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.

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.

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