Raaga

May 5th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Many years ago, HG /BSK dined at Chutney Mary , an Indian restaurant in London. A revelation. Best Indian food ever. On Many subsequent visits to London, HG/BSK made sure to visit Chutney Mary. Never disappointed. One of the CM cooks was Paddy Rawal, then a young man. HG/BSK were unaware that Paddy, after other culinary posts, had moved to Santa Fe and opened a very well regarded restaurant, Raaga. Well, Paddy has continued the CM tradition but with an emphasis on vegetables plus a few southwestern touches. HG/BSK dined there last week with a friend and colleague from BSK’s Colorado environmental battles. (BSK continues to fight in New Mexico for Mother Earth). Meal was spectacular. Highlights were two extraordinary vegetable dishes: Fried spinach salad with warm yogurt dressing and crisp fried okra with pico de gallo (both hot and sweet and totally satisfying). Other vegetable dishes included cauliflower in a garlic tomato sauce (lassoori gobhi) and raaga tikki (an Indian version of eastern European potato “latkes.”). There was a meat dish. Three sublimely tender pink lamb chops in a masala sauce. They were as good as the lamb “popsicles” served at Vij’s, the great Vancouver Indian fusion restaurant. HG/BSK also had mahi mahi in a mustard infused Bombay curry. Great curry. Tasteless fish — the meal’s only flaw. Naan was the best HG ever ate. Drank a well priced malbec. Refreshing desserts of rasmalai and mango ice cream. Yes, followers of Hungry Gerald. There’s more to Santa Fe than green chile and robust Mexican cooking.

Vij’s Rules

November 18th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

Vij’s is one of the ornaments of Vancouver. It is an Indian fusion restaurant and as close to being perfect as any eatery can be. It was located on 14th Avenue just east of Cambie. When HG/BSK were part time Vancouver residents for some ten years, HG/BSK ate there at least once a week. No reservations. HG/BSK would join a line waiting for the 5:30 PM opening. Only way to get seated without a long wait. Vij’s has moved some blocks south on Cambie into a much larger, luxurious space with perfect lighting and acoustics. As always, there is lovely blend of warm, attentive service and restaurant professionalism. Founder/owner Vikram Vij has always promoted wine as the right accompaniment for his food. This is reflected in a new, vast wine list. Many affordable bottles and rare vintages for high flying oligarchs. HG/BSK drank Beaujolais Villages and dined on grilled vegetables in a mung bean curry; ling cod in a tomato based sauce; Vij’s signature dish of pink lamb “popsicles” in a cream curry. Warm naan slicked with a variety of spices and basmati rice. Palate cleansing kulfi and a creative Indian version of carrot cake were the desserts. Opulent meal. Memorable.

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Heaven

July 17th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

Warm, sunny days (with a hint of sea breeze) on Prince Edward Island give HG a preview of his eventual destination: Heaven. HG/BSK have been walking along the shore, splashing in the the water (The sea is warming up) and adding to the family’s ever growing collection of beach glass. HG’s current beach reading is The Yid, a funny, bitter, surreal novel by Paul Goldberg, a Russian emigre. (SJ gets the book when HG finishes). Days have ended with hot, outdoor showers. Cocktail of the week has been an HG invention: one third gin, two thirds dry vermouth, a few drops of Boker’s Bitters. (HG has done a previous post, “A BITTER DISCOVERY”, about magical Boker’s, created in 1828 New York). While drinking, HG has been listening to Pierre Fournier, the suave cellist, playing unaccompanied Bach suites. (Son in law Profesore Massimo R. introduced HG/BSK to Fournier). Dinner (BSK made enough for two nights) has been an Indian eggplant and green onion curry from Vikram Vij’s cookbook. HG cooked Garafalo orzo (Garafolo is world’s best packaged pasta), mixed it with a can of Indian black lentils and enhanced the dish with Garam Masala spice. A cooling salad of cucumber, radish, lemon juice, olive oil and a touch of the Middle East: Greek yogurt dusted with Zaatar. Delicious cross cultural dining.

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Vikram Vij

September 3rd, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

Food Island Day takes place on Prince Edward Island this week, a one-day symposium bringing together PEI growers, food processors, exporters, product developers, etc.. The aim is to share knowledge of emerging food and dining trends plus changing agricultural practices. The keynote speech will be given by Vikram Vij: “From the Kitchen to the Boardroom: Business Entrepreneurship and Cooking with Love.” Of course, daughter Victoria and husband Marc. M. (New York’s Rosie’s, Cookshop, Hundred Acres and Vic’s) are HG/BSK’s favorite restaurateurs, but right after them comes warm, engaging Vikram Vij. He is the owner of Vij’s, the renowned Indian fusion restaurant in Vancouver, B.C. During the ten years HG/BSK maintained part time homes (first a loft and then a modernist town home) in that enchanting city, the duo often dined at Vij’s. No reservations. Madly (and deservedly) popular. You had to join the lineup to get seated when the restaurant opened at 5:30. Filled immediately. And, never an empty seat thereafter. Warm greeting from Vij. Gracious service from a waitstaff of lovely young women. The food was consistently innovative and delicious. Surprising combinations of the very freshest ingredients. Splendidly curated selection of appropriate wines and beers. The New York Times called Vij’s: “Easily one of the finest Indian restaurants in the world.” While HG/BSK, were residents in Vancouver, Vij opened Rangoli, a casual neighboring restaurant that also offered frozen dishes for home consumption. Since then, HG has learned, Vij has opened My Shanti restaurant in the B.C. city of Surrey and has inaugurated a popular Vij’s food truck that roams Vancouver avenues. Vij frozen foods appear in the frozen foods section of a number of Canadian grocers. A new Vij flagship restaurant will open on Vancouver’s busy Cambie Street. Best of all, according to HG’s point of view, Vij and his wife, Meeru Dhalwala (she’s the genius behind all of the Vij kitchens) have authored two cookbooks: “Vij’s: Elegant and Inspired Indian food” and “Vij’s At Home: Relax, Honey.” The recipes are flawless. Last night, HG/BSK supped happily on two dishes from “Vij’s At Home”: Cauliflower “Steaks” and a curry of red kidney beans served over rice. (The Vij “family” chicken curry is a favorite of HG/BSK’s family and friends). When you are in a particularly festive mood and have a good bottle of California Cabernet at hand, cook Vij’s lamb “popsicles,” an HG favorite.

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Righteous Repetition

June 15th, 2015 § 2 comments § permalink

BSK lightens culinary labor (and intelligently economizes) by cooking dishes that are equally good for two consecutive dinners. BSK also has the knack for recycling roasts and sautés for savory Asian salads (these are salads that can happily rest in the refrigerator for a few days). BSK’s stews, of course, gain in flavor by being reheated. A favorite is rich and unctuous chicken curry (Recipe from Vikram Vij’s cookbook, Vij’s At Home). BSK always cooks enough for two hearty dinners. HG makes a raita of Greek yogurt, sour cream, olive oil, garlic, cucumbers, radishes, baby turnips, sumac and smoked paprika. Condiments (peanuts, chipotle peppers, lime pickles, Major Grey’s chutney, etc.) are varied at each dinner to prevent monotony. BSK’s Texas beef chili (the traditional “bowl of red”); New Mexico pork green chili; French-influenced beef stew (cooked in plenty of red wine); Chinese Mo Pu ground pork and tofu, are splendid for consecutive dinners. When BSK roasts a marinated spatchcocked chicken (backbone cut out and the chicken flattened), the left over chicken is mixed with a variety of greens, onions, scallions, radishes, turnips and room temperature cooked Chinese rice “sticks” or rice noodles. The salad is dressed with soy sauce, Canola oil and Vietnamese fish sauce. Sprinkled with red pepper flakes. This salads makes an excellent dinner and a pleasant lunch. Marinated Asian flank steak (cooked rare and sliced on the bias) gets a similar treatment. Confirmed foodies, HG/BSK manage to dine very well at home without long, burdensome meal preparations. That’s because BSK always merges creativity with economy.

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Indian At Home

February 3rd, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

HG/BSK like to keep their meals simple. Occasionally time is of the essence as well. With that in mind, the duo have devised a very quick Indian dinner. The basis is Seeds of Change curry sauce. Yes, it is a very pretentious name but the ingredients in the jar are pure and savory without the deadly, stale canned taste of many heat-and-eat Indian sauces. So. HG/BSK grill some lightly oiled chicken breasts on a ridged, cast iron pan until they’re just about done. Cut into smaller pieces, the chicken is simmered in the Seeds of Change sauce for about 10 minutes. BSK coats cauliflower florets with garlic infused olive oil, dusts them with cumin and roasts them in a preheated oven. Accompaniments are rice, naan and papadums. HG is a lover of Indian condiments so there are jars of mango chutney, sweet and hot lime pickles plus a bottle of indispensable sriracha to heat things up. Ice cold beer is the appropriate beverage.

When HG/BSK wish to spend more time to preparing an indian feast they automatically think of Vij’s. When HG/BSK had a home in glorious Vancouver, they often had dinner at Vij’s — possibly the best Indian restaurant in the world — and lunched at Vij’s casual eatery, Rangoli. Vij’s is owned and run by Vikram Vij (he’s in front) and his wife, Meeru Dhalwala (she’s in the kitchen). No reservations policy at Vij’s. Opens at 5:30 PM and there’s a line in front. Woosh..and every seat is taken. Get there later than opening and face a one hour (or more) wait at the friendly bar and be fueled by free appetizers. The food? Innovative. Creative. Spectacular. Service is warm and professional. The wine list is exemplary (Vij qualified as a sommelier in Europe). Prices are moderate. Fortunately, Vij and Meeru have written some cookbooks so their dishes can be reproduced at HG/BSK’s New Mexico home. Vij’s: Elegant & Inspired Indian Cuisine is a favorite. So, last night BSK turned to Page 92, “Vij Family’s Chicken Curry.” This is a curry unlike anything served at conventional Indian restaurnts. Layer upon layer of flavors. Not searing hot but tangy. Went beautifully with rice, big bowl of garlicky raita and the aforementioned array of chutneys and Indian pickles. Drank Spanish garnacha (Vij recommends tempranillo). Wonderful meal. Later this week HG/BSK will do some vegetable dishes (eggplant, cauliflower, etc.) from the book. Get a copy and enter the rewarding culinary world of Vij’s.

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Improv & Tigers

February 20th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Sometimes the unexpected or improvised meals turn out the best. Went to an afternoon showing of Life of Pi (Recommended by Gifted Daughter Lesley whose film counsel HG and BSK always follow). Enjoyed the movie. However the leading man closely resembled Vikram Vij of Vij’s, HG’s favorite Vancouver restaurant (extraordinary Indian fusion food). His countenance made both HG and BSK ravenously hungry. The peckish duo popped into Jambo African-Caribbean Restaurant (30 minute wait). Off to Mu Du Noodles (One hour wait for Asiatic cuisine). Motored home. Dusted off a jar of Mezzetta Porcini Pasta Sauce in the pantry (tasted in a supermarket sampling and found it quite good). Also In pantry was box of DiCecco Pappardelle. BSK enriched the jarred sauce with anchovies, garlic, capers, dry porcini mushrooms (softened in hot water) and olive oil. Served the steaming pasta with shavings of good, authentic parmigiano reggiano. A bottle of “1967” Tuscan red. Green salad with Italian truffle cheese. Marvelous meal. It’s good to have a well stocked pantry and frig.

One of the protagonists of Life of Pi was a tiger named “Richard Parker.” Excellent performance, deserving of an Academy Award. HG’s fantasy: Tiger wins award. Pads up to podium. Eats Al Pacino. Leaves his toupée.

Why HG Misses Vancouver

January 25th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

HG and BSK had great fun spending part of each year year in a Vancouver loft (and then an ultra-modernist glass town house). A city of great architecture, mind boggling scenery, ethnic and cultural diversity. Posh skyscrapers and waterfront mansions; a nude beach; one section of town dominated by junkies and another (Commercial Drive) where the Sixties live forever. Much superior weed cultivated and smoked. Downsides: Rain. Homeless scavengers. Violent Indo/Canadian and Chinese drug gangs. Ridiculously high wine and spirits prices (because of taxes). For HG, the biggest plus was the food. The Public Market on Granville Island (and neighboring Island shops) is Foodie-Died-And-Gone-To-Heaven. There is such a large Asian population in Vancouver that locals refer to it as “Van Kong.” The neighboring city of Richmond is so Asian that New Yorkers may think of it as a vast Flushing. Obviously, this means there is a plenitude of Chinese restaurants. And, folks in Vancouver take Chinese dining seriously. So, while HG and BSK love their Southwestern life, they are pained when they read an article like the recent Vancouver Sun survey of its readership’s favorite Chinese dining experiences. Some 32,273 diners responded with glowing testimonials to such delicious treats as salt and pepper pork loin; Shanghainese pan fried buns; Taiwanese beef noodles; steamed Dungeness crabs; Stir fried prawns with eggs. Restaurants HG will try on next Vancouver visit: Fatty Cow Seafood (for hot pot); Sha Lin Noodle House (for noodles..what else?); Fisherman’s Terrace Seafood for dim sum; Hong Kong Barbecue Shop (for duck and pork). HG will not neglect his traditional favorites: Kirin. Congee Noodle House and Congee Noodle King. Chongquing Szechuan, Sun Sui Wah. Plus — Rodney’s for oysters and Vij’s for incomparable Indian fusion food.

Film and Food

November 5th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

HG and BSK often settle down after dinner around the warming fireplace and watch a film courtesy of Netflix. A few nights ago the duo watched films on successive nights that were set in India. The films were Gandhi (overlong, talky, simplistic — but saved by Ben Kingsley’s remarkable performance in the title role) and The Man Who Would Be King (a rousing John Huston version of the Kipling tale with Sean Connery and Michael Caine — a critical success but, surprisingly, a box office failure). For fun, HG and BSK thought they’d preface each film with Indian food. So, a peek through two favorite cook books Vij’s Indian Cuisine and Vij’s At Home, revealed two splendid vegetable dishes Cauliflower Steaks and Eggplant, Tomato and Green Onion Curry. Lots of cumin and turmeric in the cauliflower dish. Cayenne and Mexican chile powder gave the eggplant dish heated zip. Warm naan, fluffy rice plus mango chutney and lime pickle were part of the meal. Good eating. Had some leftovers for the next Indian meal (and film). This time BSK grilled a juicy chicken breast rubbed with cumin, garlic and garam masala. Worthy addition. (If in Vancouver, B.C., do not miss the two famed Indian fusion restaurants, Vij’s and Rangoli.)

A few nights later Netflix delivered Under The Volcano, a film set in Mexico The novel by Malcolm Lowry is riveting but the film, despite a virtuoso performance by Albert Finney, is a fallure. With John Huston directing, the fillm, of course has some rewards — the eerie cantina-hell that dominates the last part of the film, Anthony Andrews’ plaintive singing of a Spanish Loyalist song about Madrid and the beautifully photographed Day of the Dead holiday. HG and BSK are unsympathetic to self destructive drunks and after watching Finney’s bravura self destructing they could only murmur: “We don’t care.” The duo had thought about Mexican food before the film but opted for pasta with broccoli di rabe and grilled Italian sausage. HG and BSK will save the Mexican dishes for a more rousing film set in Mexico — possibly Viva Zapata.

Rainy Morning Heaven: Congee Noodle House

August 22nd, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

For almost a dozen years HG and BSK owned some beautiful Vancouver dwellings (a duplex loft in an old church blessed with spectacular views, a modernist architect’s loft, a steel and glass town house) and spent much time in that glorious city. Vancouver is a tantalizing blend of Canada and Asia. The center of this foodcentric town is the Public Market on Granville Island. Great fruit and vegetables. Every type of fish, shellfish, charcuterie, baguettes, pastry, pasta, cheese, etc., etc. All food fantasies are fulfilled in this joyous bustling space.

Vancouver is (like Seattle) very moist. Rain can be a steady companion for much of the year. HG enjoyed his rainy, Vancouver mornings at the Congee Noodle House (Broadway and Main Street in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood). This is a big, noisy Hong Kong type restaurant that specializes — you guessed it!! — in congee and noodle dishes. Rain would pelt the windows but HG was comfortably settled down with hot tea and the New York Times and the Toronto Globe & Mail. HG would dip into big bowls of congee (comforting Chinse rice porridge for readers who are unfamiliar) enriched with chopped oysters or shrimp or giant Chinese mushrooms (sometimes a combination of all three). The bowls were sprinkled with salty peanuts. Most of the restaurant diners accompanied their congee with Chinese crullers (HG found them nasty) while HG opted for fried squid covered with fried garlic and hot peppers. Happy minutes would stretch into hours and HG would supplement his Asian breakfast with barbecued pork rice crepes and delicious, thin skinned won tons filled with juicy prawns. Vancouver has lots of great restaurants (Vij’s for Indian/Fusion and Tojo’s for imaginative sushi, among them) but funky, soulful Congee Noodle House retains a special place in HG’s culinary heart.