BSK Burger Beats The Best

May 21st, 2015 § 2 comments § permalink

New Yorkers are vociferous in lauding the town’s pastrami sandwiches. The sad truth is that the art of pastrami has been faltering in New York for years and it is now possible that the best of all pastrami is found at Langer’s, a traditional Jewish delicatessen in a shabby Los Angeles neighborhood. Runner up to Langer’s is Schwartz’s Hebrew Delicatessen in Montreal, famed headquarters of Montreal Smoked Meat. Californians sneer at all hamburgers except those served at the California-Arizona-Texas fast food chain, IN-N-OUT. Angelenos become orgasmatic in describing the chain’s Animal Style cheeseburger. An HG pal said that when he lands at the LA airport after a trip east or abroad, his first stop (before unpacking) is at IN-N-OUT. “Must get my IN-N-OUT fix.” Yes, the chain makes a very good burger but BSK’s New Mexico Green Chile Cheeseburger tops it. BSK uses 80% lean-20% chuck. Dusts a big cast iron pan with sea salt. Turns the heat up high. Sears the burger on both sides. Tops the patties with abundant slices of Kraft Cracker Barrel Sharp Cheddar. Lowers the heat and cooks until the cheese melts and the interior is a juicy pink. Meanwhile, BSK is warming a saucepan of 505 Bottled Green Chile Sauce. The number 505 is the Santa Fe area code and this sauce is an authentic local product. Great flavor. Plenty of heat. No chemicals or artificial enhancers. BSK pours the sauce over the cheeseburger. Flanks it with home fried potatoes, gently caramelized onions, cole slaw. (HG likes a few smokey chipotle peppers on the side). No mushy hamburger buns. Just cold bottles of Anchor Steam Beer. Another BSK kitchen triumph.


Happy Heartburn

March 18th, 2015 § 3 comments § permalink

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.”).


Airport Surprises At D.I.A.

January 16th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

HG has often noticed that plane travel makes HG ferociously hungry; and in a sad twist of fate, satisfying this hunger on a plane, in an airport or in the environs of an airport is close to impossible as the edible offerings are typically terrible. Well, on HG/BSK’s recent travel from New Mexico to Denver to Rhode Island to Paris and back, HG found himself pleasantly surprised. On the trip out from Denver, HG’s thoughts turned to sandwiches. There are times when nothing satisfies quite like a good sandwich. Of course, such specimens aren’t so easy to find. Been a long time since HG has really had a top flight bacon-tomato-lettuce-mayonnaise-whole wheat toast sandwich at a local diner. And, of course, a really big time Jewish pastrami on rye can only be found at Katz’s in New York or Langer’s in Los Angeles. But HG found a great sandwich in an unlikely spot — Elway’s, a nicely designed eatery at the Denver International Airport. John Elway is a Denver football icon who has two steak houses in the city plus this place. Don’t know if John knows anything about food but Elway’s served HG an exemplary blackened fish sandwich on a brioche bun. It was enhanced by New Orleans tasso ham and chipotle dressing. And, accompanied by a nice bowl of chipotle infused cole slaw. Good, spicy stuff. Made HG think over a lifetime of hand-held treats — HG is very fond of big, robust Italian sandwiches (called heroes, grinders, subs and po’ boys–dependent upon geography). The best ever was served in a deli on the main street of New Paltz in the Hudson Valley. John Goodman, that exemplary actor (who looks like a world class eater) likes the mufaletta sandwich prepared by an Italian grocery in New Orleans (it features vinegary olive salad with an array of salami and ham). Take a look at the website of The Italian Corner in East Providence, Rhode Island, to see its encyclopedic array of grinders. One of the stars is the sausage pizzaiola grinder (sausage in a sauce of tomato, capers, spices and Romana cheese). On Fridays, there’s a special of a Calamari steak grinder. Chilean squid is pounded thin, grilled quickly to a point of juicy tenderness. It is then nestled between two slices of good Italian bread with plenty of lettuce, tomatoes, peppers and olive oil. A gift from the sea.

On HG’s return trip: winding back to New Mexico via the erratic airline system, HG had the pleasant experience on the plane of watching Denver beat San Diego (with the ever dangerous Philip Rivers) and San Francisco defeat the upstart Panthers. Checked into the Holiday Inn Express at Denver International Airport. Pleasant hotel with the world’s worst shuttle service (be forewarned). BSK peckish. Went to nearby Sporting News Grill. Expecting the worst. Surprise. Had a sliced flatiron steak salad. Really first rate. And, the IPA brew on tap hit the spot. Off to New Mexico in the AM. Sunny day and nice motoring to Pueblo. Oops. Highway blocked (chemical spills, high winds, etc,). Lengthy detour to Salida. Hungry HG/BSK lunched at Carmelina’s and had a platter of fresh, healthy food — fish tacos with toothsome corn tortillas, salad, tangy salsa, good refritos with melted cheese. Learned later that Salida has a Vietnamese restaurant. Colorado’s small towns are not provincial when it comes to food and fortunately this aesthetic has extended to its airport.


Creative Sandwiches

July 18th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

In general, HG is not a big sandwich fan. Most of the time HG feels that most things that could be stuck between slices of bread are improved by eliminating the bread. However, there are exceptions and these days HG enjoys just a few classic sandwiches: A traditional bacon-lettuce-tomato (when tomatoes are in season — flavorful and juicy) with good, thick cut bacon and mayo on toasted wheat bread; a pastrami on Jewish rye (alas, now only available in all its splendor at Katz’s in New York, Schwartz’s in Montreal and Langer’s in L.A.); and finally, a corned beef Reuben, also on Jewish rye. The Croque Monsieurs and Croque Madames HG has enjoyed in Paris don’t really qualify as classic sandwiches. In the past HG was more adventurous in sandwich choices. On Nantucket Island, HG liked the specialty of a health food shop there: Sharp cheddar cheese, avocado, sprouts and chutney on whole grain bread. On the opposite health pole, HG relished the roast beef sandwiches consumed many years ago at Henrich’s Restaurant (long closed) on B. 116th Street, Rockaway Park, N.Y. These were constructed of thinly sliced rare roast beef, sliced raw onion and Jewish rye bread spread with (your choice) 1/8th or 1/4th of an inch of chicken fat. This was sprinkled with coarse salt and black pepper. Accompanied by a sour dill pickle. HG ate another unhealthy treat at the late Gitlitz Deli on New York’s Upper West Side. This was a combination of chopped liver and pastrami on rye with Russian dressing. The Gitlitz waiters, food conservatives, did not approve. At another long closed New York eatery, Belmont Cafeteria, the hangout for taxi drivers on Lexington Avenue, HG would accompany morning coffee with a heavily buttered onion roll enclosing muenster cheese and lettuce. In the past, BSK based her sandwich choices on peanut butter. No PB and J for BSK. Instead, the young woman ate peanut butter with lettuce and mayo sandwiches or peanut butter and sweet pickle slices sandwiches. While off on a hike with her Girl Scout troop, BSK carried “walking sandwiches” — peanut butter wrapped in cabbage leaves. Apparently these peanut buttery treats were the norm for BSK’s midwestern environ, but for HG, they sounded as exotic as the Zanzibar speciality Boku-Boku. Yes, many Italians love mixing Nutella with roasted peanuts on white bread and Elvis Presley mixed peanut butter with bacon and bananas but, for pure messy eccentricity, nothing beats the HG retro delight: The chow mein on a bun served at Nathan’s Famous on Coney Island.


Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray Tonic – The Big Exception

March 16th, 2013 § 2 comments § permalink

HG loathes all of the popular, incessantly advertised, heavily sugared, artificially sweetened and chemically infused carbonated beverages. Coke, Pepsi, Sprite, Dr. Pepper, etc. To HG they seem to be part of a health destroying plot against the American people. Principals in the plot are the evil profiteers who stock the supermarket shelves with these nasty drinks and their collaborators, the “snack” manufacturers. (Recently they have been joined by the brewers of the “energy” drinks — a la Red Bull). HG looks with dismay as women, accompanied by children, wheel their supermarket carts laden with these vile objects. Do they hate their kids? Have they been brainwashed by television hucksters? In the interests of full disclosure and intellectual honesty, HG must admit to a twice-a-year fall from grace. That’s when HG eats a traditional overstuffed Jewish pastrami sandwich in New York (at Katz’s or Carnegie Deli). What Sauterne is to foie gras and Burgandy is to steak — that’s what Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray Tonic is to pastrami. The companion made in heaven. Of course, Cel-Ray reeks of fraud. It’s flavored with some kind of celery seed extract — not nice, fresh, healthy celery. It certainly isn’t a tonic. (Okay, okay. At some point the FDA made the manufacturers stop calling it a tonic and label it as “Soda.”) And, HG suspects Dr. Brown’s medical school credentials. Nevertheless, when eating pastrami the drink seems to be just what the doctor ordered — the pungent, almost peppery flavor is the perfect foil for the juicy fat of perfect pastrami. It is a very Jewish beverage and only found where Jews abound — New York and South Florida. You can also find it in such Los Angeles heartburn heavens as Langer’s, Canter’s and Nate and Al’s. Cel-Ray had its birth in Brooklyn in 1868 and for generations was known as “Jewish Champagne.” Pass the pickles and sour tomatoes, please.

Goodbye Jewish Deli

December 2nd, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

HG’s pal, Bill Schuck, sent him a copy of The Deli Man, a clip from a longer film. Nice nostalgic stuff about Jewish delis with cameos from Larry King, Alan Dershowitz and other pastrami fanatics. Shocking fact. There were once 1,550 Jewish delis in the five boroughs of New York. There are now only 150 in all of North America; that said many staples of the Jewish Deli (pastrami, chopped liver, etc.) have become part of the mainstream eating culture of the United States. According to informed opinion, the best Jewish deli in the United States is Langer’s, located in a gritty Los Angeles neighborhood. The proprietor of Langer’s is gloomy about the future of the deli. Jewish kids prefer hamburgers. Sad. They will never know the glory of a heartburn produced by a bowl of matzo ball soup followed by an overstuffed pastrami sandwich.

Better (And Healthier) Than Pastrami.

July 18th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

Being a born and bred New York guy, HG has always loved a good pastrami sandwich. It is the ultimate urban sandwich — designed for, created and yes, perfected by the Jewish immigrant groups who nestled in tight enclaves like New York’s Lower East Side; all of whom needed a portable meal as they hustled to fulfill their American dream. And, yes, such a treat is still available (with many a regional discrepancy!) from Montreal to New York (most notably at Katz’s) and even across the country in LA (Langer’s). However, HG has discovered his new favorite sandwich at a more pastoral location: Lin’s Takeout in Prince Edward Island. Little more than a trailer, Lin’s is nestled on a bucolic hillside on the road to Greenwich Provincial Park (beautiful beaches, warm water swimming). HG lunches on Lin’s scallop burger. Lin tucks about 15 sweet, gently sauteed sea scallops into a big, soft bun. A slice of tomato. A lettuce leaf. Cole slaw. Touch of mayo. Sometimes greedy HG accompanies this sea treat with crisp, greaseless French fried onion rings.

No smell of asphalt. No car horns blazing. No taxi drivers cursing your mother with a Turkish accent. Just the sun gently shimmering off the waters of St. Peter’s Bay. The joys of a pastoral sandwich…Ahh Life’s good.

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with Langer’s at HUNGRY GERALD.