Recently, the Jew and the Carrot blog asked me to contribute a little story about shabbat food in my house. I could only think of one thing, Granny Ella Sax’s sweet and sour meatballs. Here’s a teaser for the story, found at Jcarrot, which is now the food blog of the Forward.
Unlike most of my friends, my parents didn’t inherit a lot of Jewish food traditions from my grandparents. My mother’s family had been in Canada for so many generations that they ate like WASPs. She grew up with roast beef dinners washed down with a glass of milk, and her mother’s cooking, which I experienced on visits to Montreal, was more a source of comedy than comfort.
Grandma cooked from a lot of cans and powders, which came out of a deep pantry that seemed to be restocked every two decades. She was capable of making a mean roast beef, it’s true, but a stern frugality flavored everything in that Formica kitchen. Her favorite dishes to prepare were “concoctions”, essentially experiments with leftovers. Some — the vanilla iced cream she melted, mixed with crushed red and white swirly mints liberated from restaurants, and refrozen — had their charms. Others, like the casseroles of no discernable origin, had my father sneaking out to Snowdon Delicatessen after dinner, to cleanse his palate with salted meats.
His mother, though more closely linked to her Yiddish heritage, had a few dishes that were legendary in the family. In tribute to her, one of these became our Shabbat staple: Granny Ella’s sweet and sour meatballs. These were golf ball sized orbs of soft, tender meat, simmered slowly in a sweetened tomato sauce. When Granny made them, the meatballs were consistently round and juicy, and the sauce was bright and sweet, with a lingering garlic spice.
Say what you will about the state of the economy. Say what you will about the state of the deli. At least we can count on Bethesda.
I just got an email that a new deli has opened in Bethesda, MD, that city of naval officers and many Jewish families, just on the border of Washington DC. Bubby’s is the name, and its owner, Jeff Manas, is a boy from the Bronx with decades of experience in the NY deli business. Plus, he’s a Vietnam vet, which bodes well in this military rich city. He’s matched with head chef Frank Petrello, of Brooklyn, and if there ever was a NY centric team to fire up deli in the capital region, this could be it.
Here’s what they’re promising on their website:
Bubby’s is a warm and friendly place where family and friends can meet and enjoy a delicious meal. We believe in preparing our food with patience and pride; so we can enjoy the dishes many of us grew up sharing on special holidays or family gatherings. We offer favorites like chicken soup with Matzo ball, whitefish salad, stuffed cabbage, brisket of beef brimming with flavor and gravy, a pastrami sandwich on rye, a freshly baked bagel with lox and cream cheese or a homemade potato latke that could have come straight from your own Bubby’s kitchen. We believe in using only the highest quality ingredients and making our dishes fresh and in-house.
Not only is this promising, but it creates a mini-boom of delis in Bethesda. Back in November, the Uptown Deli opened in Bethesda, just around the corner from where Bubby’s has gone in. The city is seeding a deli rich corridor in this neighborhood packed with shops and restaurants already, and with any luck, more delis will come in and turn Bethesda into the next Montreal.
Because we need some good time country feelin’ in this deli lovin’ world. Thanks to Bruce Kaplan of the Bay Area:
What’s Hosni Mubarak to do, now that he’s headed to a breezy exile?
Perhaps he should take a page from former celeb chef Michael Blum, who fell from grace recently, and seek salvation in the knish.
Here’s a great story from the Miami Herald (thanks to Leah Koenig for passing it fwd). Chef Michael Blum’s fortunes rose and fell in Miami, and after hitting rock botton professionally and personally, he’s reinventing himself by selling gourmet knishes. What’s not to love on a day of liberation?
Blum resurfaced in October in an unlikely venue — Hollywood’s Yellow Green Farmer’s Market — with an unlikely product: knishes.
The traditional, kosher-style knish, a staple of delis the world over, is a baked, bun-like pastry stuffed with mashed potato and/or ground beef and/or kasha. Think Jewish empanada.
Just as Michael’s Kitchen devotees “never knew what the wacky chef was going to do next,” Blum said, neither could they predict what they’d find on the knish menu at the market ($2.50 to $6 apiece, depending on the filling).
He might make a Reuben or clam-chowder knish along with vegetarian varieties like spinach-garlic, broccoli-Cheddar and portobello mushroom with truffle oil.
He calls them “the cure for boring knishes. Your grandma’s authentic knish with a chef’s flair.”
For those deli lovers who winter (or live) on the West coast of Florida (aka the Gulf Coast, or, to those in Boca Raton, the Goyish Coast), the pickings can be slim. Sure there’s Too Jays, the large and quite good deli chain across the state, but if you want something haymish, it often requires a drive over Aligator Alley.
Now, residents of Sarasota needn’t go far for their deli fix, thanks to the opening of Pastramis NY Deli in their town. I got the info from intrepid Save the Deli fan and local residents Howard and Alice Rosenthal, who attest to the quality of the meat, as well as the bread. Meat and bread. What else do you need? Mustard, I suppose.
Pastramis Ny Deli
5170 Clark Rd
Phone: (941) 925-3100
Ok, I’ll admit, I’ve been out of the loop for a long time, and for no good reason other than traveling, a lack of time to post, and sheer laziness. What do you expect? It’s the dead of winter here in Toronto.
So let’s just round up what I’ve missed in the past few weeks:
First, the bad news. Deli Tech, that plucky, over the top, little NYC deli in Denver that could, has closed down because they lost their lease. Says their website: “For the time being our in-house dining services will be closed until further notice. But don’t worry, Deli Tech is still available for your Catering and Delivery needs 7 days a week.”
This definitely saddens me. Fred Anzman and Barbara Simon were some of the most welcoming, vivacious, memorable, and hospitable deli owners I met on my odyssey across America. They were big in every way, but they delivered fantastic food, in a part of the country that desperately needs it. I’m glad to hear they’ll be keeping the business alive for catering purposes, and encourage anyone in Denver or visiting to hook up with them for some chicken soup, cabbage rolls, or a hunk cheesecake straight from the Carnegie. Good luck guys.
Now, on a lighter note, some more fuel for the forever pastrami rivalry in New York. The esteemed New York Daily News has published a pastrami poll for the best in the city, with Brooklyn’s Mill Basin Kosher Delicatessen getting the top spot. Mazels. King of New York delis, Katz’s, follows close behind, and bringing up third is half-centurion Loeser’s, of the Bronx, which seems to be hitting its stride five decades going. Honorable mentions go to Ben’s Best, Junior’s, and some place called the Ave T. Deli in Brooklyn. Anyone know about this place? First I’ve ever heard of it.