Save the Deli

Pork in Israel, Jack in the Box kills rye

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

And now for something completely treyf, and I’m not talking Reubens.

Today in the New York Times, my friend Jeffrey Yoskowitz (who is kosher), writes about Israeli’s first pork cookbook:

ANY author has to deal with bad reviews, but how about the wrath of God?

Dr. Eli Landau has written “The White Book,” touted as the first Israeli pork cookbook.

With 80 mainly Mediterranean recipes and Eastern European dishes, “The White Book” tries to reveal the secrets of the pig for cooks who have never prepared it nor perhaps even tasted it….Dr. Landau, a 61-year-old retired cardiologist and food writer from Tel Aviv, likes pork and thinks there are many Israelis who shy from it not so much because it’s taboo, but because they don’t know how to prepare it.

“People are reluctant to cook pork at home,” said Dr. Landau, who is not an observant Jew. “I want to make it easier for chefs and personal cooks to bring it home and to the menus. If that happens, I’ll be more than happy.”

I’m not kosher, and I do eat treyf, so I’m not offended by this at all. What I am offended by is this:

Getting rid of rye, eh? The devil wears a clown head.

A Save the Deli TV teaser, and a guest spot on Food Network

Friday, September 24th, 2010

It’s friday, time to kick back in front of the tube and just let the brain turn to mush.

What’s on? Why it’s the Save the Deli TV teaser. Basically, I shot this with Christopher Farber (who did the book’s cover) last month at Hobby’s in New Jersey, as a sort of audition tape for the Food Network. They didn’t offer me a show in the end, but at least you all get to watch me in HD.

Save the Deli: Hobby’s Delicatessen, in Newark, NJ from Christopher Farber on Vimeo.

Now, if you want to see me on the big screen, tune into the premiere of the new Food Network show Meat and Potatoes tonight. It’s exactly how it sounds, a carnivore’s dream, and the pilot episode stops by Brooklyn’s Mile End, to visit with everyone’s favorite 20 something deli owning couple, Noah Bernamoff and Rachel Cohen. I make an appearance as resident expert, or Customer #3. Either way. Good times.

10pm tonight on Food Network USA (sorry Canada, we still suck)

Mixed Bag Day

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

So much random stuff piling up. I’m just going to toss it out there and clear my inbox.

Our buddy Brad Rubin, at Eleven City Diner in Chicago needs our help. The deli has been nominated a finalist for Chicago Convention and Tourism Board’s BEST Smell fo Chicago contest. This should be tough, because between its hot dog vendors, steakhouses, bakeries, and people Chicago is a good smelling town. Vote here for Eleven City.

Out in LA, the food truck scene just got more interesting with Takosher, a kosher taco truck. Not deli, but nice to know there’s a chazzerei free carne asada out there somewhere.

In the town of Brevard, NC, a veteran of the Philadelphia deli scene named Art Margraf wants you all to know that he has been selling staples like corned beef, pastrami, and liverwurst at his “Brevard Delicatessen” since 2001. If you’re ever in Brevard, check it out.
112 Commerce Street
Brevard NC 28712

Hartford, CT: I just heard about Reuben’s, a relatively new deli (since January), in a state that could certainly use more of them. I have to love this place, because their website has that great Milton Berle quote “Anytime a person goes into a delicatessen and orders a pastrami on white bread, somewhere a Jew dies.” Head over and tell Brian Hersh you want to save the Jews with a sandwich on rye bread.

Our man in Detroit, Sy Ginsberg, proudly told me about a great new opening in Cincinnati, a city that really needed a great Jewish deli. It’s called Rascals Deli, and it’s in the suburb of Blue Ash, OH. Sy gives owners Gary Zakem and Morris Zucker (they should have called it Zee’s or ZZ Schtop’s) his seal of approval, which is the highest standard you can imagine.

Back here in Toronto, a former slicer of Zane Caplansky’s, Skinny Joe Surblys, has opened in his old space at the Monarch Tavern, serving up corned beef, smoked meat, and burgers, with excellent hand cut fries, and the trademark Monarch sports, classic rock, and comfortable seats. I kinda missed that place.

A Reuben By Any Other Name

Monday, September 20th, 2010

The great Jewish debate, via the Reuben debate:

Fasts, Feasts, and two songs for the Kippur

Friday, September 17th, 2010

It’s that time again Jewish fressers, the dawning of the day of reckoning, Yom Kippur. From sundown tonight until sundown tomorrow, the Jewish world will fast, pray, and ask for forgiveness for all their collective sins.

Put down the pastrami. Get your ass to shul.

Or not? According to my good friend Eddy Portnoy, there’s a tradition of Jewish rabblerousers using Yom Kippur as a feast day. As he writes in Tablet:

When Jews decide to chow down on Yom Kippur, it’s usually done clandestinely, sneaking tasty morsels in a dark pantry, or disappearing into a diner in some nearby non-Jewish neighborhood. But furtive noshing wasn’t always the heretical path of choice on the Day of Atonement. Just over a century ago, a range of leftists held massive public festivals of eating, dancing, and performance for the full 25 hours of Yom Kippur, not only as a way to fight for the their right to party, but to unshackle themselves from the oppressive religious dictates they grew up with. What does one do, after all, when prayers and traditional customs no longer hold any meaning yet you still want to be part of a Jewish community? Eating with intention on a fast day allows you, in one fell swoop, to thumb your nose at the religious establishment and create a secular Jewish identity.

Have you ever feasted on the Kip, heading over to a deli that’s open and chowed down on a knish, some matzo balls, and a corned beef reuben (because, let’s face it, you ain’t going to be eating kosher)? Share your stories.

Here’s wishing all of you who are fasting, a contemplative one. Take it away Neil and Lenny.

Save the Deli nominated for Canadian Culinary Book Award

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

This just in off Google Alerts (honestly, I would never know about anything without it).

Save the Deli has been nominated for a Canadian Culinary Book Award. I guess they knew I moved back home.

According to the Canadian Press:

After reading 68 entries and testing many recipes, 20 Canadian food professionals have chosen a short list for the Canadian Culinary Book Awards.

The annual awards are sponsored by Cuisine Canada and the University of Guelph. The winners, along with the second award for the Canadian Culinary Landmarks Hall of Fame and the annual Edna Staebler Award, will be announced Nov. 5 on the opening day of the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto.

Shortlisted in the English Special Interest Category, books about food and beverages:
—Tony Aspler for “Tony Aspler’s Cellar Book: How to Design, Build, Stock and Manage Your Wine Cellar Wherever You Live,” (Random House Canada, Toronto).
—Ricki Heller, “Sweet Freedom: Desserts You’ll Love without Wheat, Eggs, Dairy or Refined Sugar,” (Trafford Publishing, Victoria, B.C.)
—David Sax for “Save the Deli: In Search of Perfect Pastrami, Crusty Rye and the Heart of the Jewish Delicatessen,” (McClelland and Stewart, Toronto).

Very cool. I’m quite honored. And I’ve always been curious about the Royal Winter Fair. So let’s cross our fingers for November.

Ratner’s Second Life?

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

I don’t venture into the world of dairy too often (trying to keep this kosher style), but I love an onion roll and shmear as much as the next guy. Sadly, the number of Jewish dairy restaurants were never many, and their decline has been even more dramatic than the delicatessen.

The biggest to fall was Ratner’s, a staple of New York’s Lower East side for much of the 20th century, known for freshly baked breads, soups, gefilte fish, and the surliest waiters in the world. It closed about a decade back, and I get emails at least once a month asking if it will ever reopen.

Well…maybe. Though not where you think.

Ratner’s is apparently opening in Los Angeles, at the corner of La Cienega and 3rd, right in Hollywood. The final city permit hearing was yesterday, which means those blintzes of yore could be coming to the city of Angels real soon.

Here’s the press release they’ve sent out a few weeks back:

“We are happy to announce the upcoming arrival of West 3rd Streets newest Restaurant….Ratner’s Deli! Ratner’s will be a modern reincarnation of the original NYC Deli that was open for almost 100 years! With a top secret celebrity chef in the kitchen, Ratner’s will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as for take out and delivery. The team of Ratner’s Deli wants you to know that we are all lifelong residents of the community and that we are truly committed to being positive and active members of the commercial district. We are already an instrumental part of the 3rd street valet program, which will alleviate much of the parking congestion that is rampant in our neighborhood. In addition, 1% of our yearly net profits will be reinvested in our community to a project chosen by our customers! We thank you for your support and looking forward to serving you next year!”

Sounds promising. My only concerns are “celebrity chef”, and the fact that they’re calling it a “deli”. But I’m willing to wait and see, and if it’s good, I’ll be flying out there with my mother, who talks about Ratner’s to this day.

Mexican Pastrami, Deli in Vegas, and a Song

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Some random stuff for these Days of Awe.

First, our good friends at the Jew and the Carrot blog (now hosted by the Forward), report on the Mexification of pastrami in LA:

In Los Angeles, pastrami is often removed from a Jewish context. On the Eastside, in Latino neighborhoods like Lincoln Heights, pastrami is so commonly offered alongside burritos and tacos, the deli meat almost seems Mexican.
So then how did pastrami come to be associated with Mexican food? Perhaps these burrito stands or drive-thrus had once been staffed by Jews? Or had pastrami, like polka, been brought to Mexico by emigrants from Eastern and Central Europe?

Next, a report from our special correspondent in Las Vegas, David Cowles, who moved there last year, and has finally found a deli feast to satisfy his cravings:

The (J W Marriott) Rampart Casino in Las Vegas–an upscale casino several miles away from downtown and the Strip–now has a “deli night” every Thursday night at their buffet restaurant for $18.99 per person–all you can eat!

I tried it out night before next, and the food is actually good! No, it’s better than good. It’s wonderful!

They have most everything, too. I started out by helping myself to a large dollop of chopped chicken liver from a serving tub in the refrigerated and salads section that held at least a gallon of the goop.
Yes, they have typical deli salads — cole slaw, macaroni salad, potato salad, etc.
The brisket was almost as good as I make at home, and that’s saying something!
They have trays of pastrami and corned beef at the steam table, already cut, just waiting for the server to slap them on rye (or other) bread. Two kinds of mustard are nearby. I didn’t see any mayonnaise, thankfully.

HERE’S A LINK There’s also whitefish salad, herring, and unlimited Dr. Brown’s. Viva Las Vegas!

Finally, a song to take you out. Courtesy of Rita Abrams, it hits at the heart of Judaism’s central crisis in the Bay Area.

A Meaty New Year

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

Well, I’m writing this from the new Save the Deli headquarters, near the old one in Toronto. So long New York, you hardly knew me.

With the Jewish holidays upon us, I’m going to keep this short and sweet. Shana Tova to one and all, and may 5771 be filled with sweetness, meatness, and all the other trimmings. And apples cannonballing into pools of honey.

L’Shana Tova Amigos!

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