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.


The African American Waiters Of Old New York

July 13th, 2015 § 2 comments § permalink

In the New York of yesteryear, being a waiter was a profession not just the way-station for actors, models, etc. that it has become. It was a job with which you could raise a family, buy a modest house and lead a life of some dignity. These lifers of the restaurant industry teemed in both ethnic enclaves — Swarthy, smiling Sicilians in Little Italy, surly Jews (“Is the chopped liver good?” “Too good for you”) in the Lower East Side — and some of the older bastions of “Yankee” cooking that were almost exclusively staffed by very dignified, efficient, slightly austere African-American waiters (SJ presumes that this development must have occurred during the “Great Migration” as millions of African American families moved North bringing with them the vastly influential “Low Country” culinary and dining traditions). The late, lamented Gage & Tollner’s in downtown Brooklyn had veteran waiters who had served the old, aristocratic Brooklyn Heights families for decades. The waiters had gold stripes on the sleeves of their jackets denoting their years of service. Lundy’s, on Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay, also had dignified African-Americans providing service. Hamburg Heaven, adjacent to Saks Fifth Avenuue, was a favorite of fashionable women. All of the personnel were African-American and casually pleasant. When HG lived in Montclair, NJ., HG often dined at the Wedgewood Cafeteria (closed for many years). It was, even in the 1970s an old-fashioned and gracious establishment much favored by blue-haired ladies and other mature folk. There were many dishes like chicken a la king which did not make demands on people masticating with dentures. The Wedgewood had a unique feature which set it apart from the rough and ready cafeterias like the Belmont, Dubrow’s and others HG frequented in Manhattan: After you ordered your food at the counter, your tray was delivered to your table by a member of the elderly and endearing African American staff who seemed to personally know and care for their aged customers. This made a Wedgewood Cafeteria meal quite an elegant experience.


Happy As A…….

May 30th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

Clam. HG does love that briny bivalve. The love affair began decades ago at the Harbor Rest fast food and sea food joint on Jamaica Bay in New York’s Rockaway Park — at the time, the proletarian Hamptons. HG, 13-years-old, was employed as an oyster and clam shucker (also a peeler and de-veiner of shrimp). HG ate a lot of clams. His mantra: One for the boss and one for me. HG’s oyster passion developed later. Boyish passions subside but not HG’s clam lust. HG ate scores at Lundy’s located at Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay. He downed them at Nathan’s in Coney Island; at Manhattan’s Grand Central Oyster Bar. HG refers to raw clams (cherrystones and little necks ) on the half shell. HG has always fancied clams (and oysters) unadorned. Maybe a modest squeeze of lemon. No beverage but beer. Lundy’s served its raw clams with hot, buttered, straight-from-the oven biscuits — HG never complained.

When HG lived in Colorado HG began his daily lunch at the Palm Restaurant with six little necks (some 1,500 miles from the Atlantic but surprisingly sweet and fresh…go figure). HG has never neglected cooked clams, preferably as part of Italian cuisine….clams posillipo (clam broth enriched with tomatoes); Linguini with white clam sauce; clams casino (light on the bread crumbs, heavy on the garlic, bacon strip optional). HG is not a big clam chowder fan. HG finds New England style overpowers clams and Manhattan style is simply inedible. The best is light clam chowder served at the Legal Seafood chain in New England (an excellent purveyor of clams and oysters).

A great clam dish was sauteed clam bellies at the late, great Gage & Tollner’s in Brooklyn. HG is a fan of the fried soft shell clams available a scores of New England shacks. When resident at the family beach home on Prince Edward Island, HG downs scores of steamers, cleansed in broth and dipped in Tabasco-enhanced melted butter.

As stated in a previous post, the true clam heaven was Fire Island, the magical barrier beach that stretches for miles off Long Island between Great South Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. After a day of Fire Island beach and sea fun, the HG family and friends would arm themselves with buckets and wade into the Bay. It was a clam bonanza. Following would be raw clams, clams casino and BSK’s extraordinary white clam sauce adorning bowls of linguini fini. The HG and BSK dune house overlooked the Bay and Ocean. Sunsets. Infinite whitecaps. Many martinis. Much beer and cheap, cold white wine. A jolly, sunburned time. Happy memories.

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