Preparing traditional Jewish deli meats is no easy process. Though a bright red slice of pastrami or dark, moist piece of tongue might look simple by the time it’s served on rye, meats like these have already spent up to several weeks soaking in brine, curing in a chilly walk-in, hanging up to dry or smoking in a precisely-tuned machine.
Noah Bermanoff, chef and co-owner of Mile End Deli in Brooklyn and Mile End Sandwich shop in Manhattan, is intimately familiar with this labor-intensive practice. He’s been serving up exemplary cured and smoked meats at his Brooklyn flagship since 2010.
“It’s not like making a hamburger,” Bermanoff said of his product. “It doesn’t just happen overnight,” he added.
So when Hurricane Sandy wiped out the restaurant’s custom-tailored production kitchen located on Red Hook’s Pier 41 last October, Bermanoff and his team had to make some tough decisions, fast: how were they going to prepare their signature pastrami without a working smoker? Where were they going to hang and cure their meats without access to the kitchen’s 6,500 square feet? How were they going to continue baking bread and bagels now that their oven was destroyed?
Sitting on the couch in my Brooklyn apartment, staring at the bright gray sky with trees blowing vehemently in the wind, I feel as if I am waiting for the world to end. My parents called me, as did my aunt, and my grandparents. My cousins sent emails, and my friends sent instant messages, only for me to respond that we are still waiting for the worst of it, and that if I were still home in Detroit people would probably still be driving 75 mph down the highway.