Category Archives: French Food

Lower East Side (Slight Return)-April 24th 2010

 Today is bright and will be warm and I sit and munch half a bran muffin washed down with a decaf coffee on the train to New York City while I listen to a young couple dote over their three-year old boy, he’s a cute kid in a baseball cap who stands on the seat and marvels at everything, looking around in wonder and asks questions, lots of questions. There is three young girls sitting diagonally across from me speaking French, I am shy to go and talk to them I don’t want to make a fool of myself, but I push shyness aside and walk over asking if they were from France, which they confirm.  I excitedly talk about my love for France and everything French, my ambition to cook French food and to be a tour guide in NYC and to someday ex-pat to France after Mom and Dad are gone and Chris is moved to Vegas or Canada whichever he chooses. They are here for five months and are doing work/study programs although they don’t seem to want to share the details or even talk that much too me. The dark-haired girl is friendly and the redhead too I guess, but the mousey girl sitting closest to me looks petrified or at least uncomfortable. They assure me that they are meeting friends who live in the city and will not need my services but I explain that I am not licensed yet so cannot guide them anyway, although I could do it for free… that is not illegal in New York but give them time. So I decide to wish them well and head back to my seat and they talk amongst themselves, laughing occasionally at the  older guy who just wanted to meet some people from France, but now I feel like a fool who should have kept his mouth shut. When will I ever learn. 

 I know I have a tendency to be too excited when I talk about my passions, but I’m not the only one and I remember Drew Barrymore, the actress talking on Late Night about how she scares people with her enthusiasm for a new project, so I can really identify with her, I guess I do too but at least I’m in good company. So I get out at Penn Station and make my way to the blue A,C,E subway line and check my old tickets for credit left on rides, I swipe my old cards and see that I have plenty. While doing so the three girls come up behind me and are busily engaged in trying to use the ticket machine, I say a quick hello again but don’t even try to help them, I would have helped them in any way I could just to be nice.  But their snobbery being what was I move off quickly to get the next train to West 4th St station and make sure I’m in a forward car so I don’t run into them again. It’s a quick ride on the subway, whoosh! and your there almost before you know it, I get out and almost immediately I am asked for help by a woman and her daughters from Queens who are looking for the Washington Arch and NYU University, I whip out my flip map and tell them to follow me and we walk up to the 8 Th Ave exit. 

 It’s a beautiful day turning warm as I lead them to the Arch, they walk fast and it’s hard for me too keep up, I’m guessing they are looking at the school for the girls to attend after they graduate high school and after we walk past the fountain, still dry. Not in operation yet as I see excited kids running around inside its shallow bowl that will soon be cooling off visitors who brave the (clean?) water to cool off in the heat. I part company with the family on the other side of the park pointing out the NYU buildings to my left and with a few Thank You’s they are off to see the wizard and I go to towards the Lower East Side starting point for my tour. I am stopped on my way by a young Asian girl who is lost, looking for an address. She is staring right at a map mounted inside a frame for the students looking for certain buildings in the area but this girl cannot find it and she cannot be late, she’s going for an audition! I tell her to follow me and I tell her also that I’m a tour guide in training and it can be very confusing especially with all the construction going on with closed streets and all. We walk a few blocks and a few turns later and I’m beginning to think I screwed this girl up but she turns to her left and says “Here it is!” with glee and with a shake of my hand we wish each other good luck and I continue on my merry way, the triumph of making a difference for two people putting a swagger in my step as I continue on my way. I give a homeless man the other half on my Bran muffin and says God Bless You as I pass him by and a little further on I see a youngish couple looking around in confusion so I stop to help. They are also from France and I tell them how much I love their country and using my flip map show them exactly how to get to the West 4th St Station, and also what train to take to get to 42nd St which is where they want to go next, they also thank me profusely and with smiling “Au Revoir’s!” they move off and I holster my map like a smoking gun in its holster ready for the next time. My starting point is a few blocks away but I am in need of nourishment now and I spot an old-looking place just ahead. 

 I stop in the Cafe Colonial, a Brazilian eatery with a brunch menu and a simple atmosphere with white metal bistro tables and chairs, and a pay phone in the back corner. I order a simple meal of warm steak over field greens and a decaf coffee and after a wash up in the loo begin to make notes on the trip so far, I feel a real optimism about today as my food arrives and that is made more apparent by the delicious food I get. This is the way I should eat at home, no starches just meat and greens with a little whole grain thrown in too. So I pay the bill and start walking down the street when I see a familiar face standing in chefs gear smoking a cigarette, I don’t know his name but I recognize his face from the food network Iron Chef show, he was one of the contestants to be the next Iron Chef! I stop and say “Hey I know you from the food network!” “That’s right, that was me.” he says casually but visibly happy to be recognized. I look at the building , “Is this where your working now?” I ask not being able to see the sign up ahead. “Yeah. you should come in and eat, it’s the best!” But I explain I just ate at Cafe Colonial and he suggests I get a paper menu, so I move off to do so and them after I get it I can’t resist going back and saying “Dude can I be a real tourist and have you sign this?” as I offer a permanent marker and the menu. He signs it without hesitation and I explain that I’m studying to be a tour guide and will be back to eat here the next time I come to the Bowery to study and eat. I shake hands agin and start walking towards the starting point again. This is shaping up to be a great day! I might just have made my first contact in New York! 

 (Footnote: I would find out later that he’s only been there since February when it opened and on April 4th he was arrested for carrying a two-inch knife on a chain he uses to cut boxes at work as he was walking home between shifts at his restaurant Pulino’s Bar and Pizzeria, he was surrounded by three police cars! Nice going New York’s finest, way to keep us safe from 2 inch knife wielding chefs, I know I feel a lot safer now!) 

Best place for a bagel and a smear in New York City!

 

So I begin my tour stopping first at the Famous Russ & Daughters Deli appetizers since 1914, it is said to have the best bagels, Nova & Caviar cream cheese in New York, it is packed so I walk down and back getting glimpses of fantastic food in flashes as the space between bodies is small and closes quickly, people are ordering bagels by the bagfull! I leave promising myself that I will have a bagel next time around, next I take a few minutes to photograph the famous Katz’s Deli, I wish I was hungry because this place serves up beef brisket or pastrami sandwiches that need their own Zip Code! I peeked in once at this place at night right before the Anya Marina show in 2008, (see Anya Marina Concert Parts 1&2) but didn’t want to eat so much as this place gives you between two slices of bread. I move off turning on Norfolk and take it down to Rivington & Orchard, but needing a loo I stop in Nooy’s Bar for a cold beer but first a wash up, this is actually the bar for the Kampuchea restaurant, a mix of Cambodian and French Cusine I find out from the young friendly bartender who is cutting and squeezing dozens of limes to fill a Magnum for drink-making. I sip my cold Hennepin Ale and we talk the interesting menu, travels abroad and N.Y.C. He is a Californian studying graphic design who works 50 hours a week and pays $1200 a month for a studio apartment! I find him a great source of info for food and wine, he has re-done the drink menu for the restaurant himself and added his own spin to them. He is smart, friendly, hipster, cool and I admire his ability to multitask and still be a great conversationalist. I can’t resist ordering the Chicken Rillettes and another beer, they come with small greens and pickled Rhubarb with toasted slices of Baguette. It is superb, I needed this so bad! I haven’t been this relaxed and happy in a long while. I could sit here all afternoon, but I can’t eat or drink anymore. I pay the tab and shake my bartenders hand and thank him for his kindness and move on. I walk down the street taking it all in, the sun, the breeze,  the easy feeling of being able to do whatever I want with no one telling me what to do or where to stand while I do it. 

 I move through Chinatown and enter another world where I am the minority and don’t speak the language. I sit on a low wall on the corner of Bowery & Canal St and write, cool from the breeze yet warm from the sun. I watch the kids play on a clay soccer field while parents sit on benches and talk on the sidelines. The little park is surrounded on two sides by a grass field about ten feet wide where a young woman sleeps peacefully with a cell phone on her chest while a young hipster lies on his back with his knees up talking on his phone a few yards away. I realize how lucky I am to have a piece of land I can call my own, this is all the nature they get in this urban sprawl of concrete, stone, and the ever-present sound of traffic and machinery. It makes me appreciate the ease with which I walk out my back door and step into nature. I move on into the heart of Chinatown where stalls of fresh fish (some still flipping around) crowd the sidewalks that flow with the runoff of melting ice in a constant stream to the street. The foods here are endless, dried mushrooms, dried fish, and strange vegetables are displayed and in butchers windows whole roasted Peking Ducks and chickens. The crowd is a mix of tourists but mostly natives that live in this enclave and shop here all their lives, vendors hawk their wares and shoppers argue loudly over prices and freshness, at least that’s what I think they’re saying  but who knows. The bucket of still moving blue crabs from some far off place the subject of this particular debate. I pass into Little Italy and the mix of Chinese and Italian turns all Italian as I make my way up Elizabeth St where I see a familiar figure sitting outside his butcher shop, Moe is still going strong at 83, he sits with his son enjoying a Perrier water and enjoys the day. I promise to come back and get a “Got Cha Steak” his trademark aged beef steaks as soon as i fix or replace my grill. 

 Well, the tour was done a while back on Grand Street and now I am back on the corner of East Houston Street and Elizabeth Street, the Cafe Colonial is a few steps away, across the street is a big mural on the wall of a building painted with the cities permission by Shepard Fairey of Obey giant fame ( see What is Obey Giant Parts 1,2,3,&4 for more) the last time he was in New York, right next to that is Billy’s Antiques and Props. My brother and I have plans to cook over the open fire tonight so I better head back to Penn Station, I walk towards 6Th Ave as the strong late afternoon sun burns a little as I pass familiar sights, the basketball park and street vendors on West Houston and easily find my way back to the West 4Th Street subway station. It’s an easy ride to Penn and easily grab an express train to Hicksville, three stops to home! 

 I sit on the train and think about what might have happened if I had a camera crew with me shooting my fun day. Somehow I think it’s just possible that I too could have a hit show on the Travel Channel, so what if I’m not tall dark and handsome. I don’t have to be a hipster twenty-something with a face full of scruff and a half tucked shirt with vest. I can just be who I am in all my aging hipster, latter-day bohemian, over enthusiastic glory! Those French girls missed out, they could have spent the day with me being shown the ropes, while listening to a good storyteller who knows a few good places to eat and drink. It was a great day nonetheless, and I managed to make a difference for a few people who let me into their life for a few minutes, all in a days work for The Guide Boheme. 

Bonsoir 

Glen

MyFreeCopyright.com Registered & Protected

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under East Village, Food, French, French Food, Greenwich Village, Life, Memories, New York City, Shepard Fairey, Travel

The Story Of Red-Apr 10Th 2010

It’s a cool breezy Spring day, typical for this time of year on Long Island, one that finds me sheltering from the wind in the stairwell of the Long Island Railroad Station platform. My train is seven minutes late and I’m getting a late start to my adventures today. The morning found me scrambling to find an in-between coat to wear (which I don’t seem to own) so like many others I’m a little underdressed. Today I’m going in to New York City for a walkabout and to see “Red” an off broadway play about the artist Mark Rothko, particularly about the relationship between Rothko and his young assistant during the time leading up to the completion of the commission for the Four Season’s restaurant in the Seagrams Building in New York.

 He was a tortured man who left an indelible mark on art and the rave reviews it got in London promise this should be a real experience. I have put some study into Rothko and his work but find myself unable to paint color field paintings in his style, I can’t contain my energy and violence, and sexual desire to paint dozens of glazes to achieve the pulsating glow of his master works. But I have also stood transfixed and stared at them in museums until the colors changed before my eyes. This is my birthday present to myself, it’s just 10 days away and so far no one has mentioned it to me, needless to say I’m a little hurt by this since I put so much thought into others gifts and parties. But as I’ll be turning 48 I’m not really sure I care to celebrate, I’m not where I wanted to be at this point in my life, only a windfall of money could solve some of the problems and put into place the things I feel are lacking in life.

  A few weeks ago Anthony Bourdain was in Provence, France filming his Emmy Award winning Travel Channel show “No Reservations” and while dinning al-fresco with his guide he said “everybody in some childlike way craves a life of simplicity, where they have a garden, a beautiful sun, where they can walk into a small town and everybody will know them and wave”. This about sums up how I feel about France and although his guide Ann said laughingly that in his little movie there is no “sweat” and here is considerable work and sweat. The fact is that rural France was a hard place to live always, a rocky terrain not suited to vineyards and the growing of vegetables or livestock, but somehow they made it work. Today of course they survive on the tourist trade to a large extent and what makes downtown unbearable for the indigenous population is also what keeps many people employed, and since I started buying France magazine, I am beginning to be drawn into the desire to see the small towns and villages and less drawn to Paris itself…maybe it’s the thought of being an ex-pat in the future when I’m older and more settled or the thought of being in a town where everybody would wave to me as I make my daily rounds. The guide Ann was very appealing to me, mid 50’s with a full head of long grey hair and very stocky,  she has a very provincial earthy appeal and a great personality, I guess you know you’re getting older when you start fantasizing about older women than yourself and less about the young girls in the seat in front of me. They are chattering away like magpies about everything and giggle incessantly as they talk about school, work , and friends. I can see the face and chest of the girl facing me through the opening  in the top of the seat for the hand-grip. What a clean fresh face with a dazzling smile and perfect hair, she wears a peace sign necklace which rests on her chest, I muse on the thought that a child of the 90’s could hardly know what a peace sign entails, I mean she wasn’t even born yet. Heck, I thought that guys with long hair in army jackets were veterans back from the war who couldn’t stand having short hair cuts, at five years old the Summer of Love was as unknown to me as the student protests and the realities of the war. In back of me a young couple talk in hushed tones and also giggle as they hunch over a new computer phone and app away the time doing God only knows to their friends to cause such quiet hilarity. Oh to be young and in love. We descend into the tunnels and my ears pressurize and I yawn to pop them, soon the streets of N.Y.C.

 I come up into Penn Station and make my way to the 8th Ave subway line, my first goal is to get to the theater and pick up my ticket for tonight, then lunch. The station is hopping as usual with tourists, workers, and people heading for a show like myself, I weave by the crowds  like a motorcycle does through a traffic jam on the freeway and go upstairs to the uptown branch, but I don’t have to wait long as I approach the turnstile I hear a train come in and I hop on easily for the short ride to 42nd St station. It’s an easy walk up to ground level and up the 3 blocks to the theater, the wind is making me a little cold but the sun is out and the full spectrum of sound and color hits you as Time Square looms all around you like a giant robot encircling you with its arms and looking down on us all, its glowing eyes flashing and head spinning. I find the theater and see a line down the block for the matinée of Red in about an hour, a good sign I think as I pick up my ticket and turn around to go to my brunch destination for today. 

  Marseille is a NYC landmark combining French, Italian and Greek influences, and has been in Hell’s Kitchen for 9 years, I have always wanted to eat here but never got around to it. I go inside to get a table but it is packed and loud so I ask to be seated outside and am glad I did, the sun is warming now so I order two items, Soupe au pistou, a garlic vegetable soup I’ve never had and a scramble of eggs with Merguez, a spicy mediterranean lamb sausage with creme fraiche, potatoes rosti, and greens. I also order a decaf cafe au lait which is served in a bowl! This is about as traditional French as it gets. I receive a complementary plate of sliced rye and grain bread with mini carrot muffins and a small plate with jam and 1 pat of butter, I begin to tuck into this and hold my coffee bowl with both hands and smile into the hot creamy beverage as I take my first sip. If I close my eyes I could be in Paris or Marseilles, except of course for the English being spoken around me

The way coffee should be enjoyed!

When my soup comes it is a pleasure for the eyes, lots of colorful vegetables with beans and macaroni in a clear vegetable broth with thin slices of garlic and grated cheese, it is very good and just what I need right now. It’s all I could do to not gobble it up like a dog, dunking my bread and licking the bowl! When my plate has been cleared I wait for my eggs and I am not disappointed, the fluffy mound of eggs topped with creme fraiche and chopped tomato and crunchy onion is wonderful, if you read my post “The Case for Scrambled Eggs” then you know how much I enjoy real scrambled eggs and these were no exception.

Life is not sucking right now!

They are soft and savory with the spicy Merguez sausage being balanced out by the sweet creme, the potatoes however were very greasy and decadent in a bad sort of way but the field greens were in a delicate vinaigrette that I still can’t seem to duplicate at home, altogether a fantastic meal. It’s a little hot in the direct sun but as I sip my coffee I think that this is the most relaxed I’ve been in a long time. Next tp me an upscale couple sits sipping bloody mary’s and eating goat cheese and asparagus tarts with field greens and lamb sausage, it too smells great. I pay the check after letting my food go down a little and walk back up to 42nd street station and take the subway downtown to the village, I am looking for some t-shirts to send to Mark and Sharon in England that I saw last year when I didn’t have the money to buy them. I hope the street fair in is full swing as I descend the stairs and hear the familiar rush of wheels on track as I zip through the turnstile and walk for the train doors.

Peace

Glen

MyFreeCopyright.com Registered & Protected



Leave a comment

Filed under Anthony Bourdain, Food, France, French Food, Life, Memories, New York City, Off Broadway, Theater, Travel

Julie & Julia…and Glen? Dec 5th 2009

The weather is cloudy and overcast but I am in good spirits as I drive towards the nearby Town of Huntington to the Barnes and Noble book store for an early breakfast. I am off today and tomorrow and have already started my Christmas shopping a few days ago, but today I am doing something I used to do all the time but stopped for lack of funds. The weather is warm as I cross the parking lot and enter the store. The warmth of the colors hit me as I enter, it is like a second home to me a bookstore; any bookstore feels the same way. I make my way to the loo, it seems that these days I need one everywhere I go, guess I must be getting older.

 But soon I find myself standing in front of the section on international foods, there is an awesome array of books on French cooking, the ones that appeal to me most are the bright color photo jobs with a picture of each recipe, but the pièce de résistance is a huge volume put out by the French Culinary Institute in New York City whose web site videos I watched and marvelled at the relatively cheap cost of a six month course. The five-day a week daytime course is 46,500 dollars and they place you in your first job, I think they also give you a set of chefs knives to boot. The same course taught at night takes nine months and cost 36,500! The teachers are all very experienced and they take you from how to chop carrots to working a shift in the restaurant attached to the school L’ecole. I would love to go if I could, if I could afford to quit my job I would go just to learn classic French cooking, but that’s a lottery win dream. This book is for those who are not going to go to school but are more advanced than me, as is the same sort of book put out by a French School similar to FCI in NY, the pictures are beautiful and each lesson is a three to four course meal, starting with easy stuff and getting into very complicated meals half way through.

 I take both books to a table at the Starbucks Cafe inside the store and order a Cafe Au Lait and a Caprese Panini sandwich, toasted cheese,tomatoes, and pesto on ciabatta bread cooked in a press toaster to melt the cheese, it’s pre-made but good and I munch as I flip through the volumes, my mind swirling with unfamiliar food, phrases and techniques. I put the books back and look around for gifts for others, but find little that would interest them, I do find a cheap book on Alice Waters and Chez Panisse, the story of one of the most famous restaurants in the country. I know her name but nothing specific about Alice herself so I buy it and walk back to my car and set off for the Fairway market in Plainview, just a town over from mine and a place that will become my Mecca for my new venture. I plan on teaching myself classic French cooking just like the new movie “Julie & Julia” based on the book of the same name; which I got for my Mother but at this time still haven’t seen. I’m prepared to go to a lot of trouble to do just that, so I have already bought my first real chefs knives at Macy’s department store that I got on sale for 40% off plus an extra 25% promo which ends today, I bought a small pairing knife and a large chefs knife but I am going back to get the others I left behind. I have the money from my 401k which I’m paying back weekly from my paycheck so I can afford to splurge a little, with my bills caught up and deals made for lower monthly payments and interest rates I have come out on the other side of my financial disaster of a few months ago, in fact we also got a nice bonus this year as opposed to last year but half of what we used to get back in 2007. I didn’t know that yet with Christmas being 20 days away but it was a shocker when I found two envelopes to open on the 22nd!  I pull into Fairways parking lot and find it a madhouse as usual, it is the largest food store around here and shopping here can be a hassle.

Fairway Market-Long Island N.Y. 2010

 I can only imagine that this is a taste of the open market experience that you get in other countries, when you walk in your senses are hit with dazzling color and to your right a huge produce dept, to your left the cookware and the catering desk, opposite catering is the café area where a salad bar, sandwich bar, and hot food waits in large stainless steel chafing dishes for people to dish up for themselves, every kind of food is here. Fresh made lemon chicken, asian style ribs, ox tails in gravy, pork chops stuffed with fruit, sautéed vegetables, butternut squash puree, mashed potatoes, filet of sole stuffed with crab swimming in lemon and garlic butter, flank steak in barbeque sauce, garlic string beans with almonds, broccoli rabe in garlic and oil, an ever changing array cooked each day from about 11:00 to closing or until the food runs out, whichever comes first.

The Heart of the Maze

  If you walk past the food area you come to what I call the maze, an area where cold prepared deli food awaits and here the vegans and vegetarians have a field day! The selection of humus alone will kill ya, roasted red pepper, plain, garlic, lemon, babaganoosh, antipasto, cheese salad, vegan General Cho’s Chicken, fire roasted veggies in olive oil, marinated cauliflower, eggplant, tomatoes and basil with fresh mozzarella, couscous galore!, multigrain with vegetables finely chopped, couscous with fruit and grains… combos that will just make you insane there a sooo good. There is an olive bar where you can pick out from 16 different types from all over the world, and around the corner is a fresh hand-made mozzarella ball stand, an olive oil tasting bar where fresh bread is available for dipping, turn another corner and your in the biggest cheese market I’ve ever seen, with samples and tastes of anything you want to try! There is a cold case with French delicacies from goat cheese to pâté of all kinds to duck confit and crème fresh, and very expensive truffles! The next aisle over is a coffee lovers paradise, fresh roasted on the spot! I mean you gotta smell this section, it is beautiful with teas from around the world in tins, boxes, or loose as well as coffee of all kinds to indulge in your caffeine cravings. The back-drop for all of this is the back of the store beginning with the end of the produce section where the deli starts, all kinds of cold salads that were not in the other sections are here, potato salad, macaroni salad, cole slaw, egg salad, all the picnic stuff Americans crave and more as well as sliced meats and cheeses, always busy as hell with a wait. Next to that is the fish market, and let me tell you they have it all here, live lobsters and crabs, clams and mussels and slabs of bacalau still packed in kosher salt, and every kind of fish you could want or need. Then next to that is the meat market; a haven for meat lovers with dry aged steaks, Angus beef, and every kind of sausage you can think of…chicken, lamb, pork, beef, spiced in every possible way with cheese or fresh herbs added and ground meats of all kinds arranged in a beautiful display of neat clean rows, very clean and very fresh and cold. This makes the back area into a chaos of people bumping and jostling each other (especially with a holiday weekend) like roller derby for food.

 I am making a traditional Navarin D’Agneau, which is a spring vegetable stew using a few cheap pieces of lamb tenderloin I found in the regular store we shop in for a discount. These are pieces of meat which have been pre-seasoned and are cheaper cuts cast off from better ones that sold for more money, but as Tony says on his show often, poor people discovered good food by taking cheap cuts of meat and cooking them just right … to make them delicious. I will need some lovely small white pearl onions which I pick out one by one from a large bin, a bunch of  nice big carrots, turnips, peas, small fingerling potatoes, garlic, and parsley and thyme for a bouquet garni; which is a fancy French term for herbs tied up in a piece of cheesecloth. I finish my shopping and go home for a short break in the action before I start my meal, feeding my fish and talking with my brother briefly about our tanks and things before I start setting up my mise-en-place, which is another French term meaning having everything ready ahead of time. This means you get all your ingredients out and all the pots and pans you will need as well as the dishware your serving the meal in and for me a Rum and coke!

  So as I assemble my “mise” my mom sits at the table using her laptop to chat with her friends on the Neil Diamond Fansite “Sweet Caroline” which she now is in charge of greeting new members daily.  I’m absorbed by my task and after getting everything out I start to peel the little white onions, let me tell you this is a pain but the little pairing knife is a godsend, I cut through a paper plate like it was nothing just to show the quality to my family, who were very impressed by the way, then start cutting up the other vegetables. I can’t believe how easy it is to cut the carrots with this knife. I bought J.A. Henckels cookware from Spain, and I can see now that we never owned a really good knife before this, I am happy to have made what I consider a shrewd buy that I will have for years. I quarter the large carrots and white turnips, and I cut one large onion into eights ( expecting it will render down and flavor the gravy), and peel the small potatoes (covering with a damp towel) before I address the meat.

  Now I take the pieces out of the packages and wash off the herbs and turn them over, very fatty on the back side so I have to trim all of that off before I can cube it. I don’t enjoy butchering meat, I like to eat meat very much but don’t enjoy handling it, I guess it’s the guilt of knowing you’re a carnivore and things die so you can live. But the trouble is that plants are alive too, we just can’t communicate with them yet, and fish-what about them. I am just starting to like fish when I have to go and get interested in keeping  freshwater fish, so now the thought of cooking a whole fish in the beautiful long copper fish pot I got my Mom for Xmas is not as appealing as it was a few months ago. Still I have to be realistic, I’m not turning vegan any time soon so I brown off the meat and removing it for a while I toss the onions in the pan, let them cook for a few minutes (but not browned), add the garlic (cooking till aromatic) then adding the meat back in I sprinkle with a tablespoon of flour and stir to coat, finally putting in two cups of brown stock and the bouquet garni and covering to cook for 1 1/2 hours.

 The rest is really simple, just adding the peeled and sliced potatoes, carrots and turnips into the pot and adding frozen peas at the end cooking till tender. But I am a little unhappy with the gravy, it’s like water so I mix up a little cornstarch and add it in to thicken the pot. The problem is I have to overcook things for my parents who can’t chew vegetables the way god intended- a little resistant . So I am basically forced to kill the meal a little for their sake, next time I will make some for myself done right and separate it from theirs so all will be happy. We sit down to a very good meal but it doesn’t look like the picture in the book, too much gravy comparatively, but that’s us Americans for you. I don’t feel like I made a major foray into the French gastronomy because I have made regular beef stew many times so this wasn’t a great challenge. The flavor however was very good and no one else was disappointed in the outcome, so I’m my own worse critic, what else is new. 

 I sip my glass of wine and think about the next meal, the next challenge, around me my family enjoys the meal. In the end what mattered is that they ate heartily, and enjoyed it and that is after all…the only thing that matters to a cook. 

Bon appetite

Glen

MyFreeCopyright.com Registered & Protected

 

  

2 Comments

Filed under Anthony Bourdain, Cooking, Family, Food, French Food, Life

1st Aniversary On WordPress!

 Well it’s an auspicious occasion for me tonight, I am six days away from my one year anniversary on WordPress.  To coin a well-worn phrase it’s “been a long strange trip” but really not so strange and actually it has been wonderful!  When I started this BLOG a year ago I was home sick from my many wanderings in New York City, burning the candle at both ends as it were. But when I wrote my “About” page and my first post “Now with Subtitles” I couldn’t have imagined where it would lead and how it would change me as an artist and as a writer.

 While I always knew that I could write pretty good at least as far as my school teachers grades indicated, it wasn’t till I attended college that my English 101 teacher Prof. Wigetow told me when asked that I could be a writer, he said it with conviction and without hesitation. But it was on a cool night on Oct 22nd 2008 that my world was changed when I; waiting for Duffy to take to the stage, was questioned by a woman asking what I was writing in my notebook. While I told her she was joined by her brother W.B.Wilkins, Wilkins (a former english teacher and actor) upon finding out that I intended to wait until the winter to start writing, gave me a lesson I’ll never forget. He covered how one goes about writing, but more importantly how I should go about writing about my experiences. He told me to do this in two days not two months!,and to try to convey what I’m feeling and what others are feeling. If I can write a piece that speaks to 80% of the people then I turn writing into saleable art.

 But he warns me not to expect to make money at it, just like painting the pleasure is in the doing, the experience of the work and the love of the written word. If you are very lucky, people will pay you for it! This is all punctuated by light taps on my chest, a rub to my arm and a squeeze of my bicep. It’s done in a fatherly reinforcing way and with a handshake he and his sister who is also a teacher, moved off to get a good spot for the concert that was starting.

 I left that episode out of the Duffy piece because I thought it broke the flow of the story but now give the credit where it is due, I have tried to convey in all my NY travel stories exactly what he said, how it feels to be there at that moment. To give my readers the sights, smells, and tastes around me and also the people moving around me and how they might feel too. I feel as if I’ve done a good job of  this but there is always room for improvement. I also have to acknowledge the influence of Jack Kerouack, his hand written notebooks and in the moment style have had immeasurable influence on me. The sheer brilliance of his raw novelist as reporter approach to his writing have served me very well and I really don’t think I would be this far along if it wasn’t for him. But I also have to give as much credit to William Burroughs, his loose yet careful words have shown me how a writer can be like a jazz musician, light and dark, fast and slow, all at once or each emotion on it’s own terms. There is also room to mention Tolkien and James P. Blaylock both created antediluvian worlds that made me want to live there, where good quiet folk found themselves fighting evil and having adventures. They are still favorite reads for me and the work never gets old even after multiple readings of  Tolkiens “The Hobbit” and Blaylocks best “The Disappearing Dwarf” and “The Elven Ship” they will be read again and again till I am gone from this world.

 The influence of another figure who is not only a writer but also a well-known former executive chef and star of two hit shows, one for the food network (which is no longer on the air) and currently an Emmy Award winning show for the Travel Channel. I’m talking about the loveably snarky and iconoclastic Anthony Bourdain. He has been my mentor, my man-crush, and my pick-me-up on Monday nights at the beginning of a long week of work. I listen closely especially to the voice over at the end of the show where he tries to sum up his experience in a particular place or country. While images of the trip flash by he recites his words, the liquid wisdom he has written in the moment. Very often the insight about the world and the human condition become (for me at least) the best part of an already excellent show. These programs have fired my imagination and along with my trip to England and France in 2005, have given me a wanderlust that right now…I can’t satisfy. The lack of expendable cash and responsibilities on the home front  have kept me from journeying away.  But I know that someday Tony, I too will swing in my hammock on the edge of the lake in Indonesia, in my little house and wait for “pancake man” to come in his boat on a sunny morning to give me breakfast. Yes, this at least I’ve promised to myself.

 But since I will probably never get to meet you face to face and tell you this story I’ll write it now, and maybe you’ll read this someday. I have never been a great lover of seafood, even though I have Swedish and Norwegian blood and my Great Grandfather was a sea capitan I have never much liked the water and could only stomach a few kinds of fish even into my twenties and thirties. In grammar school of course I ate tunafish sandwich and I liked fish sticks as long as it was all white, no discoloration please! Frozen deep-fried Howard Johnson’s clam strips or shrimp were a favorite too…thanks Mom.

 But I could not stomach the real hardcore seafood, I’m talking about the shellfish. On a good day I could handle a lobster tail (when I was older) but drew the line at a whole lobster or even crab legs, I had no desire at all to perform an autopsy on my dinner! The humble Mussel was enough to make me hurl, the sight of the chambered form inside with its Lovecraftian appendages, bubbling and blaspheming in a pot of Cioppino at my cousin Chrissy’s house, could send me screaming about the “Old Ones” into the night, and don’t even get me started on snails! But in 2006 things would change in a special way.

 My aforementioned cousin Chrissy had been battling cancer since 2003, and had survived an operation that would have killed most people, they are probably still studying her case. The cancer had spread from the intestines to the liver and ovaries, kidneys, stomach-the lot. They removed so much tissue from her body it was a miracle she lived, but live she did. She would live to vacation in Jamaica and take many other trips away with her husband and two girls, and I living nearby would drop in to see her without notice just to sit and tell her of my adventures or problems, you could always count on honesty with Chrissy, even if she didn’t always tell you what you wanted to hear.

 We had a special bond as painters but had gone to only one art show together since I started to paint in 1999,she was raising a family and I was busy with my own life. So in 2006 Chrissy and her husband Bruce decided to host Christmas for all the family, these were always happy times for me, I loved sitting at the table with my cousin Chrissy and her sister Donna, Bruce and Pat their husbands, my cousins daughters Sharon, Michelle, and Jennifer and my brother Chris as well as all the parents of our tribe. We would go off telling war stories and riffing on each other in a friendly way that would be punctuated by the raucous laugh of Chrissy and high-pitched guffaw of Donna and my own explosive laugh. So on this night things were a little more subdued but not much and when the hot food was served I saw that there was many seafood items to be eaten tonight. I realized that this may be Chrissy’s last Xmas with us and when I had already tried the other dishes of chicken, various pastas, eggplant, zucchini, roasted peppers and mushrooms. I went to the table of freshly laid out seafood and scanned the offerings, there was Cioppino, small snails in tomato and garlic tapenade, crab legs with butter, stuffed clams in garlic butter, seafood stew, a feast of garlicy tomato Italian tradition. 

  I took it all back to the table and bravely tucked right in with my cousin sitting across from me beaming as I discovered that some of this was actually very good! I ate and talked with her enjoying the face time with her and for a while it was not very obvious that she was sick. There was no way I wasn’t going to do so, like Tony says on the show when people are giving till it hurts, even if you don’t like it-you eat it and you smile and you ask for more, to do anything else would be an insult.

 My cousin died eleven months later in November of 2007 and it was touching that she seemed to wait until Stanly Kramer, her old art teacher in grammar school, now the school principal. Had to come to see her before she would let go, that’s how strong her bond was with him and with her art. We get together now without her and it’s cool to see how her daughter Jennifer has taken over Chrissy’s role as the raucous storyteller, regaling us with her tales of working in the fashion industry in New York City and Donna too seems to have joined her as well filling the gap left by Chrissy’s passing, and Chrissy’s other daughter Michelle, (a photographer who looks like her mother) quietly takes embarrassing pictures of all of us-yes we will get you for it too Michelle just wait.

 I did some growing up that night and since then I have found myself trying more foods that take me out of my comfort zone, even though I might not like them at least I try them now, veal, seafood, unfamilair meats, blood sausage, lagastino lobster, and anything else offered to me I eat without hesitation. I no longer sit on the sidelines and watch as others enjoy and encourage me to do the same and refuse, too caught up in myself to be polite and join in. I learned there is a big difference between taking a stand against a certain type of food for health reasons or moral obligation, and not trying a certain food out of immaturity.

 So thank you Anthony Bourdain for helping me to grow a lot, and for putting a smile on my dying cousin’s heart. Indeed with your own writing not just for your show (and it’s accompanying books) but also your fiction, which I have also enjoyed very much. You have informed my writing too, just like the master writers of this century and I hope you stay here in New York and keep doing No Reservations for many more years to come. This viewer will never grow tired of it.

 But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the one thing that my writing has given me, the most important thing…a friend. When I started reading others work I came across the blog of Maureenj aka White Orchid and after commenting on something she wrote, found her also looking at my page and since then we have become good friends. The fact is that only a few other people have bothered to comment on my posts and the comments have all been good, but no one follows my blog like Maureen.  This past year we have weathered many storms in our own life but still find time and energy to encourage each other and comment on each others blog posts. She has become the older sister I was supposed to have in many ways and although I have not shared some of my deeper problems and fears with her, (especially since she had a medical scare this year and a death in the family) I have come to realize she is my true friend. We talk of our desire to meet one day and I often find myself day dreaming about my trip to Australia or hers to New York, where I would undoubtedly be the personal tour guide for her that I want to be in the near future, and was with my relatives from England in April of this past year.

 Mark and Sharon came over and changed my life without even knowing it at the time, the days spent showing them the Village and Midtown Manhattan were the happiest this year, and led to my realizing that this might be my true calling. This was reinforced by meeting Robert Fogelnest; a former tour guide and Village authority whose book I bought and study along with many others on all things good and bad about New York City.

 So right now while I weather the storm of debt consolidation and zero credit available to me I cannot indulge in the finer things in New York City. I have to learn to write about other topics anyway, still have some story’s to tell about New York and some experiences I had before all this blogging, theater-going, tour guiding study and hardcore foodie stuff started. The very first story I wrote as an intentional piece of journalism was a story about street art that I wrote in 2007 when I was so wrapped up in my story that I didn’t even review the food I was eating in a now closed Sri Lankan restaurant, which is strange because I remember it was good. The story of our trip to England and Paris is all a blur now but I can try to look at pictures and piece it together to make it live. I also have the hope of coming into some money soon, by legal means I assure you which will be enough to pay off a few bills not covered by the debt consolidation in which case I could be in a few months very close to breathing a sigh of relief and able to continue my adventures.

 So right now after watching Paradise Found with Keifer Sutherland last night I am also trying to become an artist again, and trying to meld both my writing and my art into switches I can throw on or off depending on my mood instead of one or the other, which is the way it’s been since early 2007, I haven’t painted a thing in two years,why…I don’t know.  

 I am grateful to Word Press for their support and presence on the web, and to Cheru Jackson of  Alphainventions for helping me to promote my page, and to my Mom, whose diary writing, and her repeatedly showing and speaking aloud the first three letters of the alphabet to me as a baby, have undoubtedly had a lasting effect on me as a writer and reader. As always it’s the little things like this that mean the most.

It has been a great ride and I hope to continue this for the rest of my life, even if I never make it as a writer or an artist it’s OK. The most important thing is that while I write or paint I’m alive, doing what I enjoy and not wasting time with mindless activities or destructive behavior. Thanks to all the cast of characters in my life, which is my work of art, as I am in others casts…so may all of us grow. Thanks for reading and influencing my life and art, and if your ever in New York City drop me a line and we’ll have a drink or two, and one more thing…try the veal at Le Rivage on W. 46th St…it’s really good.

sincerely

Glen 

Long Island, NY 2009

MyFreeCopyright.com Registered & Protected

2 Comments

Filed under Anthony Bourdain, Art, Family, Food, France, French, French Food, Greenwich Village, Hicksville, Life, Memories, My Truth, New York City, No Reservations, NY, Theater, Travel

Van Gogh Exhibit-Jan 4TH 2009

Thank God it’s not too cold today, 41 degrees and sunny. The last hurrah before beginning the new work year, it’ll be Memorial Day before I get another day off. I’m always a little sad after New Years day, as we get older things are getting tougher and time seems to be growing short. Maybe it’s just a by product of  living in a accelerated society, but this new year has alot riding on it for me personally and the country as a whole. I get on a train bound for Penn Station in New York to catch the Van Gogh exhibit before it closes in a week or two. I get my window seat and settle down, soon a troop of cute young girls enters the car, they are all in their mid-teens and I figure my ears are going to be tortured by silly girl talk and squeeky laughter. They seemed to be chaperoned by an older woman, probably going on a fashion field trip based on the jist of the talk I hear around me. Two girls sit across from me and play with their phones and message back and forth, the one closest to me has on such low rider pants I can see her red thong and half her bottom coming out! I don’t see how anyone can be confortable like that, I start to get the shakes if I get a hole in my sock and have to spend the day with a toe sticking out!  But it’s nice to look at so I’m not complaining, I guess if I had a body like that I wouldn’t mind showing it to anyone who wants to look. I’m sure they were all glad they didn’t get stuck sitting next to me, thong girl gets up and starts taking pictures of everyone in her group and pulls up her pants at the same time. No doubt one of her friends caught me looking and texted her to cover up, so back to looking out the window. The relative quiet is broken when two moms and three daughters get on the train, the three little girls are heartbreakingly cute in their wooly caps with pom pom tasssels tied under their chins. They laugh at everything and giggle constantly, an older girl, a cousin probably  seems to be in charge of wrangling them and taking pictures over and over. “Ready …1…2…3!

I get out at Penn Station and walk down 8 Th Avenue towards my brunch destination for today, Maison is located at 53rd St & 7 Th Ave and is purported to be a taste of Brittany, that rugged region that juts out into the Atlantic and Maison claims to be modeled on the quaint restaurants that are found there. But it is a sprawling place where the walk to the bathroom is a hike requiring you to pass through a covered breezeway, go into another building,  around another seating area and up two flights of old stairs…whew! I make my way back into the main area which looks like a circus tent, or the inside of an umbrella that opens in the summer to allow smokers the pleasure of eating while smoking. But the thing you will notice right away is the floors, they bounce when you walk, so as you sit and look at the menu you will find the table shakes up and down every time someone walks past. This is very annoying but the food looks good so I wait with my bouncing table for my food. It takes forever for my food to come and my coffee was delivered without the milk I asked for but rather cream, so I wait and look around me. A gay couple sits next to me, an older guy with a younger Latino partner, I notice right away that everything the young guy says is put down by his partner and I feel sorry for him, all his suggestions for the garden are wrong, the interior decorating is wrong, etc. I can’t help feeling for this guy because it reminds me of my ex- girlfriends attitude towards me,  but can’t help also feeling like he treats this guy any way he wants because he’s a foreigner and doesn’t speak English well enough yet to tell him off properly. But it’s none of my business, still I can’t wait till they leave, the tables are so close and I just can’t shut off my hearing.

My Pizette arrives finally and my milk so I’m good to go, the pizette is a delicious tart of goat cheese, roasted red peppers, anchovy paste, nicoise olives and Gruyere cheese, it is delicious but a little heavy on the anchovy paste and big enough to be a lunch. Next my main course arrives, a Croque Madam is supposed to be a crispy pressed sandwich of black forest ham and Gruyere toasted on bread with lots and lots butter.  But what I got was more like a Monte Cristo with a fried egg on top, and since I have ordered this sandwich in another French bistro and got the exact same preparation…I can only guess that in these fast paced times this is what you get now, not the original hand held lunch designed for bridge games. The food was good enough but the service is terrible, the staff is clueless, probably underpaid, and are all tired college students and actors looking for a break. I leave thinking that I would try it for dinner some time in the future but right now I walk up the two blocks to the MOMA and find it packed!

I go inside easily as a member I don’t wait on lines except at the coat check, and there I meet “The Coat Nazi” a bellowing museum employee who not kindly leads us mice out of the maze to stand on line for each of the coat check windows. He walks back and forth loudly barking orders like a drill Sergeant! “Stay in single-file!”-“Shoulders against the wall!”-“What letter are you?…Step this way!”-“Hold right there!” and this goes on and on. I know he’s only trying to do a difficult job and has to deal with a crowd of sheep who talk amongst themselves and wander but there’s a way to do this with tact, comedy, and respect. Many people laugh at him and so do foreign speaking people who ignore him, he really shouldn’t be doing this job, the man has no patience.

Finally I get upstairs to the exhibit, it is very crowded, it’s hard to see the paintings but I just stand and listen to the audio guide and wait till I can get a good look. I like Van Gogh’s early work, the landscapes are earthy and have much feeling. I think he’s very under rated as a painter, yes he’s famous for the Starry Night style that he developed, but the mood of his work is what strikes me, I “feel” what it’s like to live in that part of the world at that time when I look at his early work and I feel also the somber mood he was in when painting some of them. My favorite is actually “Starry Night Over The Rhone” rather than the other more famous one. I read all the text on the walls too, it’s a great way to get a good education. Then I go up to breeze through the Juan Miro’ exhibit again, which I still have to write about  and downstairs to watch a projection of Pipliotti Rists “Pour Your Body Out”, it is beautiful and colorful and the actress in the movie is gorgeous, her naked body shown just enough to keep the attention of all the men present. The movie has a message too about the human condition and how we pollute the planet, destroy our environment and consume like the animals we kill and eat. I leave the museum as always feeling a little changed, the experience changes you and that’s good. If you feel that way the artists did their job.

Walking down 6 TH Ave I feel a little sad that Xmas is over, I pass Macy’s and see that the Miracle on 34 TH Street scenes are still on display in the windows, depicting pivotal scenes from  my favorite holiday movie but only in black and white. Nearby many businesses have taken down the lights and decorations. I cross the busy streets and finally I decend into Penn Station and grab a coffee for the ride home with 5 minutes to spare before the train leaves. I write on the way home and I’m back in my car by 4:10, not a bad day I think as I drive home still plenty of time to things before bed.

Starrily

Glen
MyFreeCopyright.com Registered & Protected

2 Comments

Filed under Art, Art Shows, Food, French Food, MOMA, New York City

Mouth To Mouth-Part 1-Nov 2008

 A cloudy day… raining on and off but warm for November, 60 degrees! Right now it’s stopped raining as I walk through the parking lot of the railroad station. I worked half a day today, came home and got a few things done before I left to see this play tonight, Mouth to Mouth by Kevin Elyot. The train is coming into the station as I reach the terminal buildings, I dash to the ticket machine and wait while the computer processes my card and spits out my ticket and receipt. Then I run up the escalator and board the train with just seconds to spare! I sit breathing hard, and watch as an unlucky man tries to get the train to stop, clutching at the door seams…and then gives up… flipping the bird as the train pulls away.

 So with five hours to spare before the show, I can relax and take my time, having already decided on Le Rivage as my restaurant dujuor for the evening, while looking at Menupages.com. It has many good reviews and one who calls himself Frenchophile says it’s the best French restaurant in Manhattan!  So it’s good enough for me, and with a price fixe menu of $37.00 you can’t go wrong for an appetizer, dinner, and dessert and coffee. The only fly in the ointment is my teeth, facing oral surgery in three days, I have to be careful how I eat and what I choose.

 But as I’m properly doped up on Motrin, with more in my pocket I relax and listen to the young man behind me, a newb, going into the city for the first time with no clue how to get around. He calls one friend after another asking what bus or subway to take, underestimating the travel time, he even thinks Penn Station is on 40th St! In this day of computers, what with Mapquest and such there is no excuse for not knowing how to get around. I’ve got my route in my head and also written down in case I forget…the best laid plans of mice and men often get screwed up so….

 We arrive at Jamaica Station and I listen to the incomprehensible announcements over the load speaker, the din coming from the back of the car tells me that some sporting event is going down tonight. The loud incessant talk, the occasional beer bottle hitting the floor, and the outbreak of sudden raucous laughter tells me all I need to know. In the car up ahead of me a pair of attractive cougars talk about their husbands, relatives, complain about so and so at work, and ridicule mutual friends over many things, but the thing they talk about most is shoes! They go over the details of brand names, the relative stretchability factor, how different brands breathe, and grades of leather. How can you pick apart footwear like that? I don’t know …must be a chick thing. The kid behind me is an Oboe student still talking about his itinerary, I won’t help him, he’s got to learn on his own like I did. I once stayed in the subway one stop to many and wound up on Staten Island and had to take a cab back to Penn Station, but that turned into a great cab ride with an interesting driver…but that’s another story. Were going down now at a good clip, I may have a drink or a shoeshine in the station…I’ll flip a coin when I get there.

 I decide to forego the drink and shoeshine and go straight to my dinner destination on foot to save money on the cab, it’s so nice out it would be a shame to miss this warm weather. Le Rivage is located on 46th St between 8th & 9th Ave, I pretend to study the menu as a group of sixty something seniors that look well heeled pass me by with a smile and nod. I hesitate to go in, I mean I’m in jeans, and even though I ate in Parisian Bistro’s, that was downscale stuff! I don’t know if I fit in here, this is New York and probably the best place I’ve been in so far, I swallow my discomfort…I’m going in.

 The place is quaint and rustic with a touch of elegance to it, I’m immediately greeted with “Bonjuor” by the owner and his wife, who takes my coat, their daughter I think is the manager, and a grand daughter is the bartender. I select for my appetizer Duck Meat Terrine, a slice of meat cake (I call it anyway-Thanks George Carlin) not pate which is served on a bed of lettuce with cornichons; a slice of tomato with chopped onion on top; an olive; a slice of carrot; greens and a little dressing, artfully arranged on a plate. It is just too good, herb mustard on the side… it’s beautiful, the meat is not gamy but rather earthy and rich. Next my main dish of Monkfish Medallions in a Lobster sauce, three beautiful pieces of fish pan fried till just crispy on the edges (just the way I like it) served with carrot matchsticks in a sweet buttery sauce, and rice flavored with chopped red peppers which give the rice character. The fish is soft and sweet, reminding me of flounder in size and texture, definately something I would make at home. My dessert was a poached pear with ice cream and chocolate sauce, it was pre-made but good, very hard and cold so it lasted a long time. The owner offers me a second cup of coffee and smiling says “same price! same price!” and goes to make it happen. I like it here, and as I sip my wine and eat, I observe that others are dressed in jeans too so I relax and enjoy.  The staff seem to take especially good care of me, maybe because I’m alone or maybe because they just want to make people happy. On the other side of the room the four seniors that came in before me seem to be enjoying their meal, as I leave one man at that table calls me over and asks me how I enjoyed my meal. He noticed my reluctance to come in, I tell them briefly about my experience and we exchange small words about our shows of choice for the night, it’s strange to think that they were curious about me. I will be back, I leave full but not stuffed with time to kill before the show. I wind up an hour later at Mr. Biggs, a typical sports bar where I stop for the chance to use the bathroom and to enjoy a Stella Artois on tap while I write and relax, the place has four big screen TV’s and thank God no one is screaming over some game right now. I kill time and listen to the sounds of the street on this open door warm night, with snow being predicted for Monday, it’ll be a long time before we get to enjoy these temperatures againPeace
Glen
MyFreeCopyright.com Registered & Protected

Leave a comment

Filed under French, French Food, New York City, Off Broadway, Plays, The New Group, Theater, Theatre