Yep. Watched the same show twice in a row. It was that good. Is “twice in a row” correct usage? Something tells me that in order to make a row, you need three. Aw, heck. Anyway, this No Reservations trip along The Hudson really did it for me. Aside from all the beautiful food, Bill Murray, Michael Ruhlman, the Pardus family, Chef Peter X. Kelly–and Tony Bourdain–there was just something really special about the photography and the storytelling. This is a really good show.
Tony takes us from a crab boil with locals to a brief CIA refresher course with pal, Michael Ruhlman, followed by a meal of Asian pork belly at Chef Michael Pardus‘ home, complimented by the refreshing insights of Pardus’ delightful 10-year-old daughter (“Your job is real tough,” she says to Tony. “You stuff your mouth with food.”), this episode not only shares a good story/travelogue; it takes us on a scenic culinary journey through an exquisite part of New York (that I, for one, was not familiar with) and gives viewers a little taste of adventure, to boot. It isn’t just good TV. It’s good reality TV in the sense that it’s real people doing real stuff–and doing it really well. It’s well detailed, brightly produced and intimately shot. And that is hard to come by.
Topping things off, Tony shares an amazing meal and scintillating conversation with guest, Bill Murray at Peter Kelly’s restaurant X2O in Yonkers. Mr. Murray sums things up perfectly: “You’re within visual distance of your home. I’m within visual distance of where I’ve lived for 30 years. What’s the meaning of being here in this place? And I know you’ll find the answer to that, because you always seem to find it in your programming–what the meaning of it is. What’s the meaning of finding a meal in a great place served by people that care… in a place that Henry Hudson came to 400 years ago?”
Neil Young once said, “When I get big, I’m gonna get an electric guitar. When I get real big.” He was pretty big then… nevertheless… words to live by. I’ve always loved his style.
Anyway. Hats off to Neil Young, hats off to Bill Murray and hats off to Tony Bourdain and the crew of No Reservations. And to all Creative Beasts everywhere, Long May You Run.
Fireworks: worth fighting for... at least to some people.
Last Sunday I went with some pals to Festa Italiana; a Milwaukee tradition I’ve come to love. It’s fun, kinda cheesy, and for the most part, completely American–well–okay… Italian-American. You’re bound to find performances by Frank Sinatra and Elvis impersonators, and other little known Las Vegas types. There’s The Golden Age of Opera Tent that holds a truly beautiful collection of rare recordings, old posters and photos that used to be run by Dominic Frinzi. He passed away in January of 2008, but his tradition and love of opera is carried on in the tent, and now on what is called “The Dominic H. Frinzi Memorial Stage.” Other than that, there are loads of choices where cheesy-cuisie (pizza) is concerned, and if you want other stuff like fried calamari, or fried eggplant, or fried mozzarella sticks, you’ll have luck with those, too. You’ll even find octopus salad… just don’t ask the gal at Pietro’s for pizza, like the guy who stood next to me in line. “We don’t serve that here; that’s American!” She barked. Although when I asked her if she knew where I could get some scungilli, she said she’d never heard of it. I used to always get it at Festa, but I couldn’t find it this time. If anyone knows who still serves it there, let me know. What I do know is that if there’s one thing you can bet on, that is that the firework displays are always, and without a doubt–awesome. With snacks in hand, my friends and I walked back to meet our group where they were reserving a spot for us on the rocks by Lake Michigan. However, since we had yet to eat, Francesca, Demitra and I stopped at a nearby picnic table to make life a little easier while we dined. A couple was already sitting there at the other end, though, and the woman said assertively, “We have people coming.”
Fran said, “Well, we’ll just eat, and then we’ll move when they get here.”
The woman said nothing, and neither did her husband, so we went on with our meals and conversation, when suddenly, there was a loud thud on the table. I looked over and the woman now had a brick in her hand. I thought she must have been mad about something, but I didn’t think it was us. Her people hadn’t come yet. But then she started muttering something about, “I gotta sit at this f***ing table for five hours, and I don’t get to walk around and have any fun!”
“I think she might be upset that we’re sitting here.” I said.
We all sat and looked at one another like, “What do we do?”
“Well, she’s got a brick, you guys,” I added. Then I turned to the gal. “Look, if it’s a problem for ya, we’ll move.”
“Yeah, it’s a problem! And go ahead and talk about me! I’ve only been holding this table for five hours!”
We collected our stuff and moved towards the rocks. “Have fun watching the fireworks,” I said as I got up. “Thanks for sharing the table.”
She glared at me with dagger-eyes, and said something like, “You can go to hell!”
My friends and I sat on the rocks and ate our various fried items and drank our beers. “I don’t know why she thought she had to sit for five hours,” Demitra said. “We got here an hour ago, and look at this great spot we got.”
I laughed. “Yeah, I mean it was pretty much her choice. Oh, well. I guess that’s why she carries that brick.” Soon thereafter, the fireworks started, and as always, they were awesome.
Afterwards, we got some gelato… spumoni for me. Also awesome. As the vendors packed up their supplies and said arrivederci until next year, I thought with a smile, “How in the heck can anybody be pissed off at Festa Italiana? Oh, well.”
The Cathedral Square Farmers Market: could be betta.
Saturday morning I had planned on taking a drive to West Bend to check out their farmers’ market, as my friend Robin, who lives there, tells me it’s one of the best in the state. Additionally, Jeff-leen Farm has a stand there; a vendor who raises grass fed Piedmontese beef, about which I have also heard very good things. However. The West Bend Farmers’ Market begins at 7:30 a.m. and closes at 11 a.m. While I had every good intention to leave Milwaukee at 8:30 so I could get there by 9:30, The Master Cleanse and Mother Nature had something else in mind. And you know what they say about good intentions. Anyway, I wasn’t able to leave the house until 9:15. Robin was not pleased about this, and even less so, because I failed to call to let him know I was running late… again. Not until 9:15, at any rate. “Don’t bother coming.” He said. “There won’t be enough time for you to see everything.” Friends of mine–and others–can attest to fact that I am sometimes–ahem–not punctual. You could say that this is an “opportunity for improvement.” My friend Carrie said that for some people, not being on time is a control thing. “Trish!” She said, with her wily grin. “Do you try to control the world with your lateness?” I swear, I don’t. In fact, I’m making a resolution right now. I will be on time. Otherwise, I’m a bit like the spanky-white, brand-new polo shirt–that just got red Kool-Aid spilled down its front. Lateness is lame.
Anyway, and back to my brief conversation with Robin. Apologetic, and somewhat bummed out, I agreed, and resigned myself to visiting the Farmers’ Market downtown at Cathedral Square, which I normally would not do, because in the past, it has struck me as unworthy of the trip from Bay View. It’s small, and generally speaking; lacks a promising number of noteworthy vendors. Frankly, Bay View’s market is better, but it doesn’t start until next week, and since I was already on my way out the door, I figured, “What the heck?” So I went to Cathedral Square. It was about what I expected. Not much happening, though I did buy a grass fed black angus porterhouse steak from Ruegsegger Farms. It was $18/lb, so we shall see. Afterwards, I stopped by one of the herb stands to pick out some English Thyme, but a funny thing happened. The gal “manning” the stand refused to sell it to me.
“This has got to get planted in soil in the ground right away,” she said. “It can’t be put in a pot.”
“Okay,” I said. “Well, how about a planter box?”
“How big is it?” She asked.
“Well, it’s about this big.” I stretched out my arms. “It’s a window box. But it’s on the ground.”
“Why can’t you just plant it in the ground?” She pressed.
“Because I don’t have a space for it,” I answered.
“Why don’t you just cut out part of your grass?”
I looked at her, rather puzzled.
“Look, the owners are strict about this. They don’t want people planting them in pots because then they die after one season. They will last about 20 years if you plant them in soil,” she explained.
“Oh, I see. So you’re afraid I’ll come back next year and ask you for some free thyme. I promise I won’t, all right? I’ll plant it in the ground. I’ll make a space. How’s that?”
She said nothing.
“So could I have some thyme, please?”
“Nope. Because you don’t have your soil ready.”
“So you’re not gonna sell it to me.” At this point, we had an audience, and I stared at her in pure disbelief. “Wow,” was all I could say.
“Nope. Get your soil ready and come back next week.”
“Yeah, I’ll be sure to get right on that.” I said. “See you never,” I thought, as I walked away.
Somewhat irked, I walked over to the Hmong farmers who had plenty of nice, cut herbs. I picked up a bunch of mint. “How much?” I asked the man.
“One dollar.” He said.
I handed him a dollar, and he bagged it up and handed it to me, smiled and said thank you. I like the Hmong farmers.
And that was it for Cathedral Square. I called my friend D and asked her if she wanted to come with me to the West Allis farmers’ market. She agreed, and at 1pm, she and her husband Tom and I went there together. It reminded me of when Dorothy and friends get out of the woods and past the poppy field, and on to Emerald City. Beautiful flowers, herbs and little legume plants everywhere. And the aromas. Like I said, herbs and flowers, but also, grilling Italian sausages and bratwurst and tamales… It was beautiful, truly. If I hadn’t been fasting, I could have seriously been tempted to partake in some decadent, unhealthy food consumption. Okay; so I was tempted. But I did not succumb.
I found a grass fed angus beef vendor at the West Allis market as well; Fer-Li Farms. Their porterhouse is $12/lb. I decided to pick one up so I could do a side by side comparison with Ruegsegger. Stay tuned, and may the best steak win. My final question for this blog is: Why must the Cathedral Square Farmers’ Market be so unsatisfactory; i.e., lame? It’s unimpressive and overpriced, and that is the way it has been for years–and in the heart of downtown Milwaukee on Saturday. I don’t know who organizes this particular farmers’ market, but I will say this: What’s the deal? I’ll say it again: This is the farmers’ market in the heart of downtown Milwaukee. It could be way better. It’s a great location, a great space and in a great city. Do it like you mean it. Represent, yo. …Oh, and I bought my thyme at the West Allis Farmers’ Market.
West Allis Farmers' Market: The Land of Oz.
All right, so if you if know what I’m sayin’, then you know what it means to be a Creative Beast. Where It’s At. Represent. And be on time.
Also known as “The Lemonade Diet,” I have decided to give this thing a whirl. “Why, oh why, T-Haus, would you do something so completely insane?” You may ask. Well, my dear friends, I am, after all, the original Creative Beast, and therefore, usually up for some sort of adventure. I must admit, however, that this “adventure,” seems about as enthralling as getting the flu, which I suppose for some, is a weight loss program of sorts–and–Oh, golly! It is nearly time for my second helping of water, fresh squeezed lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper! …I can barely contain myself. And that reminds me, I must tell you how my day began… with the recommended “Internal Salt Bath.” Sounds clean, right? Huh. This is a laxative, folks. And I am here to say that it works. There is a reason that they tell you to “wait two hours before leaving the house.” If you must try this–ONLY–TRY THIS AT HOME! That’s all I have to say about that.
By now, you might be asking yourself, “Trish… T-Haus… Dumbass… why the hell do you wanna do this? You, who are a lover of food, glorious, food …and beverages?” And I say to you this: I heard it’s a good way to get rid of toxic crap that your body stores, AND you can shed a few. But there is another reason I’m doing it. If you’re already a hard core Creative Beast, then you know that I am pretty sure that meditation is a big key, if not the key to unlocking a realm of personal possibilities and opportunities that exist in the world as we know it. So. I’m doing a little personal experiment. I feel I may have a better ability to transcend while meditating if I do this cleanse-thingy. They recommend that you try it for ten days or more if you can hack it. I’ll be impressed enough with myself if I can do five. We shall see. So far, I’ve fantasized about a vanilla latte, a toasted peanut butter and jelly English muffin, and Fage Greek yogurt (pronounced fah-YEH) with blackberries, toasted pine nuts and honey… one of my favorite things in the world (thanks, Demitra, for teaching me about Greek yogurt). I like to slice some of the big, fat blackberries in half because they look pretty and I like the added texture. I mix the blackberries with about a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, a couple or so tablespoons black raspberry honey from The Wisconsin Honey Cooperative, and about a 1/4 teaspoon of Nielsen-Massey Madagascar bourbon pure vanilla extract (this is the only vanilla I ever use because it IS true vanilla, and it’s how vanilla is supposed to taste). Anyway here it is. I made it the other day… today I am only dreaming about it.
Greek yogurt with blackberries, toasted pine nuts and honey.
Steak and eggs. Lunch. Sustenance. Creative Beasts gotta eat, too. Whatever you want to call it, this is one my favorite ways to eat steak and eggs. I started with a porterhouse steak cooked on the grill the night before, which had been marinated in a garlic-pepper-balsamic vinaigrette. I sliced the steak (strip side, as I had eaten the tenderloin side the previous night), and set it aside. I diced half of a vidalia onion, and a good handful of wild onions freshly picked from the woods of Wisconsin (thanks, Robin, for teaching me about wild onions).
wild onions of Wisconsin
I caramelized the onions with a very nice balsamic vinegar (basalmico aceto)–Giuseppe Giusti of Modena— which might be considered a bit blasphemous, since this type of balsamic is generally used for finishing… I dunno. The onions were delicious. And as far as the vinegar goes, there’s more where that came from. Thanks, Williams-Sonoma… and thank you, Giuseppe. Next, I gently and quickly sauteed some fresh baby spinach and radicchio in a little butter, a pinch of sea salt and squeeze of lemon juice. Meanwhile, I had boiled some DeLallo linguine (al dente with butter), and last but definitely not least, I gently fried an egg, sunny side up. Then, to serve, I tossed the steak with the caramelized onions. Layed the pasta into a bowl, added the caramelized onions followed by the spinach and radicchio, then the steak, then the egg. I added a little more of everything on top, then fresh ground pepper. As you can see, I also added a quartered campari tomato with a little lemon juice and salt and pepper. The best part is breaking the egg so that the yolk runs over the rest of the plate. Yum.