The North End


Maestro Steak

No matter how much you think you know the parents of the kids at your school, you don’t really know anything until you’ve had a 3-way (mom, dad, child, dinner play date) at their hosue.  Last night we dined with the Maestro and his family.  An accomplished musician who plays in several different rock bands, and has a legit day job too.

As we drove up the driveway to a well appointed ranch-style hone, I couldn’t help but think what might lay inside.  Fortunately, upon arrival I was offered the brown stuff.  And Pappy Van Winkle no less, the preferred drink of Neal McDonough’s devilish villain from the FX series “Justified.”  It was game on.

Already a little more than pleasantly surprised, when we retired to the living quarters things got even better.  The inlaid granite wet bar was stacked like the “21 Club.”  Since I can only really only take snifter of 100 proof, it was a good thing.  We quickly moved on to the Basil Hayden.

The Maestro made the ladies pomegranate martinis, and we talked about all the terrible things our children were being exposed to by the big bad world.  You’ll see.  The conversation inevitably starts off with what we were able to do when we were kids, and now cannot be done by modern day children anymore.  Like riding your bike to your friends house to play.  While we talked I stuffed my face with very soft French brie on baguettes with rosemary infused honey.  Pour some honey in a pot and stick a bunch of whole rosemary stems in there and bring it to a boil.  Don’t walk away because it boils quick, and if you don’t turn it off immediately it will foams all over the place.  Let it cool and serve over some soft cheese with a little bread.  Um, um, good.

Just before it was too late and I ate all the cheese, we headed to the dining room where all the settings had cards with our names on them.  It’s the little things that make a meal.  My son and wife wanted the chicken so my daughter and I split the steak.

She took the top quarter of one of those three lovelies, and I got to eat the rest.  The eight of us, two parents with two kids each, sitting around the big table talking, laughing, eating and drinking.  Sometimes, if you’re really lucky, it’s just that easy.

After dinner it was time for grappa.  Once in a small village in Tuscany, I almost bleached my insides.  We made the mistake of telling the owner we had been referred by a friend.  So he gave us some home made grappa, which is what we use in this country to fill lighters.  But the Maestro told me his kind was safe.  Nothing to worry about.  He said that if I was feeling sluggish from the two bottles of wine we also polished off, it would give me a little kick.  I should have just stuck my finger in a socket.  Once again, organs on fire.

Eventually I calmed down and my wife strapped me into my seat belt on the passenger side of the car.  Fortunately, it only took us about three minutes to get home.  We live around the corner from the Maestro.  If you’re old enough, maybe you can go home again.

El Carnicero Y Su Carne Para Me

I have known el Carnicero for five years, but last night was the first time I really met him.  Sometimes you are not ready for someone to come into your life until you are ready.  Our kids went to pre-school together, but it wasn’t until they got to elementary school that they had their first play date.  Of the many things I wasn’t ready for opposite sex play dates was one of them.  I just didn’t get it.  Like almost ever else.  It just wasn’t done.  But el Carnicero did it.  Like there was nothing to it.  He comes from a country where boys and girls can play together, and it’s okay.

When I drove through his gates and up the long driveway to pick up my son, I could slowly start to detect a sweet aroma in the air.  El Carnicero has diplomatic connections.  I would later learn.  It was just one of his talents.  He introduced me to Ramon Alones.  Before that all I had ever really known was Cohiba.  This man, a Catalonian Kojak, would teach me many thing.  Principle among them, Cohiba is not the only cigar in the world.  Mild for a cuban, but not lacking flavor – exotic nuts and herbs with a honey sweetness – Ramon would become one of my new best friends.

Alones in hand, we retired to garden with a bottle from his cellar.  He doesn’t drink white wine.  But he has it if I want it.  I say I don’t.  I know enough to know that real wine drinkers drink red wine.  The redder the better.  Once in his sanctuary, he regales me with tales from his latest find.  A vineyard he frequents in Santa Barbara sold him half a cow.  They used them for organic fertilizer and when they got old enough sold them to grass fed cow eaters.  I don’ t think El Carnicero new the answer to my question – how long do cows last as organic fertilizer machines – nor did he seem to care for the answer.  He was asking the questions.  Rib eye, chuck round, sirloin, he had them all.

Had I ever had – how do you say as he pointed to his neck, glandular?  Glands, really?  You can eat that?  Yes, there is a way to cook glands.  Like his alter TV ego, he pursed his lips, closed his fingers into a tight web at the tip of his mouth and pushed them off – exploded from his face I.  The butcher’s kiss.

But with all his expertise, he was still at a loss for what to do with the bovine heart.  He’s going to do some research and get back to me.

Two hours after I had come to fetch up my son, the Boss called and inquired about my whereabouts.  I forgot to take my son home.  I forgot to call the Boss and tell her I was going to be last.  I forgot a lot of things.  But fortunately, I had the good sense to have email her a picture of their restaurant capacity espresso machine.  She jumped in her car, and immediately drove over.

There is a certain kind of night that only spontaneity can bring.  It is the kind where nothing matters and somehow everything becomes something that matters.  When the Boss showed up it was not to drink cafe.  She had to see the machine, but at night she drinks the wine.  So that’s what we did.  On a school night no less.  And far into the night.  Of all things somehow we had sushi.  I know.  The made it themselves.  Cut the fish and everything.  Was there nothing he couldn’t do.  It was like living inside a Dos Equis commercial.


Save for the English Muffins, something yellow in that small container, and the bag with green stuff in it, all that meat you see on this page el Carnicero helped me obtain for my freezer.  When the next cow came in I bought the other half and he hand delivered it.  On the first night the family sat down for some smooth filets.  Grass fed beef does taste different.  And it’s to be respected.

A few months later, when the Boss came into the house from the garage and said the wine seemed warm I blew her off.  There’s nothing wrong with the fridge, I said.  Not wanting to get up from the couch and stop watching TV.  This wine is fine, I protested.  Three days later I noticed that the garage fridge was unplugged and the 1/2 of the 1/2 of the cow we had not eaten went bad.