Happy Heartburn

March 18th, 2015 § 3 comments

In HG’s various nostalgia drenched accounts of the long deceased Romanian-Jewish restaurants (called “Romanian Broilings”) of New York’s Lower East Side, HG failed to mention that Pastrami, the delectable, peppery smoked meat, was introduced to the United States by these restaurants. The delightful author, Patricia Volk, claims her grandfather, a Romanian-Jewish immigrant and proprietor of a Delancey Street delicatessen/eatery, was the first to serve Pastrami, therefore ushering in happy heartburns for generations of American Jews and discerning non-Jewish fressers. Food historians claim Pastrami derives from Basterma, a dried beef beloved by Turkish warriors who brought the delicacy to Romania. (Pastrami is mentioned, favorably, along with Mamaliga [polenta] and Karenezelach [ground beef, onion, garlic cigar shaped hamburgers] in the rousing Yiddish music hall favorite, “Romania, Romania”.) Alas, first rate Pastrami is now tough to find — beyond the speciality Jewish delis like Katz’s on Houston Street and Langer’s in LA, but the majority of Pastrami being served is commercially made and a pale comparison to the real thing. Patricia Volk’s grandfather started a great tradition. The family fed New York in splendid restaurants for 100 years. Morgen’s (closed in 1985), run by Patricia Volk’s parents, was an HG favorite. Located in the Garment Center, it was always filled with designers, lovely models and cloak-and-suit big shots. (Read Volk’s books, “Stuffed” and “Shocking Life.” Also, don’t miss books by Volk’s pal (and HG/BSK’s) Stephanie Pierson. She’s a world class wit. Her latest is “The Brisket Book.”).


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§ 3 Responses to Happy Heartburn"

  • Charles Curran says:

    Funny you should mention Katz’s deli. David Lebovitz’s recent post lists many Deli’s, but omits Katz’s. One of the commenters pointed this out to David. He replied that on his last visit he was very disappointed. I have only been there 3-4 times, but I was never disappointed.

    • Jeremy says:

      Charles — SJ here (HG’s son and collaborator). Over the last couple of years my enthusiasm for Katz’s pastrami has waned — at first I wasn’t sure if it was just a case of my taste buds reaching a tipping point with pastrami, but after two separate visits to Montreal’s Schwartz’s and a rendezvous with their glorious smoked meat, I dare say that Katz’s is losing their mojo. First off, the quality of rye bread at Katz’s has fallen into the gutter — its not even rye bread at this point! — and the pastrami itself has lost some ineffable character — maybe a bit over-steamed, a bit under-spiced…not sure. That isn’t to say that Katz’s isn’t a worthy destination — it is still one of the great NYC institutions blending tourists, hugely obese regulars and just a good, strong crew of people. Also, their hot dogs remain stellar, and their matzoh ball soup in quite under-rated as their broth is redolent of all the scraps of meat cooked into it.

      • Charles Curran says:

        SJ. Thanks for your input. I probably should have included the fact that it has been at least 15-20 years since our last visit to NYC and Katz’s.

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