HG is very fond of French restaurants but hates over rich, over composed, exuberantly expensive haute cuisine. HG despises tasting menus that turn meals into marathons and leave HG feeling stuffed and queasy. In France, HG likes simple bourgeois cooking (Found, alas, in a diminishing number of bistros) and brasserie staples like oysters and grillades. (HG/BSK loved the seafood at Le Bocal and Boulingrin during a recent visit to Rheims. In Paris, Le Stella remains a favorite for plateau de fruits de mer and racks of lamb). HG recalls with nostalgia New York of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s when there were numerous very cheap and very satisfying French bistros. HG was inaugurated into French dining during the World War Two years when HG’s late, beloved sister Beulah Naomi would lunch with adolescent HG at Larre’s in the West 50′s. Very cheap. Three or four dollars bought a four course meal (Plus salad). Tables were filled with French teachers and Francophone refugees. HG later learned that a distinguished trio of artists–Marcel Duchamp, Robert Motherwell and Andre Breton–dined there daily. HG and his sister would also eat at the modestly priced Charles a la Pommes Souffle. As the name indicates, the restaurant specialized in delicious crisp and airy potato puffs. They are no longer on New York menus and in very few Paris restaurants. They demand total attention while cooking and are labor intensive. The West 40′s in the Theater District had numerous French bistros. Only one, Chez Napoleon, remains. Happily, it offers true grand mere cuisine including one of HG’s favorite dishes, Cervelles Meuniere–calf brains sautéed in brown butter with capers. During HG’s college days (CCNY–1946-1950) and journalist days (1950-1955) HG confined French dining to the very cheap, very robust bistros on 10th and 11th Avenues in the West 50′s. The ocean liners were still docking on the West Side Piers and these restaurants catered to French, English and Dutch crews. A big meal cost about three dollars and featured lots of innards like liver, kidneys, hearts, gizzards and tete de veau. It was in these rough and ready joints that HG cultivated a taste for dishes not favored by mainstream America. As HG’s finances improved in the mid-’50s and the ’60s, HG favored the delightful (Long closed) Fleur de Lis on West 69th Street (It was here on a hot summer night in 1963 that HG and BSK dined on their wedding night. The temperature was soaring and HG finished dinner smelling like a large garlic clove. Made BSK question her marital choice). During their residency on the Upper West Side, HG/BSK ate frequently (when not consuming Chinese food) at Fleur de LIs. HG’s favorite meal–a dozen escargots, frog legs meuniefre, camembert, creme caramel, red wine–cost about ten dollars. Once a month, HG lunched at what HG considered (and still does) the best French restaurant in the world, Le Pavillon. Curiously, for many years the two best French restaurants were not in France–Le Pavillon in New York and the Connaught Restaurant in London. Henri Soule ran Le Pavillon with Napoleonic imperiousness and rigorous attention to detail. HG’s dining companion was often the late Theodore Kheel, the distinguished lawyer and labor arbitrator. Soule opened the restaurant in 1941. He died in 1966. The restaurant closed in 1971 but it was only a shadow of itself after his death. One of HG’s regrets is that due to pregnancy and other circumstances, BSK never dined at Le Pavillon with HG. Dining at Soule’s with the love of HG’s life would have been a sublime experience.
Ah, Texas women. HG is enchanted by their life enhancing exuberance, laughs and smiles; and, of course, those Southwest Conference good looks. Judy G., Texas born-and-bred, a pal for more than 20 years, personifies those Lone Star State attributes. Judy, recently widowed (her late husband, Henry G., was an HG` pal and business associate for more than 40 years), is visiting HG/BSK in New Mexico. Wicked cold (but sunny) in The Land of Enchantment. Nevertheless, bundled up Judy and BSK; Toby, The Wonder Dog and Judy’s delightful dog, Daisy, are going for long walks in the scenic Barrancas (mesas). Dining has emphasized Mew Mexico comfort. At home for BSK’s green chile chicken stew and HG’s guacamole. Lunch at Sopaipilla Factory in nearby Pojoauque: For the chilled and hungry women, huge ground meat stuffed sopaipillas smothered in green chile over a layer of melted cheese (a sopaipilla is a Mexican popover). For HG, the usual chicken enchilada served Christmas style (red and green chile sauce) plus a cup of spicy menudo. Food designed to brush away the icy fingers of Jack Frost. Tonight’s menu will be French-Italian. Garlic soup enriched with beaten eggs, orzo and grated Romano cheese. Served in bowls over slices of garlic rubbed baguette toast. Beware, Dracula and Jack Frost !! The trio will drink much of the splendid red wine Judy has brought. Looking forward to after dinner brandy, a roaring fire and conversation with Judy. HG/BSK acknowledge that behind Judy’s agelessly beautiful face is a sharp and well stocked mind. She’s a retired Texas University professor, among other accomplishments. Hook ‘em horns!!
HG/BSK rarely eat in Italian restaurants. BSK is an expert Italian cook as is daughter Lesley R. (who has the advantage of spending many years in Italy). SJ, not only makes top shelf latkes, barbecue, Cajun stews, the talented guy makes a sumptuous bowl of linguine con vongole. Growing up in The Bronx, HG confined Italian dining to one restaurant, Dominick’s. Located in the Arthur Avenue/Belmont neighborhood, the prices were low, tastes were hearty old school, decor was no frills to the extreme, waiters were brusque. It’s still in operation. Still has huge portions. No credit cards. Communal seating. Pizza was not a universal American food in HG’s youth. First tried some, age 5, on busy Bathgate Avenue. Thought it was cherry pie. Mom finally bought little HG a slice (cost 2 cents). Big disappointment. HG has never been a big pizza fans though, when young, HG did fancy the very oily, very cheesy pies at Joe’s on Jerome Avenue (Kingsbridge neighborhood) and Half Moon (Arthur Avenue). The years rolled by. HG/BSK made many trips to Italy. Favorite dishes: Seppie stew with linguine in Venice (plus all the fish and shellfish); Bollito Misto in Bologna as well as (natch) Tagliatelle con Ragu Bolognese; very rare Steak Fiorentina with Tuscan beans in Florence; pasta smothered in delicious, expensive white truffle shavings in Rome. Mouthwatering memories. In New York, HG/BSK’s favorite Italian restaurant was Delsomma on W. 47th Street. HG/BSK were introduced to it by the late (and very much missed) composer Michael Small and his wife, Lynn. This was the restaurant where HG/BSK had their very first meal with Massimo R., then the nervous boyfriend of daughter Lesley. (Massimo and Lesley celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary this month). Read all about Delsomma (closed for more than 20 years, alas) on hungrygerald: Gone But Not Forgotten Restaurants: Delsomma. Paul and Jimmy’s on Irving Place was another favorite (Pesce –fish– Livornese was a specially). That’s gone but two other favorites are still operating –Patsy’s on W. 56th Street and Patsy’s Pizzeria and Restaurant on 1st Avenue and 118th Street. The 56th Street Patsy’s was a favorite of Frank Sinatra and mobster Frank Costello. In 1956, HG had HG’s first public relations office on the floor just above the restaurant. Knowing that HG was struggling financially, Patsy’s kind and generous owners would feed HG delicious food at discounted prices.(“Hey. Kid, you’re a neighbor, right?”). The other Patsy’s was a favorite during HG’s days as a journalist. Favorite dishes were clams oreganato and spaghetti olio et aglio. In those days (1951-1955), Patsy’s was a busy place much favored by cops and mob guys. Specialized (as it still does) in pizza. HG/BSK visited it one night in the 1970′s when BSK was in the mood for pizza. Drugs had taken over the neighborhood. HG/BSK were the only customers except for junkies who kept darting in the bathrooms to shoot up. The pizza, however, was devastatingly good. Prepared by two old people who cooked with knowledge and love. Business picked up at Patsy’s (In business for more than 75 years) after Woody Allen, surprisingly, showed up with a group of showbiz pals in the early 80s, ordered pizza and raved. Word got around. The restaurant now thrives under a second generation of owners. Still a cash only policy. HG is sure it’s good but when next in New York, will continue to get an Italian food fix at Vic’s, daughter Victoria’s new venture on Great Jones Street. Superlative, innovative Italian cooking.
Yes, HG will be watching the 50th Super Bowl on Sunday, February 7. Yes, HG will feel twinges of guilt. The contest will take place in the wake of the recent death of former Giant player Tyler Lash, age 27. His autopsy revealed severe brain damage–C.F.E.–the result of the numerous concussions and brain collisions he suffered during a football career that began when he was very young. The deadly statistics concerning football’s destructiveness are mounting. Yet, the NFL and the major college conferences are doing little to protect players. The NFL is a multi,multi billion dollar business which provides the billionaire owners a useful tax shelter plus an ego boost. The big time college football factories pay their coaches millions and the players (mostly African-American) often end their college days with debilitating injuries. Just one more thing that’s wrong in an America which takes a TV buffoon like Donald Trump seriously as the leader of the world. Nevertheless. Nevertheless. HG will watch the Denver Broncos do battle with the Charlotte Panthers. HG/BSK lived in the greater Denver area for some 25 years before moving to New Mexico. It is very hard to be cured of Bronco fever. Unfortunately, HG believes Cam Newton and his Panther comrades will demolish the Broncs. Newton is the most extraordinary quarterback HG has ever seen. He is bigger and faster than most famed running backs. He is an accurate passer, comfortable throwing short or long. White football fans (enchanted by splendid white quarterbacks like Manning, Brady, Montana and Starr) have been reluctant in acknowledging Newton’s greatness.(Newton’s celebratory dances annoy them). Sorry, white folks. Newton is symbolic of a new generation that will change football forever (unless the game is banned as being more dangerous and inhumane than bullfighting). HG has watched every Super Bowl, beginning with the first. Vince Lombardi coached the winning Green Bay Packers. Now a sanctified figure with numerous schools, playing fields, streets, etc. named after him. A number of statues and plaques on public buildings. He was a brutal exponent of winning (“Winning is everything.”) and delighted in bone crushing “nutcracker” drills during his team’s practice sessions. “Football isn’t a contact sport. It’s a collision sport.”, he said. Of course,it is all of those collisions that lead to early Alzheimer’s and C.F.E. Lombardi lauded bravery and toughness but managed to avoid serving in World War Two through numerous deferments. In 1967, Lombardi complained of digestive pain but refused his doctor’s suggestion of a proctoscopic examination. He died three years later of colon and rectal cancer. Age 57. Hey, amateur Freudian analysts, theorize about all of these anomalies in Lombardi’s life. A culinary note. HG will soften Super Bowl guilt by consuming a half-time meal not endorsed by the health police. Rare roast beef on rye or pumpernickel bread liberally covered with a layer of duck fat. Topped with sliced sweet onion, Malden Sea Salt Flakes and smoked black pepper. Accompaniments: Sour dill pickles. Cole slaw. Potato salad. Anchor Steam India Pale Ale. Guinness Stout. Go Broncos!!!
Why do Jews love Chinese food? When HG lived in New York, HG noted a Sunday exodus of the city’s Jewish population to Chinatown. HG/BSK lived on the Upper West Side which had a very good, spacious restaurant, The Great Shanghai, plus the city’s first restaurant serving fiery Szechuan cuisine. HG/BSK only went to Chinatown to enjoy Sunday dim sum brunch. HG/BSK munched while reading the Sunday Times. SJ and little daughter Lesley were dedicated Chinese foodies from their earliest days. Dim sum was their favorite (This passion is still alive with them and their lovely children, all discerning consumers of soup dumplings). SJ has a theory about the history of Jewish love of Chinese food. SJ theorizes it all began when immigrant Jews from the Lower East Side would stroll to Chinatown to get a break from traditional Eastern European cooking. Their accents and struggles with English would not be embarrassing in restaurants whose staff had similar problems. Also, they could eat pork and shrimp, forbidden unkosher (“traif”) foods they would not cook at home. And, Chinese restaurants were very cheap. In these modern days of New York dining, a curious phenomenon exists. Affluent diners are willing to pay astronomical prices for esoteric Japanese food. But, they rebel against high prices at Chinese restaurants. This may be ending. La Chine restaurant in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel is offering exquisite Chinese cuisine (plus some Japanese style Sashimi) prepared by famous chefs. The ingredients are superior and the prices are very expensive. Pete Wells, The New York Times restaurant reviewer, has given it a rave. HG/BSK will dine there when next in New York. Yes, it means a dent in credit cards. But, self indulgence is only a minor sin.
“Keep it simple, stupid.” That was the mantra that guided the communications strategy of one of Bill Clinton’s presidential campaigns. BSK follows the simplicity principle in BSK’s daily cooking. HG/BSK like to drink wine before and with dinner. (HG also likes a snifter of brandy, Limoncello or Sambuca after dinner). Following this regime at good restaurants results in a check of $200 plus for dinner a deux. This is too self indulgent so HG/BSK rarely dine out. The exception is lunch at modestly priced Sopapilla Factory and El Parasol (both in Pojoaque, 15 minute drive north of Santa Fe) and Saigon Cafe in Santa Fe. Invariably, dinner is at home. BSK cooks an array of simple dishes that satisfy and delight. Often, cunning BSK enhances these dishes with an unexpected and savory addition. Here’s a partial list of BSK dinner dishes. Pastas: Linguine with oil, garlic, anchovies, parsley, red pepper flakes. Penne with broccoli. Spaghetti with black olives, tomatoes, garlic and anchovies. Spaghetti with tomatoes and Italian canned tuna. Chicken: Marinated, spatchcocked chicken roasted in the oven. Chicken curry (from Vikram Vij’js recipe). Lamb: Pan broiled New Zealand lamb chops. Kefte (Middle Eastern cigar shaped burgers pan broiled or roasted in the oven). Beef: Pan broiled burgers served with fried onions or smothered in 505 Green Chile Sauce. Pan broiled New York strip steak (a rare indulgence). Soups: Sorrel soup (in summer). Green soup (a BSK invention of everything green in the refrigerator plus chicken stock, onions and herbs, all pureed into tasty all season soup). Fish and shellfish: Quickly sautéed sea scallops served over salad greens. Prince Edward Island Mussels steamed with clam broth, white wine, garlic, parsley, olive oil, onions, red pepper flakes. Pacific sole, dusted with fish fry, and quickly sautéed in Canola oil with a bit of butter. Pork: Mo Pu Tofu, a Chinese dish featuring ground pork and tofu. Thick Frenched pork chops dusted with Goya Adobo and pan broiled medium rare. Served with sautéed onions and peppers plus Goya Black Beans covered in chopped sweet onion and Mexican Crema. BSK’s repertoire contains many more simple good things. Main dishes are usually followed by green salad and cheese. Dessert: Trader Joe’s chocolate almond biscotti and Belgian-style butter almond cookies. Candles lighting the table. Flames dancing in the fireplace. Yo Yo Ma on the Bose. Dinner a deux at Chez HG/BSK is celestial.
HG/BSK’s son-in-law, Massimo R., is a man of many talents and distinctions. First of all, he is a distinguished scholar: professor of Italian Studies at Brown University, author of a number of books; a pioneer in making Italian literature and culture available on the internet. The Italian government honored his contributions to Italian culture by naming him a “Grande Ufficiale” of the republic last year. A tall, handsome man with an imperious Roman nose, Massimo has impeccable style, cutting “la bella figura.” He is fluent in Italian, English, French and reads German and Spanish. And, if all this wasn’t enough, he is a warm, caring husband and father. Plus, he has a history of being a tennis champion in his youth and is still a formidable force on the court. Yes, Massimo is formidable. But, he has endearing, humanizing flaws. He has an infinite capacity to lose, forget and misplace: keys, wallets, papers, directions, etc.. He meets technological challenges with impatience and heartfelt cries of “Madonna!!!”. HG has enjoyed many wonderful meals with Massimo in Italy, Canada, France and the United States. His wine judgment is excellent and, unlike most Italians, he is an adventurous diner, relishing the foods of India, the Far East, Middle East and South America. He has encouraged HG to eat horse carpaccio, donkey sausage and other hearty, unlikely Italian treats. HG and Massimo have only two food disagreements. HG prefers pasta a bit more cooked than Massimo’s rigid al dente version. And, once Massimo cooked risotto with bubbling Guiness Stout. HG thought this an unfortunate marriage of a beverage and an ingredient that should remain strangers. Thus, HG faced dinner one night during HG/BSK’s recent Rhode Island visit with nervous trepidation. Massimo had prepared Ribollita. This is a classic poor person’s dish, a Tuscan soup that is a hearty potage of left over bread, cannellini beans, cabbage, onions, carrots, potatoes, broth and whatever other vegetables are lingering in the refrigerator. No need to fear. Topped with chopped parsley and garlic, grated cheese and good novello olive oil and accompanied by red wine, it was a nourishing, comforting winter dinner. HG/BSK will add the dish to their repertoire. And,while they’re at it they’ll give some other Tuscan bread dishes like Pappa al Pomodoro and Panzanella some special attention. These should be great in the summer when sun is hot and tomatoes are ripe.
Happy night Chez HG/BSK in New Mexico. Big time cold snap in the Land of Enchantment. Not only bone chilling cold, but intermittent snow flurries. Nice to be indoors with a fire blazing in the fireplace. Dinner called for comfort food. BSK answered the call with a big pot of hot mushroom and barley soup. HG/BSK and glorious pal and neighbor, Karen K., dusted the soup with Parmesan, Malden Sea Salt Flakes and Aleppo pepper. Whole grain bread and butter. Green salad. An array of cheeses. Red wine. The meal came to a magnificent conclusion. Karen K. is known as “The Dessert Queen.” Her glorious reign continues (HG/BSK are The Dessert Queen’s loyal subjects and grateful beneficiaries). HG will say without equivocation, her dessert of the evening set a new standard of lush excellence. Chocolate Pot de Creme topped with ethereal whipped cream–each portion in an elegant ramekin.. HG/BSK took tiny nibbles. They didn’t want the pleasure to end. The generous Dessert Queen made an extra Chocolate Pot de Creme so HG can relish it as the climax to another meal. Can hardly wait.
Surprise. Israeii cuisine is hot. The trend started with Yotam Ottolenghi and his London restaurants.–Ottolenghi’s in Spitlafields, islington, Notting Hill and Nopi in Soho. All very successful. In addition, he has spread the word about Israeli cuisine with a number of very good cookbooks (Jerusalem by Ottollenghi and Sami Tamimi is HG/BSK’s fave). In the United States, Michael Solomonov’s Philaelphia restaurant, Zahav, got raves from the critics and is always packed with happy foodies. (Solomonov’s cookbook is Zahav-A World Of Israeli Cooking). There are three casual Israeli restaurants in New York and HG predicts there will be more. SJ reported from a recent trip to Berlin that Israeli restaurants are the trendiest eateries in that city. Last night, BSK looked in the refrigerator and found eggplant and Greek yogurt on the shelves and ground lamb in the freezer. Pignolia nuts and Israei couscous in the pantry. All the makings for stuffed eggplant with lamb and pine nuts accompanied by Israeli couscous (recipe from “Jerusalem”). Even though HG/BSK’s wondrous pal and neighbor, Karen K., was a dinner guest, the group did not dance a spirited Hora after dinner.
Good news/bad news/euphoria/ecstasy day for HG. The good news is that HG (cross fingers and knock wood) seems to be at the end of his pneumonia bout. The bad news is that a typical old age pain had to be relieved by a very painful medical procedure. Luckily. HG has a group of doctors HG can rely upon for professionalism and sympathetic care. Nevertheless, HG had much trepidation. Procedure went swiftly and efficiently. Forty days of pain ended. Euphoria ensued. HG had always thought about old age as a serene time, a mellow conclusion. HG was wrong. One has to be brave and optimistic to endure all of the physical things that go wrong as one ages. HG is very fortunate to have only minor league ailments (and having a loving supportive family makes a very big difference). Euphoria segued into ecstasy as the day proceeded. BSK prepared BSK’s very special New Mexico Green Chile Stew. HG is in awe of BSK. As an artist (potter/painter), BSK seems to get into the very heart and essence of a region. BSK’s color field acrylics of Fire Island projected the sky, sand, foliage and sea of that magical place. BSK has done the same thing for Prince Edward Island. Here in New Mexico, BSK has been hand forming and firing crosses that evoke, in spectacular fashion, the passionate religiosity and the vernacular design forms of the state’s historic Hispanic population. BSK has captured (much to HG’s benefit) the lusty, fiery, flavorful cuisine of New Mexico in her Green Chile Stew. While it’s not for the timid, every ingredient sings. An evening of ecstasy. Big bowl of the stew topped with chopped sweet onion, pico de gallo and a dash of Mexican creme. Accompanied by beer (Non-alcoholic, alas. The alcohol ban ends in a few days). While HG reveled in the stew, HG watched the Alabama-Clemson national football championship game. Best college football game HG ever watched. Came away with the conclusion that Nick Saban of Alabama is a very smart and very lucky coach. Smarts, heart and luck. Tough combo to beat.