Marathon Eating

Madcap day in Boston: Thousands of carb-crazed runners trail Ethiopian and Kenyan runners in a race to reach the finish line without stroking out or losing too, too much blood.  As such, I’m hiding here, finishing up the last of my pieces about the root vegetables, green tea, and hot spots of Japan.

What lies ahead: Russell House, A new tavern/bar in Harvard Square; Menton in Boston where dinner for two is $500 with tax & tip; and, still no street vendors hawking the foods of faraway homes.  Russell House is apparently owned by the folks who brought us Grafton Street, which is pub food with a human face.

Meanwhile, in Dudley Square, Tropical Foods and Haley House hold down the fort.  The former is a fruit and vegetable store and the latter is a nice, exposed brick cafe.

The big news, of course, is that Flour is opening in Central Square.  Wow: The BLT of my dreams!

Carb-crazed runners:

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Weasel Coffee

A very informative piece in  today’s NYT on the rare civet produced coffee from Southeast Asia.  I’d read about the stuff before a recent trip to Saigon and bought some in the central market there.

Back home, it’s dark, umami-like, and so pleasant I felt like going back to bed.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/18/world/asia/18civetcoffee.html?ref=world

In other news, the stash of lox is gone.

Mr. Coffee:

All Food All The Time

It’s been a stressful few days–work, fatigue, wisps of jet lag–and I have turned to food for relief, which always works.  Not the way running works, but still:

Armando’s, my neighborhood pizza joint, is great about three or four times a year: Chicken parm and thin slices!

Savenor’s–the butcher shop of butcher shops sold me two thick Colorado lamb loin chops and, $13 later, I pan seared them and made a rich, delicious mustard cream sauce, courtesy of the Gourmet cookbook, and then added fried capers.  With fat, peeled asparagus from California, grilled baby red peppers, and tiny chick peas steamed in their pods, it made for a satisfying dinner.

What’s up next?

Scampo: Pretty, pretty good; and, Sel de la Terre.  Reason being it’s Celtics playoffs tonight and Sonny Rollins tomorrow and these restaurants are near the venues.

I still keep asking myself: What would Bill Evans do?

My Kind of Weather

Finally, my kind of weather: Overcast, raining, and quiet.  In a previous life, it seems I was a duck.  This rain soothes me.  It’s writing weather: No desire to go out, I stay in and write about green tea.  A little Chet Baker would be nice, but no distractions are nicer.

One reason I love long flights and remain spellbound by Japan: There’s an art to passivity, a gestation.

If I had any brains, I’d cook chili today, bake corn bread, and open a sturdy red at six.

Instead, it’s back to poppy bagels and belly lox!

This is a photo of me in my past life:

Picture of Duck - Free Pictures - FreeFoto.com

Speaking of Delis

Manna arrived this A.M.: A dozen H & H bagels, scallion cream cheese, quarter belly lox, 1/2 pound Nova, thanks to do-gooder daughter.

Hooray for H & H!

Hooray for Zabar’s!

The toasted bagel, smear of cream cheese, and salty, belly lox–umami???–will not be televised.

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Wednesday Food Sections: The Food We Carried With Us

The New York Times

1. A strange, informative piece on the front page about big changes in 21st century Jewish delis.  Strange because the writer doesn’t quote anyone from the three best delis on earth: Second Ave Deli, Barney Greengrass, and Katz’s.  Then she goes on to quote Ari Weinzweig–a very smart, affable guy I met on an Oldways junket to Italy–who notes his use of Black Angus beef at Zingerman’s.  (Ari was introduced to cheese producers sponsoring the free trip from whom he then bought cheese for his deli.)  Black Angus beef is an industry designation and has nothing to do with gradation–prime, choice–of the meat.  Zingerman’s is by far the most overpriced deli I’ve ever been in.  Anyway, the new deli guys are nice people, but the old guys set the standard and continue to do so.  If you’ve ever had a corned beef and pastrami sandwich on seeded rye with a Cel-Ray at Second Avenue or a plate of sturgeon, onions, and eggs at Barney Greengrass, you know what I’m talking about.  You can’t perfect something that’s already perfect.

2. An extremely nasty, even cruel review of Nello by Sam Sifton.  Egregious in his personal insulting of the owner.  Why?  Very Dorothy Parker-esque in his trashing of this East Side institution, Sifton nonetheless demonstrates why the food in NYC can be so good: He doesn’t pull his punches.  Of course, should he meet Signore Nello, he had better run.

3. Note on David Bouley closing his bakery to focus on his restaurant.  Ever meet this guy?   Focus doesn’t come close to describing it.  He’s like a WWF wrestler stuck in traffic.

The Boston Globe

1. An insane two star review of Lord Hobo in Cambridge.  Want to know why food in Boston & Cambridge is so grim?  The bar is set so low.  The reviewer notes: “The best bar food here is fresh, hand cut fries with skin on.”  Then trashes the rest of the menu, the temperature, and the noise.  She says: 40 taps, 40 beers.  This constitutes eating out?

2.  A nice piece on travelers’ meals.  The best one is down home cooking at The United House of Prayer Kitchen in Roxbury.  Made me think of the terrific book I’m reading now: “The Making of African America,” by Ira Berlin.  The food is what people carried with them, restoring a sense of home.  Which brings me back to the old deli’s.  I’m telling you, Zingerman’s makes a good sandwich, but Second Avenue it’s not.

You kidding me?  This needs improvement?

Hamburgers & The Pulitzer Prize

This year’s Pulitzer prizes were announced yesterday.  Of note was the award to Michael Moss of The New York Times.  His groundbreaking series on the dangers of contaminated meat was simply terrific.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/13/business/media/13pulitzer.html?scp=5&sq=michael%20moss&st=cse

In the series, Mr. Moss highlights the sad case of a person who, after eating a burger, contaminated with e coli bacteria, wound up paralyzed.  Mr. Moss researched the burger: processing, handling, shipping, cooking.  His work led to new safety regulations and monitoring.

We saw what happened when banks were deregulated.  We’re about to see what happened to food: It’s only been since 9/09 that the FDA has its regulatory agency in full swing…

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Restaurant Uptick!

According to the lead story this weekend in the country’s #1 restaurant trade journal, Restaurant News, Wall Street analysts are saying that, “…a recovery in consumer spending may finally be here” for restaurant operators.

It’s good news.

Analysts are seeing recovery, which they say started in March, 2010.

One restaurant noted is Ruby Tuesday.

“On Wednesday, Ruby Tuesday Inc. reported its best quarterly sales in three years, with same-store sales at company stores dipping just 0.7 percent for the quarter ending March 2. On a call with investors, chief executive Sandy Beall said same-store sales were slightly positive in January and February despite bad winter weather.  The sales improvement coincides with an effort by the company to attract more higher-end customers. Ruby Tuesday has been rebranding itself with a new menu that focuses on entrees that will bring its average check from $12 to a range of $12.50 to $14.50, Beall said Wednesday. That effort first began in 2007.”

Ruby Tuesday’s has also been praised by the Center for Science in the Public Interest for trying to create healthy versions of favorite dishes.

Read more: http://www.nrn.com/breakingNews.aspx?id=382030#ixzz0ksz51CMW

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Swordfish and Salt

Last night I used the ESCA cookbook again: Favorite restaurant, favorite recipes.

So easy:

Heat coals.

Pour a little olive oil on a plate.  Add salt and pepper.  Dredge fish in oil.  Place fish in bowl with breadcrumbs.  When coals are gray-orange, place fish on grill for five minutes per side, more or less.  Remove and squeeze half a lemon on fish.  Correct for salt.  Serve immediately with half a lemon and parsley.

Wow.

Speaking of salt: My piece in last Sunday’s Boston Globe magazine has got readers all shook up.  There seems to be a feeling that I am saying that salt should be banned or that the government should legislate our bodies.  Others get the point: Caution, follow medical advice, cut down.

http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/magazine/articles/2010/04/04/getting_chefs_to_pass_up_the_salt/

Sheesh!

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Lagging Behind

Finally: The jet lag from six nights on Planet Japan has dissipated.

I can think more clearly.

Yesterday: Returned with a haul from the Cape–Haddock, shrimp, swordfish.  Last night was great fried haddock with malt vinegar and roasted, baby Yukon’s.

This A.M.: An OK quiche @ Crema in Harvard Square.  Why just OK?  The crunch of parmesan was awful and, let’s face it, the quiche was dried out, it wasn’t fresh.  Still, watching people at the outdoor table was lovely and the price ($5.65) with a coffee was right.

Later today we’e talkin’ pizza from Iggy’s and grilled swordfish.

Soon I will write about izakaya…