June 19, 2018
Here at the open-air, somewhat makeshift fish “restaurant” along the Golden Horn, it seems that everyone is wearing a coat or jacket. Yes, this October afternoon was a bit chilly, but nothing stops determined diners when hamsi are in season. Those elusive Black Sea fresh anchovies, cleaned and gutted, lightly dusted with fine cornmeal, fried. A plate of them (along with a small salad of arugula) makes for a mighty fine lunch. Worth a bit of a breeze. What you can’t see here are the many cats who saunter nonchalantly among the tables, waiting for any reward that might come their way. They know their audience; we saw many diners whisk a few tidbits (or, in one case, an entire mackerel fish frame) to these petitioning kitties. And if they don’t score, they have only to travel a few yards to the Karaköy fish market next door, the source of our own fresh hamsi meal.
June 18, 2018
One of the great pleasures of travel for me is being able to guide friends who are first-time visitors to places I love. Bringing Jay to Istanbul and Rome. Typing out lists of places to eat and shop for friends en route to Paris. When my friend Andy was about to go to Rome for the first time, what a treat it was for me to “revisit” the Eternal Città as I went through maps, business cards from each ristorante, guiding him to my beloved Pizzeria da Pasquale in the Via dei Prefetti (home of the city’s best potato pizza), etc. But maybe the silliest and the most fun (for him and for me) was the Tosca Tour. Act I: the church of Sant Andrea della Valle. Act II: the Palazzo Farnese. Act III: the Castel Sant’ Angelo. All within walking distance of one another. And all wonderful visuals to accompany the sublime Puccini that plays in your head as you stroll along.
June 17, 2018
When Hurricane Bob blew through New England in August of 1991, Nick and I were in Provincetown, MA, “Hurricane Central.” The weather was wild, the leaves blown off all the trees and shrubs and pureed against walls all over town. (Lilac bushes, suddenly bare and experiencing the same amount of sunlight as in the spring, were fooled into blooming again!) We lost power, but had a gas stove, so Nick decided to try to approximate the pan pizza we both loved at Boston’s Galeria Umberto. Success! I’ve been making what I call “Nick’s Ptown Pizza” ever since. For the real deal, check out Nick’s How to Bake. For my quick take: Start two tablespoons of dry active yeast in two cups of hot water to which you’ve added a teaspoon of sugar. When it’s bubbly, add two tablespoons of olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon of salt, about six-seven cups of flour and mix and knead (by hand or KitchenAid mixer, dough hook) until you have a silky, workable dough. Cut it in half, store under plastic wrap or in Tupperware and let the two halves rise to double in size. Then push and pull each into an oiled jellyroll pan until they remain in place. Topping for each pizza: One-half of a 28-ounce can of Pastene crushed tomatoes (“chunky style”), three tablespoons grated Romano, some oregano, a little salt, a few red pepper flakes, four ounces shredded mozzarella. Put the pans on two shelves of a preheated 425-degree oven for 30 minutes, alternating them (top to bottom, front to back) on the shelves halfway through. Cool on racks. Do all that and you’ll have what you see here.
June 16, 2018
One of the many things I love about Jay is that he gets weepy. (He tells me that he always has. Well, so do I. And so did my father. All pluses, I think.) Can you tell from this picture at his alma mater, Amherst College? It was the first time he’d been back since graduating in 1966, and he told me he got all sentimental thinking back about his time there. We were in town to hear Portuguese fadista Mariza perform at UMass. We’d already checked into our Priceline-secured motel room in nearby Northampton and were strolling about the campus, the town. That evening’s concert was sensational. A local Portuguese marching band paraded through the theatre lobby, and a local bakery handed out pastèis de nata, my introduction to this heavenly pastry. Could Mariza, the music and the pastèis have prompted the decision to make our first trip to Portugal nine months later? And then again the following year? Of course. And now, whenever we think of Lisbon, “our city,” we both get a little misty.
June 15, 2018
Some people know how to pose. And how to choose the right socks to go with their shirt. Hell, even Betty (left) looks just right here. Simon and David and I were on a hike along the David Yetman Trail through the Tucson Mountains and came across this abandoned stone house up in the hills. (As it happens, the site is within spitting distance of land that Jay and I would buy some dozen years later.) The “Bowen House” was built in the 1930s by an editor for the Arizona Star but was abandoned when the owners went “back East.” Inhabited by various young groups of squatters during the 1960s, it soon became known as the “Hippie House,” and it was during that time that fire destroyed the roof. In 1983, the entire 2,000-acre Bowen homestead became part of Tucson Mountain Park. When I showed this photo to Simon again recently, his only reaction was to ask, “Jesus, what hair color was I using back then?”
June 14, 2018
Karadeniz Mısır Ekmeği, the famed cornbread from the Black Sea (Karadeniz) region. Not at all cakey like our own Southern style cornbread, mısır ekmeği is a heavy, hardly risen, somewhat challenging loaf, dense and quickly satisfying. When we ventured into a bread bakery in a far-flung Bodrum neighborhood to ask directions, I noticed a tray of this regional specialty still warm from the oven. (What was it doing here, so far from the Black Sea?) We got our directions, our bread, and a lovely conversation with the Black-Sea-native baker who wanted to know the name of this bread in English. The following morning at breakfast on board the Wind Surf, we asked our favorite attendant Ony if he could persuade someone in the kitchen to slice the round loaf for us. He did, and when he returned it, we asked him if he’d like to try a piece. He smiled shyly and confessed, “I already did.”
June 13, 2018
Nick and I had been traveling throughout Italy for weeks, compiling the research that would result in his Great Italian Desserts book. We joked about our Sicilian visits to numerous pastry chefs, all of whom seemed to offer marzipan-based sweets filled with preserves made from a native citrus fruit. Whenever we told one that we’d earlier been to see so-and-so in such-and-such a town, he would invariably say, “Yes, but here in our shop we have something special.” Followed by the inevitable “pasta di mandorle con confitura di cedro.” Always. Until we met this man, Corrado Costanza. Yes, he had some of the predictable pasta di mandorle sweets (though in remarkable shapes and presentations.) But the thing I remember most is his gelato. I recall trying two flavors: rose and jasmine. Also a quince-paste dessert that made the glands in my throat quiver like a tuning fork. Such a nice man, frowning, offering his heart.