BSK lightens culinary labor (and intelligently economizes) by cooking dishes that are equally good for two consecutive dinners. BSK also has the knack for recycling roasts and sautés for savory Asian salads (these are salads that can happily rest in the refrigerator for a few days). BSK’s stews, of course, gain in flavor by being reheated. A favorite is rich and unctuous chicken curry (Recipe from Vikram Vij’s cookbook, Vij’s At Home). BSK always cooks enough for two hearty dinners. HG makes a raita of Greek yogurt, sour cream, olive oil, garlic, cucumbers, radishes, baby turnips, sumac and smoked paprika. Condiments (peanuts, chipotle peppers, lime pickles, Major Grey’s chutney, etc.) are varied at each dinner to prevent monotony. BSK’s Texas beef chili (the traditional “bowl of red”); New Mexico pork green chili; French-influenced beef stew (cooked in plenty of red wine); Chinese Mo Pu ground pork and tofu, are splendid for consecutive dinners. When BSK roasts a marinated spatchcocked chicken (backbone cut out and the chicken flattened), the left over chicken is mixed with a variety of greens, onions, scallions, radishes, turnips and room temperature cooked Chinese rice “sticks” or rice noodles. The salad is dressed with soy sauce, Canola oil and Vietnamese fish sauce. Sprinkled with red pepper flakes. This salads makes an excellent dinner and a pleasant lunch. Marinated Asian flank steak (cooked rare and sliced on the bias) gets a similar treatment. Confirmed foodies, HG/BSK manage to dine very well at home without long, burdensome meal preparations. That’s because BSK always merges creativity with economy.
Gorgeous Granddaughter Sofia here, reporting live from Shanghai, China (in case you confused it with some other Shanghai). I’m here for a couple of weeks visiting a friend who was an exchange student at my high school this year. True to HG tradition she will be known here as EFM: Excellent Friend Marine.
Shanghai is an amazing modern city with many things to recommend it, the most important being (from an HG family point of view, anyway) the food. On one of my first days here, EFM, worried that I wasn’t getting enough to eat (from being invited to dinner at BSK and HG’s house she knows that my family does not take kindly to small quantities of food), took me to brunch at a restaurant near her family’s apartment named Paradise Dynasty. She ordered me a basket of soup dumplings (Xiao Long Bao). These soup dumplings were no ordinary soup dumplings however. They came eight to a basket, each a different flavor: original, garlic, luffa, foie gras, Szechuan, cheesy, crab roe and black truffle. The waitress was insistent on the correct order of how to eat them: clockwise around the basket. EFM was insistent on teaching me the correct way to eat them: biting the side to let the steam out and suck the soup out instead of biting off the top. Every single flavor was delicious, and I spent the rest of the day (which we spent at a wild animal park outside the city where I rode an elephant!) exclaiming on how amazing they were. My love for these multi-flavored dumplings gave EFM something new to worry about. Now she was concerned that my taste for soup dumplings was being corrupted by Paradise Dynasty’s modern, avant garde specimens. The next day, we took a trip to a restaurant (EFM scoffed when I asked her if it had an English name) in Yuan Garden which EFM claims everyone knows makes the best soup dumplings in Shanghai. Outside, people lined the benches, clutching take-out containers filled to the brim with dumplings. To get to the dining room, you have to go up several flights of stairs. When you’re seated, you are not given a menu; rather, there is a small card on the table that only has a few options. EFM ordered for the table: two baskets of soup dumplings (one crab and one pork), and the Mother Dumpling: a steamed crab bun, served in a special wooden container with so much soup in it you have to drink it with a straw. I, GGS, had found pure heaven and it came in the form of soup dumplings. The only downside to the experience was that my elder buddy HG couldn’t be there to experience it with me.
HG, like his beloved late sister, Beulah Naomi Katz, is fond of sweet Vidalia onions. In New Mexico, HG has discovered Texas Sweets, an onion as sweet as Vidalias. They’ve got an advantage: A longer pantry life. Sliced raw sweet onions enhance many dishes. Essential with a hamburger. Delightful with Tandoori chicken. Good canned sardines, sliced onions, Kalamata olives and artisan bread make a pleasant lunch. The best use of sliced onions: In a sandwich of rare roast beef, Jewish rye bread well lathered with chicken fat, coarse salt. (A delicatessen in Harlem, when it was a Jewish neighborhood, made a specialty of this sandwich. Long lines awaited the robust treat). HG likes finely chopped onion in tuna salad. Even better is canned Italian (or Spanish) tuna mixed with cannellini beans, chopped onion, parsley, Sicilian olive oil, squeeze of lemon and plenty of ground black pepper. The late Italian food guru, Marcella Hazan, proposed a dish of slowly cooked, slightly caramelized onions over pasta. Sounds good but have never tried it. One of HG’s favorite, appetite enhancing aromas is that of frying onion. Good times are sure to follow. HG has a happy memory of the after school treat prepared by HG’s Mom. Thick slice of Stuhmer’s Pumpernickel Bread. Chicken fat (rendered weekly by Mom). Sliced onion. Coarse salt. Properly fueled, HG would be off to star in Bronx street games like punchball and “association” football.
HG’s beloved, late sister, Beulah Naomi Katz, loved to negotiate. The Yiddish word for negotiate is handel and Beulah was a world class handeler. She probably inherited this talent from HG’s Mom, Ida Kopkind Freeman. Beulah once took Mom to Best & Co., the venerable Fifth Avenue department store, to buy gloves. Mom asked the saleslady the price of a pair: “Nine dollars, Madam.” Said Mom: “I’ll give you five.” Beulah had to point out that while this tactic might work in The Bronx, it was ineffectual on Fifth Avenue. A jewelry vendor in a Morocco market said of Beulah, admiringly,: “She bargains like a Berber woman.” HG/BSK’s children enjoyed accompanying Beulah to American flea markets, church sales, stoop sales and yard sales. Whatever the price (a quarter), Beulah was sure to get it for less (“A quarter? This is my niece, an award winning journalist — she’ll pay a nickel”). However rarely, Beulah’s handeling skills didn’t always succeed. She was very fond of sweet Vidalia onions from Georgia. When in Atlanta for a family event, Beulah met the leading produce broker of Vidalia onions. Beulah wanted a monthly shipment and she wanted them at a wholesale price. No, said the broker, you will pay retail. A hot and heavy negotiation took place. The broker wouldn’t budge. An almost irresistible force had met an immovable object. Beulah got her Vidalias. She paid retail. HG enjoyed negotiating for rugs in the souk at Marrakech. This retail maze is one of the features of the colorful Moroccan city. The rug merchant would unroll many rugs. HG would favor one rug. The merchant would state the price. Astronomical. HG would look sad, and between sips of mint tea offered by the hospitable rug seller, would make a gracious speech: “Dear Sir, you have beautiful, rare rugs. I am honored to have seen them in your distinguished shop. Alas, though American, I have very limited means. The pressures of educating my children, etc. I have champagne tastes but a beer budget. I don’t want to insult you by offering the low sum I can afford.” The merchant was sympathetic. “You are very courteous. I will not be insulted. Name your price.” HG said the number. The merchant laughed. Was HG joking? After these preliminaries, the bargaining began. Back and forth flew the numbers. Finally, HG named his final price. An emphatic “No”. HG/BSK said goodbye and left the shop. After a few steps, HG felt a tug at his shoulder. It was the merchant. The final price was accepted. It was about 80% lower than the original sum asked by the seller. It was a very successful encounter. HG thought he had snared a bargain. The vendor, HG is sure, happily enjoyed a substantial profit. A satisfactory haggle.
That’s the appropriate name for barbecue maestro Jonathan Frederiksen’s Santa Fe catering company. He describes his product simply: “A Texan’s BBQ.” Permit HG to add a few adjectives: Mouth watering, authentic, enticing, smoky, dreamy, heavenly. Crisp brown crusts meet falling-off-the-bone tender and juicy meat. Those are the ribs. And, the chicken is equally celestial. HG/BSK and Gorgeous Granddaughter Sofia R. had super generous portions of these wonders at a lively BBQ party at the beautiful Jacona home of pals Polly B. and David F. Some happy 50 friends and neighbors ate and drank to the background of guitarist Marc Yaxley and vocalist-percussioinst Julie Hawkins (HG has written about these talented musicians in an earlier post: “Joy and Sadness”. The tables were set on Polly/David’s scenic terrace with dramatic views of the Jemez Mountains. Drinks were served beneath the shady portale and there was an array of flavorful accompaniments to the BBQ: Cole slaw and potato salad, of course, but also a New Mexican casserole of egg and cheese custard enlivened with roasted chiles. Two barbecue sauces added zing to the smoked meats: Texas traditional and Carolina mustard and vinegar. Frederiksen’s barbecue apparatus (handcrafted in Texas) is huge and produces exemplary heat and smoke. (It would make SJ, the Brooklyn backyard BBQ virtuoso, very acquisitive). Jonathan labored over it for some five hours to produce his meaty delectables. The afternoon sun disappeared. Giant full moon appeared. Weather cooled. The last guests (including HG/BSK) gathered around the warming blaze in the fire pit. HG, a nightcap of tequila and lime slices in hand, contemplated life and good fortune. Friends like Polly/David–generous, talented, life enhancing people. A wife like BSK–endless virtues. Funny, smart children and grandkids. Hey, these golden years are really golden.
Birthday celebration for BSK at Eloisa, a super-stylish, cutting edge contemporary design restaurant with a unique feature–a glass wall featuring changing glimpses of Mexican art, architecture and food. This is most definitely not Taco Bell. BSK was the height of elegance as usual in an intricately pleated white shirt and Agnes B. checked pants. Gorgeous Granddaughter Sofia exuded younger generation chic. Eloisa is in the posh Drury Plaza, Santa Fe’s newest hotel, and features New Mexican food, modernist New Mexican food. Yes, there is ample use of chiles and there’s a squash-masa-pork tamale. One taco on the menu: A pastrami taco—Crisp blue tortilla, pastrami, sauerkraut, pickled serranos, ballpark mustard. Not exactly a zaftig Katz’s product. HG/BSK and GG Sofia concentrated on the small plates (unfortunately, very small). Tortillas florales: Housemade nixtamal tortillas with a smooth guacamole called “Indian butter”. Chile primavera: Roasted green chile, fresh queso, peas and favas, New Mexican pistou; Piquillo relleno: Gruyere, garbanzo puree, Spanish chorizo. There was also a tiny portion of broccoli/avocado guacamole (very good) and the aforementioned tamale (very skimpy amount of pork). Desserts were forgettable. BSK was not happy with popcorn ice cream (an error). All in all, uneven, ungenerous food. And, expensive. The small plates were so mini that when the meal was through, HG and the two ladies considered a trip to one of the many New Mexican eateries in Santa Fe for some bowls of pork green chile stew. Despite the caveats, HG/BSK and GG Sofia had a good time at Eloisa. The room is truly beautiful. The lighting is perfect. The service is deft. The food reflects many flashes of culinary creativity. Management should try bigger portions. Smaller prices, HG has not given up on Eloisa. HG will try the lunch menu which is simpler and more affordable. Anyway, BSK loved her birthday presents. And, she sure didn’t gain any weight at her birthday feast.
Okay, HG is going to make you very hungry. Make sure you have some sustaining snacks available. Gorgeous Granddaughter Sofia R. graduated from prep school in Santa Fe (The Desert Academy) and had a birthday. The R. family (Gifted Daughter Lesley, Brilliant Granddaughter Arianna and Distinguished Profesore Massimo) came to New Mexico for the festivities and much feasting ensued, culminating on the last two days of the visit. Graduation Day afternoon was sunny and bright. Ceremonies and speeches were brief (thankfully). Sofia, in a stunning white dress, was the most beautiful of the graduates. (This is a totally objective opinion, not swayed by the tiniest bit of grandfatherly adoration). Appetites nicely sharpened by their collective pride in the graduate, HG/BSK and the Family R. were off to the Compound Restaurant to celebrate. (BSK was the height of fashion in rarely worn high heels–she didn’t trip–snug skirt, Parisian white blouse, Lisa Jenks silver and pearls necklace). Flattering light bathed the white plaster walls of The Compound. It was off to the culinary races: A chilled bottle of sparkling Gruet Blanc de Blanc and a bottle of Dolcetto d’Alba. The appetizers: King Crab salad with avocado, black truffles, baby lettuce; Lobster, shrimp and cubed mango salad on a half head of Bibb lettuce; Tuna tartare with preserved lemon and black caviar; Spring pea soup with mushroom arancini; Osso Buco capelletti with veal shank ragu, peas and fava beans; White asparagus on brioche bruschetta with a poached egg, crisp prosciutto, Hollandaise. (Getting hungry, Readers? Save some room for the main dishes). Main dishes: Rack and shank of lamb with baby artichokes and a sauce of garlic and Meyer lemons; Crisp fried chicken schnitzel with a caper, wine and lemon sauce accompanied by sautéed leaf spinach; Pan roasted chicken breast, chicken sausage, potato puree, baby onions and fava beans.; Wild mushrooms and polenta with a truffle relish and shaved parmesan. The desserts: Confections of melted chocolate cake, hazelnut tart, ice creams, meringues, dark chocolate twigs. Sweet finale. Up in the morning for energetic swims and walks with Toby, The Wonder Dog. Then, Lesley R. (assisted by BSK) did some serious cooking while Profesore Massimo manned the barbecue. Food for a six to nine PM outdoor party for the graduate. A crowd of 30 (friends, neighbors, Sofia’s prep schoolmates). The menu: Pulled pork sliders (a Lesley R. signature dish) with southern barbecue sauce; Olive oil and herb brushed barbecued chicken thighs on a bed of greens; Potato salad (high in flavor and low in mayonnaise). Ditto the cole slaw. Room temperature fusili pasta in freshly made basil pesto. Cheese straws. Potato chips. Artisan bread. Red wine. White wine. Four varieties of beer and ale. Lemonade for the younger folks. Vodka for the incorrigibles. The Dessert Queen, the inimitable Karen K., provided the ultimate carrot cake (enriched by grated fresh ginger and other secret ingredients). There was a chocolate birthday cake with Sofia’s and BSK’s names on it (BSK has an upcoming birthday in a few days). There was a wee bit of grappa for limited amount of imbibers. Just a wonderful party in a wonderful setting, the terrace and portale of HG/BSK’s home facing the colorful Barrancas (cliffs and mesas) and Gary and Natasha Gundersen’s meticulously tended organic farm. Lesley R. and BSK arranged tables and seating comfortably. Lots of flowers, candles and ambiance. These are women who know to make things festive. Their family is grateful.
If there is one restaurant that symbolizes the splendor, the taste, the cosmopolitan flavor of New York it is The Four Seasons. It is located in an iconic building, the bronze beauty — the Seagram Building situated on a lovely Park Avenue plaza. The building is a masterwork by the great architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (HG was honored to be Mies’s publicist while Mies was developing projects in Newark and Baltimore). Designed by Mies in collaboration with Philip Johnson, the restaurant opened in 1959 and is a supreme example of the best in mid-century design. HG/BSK dined there often (in the shimmering Pool Room) and HG would meet with public relations clients in the Grill Room, home of “power lunches.” Marvelous art and artifacts (tableware designed by L. Garth Huxtable is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art). Rotating art featured work by Jean Miro and other greats. Sculpture by Richard Lippold and metal curtains by Frank Bertoia. Jackson Pollock’s “Blue Poles” had a temporary home there (rented from collector/dealer Ben Heller). A striking feature, hung between the Pool Room and the Grill Room, was Pablo Picasso’s curtain designed for the Ballet Russes ballet “Le Tricorne.” Following a dispute with the Seagram Building’s owner, Aby Rosen, the curtain has been removed and now hangs in the New York Historical Society Building. Disputes with Rosen have continued and it now appears the restaurant may have to move from the building to another location. This is a tragedy. It means the destruction of a seamless work of art, one that defines New York and the era in which the restaurant was created. Yes, when HG mourns the end of Lindy’s, Luchow’s, Tip Toe Inn and many lesser eateries, HG can be accused of Old Fogeyism. The Four Seasons is another matter. Moving from the Seagram Building means the desecration of a work of timeless art.
HG grew up in a Yiddish-speaking home. There was English, heavily accented English. It wasn’t until HG began elementary school that he learned the proper pronunciation of many words. HG accompanied Mom on bargain seeking forays to busy Bethkit Avenue in the East Bronx. Much later, HG discovered the street was pronounced BATH GATE Avenue (As in the Doctorow book, Billy Bathgate, the basis of the Dustin Hoffman-Bruce Willis film). Similarly, HG thought the far off section of Brooklyn where Mom’s relatives lived was Brunzville. Yes, Brownsville. Little HG enjoyed visits to Brownsville. HG’s cousins showed HG all the local sights: The candy store that was the hangout of Abe “Kid Twist” Reles, “Pittsburgh Phil” Strauss, “Tick Tock” Tannenbaum and other members of the lethal “Murder, Inc.” crew (These bad guys all wore natty wide brimmed fedoras, HG observed); the gym where Al “Bummy” Davis, “Schoolboy” Friedkin, Morrie Reif and all the other Jewish fighters trained; Pitkin Avenue with its movie theaters and Wyona Street with pushcarts and delicatessens. That Jewish enclave, settled by immigrants fleeing the Lower East Side, produced more than killers and prize fighters: Many show business stars (Danny Kaye and Shelley Winters among others); literary lights (Alfred Kazin); doctors, lawyers, Nobel Prize winners. For many years, Brownsville has been an African-American ghetto with few redeeming features. Mike Tyson is probably its most prominent alumnus. Mayor DeBlasio has promised new housing, policing, etc. for Brownsville. HG is hopeful this will mean a better life and future for Brownsville’s citizens. They deserve it.