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Posts posted by ghostrider

  1. I recently tried Taj Palace and thought the food was passable but also that both chicken dishes I sampled (Chicken Pishawri and Makhani) lacked the depth of flavor and the richness I love. The sauces on both seemed slightly watery. Onion kulcha was nice, though, with slightly charred edges.

    I'm going to have to try India on the Hudson and Moghul based on everyone's reviews here.

    When we were at Taj Palace last month, the Chicken Pishawri was anything but watery, not even slightly. Based on your & other diners' comments, it sounds like their kitchen is becoming uneven. Ah well.

    waves, Moghul does sound like it's worth the drive, thanks for your detailed comments. One of these days....

    If anyone wants to sample the street food version of India On The Hudson, Hoboken is having its second arts/music fest of the year on Sunday.....

    Of course, all of the Hoboken Indian places band together to set up booths for that event & they all offer the same food (I think someone mentioned that the same person owns them all, as the evidence seems to indicate), so I don't know which kitchen actually prepares the food. Anyway it's a nice change from the usual Italian sausage.

  2. Go to your local annual street fair (in my town, it's on Labor Day) & go to the various political booths. They always seem to be handing out those textured rubber sheet (some circular, some rectangular) jar openers. Same as the rubbery shelf liner mentioned above, they make it easy to maintain your grip on the jar lid.

    I have a drawer full of openers with the names of long forgotten candidates printed on them. They still open jars just fine.

  3. Gopnik's article on wine (book review, actually) in the recent food issue of the New Yorker touched on the taste-smell interaction, and he had a fairly interesting point to make about the "weakness" of smell:
    To make things worse, the nose turns out to have the shortest memory of all the senses.... where the other sensory memories are strong, clear, and sharp, the tuna-fish sandwich smell is general and vague. What the nose knows, in effect, is not much, and that soon forgotten. (Wine lovers protest violently when they are told this, but their protest, from the academic point of view, is a bit like the protest of eyewitnesses who are sure they saw what they say they saw.)

    I think Gopnik is wrong, or perhaps misguided. How can he possibly know what my sensory memories are like? What he says is contrary to my experience.

    More to the point, is it that the memory of aroma is weak, or is it that those memories are simply more difficult to articulate than those from other senses? Your later post seems to point in that direction.

    It's an interesting question. I am blessed/cursed with a very keen sense of smell. There are certain aromas (including, unfortunately, the stench of the burning World Trade Center) that remain clear and fresh in my mind, even though it would take me a long time to find the words to convey their memory.

  4. There is nothing particularly distinguishing that identifies "Swiss cuisine"....

    Yes there is, they put pickles in everything.

    Or if it's fine Swiss dining they use capers.

    More seriously, I think of rosti as being quintessentially Swiss, though I know it's also found in Germany & Austria. There was a Swiss place in NYC that claimed to serve it, but their rendition was so disappointing, I purged the name of the place from my memory baniks.

    If anyone knows where to get good rosti in this area, please let us know!

  5. My sympathies also.

    If this is prying or causing you to dwell on a subject you don't want to dwell on, please simply ignore this question; but did you ever determine exactly what caused that allergic reaction? Remembering my extreme reaction to an apparent MSG overdose thanks to another thread here in this forum, I'm curious.

  6. If you're on a low salt diet for cardiac/blood pressure reasons, I'd think you'd want to avoid MSG the same way you avoid salt.

    When I was in London in the mid 1970s, some hours after a Chinese meal, I became violently ill. I've had food poisoning a couple of times but nothing like this. The doc I saw the next morning questioned me about what I'd eaten, then diagnosed an MSG overdose. Said it was not uncommon among travelers from the US since some London Chinese cooks tended to use more MSG than we are used to in the States.

    I took the doctor at his word. He gave me some stuff that tasted like modeling clay to take several times a day & advised me to drink lots of water.

    This may not have been an MSG health hazard in any permanent sense, but I lost 2 precious days of an overseas vacation recuperating. The MSG OD, if that's truly what it was, really wiped me out. I was royally pissed.

  7. Yep, the lady who runs the farm stand at Five Islands said the fruit growers were hit hard by the weather this year, first time she hasn't been able to get any local peaches or plums since she opened the place.

    Also read in a local paper that this year's blueberry crop is only 50-60% of the normal yield. That's a tough one.

    Nice thing about being back in Jersey is that the corn is still great. Though I'm wondering increasingly if such amenities make up for all the aggro of living in this region.

    Not to mention that I've yet to find a NJ/NY farmer this year with beans as good as those Maine beans.

  8. Spent last week in Maine again, Georgetown/Five Islands. First, tho, after picking up the rental car, couldn't resist a whirl into Portland for another lunch at Stone Soup in the Public Market - that great curried chicken again, this time with lentil soup laced with superbly smoky ham - & a stroll down to the Old Port & back.

    Located the Greengrocer. Looked nice, but no corn to be had. Back up the hill to Gillespie's in the Public Market to stock a few fruits & vegs for the week, including what was left of their corn. The neon haired girl at the counter seemed annoyed that we were buying 5 times as much produce as anyone else, apparently because bagging & ringing up our stuff was more work. Peculiar sense of customer relations there.

    The real point here though is Gillespie's green beans. Best of the year from anywhere, no contest, absolutely superb. I bought somewhere between 2 & 3 lbs, carted the slowly dwindling bag up the coast, back down, then back to Jersey. Had the second-to-last meal with them tonight, flavor a bit faded but still very good. Most impressive beans those, one of summer's essences.

    No dining out excursions to speak of other than Moody's, discussed in the Maine diner thread, & those superb lobster rolls at Five Islands Wharf (weekends only this month, then closed for the season). Had a great time cooking haddock on several nights, a fish that's not easy to find in Jersey.

    Want to note that Shaw's store brand of EVOO has been consistently excellent, to my taste, over the past couple of years. A greener, sweeter, less peppery oil than some, but when I'm in the mood for that particular flavor, it blows me away every time. (May be due to the fact that it reminds me of Spoleto.) Brought the bottle back with me, just too good to leave behind, thankfully it made the trip intact.

    Dang it all, I do love Maine.

  9. If you suspect that the corn is not fresh, and want to peel a little husk back to check, or peel back a little husk of an ear you selected, by all means go right ahead! The thing I can't stand is what I encountered a few weeks ago...a lady halfway shucking all the ears of corn and throwing them back. I'm not sure what she was looking for.

    That's one of my pet peeves, seems like there's always some chowderhead at the farmers' market doing that with the corn.

    I find it easy to tell whether the corm is fresh by looking at it (shade of husk, glisten of silk), & whether an ear is well developed by feeling the girth & heft of it. I never peel a husk back to look at it. I get a grand total of maybe 3 or 4 imperfect ears yearly, & I buy a dozen ears every week in season.

    Works for me.

  10. The specialty sodas seem to work. Most towns in Maine these days seem to have 1 or 2 sort of nouveaux lunch places that offer somewhat upscale sandwiches & a good selection of specialty sodas along with the usual Coke stuff. At least from outward appearances they seem to be thriving. That kind of selection disposes me to return to these places.

    I was recently turned down for a system analyst job on the JC waterfront. Pity, I'd have loved to be in the area & be able to grab lunch at Melt! Wishing you a ton of luck with the endeavor.

  11. Do I have to do EVERYTHING?



    french yogurt

    aged gouda

    mezza secco

    If it's genuine Italian fontina, not that ersatz Danish crap, throw some good prosciutto on it & I'd pay $7 or $8 for it. $10 seems steep but that might just be my perception.

    Are you going to offer beverages other than shakes? (Sorry if this was covered earlier, I've been away.) I could see stopping at Melt for a sandwich OR a shake, depending on time of day, but no way for both at the same time, it's overload.

  12. Small world dept, & I'm not sure whether this belongs in the NJ or New England forum, but......

    We spent last week in Maine. First 5 days, rented a cottage on the swamps at Back River Bend.. Lovely place. Never really got to speak with the owners at length while we were there, they were busy running their boat yard & getting ready for fall.

    Ran into them at JR Maxwell's restaurant in Bath later that week, got to chatting. Talked about Jersey & Montclair, Sam told the story of this chef who came to stay at their cottages with his girlfriend a couple of years ago & they loved it so much, they asked to be married there the following year. Turned out that the chef was David Joseph, of Blue Sky Cafe fame, & we were staying in the very cottage where the happy couple had honeymooned. Sam says they've become good friends & David invited him & Ruth to his own birthday dinner. Oh my. What a treat.

    Sam reports that David & Sherri love their life in Maine & are doing very well serving breakfast & lunch to Portland's bankers 5 days a week at The Eatery. He says David had a bit of a hard time adjusting to his new clientele, but yielded to popular demand & grudgingly put burgers & fries on the menu.

    I bet that they're very good burgers & fries.

  13. If you stop in at Moody's, I have only one word of advice: PIE!

    I can now report that Moody's is indeed still there. Or at least it was as of 4 nights ago.

    And I can second that word of excellent advice.

    The place gets packed around sixish, and you have to be ready to move fast, as they are anxious to take your order. The food comes out QUICKLY.

    I'm still sorry that I didn't go for the chicken croquettes, I had to decide too quickly. The baked stuffed haddock was unobjectionable, but I do a much better version at home.

    As an LSD* person, I was pleasantly surprised by the restrained use of salt in their cooking. Looking at the general age of their customer base, they show some wisdom in this.

    *LSD = low salt diet. What did you think I meant? :smile:

  14. Thanks Johnny. Portland got under my skin right quick.

    Yosaku was the place I think - big patio seating area. Looked like a lovely spot, also mobbed, there'd have been a substantial wait.

    So that's where the Greengrocer is! We must have been there too late in the evening both nights for me to notice it.

    Concidentally we'll be zipping through Portland this weekend - won't be hitting the city this time, heading straight up the coast for some serious peace & quiet.

    Toying with the idea of a couple more days in Portland centered around 10/16 to take in Gov't Mule at the State Theater. Several things need to fall into place for that to happen, though, far from certain right now.

  15. "Melt" immediately brings to mind the infamous Tuna Melt.

    Are you going to be serving that kind of "melt" sandwich, or are you going to be a cheese-only purist?

    Melt I think will lead your customers to expect stuff in their cheese.

    Personally I like the name Melt, but it may set up certain expectations.

  16. Finally finished my Portland writeup. Apologies if this is too much travelogue & too non-food-focused for eGullet. It's just the way my stuff comes out. Anyway I hope some of the lodging stuff might prove useful to other folks.


    We’d reserved our first night in Portland, a Wednesday, at the Eastland Park Hotel. It proved to be a lovely 1927 building on High Street, set back from Congress Street by a corner park where the local skateboard kids were having a blast jumping off of the varying elevations. I liked the hotel immediately, in spite of some initial confusion when we checked in and found that Expedia hadn’t faxed our reservation. The manager quickly put that right and gave us our room, promising to straighten things out with Expedia during our stay.

    The Eastland Park was very comfortable, with well appointed rooms, a lovely view of the church directly across High Street, a window that you can open, and pleasant staff. They have a rooftop cocktail lounge that we never got to; I imagine that the view is wonderful. They serve a decent continental breakfast in the lobby outside the hotel restaurant – such comfy chairs! – or you can order a full breakfast in the restaurant. The front desk will stamp your parking ticket from the garage next door, so it’ll cost you $10 flat to park for the night. There’s a connecting covered walkway to the garage from a side door on the north side of the Eastland, and the multi-story garage has an elevator. The only awkward spot for handling luggage can be the two short flights of steps from the hotel entrance up to the front desk, but there’s always a concierge there ready to assist.

    We went out immediately to walk around Congress Street in the late afternoon. There’s a funky mix of people on the street – the aforementioned skateboarders, SMU students, elderly folks from a nearby senior housing complex, a few hard luck cases from the localy family court, a couple of homeless people, and lots of business folks. A crew was busy setting up a soundstage in Monument Square for a free concert by Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers the next night.

    There’s an interesting variety of shops on Congress – some antique places, three terrific used book stores, an L.L. Bean factory store, a few clothing boutiques and art galleries – and a wide mix of restaurants. Our location on High Street was roughly midway between Uffa, a few blocks to the west, and 555 to the east. We looked at both thanks to the recommendations here, and they seemed enticing. I was particuarly drawn to Uffa, the menu and the look of the place immediately appealed to me.

    But this was our first time in Portland, and we were eager to see the Old Port area. I was also dealing with pizza cravings and getting a hankering to try Flatbread Co. (also recommended here), so we set off down the hill with that as our goal. We passed Kathadin on the way, another intriguing restaurant; we were tempted to stop right there, but those cursed pizza cravings were too strong.

    We hit Fore Street and the swirl of Portland twilight life; shopfront window lights gradually replaced the dwindling daylight. In the middle of the block we noticed a crumbling alleyway that led down to an inviting cobblestone street and a sign for Cinque Terre restaurant. Their menu looked promising, the look of Wharf street reminded us both of a cobbled street in Zurich that leads up to one of that city’s most innovative restaurants. We agreed that this would be our backup if we couldn’t get in to Flatbread.

    We wound our way & down Fore St. & Commercial St. Many storefronts & blocks later, we found Flatbread. It was mobbed, there was a half hour wait. I’d gotten far too hungry from our wanderings to wait, so we took a direct route back to Wharf St., only to find a 45-minute wait at Cinque Terre. Street & Co., across the street, was so crowded it didn’t seem worth the time it would take to inquire. On a Wednesday night, the Old Port was thriving.

    A few doors east of Street was Soffritto, which trumpeted its Creative Italian Cuisine in a way that made me wary. It was pretty well filled indoors, but there wasn’t a soul at any of the outdoor tables on the cobblestones; that also seemed a bit suspicious. The evening had gotten a bit cool at that point but it seemed to us an ideal evening for dining al fresco. I was too hungry to go on; we sat.

    We started with salads of very good field greens, perfectly dressed in a creamy house vinaigrette. Some good chewy Italian bread was accompanied by a small ramekin of oil, herbs, grated cheese and a splash of balsamic vinegar that was all curiously flavorless. I thought they’d have done better with a simple dish of good oil.

    Still wanting something heavily tomatoed to satisfy those pizza cravings, I went with the lobster fra diavolo, which was huge. The briny juices turned the fettucine underneath squishier than I’d have liked, but the sauce was robust, with large chunks of tomato and onion and a healthy dose of herbs and hot peppers.

    Sheila had the Tuscan seafood stew in a saffron tomato sauce. (The seafood was tuna, swordfish and salmon, the mixture changes daily.) She thought it was dull, though the fish was fresh and nicely cooked. I made the mistake of not sampling it until my palate had been thoroughly peppered; the sauce seemed well made, but I can’t tell you whether it had any subtle qualities.

    Halfway through our meal, three ladies of a certain age also asked to be seated outdoors. Sometimes it’s good to find fellow eccentrics.

    We skipped dessert, hoping to grab some strolling ice cream from Fuller’s, just back up the alley and around the corner on Fore St., but we arrived there a couple of minutes too late.

    The next morning we scoured Congress St., took our used book finds back to the hotel room, then walked down to the Old Port again. The shops were open, tourists and locals were swarming, it was a brilliant sunny day – this is just a great city to walk in. We discovered that the trick to avoiding steepness on the way back up to Congress St. is to head up Exchange St to Federal, or turn left a block sooner on Middle, then right on Temple and slant along the plaza that leads up to Monument Square. Not the shortest route on the map but certainly the easiest.

    We crossed Congress St. at Preble and went a block down the other side of the hill to reach the Portland Public Market. This is my idea of a great lunch. From Stone Soup, I got a delicious cup of tomato-leek soup, with more big tomato chunks, and a most refereshing curried chicken salad, with a slice of excellent multi-grain bread. Sheila had a shrimp salad sandwich that she said was first-rate. You can buy your lunch from one of the many vendors there and eat either in one of the small ground floor areas with tables, or up a flight of stairs on the mezzanine (I think there’s an elevator too) overlooking the market below. It’s sunny and airy up there, and there’s a giant lobster for your amusement.

    We then got some delicious raspberry squares from one of the bakers and a cup of tea from Breaking New Grounds – they measure your choice of loose tea into a muslin teabag on the spot, a nice touch.

    While sipping my tea, I called Holiday Inn on the cell phone, found I could cancel our Saturday reservation without a penalty, did so and booked us back in to the Eastland Park. We’d decided that the Eastland had much more character, and for a rate identical to the Holiday Inn’s lowest. The HI probably does have great views from its bayside rooms if your lodging budget can double, but that wasn’t in the cards for us.

    After two days of family events, we returned to Portland late Saturday afternoon. I figured that we should probably make dinner reservations somewhere after our Wednesday experiences. However, I wanted to look at several B&Bs that I’d spotted on our map in the interim – as fond as I am of the Eastland Park, it’s always nice to know your options – so I was planning a winding route down to the Old Port. I didn’t know how long this would take and didn’t want to be tied to a reservation time, so we decided to wing it once again.

    First stop was The Percy Inn, on Pine St. just around the corner from Uffa. It looked lovely. We stuck our heads in the front door and peeked in, mindful of the “don’t let out the cat!” sign – didn’t see the beast. I’d stay here without hesitation if I can get a competitive rate.

    Our next goal was West End Inn, a couple of blocks west on Pine. The blocks started looking pretty long, and the sun was sinking, so we abandoned that quest and headed down to The Inn at Park Spring. It also looked like a fine place to stay, in a location very convenient to the Old Port.

    It was a warm evening, and we again wanted to dine outdoors. We passed an interesting looking Japanese place on our way down the hill, but the vibe on Wharf St. was calling to me, that little block must have some strong feng shui going. As I expected, every place was jammed; but lo, there was a lone table for two outdoors at Soffritto. It was fate; as much as I wanted to try someplace different, we just grabbed it.

    The strains of Saturday night showed in the salads; this time the field greens were heavily diluted with romaine, and were more drowning than dressed. I ordered seared scallops with fettucine, asparagus and tomato in a balsamic honey butter sauce. Pretty much a waste of some really fine scallops, overwhelmed by way too much sauce that was both too balsamic and too sweet to begin with. The dish seemed overbalanced, with not enough asparagus or tomato; pump up the veggies, use only a dollop of the sauce, and it could have been pretty good.

    Sheila ordered grilled scallops with risotto and cabernet syrup. It was a small masterpiece, simply drizzled with the syrup, the kind of dish where you savor each bite because you don’t want it to end. The scallops were perfectly cooked, still swewet, with just enough grilled flavor; the risotto was deliciously cheesy and laced with the right amount of green onion. I was totally jealous.

    Service at Soffritto was friendly, gracious & prompt on both nights, and I think their outdoor dining area is a wonderful place to while away an evening (though if the air conditioner is running, watch out for the one table that’s right in its exhaust path). It may not be Portland’s best food, apart from those grilled scallops (and that diavolo sauce showed promise), but it provides a very pleasant experience if you’re as fond of al fresco dining as we are.

    Oh yes, that night we did make it up to Fuller’s before closing. Strolling around the Old Port one more time with two scoops of chocolate and one of butter pecan was the perfect way to end our stay in Portland.

  17. One of the most misused punctuation marks in english is the apostrophe. The distinction comes as to whether the meaning is plural, or possession. The plural should NEVER have an apostrophe.

    A sign seen all too often on restaurants is "Closed Monday's" , or, "Soup's of the Day" (As bad as nukular).


    And the logical implication is that there is a group of people named Xaviar involved in this place in Piermont.

  18. but i ask:  where's the challenge?  that feeling of pride of a job well done?  that nutty/burnt taste that only a screw-up in a saucepan can give?


    Fascinating thread! I have only one non-redundant comment to add:

    When making brown rice, I sautee the dry grains in a very little butter (2/3 cup rice, 1-2 tsp of butter) till they get a bit translucent before I add the boiling water (4/3 cup).

    Then I go full tilt for that nutty/burnt taste & deliberately overcook it (maybe 50 minutes total). You get a nice rich brown crunchy crust on the bottom & sides of the pan if you do it just right. I find it much more satisfying than so-called perfectly cooked rice.

    Show me a fuzzy logic rice cooker that can do THAT! :laugh:

  19. I know what you mean -

    Does anyone else get a weird tightening sensation in the center of their chest from some blue cheeses, artichokes, or red wine?

    Maybe we shd start a new thread on the physiology of food reactions?

    You do know that tightening of the chest is bad, right? You may be allergic to something in there, and I'd get it checked out, in all seriousness. A twinge in the jaw is one thing, but chest pains, don't play around with them..

    Now officially concerned.

    I was going to say the same thing.

    If you've had that sensation all your life, it's probably nothing. But if you haven't, or you've never mentioned it to your dr, please take Roux's advice to heart.

  20. In a crowded and noisy restaurant, squatting may reflect a waitron's genuine effort to actually hear what a patron is ordering, so I cannot dismiss it outright.


    True enough. I always appreciate a server's effort to listen. But the article seemed to be talking about squatting in all circumstances as a means of getting inside your customer's personal space. Bad idea if you ask me.

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