Today commences, what I believe to be, the beginning of the true Christmas season. Tony and I do the gift giving thing on Little Christmas, January 6, and since we started this tradition, Christmas has been less stressful and more enjoyable, helped, immensely, by my December schedule at work, which usually entails having at least the last two weeks of the year off. Yesterday was spent in Pennsylvania, dining at a little gem of a restaurant, A Taste of Portugal on Route 209 in East Stroudsburg. Typical Portuguese fare, the prices are right and the ambience as homey as one could want. The late afternoon drive home was capped off with billowy pink clouds and the mountains of the Delaware reflecting the rays of the setting sun.
Thursday, in honor of the Winter Solstice, we had a down and out Polish feast for dinner. My theory is that there are two secular, non-patriotic days that should be celebrated each year in the company of good friends — the Winter and Summer Solstice. Our friend, Brian, was kind enough to bring a selection of sausages and pierogies, as well as authentic sauerkraut, mustard and mayonnaise for dinner. Himself a Pole, he picked everything up in Wallington, a town that has remained predominately Polish over the years. In fact, the town is so steeped in its heritage that preference is given to those of Polish decent, no matter how much money others are offering, to homebuyers in Wallington.
Once Brian got settled in the kitchen, it’s not uncommon for friends to come over and man handle our kitchen, I demonstrated my cooking prowess in a manner that was borderline embarrassing. ‘Help yourself to whatever you need, I’m no good in there,’ was my bold proclamation. Kind of funny considering that the only culinary skills needed were the ability to boil water and toss some pierogi’s around in a frying pan. The pierogi’s were delightful (not that I’m a connseiure of the pierogi).
Coming from Super Deli, the lovely little suckers had a very subtle crunch on the outside; the insides were soft with a warm, almost creamy, texture of potato that left behind a surprising hint, actually the perfect tasting, of pepper. The kielbasa and kabanos, purchased at Adams’ Deli, stuffed and smoked on premises, were also tasty. Eaten on Polish rye bread, the sausages were accentuated by Bacik Musztarda and Polonaise Horseradish; delightful on their own, but even better when combined. The meal was complemented with homemade apple sauce (from the ‘bible,’ aka the Fannie Farmer Cookbook), and clam dip (old family recipe) and wonderful Polish pastries that were made and delivered by one of Tony’s students.
Earlier in the day, I had the pleasure of dining at the award winning Saddle River Inn where I had the most wonderful of tarts — truffle mushroom and onion. The Inn, appropriately enough situated in the quaint town of Saddle River (yes, Jersey has some quaint towns), is a century old barn that is consistently ranked as a favorite by Zagats.
Wednesday was spent at the Portuguese Club and, on Tuesday, I finished making my cookies. Monday was spent in the good company of friends — both for lunch and dinner. Dinner was a Portugese classic — the mixed grill (essentially a lot of meat on a plate) and, for lunch, we had Manny C Burgers. Made by our good friend Manny C, it is perhaps the best burger I ever had.
Having recently received the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) newsletter, I’ve begun plotting out 2012. Am also preparing for the second half of my holiday with a trip to Massachusetts on the agenda as well as some more dinners with a motley assortment of characters.