As I sat on the Silver Aerial Bus this afternoon, my fundament shot through with bolts of pain from the concrete-like cushion on our Embraer DAJ (“Dinky-Ass Jet”), an old memory drifted to the surface of my consciousness.
An old and tasty memory.
Those who know me know that I enjoy my red meat. I do not eat it as frequently as I would like, owing to its Butt-Enlargement Propensities, but I like to tuck into a nice beefsteak every so often. Or a tender leg of lamb. Buffalo? Good to go. Ostrich – the other red meat? Sure, why not?
I have grilled my own steaks on the backyard fire-pit, pan-sautéed ’em in a hot skillet. Had a hanger steak with eggs for a late lunch last Saturday at table with Elder Daughter...and a bite of the hanger she ordered the next night at dinner. The old Daddy Tax.
I have eaten steaks in many a Fine Meaty Establishment. The Palm. Morton’s. Chops. McKendrick’s and Bones, Atlanta favorites. Pappas Brothers, in Houston. And let us not forget the fine institution of the Brazilian Steakhouse, the subject of my second-oldest post at this site.
But the memory that bubbled up this afternoon was of a cruder, more homely place, a place deeply enshrined in the golden glow of Youthful Reminiscence, a place that formed some of my earliest impressions of “Fine” Dining: McCluskey’s Steaks, formerly of Bellmore, New York.
Back in my Snot-Nose Days, dinner at McCluskey’s was an adventure. It meant piling in the car for a 20-minute drive westward down Sunrise Highway. We would arrive at this Palace of Beefy Delight and, after a short wait, would be ushered to our table. McCluskey’s was a white-tablecloth place, but they did not put on airs. The china was famously mismatched, back in the day when mismatched china was not a deliberate marketing ploy. As I said, homely. And homey.
The chief attraction at McCluskey’s, aside from the steaks, was an assortment of potato dishes that was truly mind-boggling. Baked, twice-baked, mashed, au gratin, Lyonnaise, on and on the list went. And the obligatory sautéed mushrooms. And the onions, fried or grilled to caramelized perfection.
I loved it.
When it came time to select a place for my post-High School Graduation lunch, it had to be venerable McCluskey’s. I can still taste the sliced Porterhouse I had that day, grilled medium-rare and served on a trencher of impressive and lordly size.
McCluskey’s, alas, is gone now. I’ve had many fine beefsteaks since that long-ago day, but that one, consumed in the happy company of my family as we celebrated a Life-Cycle Milestone in June 1970, still shines in the back recesses of my mind.
Beef: It’s what’s for dinner.
Meat: It’s what’s for memories!