Wepler had gone downhill.  Couldn’t prove it by HG’s lunch of oysters and bulots.  Splendid.  Very dignified waiter,  HG pointed out that some of the bulot shells were empty.  Obviously, the sea snails had left their shells and were out looking for romance.  The ambassadorial waiter took care of the situation by bringing HG a virtual deluge of bulots and a big pot of fresh mayonnaise.  Typical of Paris–a classy and generous gesture.  BSK felt well enough to see True Grit.  Fun.  But the film didn’t have the usual Coen Brothers edge of irony.  Walking back to the loft HG was struck by the cold bug.  HG and BSK hope they shake off the nastiness before chunneling to London Saturday.

Paree: Day Nine

February 21st, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Morning sunshine. Very brief. Disappeared by 11 ayem. Usual gray. HG and BSK off on long walk through the very diverse 9th arrondissement. Many boutiques. Appetizing food vendors. Notre Dame de Lorette, St. Georges, Trinite –three interesting churches. The Grande Synagogue of Paris also known as “La Victoire Synagogue” is one of largest synagogues in Europe. An imposing chandelier donated by the Rothschilds. Guards and barricades. A grim reminder that it is always dangerous to be a Jew in Europe.

Stopped at Au Petit Riche, an elegant old restaurant for lunch. Fines de Claire oysters. Lentil salad with some thick slices of bacon. Quenelles with sauce nantua. Sea bass in butter sauce with fresh spinach. Muscadet. Ile Fottante (what else?) shared for dessert. Lovely meal and lovely room. Then to consumerist heaven — Galeries Lafayette. The store is centered around a five story (?) rotunda of dramatic proportions. Some of the world’s most elegant women rummage around hundreds (thousands?) of beautiful shoes, bags, dresses, coats, etc. It is a delightful sight though totally politically and morally incorrect. Fun to watch.

HG and BSK focused on the food department. With full tummies, HG and BSK had to ignore the oyster bar and the Spanish ham bar (both recommended by the well informed journalist/author Peter Hellman). But, HG and BSK managed to garner some excellent Italian charcuterie, Bufala mozzarella and fresh pasta for dinner tonight at Chez HG and BSK. They lived up to their promise. Viva Italia!!

Paree: Rainy Day Seven

February 19th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

The Yiddish word is “haimish.” It means homey, down home, warm, friendly, relax-you’re- with- family. “Haimish” is the apt description of La Boule Rouge, the Tunisian-Jewish couscous restaurant where HG and BSK dined last night. “Dined” is wrong. “Gorged” is more like it. Even Miss Moderation BSK overate. The meal started with the table covered with salads and an unsweetened cake of cheese and hard boiled eggs. Then came a platter of perfect couscous; a caldron of robust broth with carrots, zucchini, turnips, sweet potatoes; a super-big portion of lamb shoulder with chickpeas; black beans in an an unusual, addictive Middle Eastern sauce; pinto beans in another tasty sauce. Bowls of pungent, but not too blazing harissa. The wine was Tavel. The meal ended with mint tea and honeyed, pistachio pastries. BSK staggered and moaned. “I ate the whole thing. I’m going to die.” BSK survived and had some croissants, English marmalade and Greek yogurt for breakfast. The stomach (as Woody Allen commented about the heart), is a very resilient organ.

Friday (Day Seven) started with heavy rain which continued on and off. Not to worry. Hats and raincoats. Unfurled umbrellas. HG and BSK were off to the far reaches of the posh 16th to see the great Monet show at the Musee Marmottan. (A wonderful walk through elegant little parks and squares surrounded by the opulent apartment dwellings of the very rich). All of the museum’s 137 Monets were on display plus works of his pals and mentors—Renoir, Morisot, etc. A startling show. Yes, there were water lilies. But, there were wonderful portraits, caricatures and the full range of his paintings of the pond and garden at Giverny. Flowers. Weeping willows. The Japanese bridge.

Back to Montmartre to Cave des Abbesses for oysters and wine. On the carte tonight at Chez HG and BSK is Italian bufala mozzarellla. Piquillo peppers. Jambon Persille. Jambon blanc. Salad of poached eggs, lardons, lettuce and white anchovies. Palmiers. Creme brulee. Camembert. Pinot Noir. Oh, well. C’est la vie.

Mishap That Turned Out Well: Paree Day Five

February 16th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Pompidou Centre today. Picasso, Giacometti, Arp, Brancusi, Leger, Braque, Matisse, Balthus, Bonnard, Gris, Chagall, Dufy, Dubuffet and all the other French greats and semi-greats (okay, many were born in Spain, Russia, etc.). Also, a new Rothko acquisition. Some thoughts: French art ran out of steam after Picasso and the Americans took over. Pompidou is wonderful. Beautifully lit and displayed and organized. But, compared to MOMA it is provincial. Balthus’s “Alice” remains shockingly pornographic. Laurens and Duchamp-Villon (not displayed very much in USA) give HG great pleasure.

Annoying dinner mishap. Arrived at Cave Beauvau, much touted wine bar, and found out they were not serving dinner. A mixup. Off to Le Vaudeville for briny oysters, Muscadet, a huge slice of cod with truffled potatoes. The best herring in Paris with warm potato salad. Favorite dessert (you’ll never guess): Ile Flottante. So, HG and BSK demolished hunger pangs in style.

Paree: Day Two Continued

February 14th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Dinner at Le Stella. A warm welcome from Christian, Stella’s elegant and gracious maitre d’. HG’s advice to Sarko: Appoint Christian Ambassador to the United States and watch relations improve immediately. Dinner began with complimentary flutes of champagne and then perfectly shucked and chilled oysters with brown bread and sweet butter.

Bulots and mayonnaise. A carafe of Touraine Sauvignon Blanc. Steak with sauce bearnaise and the best frites in Paris. A carafe of Brouilly. Finale: An Ile Flottante (Floating Island) which was the approximate size of Australia. HG and BSK met the challenge. Many restaurant critics have mourned the decline of Parisian brasseries, once a source of delight. Most have been taken over by chains more interested in assembly line production and profit than in providing a true Parisian experience. Stella has gone counter to this trend. It just keeps getting better. Christian and his smiling crew provide service that is not only deft but is warmly human. The food consists of tried and true classics. Put it all together and you have a food experience that is unique to Paris. The brasserie style is alive and well at Le Stella.

Paris. The Same. Maybe Even Better.

February 12th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

Grey, slightly misty Paris day. Unpacking (always an annoying chore only matched by equally annoying packing). While BSK went off to buy a hair dryer, HG perched at an outdoor table at his favorite cafe/wine shop Cave des Abbesses, on lively Rue Abbesses. Ah, Montmartre. Before strolling to Cave, HG listened to a trio (two guitars and a bass) jazzing at Place des Abbesses. Django time! At the Cave, HG had six splendid oysters (a bargain 7 Euros) a pichet of excellent Touraine Sauvignon Blanc, dry with only a hint of fruit. The passing parade of lovers, intellectuals, artists, loafers and working folk was free. Further entertainment was provided by a funky jazz trio of trumpet, clarinet and castanets.

Joined by BSK, a shopping expedition provided a roast chicken, roast potatoes, a head of frisee, six perfectly ripe wedges of cheese (St. Marcellin, Reblochon,etc.); an array of wine (inexpensive in Paris). Dinner at home. Early to bed. Lots of art to see tomorrow. Maybe the Mondrian/ de Stijl show at the Beaubourg. You will be informed.

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