live blog: eating at windmills

What is there to do after church but eat?! Wandering downhill I noticed a few scattered cafe tables outside a windmill overlooking the sea. Thinking it might be the perfect spot to while away the sunset with a snack and a Metaxa – the savory Greek brandy that has quickly become a part of my evening routine – I was surprised to discover a makeshift restaurant behind the crumbling facade. The menu looked inviting, peppered with a handful of distinctive regional dishes, so I ordered a pitcher of wine and settled down for a somewhat breezy early evening dinner: fresh seagreen salad, briny and crisp and unlike anything I have ever tasted; dolmades and zucchini blossoms stuffed with rice; pan-fried lamb meatballs, or keftedes, with a healthy sprinkle of lemon juice; makarounes, the local pasta, served simply with fried onions and a few grates of a hard ewe’s milk cheese, was a minor miracle; and for dessert, loukamades, Greece’s answer to the beignet, drizzled in aromatic wildflower honey. Maybe it was all the sea air, maybe it was the atmosphere, or maybe there was some unexplained emotional connection I was having with eating food so basic and so closely connected to this island, this village even, but I devoured absolutely everything, as if I was consuming a culture and not just a meal. What else does it say that I left the taverna not feeling remotely full?

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stone street scandanavian

Who even knew there was a Stone Street down in the Financial District? I sure didn’t. In fact, the short thoroughfare connecting Pearl and William Streets is the oldest cobblestone paved street in New York City. It’s also home to a good dozen or so bars and restaurants that spill out onto the cobbles, creating an atmosphere similar to that of a European biergarten. Smorgas Chef, an unassuming Scandinavian restaurant, is one of them. Tucked into a table in the window with a friend in the from the UK I had the odd sensation that it was I visiting him – and not the other way around. Glasses of caraway and anise flavored aquavit warmed our cockles. Yet it was the food that possessed all the comfort of a raging fireplace and fuzzy slippers on a snowy night: Icelandic cod in a potato crust on a bed of forest mushrooms, Swedish meatballs and lingonberries with chive mashed potatoes, gravlaks croquettes of house-cured salmon and horseradish creme fraiche. Bundled up against the winter winds, I anticipate returning to Stone Street again and again.

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as i lay dying

As I lay on the couch dying these last two days I’ve been catching up on an endless parade of tivo as well as contemplating life’s mysteries as revealed to me by Jerry Springer, Maury Povich and the vastly under-appreciated Tyra Banks, who’s whose expose on people in love with inanimate objects was, I must say, head and shoulders above Springer’s misanthropic yet insightful Mystery of the Missing Panties.  But if I’ve learned anything while drifting in and out of hallucinations over the past 72 hours it is this one simple truth hammered home by an ever-wise momma and a big bottle of antibiotics.  A trope for the ages, consider it my holiday gift to you because it holds up to being necessarily repeated more times than It’s A Wonderful Life:  meat marked Manager’s Special means rancid; it will get you every time.

Yes, Clarence, I confess: I’ve been done in by my own poison meatballs.

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cloudy with a chance of meatballs

This week’s winter weather craving:  meatballs!  Inspired by a piece in Men’s Health of all places, I tried my hand at mixing equal parts veal, pork, and beef with a few eggs, fresh parsley, salt, pepper, lemon zest and pankow instead of the traditional bread crumbs.  Frying them off in batches they held their shape and browned up quite nicely.  But what to do with them now?  Into the pan drippings I tossed a good pound of fresh creminis, a little chicken broth, light cream and flour to thicken.  Five minutes later I had a rich mushroom gravy that banished all thoughts of marinara and spaghetti.  Like meatloaf, I’ve got a feeling that a night in the fridge will only improve things.  Even better:  warmed up over a bed of hot buttered noodles to chase away the arctic chill.

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