Friday, March 18, 2011

Greetings from St. Barthelemy, FWI

C'est laVue!

The Entrance to our Villa
The front of the villa 
This week I thought we'd share our trip to St. Barthelemy, in the French West Indies.  This is our 16th trip here in the last 20 years so you can probably tell that we like it here.  Make that love it here.  And what's not to love?  The tiny little 8 square mile island can only be reached by planes carrying 19 people at most.  You fly here from St. Maarten, 10 minutes away and one of the most incredible flights you'll ever take since the plane makes a terrifying landing: It aims itself between two peaks for a landing strip that ends directly in the water. Scaredy cats need not apply.   

Salines, our favorite beach...hard to choose on an island
with so many beautiful ones.  
The island scarcely changes year to year.  Strict building codes mean no structure above 3 stories.  There's no gambling and no golf and basically nothing to do here.  Except there are the beaches, beautiful white sands leading to warm turquoise water.  Then of course this is a French island so the food is simply magnifique.  From the humblest Creole menu to Fine Dining, it's all here in elaborate profusion.  Choosing where to eat is a daily sport.  And that's about the most taxing thing we do all day.  

Le Petit Dejeuner...Breakfast in Paradise
Dejeuner or Le Lunch....some of it quite healthy!
I remember reading descriptions of various kinds of vacations.  There was the adventure vacation,  the learning vacation, the volunteer vacation.  And then there was our vacation.  This can be described by the following schedule;  We get up, we go to the bakery and buy Croissants.  We come home to our villa for breakfast then head to the beach. About one clock we come home, we eat a gorgeous lunch of pate, saucissons, jambon, great French peasant bread and  a salade I make with haricots verts, shallots and bottled, yes bottled Dijon salad dressing  (It's French, it's excellent and it's bottled.)  We drink rose and sun ourselves by the pool.  At about 4 o'clock we may head out for some retail therapy at some of the best shops anywhere.  Or we nap or we read.  At about 8:00 we head out to dinner somewhere outdoors where we eat a marvellous dinner.  We go home, have anightcap, look at the stars and go to bed.  It is best described as kind of like being dead only we keep on eating.  It is just what the doctor ordered after this paralyzing winter up North.  I'll post more later.  Meanwhile, enjoy the view!  

Monday, March 14, 2011

Braised Pork with Clams a la George Mendes

George Mendes outside Aldea
        A while ago, we went to a then brand-new restaurant called “Aldea” at 31 West 17th Street, New York, NY 10011 (Tel: 212-675-7223).  Its chef and owner, George Mendes, had the misfortune of opening at the precise moment Wall Street collapsed and fine dining with it. But he soldiered on to justifiably great reviews.  And he kept his prices out of the stratosphere and stayed afloat until things got better.   He did so in a stunning space—very cool and minimalist—so it was somewhat a surprise to hear that the name “Aldea” means ‘villages’ in Portuguese. 
Aldea's cool and modernist interior
        George Mendes himself is a first generation American of Portuguese descent with an impressive resume.  He’s worked with all the big boys—Alain Ducasse, David Bouley, Alain Passard and Roger Verge.  When he set out to run his own place, he used the Iberian peninsula as his inspiration.  He’d spent three years of his career in Spain with yet another culinary star: Martin Berasategui at the eponymous 3 Michelin starred restaurant in San Sebastian.   At Aldea, he has introduced New York to his very individual takes on Portuguese classics.   This wonderful stew from Food and Wine is a terrific example.  It’s not at all hard to make.  In terms of braises, it’s economical both in the time it takes to cook and the ingredients that go into it.