I was back in New York last week for a very quick trip to take care of some business. It was mostly about seeing family as well as a brief visit to meet with my editor. Between catching up with sisters and discussing possible book covers , I didn’t get nearly enough time to work in things like deli, dumplings and hamburgers. The one jab I did make at a decidedly un-Italian New York dining experience was ordering take out from a coffee shop on the upper East Side. Greek-owned, my father warned me that I would be safer sticking to the tuna salad or turkey breast on toasted whole wheat. But no. I had to have my pastrami fix.
While it wasn’t horrible, and was certainly eons beyond anything I could get back in Rome, it wasn’t the slow cooked, slightly smoky, pastrami that I had in mind.
Sadly, I knew where to get that, and more, because during my previous trip to New York I did manage to work in a fabulous brunch at Mile End Deli. It was Evan’s idea to head there, since she had read a lot about this place while researching home curing and pickling. Mile End bills itself as a Montreal- inspired New York Deli. The owner, Noah Bernamoff wanted to recreate the deli traditions of his youth in Canada by starting from scratch. Curing his own meats and fish, baking his own breads, and pickling just about anything, his menu includes everything I dream about when I’m missing deli.
Evan and I went straight for the Appetizing Platter, which included heaping scoops of lox, whitefish salad, egg salad and all the makings to load our bialy: cream cheese, sliced onion and tomato. And because this was all about ‘research’ we also ordered a plate full of their mixed pickles: beets, celery,peppers and cucumbers all dilly, spicy and perfectly sour.
All delicious, but my favorite was our side of Smoked Meat Hash. A skillet full of chopped potatoes, brisket and onions, with edges appropriately browned and everything deliciously slathered in beefy fat. And just when we thought we couldn’t eat another bite, a small platter of house made pastrami showed up at the table. Which immediately ruined me for life for anything less that this the luscious, slightly pink, fatty slabs of slow cooked, cured beef.
In comparison, my sad little pastrami take out from the coffee shop on Madison Avenue last week was, well, just sad. I shouldn’t complain, since it’s more than I can get back in Rome. But I think once you have the whole Mile End experience, nothing can come close.
Mile End Deli
53 Bond Street