Shallots are for babies.
Onions are for men.
Garlic is for heroes.
in Instanbul. A completely wild city influenced by the multitudes that have come through… Arabs, Asians, Europeans……
Aimlessly wandering the mosques, palaces and souks during the day, with lunches of roasted lamb and vegetables while seated next to dark, cologned men speaking a completely unfamiliar tongue. Awoken each morning by the Muslim call to prayer and put to sleep each night by glasses of Turkish wine made from varietals of which I’ve never heard….
Good Lord, it was 4am and I was already late. Puffy-eyed and tripping over my barely laced hunting boots, I crawled into the cab of John’s pick-up truck. I laid my shot gun on the floor and put my picnic basket on the seat; its savory aromas immediately filling the car and making John’s bird dogs hungry with anticipation. This, after all, is what Labradors live for: opening day of bird season. As we made our way further into northern California, John, a passionate hunter, regaled me with stories of his most recent, boys-only deer hunting trek. Seems he scored his one allotted buck on the first day of a ten day trip in the High Sierras with his bow and arrow. I slowly awakened in the front seat, sipping my Jasmine Pearl tea and looking out onto the still-dark flatlands of orchards and wheat fields, while imagining John, dirty and restless, on the remaining 9 days of his expedition.
We arrived into the agricultural town of Dunnigan, California well before sunrise, the official and natural start of the season. In the shadows, I was able to make out yards strewn with rusty farm equipment and cinderblock fences. We met up with the rest of the group, a dozen men and women, many of whom were members of the California Department of Fish and Game and all enthusiastic hunters and environmentalists. Each can rattle off species of trees and breeds of birds and bees before they even come into clear focus. And each is a great shot. I was privileged to be in such expert company.
Our motley group was granted access to a private ranch through a friend-of-a-friend. After greeting one another and petting our hounds, as many of us had not seen each other since the previous year’s dove opener, we scattered ourselves amongst the hundreds of acres and awaited the first light of day. I huddled into the arms of an enormous oak tree, shielding my bulky silhouette from sight. I was glad to have the warmth of my heavy hunting jacket, a hand-me-down gift from a friend who had recently traded up to a Barbour, a fancy English hunting coat. I tried to acclimate my eyes, looking into the dusk for darting birds and listening determinedly for the flapping of tiny wings. I could smell the cool earth, recently plowed on the neighboring farm and hear the distant screech of roosters greeting the day. The wafting pungent smell of good California ganja from my fellow hunter’s pipe put me into a reverie. I immediately regretted being momentarily transported, as the first flight of doves whizzed over my head, only to be knocked out of the sky further down field by a more attentive hunter.
As the red brush strokes of sky changed to orange and then to pink, the morning came quickly. The thumping of gunfire, both near and far, signaled the arrival of dove, ironically the bird of peace, as my many appalled friends had reminded me weeks prior to this early morning. I took aim and shot at many more of the tiny birds than I actually hit, although I managed to bag my limit of ten before midmorning. Overly excited, the dogs quickly retrieved the birds as they fell into the tall grasses and long before the ravenous ground squirrels were able to drag them into their dark dens.
I returned to the truck, my hunting jacket shedding feathers and my pockets brimming with spent shells. (I’m frankly embarrassed to admit just how many shells I went through to knock my ten small birds out of the sky). Most of my fellow hunter-gatherers were already situated in a circle, propped on their three-legged hunting stools, removing the dove’s feathers and trading stories about the ones that got away. The ranch property is surrounded by almond orchards and sunflower fields and the craws of the little birds revealed slivers of almonds and sunflower seeds; a testament to their incredible diet and our good fortune at being able to to hunt such marvelously situated land.
When the birds were finally picked clean and laid to rest on beds of ice, we opened coolers and picnic baskets to share our morning repast. Freshly pounded abalone from a recent dive was served alongside pears picked the prior evening. Crispy fried chicken and fresh figs with proscuitto found a place on the tailgates along with a succulent blackberry galette. Cold beer and cheap white wine were enjoyed until the bottles were drained. I brought an enormous fennel salumi I smuggled in from London’s Burrough Market and washed rind cheeses from Sonoma Valley. As I sliced several pieces from the hunk of charcouterie, I noticed my dirty, blood-stained hands; as much a badge of honor as purple mits are to the winemaker or dirt-caked fingers to the farmer.
Home by midday, I slipped the small bodies into a marinade and was grateful for a hot, cleansing shower. Later that evening, I sparked up the grill and pulled the cork on a mature, Italian Barolo. I carefully wiped the excess marinade from each bird and lavished them with salt and pepper. They were patiently cooked over a low flame until the skin was crisp and just beginning to pull away from the flesh. Each breast yielded only one, sanguine bite, made all the more precious by intense flavors of earth and game. With great appreciation, the birds of peace were silently savored. Following dinner, the carcass’ were made into richly dense stock which will again nourish during the cold winter months ahead.
Share This: If you’re fond of sand dunes and salty air, Quaint little villages here and there, You’re sure to fall in love with Old Cape Cod.
Written by Claire Rothrock, Milton Yakus, and Allan Jeffrey, 1957 and sung by Patti Page. Landed at Boston’s Logan Airport on a recent gray and windy afternoon. I could feel the wonderfully damp chill of New England the moment I ran screaming from the foul, putrid air of the plane. How I love to travel, yet how I loathe the process! Hungry and tired, I craved restoration in the form of an old-school Boston experience. Walked into The Daily Catch in the city’s North End just as a coveted table in this tiny 20-seat room freed up. Run by a Sicilian family, the green awning has been hovering over this spot on Hanover Street for as long as I can remember (from the hazy little I recall from my stupor-induced college days in Boston, anyway…) Quickly ordered a cheap bottle of young Chianti and was overwhelmed by the comforting smell of frying garlic. That familiar aroma always brings me to my knees.
Plates arrived in a slow rhythm. Tomato and onion salad made tangy by red wine vinegar was followed by baked haddock pulled from the local waters; naked but for a dusting of crumb and a dab of butter and served on its still sizzling cast iron skillet. Doused with lemon, it was the essence of New England simplicity. A steaming bowl of pasta then arrived: the house specialty. Homemade black pasta made with squid ink and topped with chopped calamari, parley and handfuls of fragrant garlic. We ordered another bottle of Chianti, its bright acidity a perfect foil to the richness of the dish, and proceeded to eat every damn bite, sopping up the oily goodness with that nasty, doughy stuff that constitutes Italian bread on the east coast. Early the next morning, we slowly meandered southeastward from Boston, driving Route 6A through the entirety of Cape Cod. The quintessentially east coast architecture of the boxy Cape Cod homes, the Spring carpets of purple crocus and the sunny bonnets of the daffodils, and the American flags hanging from the front porches brought back fond memories of growing up on this windswept peninsula jutting into the Atlantic.
Had a hearty New England breakfast of pancakes and bacon at The Sailing Cow Café in Dennisport, in the middle of the Cape, before foraging for a few pieces of great Americana for the shop. The first antique shop yielded a few of my favorite finds of the trip.
One of the better food signs I have ever found, it reads ‘OYSTERS’ and hails from Cape Cod from the early part of the 1900s, probably 1930s-1940s, complete with old nails. It measures 3’ long by 9” wide. ($510)
These five brass pitchers appear to have been handmade. They all have spouts and large handles and are in wonderful condition. Surely, they can be cleaned up but I enjoy the patina. The five measuring mugs are early American, mid-to-late 1800s (set $245).
During the 1800s and into the early 1900s, grocers used brass stencils to mark their boxes of fruits and vegetables. Marked Lima Beans, Assorted Fruis and Sugar Peas, each stencil has an fabulous patina and measures 9”across. They can be framed, displayed – and even used! ($95 each)
Heavy cast iron pieces always catch my eye, especially cool figural pieces that can go from oven to table so beautifully. This fish measures 13” from lips to tail and 8.5” from top fin to bottom. It hails from Japan, early 1900s ($185).
I’m always on the hunt for beer related antiques. High quality pieces are extremely difficult to come by, so I could barely contain my enthusiasm at coming across this very heavy bronze beer tap with a figural fish spot. Measuring 11” across and 9” high, it’s a very fine European piece from turn-of-the-century or earlier. ($485) Making our way further down Cape, we stopped in the too-picturesque seaside town of Wellfleet for a late afternoon platter of their famed oysters, which were dug that morning from just beyond the back door of our harbor side perch. I also indulged in a huge bowl of steamers, dredging each one in hot salt water to clean them of sand and then in a butter bath before feasting. Their sweet/saltiness is a true, seasonal east coast joy. Washed down the bivalves with several bottles of cold Red Stripe, the tasty Jamaican brew. From there, we forged on to Provincetown, located at the very tip of the Cape. I was fortunate to find a couple of treasures in the very few shops that were open.
I swooned for this little three legged lamp has figural feet and a fringed shade made from animal hyde, which gives off the most lovely hue. It dates to the early 1900s and measures 12” tall. ($190)
Mid-century pottery always catches my eye. Its color and form are always distinct, clean and oh-so-modern. This platter from Frankoma Pottery was produced in Oklahoma in the early 1950s and is in wonderful condition. The color is rich and vivid and it is the perfect vessel for serving olives, cheese, nuts and condiments. It measures 12” in diameter. ($88)
Tin and metal molds are such fun, especially the more unusual, figural pieces. This chocolate mold sports the shape of pretzels, reminding me of my early days in New York, when the twisted doughy bread studded with salt and smothered in yellow mustard was this poor working girl’s lunch. It’s heavy and measures 5.75” across and 6.5’ high. ($185) Bunked for a couple of nights in Provincetown at The Brass Key, a lovely complex of rooms, which open onto a fabulous courtyard, all done up by several men of impeccable taste. My room sported old-school floral wallpaper and a shower with four heads stocked with great product. The downstairs bar is hysterically named ‘Ship Wrecked’, and I’m sure that during high season, more than one or two sailors are found beached there. Wandered Commercial Street, P'town’s aptly named main drag, now quiet as off-season looms but still managing to see plenty of leather harnesses and stud collars on parade.
And speaking of which… who says there is no such thing as a phallic culinary artifact? I scored this ceramic penis decanter from a dealer situated down a peaceful little alleyway. Originally from Portugal, legend has it that the bride-to-be would fill it with liquor and pass it around to her bridesmaids the night before the nuptials, allowing each girl to take a pleasurable gulp from it. Made of ceramic and painted in great hues. ($345)
Wrapped in a heavy sweater and seated in a quiet, empty outdoor café, we tucked into yet another lobster and a bottle of Italian white wine, departing only as a chilly fog descended on us. Slightly tipsy, I stumbled into a late-night candy shop on the return to the hotel. I bought half a pound of the appropriately named Drunken Fudge, the smeared crumbs of which I found in my sheets the following morning. Slept buried under my blankets with all the doors and windows open, listening to the fog horn moan in the far off distance… Awoke to warm sunshine and took a soak in the large hot tub, enjoying the breeze and the solitude. Went to Race Point Beach, which circles the northern coast of Provincetown, and took a long morning walk to the lighthouse. Found a large cuttlefish skull picked to a white sheen by the gulls and the pounding Atlantic. It’ll be perfect for the shop! Sat in the unseasonably warm sun on a bench overlooking Provincetown Harbor, the tide far out and a lovely sea breeze blowing in.
Went to Devon’s on Commercial Street for breakfast, the windows open onto the harbor. Spinach and black truffle cheese scrambled eggs with applewood smoked bacon; English muffins layered with house made raspberry jam served from pottery crocks on each table. Rich, dark coffee, freshly squeezed pulpy grapefruit juice, and Red Bliss potatoes made with Old Bay seasoning made it a truly memorable breakfast.
Fortified, we drove off-Cape to Rhode Island, stopping to see the decadent Newport mansions situated right on the edge of Newport’s famed cliffs. Good God, have you seen these places? The Breakers, commissioned by the Vanderbilt family in the late 1800s, is so over-the-top that I’m sure my mouth was hanging open during the entire tour. What opulence! I brought myself back down to Earth by haunting various antique shops in the tiny state of Rhode Island.
This sign, ‘State Hatchery’ is originally from Maine and had hung in the dealer’s home for 50+ years. It dates to the 1930s and is in wonderful condition. The truly amazing aspect? It’s double sided and can be hung in the middle of a room or over a kitchen island. It measures 22” tall, 52” wide and 2” deep. One of a kind. ($1450)
This Victorian-era butter service is quite unique, topped with a dairy cow. In wonderful condition, it is fitted with a butter knife and an interior tray, which rests on a bed of ice. In wonderful condition, this piece was created by Simpson, Hall and Miller Silverworks in the late 1800s in Connecticut. ($245)
Cast iron calls to me. These heavy, figural sheep are very well done with great detail. They can be used as doorstops or bookends. I love them! (pair $185)
As my background is in wine and my shop sits in the heart of Napa Valley, I am always hunting for unusual wine antiques. This European wood, picking basket is a rare item, and still boasts its leather straps. The patina is rich and lovely and would be perfectly suited to hang on the wall of a kitchen, or over a hearth. Dates to the mid-1800s. ($1650) The last night’s dinner was a long anticipated affair at Rhode Island’s famed Al Forno. A bottle of young Barolo accompanied a rustic, rich dish of tomato and eggplant covered with local, bubbling mozzarella, which had been roasted in their wood fired oven. God, how I adore the east coast Italian sensibility! Guinea hen, smoky and succulent from the wood oven, was served with locally produced polenta and freshly plucked dandelion. Food and service were all top-notch, but I’m not a fan of being asked to order dessert with my entrée. Surely, this consistently packed dining room sets such a policy to keep tables turning, but it feels rushed and less than hospitable. And I usually prefer a green salad and a piece of cheese to hunk of chocolate cake at my meal’s end.
Too much good booty to pack away in my suitcases, so I spent the final, precious east coast morning negotiating with a shipping company to deliver the pieces westward, safely and before the turn-of-the-century. I’m happy to report all arrived and my cuttlefish skull, retrieved from Race Point Beach that fine morning, continues to waft its briny scent throughout my shop in Napa Valley.
Wedding season is nearly upon us. I have been asked repeatedly to offer personalized gift registries of unique, one-of-a-kind items. May I be of assistance to you? Please contact me directly at email@example.com and I would be very pleased to discuss details. And of course, if any of these items in this newsletter move you, write to me. Please know that each items is unique and I only have one - so when they’re gone, they are gone. But I will do my best to fulfill your wishes.
Until next time.
Lisa Minucci | Heritage Culinary Artifacts
Oxbow Public Market | 610 First Street, Stall 14
Napa, CA 94559 |