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?
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.
There are few Jewish restaurants I love more than Brooklyn’s Mile End. The Montreal-style deli made a name for itself by updating the idea of deli, taking the time and care to smoke its meats in house, bake its own bread and for a long time, drive bagels in weekly from Montreal to hold true to their vision. The team has also been behind some of the most exciting Jewish dinners in the country in recent years.
When Sandy came pounding into New York harbor in November, it devastated homes, communities and the restaurants that fed them. Mile End’s commissary in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn was no exception. The space filled with water, leaving untold damages in its wake.
Eater visited the commissary recently and talked to owner Noah Bernamoff about getting the deli back on its feet. Check out what he had to say in the video below.
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.
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.
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
The sacrificial lamb of the Passover story rarely makes it into the Passover meal other than as a symbol on the Seder plate. But, by serving it as a main course — smoked, smothered in harissa and sprinkled with fresh rosemary — chef Aaron Israel of Mile End Deli enlivened the Passover story for 80 diners at the Seder in the James Beard Foundation pop-up restaurant at Chelsea Market on Tuesday night. The event was one of a number of iterations of the Foundation’s pop-up restaurant, which will host noted chefs for 27 days this spring.
The Passover story, Seder and food are framed in many Jewish circles as things to be reinterpreted each year, by each family or group performing a Seder. Many cooks turn to Sephardic traditions to spice up the standard Ashkenazi staples or even look to other cultures (a co-worker made a Mexican brisket for her Seder this year). But it is rare that cooks look back at Ashkenazi culinary traditions and think how they can reinterpret the Seder classics.
The Beard Seder honored both tradition and innovation through a surprisingly creative and yet familiar meal. Each of the five courses Israel created was inspired by an item on the Seder plate — karpas, haroset, maror, betzah, the egg and zeroah, or the lamb shank. The dishes, which were served communally at long tables, looked deep into tradition for inspiration, bringing modern food sensibilities to the table as well as a handful of ingredients from other traditions.
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