Red Salmon Caviar

August 16th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

The real Russian/Iranian caviar—beluga, sevruga — is unbelievably expensive. Can only be enjoyed by oligarchs, billionaires and other plutocrats. Some 58 years ago HG would order these treats (inexpensive then) from Caviarteria in New York and heap tablespoons on lightly toasted and buttered slices of Pepperidge Farm Thin Sliced White Bread. No adulteration of taste by additions of lemon juice, chopped onions, chopped hard boiled eggs and sour cream. Drank icy Polish Vodka Wyborowa from a bottle covered with frost from the freezer. This is a happy memory. However, HG is pleased that one of the great affordable luxuries, Red Salmon Caviar (the color is closer to orange) is readily available online from Zabar’s (HG’s choice) and Russ & Daughters, two New York smoked fish institutions. When living on the upper west side of Manhattan, HG/BSK would have a favorite brunch at The Russian Tea Room on W. 57th Street (this delightful eccentric restaurant was a show biz, dance and music hangout but after many ownership changes and glitzy renovations it is a hyper-expensive shadow of its former self). The brunch would start with “Eggplant Orientale”, a Slav version of baba ganoush. This was followed by stacks of blini drenched in melted butter and topped with red salmon caviar and thick sour cream. Oh, my!! Gifted Daughter Lesley R. makes her version of this with thin crepes (HG murmurs: “More, more.” ) SJ contributes superb latkes that get the caviar-and-sour cream adornment. This takes place at the family feast of the fishes (Russo/Jewish version) on Christmas.Eve in Rhode Island. When back in New Mexico, BSK makes BSK’s inimitable omelets. Very soft on the inside (the French call it “baveuse”) with gently browned exteriors. BSK fills the omelets with red salmon caviar. Scoop of sour cream on top. Heaven.

You Can’t Eat The Curtains

September 3rd, 2016 § 2 comments § permalink

Pete Wells, the New York Times restaurant reviewer, goes on and on about restaurant decor. HG couldn’t care less. After all, you can’t eat the curtains. All HG requires in a restaurant (besides good food) is pleasant, not too dim lighting and reasonable soundproofing. Some of HG’s best dining experiences have been in bleak Chinese restaurants, Jewish delicatessens and “dairy” restaurants. HG once had the temerity to suggest some art on the walls of a gloomy (but delicious) “dairy” restaurant on W. 170th Street in The Bronx. The grumpy waiter’s response was appropriate: “If you want pictures, go to a museum. If you want to eat, come here.” Two of HG’s favorite places in New York were the lobby of the Hotel Algonquin and the old Russian Tea Room. The Algonquin lobby had the friendly feel of an old (slightly impoverished) English country house. Carpets and seating upholstery were gently faded. Astute Ben Bodne, the hotel owner, would have replacements professionally distressed so change would not be visible to customers. After Bodne sold the hotel, various “improvements” were made. Last time HG peeked at the lobby it glittered with shiny modernity. The old Russian Tea Room was decorated with haphazard Christmas lights. They shone year round because the owner liked them (and his staff of superannuated ex-Russian ballerina waitpersons). The current RTR boils over with showy opulence and the prices are stratospheric. Progress?


It’s Five o’ Clock (or Six o’ Clock) Somewhere

June 27th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

Yes, HG is a great fan of the cocktail hour. In HG’s younger days, 5PM began the imbibing of extra dry gin martinis (known as “icy steelies” or “silver bullets”). HG recalls knocking off three super sized cocktail hour martinis at Michael’s Pub, the Hotel Drake Bar and the Russian Tea Room (in that vodka proud room, 100 proof vodka instead of gin), and remaining upright and in command (relatively) of talking and good manners. The martini diet made HG amorous and led to adventures (good and bad). Dorothy Parker summed up this aspect of martini drinking: “One martini. Two at most. Three, I’m under the table. Four, I’m under the host”. Now in his late 80’s, HG has pushed the cocktail hour to 6PM. Being still in love with BSK, wife of almost 53 years, HG is not adventurous but relishes 6PM cocktail hour with the delightful woman. BSK is a devotee of white wine with a splash of Aperol, ice and a lemon squeeze. HG sticks to stronger drink. PEI distilled Myriad View gin (wonderful botanicals) with Pernod or Campari. Negroni composed of one-third Jack Daniel’s, one third dry vermouth, one third sweet vermouth, lemon juice. Vodka with Campari. Tequila, half and half with dry vermouth, lots of lime juice. 6PM begins sunset over the sea. Since PEI is far north, the sunset drama continues until 10PM. Miles Davis music adds another dimension to alcohol-fueled pleasure. Don’t miss those traditional, abundant martinis.



November 7th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

HG misses a certain type of codified New York City hangout for journalists, writers, poets and theater people. The species was exemplified by Elaine’s on Second Avenue where Woody Allen and scores of writers and performers received special treatment from the owner, Elaine Kaufman. The food was indifferent but HG enjoyed Elaine’s rough edged charm. Like HG, Elaine was a product of The Bronx and HG often greeted her with the soubriquet: “Elaine, the shapely Evander Childs alumna.” (Evander Childs being the name of a Bronx high school) She died in 2011 and the place was refurbished under new owners. Don’t believe it has recaptured the old ambiance. HG was lucky to spend some time with Elaine (some months before her death) at Le Veau d’ Or, the old time French bistro on E. 61st Street. HG had just finished lunching with SJ when Elaine came in. The two New York oldsters had some laughs and much cognac drinking. She, like her eatery, was an original. Pre-dating Elaine’s was Costello’s, a bar on Third Avenue and 44th Street. It opened when the El rumbled overhead and became a favorite with the staff of the New Yorker and their pals. Became a tourist attraction after James Thurber paid a Depression-era bar bill, by painting a 24 foot by 24 foot mural of his “War of the Sexes.” A.J.Leibling, Ernest Hemingway and John O’Hara drank there. According to legend, Hemingway broke his walking stick over O’Hara’s head. Details are sketchy. Like many good things in New York, Costello’s was demolished to make way for an office skyscraper. The mural disappeared. An art world mystery. Cedar Bar (never called Cedar Tavern) has disappeared from Greenwich Village’s University Place. It was the hangout of Motherwell, De Kooning, Pollock, Kline, Rothko and other distinguished artists (they were just gaining renown in the 50’s and 60’s). They were a hard drinking crowd much prone to fisticuffs. Lee Krasner, Pollock’s widow and a wonderful painter in her own right, said of the habitués: “They treated women like cattle.” HG would take HG’s little daughter, Victoria ,there on Saturday afternoon outings. HG would drink martinis and Victoria, perched on the bar, would eat peanuts and smile at her adult admirers. Presumably, Victoria’s early exposure to restaurants and strong drink has spurred her and chef/husband, Marc Meyer, to own and run four highly regarded New York restaurants: Cookshop, Vic’s, Hundred Acres and Rosie’s. Another Village hangout of artists, writer and poets (namely Dylan Thomas), was the White Horse Tavern on Hudson Street. Became famous for the presence of Thomas and Delmore Schwartz. Legend has it that Thomas consumed 18 shots of whiskey before walking (or stumbling) to his death.Though strongly identified with Thomas, it was actor Charles Laughton who made it famous. He would give away White Horse beer mugs to friends and fans. White Horse is still operating. Not very literary or poetic, it’s favored by college students. Best of the Village hangouts catering to journalists and writers, was the Lion’s Head on Christopher Street. Pete Hamill, Jimmy Breslin, Joe Flaherty, Frank McCourt, Norman Mailer, Sidney Zion, Vic Ziegel, Dennis Duggan and many others hung there. (An aside: Duggan reported for the New York Times and Newsday and was a fount of New York lore. HG was disturbed by Duggan’s unhealthy lifestyle and lured him to a gym on E. 45th Street where HG was a regular. Dennis didn’t like the mandatory exercises or the spartan atmosphere. After ten minutes, he said: “Okay. I came to your lousy gym. Can I have a drink now?”) The Lion’s Head closed some years ago but there’s now a Lion’s Head on Amsterdam Avenue much frequented by Columbia students. When HG was a journalist in the early 1950’s, HG spent much time at Artists & Writers (always called Bleeck’s) on W. 41st street near the offices of the old New York Herald-Tribune. Served very good German food and the convivial Trib journalists loved playing “the match game.” Lucius Beebe, the society columnist and elegant dandy, played with three custom made golden matches nestled in a velvet case. A class act. All of this has been swept away by time. Still functioning is Sardi’s, the theater restaurant a few blocks north of Artists & Writers. The endearing Vincent Sardi is gone and the food has gone downhill. A shadow of its former self. Lindy’s, Stage Delicatessen, Carnegie Delicatessen in the West 50’s, is where you found comics, song writers, press agents, bookmakers, gamblers. Lindy’s and Stage are gone and the Carnegie flourishes, selling overstuffed pastrami sandwiches to tourists. Russian Tea Room on W. 57th Street is where the classical music and ballet communities gathered as well as famous actors, producers and directors. HG once saw Jackie Onassis and Mike Nichols enjoying the Wednesday special, Siberian Pelmenyi. (this was a type of small ravioli served in strong chicken broth reinforced with mustard and sour cream). RTR is now an overpriced, over fancy place that has lost its luster. The hip Russian Tea Room crowd shifted to the Cafe Edison, a down to earth eatery in the Hotel Edison. The cooking was down home New York Jewish and the customers called the Cafe “The Polish Tea Room.” Alas, it closed this year, another victim of the real estate steamroller. HG imagines that the new generations of writers and painters and actors have their own places to drink and revel in the New New York, but HG doesn’t know them and can only hope they have as much fun in them as HG had in his own time.

First Minister Carwyn Jones February 27, 2014 vists New York and participates in A Dylan Thomas Tour in Manhattan, New York, USA

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.


A Nice Cup Of Tea

April 17th, 2014 § 2 comments § permalink

HG never drinks tea at an American restaurant. It’s vile. Sheer heaven is teatime at Brown’s or another estimable London hotel restaurant like the Savoy or Claridge’s, etc.. Ah, scones with clotted cream and strawberry preserves with properly brewed tea. SKF carries on English tradition by doing tea properly. Scalds the teapot with boiling water. Adds the good tea bags to the tea pot and covers them with boiling water. Nestles the teapot in a tea cozy (SKF uses a colorful cozy knit by her late grandmother). Lets the tea steep for an appropriate period. Pours it in a cup and adds a dash of milk. Very comforting. HG’s beloved late father, Hershele Tsvi Freimann, would frown at the addition of milk. He drank strong Russian style black tea with lemon. Held a sugar cube between his teeth as he sipped the brew. Sometimes he eliminated the lemon and added a big dollop of cherry preserves to his cup. That’s the way after dinner tea was served at the Russian Tea Room on W. 57th Street in New York. Try it. Delightful.


Christmas Restaurant Nostalgia Part 3: The Russian Tea Room

December 14th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

The Russian Tea Room on New York’s W. 57th Street (next door to Carnegie Hall) celebrated Christmas every day. The owner, the delightful Sidney Kaye, decided he liked the way Christmas decorations enhanced the restaurant so they never came down. Red and green forever. It was just one of the restaurant’s eccentricities like the forgetful old female waitpersons (many had been ballerinas in pre-revolution Russia) and the ever changing hat check girls (Madonna was one). During the Christmas season it was HG/BSK’s dinner choice after a movie at one of the nearby art cinemas. Their meal was always the same: Eggplant Orientale (the RTR’s version of baba ghanoush). Karsky Shashlik (succulent lamb kebabs) with rice pilaf. Raspberry Kissel (a raspberry compote topped with whipped cream). A bottle of Pommard or Pomerol (affordable then). HG knocked off some chilled vodka with the eggplant and cognac with coffee. BSK was more abstemious. If the weather was very cold or appetites had a sharp edge, HG/BSK preceded the meal with bowls of steaming dark red borscht decorated with a dollop of sour cream and accompanied by flaky piroshki (meat filled pastries). As a special treat, HG/BSK would take their kids to RTR for a Christmas holiday brunch (with SJ decked out in one of RTR’s loaned — and invariably over-sized — sport jackets) of butter drenched blini with red caviar and sour cream. Gifted Daughter Lesley R. pays tribute to this memory every Christmas Eve by making superior blini which the family tops with red caviar or smoked fish. Not to be outdone,on Christmas Day morning SJ makes very superior potato latkes (a modest nod to Chanukah) which get similar delicious treatment. Holiday feasting at its best.


Sidney Kaye And HG’s RTR Charge Account.

May 8th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

HG has posted before about the wonders of the Russian Tea Room when it was run by the late, great Sidney Kaye. HG had a charge account at RTR and since his offices were directly across the street from the restaurant, HG lunched there at least three times a week. There was also an occasional blini-red caviar-melted butter-sour cream weekend brunch. A few sumptuous dinners here and there, not to mention a good number of after work vodkas at the bar. In time HG’s tab began to resemble the national debt. Then, for some reason, monthly statements stopped coming. Guilty HG phoned Sidney. Here’s Sidney’s response: “Goddamn bookkeeper. Can’t anybody do anything right? I should fire everyone and start all over again. You owe me money? So what? You’re the least of my worries. Goodbye,” Hangs up.

HG kept eating and charging.

Shibumi. Ramen Delight. Highly Unusual Orgasms, Etc.

April 6th, 2011 § 4 comments § permalink

HG and BSK lunched today at Shibumi Ramenya in downtown Santa Fe (Johnson and Chapelle, to be precise). Perfection in every detail — decor (Japanese rustic); service (suave); food (sophisticated but earthy). There’s spicy pork gyoza, some creative Japanese vegetable tapas (burdock root, black seaweed, sesame spinach and bunapi mushroom). And, there’s the little bistro’s raison d’etre: Ramen with four distinct broth styles: Tonkotsu ramen with roasted korobuta pork; Torigara with roasted chicken; Kaisen with shrimp and Yasai with vegetables. HG and BSK had the Tonkotsu Ramen and it had flavors in depth — a powerful and multi-layered broth, perfect noodles (excelling in both spring and smooth mouth feel) and roasted pork slices that seemed a marriage between belly and loin. The cutlery, spoons with long wooden handles and a capacious bowl married aesthetics with function. Prices are moderate. The cash policy (no credit cards) helps keep it that way. The proprietor is Eric Stapelman. He also owns Trattoria Nostrani, an adjacent Italian restaurant. Nostrani’s menu is superb and HG/BSK will be dining there soon and posting a report.

Stapelman has the reputation of not tolerating disrespect for his food, personnel, or restaurant. And, he won’t have perfumed folk. Good. HG’s kind of guy. All of my favorite restaurant men (Henri Soule at Pavillon in New York or Sidney Kaye at Russian Tea Room, also in New York, behaved that way). Viva Stapelman, Don’t change.

SJ reminded me that Shibumi by Trevanian (a one name author) is the title of one of our favorite good/bad novels (“Godfather” tops that category). The protagonist of “Shibumi” is a assassin/stud named Nicolai Hel (he can kill in a hundred ways including a method using the edge of a playing card). So powerful is his sexual magnetism that he and his beautiful girl friend achieve simultaneous orgasm simply by looking at each other in an intense manner. Commented SJ: “Wow. What would happen if they actually did it?”

Enjoy more conventional (but intense) pleasures at Stapelman’s “Shibumi.”

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with Russian Tea Room at HUNGRY GERALD.