The Campaign

What campaign are we talking about?  Now there’s a good question.  Oh, just trying to get BACK OF THE HOUSE into the hands of media based in Gotham.  Inch by inch, step by step, yes, that’s right, I feel a little like Moe although it’s clear I’d be Larry in the remake.

Anyhow, all jokes aside–was that a joke?–I’m immersed in Tanizaki’s, “In Praise of Shadows,” while eagerly anticipating tonight’s herring in cream sauce from Russ & Daughters followed by pan seared American waygu from DeBragga.  And on top of everything: It’s NCAA basketball with Michigan tonight!

Does it get any better?

It does get worse.  Let me count the ways.   Actually, it was mostly one way: This morning, interviewing the very, very, very down and out, including one man who was so out of control that the armed security guard Xaviar offered to sit in, I met a person who spent the past thirteen years incarcerated in state for rape.

That took the air out of my lungs.

Puts everything in perspective.

Spring is Here

Sort of.  Mostly the sound this morning, which began just after 5 A.M., was of sharp, triangular plastic being used by tensed and gloved hands to scrape ice off the glass of car windows.  Then, on the first walk with the two big, black dogs, a few robins could be heard staking claims.

Having completed my piece on washoku for Sewasdee, I’m free to work on the interview I did with Hilliard Pouncy, a 90 year old former bombardier and Tuskegee Airman.  That’s due Friday for Bay State Banner.

And, of course, waiting on the contract from New Delhi for the book I’m writing on Non Resident Indians.

Escapes and near escapes, sequesters and disappearances.  I have to wonder what remains or what’s left.

And, solo the next few days with the wife in Denver dining at restaurants I chose for her, there will be plenty of time to mull.  That is, between seeing folks on locked psychiatric units.

And reading…trying to read…Tanizaki on aesthetics is on the table.

“The wind it was howlin’ and the snow was outrageous”

That’s Mr. Dylan to you, thank you very much.

Woke to a foot of snow, now wind picking up, pinpricks of icy rain, oh, my goodness, it is just the best!  No kidding.  Cancelled the drive-by’s, and instead toasted a poppy seed bagel, added horseradish cream cheese, a side of Nova, and a side of belly, thought of Russ & Daughters, their magic, and settled in for a morning of Full Court Press.

Yielded results: More names added to the list for a whole to do for BACK OF THE HOUSE in mid-April at Boulud Sud.

Then surrounded by big, black dogs, and awaiting inspiration to go to the gym for a run before returning to work on my interview with a Tuskegee Airman.

Indooor fireworks!

The Chickpeas Are Getting Soft

The chickpeas are getting soft in the pressure cooker, and soon the water will be drained, and I’ll add tahini, lemon juice, a garlic clove, salt, some cumin, and a bit of water to make hummus in a food processor for the wife, as I’m going to see the Celtics-Heat game tonight.

The morning started inauspiciously with a broken pot holding a spider plant positioned by the cellar door, but then things improved quickly with a toasted poppy seed bagel, the most beautiful sturgeon I have ever seen, and sliced Scottish salmon with a little horseradish cream cheese.  Thank you, Russ & Daughters, thank you!

Meanwhile, fueled by the food, thinking of the bagel to come, and the grapefruits I’ll squeeze for juice tomorrow at the storm’s outset, I’m working on a list of folks to interview for my new book on Non Resident Indians, and then later I’ll write up an interview I did with Hilliard Pouncy, a Tuskegee Airman.  Bombardier, to be exact.


St. Patty’s in NYC!

After a delightful dinner @ Locanda Verde last night, and a night’s rest, it’s time for a traditional St. Patrick’s Day in NYC.  Which means, of course, a quick subway ride down to the LES for a pick-up order of salmon and sturgeon @ Russ & Daughters followed by lunch @ Second Avenue Deli.

The snow has stopped, Amtrak has stopped–freight train derailed, and time?  Time has not stopped.


Between Bites

Snow is falling all over Manhattan as drunken revelers stagger from the effects of the heavy drinking that started this morning as part of the tradition of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in this country.  I saw a guy yell at his girlfriend, a guy fall down, and several small and large crowds screaming and speaking loud enough to be heard across a large room.

Prior to this, last night, surprised the wife with a birthday dinner @ Daniel.  Now, folks?  Folks, this here is French.  Some restaurants, why they call themselves French, but they are about as French as I am.  Their idea is comparable to the great number of Chinese and Korean owned restaurants that call themselves Japanese.  People pay more for French than American, more for Japanese than Chinese or Korean.

Anyhow, as I was saying, Daniel may be my favorite French restaurant in the country.  Lively and merry room, staff that is conveying down to earth fun, and, of course, beautiful food: European turbot, Liberty Farm ducks, Perigord black truffles, and so on.  Finesse, precision, and top ingredients.  The best restaurants use the best ingredients.

Earlier today, post-parade on Fifth, a lovely lunch at Esca, my favorite go to restaurant.  John Dory, Spanish branzino, razor clams, spaghetti with lobster.

Here’s the deal, in a word: FOCUS.

In between bites: Matilda.  In a word: WOW.

Hustling the Streets

I’ve been up and down the streets of Manhattan today, dropping off copies of BACK OF THE HOUSE to media, restaurant industry people, and cooking schools.  Appointments, conversations, and pitches all towards getting the word out.  I enjoy the challenge, and the response has been good.  After all, it’s an original book about a popular industry and makes extensive note of the dining scene in NYC.  So I’m finding people very receptive, and delighted to introduce them to a book that they had not heard of before.

In between, lunch @ Sushi Yasuda, my favorite restaurant in town for this sort of thing, coffee @ Porto Rico, and long, wistful looks at taco trucks south of Houston.

And in less than thirty minutes: Patroon!  Drinks in the hidden bar in the back.  Tryst territory and great cocktails.

Later, this very evening, dinner at a good UES place I like, and before you know it will be time to wake up, run, interview a Tuskegee Airman, and start all over again.


The Curse of the Restaurant Enjoyed

So often restaurants I enjoy in Boston end up closing or moving: Rocca (South End), Ginger Park (South End), Figs (Charlestown), Nebo (North End and moving), and Casablanca, just to name a few.  I wonder if it has to do with things they have in common: Ingredient driven menus?  Can’t be it.  Chefs who focus too much or too little?  Nope.  Maybe it’s just bad luck.

On a happier note, high hopes for Dudley Square in Roxbury where a flat iron building is gutted and soon will be filled in.  Commerce will follow.

A rainy day, my kind of day.

You Call This Living?

Finished the marvelous memoir by glossed over artist Mark Russ Federman, and of course found myself so hungry for fish that am placing an order for pick-up this Sunday.  Don’t know about the herring; I’ve had matjes beside the icy canals of Holland, but somehow thought of mustaches as I dug in.  But maybe it’s time to overcome a fear of herring.

Meanwhile, last night, a rollicking one hour live interview with the estimable Tommy Mischke on WCCO in Minneapolis!  He was a rather assertive person who clearly enjoyed the book, and provided a good setting for a very lively conversation!

More immediately, it’s a pot of coffee, The Tale of Heike, and one walk after another with the big, black dogs.

Anticipating: Tonight will see the Cs play the Raptors.  And dinner at NEBO!

One Story After Another

Tonight, from 11 to 11:30 P.M. E.S.T. I’ll be talking LIVE to the host of a radio show on WCCO in Minneapolis about Back of the House.  Normally, unless I’m out of town, sleep has me in its grip by 10 P.M. easily as the day begins between 6:30 and 7:00 with the dogs.  The routine, the early hours, are welcome, hot or cold, especially when it is foggy and raining.

Preceding the interview, it’ll be a fire, a slow stewed baby chicken with chick peas, garlic, and Swiss chard, and a few hours of ruminating.

I’m nearing the end of the very wonderful memoir by the grandson of the founder of Russ & Daughters.  I must have walked by that place a few hundred times as a kid.  We never went in.  My father was never much for fish, unless it was canned sardines, and my mother wasn’t one to see a value in paying more for products that could be purchased at Shop Rite under the store label.  But the past decades, it’s been a lucky set of circumstances, and now I have an account at the store and buy the beautiful products routinely.

The book’s power resides most of all in the author’s ability to tell a story.  The best restaurants and food purveyors tell the best stories, of course, and here we have an establishment rich in narrative.

I may mention R & D tonight as I reach the midnight hour.