Pancake ‘toad-in-the-hole’

Pancake ‘toad-in-the-hole’

Toad in the hole is a classic British dish, made up of sausages embedded in a Yorkshire pudding batter and baked. The name comes from the ends of the sausages peeking out of the baked batter. In the U.S., the name has been used to describe eggs cooked inside bread or toast as well as sausages. That version is sometimes called “egg with a hat” to describe the little circle of bread you cut out for the egg.  In fact, the beavers at Myrecipes.com found that there are 66 different names for this dish.

So, with that in mind, we decided to make one more. Suppose you are making pancakes, as we often do on Sundays. Why not add an egg into those pancakes and make a Pancake Toad in the Hole?

So to try this, we made buttermilk pancakes using this heirloom family recipe (which is much like everyone else’s.) 

Then we cooked one side of a pancake with a little melted butter on the griddle for flavor, and then turned out over. 

About 1 minute later, we used a biscuit cutter to cut a hole on the pancake. The pancake will still be doughy in the middle, but you can cook that little “hat” while you make the main event.

Break an egg into a cup and pour it into the hole you just cut.

Let the pancake/egg cook until the egg is cloudy, and then flip it. This may take two spatulas (spatulae?) to keep the uncooked egg from weeping out.  Cook the egg for 30 seconds or more and flip the pancake back over. Serve the “Pancake toad” right away with the little hat alongside.

Cut open

This sweet/savory combination could have syrup added, or your could just eat it the way it is, using the pancake to sop up the egg.

Pancake benedict?

One variation we tried was to cook a small slice of ham in a little butter, and then put it in the hole of a pancake, and then add the egg. Again, cook until the egg is cloudy, flip it, cook 30 seconds, flip it back and serve.

Pancake Benedict?

In this case, syrup might be overkill. We suppose you might add hollandaise instead, but that might be ever more overkill.

You could also add a slice of sausage, but make sure it is a thin slice, or there may not be room for the egg. 

A delicious breakfast addition to impress your family and friends!

Galley Beach: how a top restaurant navigates COVID

Galley Beach: how a top restaurant navigates COVID

Galley Beach, under chef W Scott Osif has been a high end fixture in Nantucket for many years. With its setting on  a beach point, you can admire the food and the sunsets almost any night.

This year, they have moved to an two-course prix-fixe menu for $89, with several dishes having supplemental charges. They also have taken a big step and added the 23% gratuity to every check, which means the prix-fixe is really over $109. Oh, and they charge $15 for valet parking, an almost unavoidable charge since street parking is pretty difficult.

We’ve written about Galley Beach in 2019 and in 2015, praising its cuisine and service. This year, the service remained of high quality, but the food seemed far less successful than in past visits.

We started with an appetizer of Caesar salad, described as having white anchovies, parmesan croutons and creamy garlic dressing. As you can see from the picture there is one huge anchovie and one crouton, and the shredded cheese may ore may not be parmesan. We didn’t taste any parmesan, garlic or egg in the dressing, nor any lemon, vinegar, mustard or olive oil. We called this a “perfunctory Caesar salad.” We also note that it was served on some mixed greens rather than on romaine.

The right hand picture shows they one they served in 2019, which was very good.

Caesar 2021
Caesar 2019

We also had a Crab Cake for our other appetizer, which required a $15 supplemental upcharge, or $18.45 with the mandatory gratuity. It came with tomato, cucumber & mint salad. champagne beurre blanc. It certainly had plenty of crab and little filler, explaining the upcharge, but very little flavor. Now Maryland style crab cakes always contain spicy mustard, or sometimes just hot sauce, but this contained none of those, and was just kind of bland.  We had the same dish in 2015 and praised its flavor.

Crab cake

Our entrée was Pan roasted halibut with duck fat Brussels sprouts. summer squashes. sunchoke puree, and a $10 upcharge. The halibut was perfectly cooked, but without much flavor from the minimal puree. The “duck fat Brussels sprouts” were supposed to be sweetened by browning in duck fat. Actually, they were burned. You would think some head chef would be checking plates before they go out the door and catch things like that. We were not impressed.

Halibut

Our other entrée was housemade orecchiette. rock shrimp. buttered corn. capers. lemon. old bay. midnight moon. Not a lot of shrimp. Tasted like mac and cheese, but we’ve had better mac and cheese.

The waiter suggested desserts and there were only four rather standard choices, each $19:

  • Warm chocolate brownie with ice cream and salted caramel
  • Crème brulee with macerated blueberries
  • Turmeric Panna Cotta (Come on! Really?)
  • Strawberry shortcake

We chose to skip the dessert. Our bill, including 3 glasses of chardonnay, tax and a $57.50 service charge was $325. It’s not that we begrudge the inclusion of the service charge, but for an indifferent meal, this was an awful lot of money. Even so, it was cheaper than the Company of the Cauldron!

The Proprietors: an excellent Nantucket evening

The Proprietors: an excellent Nantucket evening

We’ve been to The Proprietors Bar and Table several times since it opened. Chef Michael LaScola has crafted a small plates/large plates menu made up of fascinating small dishes and some larger ones. This year, they changed the focus a bit, with there being three large plate entrees at the bottom of the menu, inviting you to build your dinner around several appetizers and finish with a main course sized entrée. These entrees currently include Roast Chicken [for two] ($48), Chicken Fried Trout ($37) and Korean Short Ribs ($41). This approach is a really successful change and we had a terrific evening with our appetizers and entrée.

It is perfectly possible for two people to share any of the small plates and certainly they can share the roast chicken, and that is what we did last night.

The waiter was cautious in suggesting that we really didn’t need to order more than two small plates, since several of them that we suggested were quite rich, and suggested that we might consider the Red Lentil Falafel with roast garlic achaar, sumac yoghurt and salted cucumbers ($18) as a lighter alternative. We ended up choosing two others and thinking seriously about having three, It just depends on your appetite.

We started with the Roasted Beets ($19.50) with Vermont Burrata, roasted strawberries, garam masala and chickpea crackling. There was plenty of this for the two of us: happily spreading the burrata on the chick pea “bread,” and topping it with beets and the occasional pistachio. Even people skeptical of beets will probably love this preparation. We certainly did.

Our second appetizer was Bijou Goat Cheese ($23) with apricot mostarda and green onion “biskits.” This hot appetizer was amazing. You could cut the biskit in half or thirds and spread it with the hot cheese, making it easy to share, but I didn’t want to: it was so good.

Finally, for our entrée, we ordered the Roast Chicken. It was served with a Farro Risotto, mushrooms, little roasted onions and a gooseberry agrodolce ( a sort of sweet-sour condiment). There were two quarters of chicken on the platter, one of leg and thigh and the other of breast and wing. This approach allowed the kitchen to cook them separately, so the dark meat is cooked and the breast not dried out. This was completely successful: all of the meat was tender and juicy, and we finished every bite.

Finally, since we ran out of small plates, we ordered the fabulous dessert: Blueberry Sorbet ($15) with whipped coconut cream, a sesame/blueberry crumble and basil. This was probably the best sorbet we have ever been served.

This new approach at the Proprietors is a winner: we really had the best meal of our entire visit there last night. The Proprietors is at the corner of India St and Center St, and is open from 5pm Thursday through Tuesday nights, and closed on Wednesdays. You definitely should make a reservation.

The Company of the Cauldron: Beef Wellington

The Company of the Cauldron: Beef Wellington

This venerable Nantucket restaurant was a popular high end fixture of Nantucket dining when Chef Joseph Keller took it over from the retiring Kovalencik family in 2017. It has the same style: warmth and friendliness it always had, and still provides one single 3 course prix fixe meal each night. Each meal also includes one of Keller’s famous popovers, that he developed while the chef at the Woodbox. Here in the late season, Keller has only one seating a night: in high season there are sometimes two seatings.

We went last night (Wednesday) for an elegant meal featuring Beef Wellington. You nearly always will require a reservation here, because there are only 28 seats inside, where there were nearly 50 in pre-COVID days. They also have three 4-top tables under a tent just outside taking up a lane of India Street, as several other restaurants are also doing. You can see each week’s menu online to decide what day you might like the best.

We were seated right away for our 7:00 pm reservation, fortunately at a center row table at the end, where we had a good view of the open kitchen. Keller and his sous-chef produce all these meals in a kitchen smaller than some home kitchens, although he does have much better ovens.

We ordered a bottle of a 2017 Michael Pozzan “Annabella” cabernet ($69), which came with an interesting story from the wine waiter about how Pozzan became a winemaker and grower.

Soon after that they began distributing the popovers: one per person (sometimes you can get a second one if they aren’t too busy).

Popover

Soon after that, the waiter began distributing the Bartlett’s Summer Garden Heirloom Tomato Salad, with local lettuces. Cucumbers, picked red onions and the Company citrus vinaigrette.  We watched the chefs assembling the salads, taking the mixed lettuce from an enormous bowl where they had tossed in the vinaigrette and olive oil. Then they put a serving in each bowl and distributed the tomatoes, radishes and cucumbers into each bowl. 

Summer garden salad

It looked beautiful, but that citrus dressing seemed awfully sour to us, and the tomatoes not very flavorful compared to what we have in our home garden right now.

The Beef Wellington was Snake River Farms tenderloin of beef in house-made puff pastry, local organic mushroom farce and a house demi-glace. We watched Chef Keller take the long puff pastry “loaves” out of the oven, check their temperature and return them for just a bit more time. You can see one of those puff pastries in the background. Meanwhile, they laid out the plates and poured the demi-glace onto each of them. Then, Keller sliced them into almost 2-inch slices and plated them, with his associate adding a bit more mushrooms to each plate. Then, the waiters worked with a pile of folded white napkins to pick up the very hot plates and began delivering them to the diners. All of this took about 45  minutes, so we were glad we could watch the show.

Beef Wellington and green beans almondine

The beef was uniformly tender and delicious, and it was certainly a substantial portion.

While we were eating, we could watch Keller and his sous-chef laying out the crème brulees, sprinkling sugar atop each of them and then torching them to melt the topping. You can see this at the top of the article. They then added a shortbread cookie to each and served them.

Creme Brulee

This last course was served about 8:45pm: we ate it eagerly and paid the bill.

The prix-fixe cost for Beef Wellington is $135 per person, bringing the bill with wine and tax to $347. With tip, two people would easily spend $400 here for a 3-course meal with an added popover. This is just too expensive, even for Nantucket, and we don’t recall paying that much anywhere else on the island. So, the food was very good (well, except the salad) but be prepared to carve a new hole in your credit card!

Company of the Cauldron is open Tuesday through Sunday with at least one seating each night. You can find the menus (and their varying prices) on line. Sundays have become Chicken and Waffles night. We had that a few years ago. That price is currently $95 per person.

Cauldron outside the door
Dune: always a favorite

Dune: always a favorite

We try to dine at Dune almost every year, because the cuisine is always imaginative and the service excellent. The cuisine certainly impressed us this year, with an excellent menu of seafood, veggies and meats. It consists of seven appetizers and eight entrees, as well as several imaginative vegetable side dishes.

We started with a stunningly beautiful roast beet salad ($19.50) with whipped goat cheese, beet vinaigrette, pistachios, and balsamic vinegar.

Roasted beets with whipped goat cheese

And for our other appetizer, we picked the pork and mushroom dumplings ($19) with citrus ponzu, pickled carrots and daikon, sesame fried garlic and cilantro. While this is in the style of Chinese dumplings, these were far more imaginative and flavorful, and they disappeared in moments!

Pork and mushroom dumplings

Both of our entrees were spectacular. The Pan-seared Atlantic Halibut ($48.50) was extraordinary, served with a buttery coconut lemongrass broth, shiitake, purple potatoes,  boy choy, romanescor (those little Christmas tree broccoli relatives), basil, fired garlic and lime. Every bite was a treat.

Pan seared Atlantic Halibut

And finally, or other entrée was Grilled Prime Sirloin Steak ($49.50) served with crispy garlic fingerlings, Bibb lettuce and cherry tomatoes, bacon vinaigrette, blue cheese butter, and “D1” sauce, which seems to be more or less bearnaise. Steaks are sometimes variable, but this one was outstandingly tender, and easy to eat. We both loved every bite.

Grilled Prime Sirloin Steak

Every restaurant on Nantucket (and everywhere else) is having staffing problems you have to allow for, and Dune is no different, but we know how difficult COVID has been for the restaurant business, we are not about to criticize any of their difficulties.  Go to Dune and enjoy excellent, imaginative meals!

Via Mare at the Greydon House

Via Mare at the Greydon House

This is the third season for Via Mare at the Greydon House and we returned to enjoy another meal after our delightful visit two years ago. The menu suggests that Via Mare is a Venetian style restaurant, with Cichetti (tiny bar bites), Small Plates and a few Secondi (main course entrees).

It is perfectly possible to make a meal out of a selection of small plates, or have a few small plates and perhaps split an entrée: they consist a Fish of the day ($44), Rib-eye steak ($79) and Roast chicken ($34).

For the two of us, having a series of the small plates seemed like a fun way to go, since each small plate would give a small serving to each of us.  For larger parties, you could just order a larger variety of small plates, as the group of six diners next to us was doing.

No matter the order on the menu, the staff will bring each plate when it is ready, although one at a time for the two of us, but in clusters for larger tables.

Our first plate was Jonah Crab toast ($26), with celery, apple, jalapeno and parsley on a slice of their house-made bread.

Jonah crab toast – one of two poritons

The photo shows one of the two portions of the crab on toast. This came first, probably because it is served cold. It was, as you can see, really diminutive for the price, and wasn’t our favorite.

The next serving was our favorite: the Hot Chicken Milanese with Moroccan pancakes. While as hot as Nashville Chicken, (children, beware) it was really delicious. Since it was only $9, we should have order several and made a meal of them!

Hot chicken Milanese with Moroccan pancakes

Next to come was the Stracciatella Crostini ($14) which the menu describes as crostino: hand-pulled stracciatella / our bread. This differs markedly from the description in 2019 “Hand pulled straciatella, olio verde and flakey salt,” and was not particularly flavorful.

Stracciatella crostino

Our final plate, was called Crispy Taters, twice fried & smashed / straccino / prosciutto crumble / chilis ($14). This was delicious: crunchy and a little spicey, and in another world, we’d just eat that and the chicken.

Crispy taters

We’d reached a decision point here. We could have ordered the Rigatoni Shrimp, Calabrian Chili, lemon and breadcrumbs, or we could have ordered and split the roast chicken. We saw both on neighboring tables and thought they looked great.

Or, we could try out the desserts. There are only two: Chocolate Budino, which is essentially a rich, dark chocolate pudding, with toffee caramel, cinnamon meringue and whipped cream ($13), or we could have the Peaches and Cream rice pudding ($13) with peaches, lime tuile (a butter cookie) and saba (an Italian syrup). We got one of each. Even though we favor chocolate desserts, we really think this peach dessert was outstanding.

Chocolate budino

Peaches and cream rice pudding

Since the day’s menu is different from that on the internet, we post a copy below.

Menu from August 31, 2021

Via Mare is located in the Greydon House Hotel at 17 Broad Street, and is open for dinner from 5:30-9:30, Tuesday through Saturday. They also serve brunch 11:30-3 on Saturday and Sunday until September 5th.

The Sea Grille is always excellent

The Sea Grille is always excellent

The Sea Grille has always been an outstanding Nantucket restaurant. Locate mid-island, near Stop and Shop, it has been serving visitors and locals for thirty years. The fact that it is still run by the same family explains not only its longevity but the quality of food and of the service. And in these troubled staffing times, that is quite a compliment. Our waitress was hard working, cheerful and experienced and made the whole visit that much more fun.

The menu lists appetizers, salads and Simply Prepared Seafood, as well as Island Favorites and Creative Coastal selections. Even though we have tried a lot of their menu over the years, we keep gravitating to these last categories, because they are so very good.

One of the specials last night was a Fried Clam appetizer ($26), served on a salad base of pickled onions. Since fired clams cam be kind of heavy, this was a welcome change to try a few without committing to a whole meal of them. They were greaseless and really flavorful: just the right amount for an appetizer.

Fried clams appetizer

Our other appetizer was a little more elaborate: Lobster Bisque ($16), baked in a dilled puff pastry. It arrived piping hot, but with delightful pieces of lobster in the bisque. This dish has apparently been on their menu since the very beginning. It is very impressive.

One of our entrees was Grilled Lobster and House-Made Fettucini ($44) [shown above], with roasted tomatoes, garlic, marinara, and beurre blanc. We hadn’t had this one before either, and there was a lot of lobster, and excellent fettucine. The mixture of roasted tomatoes with the marinara and the beurre blanc made a delicious sauce for the pasta and enhanced the lobster’s flavor.

Our final entrée was their Free Form Ravioli ($37), a sort of playful version of the dish where the ingredients are cleverly hidden under a sheet of ravioli pasta. The dish includes lobster, shrimp and scallops, served with mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, garlic, and topped with crispy leeks. Odd though it may seem, it is outstanding.

Free form ravioli

Finally, we had to try one of their desserts, although frankly we didn’t really need it after this delightful but filling meal. We decided to split an order of the Chocolate Brownie Sundae ($14), which comes with vanilla ice cream and copious caramel sauce. It was a great finish, though.

The Sea Grille is at 45 Sparks Ave, and is open Monday through Saturday from 5pm till close. You should make a reservation for sure!

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Easy gazpacho, two ways

Easy gazpacho, two ways

There isn’t much to making gazpacho: it’s a cold soup made from tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and anything else in your garden you might want to try.  Now that there are really flavorful tomatoes at peak ripeness, you can chop up some gazpacho in your blender just a few minutes. If you don’t have a garden bursting with tomatoes, try getting some from a farm stand or farmer’s market to get the best flavor. Supermarket tomatoes are bred for traveling ability, not flavor, so you probably want to avoid those.

The first tomatoes that come in most gardens are the cherry-sized ones, and those are usually the sweetest as well. Use those along with a few bigger tomatoes for the best result.

We call for about 2 lb of tomatoes, but depending on the number of guests, you can increase or decrease this. Just make sure you fill your blender with all the veggies. You can always make more, and combine them in a bowl to make sure the flavors are uniform.

Cherry tomatoes on the vine

  • 2 lb tomatoes, quartered. (Leave the cherry-sized whole)
  • 1-2 cucumbers, depending on size, peeled
  • ½ bell pepper (red, orange or green) cut up
  • 1 clove garlic, smushed to remove the skin
  • 2 Tb red wine vinegar or sherry wine vinegar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, extra for garnish
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  1. Put all the above ingredients into a blender and blitz until uniform. This should give you a nice, chunky soup, which will still have bits of peel and seeds among the chunks.
  2. To make a smoother gazpacho, run the soup through a food mill to filter out the seeds and skins. The flavor will be the same, but the mouth feel will be less chunky.
Food mill

Chunky or smooth

Serving

Browning croutons

Chill the soup for an hour or so in the blender or in a couple of quart mason jars.

  • ½ loaf French or other country bread, cut into croutons
  • Basil, cut into strips (uses scissors or a knife)
  • More extra virgin olive oil
  1. Put a little regular olive oil into a cast iron pan and brown the croutons briefly.
  2. Pour the soup into serving bowls, and add a few toasted croutons to each bowl, and garnish with a few strips of basil and a splash of extra-virgin olive oil.

Serve at once.

I probably developed your film

I probably developed your film

Kisco Photo Service

If you lived in Columbus, Ohio in 1960 and took your film “to the drugstore” to be developed, it probably passed through my hands. My first major summer job was that year: I worked for Kisco Photo Service in a small building at Goodale and High St. This was essentially a family business owned by Mr Kissinger (I think) and more or less managed by his son in law, the smooth-talking Bill Smith. I seem to recall there being jokes along the line of “I wonder whose Kissinger now?”

Kisco Photo Service had a network of drug stores they serviced throughout Central Ohio. Their drivers picked up the film from these stores and dropped off the negatives and prints a couple of days later. While most of their business was still black and white printing, they did process Kodacolor and print it. They did not handle slides, but probably sent any out to another lab.

I was an avid photographer all through high school and had my own darkroom, where I did my own developing and printing: mostly black and white, but Jeff Luce and I got together and processed and printed some color from time to time. I had spent afternoons and Saturdays of my senior year as a darkroom assistant for Al Lupidi photography and Longview and High.

So, when looking for a summer job, when Al’s summer business didn’t warrant help, I took the bus down to Kisco with a resume in hand and talked myself into a summer job. As I recall, seniors got out of school nearly a week before our graduation and all-night party, so I started work that week and took off two days around graduation the following week. Since we were a 1-car family and my father mostly drove to work, I rode my bike down to Clinton School (back where this all started) locked my bike to a bike rack there and walked across High Street (or took the underpass) to catch the bus.

My boss was Billy Hillscher, who oversaw operations, and he introduced me to Ellen who worked developing the black and white film. I became her assistant, and since I already knew how to open film rolls and cartridges I was that far ahead of where they expected.

The film developing took place in a long, completely dark room, with a machine that moved the film through four tanks and then out through a light lock to a drying room, where the film was taken to be printed.

We stood at the beginning of the tank and received film and the original envelopes tucked into clips in a wooden bar that would hold five or six rolls of film. The film was loaded onto the bars outside our room, by intake people, who placed the bars in a rotating 3-sided lazy Susan. When they had loaded enough bars, they knocked on the wooden housing and rotated the film into our dark room.

Here we placed the bar on the front of the developing machine, opened each film roll or cannister and clipped to film to the bar, and attached a weight to the bottom end of the roll. This was tricky in the dark. Roll film was taped inside a black paper backing, so you had to unroll the trailing end (since it was now reversed), clip it to the bar, pull down the paper, and tear through the tape at the other end. The 35mm cannisters were actually easier: you just rapped the long end on any hard surface and the other end popped off, so you lift out the spool of film. (This doesn’t work anymore. Kodak decided people were reloading them, so now you need a bottle opener to pull off the end, which destroys the cannister.)

35mm cannister and 120 roll film

Film taped to backing

Then we moved the bar from the holding position to the machine’s moving chain, that raised the bar up about 5 feet, moved it forward and lowered the film into the film developer. The bars sat in notched on two chains on either side of the tank, that slowly moved forward about one notch every 30 seconds, coming to the end of the developing tank in about 8 minutes. At the point, the bars were lifted on the chain up and down into the second tank which was a rinse to stop the development process, and then on into the third tank which contained the film fixer or “hypo,” (actually sodium thiosulfate) which dissolved the parts of the film that contained no image, essentially the black areas in the photo. The film went up and down into the fourth rinse tank and then out into the drying room.

“Fine Grain” developing

Occasionally, someone would request “fine grain developing.” What each actually happened was that we put all of those rolls requesting fine grain on a single bar, and when the film came down into the developing tank, we reach in and moved the film ahead two notches in the tank, so they would be developed a bit less. But since this was the same developer, there was a little hooey going on here, and the company charged the customers extra for this hooey.

However, in those days, most people were still using Kodak Verichrome Pan, which was a film designed for amateur photographers who used box cameras and other simple devices. The film had such a wide exposure latitude that it was pretty impossible to screw up your film exposure (or development). We also saw some Tri-X pan which was more of a professional quality film, and more light-sensitive.

Most of the film we handled was 120 or 620, which produce 12 6×6 cm negatives on a roll, or 127 which produced 12 smaller images on narrower film. We also had a significant amount of 35mm film come in, mostly 20 exposure rolls, but when we got 36 exposure rolls, these were longer than the 4 foot depth of the developing tanks, so we had to loop the film down and up the adjacent clip on the film bar so it didn’t hit bottom. The people that attended the film in the drying room unhooked one end and attached a weight so the film would dry without a water spot in the middle where the loop had been.

When the film was dry, it went on to the printers, who were a series of (mainly) women who sat at little consoles and centered each image manually using a little display, and then press “Print,” which exposed the next few inches of a roll or photo sensitive paper, entirely enclosed in the printer console, so they could work in an illuminated room.  The rolls of paper were developed within each console, I think and then cut into individual pictures. The printer people had some control over the exposure of the printing paper and if they mis-guessed, this was caught when the prints were cut up and those negatives were reprinted.

Trouble

You may think that this idyllic life was all there was to processing film, but of course, there were always snags. Once and a while, Ellen and I would have loaded all the film that had come in into the machine and went out into the light and had a coffee (her) or a Coke (me). But sometimes we’d be standing there when we heard a terrible CLANKA CLANKA CLANKA coming from the machine and we ran back into the dark room. Ellen pulled out a little flashlight with a green filter over the lens and we looked for what was stuck. Usually, we had to turn off the machine and rescue the film bar that had gotten stuck diagonally across the chains, and then hurriedly turn it back on, perhaps advancing the film to make up for the amount of time it had already been in the developer. If we acted quickly, nothing was lost.

Kisco had two drivers, Jimmy and Chuck that went out to all the drugstores on their route and delivered and brought back film in batched several times a day. But there was one time a day, usually around 10:30 or so, when there would be a frantic knocking on the film door and the word “Whiston” being shouted at us.

It turns out that this referred to Whiston Pharmacy in Mount Horeb, Ohio. Apparently, they had an arrangement with Whiston that their film would be back the same day, perhaps because of the distance and the route the driver drove, and we had to drop everything and move film to Whiston to the front of the line, so it would get to the printers and back to the drivers in a few hours. Amazingly enough, this pharmacy is still in business some sixty years after I worked at Kisco.  Kisco is, of course, long gone.

Color

Color negatives and one print

The color developing and printing was a much smaller part of the business. All the color film was developed personally by Hillscher, so there couldn’t have been that much. There were three color printing consoles for making the final prints. These were operated by women who came in later, because of how long developing the color film took, and, incidentally, dressed a lot better than their black and white printing colleagues.

I did get an employee discount to have my own film processed, and I had recently gotten my first electronic flash or speedlight, or “stroboflash” in older argot. So, I shot a roll of color to try out my new toy, and brought it in. I remarked to Ellen that I hope the strobe exposed film would come out OK.

Well, for this, I got called on the carpet, because, not realizing that the pictures were exposed with an electronic flash, they printed them assuming I had use regular flashbulbs. Now, regular flashbulbs had a much warmer color to them then do electronic flash shots, which tend to have a bluish cast. Hillscher was furious with me that I hadn’t marked them “strobe exposed,” and when he saw the first prints, he had to have them all done over. Not only was I being berated for something I never heard of before, but it was clear this stuff was all pretty new to them, too.  I think I did one more roll with Kisco with mixed results and decided I would be better off sending my color prints to the nearby Kodak processing lab in Findlay.

Clarinet

I played clarinet all three years in the North High School band but was worried that when I got to Oberlin College, I wouldn’t be accomplished enough to join the Oberlin Concert Band. Several other clarinetists had moved on to take lessons with Dr Don McGinnis at the OSU school of music.  So, I asked my mother if she could call him during my workday and see if he could take me on for a few lessons that summer. Well, as soon as she told him that I was going to Oberlin, he exclaimed: “Oberlin! That’s my school.” And I was in.

So, on Wednesdays, I took my clarinet to work and then took the bus up to the OSU campus. I walked over to the music school for my lesson. He was great, and improved me quite a bit, and I did get to play in the band in college.

But one Wednesday, Hillscher asked me if I could clean the stockroom, which amounted to mopping the floors and waxing them.  Needless to say, this wasn’t an elegant operation, and I arrived for my lesson covered with schmutz! But he let me in anyway.

I spent a couple of days later in the week, inventorying their stockroom. I suspect that few of the others really were great readers, but it wasn’t too difficult.  Thanks? No, not really.

Taking my leave

When I accepted the job offer, Bill Smith had promised me a raise once I had become experienced. That never happened, and when my parents asked if I wanted to come on vacation with them in August before leaving for college, I agreed and gave Kisco my notice. I know Kisco had wanted me to work a bit longer, but I felt it was time to get out, so I did.

The next summer, I help paint lines on the streets of Columbus, but that’s another story.

Strawberry almond torte

Strawberry almond torte

This is a refreshing summer dessert that can serve 10 or so people, and while it looks rather elaborate, it really is just strawberries in whipped cream layered between meringues and iced with a buttercream frosting mixed with almond crunch. The only time-consuming part is making the meringues, and most of the time is waiting for them to bake. This recipe is adapted from one we found in the Sunday NY Times many years ago.

Torte layers

  • 5 egg whites at room temperature- twice
  • 1/8 tsp cream of tartar – twice
  • 1 cup blanched almonds, finely ground – twice
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar – twice
  • Baking parchment

Blanched almonds

“Blanched almonds” means almonds with the skins removed. You can buy them that way or you can remove them yourself, a bit more cheaply. For this entire recipe, we used 2 6-oz bags of whole almonds, which amount to about 2 ½ cups.

To blanch the almonds, bring a saucepan of water to a boil and drop in all the almonds. Let them boil for just one minute (no longer!) and then drain them in a strainer and cool them with running water.  You will find that you can pop the skins off the almonds by pinching the thick end of the almond. The almond should pop right out of the skin. You can even do two or three at a time.

When the almonds are cool, chop them up in a food processor as fine as you can. Reserve ½ cup for the almond crunch below, and use the remaining chopped almonds to make the torte layers.

Making the torte layers

In this recipe, we will make 4 layers at a time and then repeat to end up with 8 layers.

  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.
  2. Put the 5 egg whites in a mixer bowl with the 1/8 tsp of cream of tartar and beat until the egg whites are stiff and dry. Reserve 4 egg yolks (once) to use in the frosting below.
  3. Fold in 1 cup of confectioners’ sugar and 1 cup of the chopped almonds.
  4. Cut 4 squares of baking parchment to 8” x 8”. The roll of Reynolds parchment is only 15” wide, so our “squares” were actually 8” x 7.5”. Place the parchment squares on two cookie sheets and divide the meringue mixture equally among them.
  5. Spread the meringue to near the edges of the squares.
  6. Bake for 16 minutes or more. You want the meringues to be well browned. We found that varied a bit with the thickness of the meringue but was closer to 18 minutes.
  7. Immediately after removing the meringues from the oven, use a spatula to flip them over onto a wooden counter, and use a small spreading spatula to peel the parchment off the meringues. You need to do this right away while the meringues are warm. Don’t worry if there are some small holes.
  8. Stack the meringues on a plate, separated by wax paper.
  9. Repeat to make 4 more meringue layers.

Almond crunch

  • ½ cup blanched almonds
  • ½ cup sugar
  • Place the almonds (chopped or not) in a small iron skilled along with the sugar.
  • Heat until the sugar melts and turns golden brown. Don’t let it burn.
  • Pour the hot sugar mixture into a buttered pan and allow it to cool.
  • When cool, put the solid sugar-almond mass in a food processor and grind it to a powder.
  • Set aside to use in the frosting.

Filling

  • 1 quart strawberries
  • Sugar
  • 1 tsp unflavored gelatin
  • 1 ½ Tb cold water
  • 1 ½ cups  heavy cream
  • ½ cup sliced or slivered almonds.
  1. Reserve 4 large strawberries for decoration.
  2. Slice the berries, sprinkle with sugar and set aside.
  3. Mix the water and gelatin in a small pan, and heat until the gelatin dissolves.
  4. Beat the cream in a mixer until it is fairly firm.
  5. Then dribble in the gelatin solution and mix through.
  6. Fold in the sliced berries

Frosting

  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 4 egg yolks, beaten in a mixer bowl
  • ½ lb softened sweet butter
  1. Put the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat until it is dissolved.
  2. Continue heating at a slow boil until the solution reaches 238˚ F, the “soft ball” stage.
  3. Put the egg yolks in a mixer, and beat them and then slowly add the syrup to the yolks while continuing to beat.  
  4. Beat until cool
  5. Gradually beat in the butter.
  6. Stir in the powdered almond crunch and transfer the mixture to a small bowl and refrigerate until of a spreading consistency.

Assembly

  1. Place one of the better meringue layers on a cake cardboard or plate.
  2. Spread with around one-seventh of the strawberry-cream mixture.
  3. Continue adding layers and spreading cream and top with the last meringue layer.
  4. Chill the layers for an hour.
  5. Take the layers out of the fridge, place on a cake turntable and, using a sharp knife, cut off any uneven pieces of meringue or berries.
  6. Spread the frosting along the top and then along the sides. If the berry mixture begins to ooze out, return the layers to the refrigerator, and centime later.
  7. Decorate the sides with the slivered or slice almonds and top the torte with large pieces of  strawberries.
  8. Chill for a few hours and serve cool to your adoring fans.

We recommend slicing with a sharp knife so that the layers are distinct.