Wednesday, August 30, 2006

On the Hunt for some New York Soul Food

Footnote to the Boar's Head marketing department on that one- I never thought about it as such, but it seems so elementary. Pastrami and Corned Beef definitely qualify as New York Soul Food. Places like Katz's and the Second Avenue Deli (RIP) are staples to the NYC diet. They provide a real comfort meal that is tough to find once you venture off the Isle of Man(hattan), if you expect even a minimal amount of quality and flavor. When I started working in LA, I knew that I would have to find something to keep the tastebuds happy. I read about a place called Langer's on a few websites and figured I had to try it.

I could not have been happier. I stepped in and immediately felt at home- from the long counter and the red vinyl booths to the smells coming from the deli counter; everything was dead on. I immediately sat down, looked at the huge menu, and wiped a joyful tear from the corner of my eye.

The menu was filled with delights I haven't seen since before I migrated to the West. I hardly knew where to begin. As a newcomer to the area, I took the suggestion of the sign I saw coming in. I ordered the #19 (Pastrami, Swiss, and Russian, with Cole Slaw on the sandwich) on what I sincerely hoped would be a decent rye bread (I have had a hard time finding good bread, being as spoiled as I am from the last three decades of so many carbohydrate options) and a Dr Browns Black Cherry as a chaser.
The plate hit the table and if appearances meant anything, I was definitely in the right place. The meat was piled high, in an even spread across the bread. The juices of the Cole Slaw dribbled enticingly down the side, begging to be licked away.

The first bite assured me that I was right. The Pastrami was perfect- tasty, flavorful, not overly salted, and just enough fat to keep it tender(Pastrami was never really meant to be eaten "extra-lean", no matter what your doctor tells you). The sweet-spicy Cole Slaw only enhanced the levels of taste. And the bread.... oh the bread.... was that a crunch I detected as I took that first bite from the edge? I had to take a second bite off the other edge to be sure. Eureka! Nirvana! Heaven! I had finally found what I had searched for over the past year or so that I was here: a bread that was soft on the inside and had a crisp crust on the outside. The bread was perfect.

Now, before any of my NYC brethren come out here with a baseball bat, I am not drawing comparisons to Katz's Pastrami... like a good parent, I can love them both. Besides, unless I had a side by side, freshly made sandwich from each, it would be tough to call. Hey, look- I'm from NY so Katz's will always be at the top of my list, it's special to me like everything else in that Great City is. But I don't get the option of a Katz's sandwich here (I've called, and no way they'll deliver a sandwich here). In LA, Langer's is number one in the Pastrami department. 'Cause Johnny Tomatoes says so.

Langer's Delicatessen
704 South Alvarado
Los Angeles

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

And so it begins...

Sooo... at the suggestion of my best friend's wife, I am embarking on a side career as a blogger. To give you a little background, I am a 32 year old male of Italian(Sicilian)-Irish descent. I spent a few years behind the line in the restaurant business and I have spent the last 10+ years in the Securities Industry. I'm not sure which of these two career paths helped me develop my palate. Maybe it was neither of these; maybe it was the years of exposure to the fantastic cooking of Mom, Grandma, and Great Grandma... I'll have to give that one a little more thought.
Until recently, I had spent my entire life living in and around the five boros. Now, I live in a place where.... well, let me just say I'm still getting used to the idea of the ocean being on the wrong side and a general lack of rain, even on cloudy days. OK OK- I'll cop to it already- I live in Southern California; during the week I work in LA and I spend the rest of my time in San Diego. Now as a die-hard, hardcore New Yorker, I have had to try very hard to give this place a fair shake- especially in the food department. I have to admit, though, that it is growing on me. I spend a lot of my time looking for good food and pondering the wonders of the universe. I really want to use this blog to share my thoughts about food for the most part, but I'm sure that other things are going to creep in also. Well, like a good "best-man" speech, I'll keep this one short; next time, I promise to write about a food experience in one of the cities I have lived in (which city will depend on how homesick or nostalgic I am feeling)