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Katz's Delicatessen, New York, NY, tasted on  May 8, 2004  This seems like an appropriate way to break the fast. I'm not sure how much value my words can offer in this case. Quite simply, Katz's Delicatessen is one of the most enjoyable eating experiences of my life. I admit, the atmosphere is not without its impact. Informal is a technically accurate but almost glib description. It's more like chaotic, messy, and homey. But the good feeling at Katz's really shines through as expressed through their cured meats. The Jewish people have made a major sacrifice by avoiding pork. The variety of cured pork products, all terribly delicious, is really astounding. And all are off limits. But not without its own resourcefulness the Jewish people have their own adopted cured meat delicacies, and high quality pastrami is at the top of my personal list of favorites.

There is this moment at Katz's where the generosity and quality of the sandwiches are demonstrated literally and metaphorically. This is the moment you are standing in line and still several minutes from your first bite. It's at that moment, when you're salivating, starting to get impatient, and peering over the counter to get a glimpse of what's to come, that the friendly sandwich maker behind the counter serves up a hunk of pastrami or corned beef on a plate for you to sample. And this is no tiny sliver... "hefty chunk" is usually a more apt descriptor. And even though it's just a start, it's symbolic. Symbolic of how the sandwich is going to attend to your most basic needs for comfort, love, sustenance, happiness, and smoked cured meat. The Katz's folks know that you need a little bit right at that moment and they show up with their sample as if they've read your mind. The sandwich that follows fulfills the promises of that sample beautifully. And of course, the pickles are great too. I keep meaning to try something other than a hot pastrami sandwich with a pickle at Katz's but since I don't get to New York as often as I'd like, really, what's the point?










Tastingmenu is focused on superlative restaurant experiences from two perspectives: behind the plate and behind the stove. Tastingmenu is written by Hillel (professional eater) and Dana (up-and-coming professional chef) in Seattle, Washington.

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  Garlic has long been credited with providing and prolonging physical strength and was fed to Egyptian slaves building the giant pyramids. Throughout the centuries, its medicinal claims have included cures for toothaches, consumption, open wounds and evil demons. A member of the lily family, garlic is a cousin to leeks, chives, onions and shallots. The edible bulb or "head" grows beneath the ground. This bulb is made up of sections called cloves, each encased in its own parchmentlike membrane. Today's major garlic suppliers include the United States (mainly California, Texas and Louisiana), France, Spain, Italy and Mexico. There are three major types of garlic available in the United States: the white-skinned, strongly flavored American garlic; the Mexican and Italian garlic, both of which have mauve-colored skins and a somewhat milder flavor; and the Paul Bunyanesque, white-skinned elephant garlic (which is not a true garlic, but a relative of the leek), the most mildly flavored of the three. Depending on the variety, cloves of American, Mexican and Italian garlic can range from 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches in length. Elephant garlic (grown mainly in California) has bulbs the size of a small grapefruit, with huge cloves averaging 1 ounce each. It can be purchased through mail order and in some gourmet markets. Green garlic, available occasionally in specialty produce markets, is young garlic before it begins to form cloves. It resembles a baby leek, with a long green top and white bulb, sometimes tinged with pink. The flavor of a baby plant is much softer than that of mature garlic. Fresh garlic is available year-round. Purchase firm, plump bulbs with dry skins. Avoid heads with soft or shriveled cloves, and those stored in the refrigerated section of the produce department. Store fresh garlic in an open container (away from other foods) in a cool, dark place. Properly stored, unbroken bulbs can be kept up to 8 weeks, though they will begin to dry out toward the end of that time. Once broken from the bulb, individual cloves will keep from 3 to 10 days. Garlic is usually peeled before use in recipes. Among the exceptions are roasted garlic bulbs and the famous dish, "chicken with 40 cloves of garlic," in which unpeeled garlic cloves are baked with chicken in a broth until they become sweet and butter-soft. Crushing, chopping, pressing or pureeing garlic releases more of its essential oils and provides a sharper, more assertive flavor than slicing or leaving it whole. Garlic is readily available in forms other than fresh. Dehydrated garlic flakes (sometimes referred to as instant garlic) are slices or bits of garlic that must be reconstituted before using (unless added to a liquid-based dish, such as soup or stew). When dehydrated garlic flakes are ground, the result is garlic powder. Garlic salt is garlic powder blended with salt and a moisture-absorbing agent. Garlic extract and garlic juice are derived from pressed garlic cloves. Though all of these products are convenient, they're a poor flavor substitute for the less expensive, readily available and easy-to-store fresh garlic. One unfortunate side effect of garlic is that, because its essential oils permeate the lung tissue, it remains with the body long after it's been consumed, affecting breath and even skin odor. Chewing chlorophyll tablets or fresh parsley is helpful but, unfortunately, modern-day science has yet to find the perfect antidote for residual garlic odor.  

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