Calgary, Alberta, the oil rich city where by brother lives is not a deli town per se. There are several places serving Montreal smoked meat, though one of them does so on arbe rye with cranberry mustard should throw anyone into a suspicious state. The Palace of Eats claims to bring in smoked meat from Quebec, but advertises them on its website with jars of dijon mustard. When I was in Calgary two weekends ago to visit my brother he asked if I wanted deli. We decided it wasn’t worth it.
Then one night we were out for dinner at an Italian restaurant, and I couldn’t help but glance accross the street at the new sign boasting My Marvin’s Deli. The term Deli being what it is, I didn’t have high hopes, and a look inside showed a place in the final stages of renovation. But in writing an article on Calgary today I decided to fire My Marvin’s Deli into google and turned out the following story from the Calgary Herald:
Turns out that My Marvin’s Deli was the popular Calgary Jewish deli from the late 1970′s until 1990, when its owner Marv Segal, sold the business and moved into real estate. Normally this is where the story would end. One more deli left in the dust. But My Marvin’s Deli has been given a second lease on life, thanks to new owners Sheldon Fishman and Riaz Mamdani and the original Marvin’s manager, Mr. Hartley Yuffe. It’s only been open a week or two, so reviews aren’t that many, but they are generally positive, especially in a city so badly in need of a great deli.
It just goes to show that the death of the deli may be nigh, but it isn’t set in stone. There’s still time, and hope, for a second chance.
My Marvin’s Deli
2303 4th Street. SW Calgary
I’ve boasted before that Save the Deli is the only site on the Internet (or Interweb or Webbernet), dedicated exclusively to the obsession toward and love of the Jewish delicatessen. Until Now.
Just last night, during one of my twelve average daily hours searching for deli online, I came accross a site called Deli Heaven. The site is a trove of information, which is basically divided into two parts. The first is various news clippings about delis that the site’s owner (Marc Onigman) finds and links to. He updates this about once a month, so it’s not exactly Reuters, but still, who else besides he and I are out there doing this insane shit? The other feature is a listing by geographical area of delis accross North America. While it is far from complete, it is the largest and most up to date I’ve seen.
Anyway, enough chat. The weekend is upon us, it’s summer, and I have some whitefish that I intend on consuming with cream cheese. Good shabbos to all, and to the rest of you, god bless.
There’s Deli Men and then there’s Deli Man!
I found this comic pinned up in Protzel’s Deli in Clayton, MO. If anyone finds any other comics or cartoons, please send them along.
The Kenny & Zuke’s posting generated a tremendous amount of traffic, especially from the Pacific Northwest, but also locally. People are genuinely excited when new delis open, as the sad sight of delis dying out is often a more common occurrence.
One of the most enthusiastic responses I received was from “Embee”, here in Toronto, who eluded, in a somewhat cryptic way, to posting on the eGullet foodie messaging group about Pastrami and Smoked Meat recipees. I pressed him for more info and he sent the link, along with a story about how he cures and smokes his own meat AT HOME. Talk about a love of the deli. Thanks “Embee”!
1. The message board Manny sent me is called “The Great Pastrami/Smoked Meat Experiment”. It consists of 230 posts back and forth from several deli lovers around the continent, who share their recipees and methods for making smoked/cured deli meats. This is an incredible resource. If you ever considered experimenting with homemade deli, here is where you should start. And for those who prefer your deli eaten at a delicatessen, this is the best way to answer all the mysteries floating inside your head.
2. Send me your stories about homemade deli experiments. Let’s get the ball rolling on methods and madness. Link to photos on Flickr or other sites. I want to see your meat folks! Show me what you got.
This site was made to chronicle and fight the death of Jewish delicatessens. As such, I get a lot of information about delis closing, which always saddens me. However, on occasion I receive notice of the birth of a deli, as was the case this weekend.
On Saturday I received an email from Nick Zurkin of Portland, Oregon, who went on to tell me about the deli he will soon be opening. I’ll leave the story and photos up to Nick:
A local chef and I here in Portland, OR, started curing and smoking out own pastrami last year and selling it at a farmers market. We were selling out in an hour. When Bourdain was in town, he tried it and really liked it.
We decided to extend the menu and do a one day a week brunch at my partner’s restaurant. We focused on pastrami, later also doing corned beef and pickled tongue. We made half-sours, full-sours, and pickled green tomatoes. We made knishes, rugelach. We made chopped liver, bagels, egg creams (no, not a kosher deli), etc, etc. We became very popular and had very good press.
Anyway, we got the investors together and are building a restaurant in downtown Portland to be finished in September serving three meals a day with a very full menu, bagels made in-house, pastrami and corned beef made in-house, etc. The name is Kenny & Zuke’s.
The deli is set to open at the start of October, in the Ace Hotel, at the corner of SW 11th and Stark. Both Nick Zukin and his partner Ken Gordon have decades of national and international experience in cuisine and foodservice, and if you read the reviews of their farmer’s market deli meals, the stuff is good. They want it to be fresh, from scratch, and treated as little as possible. This looks like the perfect nexus of new school fresh thinking and old school deli. The Pacific Northwest has never been a haven for deli, but with salmon that good and fresh, and with the great beef coming out of Washington state, you know it’s time for the West coast to get its share of shmaltz. Here’s wishing them the best of luck. We’ll keep our ears to the grindstone on this one.
Their website isn’t much now, but this is where to go come October.
Here’s some reviews of what’s in store:
In my relentless trawling of the Internet for nuggets of deli goodness, one of the best items I’ve come accross is a song from the 1930′s called “Matzo Balls”, sung by Slim Gaillard, a black jazz vocalist from the early half of the 20th century, who was known for whacky songs, boogie woogie beats, and his own style of vocalization.
African Americans have the fiercest love of deli I’ve ever seen of any ethnic group. From the city of Detroit to the southside of Chicago and over to Katz’s in New York, Black America appreciates deli food with a passion that is equal to, and often greater than, Jews. This song was clearly a culmination of Gaillards love. It will stand forever as a unique testament to it, at least until Jay-Z decides to write “99 Problems But a Knish Ain’t One” on his next album.
Oh well, ah, matzo balls, gefilte fish,
bestest fish I ever ever had
Matzo balls and gefilte fish,
makes you order up an extra dish
Matzo balls and gefilte fish
really very very very fine
now you put a little horseradish on it and it knocks you right out…
Click Here to Download “Matzo Balls” by Slim Gaillard
Find the file on the right hand side and right click or command click to download it to your iTunes or desktop.
Rock this on your iPod, in your car, at the gym, and off the rooftops. It’s the song of the summer, and I’ll send some Savethedeli clothing to anyone who remixes it for me. Hell, I’ll buy you a sandwich.
Legendary GQ food writer Alan Richman is a deli man himself, having spent years in Montreal, and now residing in New York. His work is some of the best out there in defining American eating, and I am repeatedly referred to his classic story on the last living Jewish waiters in New York’s famous eateries.
The professional Jewish waiter was as much an American original as the workingmen who drove herds of cattle, laid railroad tracks, built skyscrapers. He just moved a lot slower. Bobby Trager, the chef of Nate ‘n Al’s delicatessen in Beverly Hills, recalls frequent visits to Ratner’s with his grandmother, who would always treat him to the vegetarian chopped liver he loved. “No waiters ever walked like them,” he says. “They walked like they were old, even when they were 25. It was almost like they had a walker, but they didn’t have a walker.”
If you haven’t read this article yet, please do so. It is the finest testament to those tired, grumpy few who serve us the foods we so love for so many years.
A whole basket of deli porn today from Off the Broiler maven Jason Perlow. He’s been to Katz’s, brought his camera, and the rest is a fat soaked, mustard bathed, Dr.Brown’s doused orgy of images. Restrain thyselves.
I know I’ve put a lot of tributes to Al Langer up here recently (deservedly so), but his son Norm just emailed me the best yet. For those who do not know, Jonathan Gold is the LA Weekly food critic and writer, and his is arguably the best at what he does in LA, New York, or even the world. His is food journalism infused with love, and for his work Gold was recenty awarded a Pulitzer prize. Not bad for writing about tamales.
Here’s his Al Langer tribute:
“….When the sandwich was especially good, you would often look up to discover the presence of Al Langer himself behind the counter, where he had either cut or more likely supervised the cutting of the meat. A great pastrami sandwich depends on the knife skills of the counterman no less than a $75 order of o-toro sashimi, the ability to trace the contours of the meat, tease out obnoxious pockets of fat and sinew, prodding the steaming slices as he works, occasionally pushing aside a piece that is less than tender, and arranging the final product with the subtlety of a sculptor. If you have a great counterman, you can, as Langer’s does, steam the pastrami until it is soft, tender and juicy, without worrying whether it is going to fall apart in the slicing machine. When you have a great counterman, something as ordinary as a pastrami sandwich can be transformed into something approaching art. Until he passed away last week at the age of 94, just a few days after his restaurant celebrated its 60th birthday, Al Langer may have been the greatest counterman of all….”
A piece today in the New York Times tells of the sad fight that is going on over the rights to the name of Guss’ pickles, the fabled pickle shop in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
“The Great Lower East Side Pickle War”
“Even as the beloved, traditional Jewish food establishments of the Lower East Side seem to be locked into an irrecoverable downward spiral — the death of Gertel’s bakery being the most recent example — a war has been raging over who is the legitimate heir to the Guss’s pickle empire that once ruled over Essex Street.”
When I was in New York researching the book this past November, I spent a few hours with Pat Fairhurst at Guss’s on Orchard, and also met Mr. Stephen Leibowitz at the Kosherfest convention the same week. This is very much a story of David vs. Goliath, with Mrs. Fairhurst simply trying to sell pickles out of one of the last Jewish food businesses in the neighborhood, while United Pickle is attempting to cash in on the Guss’s name and history. In our conversation, Leibowitz (who sports a gold pickle pin), told me that he was looking forward to driving Mrs. Fairhurst out of business. “I can’t wait to be there when they tear that sign down!” he said with glee.
Deli mavens: pickles are an essential component of our experience. Guss’s is a true New York institution, a mother and son operation where you can get a full sour with bits of garlic right from a barrel on the sidewalk. To anyone walking around the rapidly changing Lower East Side, it is a stubbornly delicious and salty reminder of what the area once was. Without your support, Guss’s could soon go the way of Gertel’s bakery and the countless other Jewish food shops that once graced the area.
Most importantly, call Pat Fairhurst and express your support, and if you live in New York, head on down and buy some pickles asap!
Guss’s World Famous Pickles
86-87 Orchard St
New York, NY