Think Yiddish, Dress British

December 27th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

That was the slogan on Madison Avenue during HG’s heyday as a New York/New Jersey public relations biggie during the 60’s and 70’s. HG no longer dresses British. Sweatpants and hoodies are more HG’s style. But, HG sure likes to eat Yiddish. Noo Yawk provided the goodies for the HG/BSK and R. family traditional smoked fish feast (a riff on the Italian Seven Fishes tradition) on Christmas Eve. Zabar’s provided red salmon caviar, potato salad, cole slaw and a Jewish rye bread. Russ & Daughters was the source for Nova Scotia (Gaspe Bay) smoked salmon, sable, pastrami cured smoked salmon, tobiko roe, horseradish cream cheese, scallion cream cheese and (a bow to carnivores) chopped liver. Kossar’s, one of the last traditional Jewish bakeries, sent bagels, bialys, onion rolls and a cinnamon babka cake. Sliced onions, olives, sour cream, pickles, capers and lemon wedges were on the table. Lesley R. made yummy blinis and crepes for the caviar and sour cream. Plus a celeriac slaw. Vodka and beer chasers for HG. Chilled white wine for the sensible family members. Though Face Time helped, SJ, Exquisite Maiko, Handsome Haru and Super Cute Teru, were much missed.

More Birthday Feasting

December 4th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

Generous and thoughtful daughter, Vicki F., the New York restaurateur (Cookshop, Vic’s, Rosie’s, Hundred Acres), birthday gifted HG with a lush package from Zabar’s, the Upper West Side food landmark. Happy 87 (can’t quite believe this number). The package contained: American farm raised caviar (as good, or better, than the Iranian and Russian products); Alaskan Salmon red caviar; blini; creme fraiche. The makings for an indulgent feast. Invited David F., friend, neighbor and HG’s favorite vodka drinking companion. Meal began with the American caviar on gently warmed blini topped with creme fraiche and a bit of finely chopped onion. HG and David F. accompanied it with copious icy vodka. (BSK drank sauvignon blanc). BSK then made BSK’s inimitable feta cheese omelets. Brown edges with soft, flavorful interiors (the French describe such omelets as “baveuse”). The dreamy and creamy omelets were topped with the Salmon caviar, sour cream and chopped onions. Jollity reigned as copious vodka and wine were consumed. Meal concluded with an endive and watercress salad plus ripe Comice pears with chunks of parmesan. Yes, much joy can still be found in a very divided America. Many, many thanks, Vicki.

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Chopped And Poached Delights

April 18th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

As HG savored the last of the delicious gefilte fish (brought by visiting Peter Hellman from Zabar’s,the famous New York gourmet emporium), HG contemplated the wonders of chopped and poached fish. Memory was sharpened by a few snifters of icy Aakavit (the wonderful 84 proof Danish response to vodka) and chasers of dark ale. Zabar’s product matched in flavor and succulence the gefilte fish produced by HG’s late Mom in her Bronx kitchen. Mom chopped fresh water fish: whitefish, pike, carp and “buffel” (curious HG learned that “buffel” was Ictiobus, often called Buffalo fish). Mom mixed the fish with matzo meal, eggs and grated onion. Formed the mix into ovals and poached them in a broth flavored by fish heads, bones and skin. The fish heads, etc. were removed before poaching and the broth was strained and served with cooked carrots and onions. Her gefilte fish were served warm or cold. They were always decorated with slices of carrot. Very strong, freshly grated horseradish was obligatory. Chunks of Challah were dunked in the warm fish broth. If cold, the broth turned gelatinous (still delicious with Challah). “Gefilte” means stuffed. Eastern European Jews stuffed the chopped fish into the skin of a fish. Made one fish go a long way. “Galitzianers” (Jews from Galicia, the borderland between Poland and the Ukraine) added sugar to the chopped fish mix. Mom considered this a culinary obscenity. Excellent gefilte fish was served in New York’s many “dairy” restaurants (Alas, only a few still exist.) If your gefilte fish experience has been confined to the bottled supermarket product, you don’t know what pleasure you have been missing. Order the real stuff from Zabar’s online. Similar to gefilte, Chinese fish balls are an omnipresent street food in Hong Kong and in Chinese restaurants throughout New York. HG ate them often at Congee Noodle House when HG/BSK had a loft (and later a townhouse) in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood of Vancouver. The fish balls are usually made of mackerel, corn starch, salt and pepper. After being chopped in a food processor, the mix has to be slammed on a plastic cutting board about 50 times before poaching (Good way to relieve stress). The slamming creates a unique springy texture. No surprise, the ultimate chopped fish treat can be found in France: Quenelles in Sauce Nantua, chopped pike ovals in a sauce of fresh crayfish and cream. These are a specialty of Lyon. The chopped fish is mixed with flour, eggs and loads of butter (of course). Best place in Paris for this lush dish Moissonnier, a Lyonnaise restaurant in the Fifth Arondissement. The portions in this bistro are enormous. Come hungry.

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Do You Miss New York?

April 11th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

Dave Frishberg, the witty singer/song writer/musician, now an LA resident and formerly a New Yorker, is often asked that question. So he wrote a song: “Do You Miss New York?”. And, the answer, of course is: Yes!! HG/BSK have lived in the Western United States (Colorado and New Mexico) and Canada (Vancouver and Prince Edward Island) for the last 31 years. BSK does not miss New York (or New Jersey). HG has complex feelings. There’s nostalgia, of course. HG is nostalgic about the Upper West Side in the sixties. Movie houses. Street scenes (old Holocaust survivors; junkies; professors; musicians; writers; sex workers; crazies; burglars). Apartments (huge and cheap). Food (Zabar’s, Barney Greengrass, Citarella’s, Nevada Meat Market, Broadway Nut Shop, etc.). Dining (Fleur de Lis; Paramount Famous Dairy; Gitlitz Delicatessen; Tip Toe Inn; many good, cheap Chinese and Cuban joints.) HG got a jolt recently while watching Mad Men. Roger and Joan get away from Madison Avenue and dine at Tip Toe Inn (set designers did a great job). They are mugged after their meal. Yes, that was a possibility on the old West Side before the real estate monsters and condo-maniacs chewed up the neighborhood. Zabar’s, Barney G. and Citarella’s remain. All else is gone. Today’s New York? It’s a place where foreign bad guys hide their money and a family has to earn a million bucks a year to enjoy an upper-middle class life (Condo or coop; housekeeper/nanny; summer home; private school for the kids.) HG/BSK had all of those things on $40,000 (or less) a year. Didn’t have a coop but paid $292 a month for a huge apartment (big living room with view of the Hudson River and The Palisades; separate formal dining room; modest windowed kitchen; four bedrooms; three bathrooms.) Read it and weep. There are things about the New York of 2016 that HG loves. The museums are still great (the new Whitney on the West Side and the Met Breuer on Madison are grand additions). Strolling on the High Line. HG daughter Victoria and husband /chef Marc Meyer’s four superior downtown restaurants: Rosie’s (Mexican); Vic’s (Italian); Cookshop and Hundred Acres (farm to table ingredients, American with Mediterranean flavors). Good value, wonderful food, deft service, joyous atmosphere. Dining with SJ in Flushing (Chinese and Korean) and the Forest Hills neighborhood of Queens (robust Uzbekistan cuisine). HG’s annual lunch with Victoria at Balthazar, better than any Paris brasserie. Shopping with BSK at Uniqlo. Gallery and museum hopping with BSK. Wandering (and eating) in Brooklyn, much hipper than Manhattan. HG/BSK mourn that they can’t eat at Oni Sauce, the fabulous Japanese home cooking and Asian sauce stand daughter-in-law Exquisite Maiko Sakamoto (and partner) are running at Smorgasburg, Brooklyn’s famous al fresco food court. So, does HG miss New York? Not often, but sometimes.

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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.

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Let It Snow, Let is Snow

December 15th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Snow was falling last night. Big, wet flakes turned the HG/BSK meadow a glittering white. Temp took a dip. (No fear. Snow rapidly disappears in the high and dry warmth of New Mexican sunshine). Snowfall here means a roaring fireplace, much to drink and comfort food on the table. That’s the way it was when talented pals Polly B. (the brilliant photographer) and David F. (novelist/historian/educator) joined HG/BSK and Gorgeous Granddaughter Sofia for dinner. Flutes of Prosecco (with a dash of Aperol, Venetian style) were sipped as BSK’s latest pots were admired. At the table there was a cold bottle of very good Champagne and a platter of Zabar’s Nova Scotia smoked salmon. This was followed by the paragon of comfort food: Meat loaf. This was no ordinary meat loaf. It was Paul Prudhomme’s Cajun Meat Loaf, loaded with spicy New Orleans flavors. BSK showered it with mushroom sauce and flanked it with BSK’s unique smashed potatoes. Much red wine. Meal ended with Trader Joe’s Salted Caramel Ice Cream and ginger cookies. Good food. Good wine. Good friends. Let it snow, let it snow.

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Best Baked Goods

November 20th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

HG often longs for the great breads of HG’s Bronx youth. Rye bread. Pumpernickel bread. Bialys. Onion “pletzels” (rolls). A number of grocers offer “Jewish” rye bread. HG believes this is an affront that calls for investigation by the B’nai Brith Anti-Defamation League or even more drastic action by the Jewish Defense League. Dismal present day for HG’s favorites. Pumpernickel bread? Insipid. Bialys? Other than Kossar’s, they are pale imitations without that unique oniony flavor. “Pletzels” ? They’ve disappeared. Bagels, of course, are a sardonic joke. HG doesn’t care because HG never liked bagels. Bagel lovers deserve the nasty chocolate chip and cinnamon raisin bagels now being offered. However, there’s hope. Recently, HG ordered Zabar’s sourdough seeded Jewish rye and Russian pumpernickel bread. Made HG’s eyes misty. These are the authentic loaves. Topped with scallion cream cheese and smoked fish. HG devours many slices with glasses of icy vodka (This regime draws frowns from BSK but HG shakes off disapproval). Another happy note concerning traditional Jewish baked goods. Restaurateur Daughter Victoria sent HG some “Traditional Raspberry Rugelach” (from Russ & Daughters). Spectacular. Sorry, Mom in Heaven, better than yours.

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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.

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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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Savory Starters

February 27th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Was it a French gourmand (or possibly just HG) who mused: “Dinner without an entree (appetizer) is like making love without foreplay” ? Yes, an appetizer is a good idea. But, it must be modest so as not to blunt ardor for the main event (okay, okay, that’s the end of the semi-naughty references). So, here are a few of HG’s favorite starters. Three chilled Colville Bay oysters on the half-shell. Spanish Piquillo peppers with a bit of fresh mozzarella/buratta drizzled in good olive oil and Maldon Smoked Sea Salt Flakes. A slice of Italian prosciutto with a ripe, fresh fig. A slice of Serrano ham on thin buttered bread. A dab of Alaskan salmon red caviar (best purchased online from Zabar’s) topped with creme fraiche on a buttered slice of lightly toasted Pepperidge Farm Thin White bread. A chunk of schmaltz herring (from Russ & Daughters) rolled in chopped onion and downed with a shot glass of icy vodka. Slice of smoked salmon (Nova Scotia or Scotland) with capers, olive oil and ground pepper. And, here’s a suggestion by HG for something you may not have tried: Cook a small bit of Angel Hair or Capellini pasta. Top it with a sauce made of olive oil, finely chopped raw garlic, a few sardines, a squeeze of tomato paste, coarse salt and plenty of ground black pepper. So good that you might be sorry you’re not having it as your main dish.

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