Monthly Archives: July 2013

Jewish Soul Food — A Guide for Goyim

Delicatessen
Oy Gevalt! We’ve heard a lot lately about how Jewish delicatessens are a dying breed in New York. But here in LA, delis are holding their ground, and perhaps even thriving. Yes, iconic deli Junior’s in Westwood closed at the beginning of the year, but it was immediately replaced by Lenny’s Deli, which doesn’t seem that different.

While adventurous Angelenos love checking out restaurants that serve exotic cuisines they are not familiar with like Bolivian, Laotian and Napalese, many don’t realize that beyond the sandwiches and bowls of matzo ball soup, Jewish delis offer delectable Eastern European specialties unfamiliar to a lot of foodies, especially non-Jews. Below are some of my favorites.

As for the best places to consume these dishes, there are many divergent views in the LA Jewish community, which reminds me of the saying “With two Jews, you get three opinions.” Brent’s (in Northridge and Westlake Village) is my favorite Jewish deli in the city and has the best food overall. I also love Canter’s on Fairfax, especially because of its excellent bakery, its cool retro look and the fact that it’s open 24 hours for late night noshing and kibitzing. Langer’s (Downtown) ranks next on my list because of its amazing pastrami. My other favorites are Billy’s Deli (in Glendale and Torrance), Nate ‘n Al (in Beverly Hills) and Greenblatt’s (in West Hollywood). UPDATE: Billy’s Deli is closed. What a shonda (shame)!

Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup

Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup from Brent’s Deli


1. Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup Every fresser and his brother orders Matzo Ball Soup at a deli, but I prefer this hearty soup instead. The best versions contain succulent pieces of braised short rib called “flanken.”

Kasha Varnishkes

Kasha Varnishkes from Langer’s Delicatessen-Restaurant


2. Kasha Varnishkes Like two inseparable Jewish friends from the old country, this dish is a classic combination of Kasha, a cereal usually made of buckwheat, and buttery bowtie pasta.

Cheese Blintzes

Cheese Blintzes from Brent’s Deli


3. Blintzes These are thin crepes wrapped around a filling, which is usually sweetened ricotta or farmer’s cheese, but can also be potato, blueberry or cherry. They’re topped with powdered sugar and served with sour cream and jam.

Bubbe made a kishka

Bubbe made a Kishka! But this one is from Brent’s Deli.


4. Kishka aka Stuffed Derma This was made with cow intestines back in the day, but now it has a sausage casing and is stuffed with a filling of flour, carrots, onions, celery and paprika. It tastes like stuffing and is usually served with gravy.

What am I?  Chopped Liver?

What am I? Chopped Liver? Yes, from Canter’s Deli.


5. Chopped Liver Schmear some on a slice of freshly baked rye bread and place a piece of raw onion on top and you’re in business. I also like to eat my chopped liver with hot and sweet mustard.

Fried Kreplach with Gravy from Brent's Deli

Fried Kreplach with Gravy from Brent’s Deli


6. Fried Kreplach A kreplach is a dense doughy dumpling filled with ground meat. It’s often served in a bowl of chicken soup instead of a matzo ball. Kreplachs are amazing fried up and topped with sauteed onions.

Beef Knish from Billy's Deli & Cafe

Beef Knish from Billy’s Deli & Cafe


7. Knish This is essentially a little baked hand pie made with a thin layer of dough surrounding a filling of either mashed potatoes, ground meat, kasha, sauerkraut, mashed sweet potatoes or cheese.

Stuffed Cabbage from Canter's Deli

Stuffed Cabbage from Canter’s Deli


8. Stuffed Cabbage aka Holishkes It can be described as meatloaf which has been wrapped in cabbage and cooked in a sweet and sour sauce. What’s not to like?

Black & White Cookie

Black & White Cookie from Brent’s Deli


9. Black & White Cookie Really more cake than cookie, this saucer-shaped treat has chocolate icing on one half and vanilla icing on the other half. Jerry Seinfeld referred to these cookies as “two races of flavor living side by side in harmony.”

Poppyseed Hamataschen from Brent's Deli

Poppyseed Hamataschen from Brent’s Deli


10. Hamantaschen My favorite Jewish bakery dessert is named after the triangular hat of a real life villain named Haman who tried to exterminate the Jews in ancient Persia. We celebrate his defeat by “eating his hat.” These cookies have fillings such as apricot, prune, cherry, chocolate or my favorite — poppyseed.

Halvah

Halvah

11. Halvah This dense and flakey confection made with sesame seeds is an acquired taste. You can usually find them at the deli cashier’s counter next to chocolate covered raspberry jelly candies.

Dr. Brown's Soda

Dr. Brown’s Soda


12. Dr. Brown’s Soda This is the drink of choice at a Jewish deli. The flavors are Black Cherry, Cream or Cel-Ray, an old school celery seed soda that was originally developed as a tonic to promote good health. L’Chayim!

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Brent's Deli on Urbanspoon
Canter's Deli on Urbanspoon
Brent's Deli on Urbanspoon
Langer's Deli on Urbanspoon
Greenblatt's Delicatessen on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Beverly Hills, Glendale, Mid-City, Northridge, Torrance, West Hollywood, Westwood

Dog Day Afternoon

Umami Chili Dog
In the age old power struggle of hot dog vs hamburger, Umami Burger finally throws a bone to wieners. Umami Burbank, the 17th location of the ubiquitous chain, has all of the eatery’s usual hamburger offerings, but also specializes in hot dogs. The inspiration for this frankfurter focus is Umami Burbank’s locale, the former digs of Papoo’s Hot Dog Show, a Burbank/Toluca Lake institution that shuttered a couple years ago after a 62-year run.

Just like Papoo’s, Umami Burbank offers seven different hot dogs and a specialty burger called the Show Burger. These dogs have a lot in common with Umami’s signature burgers: a delicious proprietary blend of meats, a brioche bun sweetened with milk and honey, and many of the same delicious toppings. Hot dog versions of Umami burger specialities include the Truffle Dog, the spicy Hatch Dog and my favorite, the Manly Dog with beer-cheddar cheese, minced bacon, onion strings, house ketchup and mustard spread. And if you’re looking for something entirely new, check out the tasty Chili Dog or the gourmet corn dog called “The Burb.”

In further tribute to Papoo’s, Umami Burbank retained much of its building’s exterior, as well as some of the interior’s mid-century design, which it classed up with a chandelier, tufted leather booths and bar stools, damask wallpaper and large framed photographs of large dogs. There’s also a nice patio to dine in when it’s not a thousand degrees outside; perfect for that low-key pitch meeting with an exec from nearby Warner Bros., NBC Universal or Disney.

Umami Burbank is located at 4300 W. Riverside Drive in Burbank.

Looks a lot like Papoo's Hot Dog Show

The former location of Papoo’s Hot Dog Show


The Manly Dog with beer-cheddar cheese, minced bacon, onion strings, house ketchup and mustard spread

The Manly Dog with beer-cheddar cheese, minced bacon, onion strings, house ketchup and mustard spread


The Truffle Dog with roasted garlic aioli, house truffle cheese and truffle infused port onions

The Truffle Dog with roasted garlic aioli, house truffle cheese and truffle infused port onions


The Original Dog with roasted tomato, crispy parmesan and caramelized onions

The Original Dog with roasted tomato, crispy parmesan and caramelized onions


The Show Burger with Hak's BBQ sauce, onion strings, minced bacon and beer cheese

The Show Burger with Hak’s BBQ sauce, onion strings, minced bacon and beer cheese


Fried Pickles with Jalapeno Ranch

Fried Pickles with Jalapeno Ranch


Peanut Butter Cakewich

Peanut Butter Cakewich


PB&J Ice Cream Sandwich

PB&J Ice Cream Sandwich


Burgers and beer at the bar

The Bar


Back Patio

The Patio



Umami Burger on Urbanspoon

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Wonder-Ama

Mom's GreenEnchiladas
Angels Flight is an LA curiosity located in the heart of downtown. Built in 1901, it is known as “The Shortest Railway in the World,” and for 50¢, takes you up 298 feet to the top of Bunker Hill. A couple blocks away, on 4th Street, is another elevation of sorts. Bar Amá is a new restaurant from Chef Josef Centeno (Bäco Mercat and Lazy Ox Canteen) that serves elevated Tex-Mex fare.

Often described as bastardized Mexican cuisine from this side of the Border, Tex Mex is comfort food that is usually cheap and best enjoyed with a cold cerveza. For Chef Centeno, it’s the food that he grew up with and, at Bar Amá, he refines several Tex Mex classics and puts a new spin on others. There is of course Queso, a gloppy liquid cheese dip that is a Tex Mex staple and delectable Puffy Tacos filled with yummy Carne Guisada. My favorite dishes are an amazing Pork Belly Chicharron with Poblano Cream and Lime, and a decadent dessert of Leche Quemada (Burnt Milk) Pudding with Graham Cracker, Fennel Pollen, Peanut and Almond. Other menu items, such as the Rancho Gordo “Borracho” Beans with Beer, Cilantro and Bacon and the Albondigas with Corn & Sweet Potato Cake, Tomatillo and Baked Egg, sounded better than they tasted.

Not surprisingly, the elevated cuisine at Bar Amá is pricier than the grub at most Tex Mex eateries. However, you’re dining in a nicer than normal space; a very cool industrial chic room with lots of reclaimed wood and southwest tiles. Also worth mentioning is the impressive bar stocked with an extensive array of high end tequillas and mezcals. For extra fun, you can follow your dinner with a ride on Angels Flight and experience a bit of LA history.

Bar Amá is located at 118 W. 4th St., Los Angeles (Downtown). Don’t confuse it with fellow Downtown newbie Alma.

Tex-Mex Queso with Avocado, Sour Cream and Salsa

Tex-Mex Queso with Avocado, Sour Cream and Salsa


English Peas & Black Grapes with Crema, Arbol and Pea Tendril

English Peas & Black Grapes with Crema, Arbol and Pea Tendril


Carne Guisada Puffy Tacos

Carne Guisada Puffy Tacos


Albondigas with Corn & Sweet Potato Cake, Tomatillo and Baked Egg

Albondigas with Corn & Sweet Potato Cake, Tomatillo and Baked Egg


Fideo with Octopus & Kielbasa with Toasted Vermicelli and Pepitas

Fideo with Octopus & Kielbasa with Toasted Vermicelli and Pepitas


Leche Quemada (Burnt Milk) Pudding with Graham Cracker, Fennel Pollen, Peanut and Almond

Leche Quemada (Burnt Milk) Pudding with Graham Cracker, Fennel Pollen, Peanut and Almond


Industrial Chic/Southwest Decor

Industrial Chic/Southwest Decor


Angels Flight

Angels Flight



Bar Amá on Urbanspoon

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Dead Chefs Society

The Residency Umamicatessan
Something very cool and collegiate is going on downtown at UMAMIcatessen. There’s a twelve-seat bar in the back of the restaurant that has been converted into “The Residency.” Here, visiting chefs create intimate and unique themed dinners. The latest is the Dead Chefs pop-up series presented by talented chef Micah Wexler (of the late great Mezze) and his partner Mike Kassar. Each meal is five courses, with optional wine pairing, inspired by the cuisine of a deceased chef. Wexler precedes each course with information about the legendary chef and an explanation of the dish you are about to consume. It’s kind of like that fun seminar that everyone wanted to take when you were in college with the cool visiting professor.

I recently attended one of these dinners; an homage to Maestro Martino di Como, a 15th-Century Italian culinarian who was the Western World’s first celebrity chef. The meal (pictured below) was molto buono and its highlight was a whole roasted suckling pig that Wexler carved table-side. Future Dead Chefs honored will include Julia Child, Jean-Louis Palladin, Sylvia Woods (the Queen of Soul Food) and Chen Kenmin (the father of Chinese Sichuan cooking).

The Residency at UMAMIcatessen is located at 852 S. Broadway, Los Angeles (Downtown). The Dead Chef dinners are at 7:15 and 9:00 every Thursday night until August 15th. Each dinner is $60 per person plus $30 for optional wine pairing.

Sgombri con Zucchini e Finocchi (Mackerel and Summer Squash with Wild Fennel Sauce)

Sgombri con Zucchini e Finocchi (Mackerel, Summer Squash with Wild Fennel Sauce)


Zanzarelli con Fava e Zafferano (Bread Soup with Fava Beans and Saffron

Zanzarelli con Fava e Zafferano (Bread Soup with Fava Beans and Saffron)


Pasta with Arugula Pesto

Pasta with Arugula Pesto


Maialino da Latte Arrosto (Roasted Suckling Pig, Garlic, Herbs and Offal Sauce)

Maialino da Latte Arrosto (Roasted Suckling Pig, Garlic, Herbs and Offal Sauce)


Crostata di Madorle (Almond Tarte with Date and Coffee and topped with Creme Fraiche)

Crostata di Madorle (Almond Tarte with Date and Coffee and topped with Creme Fraiche)


Chef Micah Wexler

Chef Micah Wexler educates and feeds you


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Filed under Downtown