Monday, February 4, 2019

Habshi Halwa

Judy has a very good friend who is originally from Karachi, Pakistan and goes home regularly to visit family. After a recent visit home she brought us a bright red, yellow and brown can of habshi halwa, what she calls her favorite dessert. We opened it up and it was full of a thick brown substance that was quite hard, but which was sweet and tasted quite good. 

Later in the day we visited a cultural fair sponsored by a local Muslim organization and they had brown treats, cut like brownies, but that were obviously habshi halwa. They tasted even better than what we got out of the can, more moist. 

This afternoon we scooped some habshi halwa into small glass bowls and microwaved it. It quickly broke down into a thick, liquidy mass. It had the taste of a very thick, crunchy, sweet and condensed milk, but not nearly as sweet. 
It is made from sprouted wheat, milk, sugar, butter ghee, and nuts (which give it the crunch). It was fun to find that it is one of 1001 Foods You Must Taste Before You Die (2008 Quintessence). 1001 notes that it is the shezhada or crown prince of halwas and one of the great desserts of Indian cuisine. 

Ghee is the other product Judy's friend brought us. It was in an aluminum package and looks like fat. It is version of clarified butter that originated in India. Clarified butter involves evaporating out the water from butter, then separating out the fat (clarified butter) from the milk solids. To make ghee you do the same thing, then simmer the clarified butter which makes it taste more nutty and aromatic. We spread some on toast and Judy suggested it a lamby taste. Today I put a greater quantity on toast and also tried some plain and was not fond of it. It is probably more of a mental issue than a taste issue. 

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Animal (Restaurant) - Tres - Los Angeles

One of my favorite restaurants is Animal in Los Angeles. I first went in April 2014 for Judy's birthday, went for the second time in April 2017 for my birthday, and went for the third time in January 2019 with a friend who is undergoing chemo treatments for cancer. The drive to and from Animal was as fun as dinner, as my friend is a great conversationalist.  

Of the nine plates we shared, I'd only tried two of them previously. One of the two was pig ears with red chili, lime and an over-easy egg. The pig ears come covered by the egg with the red chili on top. The pig ears are cut into thin strips with the skin side very crispy and the inner meat more moist. We were instructed to mix it all up. This dish, the last one we ate before our dessert, was the only one that my friend said "no more" to after only one or two bites. I think head-games and the crispy texture did him in. I have said previously that pig ears would be perfect for watching the Super Bowl, and as the Super Bowl is today, I will watch wishing I had some pig ears to munch on.
An egg covered with chili sauce covers the pig ears. 
The long, curly, crispy pig ear pieces stand out after it has all been mixed up.
The second dish I'd tried previously was sweet breads with creamed spinach, hen of the woods mushrooms, capers and brown butter. This was both of our favorite dish, by a long shot, and a favorite when I had it before. Sweetbreads are the thymus or pancreas of a calf or lamb and are wonderfully moist, breaded and savory/sweet, with creamed spinach which complements it nicely. 
We tried more "vegetarian" (some of them had animal fat incorporated in) options than I have tried previously and Animal is called Animal for a reason - they are good at cooking animals. The vegetarian dishes are not their strong suit. They are good, but not good enough to drive two hours for. 

Butterbeans, garlic bone broth, dill pickle and gribenes (chicken or goose skin cracklings similar to pork rinds). The dish was unusual, different and tasted good, the beans stood out and had a rich flavor. I would have liked more quantity, we really had just a few bites. 
The dill pickle stands out, the butter beans peek out and the gribenes are the fuzzy covering in the center of the dish. 
Winter citrus, mild flavored Castelvetrano olives from Sicily, white onion, capers and chili vinegar. I think the citrus was grapefruit, but it was not sour at all, so I suppose it could have been some sort of orange, but it wasn't really sweet. I'm guessing that the vinegar muted the sour. It was probably the most ordinary of all of our dishes.   
I'm not sure what the leaf in the center of each citrus is - the flavor did not stand out. 
My favorite of the vegetarian dishes was charred cabbage country captain-style. Country captain-style  is a mild stew made with browned chicken pieces, onions and curry powder with added almonds, golden raisins or zante currants, cooked all in the same pot. It is southern U.S. cooking with roots in India. The cabbage was mostly soft, but with a little bit of push-back, and with sections of significant char. I don't believe there was any actual chicken in the dish, but I believe there was chicken fat which added taste and complemented the texture. 
The dish that was both of our second favorite was tandoori octopus with tamarind, yogurt and kumquat. The octopus arms were quite long and thick, more-so than any octopus I've had before. It was cooked nicely, the octopus was not rubbery at all. I've not had octopus cooked in these kinds of spices and it grew on me as I ate it. 
Sea scallops, leche de tigre, brown butter and fennel consisted of four lightly braised scallops, very tender and moist. Leche de tigre is a citrus-based spicy marinade used in Peruvian ceviche. I was expecting the very strong and biting lime wallop in Peruvian ceviche and got none of that. It was very mild. I would have liked it more if it had been more citrusy and strong. 
Battered and fried quail, grits and maple bacon jus grew on me. My first reaction was one of disappointment with the quail, which seemed like a Kentucky fried version of quail. But the sweet sauce mixed with the grits was a wonderful complement to the quail and probably competes with the cabbage as my third favorite dish. 
Quail and grits
My friend selected the dessert plate, something I thought we were going to skip, but it was perfect. I don't have it written down, but it was a sorbet with a very light green apple taste. There were small bits of apple and a very slight and subtle sweet apple taste. It melted very quickly, so I'm not sure what the base was. I liked it a lot. 
Animal was very, very loud as usual, dinner lasted about two hours, as usual, and I came away happy to have been there again, as usual. 

Saturday, February 2, 2019

St. Patrick Cathedral - El Paso, Texas

On April 3, 1914, El Paso was made a diocese. Shortly thereafter, construction of the cathedral began on July 31, 2014. 

Stained glass of St. Patrick on the front facade.
The symbol below, which was under a rounded arch, was the papal symbol of Pope Pius X, who was the pope who elevated El Paso to a diocese. The crossed keys symbolize the keys of Peter, one gold and one silver, to represent the loosing and binding. The triregnum, or triple crown, represents the triple power of the Pope as father of kings, governor of the world and Vicar of Christ. In the blue shield, the anchored cross represents hope, or a fresh start. 
The Baldachino (or main altar) is a canopy supported by columns, each made of a different kind of marble: Numidian red, brown Sienna, Champville yellow, blanco p., black, gold and Sylvan green. 
The main altar from near the entrance.
A closer look at the Baldachino. 
Looking toward the front of the cathedral and the organ above.
Closer view of the organ. 
Stained glass windows, using mouth-blown antique glass from Germany, showing scenes of Christ from birth to resurrection, replaced older stained glass windows in 1929.

The steeple was hit by lightning in 1988 and severely damaged. It was replaced at that time.  

A sample of one of the Stations of the Cross. 
Ceiling above the main altar. 
San Pedro de Jesus Maldonado was canonized as a saint by Pope John Paul II in 2002. He was ordained in St. Patrick's in 1918 and martyred in Santa Isabel, Chihuaha, Mexico in 1937 at age 42. He is interred in Chihuaha but recognized in St. Patricks. 

We visited in December 2018. 

Friday, February 1, 2019

The El Paso Mission Trail

The El Paso Mission Trail is a recent, but nice, construct for tourist purposes. It starts (or ends) at the Ysleta Mission in El Paso, follows the Socorro Road southeast for 2.8 miles to the Socorro Mission, then follows the Socorro Road southeast for 5.7 miles to the Presidio Chapel of San Elizario. The construct is recent, but the missions themselves are old and worth visiting. 

Ysleta Mission:
In 1680, as a result of the Pueblo Revolt, the Tigua tribe was forced from their ancestral home in Isleta Pueblo, south of present-day Albuquerque, NM, and settled in Ysleta del Sur Pueblo (present-day El Paso, TX). The "Y" instead of "I" in Isleta and the "Sur" are to distinguish the new settlement from the old settlement. An adobe structure was built in 1682 with the patron saint Saint Anthony. Flooding from the Rio Grande River caused relocation of the mission several times and in 1829 it was completely washed away in a flood and the Rio Grande changed course so that where the building once was was now in Texas instead of Mexico (the same also applies to the two churches below). In 1897 it was remodeled and the gable and beehive bell tower were added. A massive fire in 1907 required reconstruction in 1908. It is built in the New Mexican style which is linear, boxlike and with simple exterior decoration.
Ysleta Mission

Front door. 
When we visited in December 2018 it was closed, despite everything we read indicating it would be open. We took some photos of the outside and continued on.

Socorro Mission:
The Socorro Mission was established by the Franciscans in 1682 and named Nuestra Senora de la Concepcion del Socorro. It is in the small town of Socorro, southeast of El Paso. It was built to serve Spaniard and Indian (Piro, Tano and Jemez - different than Tigua that formed Ysleta) families  forced from their homes in New Mexico by the Pueblo Revolt. In fact, it took its name from Socorro, New Mexico which is where the Piro Indians lived before the Pueblo Revolt. The present structure was built in 1840 and replaced a structure destroyed in 1829 by the same flooding of the Rio Grande that destroyed the Ysleta Mission. I'm not sure that history reveals what other structures occurred between 1682 and 1829. It is built of adobe covered with stucco. The painted and decorated beams in the current structure are from the previous structure. St. Michael is the patron saint.
Socorro Mission
The Mission from the representation of Calvary. 
Mission from the cemetery.
View from the entrance.
Looking toward the entrance.
Beams from the prior mission.
Light shade with the Mission on it.
St. Michael, the patron saint. 
Mary and Jesus. 
Socorro was my favorite of the three, partly because it had a large cemetery and a representation of Calvary nearby. 

Presidio Chapel of San Elizario:
The Presidio Chapel was built in 1877 in the central square of San Elizario, southwest of El Paso and south of Socorro. A presidio is an outpost for military personnel. The chapel prior to this one was built on the same site in 1790 to service the presidio built to protect travelers along the Camino Real (Royal Highway) which went from Mexico City to Santa Fe. San Elizario is a corruption of the name San Elceario. the French patron saint of soldiers. It provided protection to Ysleta and Socorro Missions. In 1821 Mexico declared its independence from Spain and the military presence at the presidio was reduced. The 1829 flood that destroyed the other two missions destroyed this chapel as well. U.S. troops were assigned to the presidio in 1850 and during the later Civil War, California volunteers were stationed there to prevent re-occupation of the area by Confederate forces. The bell tower was constructed some time after 1877. The interior of the chapel was destroyed in 1935 and subsequently rebuilt.
San Elizario.

Front door.

The main altar, looking from near the entrance. 
I loved the different groupings of angels.

Ceiling above the altar.
Tiled ceiling.
The Virgin Mary, in the image of Guadalupe, with a darker skin.
It is made of plastered adobe walls and painted. When we visited it may have been closed, but we found an unlocked side door and were able to visit the chapel.