The Yiddish word “schmaltz” has entered the American lexicon. It is usually applied to entertainment, meaning corny or over sentimental. Schmaltz, of course, is chicken fat, the basis of much tasty Eastern European Jewish cuisine. When HG was a boy, HG’s Father took the little fellow to clothing shops on the Lower East Side. The shops were owned by friends of HG’s Father and there was much happy Yiddish conversation while little HG was praised for his good looks and intellect. A heavy mackinaw was bought in one place, ear flapped cap in another. Corduroy knickers climaxed the shopping. HG and Father lunched in one of the many “Romanian broilings” restaurants in the neighborhood (Sammy’s Romanian is the last remaining). Dad and son ate “carnezelach” (cigar shaped broiled chopped beef stuffed with chopped onions and garlic accompanied by fried “silver dollar” potatoes. There was a pitcher of chicken fat on the table and was poured generously over the dishes (plus the accompanying sliced raw onions and pumpernickel bread). HG still dreams about those lunches. Chicken fat is versatile. Obligatory with chopped liver. Great with mashed potatoes (or kasha) and fried onions. HG’s Mom added it to “tzimmes”, a long simmered dish of carrots, honey and cinnamon (plus chicken feet which added a gelatinous texture). Some Chinese chefs fry triangles of red pepper in chicken fat and use the peppers to top noodle dishes. Very hard to find chicken fat these days, but quite easy to render at home. Although, in a pinch, you can still find it online from some kosher food suppliers.
Sunday, August 21, has been designated Senior Citizens Day. Ouch. HG hates this smarmy euphemism. (HG presumes SC Day, like all special “days”, has been created by corporate interests and that manufacturers of canes, walkers, incontinence underwear, laxatives are probably sponsors of this ludicrous promotional “day”.) HG will be 87 in November (hopefully). HG prefers being called “old”, “old guy”, “old fogey.” Or, if you prefer, “geezer” or “old fart.” The euphonious Yiddish “alteh cocker” is a pleasant, irreverent way to refer to HG.
The “pletzel” is a soft roll baked with a topping of fried onions. Now hard to find, it was once a staple in New York Jewish bakeries and bread baskets in “dairy” restaurants. They were also served in all of the great cafeterias like Belmore and Dubrow’s. One of HG’s favorite meals was at Belmore: A bowl of egg noodles with pot cheese; a buttered pletzel with lettuce and muenster cheese; many cups of coffee. HG has previously written about the warm gefilte fish at Famous Paramount Dairy Restaurant on W. 72nd Street. HG would dip pletzels in the warm broth (sided with powerful horse radish). Waiters looked on with disdain. They thought the only proper accompaniment for the dish was “challah” (egg bread). Candy store pretzels were another New York staple. They were kept in two containers, one for long, straight pretzels and the other for the traditional twisted shapes. They were the perfect snack when accompanied by an “egg cream”. The “egg cream” was constructed with seltzer, chocolate syrup and milk. (HG is the author of the section on egg creams in The Jewish Encyclopedia). The soft pretzel sold on New York streets was (and is) vile. The soft pretzel (with a squirt of mustard) sold in Philadelphia is delicious.
HG grew up in New York. Studied in crowded classrooms. Rode in jammed subways. Career in journalism was based in noisy, typewriter clattering (pre computer days) city rooms. Ran a public relations company and interacted with some 30 demanding employees and scores of clients. HG’s later years have been spent in blessed quiet in Colorado, New Mexico and Prince Edward Island. Peace. HG has long had a taste for solitude. Has never known loneliness. HG has questioned why people are lonely when there are happy companions: Books, magazines, newspapers. Today, of course, most of the population seems glued to its phones. Too much electronic companionship, HG believes. Much as HG relishes the loving company of BSK, there are times when solitude is bliss. This was the case yesterday. HG and Handsome Haru spent the day in Charlottetown for auto servicing, HH tennis lesson, and harness races plus dinner at Prince Edward Island’s Old Home Week celebration. HG (a sometime naturist in HG’s old age) spent the day alone on the beach, nude and sun kissed. Walked along the shore, swam in calm, warm waters; read back issues of New York Review of Books. Ended day with hot shower followed by rum and lime juice cocktails. Cellist Pierre Fournier on the CD player. Dinner was hamburgers on onion rolls plus black beans with rice, chopped onions, sour cream. Spoonfuls of pungent tomatillo salsa. Gahan’s Red Ale. Glad to see BSK and HH when they arrived home. Ended the perfect day by watching the incomparable Usain Bolt triumph in the 200 meter dash.
The late Larry Gore was a renowned Broadway press agent (and comic strip author). He had a sardonic wit. Gore commented after Israel’s Six Day War: “An Arab spokesman said: ‘Unfair. They have 2,300,000 Jews and we have none.’”. The nationally syndicated columnist Earl Wilson quoted the quip in his “It Happened One Night” column and it became a much repeated phrase. Gore’s office was a gathering place for the many comedians and night club performers he represented. They encouraged Larry to run his annual “Bore Party.” The party was attended by both Larry’s friends and local bores, that is, boring individuals whose self absorption made them oblivious in all ways to others. HG and the late Sander Greenberg assisted Larry at one bore party. They served platters of Uneeda biscuits sandwiching a triscuit (held together with a toothpick) and rock candy. The beverage was warm seltzer, no ice. Larry hired a thug to sit outside the bathroom. He demanded the bores pay him $1.00 to enter (no one ever mentioned this as outrageous). A glance at some of the guests: The estranged remittance man – son of a distinguished California family. Obsessed with cowboy movies. A Broadway shirt merchant who claimed that he was a great Shakespearean actor frozen out of classic theater because of anti-semitism. Retailing was only a sideline. There was a manager of a 42nd Street hot dog stand who relentlessly quoted baseball statistics. Others included a conspiracy theorist. According to him, everything was fixed by wily conspirators. Their targets included sports, theater and movie reviewing. Plus politics, of course (hey, the guy was sometimes right). There were a number of unmelodic song writers, off key singers and unfunny comics. All held day jobs in the theater district and considered themselves as an integral part of show biz. Entertainment for the party was by a rotund man in snug matador pants, Spanish high heels and colorful bolero. He fancied himself an expert Flamenco dancer. He was a ludicrous klutz. As he danced to recorded music, Sander and HG would make rapturous comments: “Look at that footwork!” “Dance genius!” “Better than anyone in Spain!” It was a happy party. The bores said they had a wonderful time and thanked Larry for his gracious hospitality.
Sad news. Fyvush Finkel, 93, is dead. Finkel was one of the last of the true Yiddish theater stalwarts — as well as an actor on Broadway, in the movies and on television. Played many roles in “Fiddler On The Roof,” from its Broadway debut in 1964 until it closed in 1972. “Fiddler” kept Fyvush in funds. When it closed, Fyvush had a long run as a “cantankerous lawyer” (as described in his NY Times obituary), in “Picket Fences”, the 1990s TV series. Finkel was the embodiment of “Yiddishkeit” (Yiddish speaking Jewishness). A gifted comedian and storyteller, Fyvush performed before any audience (big and small) that had an affection for “mamalushen” (Yiddish–the mother tongue). He appeared at scores of Florida condominiums and at the few remaining old fashioned hotels in the Catskill Mountains. You can capture some of the essence of Fyvush (and his Jewish waiter jokes) by reading his obit in the Aug. 15, 2016 NY Times and in HG’s’ post, “The Jewish Waiter R.I.P.”, Sept. 25, 2014.
HG is not a big fan of desserts. Usually prefers to end a meal with a cheese platter and red wine. However, HG recalls with fondness desserts HG enjoyed in New York of yesteryear. Number one, of course, was the hot fudge sundae at Rumpelmayer’s on Central Park South. This was also loved by young SJ and Lesley R. when HG took the youngsters to New York for a “treat day.”. Another great ice cream dessert was the vanilla ice cream ball rolled in toasted coconut. This was served at the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel. Other sweet splendors: Frozen banana daiquiris at Fornos; Nesselrode pie at Grand Central Oyster Bar; pots de creme at the Oak Room of the Plaza Hotel; cheesecake at Reuben’s (and Lindy’s); coconut custard pie at the Automat; strudel at Eclair. Ed Berberian’s Balkan-Armenian Restaurant on E. 26 Street served a wonderful middle eastern treat–Baklava with Ekmek. The Ekmek was a cross between ice cream and dense whipped cream. Perfect with the sweet pastry. HG is very fond of Paris bistro desserts: Tarte tatin with plentiful creme fraiche; creme caramel; ice cream (from Berthillon) and ile flottante (the best is at Le Stella). Favorite dessert in London is chestnut puree with whipped cream at Gay Hussar. When HG has a sweets craving on Prince Edward Island (which seems to be often, notes SJ), HG opts for Lebanese halvah or vanilla ice cream with Island maple syrup.
It was time for Vicki F., Lesley and Massimo R. to enjoy one of the much lauded culinary events of Prince Edward Island: Fireworks Feast at the beautiful Inn at Bay Fortune. HG/BSK dined there last year but it was a first for the rest of the group. The event began with “Oyster Hour” at 6PM. This is a dazzler. Highlight is Colville Bay oysters (PEI’s best) with a unique Bloody Mary Ice. Oyster loving HG managed to down 28, Last year HG ate 32. Other good things served at “Oyster Hour”: Pastrami smoked salmon with black garlic aioli; Mini-BLT’s with thick cut bacon; honey garlic sausage with mustard and crushed herbs. HG/BSK and family ate the warm goodies outside while sipping the Inn’s “Summer Sangria.” The beauty of the flower filled grounds and the view of Bay Fortune enhanced the experience. Then inside for the the the six-course feast. Home baked bread with a variety of spreads; sea chowder containing bar clams, mussels, lobster, bacon and vegetables; smoked scallops with tuna tartare; just picked salad; flat iron steak and braised beef with a host of vegetables; berry shortcake with lemon verbena ice cream. Dinner food was uneven. HG’s favorites were the bread platter and the seafood chowder. Everything served at “Oyster Hour” is superb. Despite flaws, this is a great once-a-summer festive event. Everything at FireWorks is prepared by a crew of young chefs–The Fire Brigade– cooking in a giant wood fire oven and outdoor barbecues stoked by wood. All food is local and organic. The enterprise is headed by chef/cookbook author Michael Smith. Be warned: You have to book three to six months in advance.
HG/BSK love clams. Have many happy memories of clamming in the Great South Bay off Long Island when HG/BSK and family occupied a Fire Island dune house facing the Atlantic Ocean. Harvested hundreds of clams for big feats (friends, neighbors, guests) of Clams Casino and linguine with white clam sauce. In HG’s youth, the greedy lad’s favorite place for clams was the vast Lundy’s Restaurant on the Sheepshead Bay waterfront in Brooklyn The expert shucker served clams with light-as-a-feather buttered biscuits. HG and pals devoured dozens. Last night, Lesley R. brought back Fire Island memories with steaming bowls of spaghettini with clam sauce. Used four dozen juicy little neck clams from By the Bay Fish Mart. These clams are called “quahogs” on Prince Edward Island. Larger clams are known as “chowders.” The meal began with smoked bluefish and ended with green salad plus cheese. HG had brie with chef Marc Meyer’s incredible zaatar infused flatbread. HG’s visiting daughter, Vicki (Marc Meyer’s wife and partner in the operation of their four New York restaurants} brought this welcoming treat from their Cookshop Restaurant in the West Chelsea neighborhood. The sweet finale was Lesley’s warmed fruit cobbler with vanilla ice cream. Envious anyone?
Joy. HG’s daughter, Vicki, and HG/BSK’s granddaughter, Sofia, have arrived at HG/BSK’s Prince Edward Island home, joining HG/BSK, Handsome Haru and Lesley and Massimo R. Vicki is the renowned New York restaurateur, owner (with chef/husband Marc Meyer) of four New York restaurants: Cookshop, Hundred Acres, Vic’s and Rosie’s. Sofia has had a happy and busy summer in New York and Brooklyn. The beautiful young woman (now sporting artfully blonde streaked hair) has been working as a hostess at Hundred Acres and aiding HG/BSK’s daughter-in-law, Exquisite Maiko, at her Oni Sauce stand at Brooklyn’s Smorgasburg. Both Vicki and Sofia are happy to get a big helping of PEI sun, salt air, warm water and peace. Plus seafood, of course. The welcome to PEI dinner consisted of Handsome Haru’s olive oil, parmesan, anchovy, hot sauce dip. This was followed by Lesley’s Newfoundland shrimp salad and a main dish of codfish cakes. The crisp and juicy cakes were accompanied by PEI yellow beans (now in season) and room temperature cannelini beans in a vinaigrette enhanced by garlic, garlic scapes, chopped onions and a variety of herbs. Happily, there was left over fruit cobbler (plus vanilla ice cream) for dessert. Viva famiglia!!