Steak Row

May 11th, 2018 § 1 comment § permalink

There was a time (namely the 50’s and 60’s) when New York City was world capital of steak. And, the carnivorous center was Steak Row (E.45th Street from Lexington to First and its environs). The Daily Mirror was published an E. 45th and the Daily News on E. 42nd. In addition, the area housed lots of news and wire services, and feature syndicates. Some of the steak houses had news related names: Pen and Pencil, Press Box. The Editorial, Front Page, Late Edition, Fourth Estate. Other steak joints on 45th and the surrounding area were Joe and Rose, Palm, McCarthy’s, Pietro’s, Danny’s Hideaway, Assembly, Mike Manuche’s and Christ Cella. In the west side theater district there were Gallagher’s and Frankie & Johnny. On 23rd Street, the wonderful Cavanagh’s. Of course, in Brooklyn the kingpin was Peter Luger’s (still reigning). Of them all, HG’s favorite was Christ Cella. Not content to serve the best steaks, salads and cocktails HG ever savored, Christ Cella would greet the spring season with the ultimate platter of shad, shad roe and bacon (Christ Cella was one of HG’s seven favorite New York restaurants of all time. The others were Le Pavillon, Fornos, Luchow’s, Gage and Tollner, Gitlitz Delicatessen and Keen’s. Only Keen’s remains). When HG/BSK lived in Colorado, their favored dining spot was the Denver branch of Palm. Unlike Palm on Second Avenue in New York (“Where Tough Guys Feed Big Shots”), The service was gentle and friendly in the western mode. HG’s favorite dish was sliced rare sirloin served over a tossed salad. BSK replicates this dish, improving it with lush blue cheese dressing. Like New York, Denver Palm adorns its walls with cartoons of local celebrities. As a leading local PR pro, HG felt like a Big Shot as HG dined beneath a flattering cartoon of HG’s handsome mug.

The Drug Store

May 10th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

In HG’s youth, The Bronx was dotted with small “drug stores.” They were never called “pharmacies” and the man in charge was a “druggist,” not a “pharmacist.” The drug stores have disappeared, replaced by the huge impersonal pharmacy chains: Walgreens, CVS and in New York, Duane Reade. The old time druggist presided over his domain behind a counter with a background of multi-colored apothecary jars. He was a valuable resource in Bronx neighborhoods. He performed quasi-medical tasks like removing a cinder from an eye, putting iodine on a scraped knee. He gave free medical advice. If things looked grim, he would say: “See a doctor.” Timid young men would whisper “Trojans” to the druggist and would receive the condoms without comment. Then the condoms would nestle in a wallet (often for years) until the long awaited romantic moment arrived.

Bronx Bakeries: Goyish

May 9th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Okay. “Goyish” means not Jewish. And, “goyish” bakeries abounded in The Bronx of HG’s young days. The Cushman’s chain was venerable. It had a 109-year history with the last unit (in the Port Authority Bus Terminal) closing in 2014. At its height, Cushman’s had 45 stores in New York. Closed them in 1964. Cushman stores had a makeover in the 1930’s. They were instantly recognizable with their beautiful art deco exteriors. Art deco design denoted optimism during the dark days of the Great Depression as exemplified by the exquisite Grand Concourse apartment buildings that can still be viewed today. Cushman’s sold splendid cookies and a lush, egg shaped pastry filled with custard. Hanscom’s was another big chain with exterior design by architect Horace Ginsbern (later the favorite architect of post-World War Two apartment house developers in New York). Their chocolate cream pie was heavenly. The chain went out of business in 1956. Sometimes little HG took a long walk to the Italian bakeries on Arthur Avenue off Fordham Road. Brought back glorious loaves of Italian bread, pignolia cookies and cannoli. (During their New York days. HG/BSK’s favorite Italian bakery was Zito’s on Bleecker Street. Incomparable loaves). The greatest of all bakeries was Sutter’s. Spacious store on the Grand Concourse in The Bronx plus branches in Manhattan (Greenwich Village) and Brooklyn (Flatbush). Sutter’s utilized three baking styles–French, Danish and Viennese. Wonderful croissants and brioche. Pecan rings, And (sorry, Paris) the best baba au rhum in the world.

Bronx Bakeries: Jewish

May 8th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

All main shopping avenues in The Bronx of yesteryear had a “Jewish” bakery. Yes, there were non-Jewish bakeries spread throughout the Bronx and HG will describe them in a following post. But, in HG’s youth, the Jewish bakery on West Kingsbridge Road was the dispenser of joy. Bagels, Bialys, “pletzels” (onion topped flat breads); onion rolls,crisp skinned rolls dotted with poppy seeds, rye bread, pumpernickel bread, corn bread. All of these were worthy companions of the Sunday feast of cream cheese with lox, sturgeon, whitefish, sable, kippered salmon. Plus pickles, olives, sliced tomatoes and onions. Plentiful coffee (and a few shots of brandy). Big time smoked fish jamboree. The bakery also carried a variety of cookies (not great), cheesecake (great); a version of Italian almond biscotti called “mondelbrot” (great), jelly doughnuts and crullers (fair); “mondels” , hollow little balls of dough to be added to soup. HG’s late Mom made tiny balls of dough and baked them into a sticky loaf with honey and ginger. This was called “taigelach” (super great). She also made cinnamon and walnut “rugelach” (ultimate state of the art). Today’s rugelach sold by everyone from Zabar’s to Whole Foods are a pallid imitation. Elaborate, high-cal butter cream cakes were a staple at the bakery. HG’s Mom and Dad brought them to the apartments of friends when they gathered for an evening of gossip, pinochle, Russian tea and vishniak (cherry brandy). The friends reciprocated and little HG ate a left over sliver with breakfast.

Thai Treats

May 8th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

HG is very fond of the fiery deliciousness of Thai cuisine. Outside of Bangkok, of course, the best Thai dishes can be found in Los Angeles, Chicago and, oddly, Las Vegas. The multi-ethnic borough of Queens is starting to bubble with authentic Thai food, but it lags behind the other cities mentioned. Since HG doesn’t have a private jet, the hungry boy must be content with Thai food in Santa Fe. The Santa Fe north outpost of Thai dining is the newly opened J & N Thai Bistro in the sprawling DeVargas Center. HG had a splendid bargain ($12) lunch special there last week. Two crispy vegetable spring rolls. Flavorful cup of vegetable broth with tofu and scallions. Spicy platter of not too sweet pad thai (Many Thai restaurants make this sugary, catering to the American sweet tooth). Happily, the medium flat rice noodles were not overdone but had toothsome spring. Lovely finish: A serving of two grapes, a raspberry and two blackberries. Want to go back and taste the Tom Yum soup (sour and spicy) and the green chicken curry. The Santa Fe south outpost of Thai goodies is Thai Cafe and Noodle Treats on Zafarano Drive. Haven’t tried it but will be sure to devour some of their noodle varieties.

Horse and Wagon

May 6th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Yes, horse and wagons were still present on many New York streets during the 1930’s when HG was a youngster. Not plentiful, but not unfamiliar (as was the scent of horse droppings). Many of the Italian greengrocers transported their goods via a horse and wagon (as did the ice men who serviced ice boxes in non-refrigerator neighborhoods). In 1933, little HG was so bemused by the sight of refrigerator installation in a nearby apartment house that the little fellow had an embarrassing sanitary accident. HG’s late, beloved father, Hershele Tsvi Freimann (anglicized to Freeman at Ellis Island), loved horses. He couldn’t pass a horse and wagon without scratching the horse’s nose and having a nuzzled conversation. Father (nicknamed “Grisha” in his youth), rode horses every day in his native Belarus. He was also in charge of the horse and wagon that delivered wheat to the family mill. Surprisingly, this mill escaped damage during numerous Czarist pogroms and the unrest of the Russian Revolution until World War Two. ┬áThen, the Germans destroyed the mill and killed ┬áthe Jews in Father’s home town of Smulovich. Some Jews escaped and joined partisan groups. A Freimann cousin survived by escaping to the east. In 1917, before HG was born, HG’s father was forced to flee the city after his actions in labor union wars made New York too dangerous. Father, Mother and late, elder brother, Bernard, left The Bronx for Harrisburg, Ohio, via horse and wagon driven by Father. Their destination was the farm of Fanny Kravitz, Mother’s sister. During their one year residence there, Mother and Father recalled, with much fondness, the weekly square dances at their rustic hideaway.

Happy Great Depression

May 4th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Yes, the Great Depression of the 30’s was a tough time but HG can only remember it with fondness. The family escaped the heat of summer by renting a tiny living space in a boarding house on B.114 Street, Rockaway Park. Rent was $60 for the summer season —end of the school term in June through Labor Day in September (though little HG liked school and was an excellent scholar, tears were shed when the time came to leave the sea and sand of the glorious Rockaway beach). The vacation apartment consisted of a bedroom where Mom and Dad slept; a foyer where HG’s late, beloved sister, Beulah slept; a kitchen where little HG slept between the dining table and ice box. Yes, there was an ice box (no refrigerator) containing a big block of ice delivered by a sturdy Italian. The ice melted into a basin and it was little HG’s job to empty that basin. When HG forgot and flooded the kitchen, HG was chastised. Toilet (communal) was in the outside hall. Showers were in the basement. One temperature: Icy cold. Primitive? Yes. But, the family was happy that it could afford a summer vacation place. Meals were jolly. Lots of sweet corn and ripe tomatoes (plus a meat or fish dish) washed down with cold beer. Little HG brought the beer in a tin “growler” from Reidy’s, the corner saloon. (When HG was a bit older, HG had an “Abie’s Irish Rose” romance with lovely Peggy, the proprietor’s daughter). As a special treat, HG was sent to Barney’s on nearby Rockaway Boulevard to pick up a container of superlative, hand made ice cream. Fleet HG ran both ways to make sure the frozen delight didn’t melt. Happy days at the “Proletarian Riviera.”

Innards Finale: Lungs, Spleen, Heart, Gizzards

May 2nd, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Lungen mit Miltz was on the menu of traditional New York Jewish restaurants (all gone) of yesteryear. (Gluckstern’s also served tripe). Like the African-Americans of the racist South, the impoverished Jews of pre-World War Two Europe ate every bit of the cow, inside and out. (Unlike the African-Americans, Jews, of course, didn’t eat swine). Lungen mit Miltz was a stew of lungs and spleen. Lots of garlic, onion and chicken fat gave it flavor. This was a dish not favored by HG but relished by HG’s late, beloved father. When little HG accompanied his father on a clothes buying expedition to the Lower East Side, Dad and Son lunched at a plain spoken “Romanian/Jewish” eatery. Dad had the lungen stew plus P’tcha, jellied calf’s foot. Son had karnezlach, garlic and onion infused ground beef, shaped into fat cigars and broiled. Accompanied by Mamaliga, the Romanian version of polenta. Both dishes were anointed with plentiful chicken fat poured from a pitcher on the table. Seltzer was the beverage. The only, time HG ever had spleen was in the form of a sandwich (bread was a soft bun) on the street in Palermo, the colorful Sicilian city. It was okay, not great. HG ate braised heart in French bistros on the far West Side that catered to French seamen. A strong taste. Not for the faint hearted. HG tasted grilled chicken gizzards once at a Japanese restaurant (accompanied by SJ). Tasty. However, HG has learned that “Gesiers” (duck gizzards) are superior. Usually served as part of a salad in Paris bistros. Must try if HG ever gets back to Paree.

More Innards: Tripe

May 1st, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Tripe. Yes, it’s an unattractive word. Tripe is the stomach lining of a cow. Prepared properly, it is a delicious dish. Here in New Mexico, tripe is thoroughly soaked and cleansed and then slowly braised with pig feet for flavoring. Plus onions, garlic, oregano,etc. The pig feet are removed after cooking (though some very Mexican eateries in southern New Mexico serve the pig feet). This Mexican tripe stew is called Menudo and it is a food passion for HG. For health reasons, HG limits Menudo intake to one bowl a week. That’s because, though low in calories, Menudo contains unhealthy fat. Many Menudo fans add posole to their bowl for a very filling meal. Not for HG, just chopped onions, Hatch green chile and squeezes of lemon. Sometimes, HG crumbles a Saltine cracker in the savory broth. Best Menudo is served at El Parasol in Pojoauque on Highway 285. Close by is Sopaipilla Factory which serves a more sophisticated version of Menudo. The tripe stew is also available at Brazos in Santa Fe and Agelina’s in Espanola. The French, naturally, are big fans of tripe and cook it in a variety of ways. Lyonnais favorites are thin pan fried breaded pieces of tripe with onions and garlic. Usually served with potato puree. Also, tablier de sapeur (fried and breaded honeycomb tripe which is first boiled and marinated in white wine). A Paris favorite is a stew called tripes a la mode de Caen. Originating in Normandy, tripe is baked (between 7 and 14 hours) with a calf’s foot, onions, celery, spices, white wine and a generous shot of Calvados. It is a specialty at the venerable Paris restaurant, Pharamond. The rowdy all night bistro, Chez Denise, offers “Tripes au Calvados” for 23 Euros. It is a very large pot of tripe and it takes a hero with a big stomach to finish it. Tripe used to be on the menus of many old style Italian and French restaurants in New York. Then it disappeared. Now making a modest comeback. Victoria Freeman (HG’s beloved daughter) and husband/chef Marc Meyer introduced Menudo at their ultra-authentic Mexican restaurant, Rosie’s. Their convivial Margarita-sipping clientele would have none it. Took it off the menu before sad HG could savor.

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