August 26, 2019 – September 1, 2019
Monday: Grilled Skirt Steak with Grilled Peppers, Arugula and Peach Salad with Burrata and roasted Prosciutto
Tuesday: Dinner with Billy and Emily at the Cornerstone Restaurant
Wednesday: To Stone Harbor – Dinner with Mere
Thursday: Dinner at Sax Restaurant at The Reeds – Comfort food all around: Tagliatelle Bolognese for Beez, Mere and Me
Friday: Dinner Party at Mere and Hoddy’s: Grilled Flank Steak with Chimichurri,Lemon-Pecan Green Beans, Peach, Arugula and Burrata Salad, Great Dessert
and Chocolate Brittle by Faith
Saturday: Dinner at Spiaggetta, Stone Harbor
Sunday: Seafood and Barbecue at Stone Harbor Country Club with a gang,
courtesy of Hoddy and Mere
Monday: Giant Cocktail Bash at Mere and Hoddy’s with Tim and Hilda’s and Ambrose and Maureen’s clans.
The Italians and Spanish, the Chinese and Vietnamese see food as part of the larger, more essential and pleasurable activities of daily life. Not as an experience to be collected or bragged about . . . but as something else that gives pleasure, like . . . music, or a good nap in the afternoon.
- Anthony Bourdain
We spent most of last week in Stone Harbor, as the guests of Mere and Hoddy, perhaps the most hospitable people we know. (Hoddy has invited more people to dinner and Mere has organized, cooked and put together dinners, cocktails and various parties for more people than most of you know. Ask her about the Super Bowl Party in Naples some time.) It was a blessed week of sun, good meals, parties and golf with friends. And, for Hoddy and me, a week of life-giving afternoon naps.
You will note that the menus, above, cover 8, not 7 days, because during those 8 days we were with family and friends and, while the food was great, the company was even greater. On the 9th day, just home from the Jersey Shore, we rested, having sustained our run of family and friends for two days longer than the Creation.
There may be things more enjoyable than a good meal with friends, but they are not things about which I can write in what is, after all, a family-oriented blog. As for me, give me a hot dog and a cold beer and good friends or family around the table or on the porch, and I guarantee you my pleasure will be greater than the swells eating at Blue Hill at Stone Barns.* (And that is pretty pleasurable, I can tell you.)
*Named by Food & Wine again as one of the best restaurants in the world in their recent (September, 2019) issue.
Our rollicking, happy week began at dinner with Billy and Emily and continued at the Jersey Shore, as guests of Mere and Hoddy. Allow me a word about their generosity and the pleasure it is to be with them: All four of us are morning newspaper readers and coffee guzzlers. Everyone has broad knowledge and an acquaintance with the issues of the day. We all like sports and we all know a wide group of people who generally overlap. And I can’t think of a serious argument we have ever had between the four of us. It goes without saying that Barbara and Mere need to correct Hoddy and myself from time to time. (But if it goes without saying, why say it? I say it in the hope that admitting our shortcomings might save us some scolding in the future. Though that seems doubtful – Beez and Mere being as observant as hungry birds of prey and Hoddy and I being incorrigible.)
At the shore we resumed a routine established long ago. I got the papers while Mere and Beez made the coffee – after a light breakfast, decisions about the day (golf? eat in? dine out?), Beez went to the beach, Mere worked on maintaining and preparing her various houses and mothering and grandmothering her large clan, Hoddy dealt with business and that large clan, and I read. Or Hoddy and I, and once even Beez, played golf, or biked or walked. After a nap, we all pitched in on the cooking, except for Hoddy, whose mind tends to focus on more spiritual things.
On Friday, Mere and Hoddy hosted their Stone Harbor neighbors for a fine dinner party and discussion of sports, family, work habits of the young and general boasting and showing off to get to know each other.
On Saturday, Spiaggetta’s cooked me a Fettucine Cacio e Pepe to die for. This simple dish, like Fettucine Alfredo, is a good test for any pasta-based Italian restaurant. (The Cacio e Pepe is a tad less caloric.)
And on Sunday, we caught up with old friends and acquaintances at Stone Harbor Country Club at a dinner hosted by Mere and Hoddy.
On Monday, a gang of us played golf at Shoregate, a new venue for all of us: Ambrose and his sons-in-law Ed and Adam, Tim and Peter, my godson, and Hoddy and I. A fine, joking, beer-filled lunch followed at Fred’s tavern.*
*The change in American eating habits is no where more starkly illustrated than at Fred’s, which is a joint attached to a liquor and beer store. Fred’s, which would have offered burgers, Cheese steaks, fried fish and clams or oysters, when I first started going to the shore 65 years ago, served us fish tacos, Asian Pork Wraps in lettuce, a Shrimp Po-Boy, and a short-rib Bahn-mi, among more traditional items like Tim’s Cheese Steak and my BLT. And instead of Schmidt’s, we drank South Side Pale Ale from Philly.
The lunch at Fred’s compelled a serious nap for most of the guys, followed by a super-serious cocktail party at Mere and Hoddy’s. I say super-serious because we served, among the various beers and wines, a vodka martini, a gin martini, a perfect bourbon Manhattan (or 2 or 3) and a Rob Roy (or 2 or 3). This was no Chablis and Brie foufarra. And, unlike the hot, but pleasurable round of golf, the party featured beautiful women (Mere and Beez, of course, and Hilda, Ceil, Abby, Julie and Kathleen, and Liz and Cate). It also featured the budding alpha-male of the group: young (not quite 2) Ambrose William, Liz and Ed’s son, who quickly became and remained the center of attention.
This chronicle of our admittedly, unexceptional activity at the shore is by way of emphasizing that we crave and enjoy camaraderie and conversation much more than we do food, though that might not be obvious from my fighting weight. And, of course, the two do so often go together, practical Americans needing an event – dinner or hors d’oeuvres – to loosen their tongues and move the conversation beyond work, sports and the weather to more fraught and interesting topics.
I strongly suggest, as a way out of the digital, prejudice-reinforcing world of Facebook and Twitter, that you focus on parties, with or without cocktails, and getting together with friends and family and even strangers. A truer sign of what you really think when at your best is what you can say while face-to-face with another human being – not the excrescences you feel empowered to litter the internet with.
Well – I’m glad I got that off my chest.
And, by the way, just below is a recipe for a heck of a dish to feed family and friends while conversing, arguing and poking fun at each other. Honestly, the best food of the week was Mere’s Green Beans, our dinner at Spiaggetta and the barbecued chicken at the Stone Harbor Country Club. But we didn’t cook that food, so we’ll share an exceptionally tasty dish that we did.
BALSAMIC AND SOY MARINATED SKIRT STEAKS WITH CHARRED PEPPERS
(adapted from Food & Wine: September, 2019)
Timing: 50 minutes to cook – 2 hours to marinate, prep, start fire
Ingredients: Serves 6 or 7
2 lbs. of Skirt Steak, trimmed and cut into 6-inch pieces
1 lb. mini Sweet Peppers (most groceries carry these in 1lb. plastic bags)
1 large onion cut into ½ thick rings
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup soy sauce of Tamari
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ tsp. kosher salt, divided
1 tsp. black pepper, divided into ½ tsps.
½ cup chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp. chopped chives
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 garlic clove, smashed
Grilled Ciabatta, for serving
Marinate Steak (at least 2 hours – up to 8 hours):
Stir balsamic and soy sauce with a pinch of salt in a bowl large enough to hold the steak. Add the steak, turn and move around to ensure it’s evenly coated, then cover and refrigerate for 2 – 8 hours.
Prep for cooking:
Start a charcoal fire or preheat gas grill to achieve medium-high temperature. Alternatively, heat a grill pan over medium-high. Oil grates well before cooking.
Toss the bell peppers and the onion slices with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and ½ teaspoon of black pepper.
Place the pepper and onion mixture on the grill and cook, turning occasionally, until softened and charred – maybe 12 minutes. Move mixture back to the bowl it was tossed in, add cilantro, chives, lemon juice and garlic, if you wish (we didn’t), toss and cover with plastic wrap to steam for 15 minutes.
Now remove steak from the marinade and wipe excess off steak. Place on well-oiled grates and grill, turning occasionally, until charred on both sides. For medium-rare, cook 10 – 15 minutes depending on the thickness of your steak and the heat of your grill. Let rest on a cutting board for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, grill ciabatta.
Finish and Serve:
Slice the steak thinly, against the grain, and season slices with ½ tsp kosher salt and ½ tsp of black pepper.
Serve with pepper mixture and grilled ciabatta. And, if you have any of that Argentine Chimichurri left (see “Never Too Late for Chimichurri”) put that on the side.