Lunch

December 1st, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

SJ has discovered the pleasures of lunch. That’s what he reports in his enlightening blog, OishiGevalt.com. (The blog is a must read for anyone interested in food, sharp writing, Tokyo and life). SJ lives in Tokyo after years in New Jersey, Chicago, Manhattan and Brooklyn. SJ finds lunching in Tokyo a wonderland of treats. Every variation of fresh fish, meat, noodles. Best of all, these quality lunches are cheap. In SJ’s lunch post on Oishi Gevalt (“The $5 Lunch Special”, SJ mentions HG’s breakfasts of long ago consisting of black coffee and numerous Marlboro cigarettes and HG’s four-martini lunches (Those were the days when HG was a New York/New Jersey public relations biggie). No, SJ, four-martini lunches are suicidal. HG had modest two-martini lunches (plus wine or beer and post meal brandy). And where did HG lunch with alcohol loving journalists? Three places near the Times, Herald-Tribune, Newsweek and Business Week: Blue Ribbon (German food and world’s best steak tartare); Artists & Writers (German food with a specialty of konigsberger klops, a savory dish of meat balls in a cream and dill sauce); Sardi’s (lamb chops with a grilled kidney). Lunch with clients was at the Bar Room of the Four Seasons (Pool Room was for tourists). Other client lunch spot was Christ Cella, the great steak house (This was also convenient for lunching with journalists from the News, Mirror, Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine and Barron’s). These days HG has a lusty breakfast, a spartan lunch and a lavish dinner. BSK, interested in keeping HG healthy and reasonably sober, has prevailed upon HG to substitute white wine for pre-dinner vodka martinis.

Christ Cella – Never Forgotten

September 5th, 2015 § 3 comments § permalink

Christ Cella was a New York steak house on E. 44th Street. It opened in the 1930s and closed in the 1980s. Its glory years were the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Later, it was just a shadow of its former glorious self. On June 29, 2011, HG wrote about CC in a post entitled: “Gone But Not Forgotten Restaurants.” Well, CC certainly remains in the memory of many people. Not a week goes by without someone (including friends and relatives of staff who worked at the restaurant) contacting HG and sharing thoughts and memories of the restaurant. Older folks, veterans of Madison Avenue and the communications industry, recall happy three martini and steak lunches. The younger set remember joyous meals with their dads before sporting events. Even members of the Cella family have reached out to HG to recall the joy of the restaurant. HG ate there alone, with friends and when entertaining journalists HG wanted to influence. Every meal was a pleasure. The Christ Cella proprietors demanded the very best product. They and their customers were willing to pay (for the time) comparatively steep prices in order to get it. And, the kitchen crew treated the fine ingredients with respect and precision. When HG ordered a New York strip steak rare, HG received a steak that was charred on the outside and robustly red in the interior. Rare, not raw as is the fashion for steak in Paris. HG’s spring favorite of shad with shad roe and bacon was perfect, Never overcooked. The lemon butter sauce enriched the the fish and roe but never overwhelmed the fresh flavors. And, the bacon was crisp with nary a spot of grease. The boiled potatoes with parsley were just right. The Christ Cella emphasis on quality might be the reason it is remembered with such fondness.

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Al Cooper’s: Fashion Favorite

August 11th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

During the 50’s and 60’s, one of HG’s favorite New York restaurants was Al Cooper’s located in the Garment Center at 130 W. 36th Street. It was a steak house and its sirloins were on a par with those served at the great Christ Cella, the place which started “Steak Row” — that proliferation of bovine-centric eateries in the East 40’s. While Christ Cella catered to admen, P.R. professionals and sports figures, Al Cooper’s (because of location) was the favorite of fashion big shots. That’s where Christian Dior dined when he was in New York to meet with his U.S. affiliates. The majority of Al Cooper’s customers were Jewish so the restaurant had a number of down home Jewish treats on its menu: superior chopped liver and gefilte fish. During the spring and summer there was icy borscht plus fruit and vegetable dishes smothered in rich sour cream. HG usually ordered a Cooper specialty: A super thick cut of very tender boiled tongue served with superior creamed spinach and English mustard. A delicious dish that HG has never encountered in any other eatery.

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No to Nostalgia

July 12th, 2013 § 2 comments § permalink

HG/BSK watched a World War Two propaganda movie (set in an improbable Poland) with perky Ida Lupino and stiff Paul Henreid. Excruciating. Terrible acting. Moronic plot. Next night watched Detective Story, the film adaptation of Sidney Kingsley’s Broadway hit play of the same name. When it was released the film was lauded for its realism. Hmmm…Kirk Douglas and Eleanor Parker are the stars and the deliver stagey, scenery-chewing performances. William Bendix, in a supporting role, is the only actor in the film who seems to have a grasp on naturalist performing. HG/BSK agreed: Today’s movie actors are infinitely better than yesterday’s. Yes, there were interesting personalities in the past (Cagney, Bogart, Gable, etc.) but few actors with the abilities of today’s stars. No one with the range of Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman and many others. Now, how does this relate to HG’s main focus, food? Well, HG may get nostalgic, and rightfully so, about long closed classic New York restaurants like Gage & Tollner, Luchow’s and Christ Cella; also, HG may get a bit wistful recalling the hearty blue collar eats of a New York that simply does not exist anymore. But, the reality is that today’s restaurant cooking is much better than that of the past. There is more emphasis on fresh, local ingredients and less use of butter, cream and heavy sauces. Greater use of a wide range of international ingredients. HG/BSK thought about this while enjoying imaginative dishes at 3 Petit Bouchons, a charming Montreal bistro. Grilled octopus with grilled potatoes. Cod with fiddlehead ferns and asparagus. Duck confit on Waldorf salad. Unusual sauces. A light touch. Dishes that would never have appeared on a menu 40 years ago. Also, because of changes in immigration patterns and disruptions in Asia and the Middle East, today’s restaurant diner (especially in New York) can taste extraordinary (and often very inexpensive) dishes from many parts of China as well as Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, India, etc. And, excellent Syrian, Lebanese, Turkish food abounds. The exposure to these diverse cuisines and the availability of the ingredients to prepare them has been one of the great boons to our restaurant culture — expanding palates and influencing chefs in the most positive way. To give you an idea of how insular cuisine was (even in New York) the big town in the 1950’s had only one Mexican restaurant — Xochitl. And, that was quite ordinary and Americanized.

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Gallagher’s Gets a Reprieve

January 24th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Good news. The venerable (opened in 1927) New York steak house, Gallagher’s, is not going to close. Found a last minute buyer. HG frequently lunched there (liked their sliced steak sandwich with sauteed onions and good French fries). Columnist/Novelist Jimmy Breslin was often at the bar. Gallagher’s was number three in HG’s ranking of New York steak eateries. Number one was the much missed Christ Cella (alas, long closed) and number two was Spark’s (still thriving). HG has never been fond of Peter Luger’s in Brooklyn. Overrated. Gallagher’s isn’t a charitable institution. They’re not giving food away. Sirloin steak is $46.95. Shrimp cocktail is twenty bucks and some sliced onion and tomato sets you back $14. Guess it’s all in line with New York apartment prices where a one room unit the size of a modest walk-in closet rents for $2,000 (or more) a month.

How Did We Do It?

May 27th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

That’s a question HG often puts to himself. HG is referring to drinking habits in the 50s and for most of the 60s. In those halcyon days, HG lunched daily in Manhattan restaurants with journalists, pals or HG’s public relations clients. Typical lunch at the Blue Ribbon, very good German restaurant on W. 45th (convenient for journalists from Times, Herald-Tribune, Newsweek and Business Week): Two dry martinis with Rollmops Appetizer (Bismarck herring rolled around a dill pickle); steak tartare or bratwurst or Kassler Rippchen (smoked pork chop) washed down with two large, dark beers. Cognac and a cup of black coffee to finish. At Russian Tea Room, HG drank chilled vodka throughout a lunch of Eggplant Oriental, Borscht with Pirozhki (flaky meat pastries) or Siberian Pelmeni (tiny Russian ravioli in a rich chicken consomme infused with generous quantities of chopped dill, sour cream and strong mustard). Wine, of course, accompanied the food at Sardi’s, Four Seasons, Gino’s. Patsy’s, Charles, Christ Cella, etc. But, two martinis always jump started the lunch. After lunch, an energetic HG was back at work. Focused. Productive. HG was not alone. Men (and women) drank cocktails at lunch — Martinis, Manhattans or Whiskey Sours. How could we function with so much lunchtime booze? We did. And, it was fun.

Much Missed Shad

April 14th, 2012 § 4 comments § permalink

One of the joys of a New York City spring was a great dish that appeared in a few restaurants at that time of year. HG refers to shad and shad roe. HG enjoyed it at two (long departed) New York restaurants — Christ Cella on E. 44th in Manhattan and the beautiful, venerable Gage & Tollner in downtown Brooklyn. Gage & Tollner was one of a kind — the oldest restaurant in Brooklyn and a mellow paradise of mahogany, tile floors and working gaslights. The restaurant was very much the favorite of the aristocratic old families who inhabited the gracious brownstones of Brooklyn Heights. Waiters were courtly, dignified African-Americans (many had been at G & T for decades and had service stripes on their jacket sleeves to prove it). G & T served a big platter of broiled shad and sauteed shad roe drenched in lemon butter and accompanied by parsleyed new potatoes, a rasher of crisp bacon and cole slaw. HG’s beverage of choice while relishing this dish was ice cold Ballantine’s India Pale Ale.

World headquarters of shad and shad roe was the town of Edgewater on the New Jersey banks of the Hudson River just north of the George Washington Bridge. Edgewater was the home of rivermen who netted shad in the Hudson for generations (for more information on the Hudson River Shad runs, refer to Joseph Mitchell’s wonderful essay The Rivermen collected in his book Up In The Old Hotel). HG once arranged a memorable shad and shad roe feast for journalists in Edgewater. The rivermen built a giant fire of wood and charcoal. Shad filets were nailed to oiled maple flanks and these were propped around the blaze. They were cooked to an astounding degree of succulence. Meanwhile, over charcoal barbecues the roe and bacon sizzled in big cast iron pans. This was a job for the women of Edgewater and these admirable ladies also provided extraordinary potato salad and cole slaw. Yes, it was a feast for the ages. Doubt whether it could be repeated today.

Gone But Not Forgotten Restaurants: Christ Cella

June 29th, 2011 § 109 comments § permalink

Christ Cella was a New York steak house on East 44th that was a lure for athletes and big eaters. At lunch one day, HG spotted the late Howard Cosell, boxing promoter Don King (of the electric hair) and that deadly jump shooter, Jerry West. HG stopped at West’s table and told him he was forgiven for all the bad things he did to the Knicks. Jerry was amused.

HG always had the same two meals at Christ Cella. In the fall and winter (HG did not dine there in summer, preferring lighter victuals): A scotch sour (freshly squeezed lemon juice); lobster cocktail with Remoulade sauce; New York strip steak (Christ Cella had the all time beefiest, best and biggest steaks in the civilized world) accompanied by salad with Roquefort dressing. Beverage was black and tan (Ballantine India Pale Ale mixed with Guiness Stout—half and half).

In spring HG replaced the steak with a platter of grilled shad, shad roe, bacon, home fried potatoes, sharp tartar sauce and cole slaw. HG never had dessert. Heartier souls knocked off giant portions of New York cheesecake. The admen in the restaurant preceded their meal with two or three martinis.

Yes, indeed, happy drunken high cholesterol days. Those martini drinking, cigarette puffing guys are, of course, a memory like Christ Cella itself.