There are a handful of New York City landmarks that most people recognize: Lady Liberty. The Chrysler Building. And Katz’s Delicatessen.
Opened on the Lower East Side in 1888 and purchased by the Russian Katz family in 1903, the delicatessen famous for its orgasmic pastrami sandwiches, its Friday evening frankfurters ‘n’ beans and its Cel-Ray soda is one of the oldest continually operating businesses in New York City. And, at the ripe age of 125, Katz’s is still going strong: each week, the deli serves up more than 10,000 pounds of pastrami, 6,000 pounds of corned beef, and 4,000 hot dogs to locals and tourists alike. That’s a lot of cow.
Katz’s has attracted its fair share of attention over the years. But no one had ever written a book about it until now. In September, current part owner Jake Dell wrote the introduction to Katz’s: Autobiography of a Delicatessen in which he traces the famed storefront’s evolution from a tight-knit neighborhood joint to a star-studded celebrity hangout at the height of the early 1900s Yiddish theatre boom to a can’t-miss tourist attraction in the oughts. Large-format, full-color photos by Baldomero Fernandez detailing every nook and cranny of the restaurant accompany Dell’s text.
When it comes to publishing food or cookbooks, it’s usually the restaurant chef or owner that approaches the publisher with an idea. But in the case of Katz’s, Dell said, it was Bauer and Dean Publishers that, a few years ago, came to him. With the big anniversary fast approaching, Dell thought the timing was perfect.
“It was kind of a no-brainer,” he said.
The story begins with a plate of tongue, which may terrify people nowadays but its tenderness and delicate flavor were once favored by children and adults alike. We ate some at Cafe 48 in Tel Aviv after two or three other courses. One of them was a divine sweet cornbread with sour cream and red chili, perfect as a comfort food for a morning hangover. Yet the tongue managed to activate not only the taste buds and pleasure sensors but also the mind. The four slices of meat were thick, not like the thin ones Grandma used to serve, but the texture and flavor brought back childhood memories. Despite the modern look and the addition of green leaves, the course – served with fresh horseradish and cornichon pickles – excelled in delivering a familiar sweetish taste that caused a twinge of nostalgia.
“Two years ago I started to experiment with cooking and pickling tongue,” says Cafe 48 chef Jonathan Borowitz. “Not with the presumption of reviving the old Eastern European Jewish cuisine, but to experiment with cooking and preserving an unfamiliar ingredient. The experiments failed, and I abandoned them.
“A few months ago, Noah Bernamoff, the founder and owner of the Mile End Deli in Brooklyn, came to the restaurant, and at the bar we began a fascinating conversation that lasted for almost four hours. We spoke quite a lot about the pickled and smoked meats that have earned his delicatessens an international reputation. This is a man who never studied cooking formally, and I told myself that if he can devote years of trial and error to deciphering the code of perfect pickling, I can continue to experiment, too.
What’s better than a bagel and lox? A bagel and lox with beer, of course.
Two classic Jewish eateries, Russ & Daughters and the Mile End, are venturing into late night territory. Russ & Daughters’ move isn’t confirmed yet, but the Lower East Side staple, which specializes in smoked fish, applied for a liquor license for “Russ & Daughters Café” at 127 Orchard Street. (Management told Eater that “there’s really nothing to say just yet,” but a liquor license certainly indicates they’d be dishing up something to wash down that smoked herring.)
But there’s no ambiguity about the new direction of the Brooklyn location of Mile End Delicatessen. Owner Noah Bermanoff recently reopened that location with an updated menu and an extensive craft beer program to accompany it. The restaurant has temporarily suspended breakfast and lunch on the weekdays — though Bermanoff tells the Jews and the Carrot that “we just took a hiatus from lunch” — and is instead open from 5 pm to midnight, serving up brews along with its trademark Montreal-style smoked meats. Old standards will remain on the menu, alongside smaller snack items, like house-cured sardines.
“We wanted to carry good beer, not just beer,” Bermanoff said, explaining that the restaurant had teamed up with former Bierkraft buyer Chris Balla to make their selections. “We’re trying to push the idea that this food and beer work well together.” The new menu includes a selection of sour and smoked beers, like a smoked beer from German brewery Marzen.
The shift isn’t a change in direction so much as a “kick in the pants” for the restaurant, Bermanoff said. “We’ve kind of had a rough eleven months after Sandy,” Bermanoff explained. “I wanted to shake it up and make things fun again.”
The revamped Mile End will also host beer-related events “once or twice a month.” It’s not the only shift for the Mile End empire. Their Manhattan restaurant has been converted from take-out counter to sit-down service, and the Red Hook commissary kitchen, badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy, will take on a more meat-oriented direction. Mile End teamed with Josh Applestone of Fleisher’s meats to craft the new facility with a new focus on butchery. The space devoted to what was once the bakery, which was completely destroyed by the hurricane, will now be what Bermanoff calls a “food-driven event space,” with the capacity to host up to 40 people.
“It’s going to be less about making it an extension of Mile End and being a facilitator for other people’s projects,” Bermanoff said. The event space is due to open mid-October. Until then, you can kick back with a cold one and a pile of those sardines on Hoyt Street.
Perched on a massive dais at Manhattan’s tony Four Seasons restaurant, Edgar M. Bronfman and wife Jan Aronson talked up their new “Bronfman Haggadah” at a crowded reception this week. “Passover’s the one night of the year when children come to the table without being pissed off,” joked Bronfman, whose writings Aronson illustrated in her signature nature-inspired style.
But the real star of the evening was Noah Bernamoff, owner of Brooklyn’s storied Mile End Delicatessen, who created a menu of Passover-themed hors d’oeuvres themed around the reimagined Haggadah. Tapped by the Bronfmans to cater the event, Bernamoff squeezed six staffers into a corner of the Four Seasons’ gargantuan kitchen. Starting with a gefilte-fish cake with chrain cream and pickled carrots, and ending with take-home macaroons, the results were as revelatory as the book that inspired them.
Indeed, Bernamoff told the Forward, “The Bronfman Haggadah was meaningful. I’m so used to settling down with the Maxwell House and going through the motions. This Haggadah talks about life. And the depth of language is incredible.”
“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.”
The truth about brisket is that your bubbe’s is probably the best. It’s probably better than my bubbe’s, and better than your neighbor’s bubbe’s, and while no two brisket recipes are the same, we’re all right when we say our briskets are the best. Past that, there aren’t a whole lot of definitives — even the terminology can get a little shady — which is exactly why putting five brisket aficionados on stage to talk about the comfort meat was more than fascinating.
At Tuesday night’s panel discussion at the Center for Jewish History led by Mitchell David, Executive Vice President of the James Beard Foundation, and organized by culinary curator Naama Shefi, so much was revealed about the dish that no Jewish feast is complete without.
Like many popular Jewish foods, brisket worked its way into the cuisine because of its low cost. “Brisket is implicitly kosher since it’s from the front of the animal,” said New York Times reporter Julia Moskin, “and it was cheap because anything that takes a long time to cook and that can’t be grilled has challenges, especially in a restaurant.” Davis added that while the ribs are also from the front of the animal, their popularity in Jewish cuisine didn’t quite reach that of brisket’s because they could be sold for more money. Daniel Delaney, owner of the barely month-old BrisketTown, in Williamsburg, attested that this was the case in the Texas culture as well, where butchers who emigrated from Germany and Czechoslovakia had trouble selling the slow-cooking cut of meat and ultimately created a way to dry smoke it and preserve it.
If Jewish chefs were rock stars, then the weekend of October 12-14 would be their Lollapalooza, a veritable festival of culinary treats and talk. As part of the NYC Food and Wine Festival, Noah and Rae Bernamoff, the minds behind the Montreal-style deli Mile End, are co-hosting a nine-course Shabbat dinner, complete with bone marrow matzoh balls, deconstructed babka, and braised lamb brisket from many of the top Jewish restaurants across the country. (As the website remind eaters, those with dietary restrictions need not apply.)
And in case you don’t get enough talk about gefilte fish and brisket there, the following day ABC Home, in conjunction with Tablet Magazine and Mile End, will host a Future of Jewish Food panel that will leave you drooling. “Top Chef” judge Gail Simmons tops the list, joined by James Beard Foundation Vice President Mitchell Davis and Time Out Food and Drink Editor Jordana Rothman. Panel moderator Joan Nathan will lead the discussion about Jewish food in the home, followed by a conversation with some of the country’s top deli men, including Wise Son’s Evan Bloom and Peter Levitt from Berkeley’s Saul’s Delicatessen. But after the talking comes the best part: House-made pastrami from each of the featured delis.
Fig, Olive Oil and Sea Salt Challah. Need we say more? [Smitten Kitchen]
An oldie, but a goodie. Apple Raisin Challah. [Epicurious]
Rosh Hashanah, international style. Check out a round up of recipes from Turkey, Iran, Syria and India. [Serious Eats]
Sweets for a sweet new year. Holiday dessert ideas including lavender honey cake and maple cake with brown butter apples. Serious Eats]
Change up your tzimmes recipe, and give this one from Mile End a try. [Serious Eats]
The future of the New York bagel is looking up thanks to efforts by Mile End and Russ and Daughters. [New York Magazine]
Panzanella — a bread and tomato salad — is a favorite summer food. Here, it’s given a Jewish twist — pastrami and rye panzanella. [Epicurious]
If you would rather have your pastrami on rye in sandwich form, check out these delis which Bon App named the best new delis in America. [Bon Appetit]
Kutsher’s Tribeca is launching Brisket Mondays — a different preparation of brisket will be offered each week. We’re so there! [Eater]
Spice advice from Lior Lev Sercaz, our favorite Israeli spice master. [Food 52]
An Israeli chef and a Palestinian chef work side by side in a DC catering company. [Slate]
Noah Bernamoff and Rae Cohen made quite the splash (at least in our circles), when they opened Mile End, a Brooklyn-based Montreal-style delicatessen, where they are pickling, curing and smoke everything from scratch.
The two now plan to expand their business to Manhattan’s Nolita, where they’ll open Mile End Sandwich sometime around April 23 and later this summer, they’ll also open a storefront next to their new Red Hook kitchen, where they make all the food for their Brooklyn and Manhattan locations.
We caught up with Bernamoff to find out more about the new spots, Mile End’s upcoming cookbook and what he thinks of the growing popularity of Jewish food.
In last week’s food section, we gave you 10 amazing Jewish sandwiches from across the country, which in true “top list” fashion sparked some debate over which sandwiches were really the best and which were missing from the list. Luckily, a tidy little poll let readers kvetch constructively by voting for their favorite (with a write-in option). With over 600 votes, favorites were all across the board — and world.
Sufganiyot get a 21st century makeover. Check out the Mexican hot chocolate glazed ones with fluff filling. [Chow]
If you’d rather buy your sufganiyot, stop by Mile End for some raspberry filled poppers. [Fork in the Road]
What happened at the Farm Bill Hack-a-Thon? [Grist]
Get your fry on with these recommendations for how to fry perfectly for Hanukkah. [Epicurious]
Left over corned beef from the deli can be transformed into this deliciously rich corned beef hash. [Serious Eats]
Montreal-style deli Mile End’s smoked meat may be coming to your grocery store. Owner Noah Bernamoff dishes on his plans for packaging his meat in an Nona Brooklyn interview.
Is Spike Mendelsohn’s new deli truck Sixth & Rye kosher? That depends upon who you ask. The Washington Post takes a look.
Kosher meat imported to Israel, may actually be Halal meat, which is taxed significantly less, Haaretz reports.
Octavia’s Porch, the global Jewish cuisine restaurant run by Top Chef alum Nikki Cascone, closes after only six months, reports Eater. Z’’L
A full menu — including corned beef bahn mi and beef bacon — for the New York City-based Kutcher’s restaurant (yes, like the resort in the Catskills), set to open this fall, is finally available. With Octavia’s Porch, Traif, Mile End and Sixth and Rye, Grubstreet wonders, “Is it time to officially declare ‘modern Jewish cuisine’ a trend?”
Jewish chef and pioneer in local food in New York, Rozanne Gold is profiled in this season’s Edible Manhattan.
The iconic 2nd avenue deli is being sued over the name of its Triple Bypass Sandwich. Arizona’s Heart Attack Grill claims they own the rights to the name for their Triple Bypass Burger. The Shmooze has the story.
Guss’ Pickles, which was a fixture of the Jewish Lower East Side food world for 85 years and moved to Brooklyn last year, will return to the area this weekend. They’ll make a one-day appearance at the Hester Street Fare, says the Village Voice.
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.”
Photo: Shulamit Seidler-Feller
Fresn, or the Yiddish word for intense eating (in this case, in the best possible way), is really the only word to describe a day spent feasting and exploring Brooklyn with Jewish cookbook author and New York Times Dining section writer Joan Nathan.
Last Wednesday I, along with food writer Jeffrey Yoskowitz, had the pleasure of touring Joan Nathan, her son, who is a private chef, and two of her friends around the Brooklyn food world to explain why New York’s arguably most-food obsessed borough is drawing national attention.
Full of young passionate foodies, many of whom have hyper-specialized in artisanal comestibles such as pickles, ricotta cheese, chocolate and meats, the borough’s chefs and home cooks are reviving long gone food prep traditions and are mixing them with local ingredients and eco-conscious practices, creating a blend of modern and traditional food that is uniquely Brooklyn.