Bienvenue mon ami. Vous etes avec faim? Pas de probleme…allez nous a Maison David!
photo by Christopher Farber
Pardon my bastardized grade 6 french, but when one talks about the culinary joys of Paris, one cannot pollute the sweet words with the bile of maudite Anglais.
I write today about one of the finest deli men I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. Michel Kalifa runs a small butcher shop and charcuterie called Maison David, just off the fabled Rue des Rosiers in the Marais District of Paris. Le Marais is one of the oldest and most treasured Jewish neighborhoods in Europe, though that character is steadily dissapearing. I learnt about this from Kalifa, who is also President of the neighborhood preservation society. The city of Paris is increasingly pressuring the Jewish residents of the Rue des Rosiers, with their traditional bakeries, delicatessens, and stores, to clear out for boutiques, salons, and gay nightclubs. Last year, the legendary Jo Goldenberg’s Delicatessen closed, possibly the most famous deli in Europe.
“It’s artificial,” says Kalifa, of the gentrified area, “It’s a facade, a false street. People here don’t have the money to buy a dinner at these costs.”
Visit the site of Kalifa’s neighborhood commercial association (French only).
Until I ate at Maison David, I associated Jewish deli with cheap, plentiful, gut busting food. “Non Non Non” said Kalifa, laying various exsquisite treats upon his immaculate glass counter. There was mouth melting goose and duck pastrami, chopped liver the consistency of foie gras, mold crusted artesenal salamis with hazelnuts or peppercorns inside, and little karnatzels the size of a NIB candy. It was awe inspiring, showing that traditional kosher Yiddish cuisine (what Kalifa calls it), can be every bit as refined and delicious as the finest French, Italian, or Spanish charcuterie.
Don’t go looking for towering sandwiches and cheap knishes. This is old world food. Small, very powerful, rather expensive. It is meant to be savored and swirled…food for thought.
Take the pe’tcha for instance. This traditional shtetl dish of jellied calfs feet, a Romanian favorite, is one of the most intense gastronomic experiences in the Jewish diet. But Kalifa will place a slice on your tongue like Timothy Leary, and as it dissolves and warms, the garlicky aroma of veal and fat will fill your cheeks.
If you haven’t been to Paris, go now. And if you’ve been, but haven’t met Monsieur Kalifa, do so as well. With his Super Mario moustache and warm heart, you will emerge from his tiny shop full, satisfied, and a little bit more in love with the finest deli food imaginable. Bon Appetit!
6, rue des Ecouffes, 75004
4e Arrondisement -le Marais