Farewell Carnegie Deli

October 2nd, 2016 § 2 comments § permalink

HG’s e-mail pal, Charles Curran, the Florida gourmand, informed HG this morning that the Carnegie Delicatessen will close at the end of 2016. Not a victim of The Real Estate Monster. The Carnegie owns the building in which it is located. The closing doesn’t sadden HG. For some decades the Carnegie has catered to tourists. Prices have been high and the sandwiches have been unappetizingly huge. The Carnegie opened its doors in 1937 and immediately attracted a crowd of show biz types: press agents, song pluggers, comedians, bookies and other raffish denizens of the Broadway/Seventh Avenue/Carnegie Hall neighborhood. HG dined there frequently from 1951 to 1983 (the downhill slide began in the 80’s). HG also frequented the Stage Delicatessen (when Max Asnas was in charge) and the incomparable Lindy’s. Those were glory days for Jewish delicatessens with Reuben’s in the East 50’s, Gitlitz in the West 70’s, Katz’s on Houston Street and 2nd Avenue Deli on Second Avenue. And, of course, there were scores of good delis in the boroughs (with the exception of Staten Island). HG’s all time favorite was Reuben’s. Its Reuben sandwich and chicken in the pot were incomparable. Woody Allen’s “Broadway Danny Rose” is framed around a group of comedians, seated at a Carnegie Delicatessen table, chatting about a Broadway character. The film captures the ethos of the Carnegie in bygone days. And, the film is a nice bittersweet homage to low level show biz.

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(Photo by James and Karla Murray)

Tube Steaks and Sausages

March 29th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

During HG’s many years in New York, the greedy fellow managed to eat many scores of hot dogs. The tube steak was an essential food during HG’s financially challenged young years. But, even as HG prospered, the HG appetite for hot dogs remained intense. Favorite venue for the treat was Papaya King on E.86th Street and Third Avenue. Two dogs with mustard and sauerkraut and a Pina Colada drink. Perfect. The Nedick’s chain used to be omnivorous in New York (Its Herald Square location fronting on Macy’s was possibly the busiest hot doggery in the world). The dogs were served on a toasted bun spread with a special mustard relish and accompanied by a very good orange drink. Very inexpensive. The chain disappeared in the 1950’s. The Riese organization tried to revive the brand in 2003. The effort failed. Nathan’s Famous (The original is still located on the Coney Island boardwalk and there are now locations throughout the country) served an exemplary dog. HG, however, rarely ate them but favored Nathan’s clams on the half shell, fried soft shell crab sandwiches and other good things from the sea. Nathan’s sloppy, messy, yummy chow mein sandwich on a hamburger bun, was another HG fave. New York once had many traditional Jewish delicatessens serving good Hebrew National or Isaac Gellis dogs plus “Specials” (Plump, garlicky knockwursts). HG always thought the stands offering Sabrett’s “dirty water” hot dogs were vile. According to SJ, if you want a great dog in downtown New York, go to Katz’s, the pastrami emporium. Though the pastrami may have gone downhill, the hot dog is big time. As for sausage, HG’s favorite was the New York italian pork sausage containing plenty of fennel seeds. Best served from the back of a truck in Greenwich Village. The sausage was laid on a wedge of Italian bread and topped with plentiful fried onions and peppers. All of the many inexpensive “red sauce” Italian restaurants of HG’s youth served savory, abundant platters of sausage and peppers. Accompanied by a side dish of buttered and parmesan dusted ziti and washed down with cheap Chianti from a wicker wrapped bottle, this was hearty affordable eating. New York once had scores of German restaurants dispensing grilled bratwurst with sauerkraut and fried potatoes. The dish was flanked by a big glass of good beer. The best brats were found at Luchow’s on 14th Street and Blue Ribbon in the theater district. Both long closed, alas. When in Paris, HG enjoys boudin noir and boudin blanc. The boudin noir, a blood sausage, is usually accompanied by sautéed apple slices,. A winning combination. HG does not favor the excrement smelling French chitterling sausage. HG considers it a French aberration akin to that nation’s worship of Jerry Lewis and Mickey Rourke.

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Nostalgia Sucks – An SJ Posting

February 29th, 2016 § 4 comments § permalink

Ahhh…Nostalgia. So wonderful and yet so full of shit. SJ here and I must make a rebuttal against HG’s colorful yet ill informed attack against the New York of now versus the New York of HG’s past. As someone that has lived in New York for the most part of my 47 years (and is living here still), I must say that HG speaks some truths: New York has become painfully expensive for middle class and working class people and really anyone who is not making a high six figure income. And yes, many wonderful New York institutions have closed down as rents increase. And finally, it is true that the essentially secular Jewish character of New York is fading while the religious Chassidic population is rising. These are painful truths for a changing city. But, there are many things that have not changed one iota. HG claims that New York has pushed out Mom and Pop stores in favor of chains. Lies! While big chains have arrived in an unprecedented fashion, New York still remains (for the moment) a place of corner bodegas, grumpy news stands, eccentric hardware stores and family run bakeries, delis and food shops. I live in Carrol Gardens, Brooklyn and I have a shop in Chinatown in Manhattan and in this tiny universe generic chains have barely made a dent (with the exception of Starbucks and the actually welcome addition of Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods). Now onto food….HG makes a claim that New York restaurants have all become ridiculously overpriced and only serve fussy, so-called “creative” small plates that highlight kale. Well, those nostalgic goggles HG is wearing have become so fogged with BS, that he has no clue what he is talking about. (HG! Time to stop reading New York Times restaurant reviews and actually visit and eat!) While there are many trendy, overly precious restaurants (as there were back in HG’s day — remember “continental cuisine” or that rash of horrible hippy bean-sprout “health food” restaurants that propagated in the 70s?), there are also scores and scores of simply great places to eat that are making food that is honest and delicious and actually responsible with their ingredient sourcing and their investment in nose-to-tail eating. On a mainstream level, we now have restaurants that celebrate regional cuisines from Puglianese Italian to top notch Texas style Barbecue to authentic Barcelona style Tapas — a long way from the very good but very one note Italian and Spanish restaurants of yester-year; furthermore, even outside of ethnic enclaves, New York has exploded with amazing Japanese, Korean and other Asian foods. And, if you want to speak of cheap food, well jump on a train to Flushing, to Sunset Park, to Ozone Park or walk into Manhattan’s Chinatown and you will be flush with $4 chorizo tortas, smokey Xian style Chicken skewers for $1, Thai Sausage for $3 and a plethora of inexpensive vittles to make you smile. And yes, the great dairy restaurants of the past have shut down, but guess what? Now there are Uzbeck kosher restaurants popping up all over with delicious grilled meats and wholesome stews; and if you want to be a healthy Jew who eats like IB Singer, well there has never been a better time for vegetarians in this city both with mainstream restaurants and many serious Israeli spots serving hummus, falafal and all sorts of healthy middle eastern treats. Lastly, when it comes to traditional New York food and specifically Jewish food, there is a renaissance happening: Katz’s may have gone downhill (but their hot dog is still something killer!), but Mile End is making some incredible smoked meats; Russ and Daughters and Kossar’s are fully revitalized and thriving, serving up perhaps the best food of their long careers; Barney Greengrass is packed every day of the week and a new generation of bagel makers, smoked fish lovers and matzoh ball soup mavens are opening wonderful restaurants. And with food blogs popping up everywhere old, great NYC restaurants and shops have been given a new life as can be witnessed in the hours long lines for Casa Della Mozzerella on Arthur Avenue or the incredible community support that kept B&H open after a gas explosion totaled their block last year. So HG, SJ is advising that you take a cloth to your nostalgia goggles and take a second look at a New York that, while changing as it always has, remains an idiosyncratic and uniquely great place to live, eat and wander about.

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Nostalgia

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.)

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Happy Heartburn

March 18th, 2015 § 3 comments § permalink

In HG’s various nostalgia drenched accounts of the long deceased Romanian-Jewish restaurants (called “Romanian Broilings”) of New York’s Lower East Side, HG failed to mention that Pastrami, the delectable, peppery smoked meat, was introduced to the United States by these restaurants. The delightful author, Patricia Volk, claims her grandfather, a Romanian-Jewish immigrant and proprietor of a Delancey Street delicatessen/eatery, was the first to serve Pastrami, therefore ushering in happy heartburns for generations of American Jews and discerning non-Jewish fressers. Food historians claim Pastrami derives from Basterma, a dried beef beloved by Turkish warriors who brought the delicacy to Romania. (Pastrami is mentioned, favorably, along with Mamaliga [polenta] and Karenezelach [ground beef, onion, garlic cigar shaped hamburgers] in the rousing Yiddish music hall favorite, “Romania, Romania”.) Alas, first rate Pastrami is now tough to find — beyond the speciality Jewish delis like Katz’s on Houston Street and Langer’s in LA, but the majority of Pastrami being served is commercially made and a pale comparison to the real thing. Patricia Volk’s grandfather started a great tradition. The family fed New York in splendid restaurants for 100 years. Morgen’s (closed in 1985), run by Patricia Volk’s parents, was an HG favorite. Located in the Garment Center, it was always filled with designers, lovely models and cloak-and-suit big shots. (Read Volk’s books, “Stuffed” and “Shocking Life.” Also, don’t miss books by Volk’s pal (and HG/BSK’s) Stephanie Pierson. She’s a world class wit. Her latest is “The Brisket Book.”).

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New York Nostalgia Part 3 (The Jews)

January 24th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Two events, one tragic and one sad, took place in New York City some 18 years ago. For HG, these events marked the end of New York’s Jewish ambience. Sure, the New York of that time, like today, had multitudes of Italians, Irish, African-Americans, Asians, and Hispanics. But, it was the Jews who set the overall tone of the city. The tragic event took place on March 5, 1996. On that day, Abe Lebewohl, the proprietor of the original Second Avenue Delicatessen (2nd Avenue and 10th Street), was shot and killed as he delivered cash receipts to a nearby bank. Lebewohl not only ran a great Jewish delicatessen, he was also a direct link to Second Avenue’s colorful past as the home of Yiddish theater. And, he honored that past by naming one of the delicatessen’s dining rooms after Molly Picon, a Yiddish musical star (and a favorite of HG’s Mom). Wonderful Jewish delicatessens like Gitlitz (79th and Broadway) are gone. Katz’s remains on the Lower East Side — a stalwart in these lean deli times where the venerable Carnegie Deli has devolved into a grotesque tourist trap known only for the over-stuffed size of their sandwiches.

The sad event was the closing of Lou G. Siegel’s on June 29, 1996. It had been in business for 79 years. Lou G. Siegel was a distinguished and dignified restaurant in the heart of New York’s Garment Center (38th Street just west of Seventh Avenue). It was strictly kosher (there were two Rabbis on the payroll) and the food was delicious, hearty and caloric. It was where observant Jewish (were there any other?) clothing executives dined. The non-observant big shot Jews ate at Al Cooper’s, further east on 38th. The garment workers frequented Dubrow’s and the other very good cafeterias in the vicinity. They are all gone. Seventh Avenue has been named “Fashion Avenue”. The Garment Center with its rabid union members, gangsters and famed lunchtime schmooze is now the Fashion District. The habitues of Siegel’s kingdom of chicken fat and rugelach would have a sardonic laugh. Siegel’s was the best of a host of traditional kosher restaurants that served meat ( Kosher law, “kashriuth”, forbids the mingling of meat and dairy products). Some of the other restaurants of that type were Moskowitz & Lupowitz and Gluckstern’s. Sammy’s Romanian (Allen and Delancey) is a survivor. The food (non-kosher) is tasty. The prices are steep. The atmosphere is a Jewish parody, a broad dialect joke. The great, strictly dairy (and fish) Jewish restaurants (Ratner’s, Rappaport’s, Steinberg’s, Paradise) are gone although some smaller operations still exist. This is not to say that there aren’t kosher restaurants left in New York — There are plenty of them spread throughout the five boroughs, catering to a new generation of the observant and a new group of Israeli and Russian Jewish immigrants. The menus would be un-recognizable to the observant Jews of fifty years ago as they feature kosher sushi, kosher Italian and kosher Indian food (amongst others). The restaurants HG misses most are those that were not kosher and had wide ranging menus that included, but were not confined to, Eastern European Jewish food. The three greatest, of course, were Lindy’s, Reuben’s and Tip Toe Inn. Gone. New York has, for better or worse, lost much of its Jewish flavor. It is now a truly international city with a cuisine to match. No, New York is no longer Jewish but it if you are hungry it’s a great town.

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Airport Surprises At D.I.A.

January 16th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

HG has often noticed that plane travel makes HG ferociously hungry; and in a sad twist of fate, satisfying this hunger on a plane, in an airport or in the environs of an airport is close to impossible as the edible offerings are typically terrible. Well, on HG/BSK’s recent travel from New Mexico to Denver to Rhode Island to Paris and back, HG found himself pleasantly surprised. On the trip out from Denver, HG’s thoughts turned to sandwiches. There are times when nothing satisfies quite like a good sandwich. Of course, such specimens aren’t so easy to find. Been a long time since HG has really had a top flight bacon-tomato-lettuce-mayonnaise-whole wheat toast sandwich at a local diner. And, of course, a really big time Jewish pastrami on rye can only be found at Katz’s in New York or Langer’s in Los Angeles. But HG found a great sandwich in an unlikely spot — Elway’s, a nicely designed eatery at the Denver International Airport. John Elway is a Denver football icon who has two steak houses in the city plus this place. Don’t know if John knows anything about food but Elway’s served HG an exemplary blackened fish sandwich on a brioche bun. It was enhanced by New Orleans tasso ham and chipotle dressing. And, accompanied by a nice bowl of chipotle infused cole slaw. Good, spicy stuff. Made HG think over a lifetime of hand-held treats — HG is very fond of big, robust Italian sandwiches (called heroes, grinders, subs and po’ boys–dependent upon geography). The best ever was served in a deli on the main street of New Paltz in the Hudson Valley. John Goodman, that exemplary actor (who looks like a world class eater) likes the mufaletta sandwich prepared by an Italian grocery in New Orleans (it features vinegary olive salad with an array of salami and ham). Take a look at the website of The Italian Corner in East Providence, Rhode Island, to see its encyclopedic array of grinders. One of the stars is the sausage pizzaiola grinder (sausage in a sauce of tomato, capers, spices and Romana cheese). On Fridays, there’s a special of a Calamari steak grinder. Chilean squid is pounded thin, grilled quickly to a point of juicy tenderness. It is then nestled between two slices of good Italian bread with plenty of lettuce, tomatoes, peppers and olive oil. A gift from the sea.

On HG’s return trip: winding back to New Mexico via the erratic airline system, HG had the pleasant experience on the plane of watching Denver beat San Diego (with the ever dangerous Philip Rivers) and San Francisco defeat the upstart Panthers. Checked into the Holiday Inn Express at Denver International Airport. Pleasant hotel with the world’s worst shuttle service (be forewarned). BSK peckish. Went to nearby Sporting News Grill. Expecting the worst. Surprise. Had a sliced flatiron steak salad. Really first rate. And, the IPA brew on tap hit the spot. Off to New Mexico in the AM. Sunny day and nice motoring to Pueblo. Oops. Highway blocked (chemical spills, high winds, etc,). Lengthy detour to Salida. Hungry HG/BSK lunched at Carmelina’s and had a platter of fresh, healthy food — fish tacos with toothsome corn tortillas, salad, tangy salsa, good refritos with melted cheese. Learned later that Salida has a Vietnamese restaurant. Colorado’s small towns are not provincial when it comes to food and fortunately this aesthetic has extended to its airport.

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The Goldsteins (R.I.P.): Porn & Pastrami

December 19th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Al Goldstein, the eccentric publisher of Screw magazine and pioneer of hard core, “non socially redeeming” porn is dead. At one point in his very checkered career (according to the Times obit) he was a “greeter” at the 2nd Avenue Delicatessen in New York. Only met Al once (when he was a deranged teenager) but his father, Sammy, was a pal. Sammy, a news photographer at International News Photos, loved to eat. (so did Al, who once weighed 350 pounds). When HG was a photo editor at INP, HG and Sammy (a pastrami addict), shared many meals at the 2nd Avenue Deli and Katz’s. (The duo also overate at Ratner’s, Sammy’s, Dubiner’s,Rappaport’s and other Lower East Side eateries). Sammy was a very good boxing photographer. HG has a vivid memory of Sammy at Madison Square Garden (then on 8th Avenue) ringside putting down his Speed Graphic between rounds to munch on (you guessed it) a pastrami on rye.

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Creative Sandwiches

July 18th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

In general, HG is not a big sandwich fan. Most of the time HG feels that most things that could be stuck between slices of bread are improved by eliminating the bread. However, there are exceptions and these days HG enjoys just a few classic sandwiches: A traditional bacon-lettuce-tomato (when tomatoes are in season — flavorful and juicy) with good, thick cut bacon and mayo on toasted wheat bread; a pastrami on Jewish rye (alas, now only available in all its splendor at Katz’s in New York, Schwartz’s in Montreal and Langer’s in L.A.); and finally, a corned beef Reuben, also on Jewish rye. The Croque Monsieurs and Croque Madames HG has enjoyed in Paris don’t really qualify as classic sandwiches. In the past HG was more adventurous in sandwich choices. On Nantucket Island, HG liked the specialty of a health food shop there: Sharp cheddar cheese, avocado, sprouts and chutney on whole grain bread. On the opposite health pole, HG relished the roast beef sandwiches consumed many years ago at Henrich’s Restaurant (long closed) on B. 116th Street, Rockaway Park, N.Y. These were constructed of thinly sliced rare roast beef, sliced raw onion and Jewish rye bread spread with (your choice) 1/8th or 1/4th of an inch of chicken fat. This was sprinkled with coarse salt and black pepper. Accompanied by a sour dill pickle. HG ate another unhealthy treat at the late Gitlitz Deli on New York’s Upper West Side. This was a combination of chopped liver and pastrami on rye with Russian dressing. The Gitlitz waiters, food conservatives, did not approve. At another long closed New York eatery, Belmont Cafeteria, the hangout for taxi drivers on Lexington Avenue, HG would accompany morning coffee with a heavily buttered onion roll enclosing muenster cheese and lettuce. In the past, BSK based her sandwich choices on peanut butter. No PB and J for BSK. Instead, the young woman ate peanut butter with lettuce and mayo sandwiches or peanut butter and sweet pickle slices sandwiches. While off on a hike with her Girl Scout troop, BSK carried “walking sandwiches” — peanut butter wrapped in cabbage leaves. Apparently these peanut buttery treats were the norm for BSK’s midwestern environ, but for HG, they sounded as exotic as the Zanzibar speciality Boku-Boku. Yes, many Italians love mixing Nutella with roasted peanuts on white bread and Elvis Presley mixed peanut butter with bacon and bananas but, for pure messy eccentricity, nothing beats the HG retro delight: The chow mein on a bun served at Nathan’s Famous on Coney Island.

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Rule Brittania Pt. 2: The Chip Butty

July 7th, 2013 § 1 comment § permalink

Browsing through a delightful food and drink writing anthology, Second Helpings–A Taste of The Glenfiddich Awards, HG came upon an extreme example of English eccentricity: A glowing testimony to a greasy, unhealthy high caloric pub treat called Chip Buttty. HG mused that “Chip Butty” would be an appropriate name for a gay porno actor. The culinary Chip Butty is a sandwich. It is composed of heavily buttered white bread. Indeed, the bread should “ooze” butter. The sandwich filling is French fries, preferably fried in lard or beef suet. A dash of malt vinegar, a squirt of ketchup and sprinkles of salt and pepper complete this treat. HG presumes this should be consumed in a pub with tankards of warm brown ale. Football (soccer) on the telly. Drunken football chants being chanted. Possibly, HG is being harsh. After all, HG is a lover of some pretty reprehensible and messy treats like the chow mein sandwiches served on hamburger buns you can still procure from Nathan’s Famous hot dog stand at New York’s Coney Island. And, at Sammy’s Romanian Restaurant on New York’s Lower East Side, HG likes to smother fried “half dollar” potatoes and other dishes with abundant amounts of golden chicken fat. Unhealthy, greasy — but not truly eccentric — is an HG sandwich favorite: Salami and eggs on an onion roll (pletzel). The salami (heavily fatty and garlicky Jewish salami available from Zabar’s and Katz’s Deli in New York) should be cooked with scrambled eggs pancake style. Onions fried until crisp in chicken fat are a nice addition.

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