Archive for the ‘Chicken’ Category

Manhattan Postscript II:

Monday, September 3rd, 2007

        My father’s first cousin Ernie Bloomfield Zeisler, Chicago physician, mathematician, friend of Einstein, Renaissance man, resident of a Lakeshore Drive apartment but an advocate of socialized medicine (and he was, of course, a friend of my as-yet-unfound-wife’s uncle Ted at the Cliff Dwellers literary club that met upstairs at Orchestra Hall), this Ernie, whom I would have loved to have known, was also a foodie, and his granddaughter Laura has shared with me the comments in his address book on the New York restaurants he frequented, embraced, and cast aside in a good old Bloomfieldian righteous huff.

        After reading accounts of Ernie’s starred and ill-starred eateries in Lawton Mackall’s bible-ette for gourmets (the copy I inherited is cryptically inscribed to my father as “For the Rifton Récamier from the Old Mountain Pine,” this being some arcane message out of old summers in Vermont — and I might note that Lawton looked more like an economics professor than a boulevardier), I think my taste and my fascinating cousin’s coincide.

        On Ernie’s NO list was Voisin, and I shudder reading friend Mackall’s account: “Elegance couldn’t be quieter than you find it in this Sloane-decorated room in the basement of Park Avenue’s haughtiest apartment fortress . . . [the owners feel] that their public knows the way to the door, and anybody else might be unprepared for their prices.” But Chateaubriand, an Ernie favorite, “is hosted by beaming-countenanced, sly-humored Alex Hounie . . . this comfortably upholstered room boasts a continuous frieze of distinguished wine bottles autographed with the names of notables who enjoyed emptying them. Water is considered a commodity suitable only for washing the hands.”

        Ernie also favored Charles à la Pomme Soufflée. “Could [the owner] tempt you with some of his leetle, leetle shrimps? He does, and they’re whoppers, exceeded only by his blimp-like spuds, devoured by the hot basketful.”

        I leave it to millennial New Yorkers to figure where Ernie would have hung his gourmet’s hat today . . . and I wonder how he’d feel about the dress code at the Pump Room around the corner from his Chicago apartment!

Manhattan Postscript I:

Monday, September 3rd, 2007

        I’ve been listening to Michael Tilson Thomas playing the steamy, throbbing, super-lyrical, quintessentially Manhattanite Second Rhapsody of George Gershwin and it reminded me of my first visit to New York, an eighteen-year-old hayseed from San Francisco about to taste his first Supreme of Chicken ‘neath the memorabilia at Sardi’s, with South Pacific playing approximately across the street (“Who can explain eet?” sang the dapper Ezio Pinza, “who can tell you whyeee?”), the orchestra conducted by a Broadway maestro wearing, much to my distaste, a gray tux rather than the black or white jacket that would have been suitable.

        The chicken at Sardi’s was true to its period (1949) and very tasty: the capacious sauce, probably a cream/egg yolk thing, was the color of a Van Gogh haystack and had the texture of a good country gravy, the concept of which had been imported from plantation to asphalt jungle. But I wasn’t exactly in the jungle. In an effort, I suppose, to preserve a lone traveler’s virginity, my father had booked me in with a family he knew that happened to live in a safely Onassian precinct, Fifth Avenue across from the Met museum. I had what I suspect was the room for maid no. 2. Striding into lotus land from 1010 in my Brooks Bros. seersucker suit, I observed that Manhattan in August was 1) tropical, 2) elegant: virtually the entire air-conditioned population seemed to be clothes horses, hurried dudes in tattersall vests and such, 3) not as blessed with airspace as my beloved hometown.

        I prowled around panelled basement emporiettes specializing in imported classical records, toured the lobbies of proper midtown hotels with my trust-fund aunt who loved to travel from one palm or fountain-attended banquette to the next, watching people and managing her widowhood, and I continued to eat, mostly well: some sort of “sous cloche” fowl in a spiffy sour cream sauce at a boîte on East 53rd called Michel’s, and a reasonably good Châteaubriand bouquetière at a big brasserie of a place down in Chelsea called Cavanaugh’s — “Opinion of all regulars is that no better food and drinks could be imagined,” reports the urbane Lawton Mackall in his Knife and Fork in New York.

        Meanwhile the humidity was wilting my seersucker, no matter how Brooks Brothery, into something like Ethiopian injera. But onward! There were more shows to see, Kiss Me, Kate with Cole Porter’s delightful petty thievery from Schumann’s Kreisleriana, Guys and Dolls with the original pin-striped cast, and a wunderbar lost revue named Lend an Ear. When I ran out of shows I headed out of peacock city on the New York Central’s Cornelius Vanderbilt, observing that the biscuits in the diner were tougher than they should have been on an “extra fare” train. Heavens, I was morphing into a restaurant critic.

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GIGI’S SWEET POTATO CROQUETTES

Monday, September 3rd, 2007

        A crunchy childhood souvenir, also associated with Thanksgiving. My childhood, in fact, was filled with dark brown zeppelins rolled out by my mother or Hoi our in-house gratiné expert: minced salmon croquettes, veal croquettes, rice croquettes with a shaking crown of currant jelly on top.  I loved them all — and am now a little wary of such potentially gummy yummies.  Meanwhile we confront the renaissance of the fritter!

        And old Thanksgivings come into focus, the wartime one for instance when a lonely serviceman was sent out to our house by the USO and Mummy choked on his unseemly anti-FDR spiel.

 

Peel and boil 1 sweet potato per serving until they’re soft but not mushy; then mash the potatoes until they’re free of lumps, adding lots of butter, a little orange juice and some grated orange rind.

Now add enough milk and cream to achieve the consistency of stiff mashed potatoes; when the mashing is done refrigerate your “dough” for several hours. Shape the potatoes into patties, dip them in fine breadcrumbs, beaten egg, and crumbs again, then fry them in hot vegetable oil and drain afterwards on paper towels.

The color of these croquettes should be dark brown, like oldtime filet of sole when it was done properly.