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October, 2009 | Manolo's Food Blog
Archive - October, 2009

Odd couples

“What do you want to eat for dinner tonight?” Mrs. Henry asked for the umpteenth time.

“Whatever looks good is OK by me,” responded Mr. Henry in the mistaken belief that eagerness to please his immortal beloved would win the day.

“Why must the menu decision always be up to me?” cried Mrs. Henry, straining to remain calm. “Why can’t you come up with an idea? You’re the famous Mr. Henry. Think of something!”


And thus does Mr. Henry receive his comeuppance for selflessly spreading enlightenment and joie d’esprit to his many faithful readers.

As luck would have it, and luck favors the prepared foodblogger, tucked away at the back of Notes on Cooking is a singular list of classic combinations:

duck & orange
orange & fennel
fennel & arugula
arugula & balsamic vinegar
balsamic vinegar & strawberries
strawberries & cream
cream & garlic

…and so on for two more pages.


It’s a list ready made for the beleaguered husband and willing helpmeet wandering the grocery store, all the voyage of his shopping trip bound in shallows and in miseries.

artichokes & mozzarella
mozzarella & tomatoes
tomatoes & cucumbers
cucmbers & lingonberries
lingonberries & wild goose

Sometimes a combination works even though it seems to be completely at odds, as unlikely as pumpkin & prawns, for instance.

Mr. & Mrs. Henry seem to have absolutely nothing in common, either, except a fondness for the same foods, the same vacation destinations, and the same movies. Sometimes the odd coupling is the tastiest.

yogurt & meyer lemon
meyer lemon & green olives
green olives & manchego
manchego & quince
quince & vanilla bean

Notes on Cooking for Men

Lately Mr. Henry has been reading and re-reading Notes on Cooking, a handy, fun, and blissfully succinct new book by Lauren Braun Costello and Russell Reich replete with wise lore from the kitchen.

Although Notes on Cooking covers most aspects of cooking, it omits any discussion of the social setting, specifically the interpersonal dynamic between a woman in an apron and a man waiting to eat. If you are a man lucky enough to live with a woman who cooks, pay close attention to the following rules of comportment:

1.    Set the table.

2.    Compliment her finesse at the stove and her personal sense of style. Every meal is a celebration. She, doyenne of the household, happens to have cooked the meal for you, unworthy guest. Maintain decorum. Keep your natural boorishness in check.

3.    The time to offer suggestions for improvements to choices of menu, seasoning, degree of doneness, or other components of the meal is not while sitting down to dinner. Her queries on these subjects should be construed in their narrowest dimensions. You should venture an answer only if she demands one.


4.    When you’ve done the dishes, do not conclude that you’ve finished cleaning up. Wipe the counters, sink, and dining table. If you harbor hopes for clandestine assignations between you and the missus later that evening, sweep the floor.

5.    Take out the garbage, carefully adhering to the following dicta:

a.    Do it before she reminds you.

b.    Do it without calling attention to yourself. Simply because you humped a trash bag it does not follow, therefore, that you should be in line to receive a battlefield commendation.

c.    After taking out the trash, do not plop down on the couch in the belief that you have fulfilled your kitchen obligations. This is a critical juncture. Remain upright, in motion, and engaged.

6.    Never come home empty-handed if your route has taken you past the grocery store.

7.    Always carry the heavy grocery bag.

8.    Make a habit of carrying home heavy items like milk and fruit.

9.    Always buy more bananas than you need. By this clever stratagem you can ensure that two or three will ripen past the optimal “just a few brown sugar spots” state. After your spouse has castigated you for profligacy and a pitiful absence of common sense which she wishes to heaven she had recognized twenty years ago, she will bake her signature banana bread, the ideal breakfast. For the remainder of the week, mornings will be bliss.

Whiskey cocktails

angostura.jpgPlacing at risk the delicate health of his liver, all week long Mr. Henry devoted his attention selflessly to the study of rye whiskey, with especially spirited focus on the celebrated American whiskey cocktails – the Manhattan, the Old-Fashioned, and the Sazerac.

Results are in. Adding bitters, vermouth, or anything else to good rye whiskey is needless embellishment. It’s gilding the lily. It’s screwing the pooch.

It’s a case of rye gone awry.

The Manhattan cocktail may be the best of the bunch, but finding Angostura bitters on upper Broadway is not easy. Four liquor stores and three grocery stores were sold out. Could the Manhattan cocktail be dying out in Manhattan?

Curiously, sweet red vermouth, shot of bitters, and rye whiskey which constitute the Manhattan are somewhat less than satisfying until pulled together by the unmistakable synthetic flavor of a maraschino cherry. The Manhattan is a tonic that tastes like a stomach-ache remedy mixed by an old time apothecary, appropriate if you’re using firewater rye whiskey from your own still but inappropriate for the mellow rye whiskeys available today.


The Old-Fashioned is just rye, bitters, sugar, and splash of soda water. Once again, why confuddle a balanced whiskey with bitters? (And by the way, in case your stores don’t stock it, Angostura bitters smells just like Fernet Branca, the classic Italian amaro.)

The Sazerac is the most curious one of all because it requires a teaspoon of Pernod (or any other licorice liqueur) and a splash of Peychaud’s bitters, slightly milder than Angostura but very much the same kind of preparation. Once again the image of a long-whiskered apothecary springs to mind, this one in a Mardi Gras hat.


Following the recommendation of the reliable Eric Asimov, New York Times spirits correspondent (a fine career, don’t you agree?), for mixing purposes Mr. Henry bought a bottle of Michter’s, which was quite good but fell short of the richness found in more expensive straight ryes like Hudson Valley Manhattan rye.

At the suggestion of Mr. Hess, a correspondent from California, Mr. Henry searched for Old Potrero, a rye distilled by the Anchor Steam Brewing Company, one of America’s great breweries. Alas, Old Potrero is not to be found anywhere on the Upper West Side. Neither is Templeton rye from Iowa. In fact, good rye whiskey is scarce on local shelves. Yet again the Founding Fathers would be scandalized by the habits and customs of modern Americans.