SJ Scores a Knockout: Holiday Feasting & Jewish Fish For Christmas Eve

December 25th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

After a long day of exhausting travel, Holiday feasting began upon arrival at the Brooklyn home of SJ, Exquisite Maiko, Handsome Haru and enchanting Teru. Jolly welcome. HG/BSK found comforting warmth in bowls of SJ’s chickpea, rosemary and tomato soup. This soup is SJ’s creative take on the classic Marcella Hazan recipe. Rather than leaving the garbanzos whole, SJ adds real Spanish chorizo to the basic ingredients and blends the whole thing into a smooth and earthy soup, redolent of rosemary and finished with cubes of crisp guanciale. This was followed by an exuberant platter of varied cheese from the Fairway market and lots of red wine and vodka. Plus, splendid Tuscan salami and Spanish ham. Delight. Thoughtful SJ gave HG/BSK a bag of bagels and bialys plus Ben’s Scallion Cream Cheese (the best!) for breakfast in HG/BSK’s temporary Prospect Heights home.

SJ scored again with the traditional fish feast on Christmas eve with the usual Jewish twist. SJ, in his annual ritual, finished DJing at 4:30 am and headed right to Russ & Daughters so he could be first on line on Christmas Eve day. R & D is a New York landmark for herring and smoked fish and knowing SJ sourced a feast and motored it bak to the family gathering in Riverside, R.I. Here were some of the goodies: Nova Scotia smoked salmon; smoky New Zealand smoked salmon; Gaspe Nova smoked salmon, whole Dutch herring; pickled herring; wasabi tobiko; smoked yellowfin tuna; sable, whitefish salad, creme fraiche, wild Alaskan red salmon caviar; American hackleback black caviar. The fixings: Lemon wedges, chopped onion, thin sliced rings of onion, capers, scallion cream cheese, regular cream cheese. The breads: Bagels, bialys, buttered toast (for the American caviar); thinly sliced Baltic dark rye bread. Wow. To drink: Prosecco; white wine; rose wine; Tito’s vodka; Bass ale. Big time feast. Opened a few presents (that’s the family custom). No room for dessert. Off to bed for big time morning present opening and reprise of the evening feast (plus SJ’s super potato latkes). HG is convinced that no family celebrates the holidays with more joy and culinary delights.


Future Feasting

December 11th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

Chanukah. Christmas. Kwanza. Yes, it’s holiday time. Won’t let Trumpery put a damper on family fun and feasting. HG/BSK will be in Providence (and three days in New York). Alas, Toby, The Wonder Dog, will be in in New Mexico. But, happily he will be in the loving care of Vicki, our house sitter, and her dog, a Toby buddy. In New York, HG will have his annual (Is this the sixth?) holiday lunch with restaurateur daughter Victoria (Rosie’s, Vic’s, Hundred Acres, Cookshop). It will feature fruits de mer and Muscadet at Balthazar. In Brooklyn, HG/BSK will celebrate SJ’s birthday at Mister Hotpot with Exquisite Maiko, Handsome Haru and Teru, the little queen of cuteness. In Providence, HG will lure gifted and busy daughter, Lesley, to a big time a deux feast of oysters and Rhode Island clams at Hemenway’s. A visit to HG’s favorite Szechuan restaurant (In Seatucket, of all places) is obligatory. There may be a Peruvian feast in the offing. And, on Christmas Eve (and Christmas morning) there will be blini, caviar, smoked salmon, potato pancakes, cream cheese, sable, herring, etc. SJ is an early standby on the Russ & Daughters line on Christmas Eve day and motors these wonders to the Providence table. Massimo R., HG/BSK’s much loved son-in-law, will adorn the holiday dinner table with great cheese, bread and wine. And, what will be the feast on Christmas Day? Turkey, brisket, roast beef, osso bucco? Whatever. Be assured. Lesley will make it memorable.


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.


Christmas and Family

December 28th, 2015 § 2 comments § permalink

Sorry to say, this was not the merriest Christmas for aged HG. Persistent pneumonia. Medical visits. Antibiotics that caused many unpleasant side-effects. No alcohol. Nevertheless, HG was heartened by the loving care and affection of HG’s unique family. The Big Guy In The Sky has blessed HG with BSK, an extraordinary woman of tenderness, strength, creativity and a sexiness that defies advancing years. Lesley R. and SJ are loving children and exemplary spouses and parents. The grandkids: Haru, Teru, Sofia, Arianna. No adjectives can do justice to their wonderfulness. Daughter-in-law Maiko Sakamoto. Son-in-law Massimo Riva. They bring to HG an abundance of intellectual and culinary delights. So, despite illness, HG did justice to the family’s Christmas Eve and Christmas Day version of the Feast of Seven Fishes. SJ visited legendary Russ & Daughters on New York’s Lower East Side and arrived in Riverside, R.I., with a bulging carton of good things: Red salmon caviar. Fresh Dutch herring. Sable. Three types of smoked salmon. Whitefish salad. Tobiko. Smoked tuna. Trout mousse. Cream cheese. Bagels. Bialys. Authentic Jewish rye bread. Lesley R. made her splendid crepes and blini. SJ created a big platter of his crisp, perfect potato latkes. There were bowls of sour cream, creme fraiche, capers, sliced onion, chopped onion, lemon quarters, celeriac salad, hearts of palm salad on the table. Savory abundance. HG could not indulge in HG’s traditional icy vodka and Bass ale. HG had to settle for Beck’s non-alcoholic beer. The family noted this was the first Christmas with a coherent and sober HG. Wait till next year.


The Appetizing Store

October 31st, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

Once upon a time, many years ago, there was an affordable, funky, comfortable city known, then and now, as New York. Among the city’s many amenities was the “appetizing store.” This was a small store that sold smoked fish (Nova Scotia salmon, salty lox, sable, sturgeon, kippered salmon, herring, whitefish); olives (green and black); pickles (from a barrel), cole slaw, potato salad. On the shelves were canned and jarred items such as salmon, tuna and anchovies. Some stores offered dried fruits, nuts and halvah. “Appetizing stores” were omnipresent on every shopping street in the Jewish neighborhoods of Manhattan, The Bronx , Brooklyn and Queens. Today, only two survive: Russ & Daughters on the Lower East Side and Murray’s Sturgeon Shop on the Upper West Side. (Yes, there are two big time smoked fish landmarks on the Upper West Side: Zabar’s and Barney Greengrass. But, Zabar’s is a megaplex offering housewares, cheese, prepared foods, breads, sweets, etc. Greengrass is as much a restaurant as it is an “appetizing store.”) R & D and Murray’s have loyalists. SJ insists that R & D has the ultimate smoked fish and salads. Others think Murray’s experienced hand slicers are accomplished artists. HG leans toward R & D but finds Zabar’s sable and red salmon caviar superior. HG has heard that Murray’s has become a bit moldy. R & D, on the other hand, has become reinvigorated with an energetic younger generation that has taken over and expanded the Russ & Daughter’s brand. In HG’s youth, it was HG’s Sunday task to shop at the “appetizing store” on Kingsbridge Road in the Bronx and bring home the fixings for the joyous Sunday brunch. It was the job of the father of the household to visit the neighborhood bakery for the essential bagels, bialys, pletzels and rye bread. Moms took care of the cream cheese, sweet butter and sour cream. In the immediate World War Two years, a certain casual jacket became popular among Jewish men. A four button affair, it had a tweed body and camel hair sleeves. It was designed for weekend casual activities. It was known as the “Bagel Coat” because it was the obligatory costume of men fetching those baked (but first boiled) treats.


Holiday Feasting (Day Six)

December 29th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Feast of the Seven (approximately) Jewish (almost) Fishes. The HG/BSK family borrows from the Italian Catholic tradition of a seven fish feast on Christmas Eve. BSK and Gifted Daughter Lesley R. are skilled hands with chowders, oyster stews, etc. HG specializes in sautéed and fried fish. But, on Christmas Eve, the family feasts on the smoked fish products of Russ & Daughters, the venerable shop on New York’s Lower East Side. As usual, SJ was the first person on line, waiting for the store to open at 9 AM, Dec. 24 (the line grows to as many as 200 hungry New Yorkers). Here’s what SJ provided: Velvety, gently saline, raw Dutch herring (this is seasonal and is only found at R & D and Grand Central Oyster Bar); Gaspe Nova Scotia smoked salmon; Pastrami cured smoked salmon; sable; red salmon caviar from Alaska; smoked yellowfin tuna; paddlefish caviar (from USA); Japanese wasabi Tobiko caviar (flying fish roe); whitefish salad. Accompanying these wonders were Lesley R.’s sublime blini and gossamer thin crepes. Plus traditional bialys and bagels, of course. Scallion cream cheese. Horseradish cream cheese (disappointingly bland). Sour cream. Creme fraiche. Sliced and chopped sweet onion. Kalamata olives. Capers. Bubbie’s Pickles. Lemon wedges. Two salads–hearts of palm and cherry tomatoes; celeriac in lemony mayonnaise. To drink: White wine, Bass Ale, Guinness Stout. Finale: Limoncello. Chocolate truffles. Peanut brittle. There is an added benefit. This meal is repeated as a Christmas dinner after an arduous day of opening presents. The day after Christmas Day is when the HG/BSK family schedules a dinner featuring red wines and brisket or osso buco. Eccentric, yes, but eminently satisfying.


Holiday Feasting (Day Five)

December 28th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Hotel breakfast of coffee and raisin bran cereal. Off to Providence on Amtrak with BSK and grandson Haru. Penn Station was jammed but still managed to get ravenous Haru a slice of pepperoni pizza. Leisurely journey with plenty of time to read the New York Times. Arrived in Rhode Island ready for one of Gifted Daughter Lesley R.’s perfect Italian meals. This one didn’t disappoint. Antipasto of roasted peppers, anchovies, olives. Prosciutto and salami. Exceptional bread from Seven Stars Bakery. Perfectly ripe Gorgonzola. A chunk of Torrone candy for dessert. To bed with dreams of Russ & Daughters delicacies, the traditional HG/BSK family Christmas Eve feast, dancing in HG”s food obsessed old head.


Holiday Feasting

December 22nd, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

HG/BSK are going east for the traditional feasting and gifting jamboree with their joyous Anglo-Irish-Canadian-American-Italian-Jewish-Japanese family (Quick! Please have eligibles marry an African-American and a Latino so we can complete our Rainbow Coalition). Festivities will start in New York a few days before Christmas where HG/BSK will dine at Vic’s, the much-lauded new restaurant venture of HG’s daughter, Restaurateur Victoria F. Scheduled is a dim sum feast at Dim Sum Go Go in Chinatown with the SJ family (and Victoria). Also on schedule is an Uzbekistan Grand Bouffe in Queens celebrating SJ’s birthday. And, while BSK is doing some last minute shopping, HG will knock off some oysters and wine with Victoria at Balthazar, the brasserie which keeps the old time Paris traditions alive. (Yes, the best Paris brasserie is located in New York). Christmas Eve means the traditional Jewish Feast of the Seven Fishes (courtesy of SJ and Russ & Daughters). And, what surprise will Gifted Daughter Lesley R. spring on Christmas Day? Brisket? Osso buco ? Bollito misto ? Traditional turkey? And, is there a new Rhode Island restaurant to be tried? HG has heard rumors about an Indian restaurant in Bristol. Of course, there is old standby Hemenway’s which serves splendid New England oysters as well as Rhode Island clams on the half shell (best in the world), an HG favorite. Hey, food lovers, are you envious? You should be.


Celebrating Number 85

November 11th, 2014 § 8 comments § permalink

85. Hey, that’s a lot of years. But, HG, the birthday boy, is not only Hungry Gerald but Greedy Gerald. HG wants more. More life. More years. More food. More wine. That’s because HG has the best wife, the best children, the best grandchildren and the best dog (Toby, a new member of the family). And, of course, HG/BSK divide their time between two delightful and very different paradises: New Mexico (the Land of Enchantment) and Prince Edward Island (The Gentle Island). In New Mexico, HG/BSK have the benefit of interesting, generous, amusing friends. Among them are Polly B. (the renowned photographer); David F. (novelist and historian); Karen K.(film producer). This trio gathered with HG/BSK and Gorgeous Granddaughter Sofia for a birthday feast of red salmon caviar (from Zabar’s) and home made blini (via the Roger Sherman recipe from Canal House Cooking, Vol. 3). Also Gaspe Nova Scotia smoked salmon and sable (from Russ & Daughters, a very generous gift from Restaurateur Daughter Victoria). On the table was creme fraiche and thick sour cream; scallion cream cheese; whitefish salad; pickles; capers; caper berries; sliced sweet onion and tomatoes; black olives. Jewish rye and pumpernickel bread (from Zabar’s). Genuine New York bagels (Russ & Daughters). The group toasted HG with Kristal champagne (a startling pre-birthday gift from Antony and Claudia C.) and then went on to a variety of cold, dry white wines. Dessert. Ah, dessert!! This was provided by Karen K., acknowledged as The Dessert Queen. HG has written about Karen K.’s wonders before but this time the talented lady outdid herself. Dessert was flan. A wondrous flan that hovered somewhere between traditional flan and an ethereal creme brûlée. A dream custard with toasted flakes of almond to provide a contrasting crunch. Providing some overkill, HG sliced pistachio halvah accompanied by Bushmill’s Irish Honey Whiskey. Polly B. and David F. gave HG a magnificent straw sombrero as a birthday gift. This will be indispensable on PEI’s beaches even though the hat makes HG look like an exotic variety of Jewish mushroom. Thanks to all (including little granddaughter Teru) who sent birthday greetings and wishes. A joyous birthday, indeed.


Big $$ For Old Time Treats

May 28th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Eight dollars for an egg cream. You read it right. That’s what that old timey New York candy store beverage costs at Russ & Daughters Cafe, recently opened on Orchard Street in New York’s Lower East Side. Scrambled eggs and caviar: $180. A helping of Transmontanus caviar: $175. Don’t know what a plate of kasha varnishkes costs or the price of bagel-Nova salmon-cream cheese. Presume they are lofty numbers. Since the smoked fish and caviar comes from the venerable Russ & Daughters “appetizing” store around the corner on Houston Street, HG presumes it’s all mighty tasty. But, those prices!! These are noshes meant for Russian oligarchs. The Russ & Daughters store has been a longtime favorite of HG/BSK and family. The store has been around for 100 years and has a devoted, fiercely loyal customer base. SJ is often first on line waiting for the store to open during Christmas season. SJ spends about $200 and gets enough culinary marvels for HG/BSK, the Riva family and SJ’s family to enjoy their gala Jewish/Russian/New York version of the traditional Italian Christmas Eve “Feast of the Seven Fishes.” When HG/BSK lived on Sheridan Square in Greenwich Village, HG was at R & D every Sunday morning. HG often encountered Calvin Trillin, the New Yorker and The Nation writer. Among many attainments, Trillin was the poet laureate of Russ & Daughters. HG’s pal, Peter Hellman, the distinguished journalist and wine authority, performed a similar function for Zabar’s, the megalopolis of smoked fish and much else, located on the Upper West Side. HG will continue to order R & D treats online. Unless there are some price adjustments, HG will stick to take-out and forgo the Cafe.


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