HG is very fond of French restaurants but hates over rich, over composed, exuberantly expensive haute cuisine. HG despises tasting menus that turn meals into marathons and leave HG feeling stuffed and queasy. In France, HG likes simple bourgeois cooking (Found, alas, in a diminishing number of bistros) and brasserie staples like oysters and grillades. (HG/BSK loved the seafood at Le Bocal and Boulingrin during a recent visit to Rheims. In Paris, Le Stella remains a favorite for plateau de fruits de mer and racks of lamb). HG recalls with nostalgia New York of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s when there were numerous very cheap and very satisfying French bistros. HG was inaugurated into French dining during the World War Two years when HG’s late, beloved sister Beulah Naomi would lunch with adolescent HG at Larre’s in the West 50’s. Very cheap. Three or four dollars bought a four course meal (Plus salad). Tables were filled with French teachers and Francophone refugees. HG later learned that a distinguished trio of artists–Marcel Duchamp, Robert Motherwell and Andre Breton–dined there daily. HG and his sister would also eat at the modestly priced Charles a la Pommes Souffle. As the name indicates, the restaurant specialized in delicious crisp and airy potato puffs. They are no longer on New York menus and in very few Paris restaurants. They demand total attention while cooking and are labor intensive. The West 40’s in the Theater District had numerous French bistros. Only one, Chez Napoleon, remains. Happily, it offers true grand mere cuisine including one of HG’s favorite dishes, Cervelles Meuniere–calf brains sautéed in brown butter with capers. During HG’s college days (CCNY–1946-1950) and journalist days (1950-1955) HG confined French dining to the very cheap, very robust bistros on 10th and 11th Avenues in the West 50’s. The ocean liners were still docking on the West Side Piers and these restaurants catered to French, English and Dutch crews. A big meal cost about three dollars and featured lots of innards like liver, kidneys, hearts, gizzards and tete de veau. It was in these rough and ready joints that HG cultivated a taste for dishes not favored by mainstream America. As HG’s finances improved in the mid-’50s and the ’60s, HG favored the delightful (Long closed) Fleur de Lis on West 69th Street (It was here on a hot summer night in 1963 that HG and BSK dined on their wedding night. The temperature was soaring and HG finished dinner smelling like a large garlic clove. Made BSK question her marital choice). During their residency on the Upper West Side, HG/BSK ate frequently (when not consuming Chinese food) at Fleur de LIs. HG’s favorite meal–a dozen escargots, frog legs meuniefre, camembert, creme caramel, red wine–cost about ten dollars. Once a month, HG lunched at what HG considered (and still does) the best French restaurant in the world, Le Pavillon. Curiously, for many years the two best French restaurants were not in France–Le Pavillon in New York and the Connaught Restaurant in London. Henri Soule ran Le Pavillon with Napoleonic imperiousness and rigorous attention to detail. HG’s dining companion was often the late Theodore Kheel, the distinguished lawyer and labor arbitrator. Soule opened the restaurant in 1941. He died in 1966. The restaurant closed in 1971 but it was only a shadow of itself after his death. One of HG’s regrets is that due to pregnancy and other circumstances, BSK never dined at Le Pavillon with HG. Dining at Soule’s with the love of HG’s life would have been a sublime experience.
Ah, Texas women. HG is enchanted by their life enhancing exuberance, laughs and smiles; and, of course, those Southwest Conference good looks. Judy G., Texas born-and-bred, a pal for more than 20 years, personifies those Lone Star State attributes. Judy, recently widowed (her late husband, Henry G., was an HG` pal and business associate for more than 40 years), is visiting HG/BSK in New Mexico. Wicked cold (but sunny) in The Land of Enchantment. Nevertheless, bundled up Judy and BSK; Toby, The Wonder Dog and Judy’s delightful dog, Daisy, are going for long walks in the scenic Barrancas (mesas). Dining has emphasized Mew Mexico comfort. At home for BSK’s green chile chicken stew and HG’s guacamole. Lunch at Sopaipilla Factory in nearby Pojoauque: For the chilled and hungry women, huge ground meat stuffed sopaipillas smothered in green chile over a layer of melted cheese (a sopaipilla is a Mexican popover). For HG, the usual chicken enchilada served Christmas style (red and green chile sauce) plus a cup of spicy menudo. Food designed to brush away the icy fingers of Jack Frost. Tonight’s menu will be French-Italian. Garlic soup enriched with beaten eggs, orzo and grated Romano cheese. Served in bowls over slices of garlic rubbed baguette toast. Beware, Dracula and Jack Frost !! The trio will drink much of the splendid red wine Judy has brought. Looking forward to after dinner brandy, a roaring fire and conversation with Judy. HG/BSK acknowledge that behind Judy’s agelessly beautiful face is a sharp and well stocked mind. She’s a retired Texas University professor, among other accomplishments. Hook ’em horns!!
HG/BSK rarely eat in Italian restaurants. BSK is an expert Italian cook as is daughter Lesley R. (who has the advantage of spending many years in Italy). SJ, not only makes top shelf latkes, barbecue, Cajun stews, the talented guy makes a sumptuous bowl of linguine con vongole. Growing up in The Bronx, HG confined Italian dining to one restaurant, Dominick’s. Located in the Arthur Avenue/Belmont neighborhood, the prices were low, tastes were hearty old school, decor was no frills to the extreme, waiters were brusque. It’s still in operation. Still has huge portions. No credit cards. Communal seating. Pizza was not a universal American food in HG’s youth. First tried some, age 5, on busy Bathgate Avenue. Thought it was cherry pie. Mom finally bought little HG a slice (cost 2 cents). Big disappointment. HG has never been a big pizza fans though, when young, HG did fancy the very oily, very cheesy pies at Joe’s on Jerome Avenue (Kingsbridge neighborhood) and Half Moon (Arthur Avenue). The years rolled by. HG/BSK made many trips to Italy. Favorite dishes: Seppie stew with linguine in Venice (plus all the fish and shellfish); Bollito Misto in Bologna as well as (natch) Tagliatelle con Ragu Bolognese; very rare Steak Fiorentina with Tuscan beans in Florence; pasta smothered in delicious, expensive white truffle shavings in Rome. Mouthwatering memories. In New York, HG/BSK’s favorite Italian restaurant was Delsomma on W. 47th Street. HG/BSK were introduced to it by the late (and very much missed) composer Michael Small and his wife, Lynn. This was the restaurant where HG/BSK had their very first meal with Massimo R., then the nervous boyfriend of daughter Lesley. (Massimo and Lesley celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary this month). Read all about Delsomma (closed for more than 20 years, alas) on hungrygerald: Gone But Not Forgotten Restaurants: Delsomma. Paul and Jimmy’s on Irving Place was another favorite (Pesce –fish– Livornese was a specially). That’s gone but two other favorites are still operating –Patsy’s on W. 56th Street and Patsy’s Pizzeria and Restaurant on 1st Avenue and 118th Street. The 56th Street Patsy’s was a favorite of Frank Sinatra and mobster Frank Costello. In 1956, HG had HG’s first public relations office on the floor just above the restaurant. Knowing that HG was struggling financially, Patsy’s kind and generous owners would feed HG delicious food at discounted prices.(“Hey. Kid, you’re a neighbor, right?”). The other Patsy’s was a favorite during HG’s days as a journalist. Favorite dishes were clams oreganato and spaghetti olio et aglio. In those days (1951-1955), Patsy’s was a busy place much favored by cops and mob guys. Specialized (as it still does) in pizza. HG/BSK visited it one night in the 1970’s when BSK was in the mood for pizza. Drugs had taken over the neighborhood. HG/BSK were the only customers except for junkies who kept darting in the bathrooms to shoot up. The pizza, however, was devastatingly good. Prepared by two old people who cooked with knowledge and love. Business picked up at Patsy’s (In business for more than 75 years) after Woody Allen, surprisingly, showed up with a group of showbiz pals in the early 80s, ordered pizza and raved. Word got around. The restaurant now thrives under a second generation of owners. Still a cash only policy. HG is sure it’s good but when next in New York, will continue to get an Italian food fix at Vic’s, daughter Victoria’s new venture on Great Jones Street. Superlative, innovative Italian cooking.
Yes, HG will be watching the 50th Super Bowl on Sunday, February 7. Yes, HG will feel twinges of guilt. The contest will take place in the wake of the recent death of former Giant player Tyler Lash, age 27. His autopsy revealed severe brain damage–C.F.E.–the result of the numerous concussions and brain collisions he suffered during a football career that began when he was very young. The deadly statistics concerning football’s destructiveness are mounting. Yet, the NFL and the major college conferences are doing little to protect players. The NFL is a multi,multi billion dollar business which provides the billionaire owners a useful tax shelter plus an ego boost. The big time college football factories pay their coaches millions and the players (mostly African-American) often end their college days with debilitating injuries. Just one more thing that’s wrong in an America which takes a TV buffoon like Donald Trump seriously as the leader of the world. Nevertheless. Nevertheless. HG will watch the Denver Broncos do battle with the Charlotte Panthers. HG/BSK lived in the greater Denver area for some 25 years before moving to New Mexico. It is very hard to be cured of Bronco fever. Unfortunately, HG believes Cam Newton and his Panther comrades will demolish the Broncs. Newton is the most extraordinary quarterback HG has ever seen. He is bigger and faster than most famed running backs. He is an accurate passer, comfortable throwing short or long. White football fans (enchanted by splendid white quarterbacks like Manning, Brady, Montana and Starr) have been reluctant in acknowledging Newton’s greatness.(Newton’s celebratory dances annoy them). Sorry, white folks. Newton is symbolic of a new generation that will change football forever (unless the game is banned as being more dangerous and inhumane than bullfighting). HG has watched every Super Bowl, beginning with the first. Vince Lombardi coached the winning Green Bay Packers. Now a sanctified figure with numerous schools, playing fields, streets, etc. named after him. A number of statues and plaques on public buildings. He was a brutal exponent of winning (“Winning is everything.”) and delighted in bone crushing “nutcracker” drills during his team’s practice sessions. “Football isn’t a contact sport. It’s a collision sport.”, he said. Of course,it is all of those collisions that lead to early Alzheimer’s and C.F.E. Lombardi lauded bravery and toughness but managed to avoid serving in World War Two through numerous deferments. In 1967, Lombardi complained of digestive pain but refused his doctor’s suggestion of a proctoscopic examination. He died three years later of colon and rectal cancer. Age 57. Hey, amateur Freudian analysts, theorize about all of these anomalies in Lombardi’s life. A culinary note. HG will soften Super Bowl guilt by consuming a half-time meal not endorsed by the health police. Rare roast beef on rye or pumpernickel bread liberally covered with a layer of duck fat. Topped with sliced sweet onion, Malden Sea Salt Flakes and smoked black pepper. Accompaniments: Sour dill pickles. Cole slaw. Potato salad. Anchor Steam India Pale Ale. Guinness Stout. Go Broncos!!!