Luchows. Me and H.L.Mencken

November 22nd, 2010 § 0 comments

Young folks,there used to be a capacious German restaurant on New York’s East 14th Street. Luchows. Just writing the name makes my eyes go misty. Gone for many years it was the best restaurant in the world. H.L.Mencken said so as did scores of mid-century (and earlier) novelists,journalists,musicians and dedicated gluttons. Luchows was big. High ceilings. Oak paneling. Great chandeliers. Colorful,warm,welcoming. Christmas was magic time. Lots of Christmas trees. Over the top ornaments and glitter. The heady scent of pine,roasting pork,beer,sauerkraut and the perfume of women having a festive time. Waiters in black tie and the requisite long white aprons. An oompah band playing Christmas carols. Enough,Gerald. The food. The food. Firm marinated herring with onions,black bread and sweet butter. Rollmops (pickled herring rolled around a half-sour gherkin). Smoked salmon. Smoked trout served with horseradish-infused whipped cream. Caviar,of course (it used to be an affordable indulgence). Lots more. Then..roast pork or roast duck or roast goose with a robust sauce. Creamy mashed potatoes or buttered noodles. Red sweet-and-sour cabbage or crunchy sauerkraut.Sure,you could have roast beef but that really wasn’t the thing at Luchows. Better a platter of grilled wurst (there were a dozen delightful varieties) with crispy home fries,sauerkraut, sour gherkins and knock-the-top-of-your-head-off mustard. Certainly,you could opt for sauerbraten or a true Alsatian choucroute. As for fastidious Hungry Gerald,a discerning gourmand,inevitably he ate (as a starter) schlemerschnitte (forgive spelling errors..after all,it was many decades ago).This was a sublime steak tartare topped by almost a one-half inch of beluga caviar. Then, pfefferlinge (a melange of butter-sauteed wild mushrooms) served in a sour cream and dill sauce accompanied by a lavish plate of buttery noodles dusted with caraway seeds. All was washed down with Luchows’ own dark beer (beer,not wine,was my beverage at the time…I prefaced the meal with a few dry martinis). Dessert: A huge baked Alaska flamed in brandy by the waiter (once a waiter set his apron aflame and had to be doused with pitchers of water…hilarity ensued). The meal concluded with a double espresso,brandy and a pre-Castro,Maduro leaf cigar. Often,before leaving I was given a slim flute of icy pear eau de vie (on the house). I managed to get it down. Read it and weep,my children. Gone.Gone. Gone.

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