New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has just banned soft drinks over 16oz from being sold in restaurants, delis, sports arenas and movie theaters. Some may cry “nanny state” but I say good first step. Mayor Bloomberg is trying his best to make New Yorkers healthy. I am a big proponent of education, but the temptations foisted upon the public by the big manufacturers of sugary drinks are winning. People will drink what is in front of them, regardless of the knowledge to the contrary. There is no reason that anyone needs a drink larger than 16 ounces (two servings) and if it isn’t available then nobody will miss it.
We learned from cigarettes that limiting access, especially for children, and taxing the heck out of them were the most successful deterrents. The bans on smoking in bars and restaurants that are now completely accepted and desired were once derided by even the most liberal smoker and even a few non smokers. The fact is that cigarettes kill you and guess what, so do sugary drinks.
My wife is going on tour in Europe this summer and she announced to me yesterday that she was going to make a stop in Brussels. It reminded me of the wonderful time I had working on a film there a few years ago. My fondest memory was when we first arrived by train from London. We were met by our director and taken on a wonderful tour of the old town, ending up eating and drinking for hours. We went off to do a little work and met up again at his friend’s restaurant. It happened to be the best place for Moules Frites in Brussels. What could be more perfect than mussels in Brussels.
We had a fantastic introduction to the chef/owner and he served us all huge bowls of mussels and french fries. We all finished the mussels along with many glasses of wine and he kiddingly said: “are you ready for more?” Turns out he was not kidding and dumped another huge bowl of mussels in front of me. Wow was that a lot of crustacean for one night. I was a good boy and somehow ate every last one, employing the old method of taking an empty shell between your thumb and forefinger and squeezing it to remove and eat the rest of the mussels.
After our week in Brussels, making music changes on his wonderful film, the director and now some of the producers returned with us to the same restaurant. This time I knew what was coming and paced myself. Here is, to the best of my hazy memory, how I recall the mussels were prepared. I like a great piece of rustic grilled bread with olive oil and garlic instead of the french fries. Also, it was winter when we were there so I don’t believe there were any tomatoes in the broth. I see that here and in France, but do not recall the Belgians doing such a thing, so I have omitted it from this recipe. Add a diced tomato if you wish. Couldn’t hurt.
- 3 Pounds Mussels (Cultivated), cleaned and de-bearded if necessary
- 2 Cloves Garlic, minced
- 3 Shallots, minced
- 2 Cups Dry White Wine
- Splash Sambuca
- Splash Half and Half Cream (optional)
- 1 Lemon, juiced
- 2 Tablespoons Butter
- 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
- 1 Tablespoon Fresh Thyme
- 1 Bunch Italian Parsley, chopped
- Salt and Pepper
- Tall Pot with Cover
- Slotted Spoon or Tongs
- Chef’s Knife
- Vegetable Scrubber (optional)
- Clean the mussels. The cultivated ones usually do not have beards. Wash them with a brush under cold water. If any are open give them a little squeeze or knock on the side of the sink. It they close then they are still alive. If not, toss them. If there are any with beards, pull it off just before cooking.
- In the bottom of the pot add butter and olive oil.
- Sweat the shallots and garlic, do not burn.
- Add the white wine, lemon juice, splash of sambuca (or Ouzo), cream and a little salt and pepper.
- Turn the heat up.
- As soon as the liquid starts to give off steam, gently add mussels. Shake the pot to even out and cover.
- The mussels should steam and be open in about 5 minutes. Check for closed ones. Give them another minute. If they are still closed, through them out.
- Scoop out with a slotted spoon into bowls. Pour broth over the top. Garnish with the parsley.