7.038 Hot Pastrami Sandwich


12 (Fri) February 2016

Hot Pastrami Sandwich


at Katz’s Delicatessen

-Lower East Side, New York, New York, USA-


Mission to USA + Personal Deviation, Day 7 (see previously 7.037 Pretzel).

In New York.  Here to attend a meeting Tuesday through today on NCDs at the United Nations.  Plus to give a guest lecture Monday on global health at TU.  Flying back on the redeye later tonight.

Katz’s Delicatessen is an American restaurant. Located on East Houston Street (corner of Ludlow Street).  Founded 1888.  Specializes in hot sandwiches and hot dogs.
After I’d taken this shot, a woman standing on the street turns and asks me : “What’s the name of your blog?” I reply : “What makes you think I have a blog?” She explains : “Nobody would take a picture of something like that, with a camera like that, unless you have a blog.”
Each customer is provided a ticket, upon which dollar amounts are scribbled for each order at various stations, then tallied at checkout — I forgot to get a photo of my ticket.
For a sandwich, the customer stands in line for one of eight “cutters.”
$19.95 for a hot pastrami sandwich — the most expensive sandwich that I’ve ever had, and yet the best value ever.
Sliced to order from whole briskets, fat trimmed according to preference.
From what I could tell, everyone was having pretty much the same thing.
This is the only context — the consumption of a hot meat sandwich — in which I would eat a cucumber pickle as a side dish; in a future post, I’ll rant in detail about the Korean practice of serving cucumber pickles with any non-Asian meal (see for example 5.108 Grilled Seabass).
Even if they were giving away free whisky, I still would’ve had a beer.
“Send a salami to your boy in the army” (rhymes when recited in a New Yorker accent), a marketing slogan from back in the days of WWII.
Packed to capacity at 16:34 on a Friday.
By coincidence — I swear — the only seat available in the house was the table where the famous orgasm scene in …When Harry Met Sally was filmed, as noted by the hanging sign above; I — or rather the table, with me sitting at it — was photographed 6 times during the meal, not once with permission.

Originally planned for dinner yesterday, I made the trip to Katz’s — after the meeting had wrapped, after checking out of the hotel, I got there just past 16:00 —  even though I had other dinner plans at 19:00.

Table service is also available; BTW, Sally had the turkey sandwich.

Pastrami is a type of processed meat.  Traditionally beef, specifically plate or brisket.  First cured, then coated with spices, then cooked by smoking and/or boiling and/or steaming : steps intended both to make tender and tasty what was once considered a tough and tasteless cut, and to extend the shelf life of the meat.  Origins attributed to Jews from Eastern Europe, brought over by immigrants in the late 19th century to the United States, where the meat would quickly become a staple item at inner city delicatessens and eventually go on to world fame as an American culinary icon.

According to the website, the pastrami at Katz’s takes 30 days just for curing and 3 days for smoking (see also seriouseats.com’s “How Katz’s Deli Makes Their Perfect Pastrami”).

Katz’s Deli Ale : rich and hoppy, bittersweet, perfectly suited for the smoky meat and tangy pickles.
Pickles (3.5) : the green tomato pickles, what a revelation.
Corned Beef (3.5) : if not for the pastrami, this very likely would’ve rated 4.0, but it seemed a rather … spartan, by comparison.
12 oz.

The Hot Pastrami Sandwich was the best sandwich that I’ve ever experienced.  Not so much as a sandwich per se, which consisted simply of rye bread and dark mustard — no other toppings or condiments available (except ketchup at the table).  It was all about the meat : perfectly tender, perfectly juicy, perfectly seasoned, perfectly smoky — holy fuck — beyond anything that I could’ve dared to dream, inspired to imagine. And yes, no problem, I finished the whole thing (along with the corned beef, and the pickles, and the beer, and another beer).

I bought some pastrami to go, as well as a couple of salamis, which are sure to show up in future posts.

Dinner with two cousins and two aunts who live in New York.



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