Of Horseradish and New York Delis

This past Saturday, Tara and I found ourselves at a yet another attempt to recreate New York-Style Deli in the Greater Seattle area. Once again we left sated, yet I was a tad disappointed.

The sandwich I had ordered was fine. It was a decent amount of pastrami with a bit of horseradish upon a light rye bread. Tara and I tried to personify what it’s like to eat horseradish, and I ended up with the following:

Horseradish is like a friend who welcomes you into their home, invites you to sit in the most comfortable chair by the fireplace, gives you a blanket and a bit of tea…

…and then punches you in the nose. Hard. And you like it.

After the sandwich was gone, there was a bit of disappointment. Once again, we had a deli claiming to be New York inspired, but in truth it was just another sandwich shop. Dr. Brown and Corned Beef does not a New York Deli make.

What does make a good New York Deli? Yes, yes, the cold cuts are important. There has to be a corned beef you’d kill for, and a pastrami that’s cured well enough to make you cry. Salami belongs with out saying, but so does liverwurst, brisket and yes, even tongue. Freshly baked bread of all the major varieties should be on the menu as well. White and wheat, as well pumpernickel and rye should be made available.

And don’t forget the bagels…Oh the bagels! To describe the perfect bagel would require words that are just out of the reach of the common man. A good bagel is served toasted with a thick and sturdy crust on the outside. But the inside should be light. Not fluffy, mind you, but light. Too many bagels are made with the density of galvanized rubber and have the texture to match. A great bagel is like biting into a present. It may require a small bit of effort to breach the outside, but once broken, a bagel effortless to eat.

Lox should go without saying, but whitefish is oftentimes forgotten by those on the west coast. To me, a deli isn’t a deli without whitefish.

Finally, a good deli should have the traditional Jewish dishes – blintzes and kugel, lattkes and knishes. But the further from New York one get’s the lower the odds of ever find these on a menu.

This, of course, is my dream deli. It’s one I have thought of opening in Seattle for quite some time. Every time Tara and I have thought about opening a restaurant, it’s the deli that always comes up.

Seattle, will you ever learn?