The Tasting Panel magazine

November 2018

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Page 38 of 124

38  /  the tasting panel  /  november 2018 WHAT WE'RE by Merrill Shindler A couple years ago, a wonder- ful documentary named Deli Man lamented what seemed to be the impending death of the classic Jewish deli. Where at one time there were about 15,000 Jewish delis in New York alone, today there are roughly a dozen. Rising rents and meat prices, combined with generational shifts, seemed to mark the decline of corned beef on rye and chicken soup with matzo balls. And then, as things often happen, the cuisine came full circle: harkening back to its roots while embarking full steam into the future with cuisine that could be called Nouvelle Deli. This rebirth continues as trendy new spots appear on both coasts; in some cases, they split the difference between old and new, as with the Friedmans deli chain in New York, where you can order your hand-cut pastrami on rye alongside Korean chicken wings, tuna poke, and a kale salad with lemon- maple vinaigrette. But the brave new world of deli goes much further afield than that. At the Mile End Deli, also in New York, you'll find smoked turkey and turkey leg rillettes on the Grandpa sand- wich, while the spicy tuna sandwich is flecked with gribenes (chicken cracklings) and fried capers. The tabbouleh is made with quinoa, and yes, there really is bacon—formerly a forbidden ingredient in Jewish delis— in the chicken schnitzel BLT. At Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen in San Francisco and Berkeley, there's an adult egg cream made with coffee stout and a Michelada flavored with spicy horseradish. Vegetarians, meanwhile, can opt for the roasted mushroom reuben or the vegetable hash for breakfast. The deli smokes its own pastrami, bakes its own bagels, and makes its own celery soda, too—a shock for those of us who grew up with Dr. Brown's Cel- Ray. Who thought celery soda would actually be hip one day? It's clear that in the era of the nou- velle Jewish deli, anything is possible and tradition is a vaguely remembered notion. At Freedman's in the artisti- cally inclined Silver Lake neighbor- hood of Los Angeles, deli devotees can order previously unheard-of combina- tions like corned beef tongue hash with a fried egg; avocado and chicken skin on toasted rye; an appetizer plate of yellowtail sashimi with pickled green tomato salad; and potato latkes with cured sea trout. Similarly, the unconventional menu at Feldman's Deli in Salt Lake City, Utah, includes bagel beignets and fried egg on a latke with Taylor ham; sautéed beef tongue with onions, peppers, and mozzarella on a hoagie roll; and a potato knish served with ketchup. The diners of yore may have protested, but at least the Jewish deli lives—and if a little ketchup and bacon is all it takes, it's a blessing. The Deli Strikes Back PHOTO: DYLAN + JENI Avocado toast—a perennial favorite in Los Angeles— sees the addition of crispy chicken skin at Freedman's in the city's Silver Lake neighborhood. Breaking out of the box: At Mile End Deli in New York, the chicken schnitzel BLT comes with bacon, an ingredient rarely found in traditional Jewish delis.

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