I am recently back from a quick restaurant-packed trip to Los Angeles, where I went to apply for my Austrian passport. I gravitated towards food I craved because I can’t get it in Tucson — before my Tucson readers complain, I am challenging you to dispute my statement that there is not a single Jewish-style deli in town, good or bad — and food that celebrated my new Austrian citizenship. There was definitely a lot of overlap between these categories.
These meals would have been excellent on their own, but they were particularly delicious because I was dining with my host and long-lost childhood friend Margo.
Almost as soon as I dropped off my bag at her place, Margo and I headed for Canter’s, which would not have been open if it were a kosher deli, because it was still Passover and you’re not supposed to eat bread on that holiday. In fact, religious Jews are not supposed to eat half the things on Canter’s menu year round, such as honey ham steak and eggs.
Never mind. The chopped liver came highly recommended, so I ordered the Bronx Special: pastrami and chopped liver served open face on rye with choice of cole slaw or potato salad. I got the cole slaw (wouldn’t want to overdo it, right), but Margo said the potato salad was excellent and ordered a side of it.
She was right. I was so enthralled by everything that I forgot to take the picture until there were leftovers.
I posted this picture on Facebook and was not shocked to learn that not everyone thinks chopped liver is delicious — or even palatable. I was not asking them to eat it.
I didn’t sample anything in the above deli case except the pickles but couldn’t resist taking a picture of a display that included both schmaltz (though spelled here with an “s”) and charoses, a dish usually restricted to Passover seders. Now I wish I had gotten some of the pickled tomatoes to go.
Note: The pastry case pictured next to the title of this post is also in Canter’s. I did not sample any of the hamentaschen (triangular pastry in the top row) but want it on the record that I disapprove of the ones in the center drizzled with chocolate.
Los Angeles may have an abundance of Jewish delis but the city is missing one type of cuisine, the kind I hoped to enjoy as a new citizen: Austrian. Never mind. I got recommendations for a German restaurant from a number of people in LA, one that had several crossover dishes in the schnitzel and spaetzle and cabbage family: Rasselbock.
Here is what I enjoyed:
This dinner, which was delicious, came courtesy of my friend Lydia, who bought me a Rasselbock gift certificate to help me celebrate my Austrian citizenship.
Sweets That Are Bittersweet
I have said that there were no Austrian restaurants in Los Angeles. There is, however, Vienna Pastry, a bakery that Margo and I hightailed it to directly after I got fingerprinted at the Austrian consulate.
A bit of background. In addition to butchers, there were several Viennese sweets purveyors on my family tree. My cousin Stephen Klein brought what became Barton’s chocolate over to the U.S. from Vienna; my cousin Curt Allina put the heads on PEZ candy dispensers in this country; and my great uncle Siegmund Kornmehl (yes, he has the same name as the butcher) owned the Cafe Viktoria in Vienna.
All this to say, I come by my sweet tooth honestly–or genetically. And while I’m wouldn’t turn down a sachertorte or apfelstrudel, the confection I really craved on this occasion was marzipan, which my mother loved.
Margo served me my marzipan on a Brooklyn plate, a reproduction of the kind that used to be given away at the movies on “dish night.” There’s a strong symbolism to the image, embodying my mother’s flight from Vienna to Brooklyn and my enjoyment of her favorite dessert after getting her stolen citizenship back.
It represents a bittersweet journey, marzipan notwithstanding.