I wasn't sure I was going to be able to get any pastrami in on my vacation there. Saturday was the LA food festival, where many food trucks were parked in a row in a small lot in Downtown LA for foodies to enjoy, including Fresser's - a pastrami wielding food truck. My dad and I showed up to the event only to find a huge line - 2 hours just to get in the place...on top of that you only got small samples of the food from each truck - not full portions...boo. We left and tried to head to Langer's, which was also packed. It was the first nice weekend in a long time and people were out - the long wait at Langer's didn't seem appealing. I told my dad "Father's Office would be great too." which is a place that serves gourmet burgers along the lines of a Paragon/Zuni burger in SF. They had no wait and we enjoyed our burgers outside in the sunshine. When I woke up the next morning, I found out my dad had been busy while I was sleeping and picked up a Langer's to go pack! I was familiar with this pack, not because I've seen it, but because I read about it an article by the website Serious Eats - NY.
I was happy to find out my dad had procured a whole loaf of Langer's double baked rye bread - it's killer bread. "You know how they give them to you?" my dad asked me. "They put loaves that are almost the size of 2 loaves of bread on a large rack, this is actually about half of a loaf." The bag looked pretty full to me. The Serious Eats article declared "that the source of Langer's superiority (over Katz's) was its double-baked rye". I was surprised by the lack of quality of the bread at some of the NYC Delis I visited. Langer's, Canters, Brent's, Nate n' Al's, all the LA heavy hitters, have heavenly rye bread. My friend Peter said to me "You know what you are almost more than a pastrami expert - you're a bread snob." He's probably right - I loathe the bread at Saul's in Berkeley and I love it at Miller's East Deli. It's a very simple matter of taste, with a crispy crust, this article sums it up pretty well and Save the Deli supports my claim saying "most of the rye bread at delicatessens around America is not worth the effort it takes to chew. Of all the ryes I tasted in my global research into Jewish delicatessens, none were more disappointing than the supposedly legendary New York rye." Many people tell me "Oh I don't like rye bread - it's bland and I don't like the seeds" and so on and so forth. The level of difference between a proper double baked rye and a regular rye is like comparing pastrami to spam. There is a BIG difference. I took the Langer's bread we had left over in the plane back with me and enjoyed it for several days..I think there might be one piece left in the fridge - but it's not what it once was.
My President's Day Sandwich
We sat outside on the patio and enjoyed our pastrami while humming birds buzzed above our heads. Poor Sue is allergic to gluten and had the pastrami without bread, poor Sue! They tasted pretty darn close to the real Langer's sit down - which is as always excellent, if not the best.
Cheese Blintzes and Potato Pancakes
The Elusive Pastrami Dip - IN SF!
The Elusive Pastrami Dip - IN SF!
I started by ordering everyone cel-ray sodas. They came in bottles, which is only in California for some strange reason, everyone else has cans. They actually had been miscapped with caps that read "ginger ale"...how odd. Everyone liked the cel-ray soda from the start this time around! For appetizers we tried the Cheese blintzes and the Potato Pancakes. The pancakes were out of this world good with sour cream and apple sauce on the side. They were very crispy and had the feel of a human formed pancake. I liked the cheese blintzes, but my guests thought they were a bit too sweet. Perhaps I should have fooled them into eating the derma or kishke without telling them what it is - next guest that comes with me and lets me order for them is in trouble. When my friend Jessica looked at the monstrous menu she noticed they had pastrami French dips. I was looking for this type of sandwich in SF and it was right under my nose - I was always looking away from the French Dip section because it's not really my thing - especially at Miller's. Her pastrami dip was pretty good! When I tried it she reminded me "You have to dip it!" handing the au jus over emphatically. My sandwich was superb as always. The Grilled NY special at Miller's is a true work of art, but I try not to get it for takeout because it tends to fall apart in transit. If you're going to order take out from there - order a regular pastrami sandwich or the Chief (half pastrami, half corned beef) - the bread sticks together better when it hasn't been slathered with coleslaw after being toasted. Jessica ordered her pastrami dip 2 reasons - she loves French dips and she hates rye bread (or at least that's what she said before we sat down). She took the last quarter part of my grilled NY special, the part the had the crispy, grilled Miller's rye bread crust. She was flabbergasted when she tried it "I should have followed your lead." she said after trying the last little corner my sandwich. "So how was that rye bread?" I asked her. She just made a face and said "Well, that was an especially good rye." Robby Morgenstein has told me that he gets his bread from somewhere in New Jersey, so I know there is good rye somewhere on the East Coast. I'll have to ask them specifically where they get their rye bread from next time. I've also read that Zingerman's in Ann Arbor, Michigan has legendary Jewish rye bread that you can order online. If you can't make it to LA, you can still get Langer's rye and pastrami overnight. So, if you dislike rye bread, I really urge you to try some of the best before you decide completely against it! I've tried pastrami many ways now, and the best way to have it is with good company, on rye bread, with a Dr. Browns soda of your choice.