Lips That Touch Alcohol Shall Never Touch Mine

February 24th, 2016 § 1 comment § permalink

That was the motto of the early women’s prohibition movement. BSK doesn’t go that far. However, BSK has often taken a very dim view of HG’s intake of strong white spirits. Namely tequila and vodka. Can’t blame her. BSK’s war hero father had problems with alcohol which led to a stormy family life. The only time HG ever saw BSK drink strong spirits was on their first date in March 1963. The duo met at the bar of Lombardi’s, a Greenwich Village restaurant. BSK ordered a Dewars scotch on the rocks. (Later, BSK confessed feigning sophistication on a first date with an older, worldly New Yorker). HG had two extra dry Martinis (BSK did not heed the warning). BSK loved dining at Fornos, a wonderful Spanish restaurant (long closed); however, BSK did not like HG’s habit of drinking Fornos’ Margaritas (best ever) throughout the meal and finishing with two Banana Daquiris (best ever) for dessert. Matters came to a climax on Fire Island: HG/BSK were guests at a smorgasbord prepared by the late New York Times journalist Glenn Fowler and his Swedish wife. Famished and thirsty after a day of sun, swimming, body surfing and football tossing. The array of herring, meatballs, red salmon caviar, ham, sausages and cheeses was enticing. HG ate a lot (as did BSK). Jolly time. Unfortunately, HG drank a great deal. There were bottles of near-frozen Aakavit in a block of ice and ale nestled in a bucket of crushed ice. HG took a bite of food. Then a snifter of icy Aakavit. A chaser of ale. This was repeated and repeated and repeated. Later, HG/BSK walked home on the narrow boardwalk (no cars on Fire Island). All of a sudden BSK noticed she was walking alone. BSK looked off the side of the boardwalk — There, laying in the sand, was a prone, very happy, very drunk HG. The next morning there were some stern warnings from BSK. If such a drunken scene was repeated marriage would be ended. HG never again became falling down drunk. (BSK was magnanimous about HG being tipsy, high, slightly sozzled, etc.). Lately, strong spirits have had a bad effect on mature HG. The combination of vodka or tequila with HG’s old guy medications has proven dangerous. HG has stumbled and passed out briefly (for about 30 seconds). BSK has expressed concern. HG now adheres to a regimen of bitters and soda (Aperol, Campari, Punt a Mes, Cynar, Angostura) before dinner. A glass of wine (a large one) with dinner. A very small shot glass of bourbon sipped while watching a movie DVD. No, this is not a liquid diet approved by Carry Nation, the temperance women and the health police. However, it keeps HG upright and soberly joyous. Moreover, BSK approves (barely). That’s the only approval HG seeks.


Death Knell For Haimish Manhattan

November 10th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

So sad. The Cafe Edison, affectionately known as “The Polish Tearoom,” is closing its doors. The landlord (the Hotel Edison on 47th Street and Broadway in New York) is replacing it with a fancy restaurant headed by a “big name chef.” Another haimish New York restaurant bites the dust. Haimish is a Yiddish word meaning many things: Down home. With family and friends. Warm, cozy, plain and unadorned. Like eating an overstuffed sandwich at the kitchen table with Mom, Pop, your wife and the kids. Cafe Edison was decidedly Jewish with matzo ball soup, kasha varnishkes, pastrami and all the other Jewish/ Eastern European staples. Theater folks of every ethnicity gathered there daily to eat, shmooze, make deals, exchange show biz chatter. There were other theater district restaurants, not Jewish, that were haimish. Delsomma (Italian) and Fornos (Spanish). Both gone. In fact, the Jewish-Irish-Italian Manhattan where HG spent many years has vanished. The Irish bars with their corned beef and cabbage, pig’s knuckles and hard boiled eggs belong to yesterday. Italian red sauce joints are no more. The Torissi guys (Italian Specialties, Parm, Carbone, Dirty French) have upscaled Italian food ($52 veal chops, for example). Thankfully, Manhattan’s African-American and Latino population is keeping the haimish tradition alive. You can still get splendid fried chicken and catfish in Harlem. Mofongo remains on the menu in Puerto Rican eateries. Cubans in Washington Heights are still dishing up Cubanos, moros and cristianos and other good things. But, if haimish is your thing get on the subway (and ferry) and head to the boroughs. Forget Manhattan. HG, to paraphrase the song, will take The Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island, too.


Tequila. Olé!

March 9th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

HG is very fond of tequila (100% agave, of course). Likes to sip it neat before dinner (sometimes with a bit of lemon and salt). The following may offend purists: HG also likes it on the rocks with a dash of Campari or Aperol (and a bit of lemon peel). While eating spicy Mexican food, HG will sip tequila between guzzles of cold beer and get slightly sozzled. HG no longer drinks margaritas. The only good ones, HG attests, were served at the long closed, beloved Fornos Restaurant in New York. HG’s New Mexico neighborhood has many tequila connossieurs. Three local liquor stores stock an extraordinary range of tequilas with prices rising to $135 a bottle. HG sticks to the more modest (but tasty) brands. HG remembers his introduction to tequila. It was at the bar of a Spanish/Mexican restaurant in Greenwich Village. The introducer was the aptly named Robert S. Elegant, one of the very few people who ever overawed HG. It was 1952. HG was a young New York journalist and Elegant (only two years older than HG) was a correspondent in China (he was fluent in Chinese, Japanese and later in German, Italian and Indonesian). A prodigy, Elegant was a Phi Beta Kappa college graduate at the age of 18. In 1951, he published his first book, China’s Red Masters, a well received analysis of China’s Communist leadership. Later in his career, he turned to fiction and had many best sellers including Dynasty and Manchu (his fiction has been translated into 20 languages). HG remembers Elegant nestling salt between his thumb and pointer finger. A lick of lemon, a sip of tequila, a taste of salt. A lovely ritual which HG was glad to emulate and has done so for the next half century and more.


Bernard Wolfe

June 15th, 2012 § 2 comments § permalink

Spent a delightful hour chatting on the phone with Miranda Wolfe, daughter of the late Bernard Wolfe, an extraordinary writer who wrote just about everything: novels, short stories, journalism, ghosted Broadway columns, television, screen plays and customized pornography which he produced for one reader — an Oklahoma oil zillionaire (Wolfe was in good company in this customized porn business as the eccentric Oklahoman also hired, amongst others, Henry Miller, Anais Nin and Gene Fowler. What they all had in common was a need for quick cash). Sorry. Don’t want to emphasize the pornography. This was just a miniscule portion of Wolfe’s output (and he found it distasteful). Make haste and read BW’s works.. A good start would be Really The Blues which he wrote with jazz musician Mezz Mezzrow. (This book heavily influenced influenced the Beat Generation of writers — Kerouac, Ginsberg, etc.. For a treat, listen to some of the music forgotten Mezzrow made with Sidney Bechet. Check it here!). The Late Risers defined the cool Broadway hipsters of many decades ago. The Great Prince Died is a historical novel based on the Mexican exile of the great Russian revolutionary and anti-Stalinist, Leon Trotsky. Later, the title was changed to Trotsky Dead. At one time, Wolfe was bodyguard/secretary for Trotsky (he wasn’t present when Trotsky was pickaxed to death by a Stalin assassin).

BW also wrote Limbo, a prescient sci-fi novel.

Wolfe had quiet sartorial elegance and a well stocked mind. Unlike many writers, he excelled at both talking and listening. HG enjoyed some memorable dining with Wolfe. Bernie’s favorite restaurant (and HG’s) was Fornos. a happy Spanish place that flourished on West 52nd Street many years ago (here, BW was formally addressed as “Senor Lupo”). The excellent food was preceded by classic Margaritas and ended with Banana Daquiris. Very hard to leave sober. Bernie liked the Oak Room of the Algonquin hotel where he would compose his meals carefully and creatively after some knowledgeable consultation with the waiter and captain. Alas, the composition of a meal is a skill that has virtually disappeared in New York (but, not in Paris).

In the 50s and early 60s Russian and Iranian caviar was cheap (If you listen closely you may hear the sound of teardrops falling on HG’s keyboard). HG recalls a caviar feast HG (and his ex-wife) hosted at their town house apartment in the Gramercy Park neighborhood. Some two pounds of Beluga (from Caviarteria) were devoured with thin, buttered white toast and washed down with abundant, icy Polish Wyborowa Vodka. In addition to Bernie, the other guests were screenwriter/painter/novelist Fred Segal and his then wife, Sandra. The caviar was followed by cognac and Upmann Brevas cigars, Maduro leaf. Not exactly an homage to healthy living. HG and his ex-wife survive. The others, sadly, are gone. Miranda Wolfe is busy working on Bernie’s voluminous and distinguished literary legacy. Hopefully, many gems will be reissued. Pornography has been described (by the French, of course) as books read with one hand. HG will be reading the reissued Wolfe works with one hand. The other will be clutching a glass of ultra chilled Polish vodka.

Charge Account With a Spanish Accent

May 7th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

In addition to the Plaza Hotel’s Oak Room, HG , during the slim wallet early years of his marriage to BSK, had charge accounts at Fornos, the Spanish Restaurant on W. 52nd Street and the original Russian Tea Room on W. 57th. Fornos (long gone) was owned by survivors of the Spanish Civil War and was the most joyous eatery in town. HG and BSK were always greeted warmly and were served the best margaritas imaginable. BSK stopped at one. HG, alas, continued to drink them throughout the meal.

The food: Roast pork with addictive Spanish potatoes that were fried in duck fat and onions then dusted with smoked pimento; perfect gazpacho; seafood or chicken and chorizo paella; shrimp in a rich garlic sauce of fish stock and parsley; Mariscada (seafood stew); garlic rubbed sirloin steak with more of those addictive potatoes. Dessert (for HG) was one or two or possibly three banana daiquiris; For BSK, light as ether Flan — HG always needed a bit of assistance upon leaving Fornos. BSK did not.

At one point, HG’s charge grew to such proportions that HG ceased going to the restaurant out of shame. Call from the proprietor. HG thought there would be stern words. Instead, this is what he heard: “Where have you been? We miss you. You owe us money? Nada. Not important. We know you are an honorable man. You will pay us when you are able. Meanwhile, come in and let us have joy together.” HG paid up, of course, and continued to get sozzled at that merry and generous establishment.

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