Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Giant Hamburgers with all the Trimmings

Thursday September 25

One of the nice farmers at the market offers meat from "cows that lived like cows": they wander around and eat grass. I think it's called grazing. We bought a lb. of grinded-up cow and made fat juicy burgers from it. Fried onions and ketchup. Plus leftover tiny potatoes from last night.
Accompied by Holt's very successful cornichons. Note: all they need is a day's salting, plus tarragon, and vinegar: a infinitely adaptable recipe. No processing required; keep very nicely just in the basement; crisp, even crisper from the fridge.

Sargent Farms Stuffed Roast Chicken with Potatoes

Wednesday September 24

We're operating on what we call Rome Rules here. Since everything is so expensive, why not shell out the extra bit per kilo and get the best? A factory chicken at Zehr's is already twice the price of factory chicken at IGA, so instead we got a free-range beast of a chicken at Antipastos ($2.50/lb).
Since we had all those pre-fried for your convenience mushrooms, we just made a nice herby duck-bread stuffing.* Sautéed onion in lots of butter, then little cubes of crap bread, sage, oregano, more sage, pepper. The last of the mushrooms in the stuffing, already nicely moist. Then tiny potatoes in the schmalz once it had rendered up some.

This may also be the time to repeat our advice to put your chicken in the stirrups. It ain't pretty but the thighs get done at the same time as the breasts. You can trust me: I'm a doctor.

* Click here for the concept of duckbread. Also spread the word on Urbandictionary.

Veal Chops with Creamed Mushrooms on Milk-mashed Parsnips

Tuesday September 23

Tuesday is Barbara's official university-sanctioned "research day"—as if every day weren't—and so naturally is spent running errands. We headed off to Antipastos and scored some more pretty veal chops. We had also bought a kilo of (off)-white mushrooms on sale that needed to be used at once.
A search through Epicurious yielded this recipe, which we ignored completely except for the great idea of the parsnips.
We did the chops in the simplest way, as befits great material: patted the chops down with salt and fresh thyme, then sautéed in butter. Remove and let sit while sautéing the all the mushrooms (ditto thyme), taking half out for a rainy day, and then just enough cream to bind.
(Note the la-di-dah fluted mushroom caps).

The parsnips are fan-freaking-tastic. Cook 1 lb. of parsnips in 1 1/2 cups of milk (enriched with cream or butter or not, as you wish). Yes, I know, it seems a lot of milk but when covered and cooked on a low heat for 30 minutes, it really does absorb almost all the milk and produces the best mash ever. Do not put them in a blender. Just smash 'em up or whip 'em in bowl. This is the dawn of a New Age in rude vegetables.

Red Pepper Frittata

Monday September 22

We have to admit we may have gone overboard with the red peppers, but they were so pretty and had only journeyed a couple of kilometers to join with equally neighborly eggs in a frying pan.
So after all that potluck, a simple freet was called for. And, what else, in Ontario at the end of summer? A tomato and basil salad.

AIA Potluck

Sunday September 21

A post-lecture tradition round these here parts for the archaeological lectures.
Since we had made two pans, I have to admit we just brought the cornbread again. Many wonderful contributions, including a couple of gelatin molds and some tuna noodle casserole, without which no pot would be lucked.

Barbeque at Nadine and Mike's

Saturday September 20

Mike and Nadine threw a festival start of the season barbeque for the Department. There were so many dishes that we're afraid they've all sort of run together in the memory—should have taken more notes (or pictures). Our hostess's own (or rather, her mother's, if I recall correctly) gingered chicken stands out. Our contribution was cornbread. A new and I think it will become a house favorite.

It's done almost like a cake, with butter cut into the dry ingredients. I had already made roasted red peppers earlier in the week and we had scored some corn at the market. Here's the recipe. The only changes I made was to eliminate the basil (not in fact a flavor that goes well with the others) and to substitute milk and a dollop of yogurt for the buttermilk. All the butter makes a cornbread that's exceptionally moist and keeps surprisingly long.

8 tablespoons (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup chopped onion
1 3/4 cups yellow cornmeal
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (milk +yogurt)
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups (lightly packed) grated Monterey Jack cheese (about 6 ounces)
1 1/3 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed, drained
1/2 cup drained chopped roasted red peppers from jar


Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter 9x9x2-inch baking pan. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in medium nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Cool.
Mix cornmeal and next 5 ingredients in large bowl. Add 7 tablespoons butter and rub in with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Whisk buttermilk and eggs in medium bowl to blend. Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients and stir until blended. Mix in cheese, corn, red peppers, basil and onion. Transfer to prepared pan.

Bake corn bread until golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool 20 minutes in pan on rack. (Can be prepared 8 hours ahead. Cool completely. Cover loosely with foil and let stand at room temperature. If desired, rewarm in 350°F oven about 10 minutes.)


Friday September 19

Went down to Tony's fish market on a recommendation, and have to say I was not over-impressed. Not really someone to mong me some fish—just a nice enough hole in the wall Asian grocery with a somewhat limited supply. So I chose "kingfish." The problem with kingfish, beside the so-not-PC temptation to do the whole thing in Amos & Andy voice, is that the name is used for about 10,000 different fish, and without a marine taxonomist by you side to give you Genus and species you're pretty much on your own. This specimen was, I suspect from his general roundness (Yes, Your Roundness), a king mackerel. It looked like a smackerel and cooked like a smackerel, and I say it was a smackerel. In any case, nought to do with the kingfish we had in Indian restaurants in London.

So I marinated their royal fishnesses in a lot of lime juice with a little shot of cayenne and pepper. Then pan-fried, removed to hot plates, then swirled in some onion and tomato to cut the oiliness (I told you it was a smackerel). A few steamed wax beans made a pleasant side-dish when splashed with white balsamic vinegar.

Lamb Sausage with Onion and Mash

Thursday September 18

So far, Barbara's favorite of all Antipasto's varied sausages. Featuring 20% pork just enough to make it rich and moist (like Lady Fiona). Some nice squashed potatoes on the side to sop up the deglazing sauce.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Last of the Summer Pasta

Wednesday 17 September 2008

This was an attempt at recalling an old Beard on Pasta recipe (which we don't have with us), the colors supposedly reflecting the red, green, and white of the Italian flag. In fact, it reflected what was in the fridge or on the shelves, but made a perfect end of tomato season dish. So:

Julienne the one pepper that didn't go into the amazing God Hates Shrimp.
Ditto the last leek from the bottom of the vedge crisper.
Ditto two nice zukes from the Farmers' Market.
Fry them up in that order in a smidgen of EVOO.
Add some fresh parsley and oregano.
Put on the linguini to boil.
When the leeks seem lightly browned, add two "Last of the Summer Tomatoes"* coarsely chopped (and nobody's coarse than me, buddy boy!)
A little kosher salt.
Tear up some basil, toss in.
Swirl the pasta in the sauce.
The field tomatoes were perfect for this. They gave up just enough liquid without getting too squishy, but were still a little salady (You know exactly what I mean).

*That popular British comedy.

God Hates Shrimp

Tuesday 16 September

In response to the hateful "God Hates Gays" websites, someone created the nice God Hates Shrimp website.
This recipe has nothing to do with that. We just think its funny.

We went, off-schedule, to the Farmers' Market today, with a mighty big cravin' (note the apostrophe) for corn. Scored five ears.
Back home, we took an inventory: a couple of red peppers, a red onion, some shrimp in the freezer . . . a vision began to form: a hot cold shrimp-corn salad.

So: mix 1 TBSP chili powder
1 TBSP coriander
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano (the Mexican holy quadrinity* and by the way, you do realize that all the amounts are totally bogus . . . I mean roughly approximate).

Make a paste with some olive oil and toss in a lb. (pronounced /lub/) of shrimps.
Let marinate while you

Boil the corns. 5 minutes, cuz it's September.
Put into cold water.
Cut all the kernels off, and save 2 1/2 cobs worth plus the cob scrapings for cornbread which you've just realized would be a nice thing to bring to the potluck on Saturday.
Put the other corns into a nice bowl.

Cut 2 red peppers into little squares.

Cut the half stick of celery you've got in the little bag you kept it in from the last time you needed some celery but not that much. (Justification? Peppers and celery and onions make the Cajun trinity.)

Ditto the 1/4 of a red onion in the same little bag you kept it in . . .

Now: sauté the celery, then the red pepper, then the red onion until just a little softened, not too much.
Toss on top of the corns.

Sauté the marinaded shrimps. Toss on top of the peppers on top of the corns.
Deglaze the pan with the juice of an incredibly seed lemon, only after finding out that you have no lemon juicer, so just strain it through your fingers, you big baby, and pray you have no paper cuts.

Mix all together.

HOLY FROG, this is good!

Made a merde-load and we went back for seconds on the vedge.

*Not yet in the OED . . . what gives?


Monday 15 September

Grey steak. Sooooo depressing.
We got these lovely thick T-bones from Antipastos, which I promptly proceeded to ruin. We don’t have grill here so I used the broiler, which doesn’t in fact broil. It just bakes. So despite flipping the steak and taking its temperature with the ineluctable efficiency of a night nurse, the steak turned out grey on top, and worse grey all the way though. Next time, I'll pan fry it, no matter hows thick it is, or we'll see if we can't find a grill pan or a nice little grill for the porch— just in time for winter.
The situation was somewhat redeemed by blue cheese butter (haven’t found genuine gorgonzola yet) and some baked/nuked potatoes.
I felt a little better because the little cornichon I'd made two weeks ago came out perfeck (we've been watching the Darling Buds of May).


Sunday 14 September

After the weekend-long fress, and a light but exquisite lunch at Bijou, —just down the alley, past the deserted storefronts, over the bombed out parking lot: Lake Huron white fish, a heirloom tomato salad (we're going back for dinner, if we can find it), we needed something, anything, light. So just a few meat tortellone (froze from Antipastos) in a little sage butter.

Stratford II: Rundles

Saturday 13 September

In Stratford, the theatre controls all. Lunch and dinner are ruled by the curtain: lunch before 12 (for the 2:00 show, dinner at the unholy hour of 5:30 (for the 8:00). So after a grand slam B at our B&B— which we're tempted not to name, because we want to go back and they've got only two rooms, but how can you not recommend a place that's so nice, so anyway the name is River Walk, run by a very lovely woman and good cook named Sally—where was I?

. . . Oh, yes, we headed off to watch dragon boats race up and down the Avon and thence, since it had been nearly (i.e. less than) two hours since we had eaten last, to a petite lunch at The Sunroom, the name belied by the weather—but one could see how if the day were, then it would be too—which, despite the slightly off-putting décor (early diner) consisted of (I'm going for a record here) a fine light smoked mackerel appetizer and a perfectly done beef tenderloin salad with sun-dried tomatoes and a clever little caesar salad dressing for dipping the beef into (into which to dip the beef?), leaving just enough time to stroll leisurely through the drizzle to a slightly schizo R&J, followed almost immediately by dinner at Rundles, which is what I'm supposed to be talking about.

Rundles is the best restaurant in Stratford. Punkt!

The space is very open: light, clean lines. The service: efficient, kind, but unobtrusive. The food: perfectly prepared, and also concentrated and unfussy. So:

Our bouches were amused by a shot of beet and grapefruit juices. Holt tucked his napkin in tight.

A delicate terrine of baby leeks, just held together by being allow to cool in their juice (no gelatin), with a lightly truffled vinaigrette.

Little benriner-ed cucumber rolls filled with Dungeness crab and a spot of shrimp, cool as a . . . and with a dab of a orange and ginger sauce.

Small slices of Ontario lamb (think locally, eat everything in sight) sous vide (cooked in a vacuum-sealed pouch at a low temp.—how exactly you can get it to come out tender and exactly medium rare, as we had ordered it, is a mystery), accompanied by tiny cubelets of mushroom, and a half of a Portobello mushroom cup that had mysteriously been dyed green in the cooking process, with a sprinkling of goat cheese and purslane (or was it shee-poots?).

A wonderful "confit" of duck leg, which unlike the usual confit had a crisp skin while still falling off the bone. "Israeli" couscous (just a bit pushier than ordinary couscous), just a tad of roasted fall vedge (turnips and carrots) laced with slivers of olives, with a drizzle of a squash and cinnamon purée.

'Zerts: A perfect parfait (for the Dept. of Redundancy Dept.) of armagnac and caramelized walnut with an orange-pistachio sauce.
A "double lemon tart": so very tasty, though what made it "double" exactly we never did find out.

And an amazing wine find: Megalomaniac, Sonofabitch Pinot Noir 2004 from John Howard Cellars.

And then off to a schizo Taming of the Shrew.

Stratford I: Church Restaurant

Friday 12 September

A pre-theatre bash at an old favorite. We ate here many years ago with our nieces Melanie and Jenny, who were very sophisticated when presented with a real live dead partridge complete with real live dead claws and stuff.

It is a converted church, complete with belfry, and the atmosphere may be a little overly pious when it comes to the food as well. A four plate tasting menu gets you this for $90. Here are their descriptions with a few comments. Our waiter, a nice fellow, kept getting everything mixed up, pointing unfailingly to the wrong ingredient on the plates, not all that surprising since what was on the plate did not match the menu description in a number of cases. So

I. A. "Coconut and Leek ‘vichyssoise’: Cuttlefish, Wild Gulf Shrimp, Mussels and Kumquat."
A very luscious cold soup in a Thai style, brought as now seems the fashion, in a little Erlenmeyer flask and poured over the other tasty fish bits.

I. B. "Big eye tuna ‘carpaccio’: Parmesan, tomato, basil and puffed wild rice."
The tuna was served in little rolls, with a strange sort of gel strip (the tomato and basil) laid over them. Why 'carpaccio' even without the scare quotes I don't know. The parmesan came in the form of a little pool of foam, and a globe of a gelato. The little puffs of rice added some crunch, but as if someone had spilled Rice Krispies on a bit of sushi. An odd dish composed of discordant notes.

II. A. "Sassafras Glazed Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder: Lobster and Quinoa, Nappa Kimchi, Smoked Date Jus"
The pork was nice and tender, rather char shu. Can't say we noticed the lobster, or the dates, or the smoke. The napa cabbage kimchi was a major mistake, obliterating any other flavors.

II. B. ‘écolait’ Veal Tasting: Braised Cheek, Crisp Sweetbreads and Tongue ‘a la vinaigrette’: de Puy Lentils, Cauliflower, Tatsoi and Curry Flavourings."
Écolait’ turns out to be the name of a Canadian producer.
This owed not a little to Thomas Keller's now canonical "Tongue and Cheek." The goal is to transform commonplace, nearly offal, ingredients. This was only partially successful. The tongue was dull. The cheek was tender, stewed with a full-flavored dark reduction. The crisp sweetbreads the best of the three preparations. The pea-shoot-like tatsoi added a little peppery flavor, the titsy-bitsy lentils were cute, but the best thing was a teaspoon of cauliflower buds, vibrant with a subtle curry.

III. A. "Pan Roasted Beef Tenderloin: Foie and Sweetbread Sausage, New Potato Fondant, Grilled Red Tropea Onions; Spinach and Comte ‘subric’, Purple Mustard Jus"
The best dish, and time for Holt's now quadrennial test to see if he still hates liver. He still does but the little sausage slices sitting on top the "potato fondant" masked the taste quite well, making it the least loathsome liver he's had in a while. "Potato fondant" means many things to many people: In some cases it's a mashed potatoes enriched with cream, in others a sickly sweet candy-like fondant of sugar (and coconut; jeez!). These were uniform little circles of potato, cooked in broth, and then baked, as here. The beast itself was perfect, with a great crust and sauce. Accompanied by splendid terrine (eggless, we we're told) of spinach in three layers of greenosity, and the French cheese Comté (the accent is important); nor was it a "subric" in the classic sense, which was a fried ball of stuff (and still is in Italy), but now seems to mean a cream and vegetable preparation. Neither OED or more importantly the Epicurious Food Dictionary knows from subric.

III. B. "Kevin McComb’s Lamb in Several Preparation s: Eggplant ‘soubise’, Smoked Paprika Jus"
The modern trend, as evidenced here, is for multiple preparations of a single hunka hanka burning protein to showcase the chef's skills: sort of the Iron Chef philosophy. The best we ever had was "Everything from a rabbit" at the old Pinot's in Las Vegas.
This was mighty fine. Lamb loin with a hot paprika sauce (pimenton della Vera, no doubt). A little lamb sausage redolent with cumin seeds. A stewed bit of lamb neck (of all things) breaded. And single lamb raviolo with a tomato (rather than eggplant) "soubise" (Now the third use use of 'scare quotes'). Since a sauce soubise is onions and cream, how it can be tomato or eggplant beats me.*

Finally for dessert:
IV. A. Roasted Peach and Pistachio Galette: Peach and Cardamom Sorbet, Acidulated Caramel
On a thin buttercrust cookie with whipped cream and a peach mousse. A little ball of peach sorbet on the side.

IV. B. Cocoa Butter and Espresso Crème
Espresso and Licorice Crisps, ‘dulce de leche’ Ice Cream.

Well, you can see the problem: excess and scare quotes. The dishes have too many things going on, fussy details that get in each other's way. Some fine preps, but too much is too much.

*We offer the following from an essay entitled "The Incomparable Onion" 
by Elizabeth Robins Pennell in her The Delights of Delicate Eating (1896) and reprinted in the more entertainingly entitled A Guide for the Greedy by a Greedy Woman (1923. Being a New and Revised Edition of "The Feasts of Autolycus").
The subject, even, of a serious scholarly article.
Sauce Soubise is the very idealization of the onion, its very essence; 
at once delicate and strong; at once as simple and as perfect as all 
great works of art. 
The plodding painter looks upon a nocturne by Whistler, and 
thinks how easy ,how preposterously easy! A touch here, a stroke there, 
and the thing is done. But let him try! And so with Sauce Soubise. 
Turn to the first cookery book at hand, and read the recipe. "Peel 
four large onions and cut them into thin slices; sprinkle a little 
pepper and salt upon them, together with a small quantity of nutmeg; 
put them into a saucepan with a slice of fresh butter, and steam 
gently " — let them smile, the true artist would say — " till they are 
soft." But why go on with elaborate directions? Why describe the 
exact quantity of flour, the size of the potato, the proportions of milk 
and cream to be added? Why explain in detail the process of rubbing 
through a sieve? In telling or the reading these matters seem 
not above the intelligence of a little child. But in the actual making, 
only the artist understands the secret of perfection, and his understanding 
is born within him, not borrowed from dry statistics and 
formal tables. He may safely be left to vary his methods; he may 
add sugar, he may omit nutmeg; he may fry the onions instead of 
boiling, for love of the tinge of brown, rich and somber, thus obtained. 
But, whatever he does, always with a wooden spoon will he stir his 
savory mixture; always, as result, produce a godlike sauce which 
the mutton cutlets of Paradise, vying with Heine's roast goose, will 
offer of their own accord at celestial banquets. What wonder that 
a certain famous French count despised the prosaic politician who 
had never heard of cutlets a la Soubise!

You can also find this chapter in The Epicure's Companion, ed. Ann Seranne and John Tebbel. David McKay: New York (1962).

And after all that here's Fanny Farmer (1911):
Soubise Sauce
2 cups sliced onions 1/2 cup cream or milk
1 cup Veloute Sauce Salt and pepper

Cover onions with boiling water, cook five minutes, drain,
again cover with boiling water, and cook until soft; drain,
and rub through a sieve. Add to sauce with cream. Season
with salt and pepper. Serve with mutton, pork chops, or "
hard-boiled" eggs.

Thank god for Boston and common sense.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Broiled chicken breasts

Thursday 11 September

When we defroze the chicken bits on Tuesday, we took the bosoms aside and coated them with a bit of lemon juice and oil oil.
We stuffed a little rosemary, oregano, and parsley under the skin, and ran them under the totally inadequate broiler (see the depressing entry for Mis-Steak), which browned them, but only when set directly under the element. The back splash hit the fire, filled the house with smoke, and set off the alarms. Nice to know they work, but could have done without the bruhaha. Still pretty tasty.
We serve this with some nice crisp wax beans and then the last of the roasted red peppers chopped up and mixed in with the last of the little potato salad. A nice finish to the tail ends: each refreshed the other for a last hurrah.

Sun-dried tomato sausage, red peppers, and onions

Wednesday 10 September

That's pretty much it. From Antipastos.
Vinho do poeta (a new fav for under $10)

Chicken in Riesling

Tuesday 9 September

The basis of the dish is from A Year in Niagara: a nice combo of flavors but the order of the cooking is totally whack, as we don’t say.
So you supposed to sauté pancetta, onion, and garlic, and THEN take it all out, and brown the chicken in the oil. The idea presumably is that you flavor the oil. The reality is that you can't remove everything so the bits and pieces burn and make the dish a mess. So here’s how you actually do it.
1) brown pieces of chicken (thighs, legs) first.
2) remove
3) THEN add the onions, garlic
4) toss back in the chicken
5) pour in a healthy gulg of Riesling or an other slightly sweetish (and cheap) wine.*
6) cover and cook for a bit
7) only then add sliced mushrooms
8) when mushrooms are nicely done
9) remove everything to a plate
10) cook down the juice
11) add a shot of cream, a sprinkle of parsley, and tarragon
12) eat.

*By the way, once they're cooked, all wines taste the same. A wine with a genuinely nasty flavor will come through as will very tannic wines, but no one can tell the diff between a Montrachet and a Gallo "Chablis" once you've boiled the bejezus out of them.

Salad Days

Monday 8 September

Or a lot of leftovers. Before heading off to the picnic yesterday, we just had to set out some appetizers. So we had roasted some happy red red peppers, and served them up with the usual capergarlicoreganosaltpepper topping and olive oil. Then the market had provided a mess (liter, half a bushel, who knows) of little mixed sized white potatoes. We sorted though, picked out the tiniest, cutest ones, and boiled them in a little salted thymed bayleafed water, then tossed with just a smidgen of red onion, chives, and tarragon, with oil and the white balsamic vinegar. So cuuuuuuute.
These all furnished forth the dinner. So the leftover of
1) potato salad
2) roasted peppers
3) roasted baby beets with a sprinkling of goaty goat cheese
4) and the absolute last (no, really) of the nice chicken meat, diced, with a little celery, red onion, and mayo to bind.
All went well with the Vineland St. Urban Riesling.
Four leftover salads: sort of a smörgåsbord (note the umlaut and the little º thingy).

Monday, September 08, 2008

Niagara Parks End of Summer Barbeque

Sunday September 7

Our old friend Don and new friends Peter and Athalie (hi, guys!) drove up from Buffalo to take us to this taste-of-Niagara event. Things didn't look propitious at first, as it had rained hard all day, and the party was to take place outside the Queenston Heights Restaurant, overlooking the Niagara river - or, if it's raining, overlooking a cloud where the river would have been. But it was our luck that the weather cleared, the sun came out, and we were able to find five seats at a picnic table on the restaurant's patio.

Generous, indeed huge, amounts of all sorts of food were set out at hot-table stations, and the obliging chefs were there to explain the sources, or even just knock out a salt shaker for you. There were so many dishes, we just attach the menu here. And there were free samples of wine (a sweetish Sauvignon blanc, a decent Pinot Noir, and a nice Merlot-Cab blend that was first to run out) from Mike Weir Estates.

We enjoyed the good company, the open air, and the beautiful view, and finished with a walk around the Isaac Brock monument (surgite!), which is unfortunately under restoration netting. Still, it reminded us of old days in Rome, where everything is perpetually in restauro.

Garbage Soup

Saturday September 6

We had gone out to the Henry of Pelham winery for a large and boozy lunch with colleagues, so (after a nap) all we wanted for dinner was something simple and comforting. Turned out we had all the ingredients for a classic garbage stew, so that's what we did. Tuesday's chicken supplied ample meat scraps, plus bones and resultant broth. Just carrots and potatoes were added at the end, so it was really garbage soup.

The Cat's Caboose, St. Catharines

Friday September 5

To welcome the new (and old) Classics graduate students, our colleague Ally arranged a pub night at a nearby joint, the Cat's Caboose. Though situated in a strip mall, it has a nice patio with an actual caboose in the front. I was hoping to find out why, but later when I got onto their website it took an age to load and then played such obnoxious music that I closed it down and didn't persevere. Perhaps you could ask if you go there.

We had a table in the back, so managed to have a few nice conversations with students and faculty over the music and noise (seems to be a theme here). There were many beer choices, but mostly of the undistinguished tasteless kind - the Newcastle Brown Ale is the closest to something genuine. Of the many fried choices on the menu, we opted for fish and chips - two good-sized pieces, on a generous mound of french fries - and onion rings, which were very popular all round the table. Quite decent, for pub food, though their cole slaw is unpleasantly sweet and their tartar sauce comes in a plastic packet. Every now and then, though, pub food is what you need, and Cat's Caboose can supply it in spades.

Chicken and Schmaltzy Potatoes

Thursday September 4

This was Barbara's first day of school. So after sending her off in the morning with solicitous inquiries about whether she had her lunch, glasses, and bus pass, Holt welcomed her back with a warming dinner of tasty leftovers. There was lots of chicken (legs, wings, and thighs) from Tuesday's bird, and he used its golden schmaltz to make shallow-fried potatoes out of farmers' market Yukon golds, cut into batons.* The jellied chicken juice underneath the schmaltz was then used to reheat the chicken meat. With the crispy fries, and some unnamed white wine, it was delicious and soothing to the school-harassed spirit.

*If you can't stand the fat, stay out of the kitchen.

Spaghettini Tomato Toss

Wednesday September 3

No, it's not an entry at the county fair games; it's a simple summer pasta that we got out of A Year in Niagara, by Kathleen Sloan-McIntosh. The book's chief attraction is that it's all about the terroir in which we now live, and contains recipes and vintage notes from local growers and restaurateurs. It seems to be out of print, but I can't imagine why, as it's only from 2002, and you'd think it would still be on sale in every winery, food store, and restaurant mentioned (and there are many).

The chief attraction of this particular dish is that it uses cherry tomatoes, with which our nice neighbors are well-nigh showering us (and if you've ever been showered with cherry tomatoes, you know how bouncy that can be). When you first meet a Niagaran, they ask if you'd like some tomatoes, because their gardens are burgeoning with bushels of them. It seems that the Niagara is like Ithaca in this respect, except that in Ithaca it's zucchini that you have to lock your doors to keep your neighbors from sneaking in and leaving.

So, while boiling the water for pasta, mince a clove of garlic, chop half an onion, and sweat them in a generous dollop of olive oil in large skillet. Halve a pound of cherry tomatoes (ideally of different colors and types) lengthwise. Shower the tomatoes (gently) into the pan, stir about a bit until soft but not dissolved, and remove from heat.

Boil some spaghetti. Chop or tear up a big handful of fresh basil (the mint that Sloan also suggests would conflict too much with the basil flavor), and add to the tomato mixture. Drain the spaghetti and toss it about in the tomato pan, with a droozle more oil if necessary.

The essence of the season and terroir, especially with a Vineland Estates 2006 chardonnay.

Roasted Chicken and Beets

Tuesday September 2

We were over at Antipastos again, and this time they had some fresh free-range chicken. It was a hot day, but when you've got a really top-class chicken, you roast it, in our case in the time-honored fashion, with rosemary and lemon thyme under the breast skin and a lemon up its butt.

Alongside it in the oven, we set a dish of tiny baby beets from the farmers' market, tossed with olive oil and salt.

I think we were so stunned by the heat that we forgot that there was a nice breeze outside on the patio. We ate in the sweltering kitchen, but the luscious chicken dinner made us forget our discomfort - or maybe it was the Vineland Estates St. Urban Riesling, which we'd been tasting as we cooked.

Labour Day Celebration at Elizabeth's

Monday September 1

Despite the fact that she'd only recently returned from her dig in Turkey, our colleague Liz had the energy to put on a dinner for us and Fanny. Her house has a long corridor down the center, and at the end is the kitchen and a broad, open deck, shaded by a horse chestnut tree. That's where we sat, in a green shade, to eat a variety of tasty appetizers: creamy onions caramelized with olive oil and pancetta, and the grilled bruschette to put them on; sautéed cauliflower with Indian spices; cherry tomatoes, red and yellow, with basil; and black olives.

Then Liz fired up the Weber, and grilled a toothsome set of veal chops, pounded and breaded in the Italian manner. She served them with those tiny, couscous-like pasta balls, acini di pepe, tossed with kalamata olives, and a salad with radicchio and bright lemon dressing.

Dessert was fresh local strawberries with whipped ricotta cheese - Holt licked his up quickly and got seconds. So thanks, Liz, for a perfect end-of-summer meal.