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.
Who knew leafy greens could be so telling?
The romaine lettuce you’ll see these days on plates at the Carnegie Deli aren’t just a sign owner Marian Levine has stopped using iceberg lettuce. These leaves mean that she has also gotten rid of Sanford “Sandy” Levine, her philandering husband of 22 years. (Apparently Sandy, who used to run the deli’s daily operations before his wife learned of his 15-year affair with one of the deli’s waitresses, refused to update to romaine.)
Romaine is now on the menu, and Sandy and his paramour, Penkae (Kay) Siricharoen, have exited the famous delicatessen, but Marian is far from happy. Perhaps even worse than having taken Marian’s husband, Siricharoen has allegedly helped herself to Carnegie Deli inventory and recipes.
“Would You Make This?” is a sporadic new column where personal chef Alix Wall evaluates a new cookbook by making some of its recipes, sharing them with friends and asking what they think of the results.
The truth about deli food like pastrami, most of us tend not to eat it very often (and for that, our cardiologists thank us). When we do want a pastrami sandwich, it’s much easier to go out for one, rather than brine your own meat for five days, power up a smoker and wait for hours until you have a perfect piece of meat. Same goes for rolling and boiling bagels and baking rye bread or chocolate babka. But it’s nice to know that if we want to, the recipes for all these classics are in the new book “The Artisan Jewish Deli at Home” by Nick Zukin and Michael C. Zusman.
Zukin is the “Zuke” behind Kenny & Zuke’s, a popular artisan Jewish deli in Portland, Oregon (though he’s since left) and Zusman, is a state court judge by day, food writer by night, and serious amateur baker in his spare time.
Before deli fans start screaming “What do Portlanders know from deli?” this book is not about the Jewish deli of yore. It’s about the new breed of delis that are popping up in places like Portland, Seattle, Brooklyn and San Francisco. The introduction talks about how these new delis, like Kenny and Zuke’s, Shopsky’s, Mile End and Wise Sons are making everything by hand, not serving meat portions the size of one’s head — and gasp — even serving more vegetables. Recipes from all of these places are included in the book, though not surprisingly, the majority are from Kenny and Zuke’s.
As someone who grew up on my grandmother’s kreplach and stuffed cabbage but never tried making them on my own, I was glad to see such classics included. But I was equally glad to see that a wild mushroom kreplach filling was given in addition to the meat.
Along with making my own pastrami, I was excited to test Cabbage Rolls in Tomato Sauce (though I know them as stuffed cabbage) from Nick Zukin and Michael C. Zusman’s “The Artisan Jewish Deli at Home”.
This is a dish I grew up on; my Russian-born grandma made it all the time. And when I thought about it, given that she died in 2002, and stopped cooking much before that, and my mom never made it, I realized I probably hadn’t eaten it in over 20 years.
Ground beef is mixed with onion, barely-cooked white rice, garlic, parsley, raisins and eggs, and rolled into blanched cabbage leaves, and then baked in a tomato sauce.
The amount of brown sugar in the tomato sauce had me guessing that I would find the dish too sweet, and I did. However, biting into it provided such a sense of nostalgia for my Babushka’s cooking that I could overlook it, especially since this is how the dish is traditionally made.
“I can see why my ancestors would have made this,” said Sam, one of our friends who tasted the dish at a Shabbat dinner at our house. Unlike the Reubens, she felt this was much healthier and more balanced. She felt it was solid, get-you-through-the-winter kind of food.
Our other guest Adam appreciated that for Jewish food, it was low on carbohydrates, and didn’t have to be smashed between two pieces of bread. Additionally, he happens to love cabbage. “I think cabbage gets a bad rap,” he said.
He too thought the sauce was too sweet, and would have preferred taking it into a more savory direction, perhaps with some Worcestershire sauce.
By infusing a mod American eatery with Jewish soul, Todd Ginsberg has created one of Atlanta’s hottest spots: The General Muir. The restaurant, which is named for a ship that carried holocaust refugees to New York, opened in January and set bloggers abuzz with its house-cured corned beef, matzo-ball soup, latkes, and brisket with kasha varnishkes. Non-Hebraic fare like kale salad, fried avocado, and poutine have been smash hits, too.
And the eatery is about to get even busier with its coronation as the city’s best new restaurant by Atlanta magazine. While Ginsberg’s humble about the honor, he couldn’t have been too surprised; Bon Appetit included The General Muir on its own list of America’s best new restaurants, and Bocado — where Ginsberg helmed the kitchen until last year — won similar laurels from Atlanta in 2009.
An alumnus of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park Ginsberg took a rare break to chat with the Forward about pastrami, proper pronunciation of Yiddish foods, and the surprising similarities between Southern and Jewish cooking.
Since Katz’s, that holiest of holy sites for pastrami worship, opened in 1888, Yiddish theatre actors, immigrants from countless countries, politicians, movie stars and grandparents visiting from Florida have come to fress on the deli’s superb sandwiches. The Jewish food landmark turns 125 this weekend, so to celebrate, we took a walk down memory lane, from the early days before the deli was called Katz’s to Meg Ryan’s “Oh, my God” moment to the deli’s first-ever Passover Seder this year.
This weekend, Katz’s kicks off its birthday party, hosting a Shabbat dinner that melds deli with another long-standing Jewish tradition: Chinese food. Chef Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese, who recently won a James Beard Award, will put his own spin on Katz’s classics. He’ll be joined by Bill Telepan of Telepan, Joey Campanaro of The Little Owl and pastry chef Sarabeth Levine.
The anniversary celebration continues with live music at Katz’s this Saturday and a pastrami-eating competition on Sunday. Too much of a good thing? Never! Ess gesunt!
Share your favorite Katz’s Deli memory with us in the comments!
(To scroll through the years of Katz’s, click on the right of the images below.)
Seth Meyers may have just been named as the next host of “Late Night” on NBC but we have our eyes on someone a little different. Meet David Manheim, foul-mouthed waiter at iconic Katz’s Deli by day, aspiring TV host by night. Not waiting for kismet to work its magic, Manheim, chronicles his life at the soon-to-be 125 year old deli on his blog “The Last Jewish Waiter.” Only blogging since April 20th, Manheim’s voice is a breath of fresh air in its unapologetic hatred of his job, his mistreatment (or some might say, New York treatment) of his customers and his comedic take on Jews and gentiles alike.
With an analysis of every type of customer, Manheim’s most interesting takes are those on the different types of Jews he serves. There are the easygoing, rich Jews who relocated to the South now making a pilgrimage back to the New York deli of their roots who delight in his mistreatment of them. And the Jews visiting from out of town impressing their family with their knowledge of all thing Katz. “I have to say, these guys crack me up,” writes Manheim, “they have determined that a square knish from Katz’s will finally open the dormant Jewish gene in their half-Jew daughter. I feel like they think one bite and the girl will be reciting a Haftarah portion.”
No doubt Manheim, who says he is 38, is among scores of Jewish waiters who hate their customers and have more than a few colorful words for them, the only difference is that he’s the only one with enough chutzpah to say it to your face. The controlled DMV-like chaos at Katz is unacceptable at a restaurant, writes Manheim, but he revels in it, “I love it! I throw silverware at the customers, refuse to serve certain items, and am generally nasty. With a certain understood kindness at the bottom.” Charm us, he does.
Check out his first video below:
Bring a taste of Israel home this weekend with this recipe for baked za’atar eggplant fries with lemon tahini dip. B’tayavon! [The Kitchn]
…and this pomelo and arak cocktail courtesy of our friends at the Kubbeh Project. [New York Magazine]
Is a pastrami and egg sandwich a good idea? You decide. [Serious Eats]
…And what about pastrami on a bialy? [Serious Eats]
DIY seltzer and soda in all their fizzy glory. [Diner’s Journal
Are you a Michael Pollan fan? So are we. His family is putting out a cookbook! [Grub Street
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.
Kutsher’s Tribeca patrons who pay close attention to their credit card bills might have noticed that they were being charged for a whole lot more than upscale gefilte fish and matzo ball soup. That’s because one of the restaurant’s waiters was allegedly stealing their information and using it to go on a $126,000 spending spree.
The waiter, Jaiquan Ibraheem, who has not been employed at Kutsher’s since last spring, was arrested on Tuesday and charged with multiple counts of grand larceny and scheme to defraud. The accused allegedly used a skimming device to steal the credit and debit card numbers of 120 Kutsher’s guests between February 1 and April 30, 2012. Accounts at a variety of banks and credit card companies were involved, but the vast majority were Chase credit card accounts.
All this must be hard for Kutsher’s to digest. The restaurant’s publicist explained that Kutsher’s waiters are instructed to take patrons credit cards directly to the terminal for payment, and then directly back to the table, and that the restaurant has never run into any problems with this — until now. An official statement from Kutsher’s emphasizes its cooperation with the NYPD on the case.
Pancakes for Shabbat breakfast? Yes, please. Ruth Reichl shares her favorite recipe. [RuthReichl.com]
Next month’s TEDxManhattan is all about food — and you can stream it! [Grub Street]
National hot pastrami sandwich day. Really, everyone should celebrate this. [Eatocracy]
The LA Times opens its recipe vault. Jackpot! [LA Times]
This is our kind of art exhibit. A Chelsea gallery will be displaying a collection of food photos. [New York Times]
As cookbook author Melissa Clark says, “Thanksgiving is just one big excuse to eat lots of stuffing.” For me, stuffing is simply a better way to experience the practice of dunking a piece of bread into a bowl of chicken soup. You get more doughy bready goodness, less of a mess, and in my experience, tons more flavor.
Such is the principal behind the following recipe.
This challah and pastrami stuffing is slightly inspired by one memorable midnight trip to Katz’s Deli where I sat happy as a clam and drunk as a sorority girl, dunking my pastrami sandwich into my friend’s matzo ball soup and making a massive and delicious mess. If only I just had a bowl of this stuffing, there might have been one less sloppy drunk girl on the Lower East Side that night.
The pastrami in this recipe is balanced by the sweetness of honey and dried currants. It is truly a delicious mix of flavors, and I hope it will give you something to be thankful for.
Pastrami is the staple of Jewish deli food: unctuous and fatty, thinly sliced and layered over a good seedy rye with just a dab of spicy mustard and, it makes one of the more perfect, simple sandwiches. But now the workhouse of the delicatessen is migrating into unusual territory. Chefs around the country have begun to experiment with pastrami in a variety of dishes. From crunchy and chewy pastrami nachos to frothy pastrami ramen, the humble sandwich filler has gotten a whole new culinary reputation as a versatile protein and a clever bacon replacement, too. Below, we present some of our favorite pastrami innovations.
Would you try these pastrami concoctions? Let us know in the comments.
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]
This weekend “Chosen Food: Cuisine, Culture And American Jewish Identity,” an exhibit at the Jewish Museum of Maryland opens. “Not only does it look at what we eat… but also where we eat it and how food defines us as a people.” [Baltimore Jewish Times]
Pastrami is no longer just for the deli. You can make it in your own backyard. [Serious Eats]
Food & Wine seeks to name the top 25 cookbooks of the year. What’s your pick? [Food & Wine]
One of the best parts of the internet is free online classes like the 13 week long course “Edible Education: The Rise and Future of the Food Movement” hosted by UC Berkeley. [The Kitchn]
New York has its fair share of iconic Jewish delicatessens — there’s Katz’s, Carnegie, and even the new, hipper Mile End in Brooklyn — but there’s only one kosher deli that stands up to the others: The 2nd Avenue Deli.
The deli — which was on Second Avenue and 10th Street from 1954 to 2006 and reopened in 2007 in Murray Hill — is known for its decadently delicious food — like towering pastrami sandwiches, the Instant Heart Attack (where deli meat is sandwiched by two potato pancakes), and fried chicken skins (a.k.a. gribenes). It’s also famous for its colorful waitstaff, who do their fair share of kibbitzing.
This week, the deli opens a second location on the Upper East Side. We spoke to owner Jeremy Lebewohl, 29, about his “new baby,” his family business and his brother’s surprising appearance in Penthouse magazine.
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.”
This month’s issue of Saveur focuses on all variates sandwiches and of course takes a look at the great Katz’s deli. They share Katz’s recipe for chopped liver and a great video on the 2nd Avenue Deli’s pastrami.
Can you handle more pastrami? If so, check out Jamie Geller’s recipe for pastrami kugel on kosher.com.
In Rome, writer and sommelier Katie Parla, finds culinary traces of the former Jewish community of Libya, on The Atlantic.
When I moved to Los Angeles last year, the first thing I noticed was that everybody here seems busy (but nobody ever gets anything done). The second thing I noticed was that Los Angeles is a pastrami town.
I don’t just mean the famous delis like Langer’s and Canter’s. In Los Angeles, pastrami is often removed from a Jewish context. On the Eastside, in Latino neighborhoods like Lincoln Heights, pastrami is so commonly offered alongside burritos and tacos, the deli meat almost seems Mexican.
So then how did pastrami come to be associated with Mexican food? Perhaps these burrito stands or drive-thrus had once been staffed by Jews? Or had pastrami, like polka, been brought to Mexico by emigrants from Eastern and Central Europe?