Dinner Diary June 2, 2007
Once upon a time I spoiled a dinner party by letting politics intrude. Many of the folks at the June 2 dinner party had been present and I vowed not to let that happen again. No heavy duty political ‘discussions’ we simply appreciated and loved each other for who we are. Unfortunately the dinner was held to say goodbye to those who were leaving the area. That, perhaps, increased the intensity of our revels. The menu is what I consider one of my classics; smoked trout spread, grilled shrimp and grapes, herbed goat cheese (my recipe), the Silver Palette Lemon Chicken, potato salad (very close to mom’s – I’m almost there), Cole slaw and strawberry shortcake.
We were really in a festive mood. Trying to stave off the sadness of friends leaving and life changing, as it always does, so it was party hearty cause you never know where the grim reaper lurks. Well, not that fatalistic, but we did ‘party’.
The partying was inspired in no small degree by Gina’s contribution of about a gallon and a half of Mojito’s. Is that a great summertime drink or what!? Our group was introduced to Mojito’s at a food tasting with a variety of restaurants. One of the establishments was serving this loverly drink. We tried it, found that we liked it, stood in line for it, got the drink, went to the back of the line, drank the drink and got another drink. This sequence was repeated many times. The goodbye party got raucous to the point where the tequila came out and was passed around (the Mojito’s being long gone) and some old gray haired guy got his ‘CF Martin D28’ guitar out and started playing old Dylan, Neal Young, 1960’s rock ‘n roll, a whole lot of ‘stuff’ – some of which left the youngest folks in the party looking puzzled and perplexed. The songfest was capped off with a song that the old guy wrote on the spot with a chorus that all present joined in on. It goes, “I am Jesus. I’m not Elvis. Elvis left us some time ago.” God help us all.
Dinner was not easy in coming, the whole shebang almost didn’t happen. The night before, in the midst of prepping some of the dishes “the lightening crashed and the thunder roared” (I love that song, thanks Garth!), and the lights and power were gone. Where we live that doesn’t just mean no TV. It means no water because we have a well and no toilets or showers – because we have a well. Damn sonnofabitchin’ hates my guts. I sat in the dark drinking ever warmer martinis, cursing the fates and figuring that if the power came back on I could get up early the next morning and finish cooking for the party – I went to bed without the benefit of lights, shower or toilet.
The following morning – I dare to look at the clock by the side of the bed and – IT’S RUNNING! GLORY BE WE HAVE ELECTRICITY! Showers and toilets and refrigerators and finishing cooking the food! Except that something isn’t as it ought to be. Lights are a little dim, refrig doesn’t sound quite right and when I turn on the faucet a thin, lazy stream of water comes out – and stops. Welcome To The BROWNOUT! My sorry ass is not saved. Many, many calls to the power company, actually speaking with live people who told me that the problem should be fixed by 10:00, then 11:00, then 12:30, then 1:30, all the time I’m going nuts pacing the house figuring out what time ‘the last second’ was if this party was going to happen at all – finally telling the power company in a quivering voice near tears that I had 50 PEOPLE ARRIVING IN ONE HOUR FOR MY DAUGHTERS WEDDING AND COULDN’T THEY PLLLEEEAAASSSEEE GET THE POWER BACK! Where was Bonnie during all of my ranting, screaming and phone calls?
Cringing in the room corner trying to look like a piece of furniture as any sane human being should do when I’m in the midst of a rant against the power company, God and all the forces of the universe. Call people to cancel or roll the dice that the power will come back on in time!? 20 minutes to the point of no return and …….. THE POWER’S BACK! A mad scramble of cooking, showers and bathrooms and – ice cold martinis.
Trutas And Willowy Young Maiden With Doe Eyes
Another of the absolute food joys on Cape Cod is the Portuguese Bakery in Provincetown. I usually manage to make it to the bakery oh, every other day or so. We’re walking and reading, so I’m sure that we were burning off any weight that might be gained. What does the Portuguese Bakery have?
A beautiful, petite, willowy young maid with doe eyes, a wonderful smile and silken dark hair who speaks only Portuguese. OK, where the HELL did that come from!?
I get in just as the bakery opens at 7:00. I like getting up early to be there. In September it’s quieter than the main season, a slower pace, few folks on the roads, the pier parking lot almost empty and sometimes I’m the only one in the bakery. The oil for the fried dough, malasadas, just beginning to warm. I want it to roll in the pastries and savories, I want the bakers to come home with us and feed us breakfast every day; I want this bakery to exist forever! Our standard fare (how dare I call it standard!) is a variety of pastries and savories. To begin with they have a Portuguese Sweet Bread, big round loaves, lots of eggs and sugar, fluffy yet not insubstantial bread with a wonderful thin and dark brown crust. It’s perfect for eating and eating and eating. Lots of butter! Sometimes it ends up as French Toast.
Then we move on down the line to the Trutas. OH MY GOD! These delicacies may be our favorites. The description, even with my purple prose, does not do it justice. It is a triangle of fried dough, small, dusted with sugar and cinnamon. Inside is an incomparable filling of whipped sweet potatoes spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg and God knows what other subtleties. It tastes nothing like pumpkin pie. Lighter than air, even after eating 5 or 6, mix of textures: the crispy shell and the creamy filling. Sweet, but not too sweet, the hint of savory from the sweet potato. I’ve purchased Trutas in other Portuguese bakeries, but none of them have had the sweet potato filling. Usually, shrimp. Never near as crispy. To have that particular Trutas anywhere else but on the Cape would never be the same. It all gets back to that ‘context’ thing.
Next, the Bolas. To say that this is a cream filled doughnut is to insult the entire Portuguese race. Again, dusted on its crispy crust with sugar and cinnamon, but inside melt on your tongue creamed filling. A filling similar to the crème patissiere, but different. For all I know it may well be crème patissiere. But, again, in the context of the crispy shell, light melt-in-your-mouth dough, the filling and the Cape in quiet time, it is something extraordinary.
The Rabanadas cannot be left out. Its essence is a slice of Portuguese Sweet Bread, dipped in a sweetened and spice seasoned egg mix. Then it is cooked like French toast and dusted with the ubiquitous and welcomed sugar and cinnamon. Standard fare French Toasts – hardly. Before the bread is pan fried, it is soaked in a seasoned liquid – wine, brandy, all of the above? This is served at room temperature and the wonder is that when you break through the crust with your fork the ‘bread’ center has disappeared to be replaced by a barely hold together custard that has an indescribable flavor. The secret? I don’t know. Some secrets are best kept so.
Lest we forget, how could I, the Bakery also features ‘sandwiches’ – croissants that are stuffed with egg, cheese and linguica. The sandwiches are not insubstantial. They make a very hearty lunch. But the linguica. Ah, my much loved linguica. I written of this delight earlier so rather than go on about it I’ll just wipe that bit of drool from the corner of my mouth. All of this, and so much more, from my favorite bakery in my entire known world – The Portuguese Bakery in Provincetown.
Provincetown Portuguese Bakery
Dinner Diary July 9, 2010
Wow! This internet is something else. I got a call from a very nice woman in Florida. It turns out that the American Cancer Society holds an event called the ‘Cattle Baron’s Ball’. A fundraiser held in many areas of the country. This was news to me. She had found my young cowboy picture by searching the internet and asked me if they could use it for the poster for the ball. Of course I said yes. To all of you that organize and support this event my best wishes for your success.