Tag Archives: chinese feast

North China on the Hudson

24 Jan
If you “like” my Facebook page then you may be familiar with the Meatball News Network. MNN was founded in Rome on January 3rd, not by me but by Joe and Fred. These friends of mine were traveling together, you see, and decided it might be fun to share the trip with others by shipping to me the photos and videos of their favorite Roman restaurants and meals.
It was a lot of fun, actually. But by January 12th, MNN had gone black, the result of its only two correspondents returning to their respective homes in New York.
When the idea was floated that we get together and swap stories of the trip, I suggested what to me seemed an appropriate venue: Maialino, the Roman-style restaurant in Manhattan’s Gramercy Park Hotel.
My friends had an entirely different idea. Turns out they had had quite enough cacio e pepe and gnocchi and fried artichokes and Roman-style pizza, at least for a while.
And so on Sunday I found myself at a place called Palace Dumpling, not in the city but about 70 miles to the north, in Wappingers Falls, NY, along the Hudson River. The MNN team was not alone, either. Seated at the six or eight tables which had been joined together were 20 people who, like me, had traveled some distance for the occasion, it being to celebrate Chinese New Year: the Year of the Dragon.
Joe and his lovely wife Joel had got together with Chef Jenny at the Palace Dumpling to plan an elaborate banquet, the likes of which I had not seen before. In all, the chef prepared more than 22 different dishes for our group, virtually none of them found on the menu.
It was an amazing thing to witness, really. Chinese cuisine may not be the subject of this blog, but I’m betting you’d like to see what went on, and so here are just some of the highlights.
Cold meat platters of ham, chicken and sausage started things off nice and slow.
Lamb and scallion dumplings, one of four kinds we sampled. They don’t call this place Palace Dumpling for nothing. Amazing.
Cold cellophane noodle “salad” with carrots, cucumbers, pressed tofu and a light sesame dressing.
Five-spice braised beef with hardboiled eggs.
Fresh noodles with meat sauce.
Braised fatty pork. I done died and gone to China!
Tender squid with garlic chives.
Stir-fried vegetables including eggplant, peppers and potatoes.
Stewed fish in red chili oil. Zounds!
Salt-fried shrimp, served in the shell.
Spicy pepper pork.
Caramelized sweet potatoes with peanuts. A real standout.
Whole fried fish in sweet and spicy sauce.
Puffy fried sweet dough, for dessert.
Joe even found a Chinese Riesling — with a dragon on the label no less.
And what Chinese banquet is complete without an Italian liquer?
Oranges for good luck and little windup dragons.
Chef Jenny.
And the (now defunct?) Meatball News Network team.
Never did hear much about the Rome trip, so I’m hoping another MNN “reunion” is in the works.

Chinatown meets Little Italy

7 Nov
I’m man enough to admit that, under the right set of circumstances, I can be pretty damned childish.
Such was the case but a few evenings ago, when a Chinese-style banquet was to take place at my very own home and I was politely informed that my kitchen skills would not be required.
At all.
This took me by surprise considering how many dishes needed to be prepared: close to a dozen by my count, many requiring a fair bit of prep work.
Instead I was told that I might “pick up an appropriate dessert” should I want to “help out.” I was told this, mind you, just a day before the banquet was to take place. A banquet that was weeks in the planning.
I’m no genius, okay. But I know when I’m being dissed. Bad enough that I was not to so much as slice a water chestnut or wash a mustard green. I couldn’t even make a dessert, I had to “pick up” one.
It was when my utter lack of necessity sank in that the inner (willful) child emerged.
“Think I’ll make some biscotti,” I said to nobody in particular. “Yeah, that’ll work.”
The cupboard was open in mere nanoseconds so that I could ponder which ingredients to use.
“Did you just say biscotti?” (I may have failed to mention that my associate was in the room at the time.)
“Candied orange peel. Perfect,” I sang out, removing a container of the sweet citrus rind from beneath a honkin’ mess of dark Swiss chocolate.
“You’re making an Italian dessert for a Chinese meal?”
I reminded the person with the giant spatula in hand how oranges and crispy cookies are ubiquitous after-dinner treats at Chinese restaurants throughout these United States, and wondered what could possibly be unacceptable about the dessert idea that I had advanced.
“If that doesn’t do it for you, then think of it this way,” I went on, perhaps too far, I’ll admit. “How many times have I dragged you across Canal Street after eating in Chinatown so that I could grab a pastry in Little Italy?
“C’mon, orange biscotti makes total sense.”
Suddenly I found myself alone in the kitchen, I do not know why.
Communications between associates can be sometimes difficult, I find, don’t you?
Anyway, so I made what I damn well pleased and everything managed to turn out just fine. The candied orange peel made for a really great biscotti, and with a lovely Alsatian dessert wine, it was a splendid end to a pretty amazing meal. Which, as it happens, I’ve got a few frames of, if you’re interested.
After all, nobody showed up that night for the biscuits.
Nope, not olives. Quail eggs marinated in soy sauce.
There were a couple different dumplings but these were the best: Homemade turkey and mushroom shu mai topped with carrot puree. (Both the dumplings and the quail eggs, along with steamed Chinese sausage and soy cucumbers, got washed down with Champagne and other sparklers.)
Szechuan pork and preserved cabbage soup. (We switched to a Riesling here.)
The main meal (which is where we moved on to a Kerner from the Alto Adige) was comprised of five different items. Spicy Napa cabbage and mushrooms was the vegetable dish.
Then there was the steamed pork and water chestnuts with salted duck eggs.
Shrimp and cucumber with cloud ear.
Chicken with walnuts.
Salt fish fried rice.
And, well, y’know…
Buon appetito.