Showing posts with label bagels. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bagels. Show all posts

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Josh's Delicatessen & Appetizing - Surfside

When Edible South Florida magazine decided to do an issue dedicated to "classics," I was honored to be asked to participate. As a lifelong South Florida resident with many fond memories of places long gone, generally any opportunity to reminisce is enough to get me started. The piece I contributed is on Jewish delis, and I’ll try not to repeat it here too much - go find yourself a copy or read it online - other than to lay out the basic premise: that if the closing of the late, great Rascal House signified the death of the Jewish deli in South Florida, then Josh's Delicatessen & Appetizing, which opened earlier this year in Surfside, may be its reincarnation.

The "Josh" in Josh's Deli is chef/owner Joshua Marcus, who opened Chow Down Grill in this same spot a couple years ago. I was a fan of Chow Down, which brought a modern spin to Chinese-American classics with fresh, high-quality ingredients and house-made everything. But it (and its South Beach sibling, which opened about a year later) were on the front end of what seems to be an inexhaustible supply of contemporary casual Asian eateries in Miami - first Sakaya Kitchen, Pubbelly and Gigi, more recently, Bloom, Shokudo, PaoTown, Kung Fu Kitchen, Lantao Kitchen ...

Amid the glut, Josh decided to try something nobody else was doing: a Jewish-style deli. In April, Chow Down's Surfside location became Josh's Deli.

(You can see all my pictures in this Josh’s Deli flickr set, or click on any picture to enlarge.)

Though maybe the only thing that Chinese food and delicatessen food have in common is Jews' fondness for both, Josh’s approach to them has been similar. In particular, virtually everything at Josh’s Deli is made from scratch.[1] He cures his own corned beef and smokes his own pastrami. He prepares his own fish – salmon three different ways (cured, smoked and pastrami-spiced), smoked tilapia for whitefish salad.[2] The bagels are specially made for him by a local baker.[3] He pickles his own pickles. He even makes his own mustard.

This kind of cooking is a labor of love that many deli owners abandoned years ago in favor of the convenience of pre-prepared, pre-packaged products. It’s a lot more work than cutting open a plastic wrapper, but it’s worth it.

His cured salmon, sliced to order, is beautifully silky, achieving that uneasy feat of tasting like fish without being fishy. We brought home some of each variety to break the fast on Yom Kippur, and while family members all had strong opinions on which they preferred and there was no consensus, everyone had a favorite (for me it’s definitely the pastrami-cured salmon). His whitefish salad, which I initially quibbled with as too chunky, has grown on me, with just enough chopped onion, celery and hard-boiled egg to provide some contrast to the flaky smoked fish without overwhelming it.

(continued ...)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Water Under the Bridge?

Some more insights on the "Brooklyn water bagel" issue from Bob Del Grosso, a/k/a the Hunger Artist, former instructor of Advanced Culinary Principles at the Culinary Institute of America, in "Bagels for Suckers":

For the record. I believe that if NY bagels are good (and not all of them are, there are plenty of crappy bagels made in NYC) their quality is almost entirely the result of what is left out (sugar, dough conditioners etc) rather than what is put in, flour quality and superior mixing, proofing, boiling and baking technique.

And his opinion is backed by some empirical observation:

When I was teaching Advanced Culinary Principles (a food science class) at CIA some of my students made bagels with water from Brooklyn, Miami, Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia. A blind tasting turned up no significant differences among them.
I wonder if any of these new, franchise-aspiring bagelmongers would be willing to put their bagels up to the same taste test.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Bagel Wars Are On

Hot on the heels of the "Brooklyn Water Bagel Co.," here's another entrant into the bagel brouhaha: Brooklyn Bagels, coming - sooner or later, like so many other places announce - to Midtown Miami. The press release says the owner, Ashraf Sahaltout, has "roots in Brooklyn for generations. " I could not, despite inquiry, get any info as to what NY delis he's been associated with.

Press release also said that "a key ingredient he proudly utilizes is the pure city water shipped directly from New York." OK, bakers: how much water would you need to ship down from New York to really do that?

Meanwhile, the author of "The Bagel: A Surprising History of a Modest Bread" chimes in on the whole issue of whether it's really about the water:

As to whether New York City water is the all-important ingredient — the bread scientists I consulted were not convinced.
A good bagel place would certainly be a valuable addition to the midtown Miami area. Maybe everyone should save their efforts in trying to use, or recreate, New York water, and just focus on making a better bagel. Anticipated opening date: December 2009.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Phony Bagelmania Has Bitten the Dust

I know it seems odd that after a week in northern California I should be talking about bagels. A case of recency trumping primacy (there are many good things to eat in San Francisco - the bagels are not among them).

After returning home to South Florida, I was intrigued to read on the Florida Chowhound board of a new bagel place opening up in Delray Beach called "The Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Co." The pitch is that they claim to have found a way to duplicate, through "purification and modification," the supposedly magical effects of the New York public water supply on bagel-preparation.[*]

Opinions among the chowhounds seem decidedly mixed, with some pronouncing them the "Best bagels in S. Fl.," while others declared them "really nothing special." As is somewhat typical, many of the posters (particularly the cheerleaders) are first-time posters, miraculously roused to action by the appearance of a new bagel place.

Anyhoo ... I happened to be up in Palm Beach this morning, and Brooklyn Water Bagel was only a brief detour on my drive back to Miami. I stopped in and they do indeed have lots of fancy metal tanks on display which create the Brooklyn holy water. Other than that, it's a modified fast-food setup where you order at the counter, pour your own coffee or soft drink, and get a card which plugs into a little device on your table to tell them where to deliver your order.

I had requested a lox eggs & onions with a toasted poppy seed bagel, but alas, their toaster was behaving over-aggressively and had been put on time out for the morning. Considering they just opened a week ago, I was not going to hold this against them; besides, it gave me a better opportunity to sample their bagel au naturel, and they assured me the bagels were still warm from the oven. There was another mild snafu a few minutes later when, instead of getting a LEO with a bagel on the side, I instead got a LEO stuffed within said bagel (which was a different but very similarly described menu item). I can deal with that in stride too. It's all about the bagel anyway, right?

As for that bagel. I was underwhelmed. It had a nicely crusty exterior, but otherwise it struck me as too fluffy and risen, and too dry. In fact, for a bagel fresh out of the oven, it felt oddly stale. I can't imagine driving all the way from Miami to Delray even for an authentic Brooklyn bagel, but this one certainly wouldn't be worth the schlep.

But maybe I'd just forgotten what a good bagel tasted like - an easy thing to do amidst all the imposters these days. So as I continued driving south, I recalled another small detour along the way - Sage Deli in Hallandale. Lacking Brooklyn Water Bagel's fast-food franchise aspirations, Sage is an old-school Jewish deli that bakes its own bagels on premises, and also offers the full gamut of the usuals - several different smoked fish, corned beef and pastrami, deli salads, knishes, blintzes, etc. They also had what I recalled to be some of the best bagels in South Florida, though it had been some time since I'd had one. I grabbed a quick sesame bagel (toasted with a working toaster!) topped with scallion cream cheese at the counter, and was reminded what a good bagel should be. Crusty on the outside, but still chewy and even a bit dense on the inside - substantial, serious and not in any way fluffy. It's not a New York bagel, but it's as close as I've gotten here in South Florida - even without any Brooklyn water.

The Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Co.
14451 S. Military Trail
Delray Beach, FL 33484

Sage Deli
800 E. Hallandale Beach Blvd.
Hallandale, FL 33009

Sage Bagel on Urbanspoon

[*]Having been open a week, Brooklyn Water Bagel's website already optimistically has a link for "Franchise Info" though it's a dead link.