Denveater - Deconstructing Colorado Cuisine, Dish by Dish

Dish of the Week: Roast Beef-Chimichurri Sandwich at Park & Main, Breckenridge

After a terrifying, ice-slicked drive up I-70 to attend the 4th Annual Breckenridge Craft Spirits Festival (of which more later), I arrived in town thinking nothing & no one could soothe me except the 1st distiller to ply me with copious amounts of hard liquor. But I was wrong, thanks to Park & Main, a lively little crayon box of a place dispensing equally colorful modern American eats, where I met a colleague for lunch & got a grip.

This in particular did the trick.

Complete with curlicues of golden-browned, unapologetically fatty bits that clung to creamy blobs of melted fontina, the mound of warm, shaved prime rib came slathered in a chimichurri so rich in garlic I could’ve gotten back in my car & cleared the roads with my breath alone. To its herb-&-vinegar kick, pickled onions added juice & crunch, & the grilled baguette was perfectly textured inside & out.

Nearly its equal was this veggie concoction, also en baguette drizzled with chili mayo: roasted sweet potato, braised kale & caramelized onions brought the soft, earthy bittersweetness, while pickled cukes & carrots brought the contrasting crispness & brightness. Piled so high, it was a bit of a mess, but that’s no complaint—on the contrary.

In fact, I’ve got nothing but compliments for the entire meal. Loved how baby arugula added a peppery bite to roasted-beet sliders generously smeared with tangy herbed goat cheese, laid on the eggy-sweet pillows of sweet-potato buns. But gigande-bean bruschetta, topped with slivers of good parmesan & lightly touched with some sort of fruity vinaigrette, proved an even bigger, heartier mouthful.

Breck has something special in this place, unassuming & casual as it may be—but I guess the locals know that, as it’s been there for a decade. Hopefully I’ll get over my utter dread of driving back sometime in the next 10 years. (UPDATE: My misunderstanding—it’s only been open for a year. For all that, it sure feels like a hometown fixture!)

Park & Main on Urbanspoon

Tom’s Urban 24: Looking Good!

Let us count all the obstacles Tom’s Urban 24 had to overcome to impress me at a media preview Fri. morning: 1) American-style breakfasts bore me; most egg dishes leave me cold, and my sweet tooth, limited as it is even come dessert, positively shrinks into the cavity before dinner. Also, bacon shmacon. 2) While I recognize that eponymous owner Tom Ryan’s résumé is remarkable—apparently he invented Pizza Hut’s stuffed-crust pizza and McDonald’s McGriddles before founding Smashburger—my assiduous avoidance of all things franchised means I’ve never experienced any of its highlights for myself. 3) I was resoundingly hungover.

But like that, like that, like that, the Samba Room’s replacement on Larimer Square cleared those hurdles lickety-split. Provided the kitchen can realize the potential it showed today on a 24/7 basis, treating paying customers the way it treated us, this place is gonna be a huge hit.

The look skews retro,

but the mural reveals a thoroughly modern concern for local sourcing (those commodity-shaped magnets can be moved around to indicate where the ingredients are coming from at any given time).

Admirable as that may be, it pales in comparison to the use of that most massive of mass-produced foodstuffs, boxed cereal, as a squealingly delightful topping for warm, fresh, stickily glazed doughnuts whose airy-crumbed texture & lightly buttery savor was utterly dreamy. Flavors will change daily, but I adored the Cap’n Crunch embedded into white icing (ditto Froot Loops); the chipotle-chocolate—rich but not too sweet, the heat filtering through subtly toward the finish; & the maple-bacon, which, yes, even I appreciated for its 2-toned lusciousness. Unresponsive sweet tooth, melted.

All the further by housemade Pop Tarts, whose fillings—both sweet & savory—will also rotate on a daily basis; we tried vibrant apple, strawberry, &, my favorite, the deeply intense, at once dark & creamy fig & goat cheese. But here too, it was the texture of the pastry above all, tender & delicately flaky, that won me over.

Pancake flavors will change daily as well, from red velvet & poppyseed-lemon to pumpkin spice & banana-caramel (pictured); I didn’t try this stack, but Eater’s Adam Larkey was practically swooning.

Pal @MO_242‘s Treehugger Benedict with avocado & (added) bacon was perfectly respectable,

but my 4-egg chorizo-&-green chile omelet was even better, I thought. Yet again, texture made all the difference; the dry ingredients—chorizo, green chile, blue-corn tortilla chips—were chopped as fine as confetti, while the 3 cheeses oozed out from every angle, giving the springy, fluffy eggs an almost casserole-like aspect (as Mo rightly pointed out). The jam is made in house—with butter. What?!

A quick glimpse of the corned-beef hash, clearly chock-full of veggies.

In short, color me happily impressed indeed, and hopeful that quality control will remain a high priority. With the start of the film festival next week, believe you me I’ll be heading back for walnut-bourbon caramel corn, matzoh-fried chicken with green chile gravy, & maybe even a WTF cocktail or 2 just for giggles (look it up). See ya there.

Tom's Urban 24 on Urbanspoon

Get thee to Cinque Soldi while the getting’s good—like, NOW.

Wow. What weird timing. Yesterday I finally made the all-of-6-block trek to Cinque Soldi Salumeria after checking out the menu online. All seemed to be in order at the adorably old-school little South Pearl deli, its display cases loaded with goodies from Il Mondo Vecchio, the gents behind the counter kindly & quick.

By the time I got home, though, the website was down. Odd, I thought.

Odd indeed. Turns out that, as of yesterday, Mark DeNittis is severing his partnership with the owners, per Westword, due to creative differences. According to Lori Midson, whether IMV products will continue to be featured there remains to be seen.

But I can’t imagine they’re going to just toss them all in the next few days. And the 2 sandwiches I wolfed down in short order—don’t judge—were still killer, so if you hurry, you can probably relish the last of these babies before the revamp.

Granted, the German panino was not as advertised.

Listed on the blackboard as containing headcheese, tongue, bierwurst, gruyère & sauerkraut, it was in fact headcheese-free (boo), & maybe tongue-free too, unless that was what the mysterious smattering of diced meat was…hard to say. Spread with spicy stone-ground mustard & pressed right on fresh, springy bread from Dolce Sicilia, though, it was nonetheless delish—hearty & pungent.

The porchetta, meanwhile—rough-chopped, skin clinging, & piled high with fried peppers on a grinder roll—was beautifully prepared: so tender, so purely flavorful & simply showcased.

Hopefully, the departure of DeNittis isn’t a death sentence; plenty of brilliant sandwiches get assembled day in & day out, all over the world, without his name on them. But only time will tell.

Cinque Soldi Salumeria on Urbanspoon

Navigating WaterCourse Foods

My poor sainted mother. A Jew-Bu through & through (so maybe “sainted” isn’t quite the right adjective), she has to live with the fact that her only daughter would eat pretty much anything given half a chance, excluding turtles but possibly including human (hey, you only live once—unless the Buddhists, Jew- or not, are right, in which case you’ve got some karma-dependent options).

But that means I’ll also do durian & huitlacoche, & that I’m potentially just as happy at a vegetarian haven as I am at a barbecue shack. WaterCourse Foods realizes that potential in many ways, much of the time. Sure, some (not all) of the servers are too cool for school rules like promptness or cheer; & sure, not all protein-based dishes have plant-based equals. There are rough(age) edges. But there’s also plenty of smooth sailing (get it?).

And that, shockingly enough, includes buffalo-style seitan. The menu calls them “wings,” which, come on, isn’t even close. But in & of themselves, the spears of so-called wheat meat are actually tasty. Texturally, they’re more like potato wedges, crisping well, & they do have a vaguely meaty savor that absorbs the buffalo sauce & ranch dressing—both of which are addictive in themselves, of course, so yay.

Of several visits I’ve made recently, one was for dinner to go; the Director’s nachos held up as well to be expected, so while there was no saving the lettuce, a quick trip under the broiler made them good as new. All I ask of vegetarian nachos are crisp corn chips, nice salty cheese (in this case asadero), well-seasoned & moist refried beans, & some spice. The latter was left to pico de gallo (no sign of the advertised green chile), but otherwise they were a-ok, complete with guacamole that was mostly mashed avocado (as well it should be).

Wraps are hard to mess up, but they’re also hard to make interesting. The Juan Wrap is just that, vibrant & hearty with grilled sweet potatoes, sauteed mushrooms & onions, smoked mozzarella & a liberal coating of rich cilantro-pistachio pesto. The tortilla is neither here nor there, of course, but probably the best vehicle for the substantial filling. You get your choice of two among several sides; the quinoa salad with beans & corn had a nice kick, but the sesame-seed-sprinkled, supposedly steamed kale was nearly raw. I get that the frilly-edged, dark green leaves look prettier that way, but uncooked kale is just too tough (& I tried it 3 times, so it wasn’t a fluke).

It went down a little more easily lightly dressed & mixed with steamed squash & carrots as part of the seasonal vegetable mix; compared to the quinoa, however, the amaranth was soggy. Too bad, because the flavors were great, combining chopped sugar snap peas & red pepper, golden raisins & chai-spiced pistachios (think cardamom above all).

They came with the “Reuben,” which, as with the “wings,” is a mighty fine sandwich on its own; no need for it to suffer by comparison to something it’s not. Kinda reminds me of that old Mitch Hedberg joke, “If you go to the grocery store and you stand in front of the lunchmeat section for too long, you start to get pissed off at turkeys. You see, like, turkey ham, turkey pastrami, turkey bologna… Somebody needs to tell the turkeys, ‘Man, just be yourself!’” Speaking of lunchmeat, the classic grilled Reuben features corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese & 1000 Island dressing on buttered rye; here, the coarse-chopped portobellos that stand in for the beef were happily as smoky as promised, in nice contrast to the “special sauce,” which, tangy & tomatoey, vaguely evoked pizza sauce. Just a touch of red cabbage sauerkraut added a tart note, the Swiss added the salt & the whole thing, in short, came together really well, even if it wasn’t grilled.

The only major disappointment was the Maximus Burger. I am gung-ho for a good veggie patty, which, carefully made with grains, legumes et al., can be a totally thick & juicy, variegated surprise. WaterCourse’s version features a combo of pinto beans & quinoa, which looks good on paper, & it packs a little spice from green chile. But it was also flat, dense & dry, texturally no better than its mass-produced, frozen supermarket equivalent, suggesting way too much binder for the buck. I don’t know if it’s topped with the same “special sauce” that accompanies the Reuben; this one seemed more 1000-Islandy, actually, i.e. ketchup-&-(vegan?)-mayo based, but you know, different day, different results. The kaiser roll was fine, fresh, although there was nothing particularly sweet-potato-like about it (as opposed to any other kind of potato-based bun).
The kitchen’s had onion rings down pat for a long time, though. Thick-cut, judiciously coated in a well-seasoned-&-herbed batter that yields a lovely, lacy crunch, they hardly needed the accompanying chipotle aioli, though it didn’t hurt either. (It’s a real bummer that the salad they used to grace, once one of Denver’s most interesting, is no longer available. Online campaign starts here.)

You can get cheese on that “burger,” but you can’t get “cheese” on it; since I really wanted to try the housemade vegan options, I asked if I could order one à la carte rather than as a selection of 3 (the current menu lists smoky jalapeño “cheddar,” pistachio-fennel “manouri,” &  lavender-herb “chèvre,” as well as sweet onion pâté). Actually I asked twice, & with little ado the 1st time, rather more the 2nd, my wish was granted.

Loving cheese the way I do, I am no expert on substitutes, so I can’t say whether these fared better or worse than others by comparison. I can say, as I already have, that there’s not much point in comparing them to the real deal, because they’re simply nothing of the kind. Which doesn’t mean they’re not intriguing. In appearance & mouthfeel, the “cheddar” was unnervingly reminiscent of sea urchin, but the flavor was really nice: nutty, indeed smoky & a touch spicy. (The perfect ripe fig was a swell touch too.)

The “manouri” (which I got to go) was more like ricotta, fluffy rather than creamy, but as a mild binder for chopped nuts it grew on me.

These days WaterCourse also sports a small seasonal selection, including the watermelon caprese with (real) buffalo mozzarella, basil oil, balsamic vinegar & smoked salt.

I agreed with the companion who ordered it that shaved melon, while awfully pretty & surely time-intensive, releases too much water. Can’t say I even detected the balsamic. Still, it had its refreshing aspects.

As does WaterCourse as a whole, even for omnivores; like all local institutions, it’s got quirks that become at least tolerable, at best charming, if you let them. I can’t help but have a soft spot for the place, for all its disaffected youth & culinary quotation marks.

WaterCourse on Urbanspoon

This Week on Gorging Global: Fressing at East Side Kosher Deli

Fressing is basically Yiddish for “pigging out,” which is SOP at any Jewish deli. This week over at Denver Magazine’s The Mouthful, I get back to my roots via knishes, kugel like the apple-raisin variety below, & ever so much more.

You’ll plotz just reading about it.

Green Chile Slow-Burn Showdown: Sam’s No. 3 vs. El Taco de Mexico

Oh, sure, in some ways it's a no-brainer. El Tac's the ultimate in hyperlocal go-tos for straight-up, hardcore Mexican grub, no frills & no BS. Sam's No. 3…isn't.

What it is is your average Greek-run urban diner: it’s been around, in 1 form or another, run by one family member or another, for 80 years. It’s downtown Denver’s only answer to the crowded, clattering, chattering, clanking, cranky diners of New York, with their phosphates & blue plates, cheap coffee & bagels, souvlaki & hash. And for that it's to be commended: every city needs at least one.

Being, however, in this particular city, it must needs delve into comida as well. It does so with no more or less aplomb than it does anything else: okay. But the Kickin' Pork Green Chile really is pretty kickin.' And porky. And chile-y. Not so green, granted, presumably containing fewer actual chiles & more tomatoes than some versions (which is wholly legit; there's no one correct, "authentic" recipe). 

Sam'sMexbrek
That's it in the bowl, in the center of the Mexican Breakfast, between the dry chorizo, jalapeño & jack omelet with tomatoes & onions, the stale flour tortillas & the slightly crispy refried beans—which are actually pretty decent. Still, the chile's the best thing on the plate by far—startlingly spicy but not merely spicy, & neither too thin nor too thick.  

(It's also better than the Greek salad—which isn't bad; but even considering that the platonic ideal of a diner salad is precisely "not bad"—if it were memorably sumptuous it would be incongruous—the gryo meat on my recent order was less than fresh. The veggies were crisp, however, & I liked the fluffy pita & the basic, thick tzatziki.

 Sam'ssalad

As for the squishy, blah French toast, anything's better than that.)

Sam'sFrenchtoast
All that said, I'd be a fool to say the green chile's better than El Tac's, not least for reasons of context: at the bright yellow long-timer on Santa Fe, it's in its element & its purest form. 

The notoriously stone-faced—but quietly polite—ladies who run the open kitchen make both pork & vegetarian green chile, the former as a stew, the latter as a sauce. Said sauce, is, as you can see, much thinner & greener than Sam's—& much more about the flavor profile of roasted chiles per se; they are, after all, vegetables (actually, botanically speaking, they're fruit, but who's counting), not just heat-seeking missiles.

EDTMbrekburrito 

That there's the breakast burrito, chock-full

EDTMbrekburrito2
of scrambled eggs, Spanish-style rice, refried beans & chorizo & topped with cheese. I like to add a few spoonfuls of the soupy red salsa on the side. Then I like to stuff myself silly. Then I like to bitch & moan about how I full I am until my next meal. 

Of course, there is one ugly blotch on El Tac's stellar rep: no booze. On that score, then, Sam's sweeps: it makes a cheap & killer, in every sense of the word, loaded bloody mary. 

Sam'sbloody

That & a bowl of the green chile would be a meal in itself. And by meal I mean a satisfyingly masochistic scorch-&-burn siege on your whole digestive system.

Sam's No. 3 on Urbanspoon

New York Deli News Lays It On Thick (not to schmear Zaidy’s…)

Is this place for real?

NYDN
Short answer: yes & no. Sure, it’s long on schtick. But there’s schtick & then there’s schtick. The one involves a cynical attempt at branding (see here under Schtick), the other a nostalgia so wholehearted, the re-creation mit such fargenign of the way things may have been & should still be, that everybody around you happily suspends all disbelief as to whether that’s how they ever were or actually are.

So perhaps NYDN only hires creaky wisecracking broads as waitstaff to sharpen the image of a decrepit kosher deli on the Lower East Side rather than a Reagan-era diner in the Denver ‘burbs—just as Hooters only hires coeds with D-cups to create a world in which buxom young things pay attention to you. The difference—not to knock (heh, but not heh) Hooters waitresses, real people whose decision to flaunt real (if not necessarily natural) cleavage & flirt their hearts out for hours on end in order to earn very real money isn’t for me or anyone who hasn’t walked in their hot pants to judge—is that the wrinkles on said broads are really real, & so is the world-weariness that comes with them. Unlike most young ladies, old ladies have got nothing to prove.

And the same can be said of the clientele, dominated by klatches of retirees whose penchant for pantsuits & bouffants clearly hasn’t wavered since 1973. As picturesque as they are, they’re not props, not paid advertisements; they didn’t put blue wigs & polyester getups over their fauxhawks & skinny jeans that morning just to lull me into self-satisfaction that I’d come to the right place, to a real Jewish deli.

And the same can also be said of every menu item from the canned tuna & sardines—brazenly labeled as such—to the 6-layer chocolate cake in the Platonic ideal of a revolving display case;

NYDNcake
whether it’s homemade (I doubt it) or any good at all after sitting in there, slices unwrapped, all day (I doubt it), it’s not just for show. It’s just enough for show.

And the same, therefore, goes for the specific menu items I & my mom—who as a 68-year-old JewBu living in the Bible Belt knows from nothing to prove—tried over the course of 2 visits.

Like the mix & match salad with giant ice cream scoops of chopped liver & egg salad

NYDNlivereggsalad
atop, I swear, half a head of torn iceberg, palm-length discs of cuke & carrot, tomatoes, radishes—& hilariously, more egg, accompanied by
NYDNbread

part of a loaf of rye ”trucked in from New York” with butter pats & a soup cup’s worth of blue cheese dressing. How was it? Does it matter?

Well, to the extent that it does—mixed. Not surprisingly, neither scoop exactly emanated just-made freshness, & the egg salad, like any egg salad lacking trimmings (paprika, curry, chopped pickles, capers, what have you), was bland. But the liver was subtly spiced, nice & smooth. That’s the gist of the grub here: some of it’s pretty awful, some of it’s awesome—but ultimately it’s all awesome because it is what it is so unapologetically.

The combination fish platter comes with smoked sable (better known these days in its fresh form as black cod), lox & whitefish; scoops of potato salad, sour cream & cream cheese; a shower of capers & red onion rings; & 2 bagels—even if only 1 person (mom, who can’t get sable in Oklahoma) orders it. Atop another half-head of torn iceberg. Plus the plate of rye bread & butter.

NYDNfishplatter
The exterior of the sable looked like pink dye, not like the traditional dusting of paprika you see here. Still, it was unmistakably sable, lusciously mild & edged by that slight sour tang it shares with white anchovies. The lox came from a package; the potato salad was plain. Sure enough, it was what it was—& fun to plow through for all that.

The chicken noodle soup with a matzoh ball was a joke, literally—that old one Woody Allen recalls in Annie Hall: “Two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, & one of ‘em says, ‘Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.’ The other one says, ‘Yeah, I know; & such small portions.’” Except here the terrible portion is lovably huge.
NYDNmatzohsoup

In all fairness, I’ve really never had a matzoh ball, & I’ve eased down my share, that tasted like anything other than nothing. Surely there’s more to them than mush? Is salt & pepper too much to ask, or is a matzoh ball another one of those things that’s supposed to serve as an eternal symbol of eating handfuls of sand in the desert for 40 years? As for the soup, I’ll be damned if it wasn’t from a can; that paradoxically simultaneous bland & oversalted broth laden with mushy noodles & veggies is pretty telltale.

But then a pastrami sandwich comes along that, in its own plainness, hits the spot.

NYDNpastrami
The meat’s moist, characteristically peppery & funky, & sliced thin, of course, but not so thin it’s virtually shredded (I mean, this is ridiculous).  It comes with a side of coleslaw, simple & sweet, but no condiments; brown mustard’s on the table, welcome if not necessary.

Speaking of the unnecessary,

NYDNstuffedcabbage2

our waitress assured us we were overdoing it with the stuffed cabbage until we assured her we’d be taking some stuff home. She cheerfully pronounced us “scary” anyway.

The thing’s a sea monster rising from the watery depths of a thin, underseasoned tomato sauce, requiring all available utensils & every ounce of determination you’ve got to make a dent in it. Once you saw through the tough outer leaves to reach the ground-beef-and-rice filling, though, it’s all right, at its best all chopped up & eaten with a spoon like soup, when everything can compensate for everything else.

NYDNstuffedcabbage3

On its heels came the BBQ chicken salad I ordered for a change of pace. The waitress wasn’t sure I wanted blue cheese dressing on the side, but I was, until I saw what she was meant.

NYDNsalad

This isn’t really barbecued chicken, of course; it’s roasted chicken drenched in barbecue sauce & tossed with tomatoes, cukes, corn, black beans & tortilla strips (atop—surprise!—a half-head of iceberg). Dressing just added insult to injury. But again, what’s the point of going to a deli if not to get on the receiving end of indigestion & insults?

On that note—I hope it’s clear that the load of insults I’ve just leveled at the food here are all in good fun, not unlike the food itself. You’ve just gotta love this place, even if you don’t, because—to return to the question I started with—it’s for real, even if it isn’t.
New York Deli News on Urbanspoon

***
As for Zaidy’s: in a nutshell, ditto.

I’ve said so before, but a back-to-back comparison served as confirmation that NYDN’s Cherry Creek counterpart is likewise a mixed bag of good food & bad, kosher & treyf, New York–style brashness & Southwestern sweetness.

Case in point: the Israeli salad,

ZaidysIsraelisalad
which I’d never have ordered if our waitress wasn’t pushing me toward a choice in her heavy Russian accent, charming to a point, annoying past it. (“What’s it between? Just tell me what it’s between,” she kept saying, then shaking her head at my every suggestion up until this total fluke.)

Actually, the bowlful of chopped tomatoes, cukes, radishes & onion with balsamic vinaigrette was rather refreshing, but the hummus was a bummer, grainy & bland.

Unexpectedly, it came with a giant, garlic-sprinkled, crunchy baked pita chip, mooting the point of the latke I got on the side; but then, the potato pancake wasn’t what I expected either, being much thinner than most (including those I’ve had here before) & accompanied by a fresh strawberry salsa as well as sour cream, a neat touch.

Zaidyslatkeandpita
It was cheaper for mom to order whitefish & smoked sable à la carte rather than a combo platter, so that’s what she did. And here’s where there’s no comparison. While the whitefish was roughly equivalent to NYDN’s—both good—Zaidy’s sable was the real deal.

Zaidysfishplatters

Still, the deli duel isn’t over in my mind. Maybe I’ll do a matzoh brei marathon as a tiebreaker when I’ve finally finished digesting, in a month or so.

Delicious grave desecration at Zaidy’s

As Steve Martin was a poor black child in a sharecroppers’ shack in The Jerk, so growing up in a nominally Jewish but wholly East Coastish household in the Bible belt—a tiny six-pointed star upon its very buckle

Oklahoma

I didn’t really notice I couldn’t pass for heartland Christian.

Until lunchtime.

That was when my athletic blond friends unwrapped their bolognas on white & bookish dark I pulled out my cream cheese & green olive on rye & felt awful & shy.

Until, until, my grandfolks took me to a kosher deli in my dad’s hometown of Paterson, NJ, where I bit into my 1st half sour & felt suddenly, truly, at home.

Thus does Zaidy’s old carpet appear a personalized welcome mat beneath tables dotted with dishes of these:

Zaidyspickles

The greener 1′s the half sour—crunchier, brighter, more akin to a cuke straight from the garden, sprinkled with salt—the browner 1 a really garlicky dill; every bite of both—along with the occasional forkful of fresh sauerkraut from the bowl—took me back, closer & closer to Jersey circa 1977.

Which isn’t to say I actually got there. Treyf through & through, Mexican here & there, Zaidy’s caters with relish to the customers Denverites are rather than the ones they might morph into elsewhere—as well it should. Since my own loyalty to my people decreases in proportion to their rejection of shellfish, pork & the combination of meat & dairy, I’d just as soon frequent a deli offering bacon-wrapped scallops sprinkled with blue cheese & the tears of my ancestors or whatever.

Being an actual, Iowan-corn-fed goy, the Director would too—as his omelet, Aryan pink & yellow with ham (Black Forest, no less) & swiss, surely indicates.

Zaidysomelette

It surely also indicates how good it was—thick, moist & as chock-full of its goodies as, say, charoset—the preserve served at Passover to symbolize the mortar with which enslaved Jews in Egypt did brickwork—is with chopped walnuts. Oh, the humanity chunks of pork rump reveal.

As for that pile of sliced & pan-fried potatoes, they were just right—just greasy enough, crispy & soft, well seasoned. In fact, they were even better, texturally at least, than my brisket-filled latkes, fluffy to the slight detriment of the ideal crispy brown veneer.

Zaidyslatkes

But the ample strips of beef were nice & juicy &, all mixed up with dollops of the poppy seed–speckled colelsaw, this was the comfort food of the gods—all merciful, none jealous.

Having recently mentioned there are only 2 scenarios in which I find myself ordering dessert, this was the happier one. Stuffed beyond belief (except that of a secular Jew at the altar of a good deli), I got a square of the cheesecake to go—

Zaidyscheesecake

not too sweet despite the thick layer of luscious brown sugar streusel, pineapple-tinged & creamy-fluffy.

Can’t wait to further disturb various burial plots back in Poland by returning for guacamole-topped blintzes.

Zaidy's Deli on Urbanspoon

Such sorrow & then pancakes after it*: The Breakfast King

I suffer unironically from delayed separation anxiety. His absence doesn’t much unsettle me; it’s the moment the Director returns from a business trip (if that’s what you call going to the Cannes Film Festival or the Berlin Film Festival or to Vegas for an industry summit that seems to consist of about 3 discussion panels, 103 cocktail parties & countless goings-on that stay there) that I suddenly start sobbing in my goblet.

Last night, he swept straight from DIA into a holiday party at the Skylark, where I had already commenced with the merrymaking, thanks in part to Our Lady of the Karaoke Set Magic Cyclops, who happened to intone from his pulpit that Mayo Is Good On All Things, & lo, the heavens did part to shine a blinding light on this mayo-&-chocolate-chip-cookie sandwich that the Constant Watcher, aka our friend Petey, thereby assembleth,

Mayocookie

which was gross in contradictory proportion to its halo, not that that stopped us in our fervor from gobbling it nor from further slapping together a chocolate-chip-&-goat-cheese sandwich

Cheesecookie

&, far worse but theoretically far greater with warm, fresh cookies &, I don’t know, some Iberican import, a chocolate-chip-&-ham sandwich.

Hamcookie

So you can see where this is headed: The Breakfast King, as all voyages across the dark waters of one’s own slobber must.

BK

Having argued before that mediocrity has its moments, some of them downright precious, I’ll submit into evidence Exhibit BK, whose triumph is its mere lights-on presence. It sure as hell ain’t the coffee. That I recall clearly, though much else is shrouded in the mists of my meltdown, which began sometime after we placed our order with the caricature of a hash-house waitress

BB1248 who was our actual waitress.

But not quite all else; I hearted my meatloaf enough for a close-up, digging especially through my sobs how it was basically a hamburger patty with the ketchup baked right in;

BKmeatloaf2

ditto the smooth-as-plastic mashed potatoes with the gravy-filled hollow, just like homemade if you live in the Hungry Jack factory, & the slice of Texas toast for ripping & dipping in said gravy:

BKmeatloaf1

But I have not an inkling of an inkling as to what that junk on the right was, nor whether I ate those old folks’ veggies on the left, nor the ways & means by which I gulped down this bowl of blue-cheese dressing with some lettuce sprinkled on bottom,

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but apparently I did,

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nor whether the Director’s huevos rancheros was as appealing as it looks with 1 eye open or as nauseating as it looks with the other.

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I only know that in the linoleum glow & hum of strangers past bedtime I cried & ate my glorified TV dinner with relish & cried some more as my darling looked on calmly. Heaven should be thus.

*Dostoevsky’d have been a great habitué of all-night diners, no?

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