HG/BSK and Toby, The Wonder Dog, will soon take off on a four day motor trip across mid-America. Santa Fe to Riverside,R.I.. Hopefully, HG/BSK will get there in time for a day of family festivities celebrating brilliant granddaughter Arianna Riva’s graduation from Brown University. Toby is anticipating a happy reunion with Pip, the Riva family’s super smart and charming dog. HG has spent some time researching the best places to eat that are close to the highways HG/BSK will travel. A good source for down home goodies is Michael and Jane Stern’s Roadfood Website. Their recommendations are not for the weight watcher or cardiologist. Big emphasis on lush burgers, mammoth breakfasts, barbecue and three-inch high pies. Oklahoma seems promising. There’s Sid’s Diner with their famous onion fried burgers and Coneys (That’s what hot dogs are called in the western provinces). The tube steaks indulge in overkill. The grilled Coneys are smothered in chile, fried onions and cheese. HG can hardly wait. Sid’s is near Oklahoma City. A bit further east in Tulsa, HG is looking forward to grilled flounder and hush puppies at White River Fish Market (BSK will join HG in devouring these treats). HG/BSK will go through Kansas City, Mo.. The duo will ignore Calvin Trillin’s barbecue mecca, Arthur Bryant’s, and concentrate on Stroud’s for America’s best pan-fried chicken. HG anticipates some conflict when HG/BSK approach Indianapolis HG has promised BSK there will be no long schlep from the highway or their motel lodgings in search for some obscure purveyor of local, esoteric delicacy. However, when HG/BSK approach the Indiana metropolis, HG will plead the case for a visit to Shapiro’s at its downtown location. Shapiro’s is a 110-year hold Jewish “kosher style” delicatessen. Pastrami, corned beef, real rye bread, matzo ball soup. You get the picture. Long regarded as one of the ten best Jewish delicatessens in the land. Certainly, it is the only Jewish delicatessen with biscuits and gravy on the menu. BSK’s birthday will be celebrated at one of the very good Pennsylvania Dutch restaurants in Allentown, Pa. Expect full reports from HG on HG/BSK’s All-American road fressing.
Frijoles Refritos (usually shortened to Refritos on the menus of New Mexican restaurants) are simply refried beans. However, the beans are not fried. Cooked pinto beans are mashed and then heated. Flavorings are onion, garlic and Goya Adobo seasoning. Check online for the Goya Foods recipe. Since moving to the Land of Enchantment, HG has become a big fan of this delicious (and healthy) accompaniment to enchiladas or pork chops. Most restaurants heat the Refritos in plenty of lard. In a gesture to the rules of good health, HG substitutes corn oil or canola oil for the lard when making the dish at home. Also, uses an abundant amount of garlic and chopped onion in the mix. Tastes mighty good. A down home lunch for HG is a few tortillas topped with abundant cheddar cheese and then rolled into makeshift enchiladas. The enchiladas get a big splash of heated 505 Green Chile Sauce. Refritos plus some sliced tomatoes and sweet onion (Vidalias when in season). HG drinks Trader Joe’s Garden Patch vegetable juice with this meal. Enlivens the beverage with lemon juice and discreet amounts of Worcestershire Sauce and Tabasco. A mild Virgin Mary. HG rarely drinks alcohol at lunch except when lunching in France or Italy. For some obscure reason, midday alcohol in the United States makes HG comatose.
As an 86-year-old (87 in November) HG sometimes contemplates the eventual visit by the Moloch Hamoves. In Hebrew folk lore, this is the winged Angel of Death who beckons mortals to the ultimate finale. Thankfully, the only sound of wings HG hears these days is the sound of hungry humming birds whirling about BSK’s hanging red containers of sugar water. HG, with BSK’s intelligent guidance, pays reasonable attention to health. To no avail, HG’s doctor warns against over indulgence in alcohol. Three glasses of wine a week is the recommendation. Doc must be kidding. HG drinks two to three glasses of wine each night at dinner. Precedes it with a cocktail (Mostly bitters and soda but sometimes adds a tiny bit of vodka, gin or tequila.) Follows it with grappa or brandy. The novelist James Gould Cozzens said: “Whiskey is the old man’s friend.” HG agrees. Alcohol is a pal. The talented and attractive Lisa Fondeur (now resident of Madrid), pointed out to HG a quote from Atticus, the Greek philosopher and authority on Plato: “I hope to arrive to my death, late, in love, and a little drunk.” HG, after 53 years of marriage, not only loves BSK, but is in love with the magical woman. And following that after-dinner snifter, HG is also a little buzzed; thus, HG meets the requirements of Atticus.
The yiddish word haimish means warm, unpretentious, down home comfort. It applies to the comfort level of a home, the personality of a person and the taste of certain foods. Brisket, potato latkes, chicken soup, matzo balls, blintzes, chopped liver, pastrami are among the long list of “haimish” foods. Despite being decidedly unkosher, pork chops taste “haimish” to HG. Sushi and sashimi are delicious. But, not haimish. Gyoza, curiously, are “haimish.” So is Menudo, the Mexican tripe stew.There are times when HG chooses among three foods for a comforting “haimish” dinner. These are dishes HG’s Mom fed her growing boy, so they are imbued with a strong element of nostalgia. First choice is kasha (buckwheat groats) with caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms and a big dollop of sour cream. HG accompanies this with chilled vodka and beer chasers. Number two is starkly simple (but lush): Little boiled potatoes in their skins. Butter. Sour cream. Lots of black pepper and Malden Sea Salt Flakes. Vodka and beer plus a platter of sliced Kumatoes and Vidalia onions. (No, HG’s Mom didn’t serve the little fellow vodka). Third choice is another simple dish: Egg noodles with cottage cheese, salt and pepper. Coffee if serving at breakfast. Trader Joe’s Vegetable Patch drink if serving at lunch. BSK, despite her Anglo-Saxon-Welsh ancestry and Canadian-Midwestern youth, makes superb matzo balls. HG longs for these winners floating in a big bowl of free range chicken broth. Unrfortunately, BSK has not made them for years. However,BSK makes a world class bowl of Straciatella, the Italian version of egg drop soup. Italian “haimishkeit”. The best cure for the common cold and a splendid nourishment when flu has caused (a very rare happening) the disappearance of HG’s hearty appetite.
The urbane writer/artist/gourmet Ludwig Bemelmans (author of the delightful “Madeline” children’s books), once wrote that a good meal helped heal the pain when one was thwarted in love. HG agrees (Based upon personal experience). One of HG’s first romances was in Rockaway Beach when HG was 13. The object of HG’s love was a prematurely shapely young woman (also 13) named Sydelle. HG was a money earner from HG’s earliest days. During the summer, HG earned six dollars a week carrying women’s beach chairs and umbrellas to the beach and returning them at night (Six bucks was a tidy sum 73 years ago). When back in The Bronx (when not playing football or street games) HG would earn tips by carrying the heavy shopping bundles of women to their apartments (Few buildings had elevators in those days so HG developed a sturdy pair of legs). Thus, HG had enough money for a movie and lunch date with Sydelle after the romantic duo had left Rockaway for the regular school year. Sydelle lived in Union City, N.J., a quick bus ride to mid-Manhattan. The date was for a Saturday. The meeting place was the Paramount Theater on Broadway. The time was 10:30 AM. The plan was to see the early show (25 cents admission) replete with a film, live orchestra, singers, comedians. HG mused that the couple would watch the live show and then do serious canoodling during the film. This was to be followed by a spaghetti lunch at Romeo’s on 42nd Street (50 cents for the spaghetti and 20 cents for soft drinks plus a 10 cent tip) and a frozen custard (10 cents) dessert at Grant’s across the street. Sadly, Sydelle never showed up for the date (Later phone call revealed that the vixen had a New Jersey boyfriend). Gloomy HG waited in front of the Paramount for an hour. Gave up and bought the morning papers (Times, Herald-Tribune, News, Mirror). Even at that young age, HG was a devoted fan of newsprint. Walked to a nearby Automat. Sat down to a lavish lunch of beef pot pie, macaroni casserole, baked bean casserole. Coconut custard pie for dessert. No smoking in the Automat so HG left for nearby Hector’s Cafeteria (with newspapers under HG’s arm). Many cups of coffee and numerous cigarettes (Yes, the 13-year-old was in the grip of the nicotine habit. Smoked incessantly for 50 years until rudely interrupted by throat cancer). Read the news, sports sections, theater sections and the many columnists (including the legendary Walter Winchell). Blues were banished and the wound of rejection was healed.
HG is not a burger fan. Finds all chain burgers vile (Mickey Dee serves the worst). Thinks those monstrous burgers that combine, avocado, cheese, bacon, short rib meat, ham, sausage etc, into overkill jawbreakers are impossible to eat and digest. Invitation to shirt stains and heartburn. However, during HG’s New York days, the greedy fellow always enjoyed the hamburgers at Joe Allen, the theater district restaurant on W.46th with a devoted show biz following. Allen’s hamburger is just the right size. Served properly pink. Nice garnishes. A thin roll that doesn’t overwhelm the meat. HG would have sides of French fries and Caesar salad. Preceded it with black bean soup. Drank Black and Tan: Half Guiness Stout and half IPA beer.Sometimes HG varied this routine with pan broiled calf’s liver. Allen’s was one of the very few New York eateries that had it on their menu. HG was reminded of all this by an interview with Joe Allen, the restaurant’s founder and owner (also founded and owns Orso, a good Italian restaurant next door). The interview was not really an interview. Most comments were from his wife and children. Allen is not forthcoming. He says about himself: “I bore myself. I can only imagine my effect on other people.” Anyway, reading about Joe Allen (the restaurant and the man), made HG hungry for a burger. New Mexico style. Thus, for dinner this night there were pan broiled burgers (grass fed local beef) smothered in 505 Green Chile Sauce (Available at Santa Fe Whole Foods). Corn niblets and okra enlivened with a bit of hot chile oil. Goya black beans topped with chopped sweet onions and sour cream. HG sipped (with restraint) tequila and beer chasers. Some slices of just ripe avocado. Hey, amigos, that’s the way we make burgers in New Mexico. Adios. And, stay hungry.
HG is referring to the interior of animals (aka offal). Brains, kidneys, livers, sweetbreads, tongue, hearts, intestines, tripe (stomach lining). These wonderful tastes seem to have disappeared from mainstream restaurant menus (as a corollary the interest in “head-to-tail” eating has been growing within the ranks of sophisticated and adventurous eaters). Is it the work of the health police on the alert for elevated cholesterol levels? Or have Americans become so spoiled that offal is seen as a remnant of poverty cuisine? The Europeans (especially the French) continue to devour these good things. When in Paris, HG eats lots of rognons (kidneys) in mustard sauce or grilled until the interiors are pink. A very good Left Bank bistro, La Ribouldinge, makes a specialty of offal. Pharamond serves classic tripes a la mode de Caen (Very good. However, HG prefers the Mexican tripe stew known as Menudo. As noted in many posts, HG is a fan of two versions of Menudo served at restaurants in HG’s New Mexican neighborhood: Green Chile Menudo at El Parasol and Red Chile Menudo at Sopaipilla Factory). HG’s daughter Victoria and husband chef Marc Meyer tried to introduce Menudo to New York diners at their sparkling Mexican restaurant, Rosie’s, in the East Village. Few takers, Removed from menu, alas. Sweetbreads (thymus glands) are on menus everywhere and are one of HG’s favorite treats. Best version ever was at the Oak Room of New York’s venerable Algonquin Hotel. Sauteed sweet breads with a slice of Virginian ham and an exuberant amount of Sauce Bearnaise. Pan broiled medium rare calf’s liver (enlivened with a dash of sherry vinegar) is served in scores of Paris bistros. Delicious. When HG lived in Colorado (first on a mountain horse ranch and then in Denver), HG often had splendid liver with onions and bacon at 240 Union Restaurant in nearby Lakewood. Very Parisian. 240 Union is a great, creative restaurant (A must if you ever travel to Denver or on your way to ski country). HG checked 240’s current menu. No liver. Must have met the same fate as Rosie’s Menudo. In bygone days, liver was a staple item on New York menus. Well done liver, onions and bacon (liver too well done for HG’s taste) on diner menus. Thick slabs of calf’s liver at steak houses. Chopped liver, of course, at Jewish eateries. Broiled chicken livers over saffron rice at Greek restaurants. The Schrafft’s chain, a bastion of WASP cookery, served an appetizing dish of gently sautéed chicken livers over softly scrambled eggs. Sammy’s Romanian, the flourishing homage to garlic and chicken fat Jewish cuisine, once served broiled chicken livers with unborn eggs. The livers are still on the menu but the eggs have disappeared. Only time HG ever had gizzards in New York was when SJ took HG to a little Japanese place on the West Side. Good, But, not as good as the duck gizzards in Paris. Rarely see brains in black butter in New York. Loved it at Le Veau D’or in New York (no longer on the menu but you can get a good version at Chez Napoleon in the theater district). HG ordered the dish at a nice restaurant in Paris 16e. Thoughtful owner was surprised an American ordered brains. Wanted to make sure HG knew what to expect. HG tapped HG’s skull. Owner laughed. Big, savory platter arrived. Tongue is still available at the less than a dozen (used to be a hundred) Jewish delicatessens in New York. Best tongue dish ever was served at long closed Al Cooper’s near New York’s garment center. Thick poached slice with creamed spinach and hot mustard. Sublime. Hearts have disappeared everywhere. Not for the delicate eater. In HG’s impecunious youth, HG ate big bowls of calf hearts stewed with onions, garlic and red wine. Hearty dish (to say the least). A staple at the funky far West Side French bistros that catered to the French seamen off the Ile de France and other liners. A.J. Liebling recounted in his book “Between Meals” that he would eat this dish when he was young and cash poor in Paris. Tete de Veau (calf’s head) is a feature of many French eateries.The dish is shunned by Americans. HG loves it. It consists of poached brains, tongue, mouth lining, etc.and other delectables from the calf’s head. Served with a Sauce Gribiche enlivened with chopped cornichons and capers. (Sauce Gribiche is a version of mayonnaise where mustard, cooked egg yolks and vinegar are emulsified until creamy). HG draws the line when it comes to intestines. Tried chitterlings in Harlem. Vile. The fecal stench of French Andouillette is off putting. (SJ once made the error of ordering them at Le Stella, a favorite Paris brasserie. Was unpleasantly shocked The funny food blogger Grubworm,calls the sausage:’the dish of death”). Innards do not appear on HG/BSK’s dinner table. Though a very adventurous cook and eater, BSK does not like innards. You can take the girl out of the midwest, but you can’t., etc. etc.
The psychological state known as depression is frightening. It is a plunge into a black hole of despair. It has nothing to do with a person’s real life accomplishments or happy human relationships. Winston Churchill suffered from depression. He called these periods “the black dogs.” Depression caused the distinguished author William Styron to become suicidal and thus hospitalized. During HG’s younger years, there were intermittent periods of depression. Happily, no depression for many, many decades (due to BSK’s loving help and companionship plus some very modest pharmaceutical aids). However, the current state of American politics (Does Trump foretell the end of our Democracy?); the bloody maelstrom of the middle east; American racism and Islamic craziness, all make HG gloomy. No, not depression. Just bouts of the blues. For HG, the cure is Youtube. An interlude of watching some favorites chases away the blues and restores HG to HG’s usual happy state. Permit HG to recommend some to you: Young Robert Morse in excerpts from How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and old Robert Morse doing a charming song and dance version of “The Moon Belongs To Everyone, The Best Things In Life Are Free,” from the Mad Men series. Donald O’Connor doing his madcap version of “Be a Clown” from Singing In The Rain. Liza Minelli and Mikhail Baryshnikov “On Broadway.” The dazzling Nicholas Brothers dance routines from various movies. Nina Simone singing and playing My Baby Only Cares For Me. Eddie Cantor singing same song in a movie excerpt plus his version of “Making Whoopee.” Al Jolson and Ruby Keeler in a surreal film version of “A Quarter to Nine.” Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner, masters of improv. Madeline Kahn doing a Marlene Dietrich satire, “I’m Tired”, in “Blazing Saddles.” Ending the list is Myron Cohen, the all-time best teller of jokes and the supreme Jewish dialectician. The little bald guy with the big ears always makes HG laugh.
The answer to that question is: “NO!!”. HG enjoys occasional pork chops, steaks, chicken, Mexican menudo and other carnivorous goodies. BTW, can’t wait to taste the Japanese fried chicken that is getting raves at daughter-in-law Exquisite Maiko’s Oni Sauce stand at the famed Brooklyn Smorgasburg. But, for the most part HG and BSK have a diet that emphasizes vegetables, fish, pasta and fruit (There are always apples in the refrigerator and oranges, tangerines and avocados in one of BSK’s big pottery bowls on the kitchen granite island. When summering on Prince Edward Island, HG/BSK eat many pounds of seasonal PEI blueberries and strawberries). It must work because HG is reasonably spry as HG’s 87th birthday looms. BSK will reach an advanced age next month but looks decades younger and is energetic, athletic, creative and joyous. Genes, diet and exercise contribute to BSK’s senior beauty. And, best of all (in the eyes and tummy of greedy HG), BSK’s dinners (after just about 53 years of marriage) keep getting better (and healthier). A few nights ago, BSK prepared Orecciette with Broccoli, a dish from the Italian province of Puglia where it is a regional specialty. Orecciette means “little ears” and these little pasta shapes enclose the broccoli sauce effectively. Permit me to turn this post over to BSK and allow BSK to share the recipe with you lucky readers:
Put chunked stems, 2 cloves of garlic , a large shallot (or spring onion) and a handful of Italian parsley into food processor with a little good quality olive oil.
Saute 3 or 4 anchovy fillets (diced) slowly then add more olive oil and the mixture from the food processor and cook slowly. Add salt, pepper and red pepper to taste.
When the pasta water boils add the broccoli heads and cook briefly (they should still be bright green and have a little crunch). Add them to the anchovy/stem/garlic mix and toss. Keep cooking on low heat.
Cook pasta till it’s not quite done — add it to the mix, turn up the heat and toss vigorously – add a couple of ladlefuls of the pasta water – keep tossing — till it turns creamy. Taste the pasta if it’s still not done – add a little more water and keep tossing.
Serve with good grated cheese (and – if you like top with some chopped fresh tomatoes and some cubed mozerella).
One of the many delights of dining in Paris is the low murmur of civilized voices. Parisians keep their conversation to a soft murmur when dining. Very unlike Americans. HG’s compatriots (not all, but very many) are loud in restaurants. Uncivilized. Insensitive to the sensibilities of other diners. Women offend as much as men (SJ has pointed out that in New York City there seems to be a trend of young women simply screaming whenever they see a friend and that screeching carries over to the dinner conversation). Here’s a snarky New Mexico/Colorado comment: Texas women are the loudest (they are also the blondest). HG used to look down on Mother’s Day as a commercialized travesty, not an homage to the glory of motherhood. However, HG has mellowed with the years and now makes sure that the world’s best Mom (and wife) is duly honored on this day with a card, gift and festive dining. BSK deserves it (and more). So, this Mom Day HG took BSK for brunch at the pleasant Restaurant Martin in Santa Fe. Lovely, simple room and deft service. HG/BSK had spicy Virgin Marys. Followed this with a spectacular duck confit hash topped with a perfect fried egg and a creative green salad. Finished with shared house made fig, peach and blueberry sorbet. This perfect brunch was marred by the woman (not a Texan) seated at a nearby table. A loud and grating voice. And, she wouldn’t stop talking and repeating the phrase “playing in the sandbox.” HG didn’t want to make a scene (uncharacteristic for HG) so HG didn’t ask Madame Loudmouth to lower her voice. Restaurants have signs forbidding cell phones (and some forbid perfume). How about:: “In consideration of others, keep your voices down” ?