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Saturday, April 28, 2018

Some Days I Just Don't Give a Damn




Some Days I Don’t Give a Damn

I’ve been good
And eaten what was green and good,
But never touched the deep hunger
And made me dwell on food until
I finally ate a chewy chocolate chip
That ripped that craving right off the wall .

I read a best seller that
Called to me, just as wet paint calls
An itchy finger, then cursed as I wiped it off
And wish someone had put a sign
On that book that read, bestseller my ass.

I got my exercise.  I skipped
My lunch for it. My knees ache
And creak like an old rocker.
My stomach says to me, I told you so.


The knees beg me to buy a motorcycle,
Ride it like a demon on bicycle trails
And scare the crap out of the arrogantly
Young with legs and muscles of iron.

Instead, I’ll buy a bucket of
French vanilla at the organic store
For the eternally thin, and decorate a
Ceramic bowl of it with dark shavings
From a hard chocolate bar and
Healthy nuts to prove I’m not all bad,
And sweetened whip cream to prove
I can be.  It’s an edible work of art,
Abstractly delicious and fattening for
A good cause that donates proceeds to
Starving children in a land where ice cream
Does not grow.
And I like the taste, but I shouldn’t,
But I do.

Later on I’ll think deep and hard and
Solve no problems and give advice
To no one.  And go for another walk
To atone for the ice cream, and carry
An old lady’s brown paper grocery sack
To her car and stay the hell out of her way
When she forgets I’m there and backs up.

I’d do more, but some days I just
Don't’ give a damn.



Thursday, April 26, 2018

Mustard Chicken




Mustard Chicken

Yes, it’s a simple name because it’s a delightfully simple recipe.  Simple and simply elegant.  Hey, you can make this on a weeknight, when you get home from work. No need to wait for the weekend and spend a few hours in the kitchen.

How can this be? You ask.  Because you know I’m a simple guy, with simple ideas, who simply wants to please.  Let’s put it this way, if you don’t like the recipe, you have my heart felt sympathy and you’re invited to drop by for a drink.

Ok. Short and Easy, just like your first girl friend.

Mustard Chicken – easily adaptable to smaller or larger groups

5 chicken thighs (bone in, skin on)

Olive oil

Paprika

5 medium sized shallots, peeled and sliced thinly (use a sweet onion, only if you must)

1 1/2 Cups of dry or half dry white wine

1 Cup Dijon Mustard with seeds

1 Cup yogurt

Preheat the oven to 400ºF or 200ºC

First step, dust the chicken with plenty of paprika.   If you can do this ahead, do it, but if not, dust the thighs right before cooking.  Put 2-3 Tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet (I prefer cast iron) and turn the heat to medium.  When the skillet is at temp, place the chicken thighs skin side down, cover and cook for 8 minutes.

Toss a little more oil in a smaller skillet, add the sliced shallots and stir until barely browned. Add the cooked shallots to the chicken and pour in the wine.  Leave the skillet uncovered and let the chicken/shallots/wine simmer and slightly reduce.

While it’s reducing, mix the mustard and yogurt.  Add the mixture to the skillet, stir and spoon some of the sauce over the chicken.  Cover and slide the skillet into the oven for 20-25 minutes.  At the halfway point, spoon some sauce over the chicken, cover and continue to cook in the oven.

Voilà!  C’est fini! 

What to do now.  Well, green vegetables go nicely on the plate for color, and a salad or slaw would most certainly be welcome.  How about some green beans cooked with lightly browned onions, just enough chicken broth to barely cover the beans, a drained can of Mexican style tomatoes and a squeeze or two of fresh lemon?

Well, hell yes!  And since you’ve already opened some delicious wine to season the chicken….just saying….but you may quote me.  À votre santé!



Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Guarany Café, Porto





Guarany Café, is yet another of Porto’s wonderful cafes.  Opened on 20 January 1933, Guarany is much different from the Belle Epoch style of Majestic Café.  To use only two words, more casual.  But in using casual, I’m not referring to dress or shabbiness.  Quite the contrary.  The waiters here adhere to the black pants and white jacket attire.  The tables and chairs have such an old yet new flare, and the coffee is delicious, as are the Pastéis do Nata, or Custard tarts for which Porto is famous.




The first things you notice, after you review the menu and notice the Guarany has a full bar, are the mural sized painting in brilliant acrylics and pasels, Os Senhores da Amazónia,  the Lords of the Amazon, done by Crarça Morais in 2003.  The painting depicts the full lives of the Guaraí Indians, who live in many parts of South America, but mostly in Paraguay.  Funny that the painting should be titled Lords of the Amazon, since the Amazon runs mostly well north of Paraguay, but the Paraná River runs along the Paraguay border.  Ah well.  Artistic license.



As an aside, more people in Paraguay speak the Guaraí language (Tupian) than Spanish!

But, let’s get back to getting a good cup of coffee!  Although, there is no need to restrict yourself to coffee.  I had a Pastéis do Nata and it was so good I want the aftershave, shampoo, and Pastéis toothpaste.




Reading the reviews, one and all rave about lunch and dinner as well, and judging by its size and reserved tables, I’d say the kitchen is superb.  But, in Porto, if you’re more than a mom and pop operation and want to say in business, you’d better be superb.  Walking past the place in the evening, it was packed with young and old, who came for the cuisine and music.

Want to know why Guarany is also called The Musical Café?  Check out this list of events:


The café was refurbished down to the tiniest detail in 1994, to up date it, but also to insure the café was in tune with the changes in the city, while still remaining true to itself.  To my eyes, the refurbishers managed both impeccably.  




Guarany Café! Drop in for a coffee or to read a book or to write a novel, or in the evening to listen to music.  Whatever your bent, it’s a place you’ll come back to every time you visit Porto.




Monday, April 23, 2018

Majestic Café in Porto, Portugal



Busiest times are breakfast and lunch



Majestic Café in Porto, Portugal

If you want to really be a traveller, you have to stay in one place long enough to find three things:  the perfect Café, the perfect bar, and the local market.  Staying only an afternoon and jumping through the ten hoops the guidebooks insist on doesn’t make you a traveler, it makes you a headless vector.


I’ve already written about Porto’s wonderful market and the magnificent Intercontinental Hotel Bar.  Now it’s time to introduce you to one or two sensational cafés that date back to when your parents were young and frisky, or maybe even your grandparents.  You don’t find these places much in the U.S., but in European cities, just ask around and they’ll quickly pop out of a native’s smiling lips, usually beginning with “You’ve got to…” The Majestic Café is like that.  A step back into the time of ornate fixtures, artists and writers who linger over a morning coffee in scintillating conversation, and such a comfortable setting that you are suddenly uplifted, inspired, and feel the urgency to learn several languages, read classic novels and view some canvases done by the masters.

The famous French Toast

Would you like whipped cream with your milk coffee?

Think I’m being factious?  Let me put it this way, so both of my faithful readers will comprehend:  Take your camera, but also take a small notebook and pen and become a momentary scribe over a delicious coffee and the café’s famous French toast.  Or if you should choose to flatter yourself and assume your best E. Hemingway, forgo the French toast and order a brandy or Jameson.  Yes, I did.  No, I am not ashamed.



So, you’re asking: For the love of heaven, please tell me more about the café! Don’t allow me to simply sit there and luxuriate in the splendor of the moment.





No fear, my fellow travelers, here’s the More you request:



But, before I begin, a sip of Jameson.  Ah, now, here we go. 

The Elite Café opened on 17 December 1921 and was an immediate success, with it’s Art Nouveau architecture and interior design.  Leather seating. Flemish mirrors. Ornate plaster details on the walls and ceilings.  In short, a perfect place for gentlemen and ladies to stop for a conversation over ice cream, or coffee, or an aperitif.  But, something about the name didn’t sit well with some.  Elite.  Monarchists in a time of Republican sentiments?  Hence the name-change to the still elegant, but more egalitarian Majestic Café.

Over the years this sumptuous setting on a busy shopping street has garnered multitudinous awards.  You will quickly see for yourself why this café often appears on the “Best Ten Cafes in the World” list.

Although it has certainly become a tourist destination, with a long line to get in, the café has not lost its way.  The food and service are remarkable.  And, should you wish to arrange a celebratory event, this is the place.  Many have, including heads of state, as well as an array of notables from entertainers to aviators, to artists and writers.  It’s said that J.K. Rowling finished writing the first book of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone here. (Published in the U.S. as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.)






But, no matter if you’re stoned by Philosophers or Sorcerers, or Colorado’s new state flower, when you step in and have a seat in this paradise of a café and the first white and black clad waiter comes to your table, you’ll be more than glad you came, not to see the sight or follow the instruction of a guide book, but to add your approval to all of those who have made this spot in Porto THE place.




Now grab your notebook and pen and finish this story:  It was at exactly noon on the 24th of May in 1925, the heart of the Jazz Age, when I finished my first cup of coffee, ignoring the many hums of conversation around me, seated near a wall sized mirror in the apply named Majestic Café, when a young woman and her mother took the table beside me.  “What calls to you, Cynthia?” asked the older woman as they both reviewed the menu and the black and white liveried waiter waited patiently.  Actually, the waiter and I both waited to hear the young voice and find out this delectable creature’s desire.



The Majestic Café!  More than a destination, much more than a mere coffee shop, it’s an adventure in time travel you won’t want to miss.

Don't forget the famous Porto Pastéis de Nata, Portuguese Custard Tarts