French Restaurants

November 15th, 2015 § 2 comments § permalink

The following post was written before the Paris terrorist attacks. As HG has noted in HG’s comments about Paris and the recent horrors (“PARIS”), HG/BSK will never abandon France and Paris. To do so would hand victory to terrorists.

The great writer, AJ. Liebling (his war journalism, restaurant and Paris recollections, press criticism, accounts of boxing matches, portraits of raffish characters are incomparable examples of wit, insight and erudition), once compared the attitude of a gourmand to his (or her) next meal to that of a lover contemplating an assignation. First, there is anticipation. Then, there is consummation. And, then there is sweet memory. HG is now in the anticipation stage as HG contemplates dining in the lovely French city of Reims where HG/BSK will be spending Thanksgiving week. HG/BSK; daughter Lesley R.; son-in-law Massimo R. and granddaughter Arianna R. have booked a three bedroom apartment there (plus a spacious auto). Granddaughter Sofia R. is in her first year of international studies at the university in Reims so this will be a jolly family reunion and an occasion for festive feasting. The proliferation of restaurant websites has made meal anticipation easeful and rewarding. HG has been studying the menus of the restaurants Massimo has selected for the visit (he has been in Reims before so he is well informed). Happily, prices are lower than Paris and the array of champagnes is extraordinary (Reims is in the heart of champagne country). Restaurants offer a splendid array of oysters (HG will accompany them with flutes of bubbly). Happily, the restaurants Massimo has selected offer a plethora of the old fashioned French dishes that HG adores: Charolais steak tartare; sole meuniere; tete de veau; ham and parsley terrine; escargots; rare rib steak with pommes frites; profiteroles; baba au rhum; creme brûlée, etc. On the websites, HG has encountered dishes he never had in French bistros and brasseries. A casserole of monkfish with mushrooms, for example. So, there will be a bit of adventurous dining. And, happily, HG will be back in French restaurants with their professional service, flattering lighting and unique ambience. Be assured, gracious readers, HG will be posting full accounts.


Appetizing Writers

September 28th, 2015 § 2 comments § permalink

HG likes to eat (and drink). And, when not indulging in these ever bright pleasures, HG likes to read about them. The most appetizing book about these subjects is Between Meals: An Appetite For Paris by A.J. Liebling, the New Yorker writer who had a prodigious appetite and a prodigious talent. He said of himself: “I write faster than anyone who writes better, and better than anyone who writes faster.” The book deals with Liebling’s culinary (and amorous life) in Paris. It’s witty, erudite and wonderfully evocative of that magical city. M.F.K Fisher is another writer who has written well of France, food, love and loss. Her prose is impeccable. Her recipes are terrible. Waverley Root has written definitive books about the food and wine of France and Italy. Nice analysis of tastes and regional specialties. Alexander Lobrano, Patricia Wells and blogger John Talbott are reliable reviewers of today’s Paris restaurants. Best of all New York restaurant reviewers was the late Seymour Britchky. Irreverent, funny and accurate. He died in 2004 and HG misses his acid reviews of pretentious restaurants. The New York Times, of course, has been the leader in restaurant reviewing. Craig Claiborne was the pioneer. Good judgment but much impressed by mediocre Chinese restaurants and Jewish delicatessens (probably due to a provincial Mississippi youth). Mimi Sheraton was HG’s favorite Times critic. Sheraton combined a love of “haimish” cooking with a taste for big, international flavors. HG also much enjoyed Ruth Reichl’s work at the Times before she moved on to Gourmet Magazine (sadly,no longer published). Current critic Pete Wells is at his best when he’s being destructive. Otherwise, he seems a bit too arch and precious. Sam Sifton, the food editor, is splendid. He’s made the Times a rich source of recipes and ideas for delicious home cooking (Melissa Clark is a standout. HG finds Mark Bittman uneven). Joseph Wechsberg, who wrote about European restaurants (and much else) for the New Yorker is ripe for rediscovery. And, HG recalls with fondness the down to earth midwestern flavored food writing of Clementine Paddleford (great name) of the long demised New York Herald Tribune. Calvin Trillin is the poet laureate of barbecue and other indigenous American foods (however, HG can never understand his love for the vastly overrated Mosca’s Restaurant near New Orleans). Jane and Michael Stern’s books about highway and roadside restaurants were lively and wildly influential but their selections are very uneven. They liked some terrible Tex-Mex and hamburger joints in Colorado but led HG/BSK to some very good eating in Montana and Washington. So, take their recommendations with caution.


Saveur #150 And Other Literary Treats

September 28th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Do not miss the current issue of SAVEUR. The magazine celebrates its 150th issue by compiling 101 classic recipes for appetizers, main courses and deserts. The recipes are super and very international. The world is covered. HG does not miss GOURMET. Always found the magazine a bit precious and elitist. BON APPETIT (under its new editorship) is much better. For good recipes and food ideas, HG likes the blog of David Lebovitz, a Paris-based writer. If food and restaurant writing interests you, discover Waverley Root, a wonderful writer and dining companion of the incomparable A.J. Liebling. Also, see if you can source some of the dining articles by that mannered, ridiculous dandy, Lucius Beebe. Great retro fun.

Pete Hamill

February 27th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

If you enjoy HG’s teary-eyed musing about New York of yesteryear, you’ve got to read the masterpiece of this genre. HG refers to Pete Hammil’s 1987 article “The New York We’ve Lost” that appeared in New York Magazine. An amazing bit of writing that weaves an entire history of New York into only a few brilliantly written pages. These are the journalists who wrote well about the uniqueness of New York’s people and places: E.B. White, Joseph Mitchell, Jimmy Breslin, A.J. Liebling, Meyer Berger and Pete Hamill. Of them all, Hamill is HG’s favorite because of his eye for detail and wide range. Who else but Hamill could remember the Bushwicks and House of David baseball teams and the Brownsville gym where Al “Bummy” Davis trained under the eyes of Murder, Inc.?

Pete Hamill

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