Sunday, April 27, 2014

Here's how my smoked wild-salmon frittata got to go to the opera

On Saturday morning, I prepared a frittata with smoked wild salmon, reduced-fat Swiss cheese slices, plenty of chopped garlic, fresh Italian parsley, Mexican green salsa and other ingredients, most of which came from Costco Wholesale.

Editor's note: Today, I report on lunch at the opera, followed by a bountiful dinner at Greek Taverna in Edgewater. 


Bring lunch, my friends advised. Everybody does.

And to get the best seats, arrive at the Edgewater movie theater an hour ahead of the scheduled start of "Cosi Fan Tutte," a comedic opera that was transmitted live on Saturday from the Met in New York City. 

My friends said we had to get there early, because they couldn't hold seats for me and my wife.

On Friday night, my wife stopped at the H Mart in Englewood, looking for opera food, including those addictive Korean seaweed, vegetable and egg rolls called kimbap or japchae, translucent vermicelli noodles made from yam flour.

All gone.

Not quite as imposing as the Metropolitan Opera House in Manhattan, Edgewater Multiplex Cinemas is a comfortable setting for watching live opera -- great sound and high-definition images, stadium seating with lots of legroom, extraordinary voices, skillful acting, beautiful costumes and great music from a full orchestra. And you can avoid overpriced popcorn, soda and other movie fare by bringing your own lunch. Tickets are $25 or $23 for seniors.

Plan B

The next morning, I started preparing my usual Saturday frittata, and decided a couple of large wedges would make a nice lunch at the opera.

I told my wife to look in the freezer to see if we had any more of the long spinach pies from Fattal's Bakery in Paterson, and if so, to put two in the oven.

I packed dried organic dates and figs, and unsalted almonds, all from Costco Wholesale, and just before we jumped into the car, grabbed a liter bottle of seltzer and another of organic acai juice from the fridge, plus a fork and a plastic cup.

We finished all of the food before the curtain fell for the last time.

In hindsight, we could have brought more, including coffee to keep us awake during the 4-hour-plus performance.

In fact, we were so hungry that we overate when seven of us gathered for dinner later at Greek Taverna in City Place Mall, on the other side of the multiplex's parking lot.

And since the movie theater winks at its no-outside-food, no-outside-drink policy for opera goers, most of whom are seniors, why not bring a little wine or dark beer to wash down your lunch or sip in the subdued lighting before the overture?

Delightful experience

The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra was conducted by James Levine from a motorized wheelchair, and I saw a lot of wheelchairs, walkers and canes being used by Edgewater audience members on Saturday.

One woman was rolled into the theater in a semi-reclining position. 

A relative guided an elderly woman with a cane to her seat next to me. She fell asleep before the opera started, then awoke later and saw most of it.

With his fly away gray hair and casual dress, Levine provides quite a contrast to the musicians, who were in tuxedos and gowns.

As I ate my frittata and sipped seltzer or juice, I saw a lot of seniors with large bags of popcorn on their laps.

I loved the Mozart opera, which dates to 1789 and explores a politically incorrect theme: All women are predictably unfaithful.

It's filled with one liners and hilarious and ribald observations, and I wonder if the frank libretto -- with a reference to men's "equipment" and multiple sexual partners -- has been updated.

Of course, if written today, the opera could easily expose the infidelity of males.

The extraordinary singers I heard sometimes sang different words at the same time, as shown in subtitles, an interplay that reminded me of a Dixieland jazz band.

At Green Taverna in Edgewater, Spanakopita or spinach pies, one of four appetizers we shared at dinner on Saturday, were $8.95.

Taverna Grilled Vegetables with balsamic infusion were $14.50.

Three or four large pieces of grilled Haloumi Cheese were $9.50.

The restaurant's creamy Taramosalata ($6.95) wasn't too salty, as are many commercial examples. The spread is made with fish roe, almonds, lemon and olive oil.

At Greek Taverna

I don't have to tell you Greek restaurants no longer are inexpensive.

I recall a trip to the Greek islands in the early 1990s, and a couple of boozy lunches in ouzeries, restaurants that serve small plates of food and glasses brimming with potent, anise-flavored ouzo.

Too bad Greeks haven't brought that concept to North Jersey.

But Greek-owned diners soon were followed by restaurants, including It's Greek To Me and Nisi Estiatorio, the late, lamented Englewood fish house that served pristine seafood.

When I lived in Englewood, It's Greek To Me was an inexpensive dinner choice, but a few years before I moved out in 2007, prices had risen to the point where we sought cheaper alternatives.

Our big, fat Greek dinner

Famished from watching a 4-hour-plus opera with too little food on Saturday, seven of us walked over to Greek Taverna, ordered too much food and, speaking for myself, overate. 

We shared four appetizers, three entrees, a large Greek salad, two side dishes and someone had chicken soup ($5) and Katsikisio, warm goat cheese topped with apricots and almonds ($9.95), and that worked out to $26 a person, including tax and a generous tip.

I love Greek food for the purity of preparation, which uses extra-virgin olive oil and shuns artery clogging butter, and how almost every dish is served with fresh lemon -- as central to the cuisine as the sun is to life.

I can't fault the food at Greek Taverna, and I enjoyed the experience of passing around plates and sampling many more dishes than usual.

And the service was good late Saturday afternoon.

Still, we told the waiter we would be sharing most of the dishes, but had to ask for serving spoons.

Arnaki Tis Gastras is described on the menu as a traditional dish of braised lamb shanks with roasted potatoes and cheese ($20.50). Friends who shared it said the dish also contained apricots and cinnamon. They took home leftovers.

Garides Ellinikes are described as jumbo shrimp sauteed with tomatoes, mushrooms, fresh herbs and feta cheese, and served with rice ($24.50). I shared this entree with my wife, but had a hard time finding the "jumbo" shrimp.

A large Horiatiki (Greek Salad) was $11.50, but most of it went home with one of my dinner companions.

Horta, a side dish of sauteed dandelions, was $6.95.
One of my dinner companions brought a bottle of red wine from Cyprus to enjoy with our dinner at the Edgewater BYO, below.

The dining room before it filled up on Saturday afternoon and evening.

Reservations are recommended on weekends.

In 2011, we tried a branch of Greek Taverna in Glen Rock and hit rough spots. See:

Green Taverna was a work in progress

Greek Taverna, 55 The Promenade, City Place Mall, Edgewater; 201-945-8998. BYO, open for lunch and dinner, garage parking under mall.

Web site: Greek Taverna USA

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