Sunday, September 13, 2009

Katz's Deli and Russ and Daughters (food, MomVisit09)

No food trip through NYC can be complete without some good Jewish food. For that, we went to Katz's Deli and Russ and Daughters on the lower east side for some beautiful meats and smoked fish.

Here's the famous pastrami sandwich on rye with mustard at Katz's. Absolutely delicious every time. The secret is the combination of thick hand-cut slices and the constant steaming to keep it moist and tender. That texture is the thing that elevates this pastrami sandwich over every other one that I've tried.

Here, we tried a tongue and corned beef combination with some russian dressing. The corned beef was good, but not comparable to the pastrami. The tongue was surprisingly fattier and tastier than others that I've had. This might be my new routine at Katz's. Have the pastrami sandwich there and then take some of the tongue to go. While the pastrami holds up pretty well to travel, it's probably still best to eat it freshly sliced. The tongue, however, is served cold and so is perfect for taking home to make more delicious sandwiches.

Of course it's always fun to introduce Dr. Brown's sodas to people. I personally enjoy cel-ray, but it really isn't for everyone. It's actually more fun when you give it to someone without telling them what it is. Celery-flavored soda is not something anyone expects. I didn't do that to my mom though. I also enjoy the black cherry flavor, and prefer it to regular cherry coke.

Let's not forget the sour and half-sour pickles. While I'm not a big pickle person in general, I will eat some of these. I prefer the sour ones myself.

After we were done, we went down the street to Russ and Daughters to grab a nice assortment of smoked fish and appetizing selections to take home to enjoy away from the rain. In the picture above, clockwise from the bottom, are one slice each of the gravlax, the private stock sturgeon, the sablefish, the Irish organic salmon, and the Scottish salmon loin. We also tasted some other different salmon, but preferred these. I even had my mom taste the belly lox. For those who haven't had true belly lox, it's quite salty.

We also bought some bagels, some whitefish salad, and the caviar and scallion cream cheese pictured above. The whitefish salad is one of the best I've ever had. Not too salty, which is the usual problem, it also contains little pieces of their kippered salmon, which adds a nice texture and taste component. The caviar cream cheese is really good, and was the thing that everyone else in the store while we were there bought as well.

Price-wise, the two sandwiches and drinks at Katz's cost about $40 combined while I tipped the slicer $5. A $5 or larger tip for the slicer has never been uncommon at Katz's, but I think that people have tipped them less in general since the recession. At Russ and Daughters, we bought about $70 worth of goods which lasted us about 2 full days of eating. These two places are true NYC institutions and were featured on an episode of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations. Definitely one of those instances where food reflects the history and culture of an area.

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