Another One Bites The Dust: El Charro RIP

September 26th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

El Charro is gone. Closed. It was a charming Greenwich Village landmark at 4 Charles Street. El Charro originated as a Mexican restaurant and then morphed into a Spanish restaurant in 1959. And that’s when HG became a steady customer until leaving for Colorado with BSK in 1986. SJ (aka HG’s son) filled HG’s vacated seat and continued to frequent El Charro for years until it closed a few months back (its demise came to HG’s attention today). El Charro was the essence of Greenwich Village a half century ago. The Village had Inexpensive apartments inhabited by journalists, fledgling copywriters, painters, musicians, theater folk, embryonic novelists and playwrights, young emigres from the midwest (BSK among them) etc. El Charro was a happy place with a Village communal feeling. After one visit, the waiters treated you like a friend. Thankfully, it was inexpensive as HG and BSK had limited financial resources long ago. The food was garlicky, hearty and tasty. Typical HG/BSK meal was an appetizer of spicy chorizo followed by scallops (or shrimp) in green sauce. Finale of Spanish fried chicken. Lots of saffron rice. Flan for dessert. Mucho sangria and magaritas. There were always pals or acquaintances in the room, adding a joyous element to the dining. All gone. Gone as an older New York fades into memory. Fortunately, Sevilla, another Village Spanish restaurant still operates. HG/BSK enjoyed their huge platters of paella and arroz con pollo. HG presumes Sevilla prices are no longer those of the 1960s.

Some Like It Hot and Salty

September 25th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

HG likes fiery food. So, a stocked larder of hot sauces is essential. HG’s essential blazers include Frank’s Red Hot Sauce (better than Tabasco and the ONLY hot sauce to be used in preparing Buffalo Chicken wings); Frank’s Red Hot Sweet Chile Sauce (essential with dim sum); Sriracha (best when squirted into bowls of pho-like Asian soups); Harissa (middle eastern food necessity). Two super potent sauces HG adores: Chrug (phonetic spelling as HG can’t make out the Hebrew brand name), a Yemeni/Israeli hot sauce that Yossi M., HG’s admired brother-in-law, brings to HG from his annual visit to Israel and Lao Gan Ma Chili Crisp Sauce. The bottle of Chrug has a stern looking bearded patriarch on its label and the Chinese killer sauce has a picture of a dour unsmiling woman. Food writer Pete Meehan notes that one shouldn’t feel sorry for the pictured woman (founder and owner of the sauce company) as her net worth is in the hundreds of millions of dollars. HG is not fond of sweet (except in the aforementioned sweet chili sauce) but likes salty. A favored snack (or appetizer) is a dish of jarred Piquillo peppers adorned with anchovies and a splash of olive oil. HG always wondered why Canadian markets keep their tinned anchovies refrigerated while US markets keep anchovies on the shelves with tuna, sardines, etc. HG found the answer in a recent communication from Zingerman’s, the midwest’s answer to Zabar’s: If anchovies aren’t kept refrigerated, they get soft and lose flavor. Sardines and tuna increase in flavor when they are stored in the pantry. Go figure.

Happy New Year!!!

September 24th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Yes, Rosh Hashanah has come and gone, the Jewish new year. HG is an atheist and not fond of religious institutions, holidays, etc. However, HG identifies himself as a Jew and loves Yiddish; sardonic and dark Jewish humor; Jewish food containing an abundance of schmaltz (chicken fat). For a Rosh Hashanah celebratory feast, HG’s late Mom usually prepared long cooked brisket accompanied by kasha (buckwheat groats) smothered in fried onions, garlic and (you guessed it) chicken fat. Challah soaked up the abundant gravy. BSK marked the holiday at HG/BSK’s Prince Edward Island oceanfront home with a middle eastern feast. Pan broiled kefta (cigar shaped patties of ground lamb flavored with onion, garlic, pine nuts, paprika and herbs); Israeli couscous; buttered yellow beans. HG mixed a big bowl of Greek yogurt and sour cream with olive oil, garlic, cumin, sumac, zaatar, coriander, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Very tasty and festive, If you want to mark a holiday (or any cool day) with brisket, essential reading is “The Brisket Book” by HG/BSK’s talented pal, Stephanie Pierson.

HG’s Vegetable Gumbo

September 20th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

The best gumbo in the world is SJ’s chicken and andouille (or chorizo) sausage gumbo. Far better than vaunted New Orleans Creole or Cajun gumbo. Unlike talented (as writer, cook and reggae impresario) SJ, HG doesn’t have the patience or skill to make the flavorful roux that is the base of lush gumbo. So, last night HG turned out a simple version of bacon and vegetable gumbo. Reinforced with splashes of Frank’s Hot Sauce, it turned out to be a robust dish. HG browned five slices of thick cut bacon, onions and okra. When the mix had softened, HG added a can of Italian plum tomatoes and simmered for twenty minutes. Three ears of left over Blum’s corn were in the fridge. Added the delicious kernels to the pan and warmed for another ten minutes. Stirred with File powder (left over from SJ’s last PEI visit). Served the gumbo over basmati brown rice. No match for SJ’s masterpiece. However….

Prince Edward Island Dim Sum

September 19th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

When HG/BSK lived on Sheridan Square in Greenwich Village (for one year prior to a move to Colorado) the duo enjoyed a splendid Sunday morning bike ride. HG/BSK pedaled through the weekend quiet of Wall Street, the City Hall area, and across Brooklyn Bridge (best views of New York). Brooklyn Heights gave HG/BSK a glimpse of serene streets lined with brownstone town houses and the Promenade facing the river was strolling heaven. Appetites raging, HG/BSK rode back across Brooklyn Bridge arriving at Manhattan’s Chatham Square and Chinatown. Time for dim sum and hot tea. These early autumn days on Prince Edward Island, HG and Toby, The Wonder Dog, walk along the ocean facing bluffs in front of HG/BSK’s oceanfront home (sometimes descending to the shoreline for a beach glass search). Lunch is dim sum. Chinese vegetable dumplings, pork and leek dumplings, rice noodles with tofu (flavored with sesame oil and chili oil). Plenty of hot tea, of course. HG buys Asian provisions at Global Grocery in Charlottetown (Poong brand frozen dumplings are winners). HG’s dim sum lunch is not as varied as the repasts HG/BSK shared in Chinatown. But, hey, Chinatown restaurants don’t have the panoramic sea views of HG/BSK’s PEI kitchen/dining room.

September 18th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

SJ has long had thousands of Facebook followers for his brilliant “SadChairs” instagram account and blog. In various forums he has written penetrating political and cultural insights plus, SJ is noted expert in everything about reggae music, reggae events, vintage records, Jamaica, etc. The consummate New Yorker/Brooklynite has moved (with family) to Tokyo. SJ has an affinity for big cities so it is no surprise that SJ is falling in love with Tokyo. SJ is reporting on Tokyo’s food, culture, regional distinctiveness in SJ’s just launched blog, If you ever plan on visiting Tokyo, Oishi Gevalt is essential reading. The blog will also bring pleasure to all who are interested in food and brilliant, evocative writing. OG surpasses HG. Makes HG proud. HG is also pleased that SJ continues to edit and illustrate And, happily, SJ is discovering many gloomy chairs in Tokyo.

Savory Melted Cheese

September 17th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

A wee drop of autumn cool in the Prince Edward Island breeze. To some this can foretell colorful leaf excursions, tweed jackets, football games, the dreaded pumpkin spice, etc. What does greedy HG ponder this season? Hot melted cheese extravaganzas. Mundane (but tasty) toasted cheddar cheese sandwiches, French croque monsieur sandwiches (Sandwiches of white bread doused with beaten egg and sautéed in butter enhancing the stuffing of ham and swiss cheese. Plus, a gilding of maple syrup). Greek sautéed cheese flamed with brandy, Melted brie topped with strawberry jam. Camembert baked atop shallots and sliced apples. Gratins of potatoes, onions, garlic and a heap of gruyere. Baked ziti covered with a pound of mozzarella (or just melted mozzarella on garlic rubbed country bread toast and topped with fruity olive oil and sea salt.) .Fondue? Boring.

BSK Beats the Wind

September 14th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

HG/BSK’s Prince Edward Island home was buffeted with winds of almost Hurricane Irma velocity. However, HG/BSK luxuriated in comfort as BSK stoked HG/BSK’s Danish wood stove. Dinner was pure comfort. BSK cooked local hot and sweet Italian sausage with peppers, onions, tomatoes, garlic and herbs. Hearty sauce. Served it over perfectly al dente papardelle. Oh, my! HG approached heaven. The sausage was good but it wasn’t the true flavor packed (lots of fennel seeds) Italian sausage available in New York (Greenwich Village-Ninth Avenue- 11th Avenue- Bronx: Arthur avenue and Mott Haven-Queens Corona-Brooklyn Carroll Gardens and Bensonhurst.) When HG/BSK lived in Manhattan and northern New Jersey, a favorite source for Italian sausages was Faicco’s Pork Storeon Bleecker Street (other location on 11th Avenue). The best. Faicco’s also had great mozzarella and many other Italian delicacies. Plus, fabulous hero sandwiches. If you are wandering in Greenwich Village and developing an appetite, order a take out Faicco’s sandwich. Be warned. One sandwich is more than enough for two hearty eaters. Abondanza!!

Restaurant Nostalgia.

September 12th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Examining HG’s archives, HG notes that HG’s followers respond, with passionate nostalgia, to HG’s memories of long closed New York restaurants. Number one in the nostalgia parade is Christ Cella, the great steak house on E. 44th street. Scores of readers have sent in comments recalling romantic dinners there, happy meals with fathers and family members who worked there. Yes, CC didn’t do fancy frills. Superb products treated simply and with respect. Number two: Luchow’s, the outstanding German restaurant on E. 14th Street. Gorgeous antique decor. Oompah music. Succulent food. Wonderful beer. Number three: Gage & Tollner, the venerable seafood (and mutton chop restaurant) on Fulton Avenue, downtown Brooklyn. Sautéed clam bellies. Shad and shad roe with bacon. Dignified African-American waiters. Surprisingly, few HG fans recall two Upper West Side restaurants frequented by HG: Famous Dairy on W/. 72nd Street and Gitlitz delicatessen on Broadway and W. 79th. Nobody seems to remember the splendid Chinese restaurants clustered around Broadway and W. 96th Street. Most were on the west side of Broadway, but on the east side an eatery introduced fiery Szechauan fare to New York.

Joyous Overkill

September 10th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Too much food. Too much alcohol. Nevertheless. A wonderful, festive dinner with HG/BSK’s visitors, New Mexico pals Karen K. and David F., two of HG/SK’s favorite dining companions. Strange Prince Edward Island day of sun, clouds, rain, wind, calm. HG managed shore walks with companion Toby, The Wonder Dog. Toby has become an intrepid sea wanderer, leaping off bluffs and high rock formations, dodging waves. Activity honed a lust for alcohol. HG, David F. and Karen K. drank much PEI Myriad View vodka. BSK was content with Pelee Island white wine from Ontario. Accompanied the pre-dinner drinking with ripe local cantaloupe and prosciutto (dusted with ground black pepper). Dinner consisted of lobster with melted butter; tiger shrimp sautéed in olive oil with sliced garlic, olive oil and smoked Spanish paprika; sautéed sea scallops atop lightly dressed butter lettuce; sweet corn (of course); salad of sliced tomatoes, baby cucumbers, Kalamata olives and feta cheese. This was followed by rich chunks of chocolate brownies, Macadamia nuts, tart lemon bars, Stilton cheese mixed with canded ginger. There were no left overs.