Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Christie and Trump voodoo budget plans intend to screw middle, working classes

From Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Steve Sack of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

-- HACKENSACK, N.J.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Is there really any mystery to Governor Christie's final budget address this afternoon?

Columnist Charles Stile seems to think so, as his long and tedious Page 1 column indicates (1A).

Is anyone bothering to turn to 7A for the rest of Stile's drivel?

As Staff Writer Salvador Rizzo reported on Monday's front page, Christie will propose his last budget "after years of missed revenue projections, credit-rating downgrades and failed reform efforts."

The state is broke for a number of reasons, including Christie repeatedly vetoing a tax surcharge on millionaires.

And today's lead story reports the GOP bully is actually taking away money from low-income women and children to pay for ads promoting a drug-addiction hotline and website (1A).

Can Christie go any lower after years of screwing state employees, teachers, minimum-wage workers and so many others?

Trump dump

The bad news in President Trump's proposed budget includes another $54 billion for the military and cuts in environmental protection, according to USA Today (1A).

A TV news report this morning said the Repubican "replacement" for the Affordable Care Act won't take effect until 2020.

Amid all the turmoil expected from Trump's budget address to Congress tonight, The Record is still re-hashing the mix-up at the Oscar ceremony in La La Land on Sunday night (Bill Ervolino on 1A, Better Living cover).

To the editor

Good for Ronald Barone, a Wyckoff resident, who says in a letter to the editor:

"Of all the laughable statements Donald Trump makes, one of the most ridiculous is that he inherited a mess" (8A).

Sadly, the editorial board of the Woodland Park daily, as well as some of its reporters and columnists, haven't made that point -- either at all or enough -- to counter all of Trump's lies during the presidential campaign and his first five weeks in office.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Champagne and falafel breaks are good ways to cope with the insanity of Route 80

Veuve Cliquot Yellow Label, above, is a deliciously dry French champagne, but why pay more than $45 a bottle at Costco Wholesale, 149 Route 23 in Wayne, when you can buy not one but two bottles of Costco's private-label dry French champagne for less than $40, below?


--HACKENSACK, N.J.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Of all the highways in North Jersey, Route 80 is the pits.

I hate the tractor-trailers; lead-footed drivers whizzing by on both sides, even if you are driving 10 miles an hour over the limit; and the high-speed S-curves in Bergen and Passaic counties.

Last week, when I had to drive from my home to Parsippany, I made sure the appointment wasn't too early so I could avoid the rush hour and the maniacs who are late for work, and drive 20 mph or more over the speed limit.

And then I remembered my return trip would take me through Wayne, where Costco Wholesale has an in-store liquor department offering private-label wine, champagne and prosecco at bargain prices.

The Teterboro Costco closest to my home has a separate liquor store operated by an independent merchant who doesn't sell those private-label wines.

I'd also be able to detour to Main Street in Paterson, and take a well-deserved break for a falafel sandwich, and pick up fresh pocket bread, sardines, yogurt drink and canned hummus from Lebanon.

Ah, I thought, those stops will make the trip far more palatable. And they certainly did.


There are hundreds of bottles of foreign and domestic wine on sale at Costco Wholesale in Wayne, but you'll find the best deals in wine sold under the house label, Kirkland Signature. For example, bottles of Kirkland Signature Rioja Reserva from Spain were only $6.99 each, above.
Costco's 1.5-liter bottle of Kirkland Signature 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon from California was only $8.29 (that's the equivalent of two bottles), a lower price than before. The label promises "vibrant, juicy flavors of black currant with broad red fruit notes."
Kirkland Signature's Asolo Prosecco Superiore, a sparkling white wine from Italy, was only $6.99 a bottle.
The cafe at Fattal's, 975 Main St. in Paterson, sells falafel made from chickpeas and fava beans (3 for $1.25) to eat there or to take out. From the store's grocery shelves, I picked up a can of Libano Verde hummus and tahini ($1.09). To make hummus at home, empty the can into a bowl or container, add fresh or granulated garlic, lemon juice and extra-virgin olive oil to taste, and garnish with crushed red Aleppo pepper.
Za'atar bread, meat pies, kebabs and light meals are served in the cafe at the rear of Fattal's, a Syrian bakery, grocery, butcher, and gold and jewelry store with its own parking lot.
The $2.99 Falafel Sandwich at Fatal's won't win any beauty contests, and it fell apart while I was eating it, so I had to lick my fingers, but it was filling and delicious. Under the pickles, lettuce and sauce were three fried falafel balls. One medium pocket bread is used and the sandwich is made like a wrap, but two breads would keep it from falling apart.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Record: Incompetent reporter peddles a flawed column on NJ Transit bus service

On HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher," the political satirist referred to the controversy over President Trump rescinding the nationwide policy on transgender bathrooms. He said Trump believes men shouldn't be in the same room with women peeing unless they are paying for it.


-- HACKENSACK, N.J.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Long-suffering NJ Transit bus commuters are the lowest of the low, judging by how Staff Writer John Cichowski has largely ignored them in the 13-plus years he's been banging out his Road Warrior column.

And his front-page column today has nothing to do with the crowding and delays NJ Transit bus riders have faced for a decade or whether relief will be provided anytime soon.

No. Today, he sides with a family owned bus company that lost a contract to a much bigger transportation company, Coach USA, even though the outcome won't affect the sad lot of bus commuters.

That doesn't seem to deserve Page 1 coverage, especially when readers learn Saddle River Tours will be able to bid again in one year for the 7-year, $49-million pact.

But in the process, the veteran reporter takes pot shots at NJ Transit's bus and rail operations, which "have provoked chronic service complaints" -- none of which he has covered (10A).

And he also slams the state's mass transit agency for "posting losses of more than $300 million annually despite two fare increases in 10 years" (10A).

Cichowski is so incompetent he doesn't tell readers that since 2009, Governor Christie cut state subsides to NJ Transit by more than 90 percent, forcing the most recent fare hike, or that no mass transit agency in the United States turns a profit or is expected to.

New column

Today's front page also debuts Garden State of Mind, a new column by Staff Writer Christopher Maag, who covered Hackensack, NJ Transit and other beats. 

The column is supposed to profile people in North Jersey or as Maag says in a NorthJersey.com video, this "funny and strange and surprisingly beautiful place."

He also says he already has columns "on deck" about a professional ice carver and what he calls the world's last beatnik.

Most notable about this new Record column is that it is the first one by a "fresh voice" in more than a decade.

But the Woodland Park daily still is without a news or feature column by a woman.

Production screw-ups

Production screw-ups were common when The Record was owned by the Borg family.

But they are occurring with greater frequency now that page layout, headline and photo-caption writing, and other tasks have been moved to Neptune, where a total of seven Gannett dailies are put out.

In the debut of Maag's Garden State of Mind column today, 19 words are missing between the last word on the front page and the first word on the continuation page (8A).

Those missing words can be found on NorthJersey.com.

Also today on the Business section cover, a large-type headline includes an awkward word, "amongst," used improperly.

"Made in the U.S.A.
gaining popularity
amongst toy industry"

Last Monday, a Better Living story included a photo of a community garden in Paterson during warmer weather, and no attempt was made in the caption to tie the garden to the story about "food and dining trends."

In addition, the caption's spelling of collard greens as "collared" would suggest the garden grows greens with collars or that they tried to flee and were captured or collared.

This is high-school or college-level journalism, making The Record even a bigger laughing stock than before.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Homeowners: Make sure your next home water heater comes with a $300 rebate

When your home water heater fails -- usually without warning and only a few weeks after the warranty expires -- make sure the replacement qualifies for a rebate from New Jersey's Clean Energy Program.

-- HACKENSACK, N.J.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

I have a love-hate relationship with my local Home Depot.

On the upside, I recently received a $300 rebate check from New Jersey's Clean Energy Program for an energy efficient gas water heater Home Depot installed in my basement last October.

Another advantage of buying the water heater at Home Depot is that I got 10% off the cost of the heater itself, and I was able to finance the purchase at zero-percent interest.

That means I'm paying for a 50-gallon heater with a gas power vent and installation over 2 years -- at an easy to swallow $95 a month -- instead of having to pay more than $2,200 at one time.

I am a member of Angie's List, and although I saw offers that appeared to be lower than at Home Depot, none of them included the extra-cost gas power vent or allowed me to pay over 2 years without interest.

Before you buy another water heater or other major component or appliance, check out New Jersey's Clean Energy Program website for rebate information and other incentives.


Zone valves in your home's hot-water heating system, above and below, are complicated and expensive to repair or replace. 
Based on my experience, avoid calling A.J. Perri, a plumbing, heating and cooling service based in Tinton, Falls, N.J.


Home Depot nightmare

The "hate" part of my relationship with Home Depot in Hackensack is rooted in my experience with A.J. Perri, the store's plumbing, heating and cooling service.

When I didn't have heat in one of the bedrooms in my house in December 2015, I called Home Depot, and an A.J. Perri repairman came over and replaced one of the zone valves in the basement.

The same repairman had to return twice more to work on the system -- that's three days in a row -- and the invoices he left don't fully describe what he did.

The total charges were $740.44, including taxes. 

When I got my Home Depot credit card account statement, I called A.J. Perri customer service, which reduced the bill to $440.44.

Later, I learned that PSE&G's Worry Free Protection Plan for a heating system can include free replacement of zone valves and other parts.

See a related post: 

Friday, February 24, 2017

Swedes ask what is Prez Trump smoking? Vladimir Putin's dick, says Steven Colbert

Satirist Steven Colbert, one of President Trump's harshest critics, has hosted a late-night talk show on CBS since September 2015.


-- HACKENSACK, N.J.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Judging from his public statements, President Trump is living in a scary world:

To get into the United States, Islamic terrorists are masquerading as refugees from Syria or as immigrants from other Muslim countries.

Illegal aliens are pouring across our southern border by the hundreds of thousands, and only a $20 billion-plus wall can stop them.

And Sweden -- even Sweden -- has seen a spike in crime after taking in hundreds of thousands of immigrants, the president told supporters at a campaign-style rally in Florida on Saturday.

That report was debunked by Sweden's current and former foreign minister, and the latter asked in a tweet, "Sweden? Terror attack? What has he [Trump] been smoking?"

Satirist Steven Colbert had an answer on Monday night (Presidents' Day), "Uh, Vladimir Putin's dick!" 

That last word was bleeped out, but the audience roared in surprise and delight.

Colbert has been ripping into the president, but that comment hit the jackpot amid an investigation of Trump campaign contacts with Russia, Russian hacking of Democratic National Committee emails and the president's praise of Putin's leadership style.

See: Colbert's monologue on Presidents' Day

Today's paper

Editor Richard A. Green's news judgment continues to baffle readers, especially given the tumultuous first month of the Trump administration.

Today's front page is dominated by a stupid sports column exploring the "Toal saga," which to commuters rhymes with toll plaza.

There's a feature on our mild February weather endangering plants and animals (1A).

And Green puts Governor Christie's coming budget address at the bottom of Page 1, despite his unconstitutional proposal for giving the same amount of state education aid to rich and poor students alike (1A).

Meanwhile, an Opinion column uses a photo of a "Not My President's Day" protest in Portland, Oregon, instead of a photo of the "Not My President's Day" protest in Hackensack (9A).

A selfie of Food Editor Esther Davidowitz.

Another food crawl

Better Living presents another "food crawl," this one in Hoboken, but there's no caption describing the large photo on today's section cover (1BL).

To non-meat eaters, the photo shows two plates that appear to be filled with turds.

Inside, readers won't find any prices listed in the copy about a dozen Hoboken restaurants and pizzerias, but they will find a photo of Food Editor Esther Davidowitz. 

Readers push back

Readers of the print edition continue to complain about any negative coverage of Trump:

In a "review" on NorthJersey.com's Facebook page, James Waksmundzki of Passaic city posted a photo of his subscription cancellation:

"No more anti-Trump ... no more pro NJ bail reform ... Propaganda newsletter bye-bye," he wrote on Feb. 12.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Papers like The Record, which rarely explores issues, are real enemy of people

Deirdre Sykes, left, former editor of The Record, will end a 30-year career at the daily newspaper on March 24, according to a New York Post report. Sykes was promoted to editor in January 2016, only to be demoted seven months later by Gannett Co., new owners of North Jersey Media Group, which publishes the paper.


-- HACKENSACK, N.J.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Readers are hungry for reporting on such issues as health care, a cleaner environment and local property taxes.

But in the past decade or so, The Record of Woodland Park has been playing up partisan politics in New Jersey and the nation to such an extent that issues are rarely discussed.

Now that President Trump has moved to repeal the Affordable Care Act, revive the coal industry and water down environmental controls, editors continue to cover protests in the same old way.

Why compare people pushing back against Trump policies to the Tea Party, the radical Republican group that claimed President Obama's national health insurance plan was a modern-day Holocaust?

And it's not enough for The Record's editorial board to declare, as it does today, "Improve the ACA [Affordable Care Act]. Do not repeal it. This is about health care, not politics" (16A).

Christie sabotage

The editorial board sat on their hands when Governor Christie sought to sabotage the law by refusing to set up a state health-care exchange several years ago, reducing residents' choice of insurance policies.

And Editorial Page Editor Alfred P. Doblin did the same when Republicans in Congress tried and failed dozens of times to repeal the 2010 law.

Last Saturday, Trump called the media "the enemy of the American people."

That prompted a New York Times reader to write a letter to the editor:
"You've got to hand it to Donald Trump. He knows how to use the media to his advantage. It was candidate Trump who received at least $2 billion worth of media coverage with his dramatics on the campaign trail.
"Now, President Trump uses the media again, this time denigrating the media for reporting what they see. He creates 'the enemy,' because he needs to avoid substantive comments on real issues, and his oft-repeated 'believe me' can be the only truth his followers hear."

Front page news?

The Record's reaction to all the push back has been inconsistent, as least judging from the front page.

On Wednesday's front page, Staff Writer Lindy Washburn finally delivered a story on the devastating impact of an ACA repeal on more than 1 million New Jersey seniors covered by Medicare and Medicaid.

And most of the rest of the page was devoted to Trump ordering a federal crackdown on illegal immigrants, and reaction from supporters and opponents. 

But a local issue, whether Ramsey's Planning Board will allow a large indoor firing range to operate in town, is wrongly portrayed as a "Second Amendment fight" and a "battleground over the Second Amendment," which Trump has vowed to defend (Wednesday's 1A).

It's nothing of the kind. The town isn't challenging the so-called right of gun owners to bear arms or trying to take away their firearms.

It just doesn't want gun owners coming to Ramsey in large numbers. Who can blame town officials?

Imagine the potential for an accidental discharge of a firearm or a road rage incident where two gun owners decide to start shooting. 

Readers shocked

Most of today's front page is wasted on whether Christie will take over when "longtime afternoon drive host Mike Francesca [who?] retires from WFAN 660-AM, " a sports-talk radio station (1A).

I long ago stopped listening to AM static, and I'm no sports fan, but does "shock jock" in the headline refer to a jock strap?

Christie has executed more than 500 vetoes since 2009 -- surely setting a record for a governor of New Jersey -- but Staff Writer Dustin Racioppi of The Record still hasn't reported on all the damage they have caused or even discussed the issues involved in any detail.

Most of them were reported as Christie v. the Democrats who control the state Legislature.

The GOP thug screwed the middle and working classes in New Jersey, but took credit for the expansion of Medicaid after he accepted hundreds of millions of federal dollars to do so.

And after Bridgegate and all those vetoes, who cares what he does when he leaves office. Good riddance.

Deirdre Sykes

Gannett has announced that former Editor Deirdre Sykes is leaving The Record on March 24. 

See: Sykes spent years fighting her way to top

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Record, other media failed miserably to report support for U.S. health-care law

A cartoon by Dave Granlund, above, explores charges that President Trump is acting like a dictator. 
Cartoonist Ed Wexler's "Donny's Daddy?" suggests Trump is in awe of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who allegedly helped elect the tax-dodging New York billionaire on Nov. 8.

-- HACKENSACK, N.J.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

The groundswell of support for President Obama's Affordable Care Act seems to have come out of nowhere.

That's because until a month or so ago, when Donald J. Trump moved to repeal the 2010 law, all The Record did was channel Republicans' racially motivated attacks on what they cursed as "Obamacare," a word newspaper headline writers came to love despite the bias it reflects.

Today, Staff Writer Lindy Washburn reports repeal of the law may expose 810,000 New Jersey seniors on Medicare to "higher out-of-pocket costs," end $4 billion in federal spending in the state and cut 86,000 jobs (1A).

On another issue dominating the front page -- Trump's crackdown on all illegal immigrants, even those who haven't committed crimes -- when will the Woodland Park daily finally investigate the glacial legal immigration system (1A)?

The path from Green Card to citizenship often takes up to 5 years, and the system is so complex many legal immigrants hire lawyers they can't afford to help them navigate the forms, and repeated requests for information. 

In fact, the bureaucratic legal immigration system is believed to be a major cause of illegal immigration.

Old man Trump

Trump turned 70 last June and became the oldest person to hold the office of president about a month ago, so some commentators are blaming his age for all of the crazy things he says.

Black History Month began Feb. 1, but the president only visited the National Museum of African-American History and Culture on Tuesday.

USA Today reports Trump denounced anti-Semitism, even though his campaign attracted "an unusually high number of anti-Semites and white nationalists" (9A).

And in the annual proclamation on International Holocaust Day this month , Trump forgot to mention the 6 million Jews who died.

Jet-set food

Food Editor Esther Davidowitz should be ashamed of Tuesday's front-page promo and her breathless report on Gourmet Inflight Catering of Wood-Ridge.

The Better Living cover showed CEO Harry Purut holding the "smoked salmon tray" served to celebrities and "other multi-millionaires" who fly on private jets.

Big deal. Don't we eat much of the same food? What's the point of the story, except to give the caterer free advertising?

Davidowitz even managed to get in a plug for the Italian-American restaurant run by Purut's partner and chef brother-in-law.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Eating Out: Good value in fine dining, delicious food at Sanzari's New Bridge Inn

Pan-Seared Sea Scallops, Porcini Mushroom Risotto, Drizzled White Truffle Oil and Vegetables ($29) at Sanzari's New Bridge Inn in New Milford.

-- HACKENSACK, N.J.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

A friend treated us to dinner at Sanzari's New Bridge Inn on Saturday night, and I can't wait to return for big, well-prepared portions of Italian-American food, great service and no-cost extras.

Our host said New Bridge Inn reminds him of old world fine-dining restaurants that offered good value, generous portions of delicious food and terrific service.

Our friend, his wife and another couple he invited to dinner were already seated when we arrived just before 7:30 on Saturday night.

This was our first visit, so I was bowled over by a small plate filled with chunks of Italy's great hard cheeses, olives and peppers; and a second plate with extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and tomato paste.

That made the bread seem really special, and frankly, I overdid it.

I also had two glasses of red wine, a Malbec from Argentina.


Switched leftovers

The restaurant seats about 200, and it was packed and noisy on Saturday night, but our host had asked for a corner table so we could converse.

The service from the waiter, food runners and others was flawless, and our water glasses were always full.

We had a great waiter: He suggested my wife order her pork chop cooked medium-well, so it wouldn't dry out; and said he would ask the kitchen to hold the butter used to finish my risotto.

Me, my wife and the other couple took home leftovers.

The next day, the man called, said his wife had been given my wife's leftovers (the pork chop with sweet potato hash), and would she be happy with what was left of his spouse's Ahi Tuna Steak. 

No, I said. We decided to meet in the paring lot of a Paramus diner to make the switch, and that's where my friend mentioned he was going back to the restaurant to get the scarf his wife left behind at the table.

No need, I said, walking to my car for the burgundy scarf a staff member rushed out to give me -- I was the last to leave the restaurant.


My wife ordered the Maple-Glazed Prime Organic Pork Chop, Sweet Potato Hash Browns and Vegetables ($29). The pork chop weighed a full pound, and she took home leftovers. I also couldn't finish my wonderful seafood entree, taking home 3 of the 5 wild-caught sea scallops and half of the risotto.
I started with an Arugula Salad, Roasted Peppers, Goat Cheese and Olives in Balsamic Vinaigrette ($11), but asked the kitchen to hold the rich cheese. My wife loved her Crab and Corn Chowder, a special.
The bread service included hard cheeses, olives, peppers, tomato paste, extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
We didn't touch a complimentary dessert.

Sanzari's New Bridge Inn in New Milford.

Details

Sanzari's New Bridge Inn, 105 Old New Bridge Road, New Milford; 1-201-692-7700. Open 7 days for lunch and dinner. 

Liquor license, parking lot and the hardest working valet in Bergen County. Reservations recommended on weekends.


Monday, February 20, 2017

The Record: Columnist misses the point about growing protests of Trump policies

Cartoons by Rick McKee of The Augusta Chronicle, above, and Darly Cagle of Cagle.com explore President Trump's attacks against federal judges and leaks about his campaign's contact with Russia.



-- HACKENSACK, N.J.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

What's the point of drawing parallels between the growing protests against President Trump and the "tumultuous late 1960s," as Columinst Mike Kelly does on Page 1 of The Record today?

Kelly claims that experts "are now looking to the late 1960s and early 1970s for insights and possible lessons" (1A and 7A).

It's much too early for that, seeing as the protests began with the Nov. 8 election of a candidate many saw as unfit to hold the office of president.

They continued during the transition, and escalated 30 days ago, when Trump was inaugurated and began signing executive orders to bar Muslims from entering the United States, roll back environmental protections and take other actions.

His Cabinet appointees also have elicited widespread condemnation, and his national security adviser resigned after he lied about contacts with Russia during the campaign.

Just politics?

The news media might do better reporting that the widespread protests against Trump are unprecedented in the modern era against a sitting president.

The Record and other media have insisted for years all of this is grounded in partisan politics -- just Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives butting heads.

No. Issues matter, too.

As the Environmental Defense Fund says, "Nobody voted for more pollution."

Obama's 'lesson'

If we need to look for "lessons," President Obama provided a big one before he left office: Elections matter.

Tens of millions of Americans didn't vote, and that threw the election to a billionaire businessman who many say is mentally ill, a pathological liar, a racist and more.

At a press conference last Thursday, Trump claimed in comments to an Orthodox Jewish reporter, "I am the least anti-Semitic person that you've ever seen."

To me, that sounds like he acknowledges his anti-Semitism, but claims it's no big deal.

He also asked a black reporter, a woman, to set up a meeting for him with the Congressional Black Caucus. 

Fethullah Gulen

"WHO IS FETHULLAH GULEN?"

The danger of running this banner headline on the front page today is that many readers won't care, even if they attempted to plow through nearly three pages of a related "special investigation" in the Sunday edition. 

One thing notable about the investigation is the byline of Jean Rimbach, who managed to hold onto her job despite being the least productive staff reporter at The Record in the past decade. 

Food trends?

Somehow, Staff Writer Sophia F. Gottfried researched and wrote a long Better Living cover article today on food trends without ever mentioning most of the fare served in restaurants is raised on industrial farms with harmful antibiotics and growth hormones, and fed animal byproducts (bits of dead animals).

Many cattle raised for beef are fed chicken-house waste mixed in with their feed, according to Consumer Reports magazine. 

That fattens the bottom line of restaurant owners, who have lagged behind supermarkets in offering organic or other naturally raised or grown food to their customers.

Night Out in New York: Grammy winning jazz singer Gregory Porter celebrates love

This Associated Press photo shows jazz singer-songwriter Gregory Porter in 2014 with a Grammy Award for Best Vocal Jazz Album, "Liquid Spirit." In late January, he won another Grammy for Best Vocal Jazz Album, "Take Me to the Alley." 


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

NEW YORK, N.Y. -- A roar from the audience unlike anything I've heard before greeted soulful jazz singer Gregory Porter when he stepped onto the stage at Town Hall.

On Friday night, Porter and the sextet backing him were showered with more applause, shouts of approval and frequent amens during a set that lasted nearly 2 hours, including encores.

In his fourth annual Valentine's Week concert, Porter talked about himself more than he did when me and my wife saw him perform in both 2015 and 2016 at the International Jazz Festival in Montreal.

He recalled that "8 years ago" audience members could have seen him sing in a small jazz club for $3.50, including a free glass of beer.

Now, the singer-songwriter is traveling and performing all over the world in support of several albums, spreading a gospel of romantic and spiritual love in a warm, expressive baritone.

Porter is known for a repertoire of unique songs, so his audiences aren't looking for renditions of great jazz or soul standards.

Ministering to poor

Before he sang "Take Me to the Alley," the title song of his Grammy Award winning album, he recalled his mother was a minister who gave away his clothes to kids his age who were homeless.

Porter also sang the heart-breaking "When Love Was King."

The song has the force of a spiritual, but the past tense in the title is especially poignant.

See: Gregory Porter wows Montreal



Concert appetizer

Before the sold-out concert, we went to Scarlatto, an Italian-American restaurant at 250 W. 47th St. in Manhattan, for a three-course, price-fixed dinner ($29.95 each).

We had a reservation, but we were seated too close to the swinging double doors of the kitchen, and could hear the commotion as the dining room filled up with pre-theater and pre-concert diners.

I loved my Steamed Mussels in White Wine Sauce, served with a large spoon so I could enjoy the broth as a soup course.

But my wife wasn't happy with her Caesar Salad, which had too little dressing and Romaine lettuce chopped in pieces so small they were more suitable for a rabbit than a human.

We both loved our Baked Atlantic Salmon with Caramelized Onions -- a sweet, fruity topping on the fillet -- and a foundation of Sauteed Spinach ($3 supplement).

I ordered a glass of Nero D'Avola wine from Sicily ($11).

We skipped the third course, desserts of Panna Cotta or Capucccino Semifreddo, and the waiter substituted a cup of coffee for my wife and espresso for me.


Scarlatto's delicious Green Sauce -- made with arugula, basil, parsley, anchovies, grated cheese and extra-virgin olive oil -- accompanied the bread basket instead of butter, but the bread itself could have been better.
The Steamed Mussels came with a small seafood fork for the mussels and a large spoon for the broth.
The first-floor dining room was packed and noisy when we left around 6:20 Friday night to walk over to Town Hall. Scarlatto has no coat racks or coat room, and the bathrooms are down a flight of stairs.

See the website for Scarlatto, the Italian word for scarlet.