Jewish Montreal

May 15th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

On the way to summer fun (kayaking, sun bathing, swimming, beach walking, cycling, oysters, mussels, lobsters, fresh fish) on Prince Edward Island, HG and BSK will spend a week in Montreal. Have leased an apartment in the colorful Plateau district and will be joined by SJ, Exquisite Maiko and their 2 children. Gifted Daughter Lesley says she will join us for a few days. And, admittedly a long shot, Restaurateur Daughter Vicki and chef/husband Marc say they will try to get away for a brief visit. Guaranteed: Loads of fun and feasting. HG is eager to try the much vaunted Jewish food in Montreal. This means Schwartz’s (smoked meat); Fairmount Bakery (bagels); Wilensky’s (fried salami with mustard on a “pletzel”/onion roll). Will pass on Moisha’s, an expensive steak house, but will dine at Au Pied de Cochon, A Quebecois restaurant that is on the cardiology black list (savory foie gras and snout-to-tail pork specialties). Have heard good reports about Montreal dim sum, Lebanese take-out and cheap, spicy Portuguese chicken. A full report will be forthcoming. While noshing on Jewish specialties in Montreal, HG will ponder why some of his favorite Jewish writers come from that city — Saul Bellow, Mordecai Richler and the New Yorker Magazine’s brilliant Adam Gopnik. Of course, Montreal’s Leonard Cohen is an HG favorite in his roles as poet, song writer and performer.

Wishing For EM

May 14th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

HG’s adorable daughter in law, Exquisite Maiko, makes the best tempura in the world. Superlatively light, greaseless, flavorful. There are few better things than a bowl of cold soba noodles accompanied by her freshly prepared tempura warm from the wok. Ah, if HG only possessed a genii who could bring EM to New Mexico in a flash. But, in the absence of such a miracle worker HG must prepare his own soba, crisp fry some sole, slice scallions, scissor sheets of nori, steam some shu mai and pork buns. If not up to EM’s lofty standard, these items make a pleasant Asian dinner. HG adds some yakisoba sauce to his soba. Otafuku is the manufacturer of the sauce and HG likes the motto: “Taste That Creates Smiling Eyes.”

Plutography

May 13th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

If there is no such word as plutography then there should be. How else can one explain a magazine like Architectural Digest? The reader (or viewer/voyeur–since the magazine is basically a photo book) wallows in the conspicuous consumption of plutocrats. There is something creepily pornographic in the portrayal of these multi zillion dollar homes and apartments. What the photos arouse in HG, however, is not lust but the full force of the angry left wing feelings of HG’s student days. “To the barricades, citizens,” HG feels like shouting. The owners of the burnished palaces in AD don’t make anything except money. They are financiers, money managers, hedge fund executives, and investors. Though each palace has a huge, lovingly photographed kitchen, HG refuses to believes that any real cooking (or eating) goes on there. These aren’t homes. They’re statements. And, the statement is: “I am rich. Very, very rich.” (Please enlarge the photo below. No, this isn’t a posh shop on Madison Avenue, Rodeo Drive or Rue St. Honore. It is one rich woman’s dressing room complete with an illuminated floating rack of handbags. Grotesque, says HG).

Greeks

May 11th, 2013 § 2 comments § permalink

In one of the great quirks of the American immigrant experience (think Chinese laundries, Indian motel monopolies, Korean grocers, etc.) Greeks have long been the dominant force in New York and New Jersey’s numerous diners and coffee shops and, in fact, in inexpensive dining establishments throughout the U.S. and Canada. The domination is so ubiquitous that the iconic New York take-out coffee cup was long emblazoned with illustrations of classic Greek art and architecture. Unlike fancy Greek fish restaurants (or traditional Greek restaurants), these diners and coffee shops are not gourmet destinations or particularly ethnic, but places where you can get a fast, square meal at a fair price. New Jersey’s Tick Tock Diner (famed for its “Eat Heavy” motto) has been in the news lately. Owned by a Greek family, the Tick Tock has never been a favorite of HG. However, its proximity to the Lincoln Tunnel and Meadowlands sports and entertainment complexes has made it popular (location, location, location). The news interest in the Tick Tock now is a case of murder. It seems the manager (relative by marriage) felt ill used by the head of the family (and Tick Tock boss) and hired a hit man to torture and kill the guy. As is often the case, the hit man was an undercover cop (with a nicely functioning) recording device. Too bad for the manager. HG’s favorite Greek greasy-spoon operator was Chris, a sweet, hard working guy who–some 60 years ago– ran a hole in the wall operation in the old Daily Mirror building at 235 E. 45th Street in New York. Chris had a thick Greek accent. This made him a favorite of Dan Parker, the Mirror sports columnist, who would often quote Chris as part of his humorous riffs on dialect. Chris fed the impecunious journalists, lithographers, pressmen and others who worked in the building the inevitable “cheeburger, cheeburger, cheeburger.” But, Chris also turned out great fried scallops and fried flounder. Splendid greasy French fries. Chicken livers and onions on rice. Other good things. Not too many vegetables, unless you count cole slaw as a veggie.

As a side note, it is fascinating that some of America’s great regional cooking from Cincinatti Chili to Rhode Island’s New York System wieners to Detroit’s Coney Island Hot Dogs can be directly traced to the blending of classic American food and traditional Greek flavor profiles (middle eastern spices, etc.).

A Little Nosh

May 9th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Many, many years ago, young newlywed BSK hosted a party (lots of showbiz folks) at HG and BSK’s spacious apartment (a former artist’s studio) on Manhattan’s W. 67th Street. The exuberant actress, the late Shelley Winters arrived and loudly requested a nosh. BSK had been a New Yorker for only a few months and her knowledge of Yiddish was zero (Now, after a half-century with HG, BSK could be a diva on a Second Avenue Yiddish stage). BSK was puzzled. Did loud Ms. Winters want a drink? Was a nosh an exotic variety of martini? Of course, what the loud lady wanted was a snack. Nosh is Yiddish for snack. Noshing (snack eating) was mostly non-existent in the HG boyhood home. Meals were capacious. HG had a modest bite after school (before four hours of violent and active street games) and a glass of milk and a graham cracker before bed. HG is always shocked to see the massively stocked snack aisles at supermarkets and shopper carts filled with salt and fat laden chips and crisps and crackers (plus disgusting sugar and chemical loaded soft drinks). The point has been made many times. The French eat lots of fat and butter. Wash it down with wine. No snacking. Stay slim. (It helps that French portions are much smaller than American and the non-autocentric population does a lot of walking).

Here’s another Shelley Winters anecdote (Obviously, HG cannot vouch for its authenticity. Show biz is replete with nasty anecdotes.): Her ardent lover at the time, an actor, returned from two weeks filming in South America and met Shelley for a quick meal before a lovers’ tryst. Shelley, a gourmand, kept lingering at the table. Her lover, furious, said:”Shelley, it appears you want to fill the wrong cavity.” The affair, needless to say, was over.

Surprise!

May 7th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

BSK came up with some tasty surprises tonight. Chilly eve. HG was busy at he fireplace following a long swim at the HG/BSK indoor pool (Yes, the duo have some modest luxuries.) Some nice aromas from the oven. But, what? HG poured an aperitif of cold Yolumba unoaked chardonnay (Australia). BSK opened the oven and plated some dark green little spheres, HG speared one. Goodness!! Crispy flakiness on he exterior and a slightly sweet unctous interior. “Brussel sprouts,” said BSK. (Brushed with olive oil and roasted at 350 degrees for one hour.) That wasn’t all. At the end of the meal BSK presented some thin slices of golden beets flanked by roquefort cheese and walnuts. Perfect with red wine. (The beets were peeled, brushed with olive oil and roasted for 75 minutes). Fine. But, what are you going to do tomorrow, BSK?

Anger

May 7th, 2013 § 1 comment § permalink

Yes, HG does think (in brief bursts) about other things than food, wine and spirits. And, when HG does, HG seethes. Here are some things that piss off HG: Opponents of same-sex marriage. Why the fuss? As Henny Youngman might put it: Let gays be as miserable as the rest of us. (I’m kidding, beloved BSK).

(2) The war on drugs. Obviously, there’s no chance of winning this war as long as we’ve got 20,000,000 drug users in the United States and we keep pouring money (and blood) into Afghanistan, the world’s leader in heroin production. Drug addiction isn’t a criminal problem. It’s a medical problem. Instead of facing this fact, the USA continues to fill its overpopulated prisons with perpetrators of “drug related crimes”–primarily young African-American men. Wouldn’t addiction medical research be a better (and cheaper in the long run) idea?

(3) Giving religion a free ride. HG is a non-believer and humanist. However, there are many things about religion HG loves. Namely: Gospel music. The interiors of Italian churches. Gregorian chants.The great religious paintings in museums and cathedrals. Cantorial singing. But, HG does not like the idea that churches, synagogues, mosques and TV “ministries”, etc. pay no taxes. HG thinks they should join the vast mass of disgruntled taxpayers.

(4) Liberals and left-wing folks who hate Israel to the exception of the many countries the world over who are engaged in on-going and morally nebulous conflicts. Israel is located in a very bad neighborhood where folks seem to delight in killing each other. No, the Israelis aren’t saints and Arabs aren’t all blood-thirsty fanatics. But, Israel is still a country surrounded by furious, dedicated enemies and a daily target of terrorist attacks. In order to remain a functioning democracy for 65 years, Israel has had to be tough. So, bleeding hearts, cut the Israelis some slack.

Searching For Sole

May 4th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

HG loves sole. But, like most romantics, HG is often disappointed. The filets at Whole Foods are usually cut too thin to be cooked. They lose firmness and turn to mush. However, HG is nothing if not persistent. Spotted some very fresh looking sole at Whole Foods a day ago. Filets looked reasonably thick. Had earnest discussion with young woman behind fish counter. Pick me a pound of the thickest, said HG (Firmly but courteously). Efficient woman held each filet up for HG’s approval. Bought six beauties. They were dusted with flour and sauteed in very hot grapeseed oil. No more than a minute or so a side. Served with cold soba noodles flavored with Vietnamese fish sauce, stir fried bok choy (with a dab of oyster sauce), bean sprouts (sesame oil and soy sauce). Cooked sole in two batches. Went straight from pan to plate. Very good. Of course, it wasn’t Dover Sole, that princely and pricey fish served at J. Sheekey and other great London seafood restaurants. The Dover Sole at Le Dome in Paris swims in lemony butter and is served with delectable potato puffs. Priced for Russian oligarchs. HG is watching out for Petrale Sole, that excellent fish from California’s Pacific waters. It appears sporadically at Whole Foods. Paragons of Petrale are served at the venerable Tadich Grill in San Francisco.

NBA Playoff Time!

May 2nd, 2013 § 1 comment § permalink

Yes, it’s that time of year…NBA playoff time! It’s time to watch the world’s greatest athletes: basketball players who combine great size with agility, cunning, power and grace under pressure. Basketball is an intimate sport. You get to know the players — their tattoos, hairdos, weird rituals at the foul line, theatrics when called for a foul. It’s action theater with an added benefit…you don’t know how the performance will end. HG well remembers Michael Jordan’s heroics during the closing seconds of various NBA finals and Dirk Nowitzki’s laser guided shotmaking against the Heat two years ago. This is the time for cold beer and meals in front of the TV. That means bowls of chili or posole. Franks, sauerkraut and potato salad. Pan fried hamburgers topped with melted, sharp cheddar and roasted chili peppers. Rhode Island New York System Wieners (thoughtful daughter Lesley sent HG the fixings). Salad of Spanish canned tuna, chopped red onion, Goya canellini beans and chopped sweet onion (plus plenty of olive oil, lemon juice, ground black pepper). Unlikely that HG’s favorite teams (Knicks, Nets, Nuggets) will make it very far but HG will keep munching away.

Robust Ramen

May 1st, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Finally tried the ramen bar at the newly opened Talin in Santa Fe. Talin is an international food market (it has been operating in Albuquerque for a number of years). You customize your ramen at the bar. Choice of a number of broths and noodles (traditional, wheat, rice, etc.). Choose additions (pork, egg, fish cakes, scallions, etc.). HG had a vast bowl or pork bone broth with traditional noodles, a semi poached egg, generous slices of pork. Side dish of good, spicy kimchi. A very comforting meal. SJ, a fastidious critic, analyst and consumer of ramen, would probably sneer. (SJ’s Note: Hmmmm…I bite my tongue!)