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Friday, January 30, 2009

A Little Italian...

It's not gourmet, it's not outstanding and it's not even special, but it is very good. Florence's Restaurant (http://www.florencesitalian.com/) in Merrimack NH is one of those small restaurants you would normally see in a medium sized city, sitting on a little side street or the corner of your old neighborhood. Instead it resides in a small strip mall in a middle class town in New Hampshire. It's obviously an owner operated place and it shows when Florence greets you at the door, checks on your table, and tells jokes to the guests. The waitresses are mostly long time employees and after you've been there a few times they get know you as a regular. Once you've been back a few times it feels as if you are eating a decent meal at home. Although there are seafood dishes (calamari, shrimp, haddock) and the classic veal dishes (marsala, margherita, saltimboca), this is a basic red sauce restaurant.

Red checkered table cloths, and Italian mural scenes on the walls soften the lack of windows, strip mall look. A basket of bread and large bowl of family style salad are a given. The meals range in price from a low of $8 for the smaller pasta dishes to a high of $21 for the fruiti de mare or the pork chops, potatoes and vinegar peppers (both of these are some of the greatest comfort food). The eggplant parm is a perfect blend of pan fried eggplant, sauce and cheese, the best I have found anywhere. The total bill for a party of two, including drinks typically runs around $60 to $75 (including tip). It is the one restaurant we consider our "go to" place when we don't want to think about where to go. I'm already thinking about those pork chops maybe for tonight.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Fuzzy Love

She is fully grown, even more so now that she approaches middle age. I sit in my corner of the couch where she knows I will stay awhile and relax. I like this spot because it's convenient and I consider it my spot even though I don't have it reserved specifically for myself. I start to read and in her quiet but thundering way she jumps up beside me, wailing her baby like cry of "riaooowwww". It is her way of asking if it is OK to sit awhile. She can be very intimidating to those that don't enjoy the pleasures of the feline species, but I know better. She is gentle beyond reproach. Her fangs are bared as she cries, and she is fearsome with fangs both top and bottom, and I know better. She just wants some peace with me as her motor starts to run. She will wait until I welcome her in, unlike Mother who will capture her and clutch her close for affection. She knows now that Father does not reach for her, although he will play and sometimes try to stalk her from her comfort. Eventually she will leave with her fat belly swaying right to left, but for now she sits and kneads Father with her paws, the motor running louder with each stroke against her fur. She is not the best Father has seen, but she is the most comfortable in her skin. She is Winnie, and there is no other quite like her.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Overcome

Today I am at a loss for words. Not because of the historic nature of today's events, the inauguration of the first African-American president, but because of the opportunity for the United States to once again shine in the eyes of the world. This is a man who can once again return our country to the high road, to the ideal that everyone is equal and away from intolerance towards others. This is a man who can focus our country on solving the problems that face us rather than divide us along lines of forced morality. This is a man who can protect us from ideology and lead us intelligently. This is a man who can lead us all. President of the United States of America, Barak Obama.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Leftover 2008 Drivel

After some thought there are a bunch of things leftover from previous blogs in 2008:


I forgot to add "The Princess Bride" to my list of favorite movies. How could I forget this??? I repeatedly say "Have fun storming the castle" to people in place of "Goodbye". There are so many memorable moments and lines from this movie that they are too many to mention. Anyway, my apologies to Rob Reiner for forgetting him on my list.


There wasn't one favorite movie from 2008. None stood out in my mind. A generally bad year for good stories. Too many "blockbusters' without any substance to the films.


Favorite "found" music from 2008: You can't call the stuff I listen to new so my category is to call it found music. This years favorite was some blues from Keb Mo. He is a bit commercial but it made for interesting listening. Honorable mention: The Pousette-Dart Band from the 1970's.


Favorite read from 2008: "A History of the Catholic Church: The Early Years". I can't say it was an enjoyable read, but it was informative. I'll keep my opinions about the politics of the times and their impact on the formation of the Church to myself. Ask me sometime and I might be willing to discuss it.


My apologies to the unknown reader from LA. Apparently the Orange County Fair is big and the wine judging is a major event in California. This would then make the label on the Arger-Martucci Merlot a little more impressive. I still haven't opened the two bottles we bought there. I'm waiting for a good dinner night at home.


I know it's not technically a 2008 blog however the pastry puffs from Memere's cream puff recipe is called a "choux". I'd rather put it here when I can remember it. The puff should be either cut on the bottom or a hole made to clean out a small portion of the puff to allow the custard to fill it.


Making gnocchi is still a pain in the A@! and it won't be changing any time soon.


Best cigar of 2008: Arturo Fuente Don Carlo's. A really nice, enjoyable smoke. My apologies to the Ashton people. Ashton comes in a close second. It's winter and I'm really missing my weekly cigar.

Restaurant: In one of the blogs I mentioned we had heard the quality at the Silver Maple, our favorite Chinese restaurant, had gone down hill. We visited before the holidays and it was just as good as I remember. Our friends may have hit them on a bad night. The Mai Tai's were great and Sarah mentioned the vegetarian platter was very good even though the tofu was on the soft side. On a side note, our favorite waiter Dave was no where to be found. He was always a cheery welcoming sight there.

I hope I didn't miss anything else. Have a joyous 2009!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Memere's Cream Puffs

My love of food, and especially comfort food from when I was a kid, is unsurpassed. Mom cooked pretty simple food, but she was old school. For the most part it was meat, mashed potatoes and veggies every night. Rice did not exist when I was a wee lad (I was never a wee lad; 150 lbs at age 11). It was potatoes and occasionally spaghetti. That was it. I have some of Mom's recipes from those days and over the years I have modified them to suit my tastes but some of them have never changed. Today it is the Cream Puffs she made from my earliest memories. The filling is a wonderful custard rather than a whipped cream and a welcome addition to the serving is to drizzle with hot fudge. Absolutely decadent!

Memere's Cream Puffs

The Pastry Puffs
1/2 cup of margarine, softened
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 cup hot boiling water

1. Melt the butter in a pan with the boiling water (on the heated stove).

2. Add flour and salt, stirring vigorously and constantly until the mixture forms a ball that doesn't separate. Remove from heat and cool for about 10 to 15 minutes (so it is not hot but still warm).

3. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each until mixture is smooth.

4. Drop 1 tablespoon each of the mixture onto a greased cookie sheet. Space each drop about 2 inches apart since they will expand.

5. Bake at 450 degrees F for 15 minutes.

6. Remove from heat and cool on a wire rack.

The Custard Filling

2/3 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups scalded milk
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
2 eggs slightly beaten

1. Mix dry ingredients

2. Add milk slowly to the dry ingredients over a medium heat.

3. Cook about 15 minutes stirring constantly until mixture thickens.

4. Temper the eggs with some of the mixture. Add the tempered eggs to the main pot, stirring frequently for 2 to 3 minutes more.

5. Cool completely.

6. Add lemon and vanilla extracts. Stir completely. Refrigerate until cold.

7. Fill the pastry puffs with the custard and refrigerate until cold.

8. Eat as many as you can without exploding.