HG is a pasta lover and has happy memories of a number of pasta dishes consumed, with gusto, in a variety of locales. In Venice: Linguine a la Vongole (clam sauce); Linguine con Seppie (juicy cuttlefish with their own ink). Bologna: Spaghetti Bolognese (meat and tomato ragu). Bergamo: Pasta with shavings of white truffle. Belleville,N.J.: Cavatelli in a sauce of ricotta and tomatoes. Served at Belmont Tavern as a prelude to Stretch’s Chicken. North Arlington, N.J.: Fettuccine Alfredo prepared table side by the maitre d’ in a spacious (name forgotten) restaurant. And, of course, BSK’s pasta with pesto. BSK’s splendid carbonara and matchless Spaghetti a la Norma (eggplant). Linguine with Prince Edward Island mussels and clams. BSK has delighted HG with these wondrous dishes during their 54 years of co-habitation in New York, Montclair,N.J.; Golden and Denver, Colorado; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Vancouver, B.C; Fire Island; Nantucket and Prince Edward Island. Recently, HG has discovered a new pasta favorite at Santa Fe’s Saigon Cafe, home of splendid Vietnamese pho. At the suggestion of waitperson, Hua, HG switched from pho to Chow Fun. Broad noodles, cooked al dente, are stir fried in soybean oil with sliced onions, scallions, bean sprouts and steamed tofu. It is served with a plate of garnishes: Mint, flat leaf parsley, cilantro and jalapeno peppers. This is health conscious eating at its best.
HG is very fond of Tofu (bean curd). Made from soybeans, the silken substance is one of the world’s healthiest foods, full of valuable nutrients, low in calories and no cholesterol. Prevents a variety of cancers. It has the virtue of making HG feel virtuous while devouring many dishes. HG’s favorite Tofu dish is Agedashi Tofu. Cubes of Tofu are dusted with potato or corn starch and deep fried to a golden brown. The hot Tofu is served in Tentsuyu (a broth of dashi, mirin and soy sauce) and topped with grated daikon radish. Shohko Cafe in Santa Fe serves a very good version. When living in Vancouver, HG/BSK often enjoyed Tofu with spinach at the Fortune Garden restaurant. Fiery Ma Po Tofu (Tofu, ground pork, scallions, garlic, ginger, hot chile oil, Szechuan peppercorns, peas, peanut oil) was a specialty at Congee Noodle House in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood (restaurant was very close to HG/BSK’s loft). HG/BSK would often get takeout containers of this dish (plus poached chicken or barbecued duck) for casual dinners at home. Here in New Mexico, BSK makes a comforting version of Ma Po Tofu as well as a warming soup of Tofu, spinach (or watercress) and smoked ham. At the pleasant Saigon Cafe in Santa Fe, HG often lunches on Pho, the great Vietnamese noodle soup, with Tofu replacing the usual strips of beef. The eatery also makes a good version of Chow Fun noodles with Tofu. On hot Prince Edward Island summer days, cool comfort is provided by Hiyayakko, a dish of chilled soft tofu flavored with organic soy sauce and grated daikon. Gives HG enough energy for long walks by the seashore and refreshing dips in the sea.
“Keep it simple, stupid.” That was the mantra that guided the communications strategy of one of Bill Clinton’s presidential campaigns. BSK follows the simplicity principle in BSK’s daily cooking. HG/BSK like to drink wine before and with dinner. (HG also likes a snifter of brandy, Limoncello or Sambuca after dinner). Following this regime at good restaurants results in a check of $200 plus for dinner a deux. This is too self indulgent so HG/BSK rarely dine out. The exception is lunch at modestly priced Sopapilla Factory and El Parasol (both in Pojoaque, 15 minute drive north of Santa Fe) and Saigon Cafe in Santa Fe. Invariably, dinner is at home. BSK cooks an array of simple dishes that satisfy and delight. Often, cunning BSK enhances these dishes with an unexpected and savory addition. Here’s a partial list of BSK dinner dishes. Pastas: Linguine with oil, garlic, anchovies, parsley, red pepper flakes. Penne with broccoli. Spaghetti with black olives, tomatoes, garlic and anchovies. Spaghetti with tomatoes and Italian canned tuna. Chicken: Marinated, spatchcocked chicken roasted in the oven. Chicken curry (from Vikram Vij’js recipe). Lamb: Pan broiled New Zealand lamb chops. Kefte (Middle Eastern cigar shaped burgers pan broiled or roasted in the oven). Beef: Pan broiled burgers served with fried onions or smothered in 505 Green Chile Sauce. Pan broiled New York strip steak (a rare indulgence). Soups: Sorrel soup (in summer). Green soup (a BSK invention of everything green in the refrigerator plus chicken stock, onions and herbs, all pureed into tasty all season soup). Fish and shellfish: Quickly sautéed sea scallops served over salad greens. Prince Edward Island Mussels steamed with clam broth, white wine, garlic, parsley, olive oil, onions, red pepper flakes. Pacific sole, dusted with fish fry, and quickly sautéed in Canola oil with a bit of butter. Pork: Mo Pu Tofu, a Chinese dish featuring ground pork and tofu. Thick Frenched pork chops dusted with Goya Adobo and pan broiled medium rare. Served with sautéed onions and peppers plus Goya Black Beans covered in chopped sweet onion and Mexican Crema. BSK’s repertoire contains many more simple good things. Main dishes are usually followed by green salad and cheese. Dessert: Trader Joe’s chocolate almond biscotti and Belgian-style butter almond cookies. Candles lighting the table. Flames dancing in the fireplace. Yo Yo Ma on the Bose. Dinner a deux at Chez HG/BSK is celestial.
A rare sunny day in Vancouver. Breakfasted on cafe latte, fruit and yogurt. Did some necessary online and household chores. Breathed the salt and pine air and delighted in the sweeping mountain, water and skyscraper views from Jamie S.’s rooftop terrace. Lunched at Thai Son (on Broadway in Mt. Pleasant neighborhood), a very good Vietnamese eatery. Yes, HG recently wrote some enthusiastic prose concerning the pho at Santa Fe’s Saigon Cafe. Possibly, HG overstated (that can happen when HG suffers from pho deprivation.) In any case, the beef pho at Thai Son was a revelation. Abundant and savory. The real deal. Taking advantage of the weather, HG/BSK strolled the parks and beaches that rim English Bay. Sea views, sun glimmering off steel and glass skyscrapers, towering trees–this is one of the great urban walks. Evening meal was at Chicha, a lively little Peruvian restaurant near the corner of Main Street and Broadway in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood. HG/BSK’s dinner companions were the brilliant young Colombian architect Pablo Rojas and his sparkling wife Monika, international lawyer and busy mother of two youngsters. Animated conversation on the joys, dreads, exhaustion and exhilaration connected with the life changing event of becoming a parent. Food was splendid. Ceviche with fish, mussels, squid, sweet potato and corn on the cob; crisp empanadas; quinoa salad; Causa, a whipped and chilled potato topped with seafood (unusual and extraordinary); chile dusted fried potatoes; a skewer of broiled octopus and chorizo sausage. An inventive chocolate dessert and, of course, plenty of perfectly crafted Pisco Sour cocktails. HG/BSK love Peruvian cuisine. Only enjoy it once a year when visiting Providence, RI. Glad to discover another source in Vancouver.
Oh, joy!! In the chilly weather of early Spring (or any weather, for that matter) HG longs for a giant steaming bowl of Pho, the glorious Vietnamese noodle soup. (Apologies to my beloved late Mom: Your chicken soup was great but Pho is even better). HG has bewailed the lack of Pho in Santa Fe. Then, early this week, HG discovered the very plain spoken Saigon Cafe, a family owned and operated little restaurant on Cordova Street. Topping the menu was Pho Bo, a Pho with beef and rice noodles. HG was misty eyed as he surveyed a very big bowl and a platter of fresh mint, bean sprouts and sliced jalapeno peppers. The broth was powerful and flavorful. The noodles were properly al dente with great mouth feel. Lots of thinly sliced tender beef as well as some Vietnamese sausage. As good as any Pho HG ever tasted in New York, Vancouver or Denver’s Federal Boulevard (home to a score of good Vietnamese restaurants). HG will become a Saigon Cafe regular. There are about 20 Pho variations on its menu (including a very fiery chicken Pho with a curry base.) The menu also has about a dozen variations on chow fun (wide noodles) and egg noodle lo mein. Everything is modestly priced. Slightly more expensive is shrimp cooked in a clay pot and catfish in hot and sour soup. Intend to try everything.