Summer’s Over, Let’s Enjoy the Cooking We Can Do in the Upcoming Season!

Dinner Diary                                                                         August 16, 2003

 

 Ah, those main courses that you sometimes get stuck in a rut with making them time and time again until your inner chef says, “Are you so brain-dead that you can only make this one dish?  If you make this again in the next nine months I’m going to instruct your knife hand to cut off your little finger.”

            And so it was with the Silver Palette’s Lemon Chicken.  It’s a wonderful dish, I’ve described it before.  For whatever reason I had made it several times in succession and even I realized that it had been served too often, hence the comment, “again”.  It’s an easy dish to make and can, should, be done ahead.  Yeah, that’s it, I didn’t have enough time!

Well that’s no excuse.  To be good at anything, to learn anything, to progress you’ve got to push yourself.  That most certainly applies to cooking.  So, if you’re tired, go ahead and make that dish for guests once or twice in succession, but promise yourself that the next dinner is going to feature a new dish and it’s going to be exceptional.

 

How To Read A Menu And Impress Your Date 

There was a period of time where Bonnie and I would journey from the hinterlands of New Jersey into the uber urban whirlwind that is New York City.  There is absolutely no place anywhere on earth like New York City, not that I’ve been to many places – but, I’ve seen pictures.  It takes us almost two hours to drive into the City.  As much as Bonnie pleads, I refuse to take the train.  Driving in is a pain in the ass, but the thought of not being able to control where I’m going and when I want to go makes me homicidal.  So I drive. One time we were running late and parked in a ‘forbidden zone’.  We came out of the theater to find that our trunk had been jimmied open and that we had gotten a parking ticket.  God, I love that City.  If they don’t screw you one way, they’ll find another way and if they can get you both ways they most certainly will.

We journeyed to the City somewhat regularly to see Broadway Shows”,  something that I can do entirely without, but that Bonnie loves – bad acting, ridiculous situations, absolutely forgettable tunes.  I’ll pass except for the fact that I love Bonnie.

Broadway Show Dialogue:

Actor #1, “Brother, our father has just died.”

Actor #2, “Well, let’s  just sing a song.”

Actors #1 and #2, “Dad is dead, Dad is dead, Dad is dead” (sung to the tune of some Methodist hymn with a Disney/Elton John twist.   Elton John what happened to you?).

Like I said, I’ll pass. We did get to go to some pretty good restaurants though – the saving grace.  At one point we were fortunate enough to get into Orso. 

No, I don’t remember everything that we had, but I do remember a fantastic carpaccio, good wine, good service, the food was good.  Good, good, good all around. 

Good except for David and the menu.  Let me give all you men out there a lesson on how to impress your date.  Pick up the menu and commence this conversation. 

DAVID,

“God, this is a great menu.  I didn’t think that they’d have this many dishes.”

“I mean look, both sides of these pages”

“Wow, the left side of the page is in Italian.”

“I’ll have to get the waiter to translate some of the dishes.”

“I won’t even know what to order until I get some translations.”

“I mean all the dishes on the right side of the menu are in English and I know what I’d order from there”

“But, the left side is in Italian and I just don’t know what some of the items are.”

BONNIE,

“Honey, the left hand page is the Italian name of the dish.”

“The right hand page is the translation.”

DAVID,

“Oh”

“Waiter, we’re ready to order.”

Great Menu!  Multilingual!

  

Dinner Diary –                                                                       September 22, 1995

  

  

Let’s look at the September 22 entry.  Yea, yea, the ‘Sun Dried Tomato Tapenade on Polenta Triangles’ is interesting and tasted good – tempered by my comments.  Polenta.  I could write love songs about polenta and maybe I will for the next entry.  But we shall discourse on the ‘Baked Oysters and Scallops’.  The recipe is inspired and comes damn close to a dish that we were served at the Black Bass Hotel in Lumberville, Pennsylvania.  Not only a Hotel, but also with a restaurant.  It’s a beautiful place, built in the 1700’s and it looks like it in a very good way.  Absolutely real.  The dining room hugs the banks of a tranquil stretch of the Delaware River and we’ve been lucky enough most times to get a table at a river view window.  Along this particular stretch of river the waters narrow between the restaurant and a small island.  The river here is often shallow, the trees crowd the banks in places and there is quietness about the place.

This, again, is one of those ‘context’ dishes.  Bonnie and I just happened in one day got a river table and had the absolute luck to order this dish.  It was hot, creamy, buttery and with oysters and scallops how could you go wrong. Perfect for the coolness in the air that autumn day.   I often like to challenge myself with trying to replicate, approximate is a better word, dishes that we’ve had in restaurants.  I don’t expect to make a perfect copy, I don’t necessarily want to.  After all, now it’s MY dish.  In this case it was very nice.  No problem, no fuss, top notch ingredients and it did in fact bring back a perfect and unplanned surprise. 

The Black Bass was shut down for a couple of years until whatever needed to be settled was settled.  It is now up and open and garnering rave reviews for the execution of its menu.  Bonnie and I look forward to returning.

 

Black Bass Inn and Hotel

 

A Recent Dinner 

 

 

 

Dessert

One of the many things that I love about cooking is the manner by, if you’re doing it right, you’re connected to the seasons and the passage of time.  If you’re doing it right you have to cook with the seasons.  You have to be aware of what is available to you that’s fresh, that’s been grown in your little part of the world, that hasn’t been shipped halfway around the world to get to your cutting board.  If you live in the northeast you don’t use strawberries in January, you don’t use asparagus in November, you don’t use peaches in February.  You cook with the weather; more hearty meals.  You cook with what your little place on earth is providing you with at the time.  And this is good cooking, scrumptious dishes!

I prefer cooking warm, i.e. wintertime meals, to cold, i.e. summertime meals.  For whatever reason it seems to me that the cold weather meals offer more possibilities than the warm weather meals.  I’m not sure why that is, maybe it’s just me, but for whatever reason I’ve got a much larger repertoire of cold weather menus rather than hot.  And the meals are more hearty, which makes sense, as you’re trying to stay warm.   

So let us look forward to making bread.

Bread from the Oven

And Red Flannel Hash

Red Flannel Hash

And spaghetti and meatballs

Spaghetti with Red Sauce and Meatballs

 

The cooler and colder weather is coming.  Embrace it!  It’s going to be a good time to get a lot of great cooking done.

 

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