Thursday, April 11, 2013

Poet laureate ... Paul Abler ... Pig & Prince

Death notices in the arts community, it seems, have been,, unfortuntely, pervasive this past weekend.  Much attention, understandably, has been focused on Roger Ebert, the popular film critic (and TV film reviewer) who has been making news during the past several years owing to his stamina, his personal  & professional persistence, and the outright strength he had exhibited amidst the various interrelated illnesses he suffered prior to his death at 70. There was also the death of the novelist/fiction writer (Heat and Dust, Out of India: Selected Stories) and screenwriter, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, who, in collaborating with the Merchant-Ivory film production team wrote numerous award-winning screenplays, including Howards End, A Room With a View, The Remains of the Day, and Mr. & Mrs. Bridge.  

Daniel Hoffman
But the death I most want to acknowledge is that of the poet, critic, essayist & scholar, Daniel Hoffman, my brother Robert's poetry (metrics) teacher at Swarthmore College during the early 1970s. Mr. Hoffman was, it must be underscored, a prolific poet who explored a variety of poetic forms & structures (simply see Beyond Silence: Selected Shorter Poems, 1948-2003; or Brotherly Loveand multifarious scholar-critic whose idiosyncratic study, POE POE POE POE POE POE POE (Doubleday, 1972; my signed copy, LSU Press, 1998) explored that writer in every context -- from the personal to the scholarly-biographical ... to the autobiographical (bits of Hoffman's own) -- and produced what Dwight Macdonald concluded is,, simply, a "delight," an "unlikely, indeed unique combination of scholarship and poetic intuition" and John Hollander suggested is an "informed and subtle" work, "a rather nutty ... [but] completely necessary book."

(Note:  It has been said, too, that Mr. Hoffman even resembled Poe, physically.)

Daniel Hoffman, who served as the United States Poet Laureate, during1973-1974, was the Felix E. Schelling Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, died at 89 this past Saturday in Haverford, PA. He had taught intermittently at Columbia & Swarthmore and at Penn for decades and was frequently mentioned to me by my brother as a masterful teacher, scholar-critic, and lyric poet.  His poem, "Today," is one of my favorite Hoffman (short) lyrics -- simple, powerful, touching, lovely -- which, I suspect, was written on the impact of the death of his wife, Elizabeth McFarlane, a poet & editor who died in 2005. Here is the poem, in full, as published in the October 2007 issue of POETRY magazine:

Today the sun rose, as it used to do
When its mission was to shine on you.
Since in unrelenting dark you're gone,
What now can be the purpose of the sun?

Were my brother alive today, I'm sure he, too, would want to acknowledge -- and memorialize -- the death of his former teacher, Mr. Daniel Hoffman. 

On a less somber note, I want to move to Montclair, NJ and a recent visit (one, of course, of many) to Trumpets / Jazz Club (at 6 Depot Sq., corner of Walnut St.; tel. 973/744-2600; operated, these days, by Kristine Massari & Enrico Granafei). Have you been?  Do you know this commodious Essex County jazz venue?  Trumpets, if you've never been, is a local club in the musical league, and tradition, of New York's Village Vanguard, the Blue Note, Birdland, Smalls, and Iridium. Indeed, during the past several years, we've seen (and heard!), giants in jazz at Trumpets ... the likes, for example, of Houston Person and Dave Valentin.
Paul Abler

This past Saturday (April 6th), Trumpets celebrated the birthday of the jazz-blues guitarist (and composer-arranger) Paul Abler who took center stage and presided along with a fine group of musicians, including: the inimitable Harvie S on bass; James Weidman on piano; Adriano Santos on drums/percussion; and Mrs. Abler, the talented Rio-born songstress Yashmin Charnet-Abler who did all the vocals, including a low-key rendition of the famous Carlos Jobim samba, "Girl from Ipanema ."  We showed up for the 2nd set when the mood grew festive, the band rollicking but still serious & "connecting," and  the club's hosts adding to the celebratory atmosphere with a finger-licking creamy birthday cake & champagne all around for a crowded, very near full house.  (Incidentally, Mr. Abler, who, apparently, does this birthday gig, well, yearly, insists that admission to the event shall be free; an "admission" to the party just required payment for drinks, service & tax.)

Trumpets  is a for-real jazz club, as many of you already know, right out here in the 'burbs ... providing a large, friendly & substantial musical venue and serving all kinds of food (a full menu!) and drink. And the club even offers (of late) a Sunday Jazz Brunch (11:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.) -- just check out their web site for details and, also, for a calendar of upcoming musicians & events. In addition, the club has been hosting a fabulous (and not outrageously priced) New Years' Eve party -- with typically buoyant & lively music and dancing -- for the past few years which we attended this year with friends down for the occasion from the Boston area. According to my wife, probably the best New Years' party we'd been to in quite some time.  

So, for a consistently "major jazz experience," any day of the week, we'll see you soon at Trumpets in Montclair, NJ!  I can assure you that you'll be treated generously, as we always are, at this friendly local club: a very special place ...
Pig & Prince

And, speaking of special places in Montclair -- and keeping within walking distance right in our neighborhood -- we decided to head out this past Sunday evening, for our Anniversary dinner, to a relatively new local  restaurant & "gastro lounge":  the Pig & Prince (at 1 Lackawanna Plaza; tel. 973/233-1006). This restaurant, located in a refurbished Lackawanna RR station, is a physically & architecturally beautiful and imposing place to dine, what with, for example, the original features of the station's brick & tile interior and the exceptionally (!) high ceilings and muted but spectacular lighting. The bar is housed along (nearly) the full length of one of the inner walls and is stocked with a list of interesting & exotic beers, a large selection of all kinds of wine, not especially expensive choices, and a wide variety of mixed drinks (some unique to the Pig & Prince).

While mains (which change periodically) are a bit on the pricey side ($24. to $35.) -- for generously sized "from-the-forest," "from-the-sea" & "from-the-farm" plates (like roast Peking duck, pork tenderloin, roast venison & wild boar ), you can dine on any of the reasonably priced  "petite pizziette," pastas & risottos (these last are just melt-in-your-mouth fabulous judging from the duck risotto we sampled on our previous visit).  You can build on these selections with such items as pork meatballs or escargot (sauteed in "compound butter," crispy potatoes & egg yolk) or Prince Edward Island mussels from the "starters" category of the menu and have a very pleasant, very appealing, and relatively inexpensive meal.

But this was our anniversary -- a special occasion, indeed! -- and we expected to eat a full (dinner) meal; and so we did.

We began with two large glasses of New Mexico sparkling wine (Gruet Blanc de Noir, NV; @ $10. the glass) and a shared order of the beef short rib ravioli ($11. for the 1/2 portion), replete with roasted shallots, a "delicate" Stilton cream & golden raisins ... ecstasy amidst, and along with, the creamy sauce and stuffed ravioli pasta.  (We simply couldn't stop dipping our crunchy slices of bread into the ravioli sauce while we patiently awaited our next course, our entrees.)

My wife chose the potato-wrapped spiced salmon, a "tagine"-spiced (substantial) chunk of salmon surrounded by a chickpea puree, with harissa & broccoli "flowerets" polonaise.  While the salmon proved fresh & tender, nicely prepared & plated, the chickpea & harissa addition seemed absent or, at best, minimal. From the "forest" section of the menu, I selected the wild boar, double-cut loin chops atop beluga black lentils, roasted sweet peppers & baby beets in a sage-scented roast boar demi-glace. This wild boar "forest" plate -- the chops in an ensemble of sage-based demi-glace sauce, the extraordinarily flavorful black lentils, the roasted sweet peppers & beets -- was exceptional. And, after an initial few bites, I simply set out to engulf the whole dish which, in my inimitable way, I did ... chewing every bit of the tender boar meat off  the double-cut bones and, finally, sharing the remains of the rich sauce with my partner of forty years. The wild boar meat went down with ease -- and unabated satisfaction -- accompanied by the large glass of California Pinot Noir (The Pinot Project; @ $9.).
Red Velvet Sampler

We topped off our anniversary dinner with  black coffee and opted for one of Amanda Hartigan's singular desserts:  the almond-raspberry swirl blondie (@ $9.), under amaretto anglaise, and accompanied by white chocolate sorbet, almond cluster & sherry berries ... formidable, as they say en francais!

We'll be back to Chef Michael Carrino's elegant & imposing Pig & Prince, sans doubte ... the lobster risotto awaits!

No comments:

Post a Comment