February 28th, 2016 § 1 comment § permalink

Ah, nostalgia. Sentimental memories of yesteryear are bittersweet. HG is nostalgic about the New York HG left many decades ago. Cheap rents on the Upper West Side. Even cheaper rents in Greenwich Village and Chelsea. Mom and Pop stores everywhere. Friendly greetings. Shopkeepers who would always cash a check in the days before ATM’s. All wiped out by the chains and high priced, high rise condos. “Co-op conversions” destroyed the distinguished old apartment houses where artists and intellectuals paid affordable rents. Dining out is a questionable experience (except, of course, at Daughter Victoria’s four restaurants–Rosie’s, Cookshop, Vic’s, Hundred Acres— where her husband, Marc Meyer, is the supervising chef). Everything in most restaurants is fancy, “creative” and centered around kale, small plates and expensive wine. Cheap meals? Fuhgeddabout it!! The Automat with its good coffee and splendid casseroles is gone. So is serviceable Bickford’s. There are still a number of Jewish pastrami heavens. All lousy. Even Katz’s and Carnegie. Sadly, the Jewish “dairy” restaurants are almost all gone, There are a few left. B & H at 127 Second Avenue maintains the old traditions. For those unfamiliar with the term, a Jewish “dairy” restaurant serves fish, vegetables, dairy products. No meat or meat products. The two great New York dairy restaurants were Ratner’s (on Delancey) and Rappaport’s (on Second Avenue). What did they serve? Herring in an infinite variety,. Gefilte fish. Borscht. Schav. Pirogen. Blintzes. Noodles with butter and pot cheese. Scores of smoked fish, tuna and sardine salads. HG is only, scratching the surface. Uptown on the Upper West Side there was the Paramount Famous on W. 72nd Street and the fancy Steinberg’s on Broadway in the 80’s. There were many other good dairy eateries in The Bronx and Brooklyn. All had great bread baskets filled with bagels, bialys, rye bread, challah and pletzels (onion rolls). Gallons of sour cream adorned the tables. Enough. HG is getting tearful.

(SJ here. Please look for a rebuttal to this very good, but highly suspect post tomorrow.)


Holiday Feasting (Day Two)

December 25th, 2014 § 1 comment § permalink

Comfy Amtrak travel to New York and HG/BSK arrived at their Lower East Side hotel room for a rousing reunion with SJ, Exquisite Maiko plus the grand grandkids, Haru and Teru. A walk on East Broadway, a bowl of steaming pork and watercress soup at a Chinese eatery, brief nap, a hot shower and off to Vic’s, Restaurateur Daughter Victoria’s new venture in the same space that housed her Five Points restaurant on Great Jones Street in Noho for more than ten years. Vic’s has had much buzz because of ecstatic reviews (mentioned by HG in a previous post). When HG/BSK arrived at Vic’s they were dazzled by the new decor. Simple, Warm. Welcoming. Exposed brick. Flattering light. A ceiling that muffles much noise but allows enough to create a lively atmosphere. Tables and chairs that evoked an elegant farmhouse. And, there was Victoria, looking svelte and fashionable. She joined HG/BSK at a corner table and a perfect meal made stately progress. Chef Hillary Sterling combines imagination, precision, technique with an appreciation for down to earth tastes that evoke Italian countryside trattorias and eateries nestled on Mediterranean beaches. Her first creation HG/BSK enjoyed was a platter of crisp fried sweet onions dusted with parmesan and dried tomatoes. Pure, simple deliciousness that hit all the right notes of salty, sweet and crunchy. This was followed by little neck clams, pistachios, cannelloni beans and lovage in an intense clam broth. The sea theme continued with smoky, juicy grilled sardines adorned with thin shaved curls of baby carrot. The refreshing white wine was put aside and a fruity red was poured as three different pasta tastings were introduced. First, there was the Roman classic, cacio e pepe prepared with pecorino and parmesan. Then there were “little purses” of delicate pasta filled with ricotta, lemon and hazelnuts. The pasta finale: Tortellini filled with potato and guanciale (pork jowl) in a powerful pork brodo that sang of bacony goodness with remarkably none of the grease. There was just enough appetite left for a shared taste of some lush chocolate and snifters of house concocted limoncello (best HG/BSK ever tasted). Vic’s is a happy restaurant.The diners were visibly and audibly having a good time. And, why not? Splendid food, fair prices, pleasant surroundings, attentive service. HG advice: Reserve in advance. Vic’s is hot.


VIC’S Gets a Rave Review

December 4th, 2014 § 1 comment § permalink

HG is so proud and delighted. Restaurateur Daughter Victoria Freeman (Cookshop, Hundred Acres, soon to open Rosies’s) has a big hit on her hands. The first review of her new restaurant, Vic’s, just appeared…New York Magazine gave Vic’s four stars calling the food “Big, Bold and Batali-esque.” Read about chef Hillary Sterling’s flavorful dishes and you’ll get ravenously hungry. Make your reservation now before the wait becomes interminable. Vic’s (31 Great Jones Street near Lafayette) replaces Five Points, the pioneering restaurant Vicki and husband/chef Marc Meyer opened 15 years ago. Five Points was one of the first farm-to-table restaurants in New York and its Sunday brunch quickly became a New York legend. Vicki and Marc thought it was time for a change. A redo of the decor, new name, new chef, new menu. Obviously, a very good idea. The name “Vic’s” is a bow to the past. “Vix” was Vicki’s first restaurant. She hired Marc Meyer as the chef. The rest is New York culinary history. HG/BSK will be in New York for pre-Christmas visit. Will dine at Vic’s. Looking forward.


HG Heroine (and a Bit of Favoritism)

March 14th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Senator Debbie Satenow, Democrat (of course) of Michigan, is an HG heroine. The farm bill President Obama signed last month increases subsidies to fruit and vegetable farmers and emphasizes aid to locally grown, organic, healthful foods. The New York Times reported Senator Satenow “negotiated, prodded, cajoled and finally shepherded the bill through Congress over two and a half years.” Many thanks, Senator. The celebrity chefs get a lot of exposure but it’s folks like you who make sure that good food is on America’s tables. Here’s a bit of joyous nepotism: Restaurateur Daughter Victoria and husband/chef Marc Meyer pioneered farm-to-table menus at their three New York Restaurants (Five Points, Cookshop, Hundred Acres). They were the first to advertise the farmers, ranchers and fish-mongers from which they procured the wonderful ingredients that made up their dishes. Wonderful cooking that lets natural flavors shine.

Official Portrait

Food Fashions

September 9th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

The changing fashions in food have long fascinated HG. For example, beets, once despised, have become not just chic, but ubiquitous — you can hardly find a menu that doesn’t include some form of a beet and goat cheese salad. HG has always found a beet (like vinegar) to be an enemy of wine. Nevertheless, in Paris the top bistros du vins have betteraves on their cartes. Raw fish was only found at Japanese sushi bars. Suddenly, raw tuna and chopped tartares of tuna and salmon became featured players. Even Italian restaurants (possibly influenced by the massive success of Esca and David Pasternack) have crudos among their appetizers. For a time, steak was dismissed as a boorish, unhealthy and unfashionable food. There was a reaction and carnivores rejoiced as more than a score of upscale steak houses opened in New York. “Small plates” have become fashionable. Is there sticker shock when hearty appetites do some big time grazing on these “small” plates with big time prices? Foam, sous vide, molecular are among the gastronomic buzz words of the past decade. HG, a conservative, is skeptical about these arcane techniques. Restaurants used to take pride in offering imported food from faraway places. Now, the very best chefs (like Marc Meyer of New York’s Cookshop, Hundred Acres and Five Points) are determinedly “locavore,” a trend HG endorses with enthusiasm.



Nepotism? An Emphatic “No!”

September 17th, 2012 § 1 comment § permalink

Mark Bittman had a good article recently in the New York Times expressing his displeasure with expensive, elaborate meals at New York restaurants run by “celebrity” chefs. Unwelcoming atmosphere. Fussy food. A $200 price and you don’t have a good time. Antithetical to this are the three New York restaurants run by HG’s daughter, Victoria, and her chef/partner/husband Marc Meyer. The restaurants are Cookshop (Chelsea), Hundred Acres (Soho) and Five Points (Noho). Do not accuse HG of nepotism, favoritism or clouded judgment. In matters of cuisine (if nothing else) HG is the soul of honor, objectivity and probity. Victoria’s restaurants don’t need HG’s aid. They are busy, successful places with lots of steady customers and many famous faces among the diners. The food? Strictly locavore. Generous portions. Robust flavors. Affordable prices. Very good wines and splendid, beautifully shucked oysters. Brunch is a special treat. Check out the restaurant websites. You’ll get hungry. When you go, say HG sent you.

The Chef Dazzles

August 12th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Daughter Victoria and husband, famed chef Marc Meyer, have joined La Famiglia on Prince Edward Island. They came bearing cases of extraordinary wine, glorious salumi, cheese, anchovies, a big box of Meyer flatbread…and more. With appetites honed by salt water and sun, La Famiglia dinners have taken on epic proportions. MM has been on a roll. Here are some of his creations: Rounds of oil brushed toast topped by sardines and an MM shallot sauce; cod with salsa verde; tagilatelle with an unbelievably fragrant and robust pesto; a Caesar salad that makes all others pale in comparison. Yes, and his fresh haddock brandade. HG watched with awe and admiration as MM prepared and cooked food with respect, concentration and awesome knife skills. MM showed the difference between a chef and a good home cook. All paid MM the appropriate tribute: We overate. MM cooking can be sampled at his and Victoria’s three New York restaurants — Cookshop (Chelsea), Five Points (Noho), Hundred Acres (Soho). We hear there may be a fourth — in a historic Brooklyn location. Good luck, Dynamic Duo.

Birthday Dinner

August 9th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Big birthday dinner for Brilliant Daughter Lesley R. Up from New York, and leaving behind their trio of New York restaurants (Cookshop, 100 Acres, Five Points), are Restaurateur/Daughter Victoria and husband/chef Marc Meyer. Armed with Prince Edward Island’s auspicious sea bounty, Marc made the ultimate brandade for the birthday dinner — screamingly fresh haddock poached in milk and whirled in the blender with olive oil, garlic, boiled potatoes and a bit of sweet cream. Then popped under the broiler to develop a brown crust. Magic. Better than classic salt cod brandade in Paris or creamy mantecato in Venice. Marc has the touch. There was also lots of lobster and steamed soft shell clams. Melted butter. Lemon juice. Tabasco. A jolly family time as all wished BLR scores of happy returns.

Dutch Treat From The Lower East Side

July 7th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Strolled through the Lower East Side with SJ. Gazed with wonder at the new art galleries, hip restaurants and bars, chic clothing shops (How about 500 bucks for a pair of jeans?). The Essex Street Maket (which used to be a cluttered, ramshackle affair) has now been revitalized and offers artisan cheeses (Saxelby Cheese Mongers) and superb butchers (Heritage Meat Shop) with wonderful charcuterie, fresh meats and fowl. Boubouki, perhaps the greatest Greek pastry shop in existence, offers savory spinach pies and, hands down, the best baklava HG and SJ have ever tasted. Eccentric restaurateur Kenny Shopsin ( a Calvin Trillin favorite) has relocated here from the West Village. HG and SJ ended their stroll on Houston Street at the venerable Russ & Daughters, the best smoked fish emporium in the world.

June is the season for delicious raw herring from Holland. When HG was in Amsterdam he ate scores of these yummies. The ritual is this: Dip the herring in chopped onion. Take a bite. Then a shot of chilled Genever gin. Beer for a chaser. Then repeat and repeat as the sense of euphoria expands. Russ & Daughters (and the Grand Central Oyster Bar) are the only sources in New York for this seasonal delicacy. SJ ordered a platter of the Dutch herring plus some sable, Scottish smoked salmon, red salmon caviar, cream cheese, bagels and bialys. Back to the SJ Brooklyn home for a feast. Present were the SJ family plus HG daughter Vicki and her chef husband Marc Meyer, the dynamic duo behind three New York restaurants — Cookshop, Five Points, Hundred Acres. Vicki and Marc brought a bottle of upscale Genever plus splendid wine. Also present was SJ pal Jay S. (and his bride to be Maya T.). Much joy. Much laughter. Some gin-fueled inebriation. Nothing beats family feasting. And, while much has changed on the Lower East Side, Russ and Daughters has remained the same. A taste monument.

Cookshop: The Perfect Summer Lunch

July 4th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Okay, pals and buddies, let HG tell you about the perfect summer lunch. The place: Cookshop on 20th and Tenth Avenue (one of three downtown New York restaurants run by HG daughter Vicki Freeman and chef/husband Marc Meyer. The others are Five Points and Hundred Acres. All superb). HG and BSK’s luncheon companion was Stephanie Pierson, author of The Brisket Book among many other rollicking prose accomplishments. It is very hard to have a bad time when Stephanie is around. She’s a true wit with a flair for friendship, laughter and good food. She is also the creator of the world’s best chicken pot pie.

So, what did Vicki and Marc serve the trio on a more than tepid late June day? Long Island Blue Point oysters (briny jewels). Fried zucchini blossoms stuffed with smoked mozzarella. Crispy Rhode Island calamari with capers and a state of the art aioli.(Yes, there were white wine spritzers for HG and non-alcoholic pleasures for the ladies). Grilled shrimp salads (for HG and Stephanie. BSK is allergic to crustaceans). Chicken salad for BSK. Sound mundane? Not when the salad contained the very best, fresh-from -market vegetables and perfectly cooked, heritage chicken. Finished with a nicely curated cheese platter .Cookshop was busy and bustling (as it deserves to be) during this weekday lunch. A snappy crowd. At a neighboring table were two black suited, white shirted guys from Italy. The stylish gents ate some huge salads and did a lot of damage to a bottle of red wine. Permit HG to assure you. The HG party didn’t get special treatment. Vicki, a warm and glowing soul, makes everyone welcome. Marc, a pioneer in barn-to-table cuisine, uses only the best ingredients and then gives them a creative tweak that makes the diner stop with fork in mid-air and say “Wow!!”. HG advice: Get over there. Say HG sent you.

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