January 10, 2010
I think it’s safe to say: Everyone loves Anthony Bourdain.
I have yet to meet a person who has been indifferent to him, let alone hated him. I, myself, can pinpoint the exact moment I fell in love with the man – It was way back when (you know, back when The Food Network was actually a legit food network) and I was watching A Cook’s Tour on TV. Bourdain, as usual, was in the middle of some far off land and had just taken a bite of the regional iguana dish. It was at that moment he spoke the words that stole my heart. He said:
“Unbelievably horrible. I just want to die. I mean really bad. I want to dip my head into a bucket of lye, you know, pull my eyes out of their sockets and jump off a cliff.”
(Yes, THAT’s the kind of stuff that makes my heart flutter.)
It was at that moment, I knew – Anthony Bourdain WILL NOT bullshit you. If something is horrific, he WILL tell you. On the same note, if he says something is awesome, you better believe it.
Fast forward to November 2009 – I was in the process of planning my first trip to back to NY since the beginning of the millenium and I conveniently stumble upon Anthony Bourdain’s list of 13 places to eat before you die, 3 of which were located in NYC.
Is this a sign? (Maybe.)
Is the King of My Heart trying to tell me something? (I doubt it.)
Am I going to heed his call? (OF COURSE.)
(Note: If you’re an Anthony Bourdain hater out there, please – stay hidden and don’t comment. I like being young and naive.)
(Okay, NOW comes the part about the food.)
Spots 8 and 9 on Anthony Bourdain’s bucket list are just a block apart, which makes them easy to knock off the list. Katz’s Deli and Russ and Daughters are two NYC institutions that have been around for the last century, give or take a couple years (Katz’s opened in 1888, Russ and Daughters in 1914), and they’re both still serving the same things they were when they first opened.
Russ and Daughters
If the day I went was representative of a normal day at Russ and Daughters, be prepared to WAIT. Even though it was pouring outside, this little place was packed to the brim with people, waiting for their smoked fish and Jewish sides.
While others were stocking up on pickled herring and latkes, I had my eyes on a lox bagel with the works (i.e. onions, tomatoes and capers). You get your choice of lox – I chose the Scottish salmon as it was supposed to be “the perfect union of silky texture, balanced smoked, and total sophistication”. I waited 30 minutes for my little bagel sandwich, then rushed over to Katz’s with my goodies all wrapped up in a bag.
I finally got the chance to chow down later in the day and the lox was just as it was described – the texture was smooth, the flavor had just a hint of smokiness…it was some great lox. I almost wish I had just ordered the lox by itself – while the bagel itself was fine, they had smeared on too much cream cheese (at least, for my taste) and had sliced the onions and tomatoes a little thin.
The crowd in Katz’s was just as big as the one in Russ but, luckily, I didn’t have to wait – my sister from another mother, Jenn, had been waiting in line at Katz’s while I was waiting in line at Russ. (Tag team!) I found her sitting at a table, sandwich already split in two, patiently waiting for me to deliver my part of the deal.
Katz’s pastrami is so moist, it just flakes apart in your mouth. It’s probably the best pastrami I’ve had to date…but that’s not saying very much. I’ve yet to try LA’s pastrami institution (i.e. Langer’s) so I don’t know how the East compares with the West. Plus, at the end of the day, Katz’s pastrami sandwich is a $15 pastrami sandwich.
Is it worth the price? *shrugs* It is good though.