An Expedition to Fall River

Type of Post: 
Best of Show
Destination: 
Fall River, MA
Best of Show: 
Chaves Market and the wonderful Portuguese food

Frosty Cranberry Bog It was March after a long winter, and the relentless gray showed no sign of yielding to spring. Richmond got it in his head that I just had to try his favorite restaurant in Fall River. I think it was a case of cabin fever, but I was ready for an adventure, so I took a day off from work and we set out across Carver's frozen cranberry bogs to Fall River.

Battleship Cove in Fall RiverFall River is best known for Battleship Cove, and the cuisine of the US Navy is deservedly unsung.

But there is a strong Portuguese population in Fall River, too, and there are foodie delights for the intrepid explorer. Some of them are hard to come by in places that lack a Portuguese community. That was our quarry.

Courico at Chaves MarketOur first stop was Chaves Market, at 49 Columbia Street. It's a big market, but they have no website or Facebook page that I could find.

Veal Chops a la Smugness

Veal in the skilletSince I'm a frugal Yankee, my gym is Shaw's Supermarket.

I've gotten to know the staff so I have the same camaraderie I'd get in a gym I had to pay for. I go early when the aisles are free of shoppers, and I walk briskly seven times around, which I estimate to be a mile. It's just as good as a treadmill. When I've finished the seventh lap, I get a cart and go around again.

Making the SauceBeing there early, I find bargains. There's a spot at the end of the meat counter where they put the stuff that didn't sell, and the other day I found two veal chops that had been discounted deeply.  They started at $7.00 each, but this isn't Whole Foods, and they languished. They were marked down to $5.00 - still no takers.  Now they had manager's special stickers deducting $3:00 from the lowest marked price so the $7.00 chops were $2.00 each.  How could I resist?

Mexican Madras

Mexican Madras Cocktail

Happy Day! Annette saw something on TV that told her tequila is good for you. Personally, I never pay attention to the nutritional and other health segments of the morning news, but ‘tis an ill wind….

I am ordinarily the family bartender, but I was off this morning purchasing bagels and the Sunday New York Times. When I returned Annette had gotten out the cocktail shaker and mixed up Mexican Madrases. Here’s a recipe. I don’t know if it’s the one she used or if she followed the one she found, but it looks like a good start.

  • 3 ounces cranberry juice
  • ½ ounce orange juice
  • 1 ounce gold tequila
  • 1 dash lime juice

Shake with ice, strain, and serve with a half orange slice.

I’m not sure how much health benefit you get from one tiny ounce of tequila, but the recipe may be modified according to your conscience, your body’s need for nutritious agave, and your taste. The mere presence of breakfast cocktails improved our mood on this cold and cloudy March day. We clinked glasses, munched our bagels, and went off to our newspaper in good spirits.

Reuben, She’s Been Thinking.

Reuben sandwich, photo by Richmond Talbot

When you’re two years old, a long winter has taken up a sizable percentage of your time on the planet; and my two-year-old grandson was ecstatic about the coming of spring. On the phone to Annette, he exclaimed, “Nannie, the grass is here! Indeed it is, and it was time for us to break out of hibernation and go to Mattapoisett for sauerkraut.

I’d asked The Foodie Pilgrim if he was going to be near the famous Morse’s Sauerkraut, but the grass has not yet emerged in Waldoboro, Maine, and the Pilgrim had no immediate plans to venture that far up Route 1. Still his knowledge of the food resources of New England is encyclopedic, and he told me I could score creditable sauerkraut at How on Earth in Mattapoisett.

It was a pleasant trip. The snow had melted except in sheltered places and grimy piles in parking lots. Many of the ponds had open areas where water sparkled for the first time in months. A sharp wind was blowing in from Buzzard’s Bay when we pulled into the How on Earth parking area. Hurrying inside, we found a good selection of fine New England foodstuffs, and from the refrigerator case we picked up a jar of Real Pickles Organic Sauerkraut.

Corned Beef

Corned Beef

This is a main component of a New England-style St. Patrick's Day corend-beef-and-cabbage dinner, a New England Boiled Dinner, and the Plymouth Succotash, as well as Corned Beef Hash and some wonderful sandwiches.

This recipe is to cook and cool the beef to be used for hash or sandwiches.

You can start with corning the brisket yourself with the recipe in Salt Beef, where you will also find some interesting lore about this old favorite.

Irish Whole Wheat Soda Bread

Irish Whole Wheat Soda BreadThis is great sliced thin and served with almost any kind of cheese, especially farmhouse cheese and local ale!

I made this one with King Arthur Irish-style flour and NH buttermilk, but the supermarket stuff makes good bread too - this is an excellent recipe.

Fishcakes

Fishcakes

Here's a version of the New England and Canadian Maritimes classic, often served for breakfast with Baked Beans (but they're great with fried eggs, too!

You can buy fishcakes in a can. It's easier than making your own. But they're disgusting.

Some restaurants, especially clamshacks, sell fishcakes. In many cases they're no better than the canned ones. Sometimes they're 9-parts potato with a hint of fish essence.

These are not hard to make, and you get enough servings that it's worth your while. The mixture keeps in the fridge for some days so you can fry up a few fishcakes when you want them.

For a simpler, more historical version, see Yankee Fish Cakes

A Smashing Cocktail

Apricot Smash on a Snowy Day

Annette requested a drink called an apricot smash, so I got on line and looked at recipes using vodka and rye, but selected one that called for bourbon. You were supposed to muddle a fresh apricot, but there are none in the supermarket at this time of year, so I got canned apricots instead.

For one drink I used four ounces of bourbon and two canned apricot halves, the juice of one lemon, and about a teaspoon of simple syrup. Recently I splurged on a nifty muddler from Crate and Barrel, but it didn't seem the thing for canned apricots, so I put the whisky, the lemon juice and the apricot halves in the blender and whizzed them up.  Then I strained the mixture into a shaker and added the syrup.

You can buy simple syrup at the liquor store, but it's easy to make.  You stir equal measures of sugar and water in a pan and boil it until the liquid becomes clear.  Put the syrup in a covered jar and store it in the refrigerator.  Don't make too much because it will become moldy after a while and have to be thrown away.  Always check the syrup for spots of mold before using.

Gingerbread

Classic GingerbreadAnother New England classic, easy to make, with a wonderful old-time flavor!

This is good to make on a snowy winter evening when you've had just about enough of January or February and a little something special is in order, especially if it's not too complicated. 

Sometimes I sprinkle some sugar on top before baking it, or some chopped up crystallized ginger, but honestly it doesn't need any of that claptrap - this is a fine classic recipe for a winter's evening! 

Palme d’Or

Florida is a state I associate with traffic-clogged highways lined with fast food joints, body shops, psychic readers, and strip clubs. The locals call people like me Q-Tips.

The Palme d'Or Hotel, in Miami - photo by Richmond TalbotNevertheless, Annette and I were invited to a Florida wedding we couldn’t miss. As we started out for Logan Airport with boarding passes for a flight to Miami, the car thermometer read 6°above and soared to 9° by the time we arrived at the terminal. I can gripe about flat, scrubby landscape and the high-rise blighted beaches, but when you walk out of any Florida airport, including Miami International, you smell vegetation and warm soil. Coral Gables is an exception to my prejudiced view of the Sunshine State, and the Biltmore Miami Hotel, where our hosts had reserved a block of rooms has a lot of class. On the evening we arrived we went to dinner at the Plame d’Or restaurant in the hotel.

My memory reaches back to the day when waiters in French Restaurants were stiff and condescending. When you ordered, they’d repeat what you said, correcting your pronunciation. On at least one occasion I pronounced my selection properly, and a wannabe French snob got it wrong. Usually they managed to give me the feeling I’d somehow gotten in where I didn’t belong.

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