Tuesday, July 22, 2014

So What is a Deli?

The answer depends on where you happen to be. “The name Deli comes from the German word Delikatessen (German for Delicacies). Deli's came to New York as the population of German and Eastern European Jews fled religious and social oppression by immigrating to the United States, between 1900 and 1938. As New York City was the Point-Of-Entry for these immigrants, many stayed. After all they were unable to speak English, speaking German and Yiddish (a 14th century derivation of German) and so tended to stay within the community” (newyorkdeli.co.nz).

“The word was shortened from delicatessen in 1954. While we usually don’t associate delis or deli meat with fancy or gourmet food, the term delicatessen means ‘delicacies’ or ‘fine food.’ Though it is a German borrowing, ultimately delicatessen derives from the Latin adjective delicauts, which means ‘giving pleasure, delightful, pleasing,’ and also ‘overly-luxurious, spoiled’ and ‘fragile’ (dictionary.com).

Having lived on the East Coast for so many years, I consider a deli to be a market where you find cases of meats (pastrami, corned beef, brisket, tongue and more) ready to be sliced. A market where you find fresh salads and pickles—especially my favorite half sours. A market with loaves of seeded rye and bins of bagels. And, if you are lucky, your favorite deli also has an attached restaurant where you can sample all of these delicacies without doing any work.
But we have learned that our concept of a deli is not found everywhere we travel. In fact, most “delis” are restaurants only and don’t include a specialty market. So I was not surprised to learn that the Dark City Deli in Black Mountain, NC, was a restaurant only. Well, that isn’t quite accurate. It is also a bar, a music venue, and a pool hall.
The “deli’s” web site says: “Take a step back in time while enjoying family-friendly dining. Enjoy our full service bar that serves up twelve craft beers from the tap and just about any other libation you can dream up. How about a game of billiards, darts, or foosball in the Parlor? Our historic location is in the heart of Black Mountain…. Our atmosphere is served from a hundred year-old brick building accented with handmade native hardwood furnishings that make dining and relaxing at the Deli a unique experience” (darkcitydeli.com).
But, while not being my idea of a “real” deli, the sandwich menu was intriguing enough to make this out lunch stop while in Black Mountain (about three miles east of Asheville). Does one order The Bruiser (“This big boy will put a hurtin’ on you!”) with off-the-bone ham, smoked gouda, roasted turkey, bacon, aged cheddar? Does one order the MOO! (“Say it like ya mean it!) with medium-rare roast beef on a ciabatta with white aged provolone and horseradish aioli? Or does one order The Gobbler (“Not your traditional turkey sandwich.”) with warm turkey and stuffing with cranberry chutney and herb aioli on an english muffin.?

"No" to the above. We ordered sandwiches with the deli staples of corned beef and pastrami. For Chuck it was New Yorker with thinly sliced warmed pastrami, aged Swiss, and spicy mustard on rye with a side of coated fries.
And since the menu says that you can order any sandwich grilled, Chuck had it grilled. The pastrami on this sandwich was first rate with the coriander perfume that makes for great pastrami.
And this is one of the few meats where some measure of fat is necessary—especially when it is warmed as was this and some of the fat melts and moistens and flavors the meat.

Mine was the corned beef selection—the Mein Kraut which is the deli’s version of a Reuben sandwich. The corned beef was good, but did not compare with Chuck’s pastrami. But the sauerkraut had just the right degree of sour—not too much and not too little.
My side was one of the day’s specials—the kale salad that was composed of large chiffonade pieces of kale in an oil dressing that had an undertone of heat from red pepper flake. The salad was also dusted with a small amount of parmesan cheese.
Kale seems to be another food fad and should you doubt it, consider this: “Anyone who doubts the ability of a stalky, bitter brassica to capture the public consciousness, consider this: last year, 262 babies in the United States were named Kale.

“The cruciferous vegetable has become an unavoidable presence on restaurant menus. It has been converted into crisps, popcorn, smoothies and cocktails. You can buy kale hand cream, kale face scrub—even iPhone cases bearing the words ‘Keep Calm and Love Kale’” (Alice-Azania Jarvis at independent.co.uk). And do you remember, way back in the early days of this blog, Chuck, his cousin Mike, Mike’s wife Joannie, and me “massaging the kale” in Mike and Joannie’s kitchen in Billings, MT? (This can be found at thewandererschuckandkate.blogspot.com/2010/07/massaging-kale.html)

Perhaps it was our hunger for “deli” or a close facsimile thereof, but we left agreeing that Dark City Deli earned a 4.5 Addie rating.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.


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