September 14th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

HG has happy memories of perfect New York meals. At Veau D’or: Brains in back butter preceded by sausage with warm potato salad. At The Russian Tearoom: Blini with red caviar, melted butter and sour cream preceded by borscht. At Paul & Jimmy’s: Poached striped bass in brodo with a starter of linguine with white clam sauce. At Christ Cella: Lump crab meat cocktail, New York strip steak, Roquefort cheese salad. At Gitlitz Delicatessen: Pastrami and chopped liver on rye with coleslaw, Russian dressing and pickles. At Delsomma: Penne in broccoli sauce, pork chops with vinegar peppers and potatoes. At Fornos: Margaritas and roast pork with Spanish potatoes and broiled bananas. At Luchow’s: Pfefferlinge (wild mushroom fricasee) and Schlemershnitte (steak tartar covered in Beluga caviar). Blue Ribbon: Grilled bratwurst with sauerkraut and home fries followed by apple pancake. Artist & Writers: Dry martinis and koenigberger klops (meatballs in a dill and sour cream sauce). Paramount Dairy: Warm gefilte fish in fish broth and kashe varnishkes with mushroom and onion gravy. Nom Wah (of yesteryear): Dim sum. (HG has written about HG’s perfect meals at Gage & Tollner in a previous post). These are all joyous meals but they pale compared to the meal HG would relish often at the counter of the Grand Central Oyster Bar. Eight chilled oysters on the half shell. Oyster Pan Roast. Nesselrode pie. The pan roast was prepared behind the counter in a special pot by a dour, unsmiling older Italian. It was incomparable, redolent of the sea and the richness of farmland. For years, HG/BSK have tried to replicate this dish. The ingredients and cooking technique are simple. However, HG/BSK have always failed. Their attempts created a pallid dish, in no way comparable to the Oyster Bar wonder. HG tried again last night using big, plump Red Head Select oysters. The result: FAILURE.

“Hit Em In The Kishkes!!”

September 5th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

From the 1920’s into the late 50’s Jews –as fighters, managers and promoters–were prominent in the world of professional boxing. The lighter weight divisions were dominated by Jews like Benny Leonard, Ted Kid Lewis, Ruby Goldstein, Abe Attell and many others. Later. in the heavier divisions there there were the Brownsville Brooklyn battlers like Al “Bummy” Davis, Morrie Reif, “Schoolboy” Friedkin and others, Also, heavyweights like Maxie Rosenbloom, Max Baer and “Kingfish” Levinsky. Jewish managers like Al Weill and Mike Jacobs dominated. Post World War Two America brought prosperity and opened opportunities for Jews that had been restricted by quotas and restrictions. Young Jews became lawyers, doctors, etc. Like Jewish criminals (Lepke Buchalter, Buggsy Siegel, Arnold Rothstein, etc. ,etc.), the Jewish world of boxing faded into the past, only remembered by nostalgic oldsters. An old guy like HG remembers watching Jewish battlers in New York at St. Nicholas Arena, Broadway Arena, the Forum. There was a belief that African- American fighters shrugged off blows to the head. Jewish fight fans would shout to their favorites: “Hit’em in the kishkes!!”. The Yiddish word “kishkes” means stomach or belly. The Jewish fighters followed this advice. Often misguided.

Gage & Tollner

September 3rd, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

HG has often been asked to name a favorite restaurant. The answer is simple: The long closed Gage & Tollner on Fulton Street in downtown Brooklyn. The restaurant had a long run, 1879 to 2004. The interior featured dark wood panelling, patches of stained glass and colorful tiles. Gentle, flattering gas lamp lighting. The waitpersons, mainly dignified, courtly African-American males, were Gage & Tollner veterans, their years of service marked by bars on their uniforms. The menu tilted toward seafood but also had world class steaks and chops. HG always started the HG meal with either oysters or little neck clams on the half shell. Followed by incomparable “clam bellies” sauteed in butter. Main dish was a tender, medium rare mutton chop accompanied by corn fritters. In the spring, HG enjoyed shad and shad roe with crisp bacon and boiled potatoes. Dessert was Nesselrode pie. Not surprisingly, HG’s current New York favorite restaurants are those owned and run by HG daughter, Victoria, and husband/chef Marc Meyer (Vic’s, Cookshop, Shuka and Rosie’s. The opening of a fifth restaurant, Shukette, is imminent). HG’s favorite food city is Vancouver, B.C. Wonderful Asian food and the splendid Granville Island Public Market. Runner up is not Paris but Reims in champagne country. Perfect oysters, sole, etc. at a fraction of Paris prices.

Noo Yawk Hot Dogs

August 4th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Though there are scores of food trucks in New York offering a wide array of top-quality food from around the globe, the Sabrett “dirty water” hot dog still flourishes. Are they good? No. They are boiled and float in salty hot water. When still wet, they are plunked on a mediocre roll. However, when this soggy mess is topped with mustard, sauerkraut and the concoction known as “pushcart onions” it appeases hunger. A culinary mystery. The best NYC hot dogs exist off the street. Papaya King (various locations) still rules. And, happily they are available online. So are the very good hot dogs served at Katz’s old-time deli on Houston Street. Schaller and Weber, the great German sausage and pork store, ships wieners (and knockwurst) so that true hot dog (or choucroute) feasts are now available for HG to enjoy in New Mexico and PEI. (BSK is ambivalent about these enticements). Strange fact: Best New York hot dog and kraut was served at a long-gone fast food counter in the Port Authority Bus Terminal on Eighth Avenue. With memory clouded by nostalgia, HG longs for the “specials” (bigger than a frank, smaller than a knockwurst) that were served many decades ago at the Tower Delicatessen and Restaurant on Kingsbridge Road in The Bronx. Long replaced in the neighborhood by Leche y Miel Dominican restaurant and other ethnic eateries (as HG has noted in a previous post). Hey, a Shrimp Mofonguito (lush) at Leche y Miel is a tasty sign of cultural and culinary diversity, says HG.

Gone. But, Not Forgotten.

August 2nd, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

The west edge of New York’s theater district was once filled with inexpensive French bistros serving robust versions of traditional dishes (Chez Napoleon is the last survivor). These days it’s difficult to find their specialties on restaurant menus. (a victory for the Health Police). Some examples: Kidneys in mustard sauce. Calf’s liver grilled medium-rare. Head cheese (bits of the tongue, brains, etc. in aspic). Brains in black butter. Tripe. Jambon persille (an aspic filled with ham and parsley). Cardiologists don’t approve of these dishes. Further west near the Hudson River waterfront there were rough and ready bistros catering to sailors from the French ocean liners plus seamen who liked hearty dishes and pitchers of cheap wine. This was where HG first tasted a Matelote (sailor) seafood stew. An HG favorite was a matelote with eels. The eels were stewed into tenderness in fish stock and red wine filled with carrots, onions, garlic (much) and herbs. There was also a matelote made with pollock or cod (delicious). These bistros were always fragrant with the aromas of long-simmering stews of beef, pork and chicken. Perfect dining for people with big appetites and small purses. A filling meal with a pitcher of red wine cost less than a dollar.

Unagi and Uni: Love or Hate

July 28th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

HG/BSK are, for the most part, very united in their food tastes. However, HG likes steak and lamb blood rare and pork chops pink. HG likes fish cooked very briefly. BSK takes a more conservative approach to these edibles. The big taste divergence in HG/BSK’s 56-year marriage is about Unagi and Uni. These are wonderful staples at Japanese restaurants and sushi bars. Both are loathed by BSK. Broiled Unagi (freshwater eel) on a bowl of rice (Unagi Udon) is an HG favorite. The dish is enhanced by the sweet and pungent Unagi sauce made by simmering a mix of mirin, sake, sugar and soy sauce. Uni (the interior of a sea urchin) has a very distinctive iodine-rich taste, something like custard that has been infused by seawater. Love it or hate it. It usually tops sushi. In Paris, Le Stella brasserie serves a fresh sea urchin which is always ordered by HG. The top is cut off and one digs into the lush interior with a spoon while avoiding the porcupine-like surface. HG first tasted Uni at Sloppy Louie’s Restaurant at the old Fulton Street Fish Market in New York. Louis Morino, the owner, liked to serve unusual fish market finds at his (not Sloppy at all) eatery. HG ate four (10 cents each) and a love affair was born. One of the best pasta dishes HG ever consumed was on the Palermo waterfront: Linguine with sea urchin sauce. (Palermo rewards the adventurous eater. A favorite street food is spleen on a bun). As for Unagi, it must have mighty health benefits. Exquisite Maiko’s late grandfather ate Unagi every day until his death at 102. Whole Foods used to sell grilled Unagi at its fish counters. Discontinued. Sad.

Kingsbridge Road

July 24th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

HG spent youthful years in the Jewish-Irish-Italian neighborhood of Kingsbridge Road in The Bronx. No Republicans. No Protestants. Kingsbridge Road was a bustling venue of meat markets (kosher and non-kosher); greengrocers; “dairy” stores; fish shops; “appetizing” stores; bakeries, etc. Dining was done at home. Restaurants were scarce. Most prominent was Tower Delicatessen, which served an overpowering multi-course 50-cent dinner (plus splendid corned beef, pastrami, hot dogs, knockwursts, etc.). Today, Kingsbridge is a very diversified neighborhood with many Cuban, Dominican, Puerto Rican, Mexican, Vietnamese, Russian and South American families. A stable, family-oriented, almost crime-free environment (still virtually no Republicans). And, restaurants galore. Here are some: Com Tan Ninh Kieu (best Vietnamese in the Bronx); La Cocina (Mexican); Caridad (Cuban); El Mangu Sabroso (Middle Eastern); Perista (Greek specialties plus encyclopedic breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes); Montezuma (Mexican and Cuban); Fordham (Philly cheesesteaks and huge ice cream sundaes); New Capitol (excellent old time diner food). Walk a few hundred yards northeast at the termination of Kingsbridge road and you’ll find Fordham Road and Gyro King (pita wraps) and Bulbap Grill (fiery Korean dishes). In another direction, walk downhill (west) where Kingsbridge terminates at Broadway. Along many blocks of Broadway, there are over a score of good Cuban and Dominican eateries including some exemplary steak houses. And, at 235th Street and Johnson Avenue in Riverdale is the best traditional Jewish delicatessen/restaurant in New York, Liebman’s. Besides corned beef, pastrami, etc., there’s lots of old time Jewish soul food like kasha varnishkes, chicken in the pot and stuffed cabbage. Yes, when it comes to food the Kingsbridge nabe is challenging Brooklyn.

Lentils A La BSK

July 23rd, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Last night BSK cooked a BIG pot of green lentils. Unsure of precise portion measurements, BSK cooked enough to feed a military platoon. No matter, they will be eaten to the last morsel since they are so good. BSK cooked them in part water, part chicken broth plus leeks, garlic, green onions, thyme and dashes of tomato paste and hot sauce. They were good company for a pound of fresh haddock filets. HG dipped the fish in beaten egg, rolled them in Canadian fish fry mix and fried them for less than a minute in very hot oil. Frank’s Hot Sauce and PEI mustard pickle were the condiments plus some chopped cherry tomatoes and scallions. Argentine Malbec was the drink. Lovely dinner. Finished with the surprisingly good peanut brittle from the Atlantic Superstore in Charlottetown. HG was introduced to green lentils (as a salad served cold with olive oil and lemon juice) when he was a youngster in New York. They were part of the all you can eat starters (shredded carrots, pickled beets, etc.) that were served at Larre’s, the pleasant and very inexpensive French restaurant that was a hangout for French art world expatriates during World War Two. HG enjoys lentils in many forms. BSK’s red lentils soup is a warming pleasure as is Indian dal (made with yellow lentils it is not favored by BSK). In yesteryear New York, many restaurants (and some diners) served super hearty brown lentil soup enriched by many slices of boiled or grilled frankfurters. Very filling. A large bowl quelled hunger in satisfying fashion.

The Elusive “Ch” Sound

July 20th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

There are many Yiddish words that contain a “ch” sound that can elude non-Yiddishists. Some of these words are: tuchis (buttocks); chuchem (wise man); chazer (pig); chalerya (cholera); chutzpah (extreme self-confidence). The “ch” sound is gutteral. It is achieved by something like a slight clearing of the throat. There are exception to the rule. “Cholent” for example, This is a dish of meat, potatoes, onions, garlic, etc. baked in the oven for 24 hours. Not an HG favorite. It is pronounced “chawnt” with a soft “ch” as in English “champ.” HG mastered the Yiddish “ch” sound early in life since HG, with affection, called HG’s late Mom, “Chaika”. a Yiddish rendering of “Ida.” BSK, through her loving association with HG, has conquered the Yiddish “ch.” A s the country song says: “If My Woman Can’t Do It, It Can’t Be Done.” BSK can do it all.


July 16th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Alexander Lobrano lives in Paris and his books on restaurants and cuisine are essential reading if planning a trip to France. Lobrano recalls meeting the late Julia Child at a Paris bistro. The regal lady was eating sliced radishes with salted butter and drinking chilled white wine. Don’t see that appetizer on many American restaurant menus. HG likes to start a summer dinner with buttered radishes and Maldon Sea Salt. BSK uses sliced radish in BSK’s chopped salads which include tomatoes, fennel, celery, sweet onion, scallions and leafy herbs. Good olive oil makes the salad a treat. HG’s late Mom often served slices of super pungent black radish with her excellent chopped liver; all drenched in chicken fat. Sammy’s Romanian on New York’s lower east side used to serve black radishes as an accompaniment to garlic and chicken fat dishes. Horseradish, of course, it the most searing of all radishes. Rodney’s Oyster Bar in Vancouver, B.C., serves fresh shredded horseradish with its splendid shucked oysters. Nice palate cleanser. As a little fellow, it was HG’s job to grate jars of horseradish for family meals. The powerful fumes from the horseradish made tears pour down HG’s rosy cheeks.

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