I think you will thoroughly enjoy Kathie’s article on her delicatessen experiences in NYC several months ago. This article is just a piece of her story in NYC. Come and Eat, Randy
We, Randy Harmsen and myself, are opening a deli and market in Salt Lake City soon.
We are not sure exactly where or when, but we do know why.
This is an evocative journey, building a deli!
“Mom, I can’t wait to taste the pickles,” Aimee whispered to me as we prepared for takeoff on a Jet Blue red-eye flight to New York City. We’ll be there in 6 hours. Before we knew it, we were half way across Nebraska. Not a minute of shuteye…our excitement was at a boiling point.
Pickles and deli food. As many pickles and as much pastrami as we could possibly E-A-T. We had 8 hours to do it. At 5:55am we stepped on the ground in New York City.
“NEXT? What are ya waiting for- ya want a cab or not?” this guy hollered to us. There were 50 people in line behind us now.
Rick Strutz, from Zingerman’s, gave me a few pointers about the city and how to move around in it.
“Ask the following questions,” he said to me over the phone just 2 hours before our flight left SLC. “Ask your cabbie, are you just coming on duty or are you about to finish your shift? How much will you charge to drive us all day? What’s your hourly rate?”
I knew these were important questions to ask. Our day depended on it!
Our turn! We stepped into the cab and OFF it went. Hardly time for questions. We were on a freeway ramp and there were two clowns next to us waving phones at us; we were traveling 60mph within 6 seconds. I leaned forward and passed the handwritten itinerary through the window to our driver and asked,
“How much to take us to these delis and get us back to the airport by 3?” He glanced at the paper.
“All today?” he asked, “No one ever asked me this before, my friends have had these jobs.
I don’t know… aaaaaa,” was his reply.
The two guys driving along side our cab were still going crazy trying to get our attention. I thought, thank you for the NYC welcome wagon!
And I thought, what’s this gonna cost?
“How much do you think?” I asked again. A long pause.
“40 an hour.”
“Ok. And you will get us back to the airport at 3pm?”
Sure, I thought?
The flow of traffic was amazing. The guys in the car next to us have disappeared. Windows were down and it was noisy with traffic and horns already blowing. With every second, the energy seemed to build, quickly. We sat in the backseat of a cab and could feel the tempo of the city. We were already enjoying the experience; laughing, a bit nervous, and almost slap-happy. Sheer excitement.
I asked the driver his name…it took me way too long to understand him- TENZIN. He was a soft spoken, super nice guy from Tibet. He told us he had a 1 year old son. We saw his picture hanging in the cab.
We are sharing this experience with a lovely young father and cab driver. Aimee and I are sweetly pleased.
The look of the city at dawn was revealing. I could smell the city and it was familiar. This trip to experience the NY Deli scene and celebrate Aimee’s 29th birthday was thrilling to me. I loved having Aimee with me in NYC. Sort of a ‘deli maven, want-to-be’ field trip for us to share. Fun.
“Please pull over for coffee when you can Tenzin.”
He managed a 30 second pull-over. When I asked him if I could get him some coffee, he showed me his tea container. He was set for the day.
We jumped out of the yellow cab right in front of a beautiful gem of a bakery. Artisan loaves of freshly baked bread were piled high in the massive window. Baguettes, ciabatta slippers, seeded loaves, pumpernickel, brioche, crusty rye, buns, buns, buns…Yeasty deliciousness. What could possibly be better than this? As we walked into the shop I moved around a young man who was sweeping the flour from the early morning bake off. He didn’t look up. A young woman said “We’re not open. Ten more minutes.” We stepped out of the bakery and Tenzin pointed to another little place across the street. We checked out the beautiful bread in the window again and walked across the street. There were a lot of people on the streets, it was busy and it wasn’t even 7am.
Aimee and I both acknowledged how lucky we were to have Tenzin around. It became obvious to me Tenzin had his eye out for us.
Looking and observing as much as possible was my goal today. Looking, watching, listening and eating was my goal! Some of what we were seeing was familiar from a trip to NY 10 years ago with Kieth and all my girls.
It wasn’t long and we saw the STAGE DELI lights. The sight captured us. The red neon lights pulled us right into the deli dining room from 7th Avenue.
Look at this, I thought, Stage Deli at 7am. Perfect. A 70 year old landmark.
We looked at everything. Aimee was getting her food, “Mom, I’m going to get my pickle,”
“This is a beautiful deli. Have you been working here long?” I asked the friendly guy who greeted us. He held his hand to his knee and we both chuckled. I really felt like chuckling, this is so cool. I smell potatoes, coffee, pickles, and spicy goodness in the air. There were 7 people sitting at tables, chatter was soft. As I looked around, President Clinton was smiling off to the side. His and other famous celebrity photos, including Katherine Hepburn, hung on the walls. The place was spotless, glass was screaming shiny throughout the deli. The red and black, chrome and white brightness were classic deli beauty. The greeter had the deli-man-body-beautiful.
“Would you like a seat? with a stretch of his arm, hand pointing to the dining room. There was no way I could sit down yet.
“We’re going to grab something to-go.”
It smelled wonderfully good in there. Aimee and I were both hungry. Good. I thought I’d start with a knish.
“Round or square?” the deli man asked.
“What’s the hurry, beautiful?” When I turned to answer there was such a big smile across this guys face.
“Good Morning, what’s your name,” I asked him.
“Norman…One square knish?”
“I’ll get it,” Norman said to the 60ish lady behind the counter. “Cold or Hot?”
Norman walked into the kitchen and was back out in 10 seconds. He asked my name and wondered where we were from. I wondered how many times a day he asks that question!
Friendly as hell~the people are.
I asked if I could take a few pictures and obviously he was used to that question too.
“Yeah, sure- with you.” (Great, friendly service.)
Aimee grabbed the camera and took a few pics. He wrapped his arm around my shoulder and gave me a tight shrug for one of the shots. Mirrors made it so I was seeing celebrity pictures everywhere. The quiet lady behind the counter wrapped the knish in foil.
“Sure you don’t want to sit down?” Norman asked. I reached for the foil wrapped package, laid 2 extra bucks in front of her and what I got in return didn’t compare. “Ahhh,” she said, “have a great time in the city” as she nodded toward Aimee. I whispered back to her “It’s my daughter’s birthday.”
What a lovely welcome to the city. Pastries were being brought to the pastry case by people with prodigious smiles. I’m lovinnn’ this. Cherry cheesecake, chocolate cheesecake, pastries filled with creamy cheese to the point of exploding! PLOTZ!
When we stepped outside the deli door, we realized it may be difficult to find Tenzin.
There were at least 100 yellow cabs. Aimee was finishing off her first pickle of the day.
“Mom, taste this pickle and tell me if it’s good.” She’s slowing down…
Tenzin zooms into position. I have the bag of breakfast foods and we find ourselves jumping into the right cab. We’ve got to know which cab is ours for sure! I felt a moment of fear…the fear is gone as fast as it arrived. Tenzin hands me his phone number from a torn corner from my itinerary.
“Just in case,” he said. Maybe he felt that moment of fear too?
I took a bite of the pickle, it slid in my mouth. It was sour, flat, and soft. I couldn’t eat it.
“Sorry Aim, I can’t do it. Did you eat the whole thing?”
“Carnegie Deli” Tenzin said pointing just a couple hundred feet away. Quickly, I unwrapped the knish from the foil and managed a couple of bites. Hot, flaky, and delicious. Oniony, but I couldn’t find the onions with my tongue. Creamy mashed potatoes in a flaky, almost crunchy, thin crust. Great beginning. It was way beyond the pickle taste in my mouth. The potato taste was Yukon!
We are in mid-town on 7th Avenue headed to Carnegie in less than a minute. There’s a little bakery Aimee found with black & white cookies in the window. Aimee slipped into this bakery that was the size of a closet. Fluffies. There were several people in line. I wonder how long it’s been there? Cute bakery from outside. I waited. The cookies tasted like yesterdays cookies, thick, dry, and but ok.
Carnegie Deli. I look down the thin aisle space to see a man walking toward us, asking if we would like a seat in the ‘famous’ dining room. Pure charm everywhere. Food filled deli cases greeted us at the door. All the food was piled high. All kinds of food. Even fruit carved into people and animal shapes. They used spices to spell “deli” on several of the plates. Really an artistic presentation. Funky, corny, and cool!
*** see picture!
Spotlessly clean, shiny, black tiles from floor to ceiling. Lighting was bright and cheery. The smell of coffee!
“Hi, can we get some coffee to go?” (Can’t believe we forgot the coffee at Stage Deli!)
“2 cups to go please.”
“Milk in your coffee?” The simplicity of MILK. No 1/2&1/2, no ‘whole milk’question, no 2%, no skim. I love it. Milk or no milk!
I smell strong barley and capers and the smells of a busy kitchen. Sounds of early morning are starting to resonate with louder voices and the clanging of dishes. It’s starting to get busy in here. People are flowing into Carnegie five or six at a time. I’m smelling pickles and coffee and potatoes. It’s not 8am yet.
“What else?” he asked.
“Matzo Ball soup, a kanish, one of your cabbage rolls, (I think I want one)……I‘d like one of those mugs and 2 bottles of water. Oh and one of your latkes, two! No, just one.
Hey mom, check this out…a pickle candle! You’re kidding, right?
There was food and stuff everywhere, all the way to the ceiling. Sparkling glass and beautiful tiled floors that I could eat from. (It’s way early still.)
Corned beef brisket, knockwurst, cabbage rolls, potato salad, more kinds of potato salad, coleslaw, food piled high, nothing but glass between it and me! My appetite was building. I’m ready for the knockwurst! The staff was helpful, cheerful and friendly. Smiles, well wishes for a nice day, bulging bags with handles. Jesus, did we just buy all this? All to go! We squished between the car next to our cab and immediately our cab smelled like a Jewish deli. Tenzin grinned. When I asked him to join us on the food adventure, he smiled and then rejected the thought with the swing of his head.
That pickle was not what Aimee had been expecting. Maybe no sleep was part of it. The sunrise was not what we were expecting either. The sky was a brilliant red-orange still. I started noshing as I pulled items from the bag. Aimee was quiet. It was a beautiful morning in NYC. We didn’t need our jackets.
Aimee notices the saltbox homes and I admired the stone walls along the freeway. Aimee turns 29 this week. What a great celebration! I find myself singing Stevie Wonder’s song, NY,NY just like I pictured it.…As we drove through the city, piles of garbage bags are on the corners.
People everywhere, dressed up, dressed down. Handsome men and women in black suites and high heels. Homeless people with grocery carts piled 5 feet wide with plastic bags on top of more plastic bags. Their entire existence being pushed down the street in a cart. A lady with bright pink tennis shoes surprised me. I’m very happy to have Aimee with me. Everything is going quite well.
Kevin, Aimee’s boyfriend, had called yesterday with one small request. Take Aimee for a real pastrami sandwich. I think so! I responded.
Birthday lunch at the Pastrami Queen is the plan.
I think of the conversations with Rick.
“Do you know the city?” he asked.
“No.” I said.
#1 Try the meats first.
#2 the pickles…or was it the potato salad(s).
#3 coleslaw or was it #2.
“Find the commonality. Don’t even think about the service.”
“Ok,” I think I said.
“What kind of flow, airport or post office?” The man is a power-house! He knows delis! I enjoyed every minute talking with him. It was his suggestion I fly out to NYC. I’m feeling some serious gratitude. Thank you Rick.
There were lots of pickles. There were bright green cucumbery pickles that were very excellent! They tasted fresh and crisp and crunchy, they were tight, or my cheeks were tight from the vinegary, divinely brined taste in my mouth. We saw barrels of pickles and olives in NYC. Aimee weathered that damn sour pickle.
Our cab had bags filling the back seat already. We had noshed on 10 different deli gems and it was only 11am. I loved the matzo ball soup from Carnegie. The broth was rich, thick and golden just exactly what David Sax wrote in Save the Deli. The soup felt nourishing just to breath it. I held the 48 ounce plastic container carefully as I slurped up the chicken broth. I looked again…just broth. Grabbing the spoon to slice into one of the two matzo balls, I managed to get the bite and ooohhh it was delicious. My kinda food. I loved it. These matzo balls are floaters, I told Aimee. Light with a deep rich flavor, this tastes like ‘wellness’ food, similar to egg-drop soup when I’m needing comfort food at home. Even better.
We’re going to take a break for an hour or so. I asked Tenzin if there was a park nearby?
He pulled up to Madison Square Park. The Toy Building was right across the street! We were on 24th North, Eataly, the restaurant that Rick told me about was right across the street.
50,000 square feet of food. I was stunned to be standing in front of the building reading the posters. They open tomorrow! No way. We were 24 hours early. I felt like taking one of the posters, joked that I might, knew that I wouldn’t. A young man washing windows talked to us for a moment and then…Adam, a very handsome guy, steped out of the front door, asked us if we want a quick tour. He said he wasn’t suppose to, but before we knew it we were inside Eataly.
There were 300 people working frantically and they all wore Mario Batalli orange clogs! We walked swiftly past produce stacked 12 feet high, a stone pizza oven 20 feet across! Dishes stacked high in uncountable piles, glasses lined the towering shelves and colorful red and brown bags being placed one by one. Amazing restaurant equipment, brand spankin’ new ovens, and more ovens, bakery gadgets and tools on counters and everywhere. Wine displays bigger and fuller than I ever seen in my life. A maze of frenetic energy! It was a bees nest. Time to take a breath. In and out through the isles of food, boxes, and still wrapped pallets.
“So much to do in such a short time” Adam said. Famous chefs in our presence, unfamous chefs in our presence, I’m sure of that too! I felt like we were a small part of a revolutionary event. Glorious Food Stuff in every square inch in sight! This is not an exaggeration, 50,000 square feet of it. This was a food revolution experience.
Eataly is the largest food establishment in the world. So glad we didn’t take a break.
Aimee is looking better. That pickle she ate was terrible! Her color is back.
2nd Avenue Deli may be my favorite. (Not exactly sure.) The noodle kugel was divine! Sweet, creamy with a slight kick of sour to it. It looked like a casserole dish, different than at Carnegie. At Carnegie it was more of a pudding with a cinnamon taste. Nice texture and reminded me of something I ate as a child. The feeling I had was ‘this is my favorite food in the world’.The blintz was crepe-like and slightly burned (just like I like it!). Mine had cottage cheese and honey this time. Next time I’ll get it savory. Maybe not. The mandle bread was perfect with my espresso. Here the coffee definitely tastes better, fresher, bigger, the crank-oil stuff I used to serve in Albuquerque. I like rich, dark crank-oil coffee best.
This is one glitsy deli! It’s just beautiful. A lovely man approaches me with that NYC smile and I’m in love! Another sweet, friendly deli guy. I’m smelling the rye in fresh baked bread and vanilla and coffee. Actually, it was espresso. I must have one. I sat at the espresso bar which had 4 tall bar stools up to it.
So, this sweet guy walks right up to me and asks if I want to see the bathrooms! Do I look like I need to pee?
“Sure.” I was happy to see the restrooms.
We walked down the middle of the deli toward the back. The dark wooden/glass/cutained dining room was in the back half, then around a quick corner and wow, he opened the men’s restroom first, to a busy, bright, colorful mural, so busy on the wall it took a moment to find the toilet. Then a big swing to his right and I was in the right place at the right time. I told this fine man I’d be right out. For god sakes, he waited for me! Beautiful bathrooms. Bathrooms matter!
What’s your name I asked.
“Steve. I’ve been here for a long time. We all have, right This?” It sounded like the guys name was This.
“Want me to take your picture?” This asked me.
“Yeah! I love it. Thank you.”
Steve and I chummed up and now I have the proof.
‘Commonality’ I thought to myself. Wonderful People. New York City is bright and beautiful. Those bathrooms are bright and beautiful. When I returned to the espresso bar, Steve asked the young man to run downstairs and bring up a couple of those things in the basement. He slid a shot of espresso to me with a placemat of the old street scene. I couldn’t eat on that. I rolled it up for a souvenir. He then disappeared only to return with a heavenly sight. Two, tiny, 1“x1“ pieces of bakery bliss. I could smell the almond. I could see the raisins. God, I love crispy raisins! I could breath the cinnamon and the crunch was perfecto. Those two nugs were pure delight. Rugalach! And it’s not Christmas. I ordered challah French toast. Yes, it was great and delicious with egg-rich soft bread. The texture and the crust were made perfectly. I was eating pure gold, not fool’s gold! Haymish, I thought. (I should have brought my Deli book with me. I don’t dare say it out loud! I might be wrong.)
Commonality? I asked myself. No kids around, I thought. Excellent food here! Never did see any black chef coats. Saw lots of white aprons, good ole white aprons.
2nd Avenue Deli is a magnificent deli. Everything about it was haymish.
Sure want to try Gefilte Fish. Now, my mind is wandering about the deli/market in SLC. Chocolate babka, bread pudding, black & white cookies, halva, baked apples and oh yeah, applesauce! Choices of potato salad and coleslaw. What is the united vision for us?
Even JELLO has great possibilities! Randy talks about the BEST meat. Now, we will be talking about it with commonality. I’m tasting exactly what he wants. Cool.
All these delis made food extraordinary. The huge impact I felt as I was greeted so warmly, (at every deli we walked into) will not be forgotten! Aimee noticed that at every register there was a CPR kit. (Important Touch) It can be totally overwhelming to see fresh, vibrant food, in my face, every step of the day. I can see me having a heart attack today.
It wasn’t too much- to eat this much- as long as we are walking some, right? We’re mostly eating in the backseat of the cab, so driving around this city, eating to my hearts delight may bring on a heart attack. People must have experience with CPR kits. Glad she noticed. I’m ok!
Even passing by a deli, the aroma says clearly, “we sell deli food here”. It was terribly hard not to stop every time my nose said “food-sublime served there”. We ate latkes stuffed with potatoes and soft onions with a topping of sour cream. Oh Man! I love potatoes. I did have a knish today that wasn’t great. Probably because anything to-go will lack the moment of freshly served quality you get right from the oven. No kvetching. One of the knishes I had earlier today was hot and flaky with that croissant feel on my lips. Biting into hot mashed pototoes at 7am was a treat. It almost tasted like there were potato skins in the mash. And pickles in the mash. Not so though! So much to do and see and eat and smell. I saw chopped up hotdogs wrapped in phyllo dough, hush puppies. I am loving this adventure. How could I possibly be thinking of a 3 decker sandwich? I’m also thinking about kishka and wondering if it’s as good as Cristiano Creminelli’s back in SLC. I love his sausage. I love his Wild Boar the best. Just saw a sign ‘kreplach’. hummmm, now what’s that? Dumplings, I think. Let’s try one. Delicious.
Tenzin pulled over to the curb and looked a little lost. He said, “It’s right around here.” I looked and saw the faded lettering of a recently removed sign. Over there I told him, Dean & Deluca’s. “It’s out of business.”
Just saying those words is like having a dirty blanket thrown over me.
Pastrami Queen next. I love the name. Part of me thought I’m going to walk into a flaming, raging, gay deli. That would be just fine, but that was not the case! It was simply black & white. A cute guy behind the counter asks, “To go or stay”. I looked around at what looked like another tiny, postage stamp size place, and simply said, stay! We sat down. Cozy and way cute! We were snuggled in tight when the same cute kid flies around the counter and asks for our order.
“Pastrami sandwich, we’ll share.” Aimee and I were stuffed. Aimee is feeling lots better, but still food wasn’t exactly what she had on her mind. Still longing for fresh air, Aimee said she liked the place and we were happy to be sitting down to eat this time. While we were waiting, a quiet, 60ish guy comes and sits 6 inches from me.
“What are you having,” he asked. Of course, I replied,
“PASTRAMI” for my birthday queen.”
“It’s my daughter’s birthday and we flew to NYC so she could have a pastrami sandwich today.” “What are you eating,” I asked. I only asked because I couldn’t believe this dude was eating a toasted plain bagel with some cream cheese! That was it.
(Aimee and I both felt like the blueberry girl in Willie Wonka).
“A toasted bagel with cream cheese,” he said. He was the same friendly type we had been running into all day. Commonality and pure joy. Until he asked the next question.
“Do you want to spend the night with me tonight?” What the hellllllll…. Chutzpah….
Aimee noticed again, a CPR kit by the register. We may really need it this time. I’m ready for my heart attack.
Turns out the guy was Barry Friedman. He called his son by phone to come over to our table to meet my beautiful daughter.
“This is Steve, my son. He and I are traveling through SLC in October to go with 12 guys to Vegas.
“Hey Alex,” Barry called to our server,
“Bring these ladies a knish and some coleslaw. Bring a couple of Dr Brown’s over too.” (I was going to order the Cel-ray Tonic, but he brought over two cold cream sodas, that were just perfect.)
“Hey, it’s your birthday, ya want to try some 7 layer cake?” No need to answer. Aimee’s back!
We just kept smiling, big smiles, from ear to ear! Alex brought a monster slice of cake that was nothing short of great. Simpppply great! Amoretto reeked from it. My mouth never did stop watering. It was a true taste sensation! god, I was full, god, I wanted more. I took Aimee’s picture with her mile high pastrami sandwich. I got up to use the restroom and it was the exact opposite from 2nd Ave Deli. I barely had enough room to turn around in there. At the Pastrami Queen the tables were packed close together, 18 seats total. Not all the tables were filled. Barry told me most of his business was catering. He gets the same folks at the same tables almost daily. How cool I thought. This place is full of charm. If my daughter had not been with me, who knows how I would have answered Barry’s original question. It was a charming experience to be sitting with the likes of Barry Friedman. We talked and had a fun time. He took pictures of us and had his son take pictures too. He stayed with us all the way through lunch. Wow, that was fun huh Aimee? He only let me pay for the sandwich, I insisted! I’m coming back for the noodle pudding, I told Barry.
***don’t see these pictures!
“Bye everyone. Thank you very much. Excellent,” my words were not enough.
Barry said, “See you tonight.” We all laughed!
A commonality moment, between mother and daughter….Aimee and I both loved the cream soda, pastrami, coleslaw, knish, 7 layer cake, and the fun we were having at the Pastrami Queen Deli on Lexington Avenue with Barry and his son, Steve. It was one-hell-of-a-great-lunch together. Happy birthday, my darling.
We were traveling all around. So far, Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Jamaica, and now to the Lower East Side to Katz Deli. My mind wanders. I’m full of wonder! I hope I’m getting it…the commonality.
Commonality is in the heart of what seems most familiar. People, Place and Food. People, Food and Place!
I feel the sense of neighborhood in all these lovely delis, people know each other. I’ve been eating traditionally all day. Even as a stranger, I felt included. Amazing. The commonality was as linked a Creminelli sausage coming out of the case at Caputo’s. Fresh knish from Stages to Katz. The corned beef at Carnegie was salty to perfection, peppery and the mustard was so seedy and spiced I had to keep licking my lips. I wondered if that coriander seed on my tongue was from the mustard or the meat? For a brief moment I thought about salami and eggs, pancake style! I couldn’t believe my eyes, I was standing in line at the doorway to enter Katz! “Turn your ticket in when you leave”.
“Okay, Yeah, thanks!”
The place was packed. There was a hustle-bussel happening here that I had not seen at the other delis. It’s about 1pm now and I’m starting to feel the need for more precious time.
There they were, carvers, the famous carver’s from Katz, right before my eyes. After reading most of Save the Deli, I felt like these guys are the real celebrities in NY. The chopping blocks were huge. The guys worked those chunks of meat with a fork, that I still can’t believe. The pastrami was like velvet in my mouth. Like velvet. Didn’t make sense to me when I read David Sax’s description, but it does now. The smoky, coriander was knocking me over! Delicious. The marbled fat made me think of FoodArtSLC. Food is art. I know that. I want to be a Maven! My umami taste-buds are fully comprehending what this day is about. I like it! I want more! I feel like a greedy bitch. I walked around wide-eyed and definitely looked like the tourist I was- snapping pics of wall posters, water stations, tables and chairs, more deli cases and all signage! ***see pictures!
I bought the famous pastrami sandwich and a piece of chocolate babka and ate with sheer delight. I bought an apron to wear at home for god’s sake. There’s a vibe here: one of obsessive compulsive behavior. People line up to the counter knowing exactly what they want. It’s being sliced to order on the spot. Some want it without having to ask. One of the carver’s went right past a customer and gave him to the next line.
Someone didn’t know something?? I don’t know what it was!
“The usual, not too thick, not too thin.”
“We’re not serving prosciutto here!” Everyone within ear shot laughed.
The woman in front of me got pastrami and corned beef with Russian dressing and coleslaw. She knew exactly what she wanted: The Pastrami Fix, flavorful, shiny, smokey, spicy, and steamy. The delis were so similar. Maybe not all the same style, lights, or even menus, but the patrons were similar - they knew what they wanted! The food was similar, it was traditional with an attitude, some better than others. All with dignity and aplomb- and with an air of sweet hospitality. Yes, they cured, cooked, steamed and served great pastrami. They knew the need for double baked Rye. We are simply talking food of magnitude! They are all doing it, Ess Gazunt!
On my kitchen counter I have a stash! 4 slices of Eli’s Brioche, Wild’s Russian pumpernickel, Bascom’s medium barley, Pennoni #101, Zabar’s whole bean espresso at $7.98/lb, Almond cake and pastry filling. I put on my apron! It’s a flashback…
Rick said this market would be over the top! Over the Top was exactly right. Just standing on the block, looking at the Zabar sprawl was intense. Omg. I’m snapping pictures like this before we get in the door. Zabar’s Za-berry and Olive Bar in 5 gallon buckets. Homemade soups, 6 varieties, packaged ready for takeout on a 12 foot x 12 foot deli case. I’ve got to taste the Mushroom Barley Soup before I leave town. Kitchenware, bread, catering, cheese, coffee, iyiyi. Packaging, clean, fresh, tight and fresh again and beautiful! Happenings, videos, from the floor to the ceiling all day long! whew….. Walked right through that front door and smack right into
…heaven. I glanced at the olive buckets and headed five more feet to my right….heaven again.
The cheese counter was amazing. Found my favorite cheese, Juni, from Piedmont, a lactic fermentation cheese that ages from the inside out. Made with juniper berries, a lovely creamy and pungent taste with a surprising bite at the finish. Yum! A happy young lady, Monica was serving up samples.
I asked her favorite cheese, she said ‘Assay Orraty’, another favorite of mine. Monica picked up the chunk of cheese and just cut right through the cellophane wrap to get me a sample. I bought a tiny chunk of sweet, buttery goodness from the French Pyrenees. Nice.
I’ll never unwrap cheese again the way I have been. That was so cool to see her just cut right through the plastic hunk and hand me a generous sample. That’s how to cut cheese! Hard to leave that department, but we had a lot to see. Soups, unbelievable. Are they going to sell all of that today?
The man by my side said, “Yep, we hope to!”
“That’s a ton of soup.”
Everywhere I look is good, plentiful food. I lost Aimee. Found her talking to Neftali, a young man manning the coffee bean section. Great kid who knew what he was doing. A woman asked for a #4 grind on her beans. He laid his hand out to her with the intention of proving his worth, successfully. He ground the beans to perfection. We were all impressed! Coffee is one of my favorite aromas.
I wanted to see fish. The fish case was about 30“ long. I found a 2+ lb piece of kippered wild salmon. I asked the guy to package it with ice. He did. Aimee was horrified. It was getting later in the day, and we did have to get all the way across the country with this fish.
Actually, I lost my head.
And chocolate! Valrhona lined the eye candy counter! Oh, how lovely…these people know food. To the last drop. Zabar’s had everything my heart desired. From a surly NY woman in the corner to a great friendly, ‘please come back soon’ cashier up front! I never made it upstairs. Next time.
Quick trip to China Town and a stroll on Park Avenue, a last minute stop in a consignment store on Madison Avenue and…Tenzin gave the word-
“It’s time to call it a day.”
Time to head out of the city and off to Queens to catch a 4:20 flight. My thoughts drifted to flavors. A smorgasbord of flavors. The Motza Ball soup was divine. The rugalach at 2nd Ave Deli was perfect. (There must be a better word than perfect.) Divine.
Pastrami at Katz. Barry at Pastrami Queen. Taking a tour of Eataly and pictures of Aimee walking on Park Avenue.
Remember everything, I demanded of myself.
Tenzin slipped this information to me as we pulled to “Departing Flights.” I gave him $450.00 for his time. Money well spent. He stayed right with us, even when I couldn’t see him, it felt like he knew where we were at every turn. Lovely man. I bought his kid a t-shirt in China Town. The size 2 with the yellow cab on the front. Hardly enough. We had been in great hands with Tenzin Gompo.
Tired, satisfied and anxious to hit the ground running in SLC….I’m dreaming of the newest deli in our small city!
Back home, I’m hungry for the satisfaction I felt in NYC. Can we possibly create that? I ran down to Caputo’s Deli and Market. Fix breakfast I thought.
I bought 12 slices of finocchiona, same amount of speck, a piece of Prima Donna, a small chunk of Quickes Cheddar, a bit of La Peral and softened English butter. I heated up some La Brea demi baguette, hot and crispy (with a slight burn on the ears). I ground fresh espresso beans from Zabar’s Deli. I took the newspaper wrapped container out of my fridge and ate the remainder of the huge, gushy, seedy blackberries that were the size of my thumb knuckle. I cut up the leftover panforte bianco, (it looked seven centuries old) full of hard, dried fruit and chopped almonds. My fish made it home beautifully, and soon we would be happily noshing on NYC kippered salmon today! Sid, Nicole, Ray and Joe show up for coffee and brunch.
I longed for the food I ate just 2 days ago.
That’s why we are building a deli. We need great food and great comfort. Or one or both again, anyway- there is most definitely a need for another great deli in SLC.
I long for my NYC experience and the companionship of my daughter.
Neither are here. A slight misplaced feeling. I’m not working at Caputo’s today or tomorrow, not anymore. I’m not working at the Broadway Market either. I’m not interacting with people much. I am waiting patiently to know where and when Randy and I and few lucky others will build a fabulous, new deli and market. I miss it all. Some anxiety, but mostly excitement, builds as we start on the Harmsen Deli Project.
I’m missing the delis and markets, the great people and conversation, those I know and those I’ll never see again.
The feeling is one of homesickness.
Outside the stars are turning.
Inside, I keep coming up with names for the new deli:
Maven’s, Bridger’s, Thurman’s, Peak’s Deli, Stockpile, Wallace’s, Harmsen’s, Berry’s, Banquet, Fatted Calf, Ad-hoc, Chal, Nosh. I’ll spare you the rest of the list.
I ate dinner twice last night. I ate a parsley/olive oil/capers/garlic chimichuri blend atop scallops with fresh multi-colored green beans and potato mash and creamed corn soup with crab meat. I ate crab cakes and freshly harvested salad greens with garden-fresh heirloom toms of assorted sizes and colors. I ate lavender panna cotta and homemade peach ice cream. Nothing satisfied.
Maybe it is rootlessness. I’m searching for the familiar, not ghosts in the closet, but Thanksgiving everyday. I am basking in the evocative memory of last week. I’m yearning for part and parcel- to build this gathering place!