During HG’s many years in New York, the greedy fellow managed to eat many scores of hot dogs. The tube steak was an essential food during HG’s financially challenged young years. But, even as HG prospered, the HG appetite for hot dogs remained intense. Favorite venue for the treat was Papaya King on E.86th Street and Third Avenue. Two dogs with mustard and sauerkraut and a Pina Colada drink. Perfect. The Nedick’s chain used to be omnivorous in New York (Its Herald Square location fronting on Macy’s was possibly the busiest hot doggery in the world). The dogs were served on a toasted bun spread with a special mustard relish and accompanied by a very good orange drink. Very inexpensive. The chain disappeared in the 1950’s. The Riese organization tried to revive the brand in 2003. The effort failed. Nathan’s Famous (The original is still located on the Coney Island boardwalk and there are now locations throughout the country) served an exemplary dog. HG, however, rarely ate them but favored Nathan’s clams on the half shell, fried soft shell crab sandwiches and other good things from the sea. Nathan’s sloppy, messy, yummy chow mein sandwich on a hamburger bun, was another HG fave. New York once had many traditional Jewish delicatessens serving good Hebrew National or Isaac Gellis dogs plus “Specials” (Plump, garlicky knockwursts). HG always thought the stands offering Sabrett’s “dirty water” hot dogs were vile. According to SJ, if you want a great dog in downtown New York, go to Katz’s, the pastrami emporium. Though the pastrami may have gone downhill, the hot dog is big time. As for sausage, HG’s favorite was the New York italian pork sausage containing plenty of fennel seeds. Best served from the back of a truck in Greenwich Village. The sausage was laid on a wedge of Italian bread and topped with plentiful fried onions and peppers. All of the many inexpensive “red sauce” Italian restaurants of HG’s youth served savory, abundant platters of sausage and peppers. Accompanied by a side dish of buttered and parmesan dusted ziti and washed down with cheap Chianti from a wicker wrapped bottle, this was hearty affordable eating. New York once had scores of German restaurants dispensing grilled bratwurst with sauerkraut and fried potatoes. The dish was flanked by a big glass of good beer. The best brats were found at Luchow’s on 14th Street and Blue Ribbon in the theater district. Both long closed, alas. When in Paris, HG enjoys boudin noir and boudin blanc. The boudin noir, a blood sausage, is usually accompanied by sautéed apple slices,. A winning combination. HG does not favor the excrement smelling French chitterling sausage. HG considers it a French aberration akin to that nation’s worship of Jerry Lewis and Mickey Rourke.
HG has been looking at the March 21 cover of The New Yorker for some days. Each look brings a smile. The cover, “Spring Forward,” features a gentleman with a green mustache; pink, white and green blossoms; a small black and white dog. The artist is Maira Kalman, an HG favorite. A joy looking at the cover and walking in HG/BSK’s gardens alive with daffodils, hyacinths and golden forsythia. Spring is alive and well in New Mexico. Maira Kalman is a delightful, multi talented artist, illustrator and designer. Born in Tel Aviv in 1949. Came to USA when she was four. Lives in Brooklyn (of course). She was married, until his untimely death (at age 50) to Tibor Kalman, founder of the very successful cutting edge design company, M & Company. Maira Kalman shares HG’s love for dogs and Pete, a cute little guy, was her companion for many years. Maira is prolific. More than a score of books, a number of New Yorker covers and illustrations for other magazines. Wrote a blog for The New York Times, “Principles of Uncertainty” which was later published as a book. She’s done a number of very funny books of illustrations featuring, Max, The Poet Dog. These including “Max in Hollywood, Baby” and “Ooh, La, La , Max Is In Love” (in Paris). HG/BSK’s gifted daughter, Lesley R., introduced HG/BSK to Maira with a Christmas gift of Beloved Dog, a charming book inspired by Pete and dedicated to Maira’s children. Buy it if you enjoy dogs, quirky and witty art, life. Published by Penguin Bookis
Lent is ending. Easter Sunday just a day away. The Holy week is very special in northern New Mexico where HG/BSK live. The Pentitntes (Members of the religious brotherhood, Los Hermanos Penitentes) have started to appear trudging along Highway 285/84. They walk for many miles to El Santuario de Chimayo, the church in the little town of Chimayo. The taxing walk serves to link them with “the passion and pain of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” They believe El Santuario has curative powers (Some eat a bit of the earth upon which El Santuario stands). Los Hermanos was founded in Spain and Italy some 800 years ago. It has been active in New Mexico for 400 years. Many New Mexican restaurants like Pojoauque’s El Parasol and Sopaipilla Factory offer Lenten specialties. HG’s favorite is El Parasol’s crisp fried cod on a bun lined with shredded lettuce and mayonnaise. Though an atheist, HG celebrates the Passover Seder meal (Aprill 22 this year). HG/BSK’s Seder is a rather irreverent affair featuring plenty of drinking, laughter and song. After all, Passover is like most Jewish holidays: “They tried to kill us. They failed. So, let’s eat and drink a lot.” Traditionally, HG/BSK start the meal with jarred Manischewitz gefilte fish. HG is not fond of this product (It is a mere shadow of the savory, handcrafted gefilte fish–think of it as a Jewish Quenelle– made by HG’s late Mom.) HG is lobbying for Baba Ganoush, a wonderful Middle Eastern eggplant dish made from scratch by HG. (It’s nice scooped up by matzos). The Seder main dish will be brisket or lamb kefte (Garlicky cigar-shaped meatballs). Dessert: Passover cookies plus strong drink–Slivovitz, Vishniak, Grappa, Limoncello, Cognac. Hey, Pharoah. Gotcha!! If there was a Jewish order of Penitentes, HG would join. Might help atone for a sin of HG’s youth: When HG was ten, HG and his pals paid a visit to a large appetizing store in the Bronx. Besides traditional smoked fish, the store offered nuts, dried fruit, hard candies–all in big, open burlap bags. Maxwell House Coffee Company distributed free Hagadahs (the little book used for the story and songs of the Seder) to stores in Jewish neighborhoods (a PR gesture). Having the sunniest and most honest face, HG approached the owner (who worked behind the smoked fish counter) and asked for some free Maxwell House Hagadahs: “We all want to study them before the Seder.” The owner praised the pious lad and while he searched for the religious tomes, HG’s buddies filled their pockets with many goodies. HG believes HG’s diversionary chat with the store owner was the seed which later sprouted into HG’s successful career as a public relations counsel for New York’s mightiest landlords and real estate developers. All goniffs. Like HG’s childhood pals.
HG respects the Italian belief that there is the right pasta for every sauce: Linguine (or spaghettini) with clam sauce; pappardelle with ragu; orecchiette with broccoli, etc., etc.. Ordinarily flexible, Italians are quite firm about this pasta point. Last night, BSK followed Mario Batali’s recipe (from Food and Wine Magazine) for rigatoni alla amatriciana. BSK used Delallo brand rigatoni (these are short, round pasta shapes with ridged surfaces ideal for hearty sauces). Amatriciana is a sauce of bacon, olive oil, bacon fat, onions, tomato paste, tomatoes, parsley, parmesan cheese and (in a BSK twist) plenty of Mexican chile powder and Aleppo pepper for earthy heat. The pasta shape and the sauce were a happy marriage. Not a dish lauded by cardiologists but a splendid once-in-a-while indulgence. HG/BSK’s guests knocked off the pasta with gusto and asked for seconds. This was preceded by appetizers of white anchovies with peppers and olives and surprisingly good shrimp ceviche produced by Pojoauque Super Market (a grocer near HG/BSK’s New Mexico home). Meal ended with a sprightly salad of butter lettuce and Belgian endive. No dessert. Everyone too full. However, snifters of grappa provided a nice Italian apres meal touch.
Yes, HG/BSK can and do prepare excellent Indian food at home. HG refers to Indian food, not Native American food. Despite being surrounded by Native American pueblos, the only Native American food HG has tasted is Fry Bread. Not healthy and not tasty. BSK bases home style Indian cooking on the very good recipes from the cookbooks authored by Vikram Vij and his wife, Meeru Dhalwala. They have a number of super Indian fusion restaurants in Vancouver, B.C. and suburbs. HG/BSK delighted in the restaurants during HG/BSK’s long residence in Vancouver. The special spices needed for Indian cooking can be found at Talin, the international food store in Santa Fe. BSK gets the vegetables for Asian cooking at Whole Foods. Happily, Whole Foods also carries very good frozen Naan, the delectable Indian bread. Last night, BSK prepared a vegetarian Indian dinner (BSK gives the cookbook recipes a special, creative tweak). The dishes were Cauliflower “steaks” in a spicy, but not tongue numbing, curry; Eggplant and green onions in a tomato based curry spiced with turmeric, Mexican chile powder and cayenne. BSK gilded the Naan with olive oil and baked slices in the oven. HG surprised BSK with a bowl of Madras Lentils and a bowl of Paneer Makhani (Paneer cheese in a creamy sauce). No, HG did not cook these treats. Just popped some packages of Tasty Bite Indian Cuisine in boiling water and let them heat for seven minutes. Totally delicious. Totally healthy. Totally natural. No preservatives, MSG, chemicals, coloring. And the Tasty Bite company pledges that 80% of the energy used to make their dishes comes from renewable sources. The Tasty Bite packages HG bought at a local supermarket cost $3.79 each. A package of the lentils and the paneer would make a tasty quick dinner for two accompanied by a bowl of yogurt and sliced radishes plus rice (or Naan).
HG enjoys healthy gustatory pleasure from BSK’s inventive use of green vegetables. Bok choy is the green which enhances BSK’s Asian-influenced sole. BSK stir fries baby bok choy in a bit of peanut oil, soy sauce, sake, minced ginger and garlic. When the bok choy is wilted and has thrown off much water, BSK covers the pan and steams thin filets of Pacific sole draped over the vegetable. HG likes a dash of chile infused sesame oil on the fish. BSK dusts filets of cod with various spices (including turmeric), pan browns the fish, and finishes it in the oven. The cod is accompanied by Belgian endive (cut in half lengthwise) which has also been pan browned and finished in the oven. Cherry tomatoes, roasted until slightly wilted, are a nice accompaniment. HG likes to use leaves of raw endive as scoops for guacamole or super hot Szechuan ground pork. Fennel braised in butter and chicken stock is a BSK specialty and the perfect companion for BSK’s salmon, pan broiled unilateral. BSK also make a lovely salad of thin slices of fennel, radish and baby turnip (when in season). Goes nicely with Middle Eastern dishes or a slab of feta cheese. HG/BSK were introduced to salmon and braised fennel by Bob Judd, a good friend. Judd is a former advertising executive and author of many auto racing novels (he is to motor sports what Dick Francis is to horse racing). Some years ago Judd was based at the London office of the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency. He lived in the Hampstead neighborhood in a modernist house designed by the great Hungarian-born architect, Erno Goldfinger. In the sunny kitchen of that house, Judd poached a slab of Scottish salmon and braised knobs of fennel in stock heavily enriched with butter. HG/BSK, Judd and Judd’s then wife, a pianist, drank chilled Beaujolais Nouveau. Memorable. (An aside. Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond novels, hated Goldfinger and his architectural style. He took his revenge by naming his most villainous of villains, “Auric Goldfinger”. Shirley Bassey sang the memorable theme song for the filmed version. Much to Erno Goldfinger’s chagrin, people would hum the song when first meeting him. He sued Fleming and his publisher and the case was settled out of court.)
HG/BSK celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. BSK is about one-fourth Irish. HG is 100% Belorussian-Jewish. HG grew up in a Jewish-Irish-Italian Bronx neighborhood. HG drank in Irish bars, had many Irish-American pals and found Irish-American girls, in their Catholic school uniforms of pleated navy skirts and white blouses, exotic and enticing. At age 13, HG’s first romance was with Irish Peggy R., a delicious, lightly freckled Rockaway maiden. (HG has a thing about freckles. BSK’s freckles are very chic and soignée). When HG was a New York journalist, HG and reporter buddies made the rounds of Third Avenue Irish bars on St. Patrick’s Day. They were accompanied by N.O., a tough Jew. He was a newspaper motorcycle messenger and former driver for gangsters in the Williamsburg and Brownsville sections of Brooklyn. Strangely, N.O. had a pure Irish tenor voice and a vast stock of Irish songs, both sentimental and revolutionary. (Up the rebels!!). After a rendition of County Down and Kevin Barry all Irish cheeks were tear streaked and drinks were on the house for our group. When quite drunk, HG and buddies (Italian and Wasp) headed for Moe Dubiner’s bar on Stanton Street in the Lower East Side for gefilte fish, chopped herring and chopped liver. Pumpernickel bread. Jewish rye bread. Chicken fat More booze. And, then off to the Russian Baths for blazing steam and the shock of the ice plunge. HG would then sleep like a babe and was ready for a day’s work the next morning. Much less booze for HG on St. Patrick’s Day 2016. Sipped Guinness Stout and IPA ale with dinner (Drink is called Black and Tan after the hated British soldiers who, with brutal and murderous tactics, tried to quell the Irish revolution). Later, watched a favorite movie, John Ford’s “The Informer.” Set in Dublin during the revolution, it has a foggy and poetic black and white atmosphere, a great performance by Victor McLaglen and juicy bits from a host of Irish character actors. All of the revolutionaries wear dashing trench coats and fedoras. (HG wears a trench coat and fedora occasionally but does not look like an Irish revolutionary. Alas.) While watching the film, HG sipped a discreet amount of Bushmill’s Irish whiskey. HG Does not miss the New York Paddy’s Day parade (except for the bagpipes). Too many drunken louts.
HG grew up during The Great Depression. Never had a dog pet. Dogs were scarce in those days. Folks had enough trouble putting food on the table without being concerned about nourishing an animal. BSK always had a dog (Her favorites were Bambi One and Bambi Two). So, soon after they married (almost 53 years ago) a dog came into HG’s life. His name was Peaches, an Apricot Standard poodle. HG loved Peaches, even though he was a difficult dog (BSK claims this was due to HG’s objections to having Peaches neutered). Many mishaps with Peaches. He once trotted out of HG/BSK’s Fire Island dune house to urinate on a carefully prepared clambake hosted by neighbors. Peaches was perpetually hungry (like most dogs). Ate everything in sight. Peaches once grabbed a big steak off a barbecue. HG (faster in those days) chased the naughty dog, Pried the steak out of his jaws. Cut away the piece Peaches had nibbled. Served the rest to appreciative dinner guests. When children arrived, each had a dog. Lesley R. had Sassafras, a Golden Labrador. SJ had Jesse, a floppy eared Springer Spaniel. They came under HG/BSK’s care after the kids left the house. Sassy was a very smart and loving dog. Jesse was needy, and nervous. Soon after HG/BSK moved to their Colorado horse ranch, Sassy was shot in the head by a neighbor. Because of Sassy’s coloring, the aged neighbor mistook Sassy for a coyote. A veterinary student lived nearby and her emergency care saved Sassy. months. Health deteriorated but the brave dog survived for a number of years. Finally, the end came. HG was responsible for Sassy’s euthanasia. Very sad and tearful moment. A few years later, Bobo arrived. Bobo was a Newfoundland. A very big (150 pounds) black dog. Looked like a friendly bear. Gentle, sweet, loving and very, very smart. HG/BSK had not planned for Bobo. He was inherited from Lesley and Massimo R. when the couple moved from a Massachusetts home into a Hartford rental condo where it was impractical to keep a dog when they were both away at demanding jobs (Massimo was teaching at Brown and Lesley was editing The Hartford Advocate, an alternative newspaper.) Bobo proved to be a delight. When HG or BSK were seated, Bobo would rest his giant head in their laps. At the appropriate time, BSK would say: “Bedtime, Bobo.” Bobo would trot downstairs, use his giant paw to open the door to the garage, close the door behind him and go to sleep on the garage floor. Because of his massive fur coat, Bobo liked to sleep in the cool garage. Bobo enjoyed eating leftover pasta. Because of the olive oil, Bobo’s black coat glistened. He was also fond of stale baguettes. He would have a few bites and then bury the rest. Bobo would wander the hills and mountain slopes of the 150-acre ranch and bring back bones and parts of dead animals. He once parked half of a dead elk in front of HG/BSK’s home entry door. Bobo accompanied HG everywhere, often riding in the passenger seat of HG’s Camry. Gave fellow motorists a shock. HG would take Bobo to lunch at a dim sum restaurant on Denver’s Federal Boulevard. HG would feed Bobo Chinese tidbits while the diminutive waitstaff would look on, semi-paralyzed with fear. Once, BSK looked out the rear door of HG/BSK’s kitchen and saw a large black form. It’s Bobo, thought BSK. Looked around. Bobo was lounging near BSK’s feet. Uh oh. The black form was a bear.Trotted away without doing any harm. Unfortunately, big dogs like Bobo are not long lived. It became time for euthanasia. At the pet hospital, Bobo turned around to give HG one last soulful look. Saying farewell and rest in peace, a pained and tearful HG hugged and kissed the faithful companion. HG vowed: No more dogs. The parting was just too emotional and painful. And, then came Toby, The Wonder Dog. Hopefully, the young fellow will outlive ancient HG.
Yes, HG has posted two appreciations of Toby, The Wonder Dog, in the last eight months. Obsessive? Possibly. However, there’s a back story behind the latest post. A few days ago, just before HG/BSK’s bedtime. Daughter Lesley R. texted that Pip, her family’s dog, was very ill and Lesley was rushing her to a veterinary emergency center. Things were looking grim for Pip. Not much sleep that night for HG/BSK. Pip is a very pretty little dog. Affectionate. Ladylike. Extraordinarily intelligent. Toby and Pip have a grand time when they are together in Rhode Island and Prince Edward Island. Good news in the morning. Pip had survived (now back to normal). Vet explained that Pip had been poisoned by nibbling at the compost pile in the garden. It seems compost heaps produce an acid. When swallowed by a dog, the result is death or serious illness requiring emergency treatment. So, dog owners who are gardeners, be warned. Fence in your compost pile (as BSK has done) to make it dog proof.
The best, cutest, smartest, most lovable, most idiosyncratic dog in the world is HG/BSK’s fragrant and furry companion, Toby, The Wonder Dog. Toby came into HG/BSK’s life two years ago. BSK (accompanied by granddaughter, Gorgeous Sofia, living with HG/BSK at the time) found Toby at a dog shelter. He had been abandoned and mistreated. (must have been owned by a deranged individual). For HG/BSK and Sofia, it was love at first sight. Toby is a Havanese (a Cuban breed) with a bit of poodle in the mix. Toby has never had an “accident” in our home. Toby is discreet where he does his “business.” Toby is not destructive. Toby likes to lounge on HG/BSK’s leather sofa or lounge chair. No scratching. Toby does not shed. Toby is a watchdog, alert to any human or critter intrusion on HG/BSK’s property. Toby is not a finicky eater (though he is perpetually on the lookout for something edible). Toby is a perfect auto traveler, perches on the space between the front seats and admires the view. Toby is a wakeup dog, better than an alarm clock — When it’s time for HG to arise, Toby perches on the bed and licks HG’s ears. And, Toby smells good and has a sweet breath. Idiosyncrasies? When Toby is called he comes or does not come. Depends on his mood; however, a dog treat will always fetch him. Toby is very indecisive about being outdoors or indoors. (“Make up your mind, Toby!!!). Toby is probably spoiled. However he projects an abundance of love which HG/BSK return. In abundance.