“Little Farvel'” — Bad Guy. Good Food.

August 13th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

“Little Farvel” (AKA Phillip Kovelick) was a Jewish gangster and Murder Inc. member from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg . This was long before the area became a favored site of hipsters and cool eateries. This bad guy had the distinction of being named for one of HG’s favorite foods — egg barley called “farvel” in Yiddish.

“Little Farvel” ended his career enclosed, very dead, in a steel drum in Florida. One of Little Farvel’s rivals, in crime and romance, was another Jewish hood, Benjamin “Chippy” Weiner. Chippy was once employed by the HG family firm (sweater manufacturing) where he much admired HG’s father. HG’s father did nor reciprocate the affection. HG liked Chippy and was admonished by his father who pointed to Chippy as a “shandeh” (a shame or disgrace). As predicted by HG’s dad, The Chipster came to a bad end. He did not pay a loan shark named “Farby”, another unsavory Jewish gent, a borrowed 500 bucks. Farby didn’t treat this as a trivial matter. Instead, he employed a very bad Mafia soldier named Santo Bretagna to chastise Chippy. Santo chastised him to death and clumsy Farby and Bretagna got the Sing Sing electric chair for their murderous misdeed.

Another bad guy with a great food nickname was a distant relative of HG’s late cousin, Gladys F. He was dubbed “Potatoes” and was affiliated with Chicago’s Capone mob. But, in HG’s opinion the winner of the Jewish bad guy nickname contest was the late Moses “Moey Dimples” Wolinsky. Runner up: The late Allie “Tick Tock” Tannenbaum.

Wait! What about that egg barley we were discussing? Enough gangster digression, let’s get back to food. Here’s the way HG likes his “farvel”: Toast a cup of egg barley (Manischewitz is a good brand) in some vegetable oil. Add a cup (or more) of hot chicken stock until it is absorbed and the egg barley is tender. Serve it topped with onions and mushrooms sauteed in butter. And, of course, a dollop of sour cream. Or, eliminate the sour cream and serve it as a side with beef stew — it has the same effect as spetzle or buttered egg noodles.

Nosh on that, then raise your wine glass in a joyous toast to those colorfully named bad guys of yesteryear.

The Cantonese Way

August 12th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

The briniest, freshest hard shell clams (known as Quahogs) are available for $3.60 a dozen on Prince Edward Island. HG bought three dozen. Steamed them. Removed the meat from the shells (easier to eat that way–and less messy). Made a sauce of Chinese fermented black beans, Chinese oyster sauce, garlic, ginger, peanut oil and flavorful
clam broth straight from the steamer. Showered it all with scallions and cilantro. Big bowl of white rice. Ice cold amber ale.

Cantonese delight.

Toffenetti’s Restaurant: Birth Of A Sceptic.

August 11th, 2011 § 4 comments § permalink

HG is skeptical about most received wisdom and belief. HG looks askance at wise financial planners, passionate religious types of all denominations, declaimers of national virtues and realtors who assure the unwary that the value of their home will continue to rise. HG’s contrarian nature took birth at Toffenetti’s Restaurant, a dining palace of glass and chrome that fed the masses at 43rd and Broadway in Times Square (there were also six Toffenetti dining places in Chicago).

The founder, Dario Toffenetti, was a master of rococo, hallucinatory menu prose. Ham was described as “velvety”, the product of aristocratic, pampered hogs. A baked potato wasn’t a simple spud. It was “baked in volcanic heat to give it a crisp and crackling skin.” Sounds good, doesn’t it? Well, HG was absolutely lured by the prose. Sadly, The menu was pure poetry and the food was prosaic. Much was too sweet to be edible. And no, those potatoes did not crackle, they wilted with mediocrity.

HG learned from the experience to not to be influenced by the artistry and wiles of the advertising and public relations community (even though HG made a substantial living during some 60 years of practicing high grade press agentry). Toffenetti had a long run: 1940-1968. At the end it introduced (to great fanfare!) an all-you-can-eat repast for $3.49. Nothing poetic about that.
$3.49.

Philosophical Musing By HG.

August 11th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

Misanthropy is defined as a generalized dislike, distrust, disgust, contempt or hatred of the human species. Contemplating the Tea Party crazies, Syria, Somalia and the assorted knaves, incompetents and ideologues running the world these days, HG would have to be defined as a misanthrope.

HG’s misanthropic tendencies were heightened by a recent reading of A.J.P. Taylor’s “The First World War–An Illustrated History.”. Misguided fools — known as Generals — fed millions of men into a military meat grinder of death. Senseless, avoidable slaughter. Assailed by all these gloomy thoughts, HG mused: Life is short, brutish and the end is terrible.

Sooo, in the meantime, let’s have a good meal. Last night it was daughter LR.’s sublime fishcakes accompanied by local Prince Edward Island asparagus and tiny, new potatoes. Plus Theresa’s tomato chow-chow. The cloud of gloom was vaporized.

Bye, Bye Birdie? Say It Isn’t So.

August 8th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

HG refers to the squab, HG’s favorite little bird. Better than a baby chicken, a duckling, a quail or (usually tasteless) Cornish Game Hen. The squab is a domestic, farm raised pigeon. Succulent. It was a staple on New York restaurant menus often served with wild rice or stuffed with shallots, mushrooms and other attractive things. Alas, it disappeared as diners became oddly squeamish regarding small birds.

It remained, however, alive in barbecue form in some Chinatown restaurants. The best version of Chinese-style squab can be found at the Sun Sui Wah restaurant in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood of Vancouver, Canada. This is a dark brown bird — served whole of course — with lacquered, crackling skin. HG liked to bite the bird’s head off much to the consternation of HG’s sensitive dining companions.

HG’s most memorable squab was consumed at the Au Bon Acceuil bistro
(near the Eiffel Tower) in Paris. Slices of rare roasted squab were fanned out over a pungent, dark red wine sauce. A bit of watercress added a touch of green. It was accompanied by a creamy, buttery potato puree. HG ate this in November a few years ago with a bottle of very fruity just arrived Beaujolais Nouveau. A nice Paris interlude.

Join HG in wishing for a return of squab to the better dining tables.

The Best Use Of Peanut Butter.

August 7th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Dan Dan Noodles a.k.a. Cold Chinese noodles with peanut butter (yes, peanut butter) sauce is a blazingly spicy dish that’s great as a summer dinner. HG will not give exact proportions since there are many recipes on the Internet and HG always encourages individual creativity. The ingredients are peanut butter (HG likes a chunky, organic brand) , a bit of tahini, sesame oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, lots of finely chopped garlic. HG likes to thin the sauce with some strong, black Chinese tea. Dish demands a lot of heat and HG’s method is to mix sesame oil with the hottest Chinese hot sauce in the market. HG then strains the oil over the dish. HG also like to add some Szechuan preserved vegetables (a little tough to find except at Chinese groceries). Grind some Szechaun peppers over the dish (if you can stand the heat). Cool it off with lots of chopped scallions, cilantro and cubed, seeded cucumber. Some slivers of shredded cold chicken breast are a nice addition.

Universal Nosh.

August 7th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Back from Prince Edward Island Farmers Market with a load of organic lamb, artisan cheese and many other treats coaxed from rural PEI’s rolling green hills and fecund soil. So, amidst all this home grown bounty, what is the most popular food stand at the Market? The lox and bagel guy. Literally hundreds of jolly PEI Irish and Scots men and women were happily chomping away on this traditional New York breakfast treat.

Smart folks. They know what good is.

Peace of the Carnivore

August 6th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

A supreme Steak last night was brought on by many days of fish, mussel, clam and lobster eating. HG likes steak done only one way, the HG way (see earlier post “How To Cook A Steak”). This is a once a month treat. HG picked out the biggest rib steak from the nice organic beef lady from the PEI Farmer’s market. HG’s trusty big, black cast iron pan got a layer of kosher salt. Heat was turned on very high and the windows are opened (this is a smoky process). The steak was seared until a nice crust developed on each side. Turned the heat down to medium and cooked the steak for a few more minutes. (HG likes steak very rare but not raw, saignant not bleu). Meanwhile, a can of Goya white beans was gently simmered and a small pan of garlic and olive oil warmed. When ready, HG poured some olive oil and grated garlic over the steak. The beans got the same. A glass of old vine Zinfandel was poured.

Yes, the world is a cruel and violent mess. Yes, the American ship of state is getting leaky. But, at HG’s table the peace of the carnivore reigned.

Healthy Bounty From The Sea

August 5th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

The shoreline of HG and BSK’s ocean front home on Prince Edward Island is often laden with seaweed. Alas, not of the edible variety. HG implores those who do not imbibe of seaweed to explore. Plenty of tasty Chinese, Japanese and Korean seafood recipes on the internet. HG loves the seaweed salad that’s available at Whole Foods. HG likes to cut slivers of dry nori over cold soba noodles. Some Hawaiian Mochiko chicken recipes call for combining nori with marinated chicken in a savory fried chicken dish. HG loves the fried seaweed served in many London Chinese restaurants (a passion shared by the great journalist, Calvin Trillin).

A big plus. Not only is seaweed delicious, seaweed is good for you. REALLY good for you. The Japanese eat lots of it and some nutritionists credit seaweed with lowering the rate of colon cancer in Japan. So crunch away on a sheet of roasted, Korean Nori, toss a few Sea Berries in your mouth and nosh on a fine dish of wakame salad — your taste-buds and and your colon will thank you!

Oops…

August 2nd, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Spelling error. HG posted information about the toe tapping, fun filled musical event that is a feature of every Prince Edward Island community (large or small). HG described it as a Ceiligh (pronounced Kay-lee). Proper spelling is Ceilidh. Daughter LR, always on the alert, pointed out the error. Thanks, LR and sorry Devoted Followers of HG, who prize HG’s spelling accuracy and bravura prose.