Gone But Not Forgotten Restaurants: Christ Cella

June 29th, 2011 § 104 comments § permalink

Christ Cella was a New York steak house on East 44th that was a lure for athletes and big eaters. At lunch one day, HG spotted the late Howard Cosell, boxing promoter Don King (of the electric hair) and that deadly jump shooter, Jerry West. HG stopped at West’s table and told him he was forgiven for all the bad things he did to the Knicks. Jerry was amused.

HG always had the same two meals at Christ Cella. In the fall and winter (HG did not dine there in summer, preferring lighter victuals): A scotch sour (freshly squeezed lemon juice); lobster cocktail with Remoulade sauce; New York strip steak (Christ Cella had the all time beefiest, best and biggest steaks in the civilized world) accompanied by salad with Roquefort dressing. Beverage was black and tan (Ballantine India Pale Ale mixed with Guiness Stout—half and half).

In spring HG replaced the steak with a platter of grilled shad, shad roe, bacon, home fried potatoes, sharp tartar sauce and cole slaw. HG never had dessert. Heartier souls knocked off giant portions of New York cheesecake. The admen in the restaurant preceded their meal with two or three martinis.

Yes, indeed, happy drunken high cholesterol days. Those martini drinking, cigarette puffing guys are, of course, a memory like Christ Cella itself.

Who Needs Paris When You’ve Got Pojoaque?

June 28th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

HG was served a dish at “O” Eating House that surpassed, in finesse, creativity and restraint, the best Paris has to offer. (HG has posted frequently about “O” and its chef, the gifted Steven Lemon. “O” is located on Highway 84/285, some 15 minutes drive north of Santa Fe). The delectable dish HG is referring to was composed of six squash blossoms, plated beautifully on a long, slim oval plate. The squash blossoms were stuffed with a mixture of ricotta, sweet corn, pine nuts and tarragon. They were then tempura fried to an ethereal lightness. The blossoms were separated by streaks of pesto and flanked by stewed fresh cherries. Crisp, unctuous, herbaceous, salty, sweet.

A dish that strummed every taste note.

Gone But Not Forgotten Restaurants: 4 Seafood Greats

June 27th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

While New York is still chock full of great seafood restaurant there are four (now shuttered) that HG still pines for.

1. Gage and Tollner in downtown Brooklyn. One of the oldest restaurants in New York City, this was a hangout for aristocratic old families of Brooklyn Heights. Entirely illuminated by gas lighting, the untouched turn of the century decor was just wonderful. Dignified, African-American waiters. The sleeves of their jackets had stripes denoting years of service. Average was 25 years. Best dishes: Sauteed clam bellies. Shad and shad roe (in season). Clams and oysters on the half shell. There was also a meat dish fancied by HG: A big, rare (Juicy and gamy) mutton chop accompanied by corn fritters.

2. Gloucester House in the East 50’s. Chaste New England decor. Very expensive. Clientele: Rich Park Avenue types and publishing biggies. HG often saw Helen Gurley Brown (One time Editor of Cosmopolitan Magazine, author of Sex and the Single Girl and longtime advocate of sexual liberation) and her film producer husband David Brown (“Jaws”, “The Sting.” etc.). Best Dishes: Broiled lobster. Lobster Newburg. Potatoes au gratin. Fried onion rings. Swordfish.

3. Seafood of the Aegean in the East 50’s. Decor: Stylish, yet Greek (hard to imagine, well…just try!). Clientele: Madison Avenue advertising executives. Best dishes: a lemony Avoglemono soup. Shrimp Santorini — Jumbo shrimp with grilled whole tomatoes, tomato sauce and sharp feta cheese — served bubbling hot.

4. Sweets located on the East River waterfront near Wall Street. Decor: Very austere, no frills. Crusty, bad tempered old waiters. Clientele: Wall Streeters and the coffee, tea and cocoa importers that were HQ’d on Water Street. Best dishes: The very best and freshest simply broiled and sauteed fish; clams, oysters, lobsters and crabs—all purchased that morning from the nearby Fulton Street Fish Market.

Anchors Aweigh, Indeed.

The Joy Of Jubilat – An SJ Posting

June 25th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Dried and delicious - good for eating on the way home!

Jubilat Provisions sits smack dab on the blocks (dubbed “South Slope” by real estate agents) where the cachet of Park Slope gently blends into the Mexican/Chinese mosh up of Sunset Park. It is a tiny temple for the worship of smoked and prepared pork products of all kinds. In other words, it is a classic Polish deli simply jammed with house made and house smoked sausages, bacons, and force-meats. There is a line of hard, grizzled thin sausages that range from lightly smoked (pinkesque) to triple smoked (dark and snapping with flavor) and are basically the best Slim Jims you could ever eat. There are Kielbasa in a range of sizes and flavors (spicy, garlicky, fresh, double smoked and one thick and short like a tough, Slavic Bologna). There is a ridiculously juicy Black Forest Ham; the greatest bacon; smoked pork loins; head cheese, liverwurst; a rolled, stuffed veal thing with parsley that almost killed me with pleasure when I paired it with boiled, new potatos. The butchers are all Polish and don’t speak much English and actually aren’t that interested in explaining what everything is….Which is better! That way you can just lose yourself and basically order a little bit of everything. They make all of this in house, so everything is fresh and nitrate free — they also make stews, soups, vats of pickles and sauerkraut and once I came in and there were about 15 different smoked fishes on newspapers that were amongst the best I have ever had. And — here’s the kicker — its cheap. I mean REALLY cheap!!! I have bought BAGS of stuff there and never gone over seventy bucks. It is an inspiration. These guys are artisans, old school butchers, examples of real, local food-ways and they don’t feel the need to have tattoos of pigs on their necks, and weird 1910 mustaches, and charge $20 a pound for “house-cured” bacon like this whole new realm of hipster butcher/food producers. Why? Because the Jubilat guys are part of their community, they are FEEDING their community with reasonably priced GREAT, homemade food.

I digress. The politics of food and community are interesting but not as interesting as a quick tip if you ever make it over to Jubilat. Basically buy a spread of smoked meats and make sure to include the bacon, a kielbasa (or many types of kielbasa), some frankfurter and whatever else catches your eye. Buy a bunch of sauerkraut, a jar of super strong Polish mustard and truck back to your house with a dry Riesling and bunch of friends. Cook the sauerkraut with onion, a cup or two of that Riesling (add some juniper berries if you can!) and some new potatoes. Layer the smoked meats on top and basically by the time the potatos are cooked through you have one of the great meals of all time. Crack open some dark beers, cheer the noble men of Jubilat, and get to work…thank HG and SJ later.

Jubilat Provisions – 608 5th Ave – Brooklyn, NYC

Rockaway

June 25th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

Rockaway was the proletarian barrier beach (between the Atlantic Ocean and Jamaica Bay) where HG and millions of sweltering New Yorkers escaped the summer blaze in years gone by. During the 70s, 80s and 90s, drug violence and the proximity to some fairly dangerous public housing lessened its attractiveness. But, Rockaway has re-surfaced with a sudden cache of cool. It started with a movement of urban surfers, who did not care that Rockaway’s waves were not California size, they were NYC waves and that was cool enough. They carried their surf boards on the subway and soon Williamsburg hipsters and lots of other cool folks from Brooklyn and Manhattan wanted to see what was going on. (Rockaway is reached by a comparatively short subway ride).

And, where there are hipsters, there’s hip food and drink. The New York Times has been reporting on the opening of many good, casual ethnic dining spots along the Rockaway Boardwalk.

HG suggests it may be time to revive that great beach classic –The Takee Cup. HG wistfully recalled the tasty Takee Cup in a post a few months ago. Bring it back for the new cool generation.

Gone But Not Forgotten Restaurants: Delsomma

June 23rd, 2011 § 7 comments § permalink

Frank Sinatra loved it. So did Jason Robards and David Mamet (who wrote about it in his book of essays Make Believe Town: Essays and Remembrances. Sidney Poitier dined there often when he was appearing on Broadway. Coleen Dewhurst called it “family.” HG is referring to Delsomma, an Italian restaurant at 266 W. 47th Street in the heart of the theater district. It closed in 1993, a victim of the drug dealing, prostitution and street violence that plagued 8th Avenue and surrounding side streets in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Run by the Cardinale family for 40 years, every diner was treated like a star. HG and BSK were introduced to Delsomma by their dear friend, the late Michael Small. Michael, who composed the score for many memorable films, took them there after the premiere of Marathon Man (with Dustin Hoffman and Lawrence Olivier playing a Nazi dentist). Michael did the chilling score.

From that time forward it became HG and BSK’s go to place for Italian food. Their first meeting with Profesore/ Dottore M. (yet to become the husband of daughter LR) was at Delsomma. The fastidious (and nervous) M. heartily approved of the food. Some of the house specialties: Ziti with broccoli, lightly fried jumbo shrimp in lemon sauce, pork chops with vinegar peppers—and some of the best veal in town. Beautiful potato croquettes. Sauteed escarole with garlic. Michael Small and Delsomma are always linked in HG’s memory. Miss them both.

Gone But Not Forgotten Restaurants: Coach House

June 22nd, 2011 § 4 comments § permalink

The best American food in New York used to be served by an elegant Greek gentleman, Leon Lianides at his Coach House Restaurant at 110 Waverly Place in Greenwich Village. The restaurant closed in 1993 (the site is now occupied by Mario Batali’s Babbo, an excellent restaurant that introduced a new type of Italian cuisine).

Upon being seated at Coach House, diners were served warm corn sticks. Celestial cornbread. Perfect accompaniment to the black bean soup (which was enriched by a hint of Madeira). There were wonderful crab cakes. Just juicy hunks of the best Chesapeake lump crab meat held together by the merest bit of bread crumbs and seasoning. Lamb ruled at Coach House in the form of triple thick lamb chops or racks of lamb. Greedy HG always had dessert: Pecan pie (not too sweet) that had the right proportion of whole pecans and filling.

Mr. Lianides did not forsake his Greek heritage. He sometimes offered chosen customers (like HG) a taste of Tarama Salata, the salty Greek fish spread to accompany their icy pre-dinner Martini (click here for a link to Leon’s recipe for that Tarama Salata). He also gave HG an excellent cooking tip: Cut away every scrap of fat from lamb chops or lamb racks before roasting or broiling. Lamb fat does not enhance flavor. HG agrees…(SJ does not!)

Hey Now! He Nan Food! – An SJ Post

June 21st, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

Thank God for Flushing. In that noble Queens neighborhood, cheap rents in the warrens of underground food courts and back alleys allow purveyors of obscure, Chinese regional cuisine the chance to thrive. And if they do in fact thrive the next step is to take their goods to Manhattan’s Chinatown.

Thus, Flushing’s Henan Feng Wei — lauded by heroic restaurant critic Robert Sietsema — recently opened an outpost at 68 Forsyth St named He Nan Flavor. Again, thank you Flushing!

Henan is a northwest province in China and He Nan Flavor celebrates the food found in the night markets of Zhengzhou, the capital city. Forget about typical Cantonese fare, this is a bold stuff that reflects Henan’s Middle Eastern and Sichuan influences.

The first dish I tried was the “Pancake with Pork” which just that — a crispy, griddled hot-cake dotted with sesame seeds and stuffed with anise tinged minced pork and cilantro. Not a bad treat for $2!

Next up was a dish called “Spicy Chicken Hui Mei” which was just remarkable. A huge bowl filled with hand pulled, chewy, wide noodles covered with stewed chicken. These noodles come lathered in a sauce of red chili oil, Sichuan peppercorns, tiger lily bulbs and cumin seeds. It was a taste explosion. While the chili oil added a satisfying burn, the Sichuan peppercorns have a narcotic, numbing effect and great flavor — but it is the earthiness of the cumin seeds layered against those pleasantly chewy noodles and stewed chicken that makes the dish something to dream about on a cold, winter day.

On further visits, I tried the Lamb with Lo Mein Soup — which was those same amazing noodles in a milky broth redolent of lamb and an under tone of anise. Powerfully addictive. I also tried their boiled dumplings which come 15 to an order!!!! No dish here tops out over $6 and it is a generally clean and cheerful place with attentive owners who have a real pride and seem genuinely happy that you have decided to dine with them. On the wall there is a photo of a dish called “Big Tray of Chicken” — I will be back!

Gone But Not Forgotten Restaurants: Bo-Bo

June 20th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Bo-Bo was a tiny restaurant located on Pell Street in New York’s Chinatown. No reservations. Often there was a 45 minute wait. Well worth it.

HG has forgotten the details of some of Bo-Bo’s best dishes, but one stands out. HG and BSK always ordered (and savored!) a big lobster roll. No, it was not the popular, New England lobster-and-mayonnaise on a hot dog roll. This was a giant sized egg roll stuffed with big chunks of lobster. To die for, as the cliche has it.

Bo-Bo was the first of Esther Eng’s five Manhattan restaurants and it set a new standard for Chinese food in New York. Curiously, Esther Eng was not just an enterprising restaurateur, but a groundbreaking figure in Chinese cinema. From 1936 to 1949 she produced, distributed and directed nine features and gave Bruce Lee his first screen debut. One result of her incarnation as a cinematic auteur was that Bo-Bo was often adorned with gorgeous Chinese actresses. When she passed away in 1970, the New York Times’ obituary simply read: “Theatrical director, producer, restaurateur, a great lady.”

Memories of Le Pavillon

June 19th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

Henri Soule’s Le Pavillon on 57th and Park in New York was the best restaurant in the world and HG has never seen it surpassed. The combination of Soule’s imperious attention to every detail, the great (and relatively simple) food, the comforting lighting, the glamorous crowd, the gentle and efficient service—-all created a joyous experience.

Some memorable dishes: Fillets of smoked eel topped with whipped cream infused with freshly grated horseradish. Duck with olives. Lump crab meat gratin. Souffle potatoes. Steak au poivre. Sweetbreads in puff pastry. Spring asparagus with Hollandaise. A simple grilled ribsteak with a cornucopia of wild mushrooms. Poule a Pot (which HG shared at lunch with labor mediator Theodore Kheel). Marrons au Mont Blanc (a mini mountain of pureed candied chestnuts topped with sweet, whipped cream).

Must stop. HG has tears in his eyes.