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.

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.

Oceanic Delights

January 3rd, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Rhode Island is called (rightfully) The Ocean State. Lots of shoreline and lots of splendid, fresh fish, squid, oysters and clams. HG/BSK and Lesley R. lunched on sea treats at Hemenway’s, the very good seafood restaurant in Providence. Rhody clams and oysters are among the world’s best, so that was the first course. BSK and Lesley R. do not share HG’s love of raw clams on the half shell so HG had all of the delectable little necks while a variety of oysters from the Rhody shores (plus a few from Massachusetts and Connecticut waters) were shared. All were delicious and briny, full of sea pleasure. On the table were giant shrimp and a half lobster, not local but perfectly sourced and cooked. BSK had a big bowl (a small cup for HG) of Rhode Island clam chowder. This is the best chowder, relying solely on an abundance of chopped clams and clam broth (plus potatoes, onions, bacon and herbs). No tomatoes as in Manhattan clam chowder or cream as in New England clam chowder. Simple, pure clam goodness. Clams Casino and a bottle of chilled Muscadet completed the meal. No room for a Rhody specialty: Fried squid with hot peppers. Next time.

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Hot and Tasty

June 14th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

Chong Qing House in Seekonk, Mass., is a quick ten minute drive from the Riva family residence in Riverside, R.I.. It is a small Chinese restaurant occupying a space in a nondescript strip mall. Blink and you’d miss it. That would be a misfortune if you are a fan of authentic Szechuan and Hunan food. HG likes it better than any Szechuan-Hunan restaurant in New York or Vancouver. (In the absence of a trip to Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Chinese mainland, these cities have been HG’s ideal of fiery Chinese food heaven. Oddly, tiny Seekonk has displaced these metropolises in HG’s dreams of Szechuan-Hunan). Today, granddaughters Arianna and Sofia R. joined HG at Chong Quing for a festive, fiery luncheon. As usual, HG over-ordered: Spicy Lamb in Casserole (two red peppercorns denoting level of heat); Salt and Pepper Shrimp (This was the best ever version of the dish. Juicy shrimp delicately breaded and served on a bed of crispy rice noodles dotted with diced scallions. No red peppercorn designation); Shredded pork with smoked bean curd (no peppercorns); Sour String Beans with minced pork (no peppercorns); Steamed Pork Dumplings (no peppercorns). Despite the lack of peppercorn designations, every dish (except the dumplings) packed loads of tongue tingling heat. HG wanted some fish dishes but his companions are not big fish fans. Heat didn’t overwhelm the authentic .savory flavors. The only dish on the extensive menu that garnered four peppercorns was Wild Pepper Fried Frog. HG will pass on that one. HG is adventurous but not brave enough to try these delicacies: Sauteed Bullfrog with Chili Sauce; Marinated Pig Feet Shanghai Style; Spicy Pig Intestine in Casserole. HG could not figure out two dishes: Chong Qing Stew The Cock; Mixed Meat Chaff with Chong Qing Style Spicy Dried Chili. Hot stuff. Both rate three peppercorns.

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Appetizing Providence

June 11th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

HG/BSK love Providence and Rhode Island. A major reason,of course, is that it’s the home of Gifted Daughter Lesley R. and her multi talented, beautiful family. Providence is rich in history, art (home of famed Rhode Island School of Design); 18th Century architecture (Benefit Street) and higher education (Brown University). Son-in-law Massimo is a distinguished Professor at the University and Brilliant Granddaughter Arianna graduated a few days ago. HG/BSK visited the Brown campus today with Granddaughter Sofia. All were moved by a powerful sculpture of chains and words that acknowledges — in a forthright and honest manner — the University’s founding was financially aided by more than a century of profitable participation in the slave trade. HG/BSK were on campus to view an exhibit at the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology curated by by Arianna. Brilliant exhibit. The subject was beer and its importance (religious, cultural and culinary) in a variety of cultures ranging from the Andes to Africa. There was eloquent prose by Arianna plus striking displays of brewing and drinking artifacts. (Hey. If there are some museum administrators among HG’s followers, HG counsels the hiring of Arianna immediately. The young woman is destined to have an outstanding curatorial career). Leaving culture and family love behind, HG must mention that HG’s affection for Providence and its environs is based on food lust. Lesley R. is an outstanding cook and Profesore Massimo is a knowing selector of cheese, bread, wine and other good things. Yes, home eating is a pleasure and dining out is rewarding. HG has written about oyster feasts at Hemenway’s; grilled pizza, clams and sausage plus other wonders at Al Forno.. And there are clam shacks, Peruvian, Portuguese, Korean and Italian restaurants. All serving abundant, savory and affordable food. Today, HG/BSK, Arianna and Sofia lunched at Haruki East, a very good Japanese restaurant near Brown. Great lunch specials of Maki rolls (spicy tuna, tempura shrimp, eel and avocado;yellowtail and scallions; crisp fried Gyoza; a green salad with Japanese dressing; lusty Miso soup; green tea. HG spotted a young man at the counter devouring a K Dinosaur Roll. This is a monster (Priced at $19.75, more than a foot long and combining a lengthy list of ingredients including salmon, tuna, eel, cream cheese, avocado, asparagus, etc. etc. This is an HG must try. For dinner, Avenue N American Kitchen in the Rumford neighborhood of East Providence. The restaurant is, to put it simply, wonderful. Inventive, perfectly prepared food from local sources. Handsome, nicely lit room (It replaced a group of artist studios). Deft service. Lively atmosphere with a buzzing bar scene. Modest prices. Small plates. Big plates. And, pizzas. Dinner for five (HG/BSK; Lesley, Massimo and Arianna R.) as a continuing celebration of Arianna’s graduation from Brown University. Shared three small plates (Quite generous in size): Fried oysters with horseradish and mustard sauce; Point Judith calamari with pickled peppers, citrus butter and spicy remoulade; Smothered Duck Purloo (lush sauce of okra, corn, preserved tomatoes, short grain rice, andouille butter). All were splendid. The lavish duck dish was a revelation. Shared big plates: Swordffish Schnitzel with turnips, burdock root, pickles, chile aioli; Braised Berkshire Pork Shoulder with gruyere polenta, chard and a rich brown sauce. Before the feast began, all got tastes of the Roasted Sweet Corn Soup ordered by Miss A. Drank two bottles of Oregon wine–a pinot grigio and a pinot noir. HG had his usual alcoholic cocktail (This time it was an icy vodka and grapefruit concoction) plus a glass of California cabernet to accompany chocolate mousse cake. (The sweet goody was to be shared but greedy HG ate most of it). Arianna R. is slim, sleek, soigné and shapely. But, the lady can sure pack away the groceries. Magic metabolism ??

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Christmas and Family

December 28th, 2015 § 2 comments § permalink

Sorry to say, this was not the merriest Christmas for aged HG. Persistent pneumonia. Medical visits. Antibiotics that caused many unpleasant side-effects. No alcohol. Nevertheless, HG was heartened by the loving care and affection of HG’s unique family. The Big Guy In The Sky has blessed HG with BSK, an extraordinary woman of tenderness, strength, creativity and a sexiness that defies advancing years. Lesley R. and SJ are loving children and exemplary spouses and parents. The grandkids: Haru, Teru, Sofia, Arianna. No adjectives can do justice to their wonderfulness. Daughter-in-law Maiko Sakamoto. Son-in-law Massimo Riva. They bring to HG an abundance of intellectual and culinary delights. So, despite illness, HG did justice to the family’s Christmas Eve and Christmas Day version of the Feast of Seven Fishes. SJ visited legendary Russ & Daughters on New York’s Lower East Side and arrived in Riverside, R.I., with a bulging carton of good things: Red salmon caviar. Fresh Dutch herring. Sable. Three types of smoked salmon. Whitefish salad. Tobiko. Smoked tuna. Trout mousse. Cream cheese. Bagels. Bialys. Authentic Jewish rye bread. Lesley R. made her splendid crepes and blini. SJ created a big platter of his crisp, perfect potato latkes. There were bowls of sour cream, creme fraiche, capers, sliced onion, chopped onion, lemon quarters, celeriac salad, hearts of palm salad on the table. Savory abundance. HG could not indulge in HG’s traditional icy vodka and Bass ale. HG had to settle for Beck’s non-alcoholic beer. The family noted this was the first Christmas with a coherent and sober HG. Wait till next year.

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Rhody Treats

December 10th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

The official Rhode Island appetizer (so designated by the state’s Governor and other officials) is breaded, fried Calamari with hot peppers. Indeed, it’s a wonderful way to start a meal. And, the squid, pulled out of the sea near Port Judith, are superior. Lesley R, prepared the official appetizer and it got dinner off to a rousing start. This was followed by a main dish of pasta with chunks of seared, fresh tuna in a tomato based sauce. Savory seaworthiness. What HG found unusual was the pasta shape, called Paccheri: short, thick tubes. HG has usually associated seafood based pasta dishes with thin strands of pasta like linguine. Massimo R., authoritative on almost every aspect of Italian culture, pointed out that linguine is rarely used in Italy. Thick pastas are used in fish dishes while spaghetti is used with clam and shrimp sauces. In any case, Massimo R. insists that pasta be cooked “al dente” to the extreme. HG prefers pasta a bit softer. Not mushy, of course. Massimo’s standard of pasta “doneness” reminds HG of the way steak is served in Paris bistros: seared but raw (and bloody).

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Bomsters Are The Best

December 8th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

Bill Bomster of Stonington, Conn., sells perfect sea scallops, uniquely sweet and fresh tasting. Bomster and his three sons bring back scallops from 10 to 12 day sails into the Atlantic and sell therm from their shop in Stonington. The scallops have become a cult item among seafood lovers at restaurants and markets along the east coast. The big difference is the way Bomster scallops are processed. Working in continuous shifts, the Bomster scallops are rinsed in seawater, vacuum packed and flash frozen within an hour after they are hauled out of the water. Most scallop operations use a “wet” process where the scallops are shelled, iced, treated with chemicals and bleached. The Bomster method produces a superior scallop. Yesterday. BSK and Lesley R. visited the Pawtucket Farmers Market housed in an old mill building (Pawtucket, R.I., is a gritty industrial town, the birthplace of America’s industrial revolution). The Market is thriving and offers a big variety of fresh greens, seafood and other good things. BSK and Lesley bought a variety of mushrooms (including delicious, seldom seen Poplars), salad greens and Bomster scallops, of course. The result was a dinner platter of gently sautéed scallops nestled on fresh greens gilded with very superior first pressing extra virgin Italian olive oil and surrounded by lush mushrooms. A big bowl of quinoa accompanied the dish. A wow. This was followed by ripe Robiolla and Pecorino cheeses, fig jam, Comice pears. White and red wine. Later in the evening, there was salted caramel gelato. A lengthy procession of culinary delights.

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