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.

Sandwiches

July 12th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

HG believes that the problem with sandwiches is there’s too much bread involved. Two slices are too much. And that holds true for rolls and hamburger buns. HG prefers open-faced sandwiches. In HG’s college days at CCNY, the Campus Diner near Convent Avenue served a roast beef (or turkey) platter. The meat rested on a slice of white Wonder Bread and was flanked by mashed potatoes and pallid string beans. All was covered with a maximum amount of dark brown gravy. Appetite honed by football practice on the grassless field of Lewisohn Stadium, HG devoured these dishes with gusto. These days HG is partial to fried haddock sandwiches on the bottom half of a burger bun. HG eats this with knife and fork since the fish is doused with tartar sauce and Tabasco. Franks are removed from their bun and eaten au naturel with mustard and sauerkraut (or pickle relish if kraut isn’t available). Hamburgers get similar treatment. HG rarely eats them anywhere but in the kitchen of BSK, The Burger Baroness. BSK grills them in a seasoned black cast iron pan; tops them with melted cheese and sweet onions. No buns. Just glory. HG concedes there are sandwiches where two slices of bread are essential: The Reuben sandwich (best ever was served at Reuben’s Restaurant on Manhattan’s upper east side. Alas, long closed).; the classic diner grilled cheese (doused with plenty of Worcestershire Sauce); bacon, lettuce and tomato on whole-wheat toast (heavy on the mayo). And, of course, New York’s Katz’s Delicatessen pastrami sandwich. The best, and messiest, two slices of bread sandwich was at HG’s favorite Jewish delicatessen, Gitlitz on the upper west side (HG/BSK lived two blocks away). This was composed of (HG’s orders) chopped liver, pastrami, sliced onion, coleslaw, and Russian dressing. Very untraditional but super delicious. Waiters frowned. One day (if health luck holds out) HG/BSK will visit the Scandinavian countries and eat the famed smorrebrod: open faced sandwiches often featuring herring and smoked fish. Pass the icy Aakavit and beer.

Bananas

June 29th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Excellent fruit. For some obscure reason, HG has been neglecting bananas for some years. Now, they are an integral part of HG’s breakfast. HG tops fruit yogurt with thin banana slices and adds a dash of Canadian maple syrup. Delicious, healthy, and filling. These slices are nice over a bran cereal or muesli (the maple syrup is obligatory). Growing up, HG’s Mom often served Little HG with a bowl of sliced bananas and sour cream. As a special treat, HG had the bananas with sweet cream and chopped walnuts. Sauteed, brown sugared bananas were a wondrous side dish at Forno’s, the long closed, delightful Spanish restaurant on Manhattan’s midtown west side. In yesteryear Bronx, ice cream parlors like Addy Vallins and Krum’s, served banana splits. Bananas were sliced vertically and toped with three scoops of ice cream. Whipped cream, chocolate syrup (or hot fudge or butterscotch), chopped nuts and a Maraschino cherry topped it. (Do banana splits still exist?). Best banana dish was Bananas Foster served at Brennan’s in New Orleans. Bananas were sauteed in butter and sugar. Topped with ice cream and flamed with brandy. Easy to make at home. (NY Times has a good recipe). Give it a try and have some N’awlins delight.

Brooklyn Teenage Date

May 7th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Teenage HG traveled from The Bronx to Brooklyn by subway for HG’s Saturday night date with his first girlfriend, the lovely Joan Z. (Subway cost five cents and HG had a book to ease the long trip). HG always wore a jacket with a shirt and tie. Joan would be in high heels and a dress. No jeans in those days. One dressed in style. Off to a movie. Much canoodling in the darkness. Then, post entertainment dinner in a Chinese restaurant. Egg drop soup or won ton soup. Shrimp chow mein or pork chop suey. Almond cookie or vanilla ice cream for dessert. Many cups of tea. Total cost of date: $1.85. Itemized: Ten cents for subway round trip; Fifty cents for the movie ( tickets were 25 cents each); Chinese dinners were 50 cents each with a quarter tip for the waiter. Fervent intimacies with Joan. Priceless.

Yesteryear NYC Jewish Delis

May 5th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

In HG’s youth, New York had hundreds of Jewish delicatessens, temples of corned beef, pastrami, brisket, tongue and pickles. Many had a counter bowl of chunks of garlic sausage with a sign: “A nickel a shtikel.” (“Shtikel” means small piece in Yiddish.) Rye bread and all the meats were excellent. Pickled cucumbers (sour or half-sour); pickled peppers and sauerkraut were state of the art. Bright yellow mustard was tangy and Russian (or Thousand Islands) dressing was nonexistent. Reuben sandwiches were not served since the sandwich contains a dairy product (Swiss cheese) and most delis were kosher. Kashruth law forbade the mixing of meat and dairy products. Some delis were “Glatt Kosher.” This meant super, super kosher. HG avoided these places. Jewish deli frankfurters were superior, A pair of hot dogs with loads of mustard and sauerkraut cost 20 cents when HG was a boy. Even better was “The Special,” a big, juicy knockwurst. Sadly, only a few traditional delis are left (Katz’s, 2nd Avenue Deli, etc.). Ben’s, a Queens favorite of HG, closed recently. HG dined there often with the late real estate mogul, Sam Lefrak (Before he French-fried his name to “LeFrak). New York’s changing demographics and more sophisticated tastes have now made it much easier to eat sushi than heartburn-producing Jewish food. Cardiologists approve.

The Ultimate Comfort Food

April 30th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Yes, it’s macaroni and cheese. Frowned upon by the health police as a bombshell of carbohydrates, fats and calories. But, when done properly, it is lush, rich and super savory. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, it is impossible to find superior mac and cheese in a restaurant. It’s either too starchy, sticky or downright insipid. Best mac and cheese was found at New York’s long closed Automat chain. Young HG would pop nickels into the wall of treats and out would come a small ceramic bowl of mac and cheese lightly browned on top. Heavenly dish. Also very good were the Automat’s baked bean casseroles and beef pot pie. Yes, a handful of nickels could purchase great food. When HG/BSK lived in Colorado, a close friend and sturdy ally in political and environmental battles was the late Betty Miller. Betty was a progressive Democrat and an elected and appointed government official. Very able in all of her posts. At lunch one day, HG mentioned how much HG missed great mac and cheese. Betty replied: “I was born and reared in North Carolina. I know how to do it. Come to dinner Saturday night.” HG/BSK arrived to dine with Betty and daughter, Beth. On the table was a pot of mac and cheese and a platter of southern stuffed peppers. Plus a bottle of Wild Turkey bourbon whiskey. Oh my!! one of the very great dinners of HG’s lifetime. Memorable.

Coffee Shops

April 3rd, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

HG is not fond of Starbucks or its egocentric founder. HG misses the old fashioned coffee shops of HG’s New York years. No, not the arty Greenwich Village espresso joints where the espresso was bitter, the girls were lovely and the poetry execrable. HG refers to the coffee shops (often Greek owned) that dispensed tunafish sandwiches, pancakes, scrambled eggs, soup (and endless cups of coffee). When HG/BSK lived in a spacious rent controlled ($275 a month for a four bedroom, three bath, separate formal dining room, 30-foot living room with Hudson River and Palisades views) on W. 79th Street, HG would often skip breakfast at home. Instead, HG would pick up the New York Times on the Broadway corner and settle into the smoke-filled adjacent coffee shop for HG’s usual healthy morning repast of black coffee and numerous Marlboro cigarettes. Other favorites were the coffee shop at 57th (near Broadway) for the ultimate BLT; Fourth Avenue and 25th Street for a great tuna fish sandwich on pumpernickel) 55th Street east of Madison for perfect softly scrambled eggs with a warmed buttered bialy. HG misses these joints and the New York of yesteryear.

Auspicious Dining

February 10th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

HG/BSK rarely dine at big time, lauded-by-the-critics restaurants. Much too expensive. HG/BSK like to drink wine. Restaurant markups mean that HG/BSK can spend $60-100 on wine and cocktails prior to ordering pricey food. Before dining prices went crazy (Should the greedy landlords be blamed?) HG/BSK had sumptuous meals at the world’s best restaurants. They were expensive but not outlandish. These are some of them. (1) Le Bernardin in New York. Seafood perfection and creativity. (2) Connaught Hotel Restaurant in London (This was years ago before the menu, etc. changed). The best French restaurant ever (And it wasn’t in France). HG/BSK would order English food there: Mixed grill, Dover sole, steak and kidney pie, thinly sliced Scotch smoked salmon. (3) Le Pavillon in New York when it was owned and run by imperious Henri Soule. Lump crabmeat casserole. Roast duck with olives. Smoked eel filets with horseradish whipped cream. (4) The Pool Room of the Four Season (when it was in the Seagram Building). Steaks. Leg of lamb. Desserts. (5) The Oak Room of the Plaza Hotel in New York (years ago). Chateaubriand steak. Braised celery with bone marrow. Pommes souffle. These days when HG/BSK are in London, their favorite spot is J. Sheekey, a relatively affordable seafood paradise. In Paris, it’s Le Stella, a traditional brasserie with oysters, rack of lamb and ile flottante for dessert. Also, modestly priced Ma Bourgogne. Jambon persillade. Escargots. Quenelles. In New York, it’s the wondrous quartet of restaurants owned and run by HG daughter Victoria Freeman and husband/chef Marc Meyer. The restaurants are Rosie’s (Mexican. Located in the East Village); Cookshop (Locavore and Mediterranean. Located on Tenth Avenue near the High Line). Vic’s (Italian and located on Great Jones Street). Shuka (Middle Eastern. Located on Macdougall in the SOHO/Greenwich Village neighborhood). All the restaurants have a joyous atmosphere, warm service, splendid food, imaginative wine lists. And (for New York) they are affordable.

50 Cent Bronx Dinners Circa 1940

November 15th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

HG’s beloved parents, Harry and Ida, long deceased, almost never went to restaurants. They were out of the question during the Great Depression when pennies were carefully counted. However, the economy picked up by 1940 and a once-a-month family meal was a happy occasion at Tower Delicatessen and Restaurant on W. Kingsbridge Road in The Bronx. Cost of the meal was 50 cents per person plus a generous tip of 35 cents. So, what did you get for a half buck in this Jewish kosher eatery? Choice of chopped liver (plenty of chicken fat) or gefilte fish (fiery horseradish). Then a bowl of chicken soup with either noodles or kasha. Main dish was boiled chicken with a boiled potato and mushy peas and carrots. More fiery horseradish, mustard and pickles. Lots of rye bread and challah on the table. Dessert was stewed prunes. Beverage was seltzer. Finale was tea.

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.

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