By Isa Covo
I have been living in Greenwich Village for many years. I have seen it transform, as have many of us who have lived here for a long time. There is no question that nothing stays still. Whether we like changes or not, we must learn to accept them. But who wouldn’t be saddened to see empty stores, as small businesses cannot afford the rents? There are too many banks, too many nail salons, and not enough art galleries, dress shops, pottery stores, and all the different types of small businesses that were here when we moved in.
But the Village cannot disappear; it is still lively and attractive. The side streets are lined with beautiful, and some truly elegant, townhouses and there are plenty of public gardens of various sizes. There are still small theaters, art-movie houses, a few art galleries, and, of course, dozens of bars and restaurants. And then there are the jazz clubs—so many of them.
I’d like to talk about Café Bohemia. It was a jazz club which opened in 1955 and closed in 1960, but in those few years it became a mecca for progressive jazz where now-celebrated musicians began their careers. The space was in a basement and small; no more than one hundred people could fit in. It was in the shape of a narrow rectangle with the stage at one end and a small bar at the other. Miles Davis, The Jazz Messengers, Cannonball Adderley (to name a few) appeared on that stage; the acoustics were so good that about half a dozen records were recorded at that club, some with the name Café Bohemia on their covers. Jazz musicians were not only performers, they were sometimes part of the audience as well.
Artists and poets were also part of the Café Bohemia audience, and the place was reminiscent of the “caves” in Paris that also attracted audiences who listened to jazz, and sometimes poetry, and where writers, artists, and musicians congregated.
Last year Café Bohemia was resuscitated, and you can see the covers of the historic recordings made in the cafe on its red walls. There is live music six nights a week. On Monday nights, from 7:00 p.m. to midnight there is no live music; Matthew “Fat Cat” Rivera spins records—and not just any record, these are 78s from 1915 to about the 1950s, most of them from his own collection. There is no entrance fee, though a donation is welcome; you can also buy food and drinks. Fat Cat is inspired by the Hot Club De France which was started in the 1930s in Paris by a group of high school students and then attracted other adherents. Records were presented to its members in various venues around Paris even after its headquarters had moved to the South of France.
The Hot Club of Café Bohemia resembles the French one in that the audience appreciates the music and the history of the recordings. Fat Cat leads a discussion. It is fascinating and invigorating in this intimate atmosphere to be able to talk about the music everyone in the room loves. You can also hear what Fat Cat spins on radio station WKCR 89.9 on Mondays from noon to 3:00 p.m. On his radio program he has guests that are just as passionate about the music, and some are old enough to have heard many of the musicians whose music is preserved on those vintage records perform live. What is amazing is that on some occasions the presenter and guests can recognize who the musicians were even if they are not listed on the recording’s sleeve or were wrongly identified on them. Check it out, as they say, and bring some Bohemia to your life.
Café Bohemia is located at 15 Barrow Street right here in the Village.
Isa Covo’s Daube
Daube is a peasant dish prepared throughout France—each region, even each household, has its own version of it. Some have simple ingredients, just beef stew with smoked bacon, red wine, onions and carrots, but other versions have more ingredients and flavors. I perused several cookbooks and, in the end, got my inspiration for this recipe’s ingredients from a couple of them from southern France.
- ½ lb. slab bacon
- 1 onion
- 4 shallots
- 4 large garlic cloves
- 3 carrots
- 2 celery stalks
- 2 lbs. pot roast
- 1 bouquet garni (3 stalks of rosemary, thyme, 1 bay leaf)
- ¼ teaspoon of ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- zest of half an orange (optional)
- 1/3 cup vegetable or olive oil
- ½ bottle of red wine
- ¼ cup brandy
- 10 oz. cremini mushrooms
- salt and pepper to taste
- ½ lb. fresh wide tagliatelle
1. Cut the bacon into half-inch cubes. Chop the vegetables, except for the mushrooms.
2. In a wide shallow pan (12-inch if possible) with cover, add the bacon cubes and sauté over medium heat for about ten minutes to melt some of the fat.
3. With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon cubes and transfer them to a bowl. Add the chopped vegetables to the fat left in the pan, lower the heat, and sauté for about fifteen minutes stirring the mixture occasionally.
4. Cut the meat into six slices, and wipe each one carefully.
5. Once the vegetables are ready, remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon and add them to the bacon.
6. Add the oil to the pan and increase the heat to medium. When the oil starts shimmering add the slices of meat and cook three to four minutes per side until the meat browns slightly.
7. Heat the oven to 300 degrees.
8. When the meat has cooked, mix the spices, the tomato paste and the brandy into the wine, add the vegetables and bacon to the meat, and pour the wine over the meat and vegetables to cover them. If needed, scrape the bottom of the pan to detach any caramelized bits. If necessary, add some water or stock. Bury the bouquet into the mixture.
9. Seal the pan with foil and place the cover on top.
10. Transfer to the oven and cook for three hours undisturbed.
11. Clean and cut the mushrooms into quarters.
12. After three hours, remove the pan from the oven and uncover it and add the mushrooms. If there is too much liquid in the pan discard the foil and partially cover the pan. Continue baking for another hour, occasionally checking the level of the liquid.
To serve: Cook the pasta and serve it alongside the daube.
Yield: 6 servings
Note: The daube improves if refrigerated and served one or two days later to let the flavors develop. Reheat covered on the stove over low heat for thirty minutes or until hot.
Photo by Isa Covo.