Hospitality and Generosity

May 16th, 2015 § 4 comments

Restaurant cooking is probably better than ever. Chefs are more creative and less provincial. They are willing to stretch themselves, using the spices, foods and flavors of numerous countries in their cooking. And, many chefs are seeing outside the confines of their kitchen and addressing global problems of climate change and health by sourcing sustainable (and local) produce, meat and fish. However, because of rising costs and (specially in New York) the crushing burden of rent, most restaurants lack the two important qualities that make dining out memorable: Generosity and Hospitality. These qualities always impressed HG/BSK when dining in Italy. So many happy memories of modest trattorias and osterias where HG/BSK were treated like family members rather than tourists with a very modest amount of Italian language skills. Chefs would often send a few additional gratis tastes to HG/BSK’s table. HG has a happy memory of the proprietor of a seaside restaurant walking through the room with a big bowl of seafood risotto insisting the customers have a taste. Paris bistros and brasseries (for the most part) have lost their welcoming spirit. Today, after being assured HG/BSK’s reservations are in order, the maitre d’ seats them in a ghetto reserved for non-Francophones—mainly Japanese and Chinese tourist plus boisterous Germans and Russians. This is in sharp contrast to the welcomes of yesteryear. HG recalls a lunch some 30 years ago at Chez Georges, then as now, an excellent bistro serving classic French food. Cold November day and HG/BSK arrived without a reservation. No matter, said the smiling bistro owner, the wait will be short. Made them comfortable standing at the bar. Poured two glasses of fine Brouilly and provided some dry sausage to nibble. Seated in about seven minutes, HG/BSK relished their salads of frisee with lardons and poached eggs. Ate other good things –rare duck breast, sole meuniere, pommes frites., etc. That old time French bistro spirit was always alive and well at the delightful Veau d’ Or on E. 60th Street in New York. When you were seated, the proprietor immediately provided you with an appetite sharpening saucer of mussels in a savory mustard sauce. Waiters enjoyed HG’s exuberant pleasure in Veau d’ Or’s lusty cuisine. When HG knocked off some delicious quenelles in record time, the waiter replenished the plate. Smiled, No charge. A happy time.(The photo is of the late Robert Treboux, the genial owner of Le Veau d”or. He said of his traditional restaurant: “Those seeking trends should go elsewhere.”)

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§ 4 Responses to Hospitality and Generosity"

  • Charles Curran says:

    I think that Bourdain did a show at Veau d’ Or with a founder of a food magazine whose name I have forgotten. They both raved about the place. Seems to me that the owner had an eye for beautiful women, and was a great host.

    • Gerry says:

      Hey, Charles: Check out HG’s Dec.2010 archive for Dec. 4 post: “The Fat Lady Sang Her Last Song”. Talks about Elaine Kaufman and HG’s last meal at Veau d’Or”.

  • Charles Curran says:

    Very nice, and lots of fun. We share another fine watering hole/restaurant in the Russian Tea Room, now no more I think? Has been about 20-25 years since we have been in New York. Last time there we were refused service at 21 because I had on a turtle neck. It was about 15 outside and very windy. Ended up at Sardi’s, which was OK.(West I think).

    • Gerry says:

      Yes, the Russian Tea Room (when Sidney Kaye ran it) was great. I had a charge account there and dined there daily as my offices were directly across the avenue. Miss the borscht, caviar and blini. Now it’s a gaudy, overpriced oligarch and tourist trap. Never liked 21. Sardi’s was splendid 50 years ago. Happy memories of lamp chops with broiled kidneys. Had after theater dinner there with Alan Alda after his first Broadway appearance

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