For those who may have been wondering whether new tastes would arrive at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco with its new director, there is now an answer. While Lori Starr will not officially become the museum’s new executive director until June 10, word is already out that Wise Sons will be moving into the downtown museum’s vacant restaurant not long afterwards.
Wise Sons’ Evan Bloom and Leo Beckerman, who are among the leaders of the Jewish deli revival of recent years, told j., the Jewish news weekly of Northern California, that they were very excited to open a second location at CJM. “It’s the next logical step for us,” Bloom said about the projected mid-to-late June opening.
To accommodate the additional food production involved in expanding beyond their restaurant at the corner of 24th and Shotwell Streets in the Mission District, Bloom and Beckerman have leased a new space that will allow for the increased production of baked goods and cured meats.
I recently ate lunch with some family members at Shorty Goldstein’s and was overwhelmed…by the vinegar. I’m afraid that if chef and owner Michael Siegel doesn’t change some things at his new deli in San Francisco’s financial district, he’s going to be in a real pickle.
When I spoke to Siegel in December of last year, as he was working on opening his restaurant (really, more of a lunch counter), he told me that he would serve lots of Jewish deli classics, but that he would add his own, contemporary California-style twists to them. “It will be a mix between tradition and my style, which is a little nouveau,” he said.
The problem I found is that these changes Siegel has made are detracting from the authentic deli food that he is doing right. The biggest issue is his pickles. All you get when you eat them is an overpowering bite of vinegar. The vegetables’ natural flavors are lost, and there are no discernable spices.
It’s here! The New York Times Magazine’s 2013 food and drink issue is out this weekend in print and online. Features range from hunting and killing your own dinner to the rise of healthful fast food. [The New York Times]
Bye-bye matzo! Welcome all that delicious chametz back into your life with one of our favorite challah recipes. [Smitten Kitchen]
Or sweeten the end of Pesach with some babka. [The Jewish Week]
Craving spring flavors? Lemons can hold you over until the season gets fully underway. [Food 52]
Hitler’s food taster talks about her bitter years during the war. [Spiegel]
Another look at Washington, D.C.’s DGS Delicatessen and the modern deli renaissance. [NPR]
Ask Google about the Jewish food history of Toronto and you’ll get nothing. Ask author/storyteller Michael Wex about Toronto Jewish food history and he’ll talk about immigrants, Sabbath observance, and cholent.
With a population of nearly 2.5 million people, half of whom were born outside Canada, Toronto is the most multicultural city in North America, and one of the most multicultural in the world. You can travel around the world in one weekend without ever leaving the city. Some ethnicities even have multiple ethnic neighborhoods. A short 5 ½ mile walk will take you through four ethnic neighborhoods.
As a New Yorker who moved to northern Utah almost 30 years ago, I’m sometimes tempted by local restaurants that offer what they refer to as “authentic New York fare.” Shops that sling “New York” pizza, serve a Big Apple-style cheesecake and worst of all, a Jewish deli sandwich, often disappoint.
So, when I recently read an exceedingly laudatory review of the new Feldman’s Deli in the local alt-newsweekly City Weekly, I was pretty skeptical. It seemed too good to be true, and after all, I condescendingly thought, what could a Utah food critic really know about Jewish deli food?
But given such a glowing report, I knew it was only a question of time before I’d make the 45 minute drive to Salt Lake City to try it. So on a smoggy January afternoon, I headed south with my dear friend and fellow zoology professor Bob Okazaki to introduce him to what I was hoping was an acceptable sandwich. A California émigré who has lived and travelled all over the planet, he has never had a Jewish deli sandwich — more than my individual satisfaction was riding on this adventure.
“It is so wrong for a deli customer to be served a knish that’s been put in a microwave,” lamented Michael Siegel, a successful San Francisco chef who is poised to open his own new Jewish deli in late January. At his place, almost everything will be made from scratch. “It’s time to bring the pride and love back into deli food,” Siegel said.
The first-time restaurateur takes making a good, fresh knish very seriously. In fact, his deli will be called Shorty Goldstein’s as a tribute to his great-grandmother, whose excellent knish recipe Siegel uses. The moniker is a combination of the great-grandmother’s nickname (she barely reached 4’10”), and her maiden name.
Inspired by new delis like Mile End in New York, Siegel, 33, decided to leave his position as chef de cuisine at Betelnut, a contemporary Asian cuisine restaurant, to join in San Francisco’s Jewish deli revival. “We have a large Jewish population in the Bay Area,” Siegel noted. “There’s a demand and a niche for good, slow-food Jewish deli. Wise Sons beat me to it and proved the point, which serves as motivation for me.”
After 75 years in business, New York’s Stage Delicatessen announced its closure today. For a deli world already used to deaths and disappearances, having seen thousands of landmarks wiped clean from our palate over the past decades, the end of the Stage plunges deep into the heart of deli lovers. The magnitude of its loss is incalculable. The significance is simply staggering.
Oh sure, in her later years she was easily dismissed as tired, failing, cranky, and limping along. Just a mere hint of her former greatness remained visible through the accumulated knickknacks and tchotchkes, and her telltale shtick. Once the talk of the town, now just seemed warmed over and rehashed for the tourist throngs, like a day old slice of salami repurposed into an omelet. They’ll say it hadn’t been the same for years, or even decades, and that her time was past, but they know in their hearts that even at this age, she was taken from us too soon.
Yes, there were older delicatessens, and bigger delicatessens, and, many will argue, better delicatessens than the Stage in its most recent incarnation. But there are few Jewish delis in America that were as influential to the evolution of the deli’s culture than the Stage. It was the deli that many others took their cues from, the deli that made the food famous, the place that Americanized the Jewish delicatessen.
The 75-year-old Midtown landmark located just a couple of blocks from Carnegie Hall (and from its rival, the Carnegie Deli) still has its website — with tantalizing photos of overstuffed pastrami sandwiches, crunchy pickles, tangy coleslaw, and creamy cheesecakes — up, but now the food is only for looking at, not tasting. Gone are the sandwiches that gustatorily honored celebrity customers like Mel Brooks, Larry David, Katie Couric, Howie Mandel, Al Rocker, Cindy Adams and Dolly Parton.
When Haaretz’s food and wine critic, the late Daniel Rogov, moved from Paris to Tel Aviv in the late 1970s, he discovered a cornucopia of Jewish foods from all over the world, stemming from the manifold cultures from which Jews had immigrated. What he missed was one of his favorite foods from his childhood in Brooklyn: a pastrami sandwich on rye.
Indeed, what is arguably the quintessential American Jewish dish has never played a major role in any other Jewish cuisine in the world. There is something irreducibly American about the deli sandwich, which bespeaks the unique history of American Jews.
Much of the Jewish deli sandwich’s popularity in America is tied to the evolution of the sandwich itself, which exploded in popularity after the First World War. Even before the advent of the mechanical bread slicer in Iowa in 1928, the sandwich (originally invented by Rabbi Hillel the Elder, as we commemorate each year during the Passover seder), became one of the most popular of all American foods, with more than 5,000 sandwich shops in New York by the mid 1920s. In a city defined by its manic energy, the sandwich became the perfect fuel for people on the go.
My mother-in-law’s favorite restaurant is a deli called TooJay’s. Whenever I visit her in Florida from my home in Portland, Oregon, that is where she wants to eat. It is rarely where I want to eat. I’d much rather sit out on a sunny deck and drink a margarita than squish inside an unprepossessing diner and eat greasy meat. One day we tried to sate her craving by bringing Too Jay’s takeout back to the pool. Come dinnertime, I asked her if she had any restaurant suggestions.
“How about TooJay’s?”
Food was also a hot topic at the URJ Biennial [URJ RAC]
Find out what happens to “Jewish” food when Eastern European Jews end up in Mexico… [WNYC]
…or San Francisco! [SF Weekly]
Growing interest in kosher organic meat gets a boost in the UK [Barnet Today]
But non-organic meat in the US will see no relief from antibiotic use [Grist]
Happy New Year!
In this two-part series Eitan Kensky takes a sharp look at food travel shows and the evolution of Adam Richman’s popular show “Man vs. Food.” Read Part 1 here.
One of the most striking elements of “Man vs. Food” was the way it flattened all ethnicities into generic American challenges. The idea of de-emphasizing difference made it rare, if not unique among food shows. Both of Travel Channel host Andrew Zimmern’s shows were built around the idea of eating local and indigenous cuisines that most American’s find disgusting, such as unborn chicken eggs, squirrel and calf (testicles) — especially when the exotic locations Zimmern traveled to were in America, like the Gulf Coast, or the immigrant neighborhoods of New York and Los Angeles. “Man vs. Food,” however, didn’t exoticize ethnic foods or treat them as an other to be discovered; rather ethnic restaurants were just another way to experience over-sized, over-seasoned, or over-spiced American portions.
This approach was especially prominent during the first season when Richman visited Katz’s Deli in New York. The show went out of its way to not make reference to Katz’s Jewish origins. None of the patrons interviewed appeared to be Jewish and Richman treated Katz’s only as a general New York institution that serves very meaty sandwiches. There were, it’s true, a few codes for Jewishness in the presentation. Richman’s mother came to share the food with him, and he referred to her as the person who first introduced him to Deli, but he left out why she introduced him to it in the first place. His mother worried that his upcoming challenge would be “unhealthy,” making shtick out of the stereotype of the over-protective Jewish mother, but it backfires. Given the toxic spiciness of the food Richman is going to ingest later that night, the Brick Lane Curry House’s spicy p’haal, allegedly the world’s hottest curry, she isn’t so much the over-protective Jewish mother as the voice of reason. Nonetheless, it was striking that a 21st century food show didn’t mention that Deli is a Jewish food par excellence, and Richman’s mother presumably took him to delis as part of his heritage.
Empire Kosher Poultry, the largest kosher chicken company in the country, claims “it produces a healthier, cleaner, more reliably kosher chicken than available anywhere else in America — and in a socially and environmentally responsible way,” according to JTA.
Multi-colored Carrots are coming to farmers’ markets this month! Yes, we have a soft spot for our namesake veggie.
A deli plate would be naked without a pickle, but the preserved cucumber wasn’t always so beloved. Jane Ziegelman writes that the pickle was once viewed as a stimulant and consumption was frowned upon.
The title of Mark Bittman’s Opinionator piece this week, “Can Big Food Regulate Itself? Fat Chance,” says it all.
Three years ago, Zane Caplansky applied to the city of Toronto to sell Montreal-style smoked-meat sandwiches from a cart. Confronted with red tape that would have required a steep investment in a mobile kitchen, he dropped the idea.
Bad news for the aspiring vendor became a boon for Toronto foodies. Caplansky instead started selling smoked-meat sandwiches from the back of a Toronto bar. Insane demand, fueled by word of mouth, led to the 2009 opening of Caplansky’s, his massively successful deli on the northern edge of the city’s historically Jewish Kensington Market neighborhood. “Caplansky’s did more to put Toronto on the map as a deli city than anyone else in half a century,” says David Sax, author of “Save the Deli” and a Forward contributor.
Despite our best intentions to raise awareness about the importance of sustainable, healthy food and the critical role of cooking it at home, we know that the majority of unhealthy calories and the largest increase in food consumption over the past 50 years has occurred with food purchased outside of the home, according to the Keystone Forum on Away from Home Foods. One might wonder: why are Jewish food establishments not working to create more healthy and sustainable menus?
While there are a few options, like those at last week’s Deli Summit, they’re mainly located in the sustainable food meccas of New York and Berkeley. Last week, that list grew one restaurant stronger with Inna’s Kitchen, a new player in the Boston Jewish food scene. Opened last week by Inna Khitrik and her son Alex, Inna’s Kitchen is a new Jewish deli in Newton Centre focused on sustainable healthy Jewish foods from a variety of cultures.
Updated May 6, 12:50pm EST
Let’s face it, the deli is simply not Washington D.C.’s forte. The city, which is increasingly gaining attention for its emphasis on thoughtfully minded food, has always seemed happy to let New York and Montreal have that honor.
But that may change on May 20, when a kosher deli on wheels backed by some serious star power rolls out onto city streets. The food truck, Sixth & Rye, is a project of the non-denominational Sixth & I synagogue. Former “Top Chef”-testant Spike Mendelsohn and personal chef Chef Malcolm Mitchell will be serving up nouveau deli fare to customers around the district on Friday afternoons this summer and into the fall.
The truck’s signature dish will be a smoked corned beef sandwich with mustard on rye. “It’ll be an old school Montreal smoked meat sandwich,” said Mendelsohn, who grew up in Montreal, but made with “slightly different pickling juices and spices.” While the menu is not finalized, Mendelsohn said diners can also expect latkes and matzo ball soup. He plans to serve up a slight riff on the classics, “I’ll put my take on it, it’ll be with a twist, but not too far from the norm,” he commented.
San Francisco is famous for its many coffee shops, book stores and taquerias but a good Jewish deli is hard to find. To my surprise, I’ve encountered two delis that have only opened in the past year and that deliver Jewish deli foods with a California twist – pastrami sandwiches and matzo ball soup prepared with a West Coast sensitivity to freshness and good quality ingredients.
Wise Sons deli only serves food for a couple of hours once a week, but it typically draws a line that wraps around the block and often sells out of their signature pastrami as early as noon. As part of Off the Grid, a group of mobile gourmet food vendors that park in different places around the city, Wise Sons “pops-up” on Saturdays from 9 am to 2 pm at Jackie’s Café in the Mission. Much like Mile End in Brooklyn, or Caplansky’s in Toronto, the chefs of Wise Sons, two U.C. Berkeley grads Leo Beckerman Evan Bloom, house cure and hand slice their own meats, prioritizing quality and flavor over quantity and variety. Beckerman says, “The main thing is that it all has to be delicious. We’re trying to revive, refresh and educate people about this food.”
When Torontonian Zane Caplansky was 16 years old, his then-girlfriend, who was from Montreal, introduced him to the smoked meat of the famed Schwartz’s Delicatessen. Caplansky broke up with that girlfriend many years ago, but his devotion to good deli has been abiding. “My love affair with smoked meat has been long lasting,” he declared.
Now 42, Caplansky, who opened his eponymous Caplansky’s Delicatessen in downtown Toronto a year and a half ago, has wedded his name and reputation to his own version of cured and smoked beef brisket. Not to be confused with corned beef (the pickled and boiled brisket for which Toronto is traditionally known), Montreal smoked meat is more like pastrami — the main difference being that the former is made from brisket and the latter from the tougher navel cut.
David’s Brisket House in Brooklyn sounds like your archetypal New York Jewish deli. Its website features a nearly pornographic shot of luscious pastrami on rye with sliced pickles. It’s got a Crown Heights address for serious street cred. And it even closes Friday for religious observances.
Except the observances are Muslim prayers. And the owners of David’s, as the Village Voice reported recently in a starred review, are named Sultan and Waleed.
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