Red Salmon Caviar

August 16th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

The real Russian/Iranian caviar—beluga, sevruga — is unbelievably expensive. Can only be enjoyed by oligarchs, billionaires and other plutocrats. Some 58 years ago HG would order these treats (inexpensive then) from Caviarteria in New York and heap tablespoons on lightly toasted and buttered slices of Pepperidge Farm Thin Sliced White Bread. No adulteration of taste by additions of lemon juice, chopped onions, chopped hard boiled eggs and sour cream. Drank icy Polish Vodka Wyborowa from a bottle covered with frost from the freezer. This is a happy memory. However, HG is pleased that one of the great affordable luxuries, Red Salmon Caviar (the color is closer to orange) is readily available online from Zabar’s (HG’s choice) and Russ & Daughters, two New York smoked fish institutions. When living on the upper west side of Manhattan, HG/BSK would have a favorite brunch at The Russian Tea Room on W. 57th Street (this delightful eccentric restaurant was a show biz, dance and music hangout but after many ownership changes and glitzy renovations it is a hyper-expensive shadow of its former self). The brunch would start with “Eggplant Orientale”, a Slav version of baba ganoush. This was followed by stacks of blini drenched in melted butter and topped with red salmon caviar and thick sour cream. Oh, my!! Gifted Daughter Lesley R. makes her version of this with thin crepes (HG murmurs: “More, more.” ) SJ contributes superb latkes that get the caviar-and-sour cream adornment. This takes place at the family feast of the fishes (Russo/Jewish version) on Christmas.Eve in Rhode Island. When back in New Mexico, BSK makes BSK’s inimitable omelets. Very soft on the inside (the French call it “baveuse”) with gently browned exteriors. BSK fills the omelets with red salmon caviar. Scoop of sour cream on top. Heaven.

Pizza Cravings

August 6th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

An eminent broadcasting executive, married to a world famous, beautiful and elegant fashion icon, was queried by a friend as to why he was unfaithful to her with very ordinary, mundane women. The sexist guy replied: “Well, I love caviar but sometimes I have a hankering for a slice of pizza”. No risque metaphor here. In a very literal sense, old HG would like some good pizza. Unavailable in New Mexico and have yet to try Piatto Pizzeria in Prince Edward Island (have heard good things). SJ will soon be on PEI with family. Hopefully, SJ will grill some of SJ’s pizza covered with thinly sliced PEI potatoes, garlic, herbs and fruity olive oil. Excellent. Al Forno in Providence is famous for its grilled pizza (some good grilled pizza is available at a little eatery on Providence’s Federal Hill.) Pizzas are versatile. HG liked the thin crusted pizzas served at the 240 Union restaurant in Lakewood, CO.,when the talented Matthew Franklin was chef. Before moving to HG/BSK’s horse ranch in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain foothills, HG/BSK spent more than a year on Sheridan Square in New York’s Greenwich Village. HG/BSK supped often at a nearby architecturally distinctive, stylish restaurant. The female chef made a variety of fine thin crust pizzas. Alas, the restaurant closed. A bit too stylish for the AIDS-wracked Village of that time (mid-80’s). The ultimate thin crust pizza was the product of a Roman hole-in-the-wall near The Spanish Steps. This was a pizza topped with thin slices of zucchini. No cheese. No tomatoes. It resembled a French apple tart. HG’s guilty pleasure was a thick crusted slice of pizza sold at pizzerias throughout northern New Jersey and The Bronx; also at the “original” Original Ray’s in Manhattan. Greasy. Juicy. Cheesy. Irresistible. Sprinkled with red pepper flakes, garlic powder and dry oregano, this was a treat that united the proletariat with artists, intellectuals, businesspersons and politicians. The great leveler.

Great Steamed Clams

August 4th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

For some obscure reason, up until this point, By the Bay Fish Mart in St. Peters has not (to HG’s dismay) been selling soft shell clams. Steamed soft shells, rinsed in clam broth and dipped in butter, is a favorite HG dish. So, HG was overjoyed yesterday to find the clams finally available at the Fish Mart. Many, many rinses in cold water to get rid of sand. BSK steamed them to perfection and they were among the best steamers HG ever tasted. Big and lush. HG’s favorite soft shell clam dish was served at the downtown Brooklyn landmark, Gage & Tollner’s. Clam bellys sauteed in butter. Recently learned that some young restaurateurs are busy fund raising to restore and reopen the restaurant. Thankfully, the antique interior has remained. HG/BSK ate many pounds of steamers during their summers in Fire Island and Nantucket. (The Nantucket fish store, where HG was addressed as “Captain”, also sold superb bay scallops and swordfish.) BSK has an unhappy steamer memory of a trip through Maine years ago with Montclair, N.J. friends, Rita and Jack N. (HG and pals were visiting children Jeremy and Evan at an athletic camp). While BSK’s husband and friends ate, with gusto, great steamed lobster and lobster rolls (never better than on the Maine seashore), BSK (allergic to crustaceans) had to dine on small, insipid steamers. Excellent blueberry pie was not adequate compensation.

Frog Legs

June 19th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Many years ago, New York’s theater district and the cross streets that extended into the far west side were dotted with plain spoken, very traditional French bistros. Hearty, affordable food and rough and ready wine. Close to the waterfront were the rugged bistros favored by French seamen from the ocean liners. Those were the places where young HG first sampled beef hearts, tete de veau and other innards plus long simmered stews. At the classier (but still economical) bistros near the theaters were where HG first tasted frog legs. HG approached the dish with apprehension. But, culinary curiosity forced HG to order a plate. HG was hooked. Whether cooked a la Provencal (with tomatoes and onions) or sauteed in olive oil with garlic and a sprinkling of paprika, HG always ordered them before proceeding to brains, kidneys or boeuf bourginon. Hard to find on restaurant menus these days (even in Paris). Thus, HG was happy last summer to find frozen frog legs in the fish counter at Sobey’s Supermarket in Charlottetown. HG ate dozens (the sautee version) before being admonished by daughter Lesley R.. Because she is the communications and marketing director for a major health care provider in Rhode Island, she is knowledgeable about the harmful effects of certain foods. Asian frog legs are harvested in dirty, fetid swamps and streams and processed in less-than-ideal environs. Eat at your own risk, said she. HG did admit to some queasiness after a big plate of frog legs. HG believes this was due to Lesley-induced fears plus an overindulgence in vodka. With these fragile justifications in mind, HG picked up a half pound of attractive, fresh frog legs at the Atlantic Superstore in C’town.They were meaty, tender, delicious. No bad after effects. Sadly, all of those cheap and tasty west side French bistros have disappeared. Only one remains, the tiny Chez Napoleon. The women who run it feature all of the classics including frog legs and brains in black butter. The menu is a roll call of old time French good things. Plus, you can get a very good souffle if you order it at the beginning of your meal. Chez Napoleon, long may it reign.

Ben’s R.I.P.

June 18th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Sad news. The Forward reported today that Ben’s deli in the Rego Park section of Queens has closed. That’s dreadful. During HG’s long career as a public relations counselor, HG was often in Rego Park where he met with real estate biggies, politicos and journalists assigned to the Queens beat. This was long before Queens (and Rego Park) became heavily internationalized and multi-ethnic, multi-lingual. Big Jewish population. At Ben’s, HG often lunched with HG’s long time client, the late real estate mogul Sam Lefrak (This was before Sam discovered his alleged French ancestry and changed his last name to the classier “LeFrak”). HG and Sam plotted PR maneuvers as they wolfed down giant pastrami and corned beef sandwiches plus French fries, potato salad and cole slaw. The beverage was Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray Tonic. They were often joined by another Ben’s habituee, the then Queens Borough President Don Manes (later a suicide as he faced corruption charges). Ben’s, Gitlitz (on Broadway and 79th), Second Avenue Delicatessen (when run by the late, tragically murdered Abe Lebewohl) were HG’s favorite New York Jewish delis. All gone. Jewish delicatessens are a vanishing species. Health reasons? Loss of Jewish identity? Assimilation? Fear of heartburn? Who know. Katz’s remains, of course. However, HG has never fancied Katz’s. Overrated.

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.

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.

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: Sweetbreads

April 30th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Sweetbreads are the thymus gland of a cow. When cooked properly, they are one of the truly sublime delicacies. They have always been a staple on the menus of fashionable restaurants in New York. Veal sweetbreads are the best. In Paris, sweetbreads (ris de veau) are served in scores of eating places catering to budgets big and small. They are usually sautéed and served with a variety of sauces. The trick is in making the exterior crispy while keeping the interior meltingly soft. HG’s favorite sweetbreads dish was served at the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel. The sweetbreads were presented on a slice of lightly fried Virginia ham and topped with a generous amount of Béarnaise sauce. Very good sweetbreads were obligatory as part of the vast appetizer presentation at Jewish weddings, Bar and Bas Mitzvahs. BSK got a surprising (and shocking) revelation about culinary overabundance at the first New York Bar Mitzvah feast BSK attended with HG after their marriage. The event was at a fancy Queens catering hall. There were two appetizer tables–cold and hot. Cold featured chopped liver, smoked salmon, sable, whitefish, kippered salmon, red salmon caviar, egg salad, herring salad, potato salad, whitefish salad, olives, pickles, sliced onions, scallions, celery, Greek salad, green salad plus cheeses, bread and rolls. The hot table held sweetbreads, sliced tenderloin steak, baby lamb chops, pigs in a blanket, Greek spinach pastry plus bowls of a mushroom, wine and onion sauce. Glass of white wine in hand (later replaced by red), BSK took modest helpings of all the good things, cold and hot. HG, with a frequently refilled glass of vodka, attacked everything with gusto. After more than an hour of eating and drinking, BSK said: “Wow!! What great food. I overdid. I ate too much.” Then a voice sounded over the loudspeaker system. “Ladies and Gentlemen: Dinner is served. Please take your seats in the dining room.” Astonished BSK said: “They’re kidding. This is a joke.” “Nope,” replied HG.

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