Peter Hellman

October 18th, 2017 § 1 comment § permalink

Peter has been a loved and admired pal of HG/BSK for many, many decades. HG met Peter when Peter was a young journalist working for New York Magazine. Publicist HG was Peter’s guide in the greedy world of New York real estate and the result was many bylined articles as well as a number of front cover stories. The HG/PH collaboration deepened into a solid friendship. Over the years, Peter’s journalism has enlivened many publications including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Wine Spectator. His interests are omnivorous as reflected in his seven books.They include crime (“Chief”, the cases of New York’s Chief of Detectives, Albert Seedman; the Holocaust, “When Courage Was Stronger Than Fear”; Israel, “Heroes: Tales From The Israeli Wars”; real estate, “Shaping the Skyline”, the career of the late real estate visionary, Julien J. Studley; wine, “American Wine Handbook.”) HG believes Peter’s true passion (besides family and friends) is for wine. For some ten years he was a contributor to Wine Spectator and a wine columnist for a New York newspaper. His passions have coalesced in his newest book, “In Vino Duplicitas.” The book jacket describes it well: “True crime pairs well with fine wine in the astonishing story of Rudy Kurniawan, perhaps the most notorious–and unlikely– wine forger in history.” Peter has the unique ability to make complex maneuvering exciting and available to the reader. So, “In Vino” is an education in fine and rare wines as well as an absorbing insight into the eccentric world of wine collectors who pay thousands of dollars for a bottle of wine that they may never drink. Besides writing about wine, Peter likes to drink wine. He has a fine palate and is a sipper, not a guzzler. Many years ago, Peter stored a collection of fine wines in the cellar of the Montclair, N.J. home occupied by HG/BSK. The wines were there strictly for storage in a cool environment. During those rare times when HG did not have a good bottle for the evening meal, HG “borrowed” one of Peter’s bottles. These “borrowings” gradually increased into the realm of theft. The wines were glorious and HG did not exhibit restraint. After a year, Peter arrived to find his collection drastically diminished. He forgave HG. The friendship continued.

Up The Rebels

April 23rd, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

April 24 will be the centennial of the Easter Rising Rebellion in Dublin which eventually led to the establishment of the independent state of Ireland. Among other events, there will be a gathering of Irish bagpipers at St.Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. HG will be sorry to miss that because there are few things more rousing than these bagpipers (specially when they are leading the New York St. Patrick’s Day parade) or saddening (when they play at the funerals of fallen police officers or firefighters). Alas, New York (principally Manhattan) seems to have lost the Irish flavor it had during HG’s younger days. HG misses the Irish politicians (Boss Flynn, Bronx Borough President James J.Lyons, Mayor Bill O’Dwyer, etc.) who had a human touch and a flair for creating consensus. HG misses the rich Irish brogue of the Transit Workers Union (TWU) chief, “Red Mike” Quills; the Irish tones of Fifth Avenue bus drivers; the Irish-tinged voice of the fighting liberal, Paul O’Dwyer. HG misses HG’s sandlot football teammates in The Bronx, tough guys with nicknames like Mick, Binny and Paddy. HG misses collaboration with his brilliant Irish public relations protege, Bruce Maguire, the president of the 61-year-old firm, Freeman Public Relations. HG misses the humor and insights of Irish journalists like Joe Flaherty (died at 47 of cancer). Like Jimmy Breslin (thankfully still alive and writing a Sunday column for the New York Daily News) he had an affinity for New York’s working class. Brooklyn-bred Flaherty left high school at 16 to work as a longshoreman and for years combined dock work with writing (he was a reporter for the Village Voice, author of four books and was the campaign manager for the Norman Mailer-Jimmy Breslin mayoralty ticket). Though the Irish are not noted for creative cuisine or fine dining, HG loved the food at Irish-owned Dinty Moore’s in Midtown (the only Irish joint with gefilte fish on the menu). HG misses the down to earth Irish saloons on Third Avenue (they vanished when the El came down and Third Avenue became the site of lofty office buildings and fashionable apartment houses). The saloons always had jars of hard boiled eggs and pickled pig’s feet on the bar (nice accompaniment to HG’s journalist dinner of rye whiskey with beer chasers). HG exhales a nostalgic sigh at the thought of saloon platters of corned beef and cabbage and open faced pot roast sandwiches smothered in brown gravy. The Irish seem to have vanished from Manhattan to enclaves in Queens, Brooklyn, The Bronx, Staten Island, Long Island, Westchester and Orange Counties, New Jersey, etc. Manhattan Isle isn’t the same without them.

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Random New York / Brooklyn Thoughts

December 20th, 2015 § 2 comments § permalink

HG had to pass up a Cookshop lunch (alas) today with witty friend Stevie P. Annoying cough interfered with sleep so aged HG is resting. This means HG has had a chance to ruminate about spending the last seven days in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Here’s a cluster of random thoughts: Brooklyn’s brownstone lined streets have unique Christmas charm. The long time Italian residents decorate their homes with exuberant displays of multi-colored lights and decorations both inside and out (most street level homes have their trees in the windows allowing open viewing). Recent arrivals decorate their trees with only the most discreet and tasteful little, white lights with no baubles and no decorations. In any case, it all spells home in a way high rise buildings can’t express. Subways seem very clean and efficient (Much better than the Paris Metro or the London Underground where changing trains can often mean a half mile trek). HG is accompanied by HG’s wooden cane. Observing this, HG was always offered a subway seat by the courteous riders. (New York City’s reputation for rudeness is a fiction). Manhattan and Brooklyn are populated by the young. HG was often the only aged person in every shop, subway car, restaurant, food market visited. Have all the oldsters fled to Florida? Visitor tips from HG: Don’t miss strolling the High Line, a supreme urban amenity. And, wind up at the new Whitney Museum. Unforgettable in every aspect–architecture, art, light, intelligent museology. And, what visit to New York/ Brooklyn would be complete without food? HG has covered HG’s happy experiences in recent posts. When it comes to food, New York/Brooklyn rules the world. Ethnic and racial diversity puts the world’s cuisine within easy reach. And, wonderful experiences are affordable. HG is lucky. SJ is an informed guide. He is a culinary adventurer and has led HG/BSK to such places as a rousing, kosher Uzbekistan cafe in Queens. The thought of Uzbekistan barbecue and pickles washed down with vodka and beer makes HG plan another visit to the Big Apple (before HG becomes too feeble).

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Big CIty Pleasures

December 17th, 2015 § 2 comments § permalink

After the serenity and quiet of HG/BSK’s homes in New Mexico and Prince Edward Island, Canada, the duo find New York and Brooklyn intense and tempestuous. There are sweeping changes on every avenue. New shops. Flashy condos. Neglected neighborhoods have now become fashionable. The population diversity is extraordinary. The streets are cleaner than HG remembers but the noise has become intolerable. Very heavy, rude hands on the auto horn. Super honking. Despite the noise, crowds, traffic, etc., HG/BSK are having a wonderful time. It is good to see old friends. And, of course, there is the food. Still the best in the world. HG/BSK had a pleasant brunch with Peter H. and Susan C., old pals of many decades and quintessential New Yorkers. The venue was Dim Sum Go Go on Chatham Square in Chinatown. Good dim sum (not as good as Asian Jewels in Flushing, the dim sum champ). Long stroll though Chinatown, Little Italy and Soho before arriving at HG/BSK’s favorite clothing supplier, Uniqlo, the Japan-based creator of affordable, comfortable apparel. Dinner was at Numero 28 Pizzeria on Bergen Street in Brooklyn. This is a warm and welcoming restaurant. A jazz trio (saxophone, bass, keyboard) filled the room with great sounds. HG/BSK, SJ/EM and their family supped happily. Crisp, tender fried calamari; beautifully prepared tuna tartare; a big arugula salad with shavings of parmesan. Rare to find such great starters in a pizzeria. The pizzas were very good, Crisp, with nice charred edges. Fresh toppings. After drinking much red wine, HG finished the evening with a very inventive after dinner cocktail prepared by the Japanese barman. A wow. Next day was sunny and unseasonably warm, perfect for strolling on the new guttering ornament of Manhattan: the High Line. Riveting Hudson River views. Lovely plantings. High design seating. The High Line ends at the new Whitney Museum. The museum dazzles. It is perfect in every detail. Lighting. Art arrangement. Gallery flow. Indoor and outdoor access. Comfortable seating where one can rest while concentrating on the art. Ah, the art. HG/BSK saw two shows. A Frank Stella retrospective which bowled HG over. Stella’s ambition, power and ability to expand the boundaries of painting and sculpture are given dramatic emphasis in this mind boggling show. There is also a remarkable retrospective of the African-American painter, Archibald Motley. HG/BSK had never seen the works of this remarkable artist. HG/BSK were particularly impressed with his work of the 1930’s. The energy and color of African-American culture (sometimes treated satirically by Motley) pour out of these canvases. The Whitney has an elegant restaurant, The Untitled. HG/BSK rested their eyes and had some creative small plates: Smoked char salad for BSK and steak tartare for HG. Each was a diminutive wonder of culinary creativity. In the evening, HG/BSK met old friends and former business colleagues, Donald and Susan K. They dined at Blue Ribbon Brasserie in Park Slope. Wondrous oysters from British Columbia. A splendid, generous platter of escargots (with plenty of good bread to soak up the buttery, garlicky lustiness of the sauce.) Pork chops with kale and mashed potatoes. HG finished with the largest hot fudge sundae ever confected. Fortunately, SJ joined the party at dessert time and was able to consume part of the mountainous high calorie treat.

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Old Fogey Food Memories

September 22nd, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

Mimi Sheraton, who is one of HG’s favorite food/restaurant writers (she was the NY Times restaurant critic for many years), once recalled the chow mein she ate in Brooklyn restaurants during her youth: “I still remember the mild soothing taste of that food, primarily the flavors of celery, bean sprouts and onions. It is far removed from the sophisticated (and truly better) Chinese food now fashionable, but there are moments when I would trade six of the best Szechuan meals in town for one plateful of that old chow mein (pronounced ‘sharmane’) nostalgia.”) The quote is from Sheraton’s book, From My Mother’s Kitchen. an indispensable guide to Jewish family cooking. Yes, HG shares her chow mein nostalgia. HG often enjoyed the terribly messy but strangely appealing chow mein sandwiches dispensed by the Nathan’s Famous hot dog emporiums in Coney Island and Manhattan’s Seventh Avenue. Years ago, HG and gourmand companion Charles E., would meet for a stealthy lunch in a dimly lit Sixth Avenue Chinese restaurant. They would devour “combo platters” of chow mein, fried rice and greasy egg rolls. Like illicit lovers, they would leave the restaurant swiftly and furtively to avoid being seen by friends with elevated dining tastes. Yes, nostalgia has a kick: A week or so ago, a ferocious north wind was battering Prince Edward Island. Outside, the windows of HG/BSK’s home revealed a sea topped with a froth of whitecaps. For some obscure reason, the tumultuous weather made HG remember the plain-spoken comfort food HG enjoyed decades ago in New York bar-and-grills, diners and coffee shops: Corned beef and cabbage with boiled potatoes on Third Avenue (when the El rumbled overhead). Open faced pot roast sandwiches drenched in rich brown gravy. Ditto open faced turkey and roast beef sandwiches (accompanied by mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce or insipid vegetables). liver and onions topped with bacon. Salami and eggs served “pancake style.” Spaghetti (never al dente, always overdone) with big meatballs and “red sauce.” A simple “bowl of red”–chili topped with raw onions and grated cheddar. BLT’s on whole wheat toast with loads of mayo. That night BSK and HG devised a PEI dinner that provided comfort: Grilled weissurst (veal) sausages with sweet mustard. Sauerkraut. Boiled local potatoes. Yellow bean salad. Gahan’s PEI ale. There was a fire in the Danish stove and sounds of Mozart. The winds did blow. The sea surged. And HG/BSK (and Toby, The Wonder Dog), were snug in their comfort zone.

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Viva Mexico

February 23rd, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

In the early days of television (1954) HG and a colleague recently arrived in New York from California, wrote TV news programs that were broadcast nationally. The news was illustrated with still photos (they were called “telops”) which were transmitted by telephone wire to the TV stations (news film was introduced at a later date). HG and his pal were swift and nimble news writers and photo selectors. It was fun. International News Service, the Hearst wire service (later absorbed by United Press) was HG’s employer. INS was housed in the Daily Mirror building on E. 45th Street and HG usually lunched in the hole-in-the-wall Greek diner off the building’s lobby. But, knowing that his California buddy missed Mexican food, HG invited him to lunch at Manhattan’s only Mexican restaurant, Xochitl. A mistake. “This is a bad joke,” he declared in reference to both the food and the high price of lunch. In the 1960’s HG/BSK visited friends in California (their first trip to the state) and were determined to eat “real” Mexican food. Their friends (not foodies) took them to a nearby Taco Bell (then only in California). HG/BSK found it satisfactory but felt there was something missing. HG thought about all of this at a Sopaipilla Factory dinner last night (the eatery is in Pojoaque, New Mexico, a few minutes from HG/BSK’s home). HG/BSK and their visiting eight-year-old grandson, Haru, feasted on menudo, enchiladas, green and red chile of a quality simply unimaginable to a New Yorker of the 1960s. Not so to present-day New Yorkers like grandson Haru, who knocked off a bunch of chicken tacos declaring them to be “awesome” with the caveat that, as a Brooklyn guy who regularly dines in Sunset Park (a Mexican neighborhood near his home), he has devoured many an authentic taco. In fact New York is having such a Mexican food renaissance (with both high end and low down options) that HG’s Californian pal would probably find much to smile about. As part of this renaissance, HG is looking forward to next month’s opening of Rosie’s, Restaurateur Daughter Victoria’s next New York restaurant. This will feature farm-to-table Mexican cooking. (Husband/chef Marc Meyer has just returned from a two-week visit in Mexico with Diane Kennedy, the ultimate authority on Mexican cuisine). Meanwhile, HG will be off to nearby El Parasol to give visiting Haru another taco fix.

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The Evolution of Japanese Dining In New York

February 21st, 2015 § 1 comment § permalink

The first time HG ever dined in a Japanese restaurant was in 1958. The restaurant was Suehiro, a tiny room near Columbia University. It was one of two Japanese restaurants in New York (the other was in the East 20’s). There were no sushi or ramen eateries in this very cosmopolitan city. HG’s Suehiro meal consisted of miso soup (with some tiny cubes of tofu), beef sukiyaki cooked table side in an electric pan by a kimono clad waitperson. Sliced orange for dessert. A pot of hot green tea. The check was laughably small and the satisfaction was great. HG was hooked. Never tasted sushi until the 1960’s when the first sushi bar opened in the West 40’s. First taste didn’t impress. But, subsequent visits made HG a raw fish convert. Now, of course, New York has scores of Japanese restaurants specializing in everything from fried chicken to curry to traditional Japanese pub food. The choices for sushi and ramen are limitless — from small dive joints to $800 omakase feasts at one of the city’s most exclusive sushi emporiums. HG is bemused at the fact that Japanese restaurants now vastly outnumber Jewish delicatessens (there are less than ten) in Manhattan. HG/BSK delighted in the food they consumed in Tokyo and Osaka (HG/BSK were in Japan some ten years ago for the marriage of SJ and Exquisite Maiko). SJ and EM guided HG/BSK through the vast food markets in the two cities. There were visits to a delightful sake bar and stops for grilled chicken and pork, fried balls of chopped octopus and much more. Slurped a lot of memorable ramen. One of the benefits of having a Japanese daughter-in-law (besides her production with assistance of SJ of Haru and Teru, HG/BSK’s wonderful grandkids) is cuisine. EM is HG/BSK’s favorite cook. As HG has noted in many posts, EM produces the world’s best tempura, robust stews and soups and life enhancing seafood. Her meals at SJ/EM’s Brooklyn home or in the family Prince Edward Island ocean front paradise are among life’s most joyous occasions.

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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.

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Sandwich Heaven with A Guilty Pleasure

October 28th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Some years ago HG had public relations offices on New York’s W. 57th Street (between Sixth and Seventh Avenues), a territory that remains embedded in HG’s food focused mind as “sandwich heaven.” A quick walk west brought HG to Carnegie Delicatessen for a pastrami sandwich on authentic rye with Russian dressing, sour pickles, French fries and a Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray beverage. It was a generous plate but nothing like the overstuffed, overpriced parody of a sandwich that Carnegie serves to gullible tourists today. A shorter walk west brought HG to a coffee shop (name not recalled) for a rare roast beef sandwich with raw sliced onion on good pumpernickel bread. Potato salad and an iced coffee completed the fast feast. Sometimes HG ventured east to a deli on Sixth Avenue for smoked Nova Scotia salmon with cream cheese on an onion roll. Hot coffee. When ambitious, HG could venture just a bit further to 58th Street east of Fifth Avenue for the ultimate in sandwich perfection: This was the Reuben sandwich prepared at Reuben’s Restaurant, one of HG’s all time favorite eateries. The sandwich was incomparable. Every element–corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, Russian dressing, rye bread–was perfect and the grilling was impeccable. Closer than Reuben’s was Rumpelmayer’s and the Monte Cristo sandwich (described in a recent post). Of course, HG could have ignored sandwiches and simply walked across the street to the Russian Tea Room for borscht and pirozshki; blini with salmon caviar and sour cream or a simple plate of eggplant orientale. Unfortunately, these dishes cried out for an accompaniment of chilled vodka which HG would not been able to resist. So, disciplined HG saved the Russian Tea Room for dinners and weekend lunches. Every two weeks or so, HG’s pal Charles E., an important advertising copywriter, would lunch with HG. (An odd fact: Charles was Jack Kerouac’s teammate on a Columbia football team.) Charles and HG would indulge in a guilty treat: Combo platters (Shrimp chop suey, egg roll, pork fried rice) served with lots of duck sauce and chinese mustard at a dingy Chinese restaurant on Sixth just north of 58th. Preceded by egg drop soup, finished with an almond cookie. Like an illicit couple, HG and Charles would leave with furtive glances, hoping that no one would note how they had breached culinary values.

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Saloon Songs

September 18th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

The time: Early 1950’s. The place: Murphy’s Bar & Grill on 45th Street and Third Avenue (the El roaring overhead). The occasion: A drunken informal observation of HG’s birthday. While HG ate pickled pork knuckles with mustard accompanied by boilermakers (rye whiskey with beer chasers), Dan M., a Daily Mirror rewrite man, sang HG’s birthday present: A full length, heart ending version of “Kevin Barry”. The many verse song told of the martyrdom at the hands of the British of 18-year-old Kevin Barry, medical student and soldier in the Irish Republican Army. Barry met his fate during the Irish War For Independence. He was hung on Nov.1, 1920. The song noted: “A lad of 18 summers, Kevin Barry gave his young life for Ireland and the cause of liberty.” Memorable was Barry’s request of the British: “Shoot me like an Irish soldier. Don’t hang me like a dog.” The British hung him. Dan M., who had a varied repertoire, followed “Kevin Barry” with a rousing rendition of the Yiddish music hall hit, “Romania, Romania” as done in the style of Aaron Lebedeff. Present at the raucous festivities was Howard W., HG’s journalism and life mentor. An I.R.A. gunman during the War For Independence and the subsequent Civil War, Howard W. did not join in the “Kevin Barry” song. He hated all Irish rebel songs and, disillusioned with violence, called his experiences “a catastrophe of blood, treachery and politics.” He despised the Irish-American habitu├ęs of Third Avenue bars and their loud Irish patriotism. ‘Whiskey warriors,” said Howard. He figured in an extraordinary incident where, as he boarded the Third Avenue trolley (they used to run under the El), the driver suddenly leaped out of his driver’s seat, abandoned his vehicle and ran away. It seemed that the driver, who had been an informer for the British, recognized Howard as an I.R.A, enforcer. He thought his final moment had come. Howard made no comment about the incident. There was much saloon singing during HG’s journalistic days. Nat O.,a newspaper motorcycle messenger (and a former driver for burglars), was an HG drinking companion. Nat, who was Jewish, had a remarkable Irish tenor voice and a vast array of sentimental Irish sings of the “Mother Machree,” and “Danny Boy” vintage. Whenever Nat raised his voice, he and HG rarely paid for a drink. Unfortunately, after many songs and drinks, Nat would become hostile and evenings ended with fisticuffs. Somehow HG emerged always without injury. HG’s favorite saloon singer was a quasi girlfriend, Alice C. Only in her twenties when HG knew her, Alice (mature for her age), ran away from home at the age of 14 and became a Las Vegas showgirl. This was followed by a career as a singer in Jewish Borscht Belt hotels where she learned a number of schmaltzy, tear jerking melodies. Her next career was as a heavy drinking Broadway press agent (that’s when she and HG became pals). HG, Alice, police reporters, bail bondsmen, loan sharks and Jewish thugs had a late night hangout: Dubiner’s Bar and Restaurant on Stanton Street off Allen on the Lower East Side. The specialties of the house were gefilte fish with hair-raising horseradish, chopped liver with abundant chicken fat and garlicky, room temperature fried fish. HG enjoyed these goodies with lots of vodka. Alice, a determined bourbon drinker, would sing. “Yiddishe Mama” and “Papirosen” were two of her big numbers. She could really milk those songs. HG does not exaggerate: Tears rolled down the cheeks of the tough guys. What happened to Alice? She abandoned her dissolute ways (HG played a small part in that development). Went to medical school. Became a pediatrician. Lived a productive and conventional life in the suburbs with two children and an investment banker husband. Go figure.

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