Saturday, August 23, 2008

Delis Across the East are Deli-cious

by Erin

Over the past week and a half, I have had the pleasure of eating at two of my favorite delis of all time: The Parkway Deli in Silver Spring, MD, and Rein's New York Style Deli in Vernon, CT. Here is their story (cue Law & Order music):

Deli #1: The Parkway Deli, Silver Spring, MD

The Parkway Deli is a place the BCD fam has been going for at least 10 years. One of the reasons it's great is because it has a huge menu, which includes lots of traditional Jewish eats that you can't find every day. These include latkes, blintzes, knishes, borscht, stuffed cabbage, kasha varnishkas, herring, and chopped liver. (Bonus points if you know what all those things are!) Since the BCD parents come into DC a few days a week for work, I met them in Silver Spring for dinner one night, and we were all in the mood for some good MOT (Member of the Tribe) fare. The place was hopping at 7:00 on a Tuesday night, but thankfully there was no line. (We've gone for brunch before and had to wait in a line that snakes through the little deli in front of the restaurant for 30 minutes or more.)

Mom got us a sweet table in the back corner and we were immediately given sodas and menus. Another good thing about our table: it was right near the pickle bar! The pickle bar is one of the best things about The Parkway - great variety of pickled veggies, all of them delicious. We got some half-sour pickles (Mom's favorite), full sours (my favorite), and pickled tomatoes (Dad's favorite), along with some sauerkraut and pickled baby corns (so tiny!) to nosh on while we waited for our food.

We ordered some latkes (potato pancakes) as an appetizer. They were made with cooked potatoes (not shredded raw potatoes, as we sometimes use when we make them at home), so they were soft and creamy on the inside, but really crispy on the outside. They were served with BOTH sour cream and applesauce - just how we like them.

Blurry Latkes

Then we each ordered sandwiches. Traditionally, deli sandwiches are so large, so tall with layers of meats, it's laughable. Mom got the "Deli Twins," a "small" corned beef sandwich on an onion roll, and a "small" pastrami sandwich on an onion roll. Dad ordered his usual: hot corned beef on rye with mustard.

The Twins

The Classic: Corned Beef on Rye

And I got my usual, one of my favorite sandwiches ever: the Reuben. I don't remember ever ordering the Reuben at The Parkway before (it's been so long I don't think I liked Reubens the last time I was there), but I knew it'd be good because I knew they had good corned beef. I was right: the sandwich had lots of delicious, salty corned beef, topped with crunchy sauerkraut and Russian dressing, and a generous portion of melty Swiss cheese. The whole thing was sandwiched (haha) between two pieces of crispy, griddled up pieces of rye bread. Mmm...heart attack on a plate.

Instead of getting regular fries (though they did look good), we ordered something that looked tasty and different: the "eggplant fries." These turned out to be strips of eggplant that had been battered and fried, much like french fries. They were crispy on the outside (though probably could have been crispier for my taste) and soft on the inside, but not mushy. I'm not a big eggplant fan but these were good and a nice alternative if you are not in the mood for fries (c'mon, like that's EVER happened).

Eggplant Fries

Deli #2: Rein's New York Style Deli, Vernon, CT

Last weekend, Xani and I visited our grandfather up in Manchester, CT, where BCD Dad grew up. It was great to see Grandpa and rehear all the wonderful stories about our grandmother and BCD Dad and his siblings when they were growing up (e.g., Grandpa bought Grandma a brand new sewing machine for their anniversary; BCD Dad (then about 3 years old) somehow got an ice pick (!) in hand and destroyed the sewing machine). While up in CT, we had to stop at Rein's New York Style Deli, a stop we've made on almost every trip to Connecticut since we were born. Rein's bills itself as a NY style deli and while I am no Brooklyn-ite like the BCD parents, I would have to say it's pretty good deli. Like Parkway, Rein's has plenty of Jewish eats on their menu (including a smoked fish platter, a favorite of the family), along with a deli/bakery in the front where you can buy treats to go. Also like Parkway, Rein's is usually packed at all hours of the day (especially around brunch when we used to go), and this day was no exception. It was about 3:00 on a Saturday afternoon, and while we were able to get a table right away, there were only a few tables open in the large restaurant.

We were STARVING at the time, so we noshed on the pickles our waitress gave us and quickly ordered a few starters while we decided what we'd have for the rest of our lunch.

Half sours, fo sho!

We ordered latkes (can you tell I like latkes?) with sour cream and applesauce (of course) and pickled herring in cream sauce.

Pickled herring in cream sauce

As the story goes, when Xani was a baby, our Grandma Claire (Mom's mom) would bring us a jar of this stuff and Xani LOVED it. Yes, the baby loved pickled herring, what can I say? She still loves it and so we ordered it. I, on the other hand, had never even tried it (sounded too weird and gross) until that day, but since I am starting to really like fishy things, I gave it a go. And you know what? It was good! It was not too fishy at all, and it was salty and sweet and the fish was really tender. I guess that 3-year-old Xani knew what she was doing after all!

After our starters, we ordered our traditionally humongous deli sandwiches. Xani got a Triple Decker sandwich with pastrami, corned beef, and chopped liver on rye and I got (shock of shocks) a Reuben!

Triple Decker

The Reuben

Xani's sandwich was great with the two cured meats along with a pretty good chopped liver (not as good as BCD Mom's though!). My Reuben was also excellent due to the high quality of the corned beef and of course, because of the fried up rye bread! To be honest, I can't say whether the Parkway or Rein's has the better Reuben - they were both really awesome and I don't see why they both can't be winners (cue After School Special music).

Two great meals in two great delis with my wonderful family. What could be better? More latkes, perhaps.

Latke + applesauce + sour cream = DELI-CIOUS!

Happy MOT eats,


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Happy Anniversary BCD Mom and Dad!

Thirty-six years and counting. You are an inspiration to us! Wishing you many more wonderful, delicious years together. We love you!

Xani and EP


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Happy (Belated) Birthday To Me!

by Erin

I celebrated my 26th birthday a few weeks ago but we were so eager to get our NYC posts up, I hadn't had the chance to tell all five of you loyal readers about all the birthday festivities. On the Saturday before my birthday, friends gathered in Baltimore for dinner at Dionysus, a greek-ish place in Mt. Vernon, followed by delicious beers at The Brewer's Art, one of my favorite bars in the city. I was so glad to see so many folks come out to celebrate with me! Or perhaps they couldn't resist Brewers' beers? I'd like to think it was a little of both.

This being a food blog, however, I will focus on the fabulous meal Xani and I had on the evening of my birthday (July 28 - best day ever!) at Salt, a place that's been on our list since the list was written!

Salt is located on Pratt Street in Butcher's Hill, a cute part of town with hard-to-find parking. Once we'd found a space, however, the rest of the evening went swimmingly. Xani and I took a seat in the dining area, separated from the funky bar area, and took note of the exposed white brick walls and the cool artwork hanging from them. The dining room also had huge green lights hanging over many of the tables, giving us a challenge as we chose the light settings for our cameras.

Our knowlegable and friendly waiter brought us some delicious bread and tomato-y spread, and we ordered glasses of wine.

Then, we consulted the much heard about awesome menu of Salt. As is typical when Xani and I dine out, we are often more excited about the appetizers/starters/small plates than the entrees since they are usually much more interesting. In addition, since the apps are always smaller, you can order more of them for the table than you would entrees, and more apps means more things to try! I love being able to try as many things as I can. Maybe it is the blossoming food critic within, but I think this preference goes WAY back to when I was little, because when I ordered Chicken McNuggets, I got ALL the sauces. Yup, all of 'em, whatever they had (usually sweet n' sour, BBQ, honey mustard, and honey), even if it cost the BCD parents extra.

Anyway, per our usual, Xani and I were more excited about the apps than the entrees, so with the guidance of our waiter, we selected five starters, which came out in three courses.

For our first course, we ordered the Trio of Gazpachos. The three flavors were Amish tomato, watermelon chili, and mango jicama. They were all served cold (very important on a hot July evening) and were all very interesting. Each had its own little garnish on the top (chives, parsley, etc.) in a super-fine dice. Nice knife skillz!

The best was the Amish tomato gazpacho, a traditional version of the soup with great tomato flavor, bits of fresh vegetables floating around, and a bit of a kick from some sort of pepper. Our next favorite was the watermelon chili gazpacho, which was sweet in the beginning but then hit you like a punch in the mouth with the heat. Yowza! It was hot, but good, and unlike the traditional gazpacho, it didn't have veggies floating in it and was pretty uniform throughout. Last on the list was the mango jicama gazpacho, which had a lot of good flavor but was a little too sweet for our tastes. Plus, it was a little on the thick side. Still, all three were very tasty, and beautifully presented.

For our next course, we enjoyed the Eastern Shore Corn Salad and the Tuna Poke. Both of these dishes were really fabulous with interesting and totally delicious flavor combinations. The corn salad was accompanied a "spicy crab and avocado ball and a sweet onion vinaigrette." The corn salad was sweet from the fresh corn and had lots of cilantro and mint, in addition to a cilantro puree alongside the salad. PLUS there was the crab ball. Fresh, spicy crab meat covered in thin slices of perfectly ripe avocado, topped with a sprinkling of sea salt. Hooboy, this was good!

The tuna poke was also a great dish. Poke is the hip, Hawaiian name for tuna tartare, and it was quite delicious. It was served with a "cucumber ginger granite and spicy peanut brittle." The poke had a delicious spicy sauce on the fish, and then the granita was sweet and hot, but icy and cold. The brittle added more spice and some crunch to the dish. Not only were these dishes amazingly tasty, they were amazingly interesting and unique, and we so appreciated that.

For our last course, we ordered the Duck Fat French Fries and the Foie Gras & Kobe Beef Slider. The fries were excellent (though, unfortunately, still not as good as Xani's!) and were served with a trio of aioli: chipotle, malt vinegar, and truffle. The aiolis were excellent, the truffle being my favorite, of course. Though the malt vinegar one was a great throwback to our days walking the boardwalk!

The best dish all night, however, was the awesome, decadent slider. It was a perfectly cooked kobe beef mini-burger topped with an equally-sized seared piece of foie gras on a grilled bun with truffle aioli and red onion marmalade. Holy crap. Xani and I split this tiny burger (with a big price tag: $15) and it was sooo rich, it was just the right two-bite amount. So good, it was like a (birthday) party in my mouth!

After our meal o' appetizers, we decided to get a little dessert to celebrate the birthday. We got a dessert I'd heard about from my friend Nicole: three mini ice cream cones! The three flavors were espresso, cookies and cream, and dulce de leche. Ice cream being my favorite dessert, I was a very happy birthday girl, plus I got to blow out a candle!

It was a great meal and I can't wait to get back to Salt to try more of their wonderful, creative dishes. Thanks to all who made my birthday one of the best ever! I love you all!


ps. Here are some pics from our evening out at Brewer's:

My birthday gift from Craig, Mark, and Rachel was an apron embroidered with the BCD logo!!! Order yours today!

Mark & Craig

The Wash U crew!

Xani and Mark and their beers

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