It started last November, when a stunning claim was made in the pages of the magazine in a fawning article about the local restaurant scene: Portland today is to the culinary arts what Paris was to the visual arts a hundred years ago. More recently, in somewhat of an anti-climax, Portland’s waffles were lauded.
So it should not come as a surprise that Gourmet visited again.
In an article in the October issue, Meet the New Deli, author David Sax notes that for the last 50 years the Jewish delicatessen has been on the decline.
In New York City alone, where this vigorous symbol of Ashkenazic cooking once flourished among immigrants, thousands have been reduced to a scattered few dozen. Cultural assimilation, dietary trends, and economics are largely to blame, but there’s also a culinary factor at work.
But he argues there has been a renaissance lately, and Portland’s Kenny and Zuke’s is one of the shining examples.
The people who work there are young, idealistic, and enthusiastic. Each morning, a trio of hippies roll tomorrow’s bagels by hand (the dough rests overnight), then dip the previous batch in malted water and bake them for breakfast. At night, Mathew Scaletta, a shaggy-haired 24-year-old who grew up canning fish in Alaska, preps and smokes the pastrami until it is dark red, with an intense, brackish tang and hints of peppery spice that meld perfectly with the rich marbling. The meat is steamed for close to three hours before being hand-cut to order and placed on Gordon and Zukin’s rye bread. Studded with kimmel (caraway) seeds and baked to a malty brown, the sourdough is dense and fragrant—a far cry from the homogenized loaves that most delicatessens pass off as rye. “I can buy other rye cheaper,” says Gordon. “But, damn, it’s good! Are we going to put our pastrami on a lesser rye? I don’t think so.”
And I agree with the assessment of Kenny and Zuke’s – the rye bread is fantastic, and the pastrami is amazing (though not as good as my friend Brent’s homemade, backyard smoked, version!).
Read the rest at Gourmet‘s website (if you can stomach all the pop up and slide across ads – gah!): Meet the New Deli.
* Per commenter extramsg: “Gourmet has an editor from Portland, which helps. It’s on their radar, not just a long-distance suburb of Seattle or San Francisco. Also, David Sax wrote the article independently and sold it/the idea to Gourmet. It’s really a follow-up to his book “Save the Deli” which comes out soon and highlights the best delis across the country and laments their disappearance. Caplansky’s and K & Z’s opened after the book was pretty much written so they didn’t make the book, yet they’re both exactly what he’s been wishing for.”