Gone, Gone, Gone

January 11th, 2018 § 2 comments § permalink

The bustling, noisy, fragrant Fulton Fish Market on Fulton Street and the East River in lower Manhattan is long gone. Together with the produce market that flourished on the lower west side of the borough. Both moved to Hunts Point in The Bronx. Yes, there’s better refrigeration facilities there plus transportation advantages. However, the Fulton Fish Market had a certain ambiance that was unique. Joseph Mitchell, the late New Yorker Magazine writer, liked to hang around there. He captured its essence in “Old Mr. Flood” and “Up in the Old Hotel” (about the building that housed the Sloppy Louie’s Restaurant). Close to Louie’s was the venerable Sweet’s seafood restaurant (Founded in 1845 and closed in 1992). HG dined there often circa 1959-1962 when business brought HG downtown. One dozen oysters on the half shell. Fried smelts and cole slaw. Martini before lunch. Bass ale and Guinness with the food. Cost: Six bucks. Yes. Check out the 1960 menu on the New York Public Library website and be dazzled. Louie’s was plain spoken but not sloppy. (Opened in 1930 and shuttered in 1998). The owner, Louis Morino, served very fresh seafood at low prices. There were some surprises. HG had his first taste of sea urchin roe (Uni) there. Old fogey HG mourns the transformation of the meatpacking district into a high fashion zone. (However, HG loves Daughter Victoria’s Cookshop Restaurant on Tenth Avenue, the lovely High Line promenade and the wondrous Whitney Museum). The gritty Bronx Terminal Market in the shadow of Yankee Stadium still bears the name but has become a vast shopping center with the usual tenants and dining highlights like Subway and Applebee’s. Before its dread metamorphosis, HG was the battling public relations spokesmen for the wholesale fruit and vegetable merchants that occupied sprawling stalls there. The merchants were fighting displacement. HG fought the good fight but dubious “Progress” won out. And, another colorful, lively bit of New York was erased.

Classic Rhody Lunch

December 10th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

HG/BSK treated themselves to a classic Rhode Island lunch at Hemenway’s, the very good, very comfortable seafood restaurant in downtown Providence. Hemenway’s has a handsome, snug oyster bar; a cocktail bar and nicely spaced tables for family dining. HG/BSK have dined there many times and have found the service to be warm, friendly and efficient. A very well run establishment. On this cold grey New England day, HG/BSk made themselves comfortable in the oyster bar. Three Cape Cod oysters for BSK. Excellent, judged BSK, but not as superlative as the big, lush, briny meaty oysters HG/BSK recently devoured during their recent stay in the beautiful French city of Reims. HG took pleasure in six cherrystone clams on the half shell. Perfectly chilled and shucked, HG judges Rhode Islanders to be the best clams in the world. This is not a superficial judgment: HG’s first job (73 years ago at age 13) was as a clam and oyster shucker at Harbor Rest Inn in Rockaway Park, N.Y. HG devoured scores of clams. Then went on to clam gluttony at such clam-on -the-half-shell shrines as Lundy’s at Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, and Nathan’s of Coney Island. Plus there were decades of clam gathering and eating during Fire Island summer vacations. The clams were dug from the bottom of Great South Bay whose shores bordered Fire Island. (Joseph Mitchell, the late New Yorker writer who wrote about clam gathering and eating, would have called this massive clam ingestion a Mess o’ clams.). HG/BSK continued their Hemenway’s lunch with Rhode Island-style clam chowder. This is a clear chowder (no cream or milk as in New England-style or tomatoes as in Manhattan-style). Hemenway’s version emphasizes strong broth, lots of clams, smoky bacon. a bit of onion and celery, potatoes. Perfect. To complete the lunch, HG/BSK shared a portion of Rhode Island’s official appetizer: Fried squid with hot peppers. A don’t miss dish. Ordinarily, HG/BSK would have accompanied their meal with a bottle of cold Muscadet. But, since HG is limiting his alcohol drinking, the duo had to be satisfied with a bottle of San Pellegrino sparkling water. Surprisingly, the wine wasn’t missed.

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Mitchell, McNulty (and SJ)

February 14th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

In the most recent New Yorker Magazine, there is a beautiful, heartbreaking piece by the late Joseph Mitchell (1908-1996) entitled: “Street Life: Becoming Part of the City.” In a brief introduction, the New Yorker states: “What follows here is the initial chapter of a planned memoir that Mitchell started in the late sixties and early seventies but, as with other writings after 1964, never completed.” From 1964 to 1996, Mitchell went to his New Yorker office every day but never published a word. Street Life proves once more that nobody wrote about New York City, its places and people, with Mitchell’s eloquence, grace and sensitivity. It is heartbreaking for lovers of the New York City and journalism (a type of journalism that can only be described with the adjectives: literary and poetic) that Mitchell did not publish for 32 years. If you haven’t read Mitchell, check out Amazon for his books (collections of his New Yorker articles). You will be rewarded. Mitchell wrote wonderfully about food — namely seafood (though he did the definitive article on a gluttonous old New York event called a “Beefsteak”). Mitchell loved the Fulton Fish Market, its Sloppy Louie’s Restaurant and its unique raffishness. One of his composite characters, Old Mr. Flood. describes himself as a seafoodetarian. While Mitchell was the Poet Laureate of the Fulton Fish Market, another New Yorker writer, the lamentably short lived John McNulty (1896-1956), was the Poet Laureate of Third Avenue (the Third Avenue which had an El rumbling overhead; the Avenue which was lined with Irish saloons and Jewish pawn shops). Nobody ever wrote better about ordinary New Yorkers, horseplayers, bar room beer drinkers, unsung laborers, office workers, news dealers, etc. James Thurber, his New Yorker colleague, said about him: “Nothing, however commonplace, that he touched remained commonplace, but was magnified and enhanced by his intense and endless fascination.” (Permit justified parental pride. The same words could be applied to SJ and the series of “Sad Chairs” photos and poetic prose SJ posts almost daily on his Sad Chairs Blog. Better than anyone, SJ evokes the bittersweet qualities of urban life. Log into http://sadchairs.tumblr.com/ to experience a very individual view of the city.)

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