Welcome back! After a year and a half of research, eating, and writing, I’m now done with the first draft of the Save the Deli book, which got handed in last Friday. Phew. My fingers ache.
So now that I’m back into a more normal cycle, I can post a little more often. Thus, welcome to my first post-book-submission posting.
As the book neared completion, a lot of great posts I had in the works got delayed. Delis opened and I wrote nothing, so I’ll do my best to catch up over the next few months, plus put out the rest of my tales from the cross-America journey last winter.
But first to just north of home. Last summer I was contacted by a man named Marty Marks, who was opening up a Jewish deli in the city of Barrie, an hour outside of Toronto. Barrie is a very goyish place, sort of the gateway to the north of Ontario, though a hell of a lot of Jews have cottages (or mansions on lakes) there, and many more drive through Barrie to get to their ski chalets and other second homes. Marty claimed to have perfected a unique pastrami recipe, and in the late fall I finally had a chance to swing by and check out the goods at Pastrami King.
When I got there, Marty took me into the back and showed me his pastramis curing in the refrigerator. Well, I should be truthful, I’m not sure if I can call these pastramis. What Marty Marks does is start with a cured Montreal Smoked meat (from Montreal’s venerable Lester’s), steams them to open up the meat’s pores, rubs them in his special spices, then bakes them and then puts them back into the fridge for a number of days to impart the flavor. So no, it’s not really pastrami…it’s something much more intricate, involved, and inventive. It’s a cross between smoked meat, pastrami, and Marty’s own imagination…which we’ll call Smoked Martystrami for argument’s sake.
Anyway, once those briskets have been steamed and sliced, what emerges on the Bagel World rye is a wonder for the tongue. Soft, supple, and spiced with an almost honeyed aftertaste, it is unlike any other smoked/cured deli product I’ve tried.
He also makes a spread he calls “spek”, which is basically the leftover scraps of pastrami, mixed with Marty’s stellar homemade barbecue sauces. It’s spicy, sweet, and altogether a shot of edible heroin on top of his sandwiches.
It’s most definitely worth checking out, so if you are from Toronto and heading up north, stop off the highway 400 and check out the Pastrami King.