Some like it hot. Count HG among that number. HG likes food prepared with spicy ingredients or accompanied and enhanced by condiments packing much heat. HG/BSK have a kitchen arsenal that attests to love of culinary fire. There are the peppers: White pepper (ground); black pepper (in the form of peppercorns); smoked black pepper (ground); Aleppo pepper (red and vibrant from Turkey); Berbere (very hot); Italian red pepper flakes; Szechuan peppercorns; whole dried red chiles used in Chinese and Mexican cooking. Powders: Red chile (medium and hot); Chipotle (dark and smoky); Coleman’s English Mustard Powder. Condiments (in bottles, cans and tubes): Frank’s Louisiana Hot Sauce; Frank’s Red Hot Ketchup; Frank’s Red Hot Sweet Chile; Chinese Sweet Chile Sauce; Fire Oil (Roasted sesame oil mixed with very hot chile. This is used in flavoring Dan Dan noodles); Sriracha; Matouk’s West Indian Hot Sauce (An HG favorite, it’s from Trinidad); Tabasco (for Bloody Marys); Queen Majesty Scotch Bonnet & Ginger Hot Sauce (fiery stuff from Jamaica by way of Brooklyn); Wasabi (for Japanese food); Sambal Oelek (Indonesian); Chinese Chile Garlic Sauce; Harissa (for Middle Eastern food); Chipotle peppers in sauce (also various bottled “picante” salsas as well as pickled Jalapeño peppers and Italian cherry peppers and horseradish). HG’s secret heat weapon (served only to masochists or heat veterans) is skhug. This is bottled hot sauce originated by Yemenite Jews. Just a tiny dab will give food a delicious blast of smoke and fire. (HG’s thoughtful brother-in-law, Yossi M., brings this back from Israel for HG). A wonderful hot sauce is chile de arbol. This is served (upon request) at New Mexico’s Sopaipilla Factory restaurant. HG adds some to a bowl of menudo to banish chill, gloom and hangover. It works. Viva la vida picante!!
During HG’s younger years in New York, there were many Hungarian (and Czech) restaurants on Lexington, Third and Second Avenues in the East 80’s and 90’s. The Czech restaurants specialized in tasty duck dishes. HG characterized the Hungarian eateries as “goulash by candlelight joints.” One of their common features was violin music provided by a “Gypsy” musician. The “Gypsy” would swoop down on individual tables and with many swooping gestures and soulful glances provide the diner with renditions of schmaltzy middle European cafe favorites. The object was to enhance the romantic mood of the diners. Somehow it worked (or maybe it was the copious amount of Egri Bikaver “Bull’s Blood” Hungarian red wine HG consumed). The “Gypsy” would continue to saw away until he was tipped. HG far preferred the “oompah, oompah” music provided by the band at Luchow’s, the glorious German restaurant on 14th Street. There were few jollier places in New York than Luchow’s during Christmas season when the venerable walls were adorned with holly and sparkling lights and the band focused on happy carols. Another pleasant winter music dining venue was the Edwardian Room of the Plaza Hotel. A cocktail pianist tinkled away in the background as diners ate in the handsome room gazing out at snow falling on Central Park. HG recalls a little steak house (name, alas, forgotten) where the owner, accompanied by a portable keyboard, sang show tunes to individual tables. His whiskey roughened voice was perfect for “Fugue for Tinhorns” from “Guys and Dolls.” And, then there’s Sammy’s Romanian on the Lower East Side. For many decades Sammy’s has featured music from singers, violinists and pianists singing old Yiddish music hall chestnuts and some popular melodies interspersed with low end, politically incorrect humor. The latest incarnation is Dani Luv, an Israeli born pianist with a killer Louis Armstrong impression. His audience, liberally stoked with vodka, garlic and chicken fat, is raucously appreciative.
In the New York of yesteryear, being a waiter was a profession not just the way-station for actors, models, etc. that it has become. It was a job with which you could raise a family, buy a modest house and lead a life of some dignity. These lifers of the restaurant industry teemed in both ethnic enclaves — Swarthy, smiling Sicilians in Little Italy, surly Jews (“Is the chopped liver good?” “Too good for you”) in the Lower East Side — and some of the older bastions of “Yankee” cooking that were almost exclusively staffed by very dignified, efficient, slightly austere African-American waiters (SJ presumes that this development must have occurred during the “Great Migration” as millions of African American families moved North bringing with them the vastly influential “Low Country” culinary and dining traditions). The late, lamented Gage & Tollner’s in downtown Brooklyn had veteran waiters who had served the old, aristocratic Brooklyn Heights families for decades. The waiters had gold stripes on the sleeves of their jackets denoting their years of service. Lundy’s, on Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay, also had dignified African-Americans providing service. Hamburg Heaven, adjacent to Saks Fifth Avenuue, was a favorite of fashionable women. All of the personnel were African-American and casually pleasant. When HG lived in Montclair, NJ., HG often dined at the Wedgewood Cafeteria (closed for many years). It was, even in the 1970s an old-fashioned and gracious establishment much favored by blue-haired ladies and other mature folk. There were many dishes like chicken a la king which did not make demands on people masticating with dentures. The Wedgewood had a unique feature which set it apart from the rough and ready cafeterias like the Belmont, Dubrow’s and others HG frequented in Manhattan: After you ordered your food at the counter, your tray was delivered to your table by a member of the elderly and endearing African American staff who seemed to personally know and care for their aged customers. This made a Wedgewood Cafeteria meal quite an elegant experience.
HG’s invaluable correspondent, Charles Curran, noted that his favorite sandwich is Braunschweiger on Jewish rye with French mustard and sweet onion. HG thought of this yesterday as HG munched on a liverwurst-ciabatta-Maille mustard-Vidalia onion open sandwich. HG was introduced to this hearty treat by noted news photographer Sammy Schulman. (This was 1954 when HG was an editor/ TV writer at International News Photos). Sammy had covered scores of important news events and was familiar to many world leaders. He was FDR’s favorite photographer. When Sammy was absent from a Roosevelt news conference, FDR queried: “Where’s Sammy?” (“Where’s Sammy?” is the title of a book about Schulman by journalist Bob Considine). Sammy was a chubby little fellow. But, tough. During his stay in France he had learned the French art of kickboxing (Savate) and used it to good effect when being pushed around by bigger photographers in pursuit of a picture. Sammy gave stern orders when he was composing a photo. Andy Rooney (of TV fame) was a journalist in London during World War Two, and reports this incident: Sammy had been directed to get a photo of Queen Elizabeth opening an American Red Cross center. She was leaving when Sammy grabbed her arm gently: “Hold it right there for a minute, will you please, Queen.” Rooney reported: “This wasn’t a question. Sammy wasn’t asking her. He was telling her.” Her Majesty obeyed. Sammy got his picture. There is one Schulman photo that is iconic, reproduced thousands of times and part of MOMA’s permanent collection. It was taken in Havana during a 1933 Cuban uprising. A young soldier had just shot and killed a hated security officer. An adoring crowd put the soldier on a pedestal and the soldier posed, happily lifting his rife. For decades, this photo symbolized revolution.
As HG followers know, HG is a passionate devotee of those highly concentrated, pungently flavorful alcoholic beverage enhancers known as “bitters”. (Check the archive for Bitters Make It Better). HG uses Peychaud’s to give indifferent French brandy a boost and mixes pre-dinner vodka on the rocks with either Stirrings Blood Orange Bitters or Regan’s Orange Bitters (an SJ discovery and recommendation). Angostura Bitters is used by HG to flavor a non-alcolholic midday glass of Pellegrino sparkling water. Recently, HG made a happy discovery: Dr. Adam Emelgirab’s Boker’s Bitters. Boker’s was created by John G.Boker in New York in 1828. It was much used in fashionable bars. Disappeared during Prohibition. Dr. Emelgirab has brought it back, utilizing an 1853 recipe he discovered. He now manufactures Boker’s (and some other unusual bitters) in Scotland. Last night, HG poured vodka on ice. Gave the glass a squeeze of lemon. Added two drops of Boker’s…Swirled the glass. Gazed at the incipient sunset over the Bay of St. Lawrence. Raised the glass. Sipped. The HG palate exploded with flavor. Indescribable. The flavor was something like the Martini favorite of Parisian hipsters where St. Germain liqueur (sweet with an elderflower flavor) replaces the usual dash of dry vermouth. Boker’s, however, creates a much more powerful drink. Boker’s is so good, HG is going to try with other combinations. Maybe with gin and sweet vermouth. Sobriety, get thee behind me!!
Besides being green and gentle, Prinice Edward Island is a place of intense musical traditions — Acadian, Scottish and Irish. Almost everyone on the Island plays a musical instrument, sings, step dances (some folks do all three at the same time). Almost every church (and there are scores ) hosts a “Ceilidh.” This is a neighborhood get together with music and song. All ages participate. Very rousing. There are many very good professional musicians with loyal followings on the Island and throughout the Maritime regions of Canada. One of the best places to hear great music is the Trailside Cafe in Mt. Stewart. There’s music every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Also a “Gospel Brunch” from 11 AM to 2:30 PM on Sunday. Tickets are $20 (this includes coffee and breakfast food at the brunch). Doors open at 6:30 PM and music starts at 8. How’s the food? Meh. HG suggests eating before arriving. Trailside has some nice wines and Gahan’s splendid beer on tap. The blueberry cheesecake is tasty. But, the point of the place is the music. BSK’s sister and brother-in-law, Noel and Yossi M. (now PEI residents for most of the year) steered HG/BSK to Trailside to hear the Amanda Jackson Band. Wow !! This woman can sing. Backed by four musicians playing drums, guitar, harmonica, saxophone, keyboard, Amanda and her pals rocked the room. A great night.
HG has been accused of gluttony and overindulgence in alcohol. HG’s personality has been described as abrasive and overbearing. HG is boring when overcome by vodka and wine. But, HG has never been accused of prudery. Nevertheless, HG finds soft porn in films annoying and tedious. When the male and female leads decide bed is an appropriate venue, the movie grinds to a halt as the camera focuses on that inevitable duo, tits and asses, while tossing in some thighs and legs for good measure. (HG also finds hard core porn boring. The plot is familiar and the conclusion inevitable.) HG was reminded of this last night while watching the HBO film, “Hemingway and Gellhorn.” The movie, starring Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman, is very flawed but has much interesting archival footage of the Spanish Civil War. But, as per usual, there is an almost interminable pause as the nude actors feign passion. HG has no interest in Clive Owen’s bare ass or Nicole Kidman left breast. Nevertheless, the film maker adds the obligatory soft porn. The movie does disservice to Gellhorn, one of the greatest war correspondents (covering every war from the Spanish Civil War to Vietnam) and a fine novelist, novella and short story writer. Regrettably, for much of the movie, the camera focuses on Kidman’s bottom. HG is an old guy and very much a product of his time so that feminism has come late in HG’s life. But, reducing powerful, capable women into a catalog of their anatomical parts, is despicable. (A woman executive once described a meeting as one where “the men talked to my breasts.”) Lovers of literature are not well served by the movie. Clive Owen’s Ernest Hemingway has dialogue that seems lifted from Woody Allen’s funny caricature in “Midnight In Paris.” The John Dos Passos (David Strathairn) character is colorless. The very colorful, magnetic photographer, Robert Capa, is reduced to a cipher. Gellhorn deserves serious attention. She is the only woman war correspondent to be honored with a postage stamp. Her depiction of the Dachau concentration camp is searing and classic. She died a few years ago (age 89). A chain smoking, profane, outspoken woman — it would have been fun to get her reaction to the movie and its fictional account of her affair with and marriage to Hemingway. Am sure the reaction would be speckled with many four letter words.
One of the nice things about living in Santa Fe is the art. Of course, there are scores of galleries (some kitsch but mostly first rate) and a surprising number of museums for a city its size. But, there’s quality art almost everywhere–in banks, restaurants, public buildings, shops, offices, etc. HG’s doctor, for example, has a splendid Dali hanging in her consulting room. One of HG’s favorite spaces is the very good Compound Restaurant on Canyon Road. In an old adobe building, the restaurant was designed by the late Alexander Girard and the sun washed interiors are decorated with a few striking pieces of primitive art. (Girard contributed 106,000 pieces to Santa Fe’s Museum Of International Folk Art). New York has some splendid restaurant art, much enjoyed by HG during HG’s long residence in HG’s once beloved city (now a theme park for the international oligarchy). The now threatened Four Seasons Restaurant in Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building has a Lippold sculpture, Bertoia curtains, and a revolving display of paintings by modern masters (The Picasso ballet curtain, alas, has been removed). There is no better place for cocktails than The King Cole Bar in the St. Regis Hotel. (HG/BSK have a special fondness for the hotel since, just abut 52 years ago, the duo had an afternoon reception in the elegant Library room following a morning wedding). King Cole, that merry old soul, is celebrated at the bar with a majestic Maxfield Parrish mural. Gaze at it in wonder as you sip a martini during your next New York visit. But, bring an active credit card. Drinks and snacks are very expensive (but worth it). Another wondrous interior is the Cafe des Artistes (now called Leopard at des Artistes).on W.67th Street. The walls are adorned with frolicking, bare-breasted forest nymphs painted by Howard Chandler Christy. Enchanting. (Some 5l years ago, HG/BSK lived next door to the des Artistes at 27 W. 67th and sometimes popped into the cafe for a drink). The long closed Jams Restaurant introduced Alice Waters-influenced California cuisine to New York. The owners, Melvin Masters and Jonathan Waxman, hung striking modern art on the walls. There are two restaurants with caricatures on the walls–Sardi’s and Palm. Sardi’s features theatrical figures and Palm has Depression era stuff by cartoonists from nearby newspapers (The artists got a free meal). Palm has restaurants throughout the country and has caricatures of local personalities (and good customers) on its walls. When HG resided in Denver, HG often lunched at the Denver Palm outpost at a booth beneath a flattering caricature of HG. Fame.
July 2, 1963. Fifty two years ago in New York. HG/BSK wed in the Foley Square chambers of Judge George Postel. Wedding brunch at Longchamps on lower Broadway. Sweltering heat wave, but BSK glowed with chic loveliness at HG/BSK’s afternoon reception in the St. Regis Hotel’s elegant Library Room (Bucky Pizzarelli supplied sublime guitar melodies). Dinner that night (with BSK’s family) at Fleur de Lys, little French restaurant near HG/BSK’s 27 W. 67th Street apartment. HG indulged in a platter of heavily garlicked escargots. This caused BSK discomfort as HG secreted pungent waves of garlic in the non-air conditioned apartment. BSK pondered (and not for the last time) whether the marriage was an error. HG/BSK and the marriage survived the evening. Today, on blissful Prince Edward Island, the duo raised breakfast coffee cups and agreed that their long journey together has been very rewarding. Tonight’s anniversary dinner will be a platter of shucked oysters (with BSK’s invigorating shallot vinaigrette), linguine con vongole (loads of little neck clams). Lessons have been learned. Garlic will be handled judiciously. Pecan butter tarts with ice cream for dessert. HG’s wish: Many more years with the love of HG’s life, the lovely, generous, talented, compassionate, sensitive BSK, the best wife, lover, mother, grandmother and companion. And, happily, BSK can cook.
HG first tasted an appetizer of Chinese sesame noodles at Shun Lee, a good Chinese restaurant near New York’s Lincoln Center. A pleasantly suave dish, it made a nice accompaniment to pork dumplings and spring rolls. HG would make the noodles more lively by judicious applications of hot chili oil. These were timid noodles compared to the Tan Tan noodles served at Chongquing Szechuan Restaurant on Vancouver, B.C.’s gritty Commercial Drive. When HG/BSK were part time residents of Vancouver, HG always had the noodles as part of an exemplary dim sum brunch. The noodles were bowls of fire, the ingredients swimming in a sea of chile enriched sesame oil, properly named “fire oil.” HG’s palate was cooled by numerous cups of tea. HG encountered similar fiery noodles at Talin, an international foods supermarket in Santa Fe. The market has a ramen bar. A Monday pop up offers dumplings, soup, pork belly wraps and Dan Dan noodles. (On Fridays and Saturdays Vietnamese spring rolls are served at the ramen bar.) HG, a dedicated consumer of Asiatic (as well as Italian) noodles, often varies his consumption of Saigon Cafe’s pho with Talin’s Dan Dan variety. The other week, HG got a surprise. Expecting a mouthful of flames, HG ordered Talin’s Dan Dan noodles. Though described as Dan Dan noodles, the dish was really noodles in a variant of Mo Po Tofu sauce. The sauce contained ground pork, tiny cubes of tofu and shavings of scallion. Topped with slices of cucumber. No complaints from HG.Managed to knock off a generous bowl. Of the many variants of Dan Dan noodles, HG prefers the version HG/BSK learned years ago at the Upper West Side cooking classes conducted by Karen Lee. There’s a full account of the dish on a previous HG post: KAREN LEE COOKING CLASSES.