Another fantastic post by my brother and guest blogger Jesse Hartman. He adds a certain wit and joyous humor to my sometimes cynical blog. He wished he could have continued my breakfast bagel exploration but alas a bacon, egg and cheese bagel is as un-kosher as it gets. Enjoy!
Although Vassar College is situated roughly 90 minutes away from New York, I rarely take the opportunity to venture out of the Vassar bubble. As luck would have it, I needed to go to the city for an interview, and it would be a crime against my taste buds to ignore the extraordinary kosher food scene, especially as my trip encompassed both breakfast and lunch.
A quick sidebar- I’m the type of rube that street vendors and those guys that sell bootlegged movies in Chinatown (do they have an official name?) would drool over- this will become apparent in my first stop.
Against all common sense, my train required a 6:30 AM wake-up call and by the time I arrived at Grand Central I absolutely had to put my morning research to work. First stop within the parameters of walking distance of GCT was Zucker’s for bagels. I ordered my favorite poppy-seed bagel with plain cream cheese and lox, just like a good Jewish boy should. However, I was shocked, nay even crestfallen when the cashier rang up my order at $10.80. $10.80?! For a bagel?! This better be the best dang bagel I’ve ever had, or maybe, to quote Maude Lebowksi, “I was being taken for the proverbial ride”.
I’ll start with the least valuable member, sorry to break it to you cream cheese. It was pretty plain, but I appreciated the fact that it didn’t overpower the rest of the other components. Next up, the bagel. Now this was a great, dense, and flavorful New York-style bagel. Tasty poppy-seeds that picked up the oniony flavor perhaps from being next to an everything bagel added a pleasant effect. The real star of the show was the fish of course. It had all the requirements of great lox: a nice smoky flavor, vibrant color and a very tender feel to it, but without being chewy and bland.
After my interview I had worked up my appetite and walked over the Ben’s Kosher Delicatessen on 7th Ave. and 38th Street. Their “overstuffed” sandwiches beckoned me into ordering classic- pastrami on rye. At the avoidance of sitting awkwardly alone, I took my sandwich to go, opting to eat at Grand Central while I waited for my train. The sandwich became a bit soggy, but this was sublime nonetheless. The pastrami was incredible- melt in your mouth (who would order it lean? My bubby wouldn’t). With the right balance of saltiness and brine from the in-house pickling. The accompanying deli-style mustard was lovely and flavorful without overwhelming the meat. A garnish of deli pickles, lovely full pickled mini dill and a half-sour, topped off the incredible lunch.
This was a superb day of kosher and Jewish-American foodstuffs, and yes I called my mother on the way home too.