Best Take Out Meals I’ve Eaten So Far

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Best Take Out Meals I’ve Eaten So Far 

“It’s easier to be faithful to a restaurant than it is to a woman.” Federico Fellini

Cooking and takeout during the pandemic became both sustenance and escapism and still involves a lot of conversation. Being at risk, I’m not comfortable in restaurants  with masked and gloved waiters, unmasked patrons and tables closer than six feet apart.  It’s hard to order a lot of my favorite foods as takeout- because things become soggy, mushy or dry out quickly.  Restaurants are struggling to survive so I am trying to support them. Here are some of my favorite takeout foods in no particular order that travel well.

Spicy Tuna#2   Yumi Sushi

The first time I ate here, I asked for recommendations from Midori, my now favorite waitress. She said to try the Spicy Tuna Roll number two. One day the chef was eating wasabi chips and wondered about incorporating them into a sushi roll and the result is a salty, delicious, addicting roll. Everyone I introduce it to becomes addicted as well. All the food is good,  Whenever I am in Beverly HIlis, I want spicy tuna #2. It makes it home easily to Venice. I usually have a few.  https://www.yumisushibh.com

 Margarita Pizza   Pizzana

The margarita pizza at Pizzana got rave reviews from the late Jonathan Gold. I couldn’t eat gluten for a while and I have to say that their gluten free, vegan cheese pizza was satisfying. But now I feel better so I cheat once in a while and have the regular margarita pizza. You can order  it half cooked and heat it up at home . Getting a reservation in Brentwood was rough in the beginning, Now they have two locations and plenty of takeout, so it is much easier to enjoy their food. https://pizzana.com 

Achiote Chicken Taco   Valle

I’m obsessed with the Achiote chicken taco with salted cabbage at Valle. Valle took over the former MTN space on Abbot Kinney in Venice.  It is Oaxacan Mexican food. They make tortillas from scratch. I order extra and have them for breakfast. I do this on Uber Eats and the food comes fast and it is not soggy. Their guacamole is delicious and fresh and their chips are also homemade and perfectly salted. The other dishes are good as well. But right now for me, it all about the chicken taco. https://vallevenice.com

 Chinese Chicken Salad Chin Chin 

Chin Chin Chinese Chicken has been in my life since I moved to LA. My children grew up eating it and I brought it to every school event. This combination of shredded iceberg lettuce, chicken breast, scallions, carrots, toasted almonds, and brown and white crunchies mixed in a red ginger dressing always hits the spot. It travels well and you can even leave it unmixed in the refrigerator for a day if you have to. It’s a perfect takeout food. https://chinchin.com

 Gluten Free Zucchini Bread With PB and J And Kreation Juice  Kreation

I’ve had a hard time with gluten free bread. It is usually expensive and bad tasting or so sweet  and white that it feels unhealthy. As a treat I love to have the gluten free zucchini bread at Kreation with Peanut Butter and Jelly. PB and J is my favorite food. It is an American classic. It is said that the average American will have eaten at least 2000 PB and J sandwiches by the time they graduate from high school.  I mix their yellow Serenity and  green Margan juice together to go with It. It always feels like a special morning when I get to start my day off with this.  https://www.kreationjuice.com 

 Cold Soba Noodles   Yabu  

Yabu serves really delicious Soba noodles. I recently discovered  this in my quest for good takeout so I have not eaten in the restaurant yet. I also love the light fried tofu. Soba is a Japanese noodle made from buckwheat flour  and is particularly difficult to make by hand. There is a Japanese tradition to eat  soba noodles on New Year’s Eve to wish for health and long life and I am going to incorporate that into my life now that I have found a good place to eat it.  Till then we will enjoy the takeout. http://www.yaburestaurant.com 

Sushi Bento Box Shunji

Michelin star, Omakase restaurant Shunji  started making sushi bento boxes when they were allowed to open for takeout. We found that the 48 dollar sushi box is more than satisfying though sometimes we add some uni for a treat. If you eat it as soon as it gets home, it holds up pretty well. The sushi still feels super fresh. We are regulars now. http://shunji-ns.com

Pastrami Sandwich  Daughter’s Deli

I am also addicted to the Pastrami Sandwich at Daugher’s Deli. Daughter is the daughter of Langer’s Deli, a restaurant in DTLA that has been there forever. It serves the most famous pastrami in Los Angeles. The sandwiches are lean, delicious and a normal size so you don’t feel like it is a super splurge to eat it. I don’t live near there so i have not had it as much as usual during the pandemic but when I am in West Hollywood  – I am there. The sandwich holds up for takeout and the bread doesn’t get greasy.  I  get the Noi – just pastrami and mustard on gluten free rye bread and I am happy. (I was hungry)  https://www.daughtersdeli.com

Pretzels and Brownies Spero Bakery

Food photography has taken on a whole new dimension on Instagram. The Pandemic has forced people to find creative, safe solutions for take out food.  More chefs and bakers are selling food on Instagram by posting on the app and taking orders. Spero has expanded to other desserts but right now for me its the brownies and pretzels. Its so easy and they deliver on Wednesdays and Saturdays all over LA. @sperobakery

Stay safe,
JAZ

The Delicatessen – Growing Up In New York

The Delicatessen- Growing Up in New York

“As I see it, there are two kinds of people in this world; people who love delis and people you shouldn’t associate with.” Damon Runyon

I just saw Deli Man. a documentary film that chronicles the delicatessens that opened up in the twenties on the lower east side of New York City. . They started as German restaurants. As the Eastern European Jewish immigrants began coming to America they brought the foods of Lithuania, Romania, Hungary, Poland and Russia. The film tells the stories of  the rise of the delis and the Jewish immigrants. Their success and technology erased the old traditional urban blocks with everything you need run by mom and pop storefronts and delis on every block. In the 1930s New York had fifteen hundred Jewish delis. Now there are about twenty left. As the Jewish population assimilates and we all become foodies, we don’t just eat Jewish food anymore.

In other cultures  such as Mexican, Italian and Asian, there are always new immigrants coming in and cooking and wanting the food from their countries. There is no more Eastern European Jewish culture. The ones who live here have assimilated and the Holocaust took care of the rest. The Deli Culture is dying out.

There were two or three small delis on a block where I was growing up. There were larger deli restaurants as well. The people who worked in the delis had been there forever. They were the old timers and warranted a certain amount of respect. There was a kind of familiarity that the waiters and waitresses had – like they knew you for your whole life, even if they didn’t. They could be funny, mildly insulting and roll their eyes while you ordered everything on the side or asked for the fat to be cut off the corn beef.

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I was brought up on natural and health foods at a time that no one was. People who ate like this and exercised regularly were called heath nuts. Now they are called normal. Everyone that I knew except my family was eating Wonder Bread, Hershey Bars, Frosted Flakes and drinking Cokes and lemonade.There was no Whole Foods or McDonald’s.

We had fruit and vegetable stores so we always had plates of fresh sliced fruit and vegetables after school – not that anyone wanted that, but it was there so we ate it. We made our own candy out of peanut butter, raw coconut and honey. It was definitely more fun to make it with our hands than eat it. Our package desserts included Fig Newtons and something inedible called halvah. (It wasn’t till I went to Turkey that I found out that when it was served fresh it was delicious.) I thought Fig Newtons were inedible also. I can’t believe they are still around. We had some green herbal thing in a salt shaker that they tried to pass off as salt. We drank orange juice and we could have had a V8 instead of the cokes we longed for. We ate meat that was very rare, sometimes it looked right off the cow – blood for the blood. I don’t think I ever ate brisket until I was much older and to this day I do not like potted meat (in Yiddish gedempte flaisch)

We did not eat out because the kitchens were dirty and unsanitary in most restaurants – according to my father. It was before the rating system and they probably were. We did not use aerosol sprays because he said there was a hole in the atmosphere – something only he knew about so I was sure it was untrue. We did not have a car because it caused pollution and had to ride our bikes everywhere or take public transportation. Everyone else had cars. I was sure he was wrong about that as well.

But for some reason, delis were ok. I never asked why. Maybe it was the food of their childhood, their parents who I never met, the lower East Side of Manhattan – food they knew. We could have knishes, blintzes, sour pickles from a barrel, frankfurters, muenster cheese, peppery roast beef and they would let us order a chocolate egg cream. Occasionally we would have pastrami and corned beef sandwiches on fresh rye bread.  We ate a lot of smoked fish. Those small smoked golden white fish  had a lot of bones but they tasted good and I guess they were cheap. We were not rich and lox was expensive even then. My mother would buy a ¼ lb of lox and could easily feed six people on bagel and lox sandwiches that were mostly cream cheese. I think those neighborhood delis probably kept me alive because there was not much I was eating at home. I stopped in one every day.

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We could not have salami or bologna because “we didn’t know what was in it and there were probably chemical additives”. I grew up bringing ham sandwiches to school for lunch and lying and saying it was bologna because the Jewish people in my neighborhood did not eat ham. We used to eat Lithuanian black pumpernickel bread. I dreamed about having white bread sandwiches like everyone else. I’m not much of a bread person now unless I see that black whole grain bread of my childhood and then I can eat the whole loaf. Mayonnaise on meat still grosses me out and I’ve lived in California for a long time.

The other foods in the delis were weird to me. “What is that?,” we would ask. Stuffed kishka – skin – ew really?), chopped liver–yuk, , gribenes – fried chicken skin -uh, schmaltz, -chicken fat – gross, borscht – beet soup, (I cannot eat beets in any form), kasha –buckwheat, kreplach – dough floating in soup with liver and onions in it, kugel -noodle pudding, matzoh balls – dumplings made from matzoh that were really big and heavy), tzimmes – root vegetables and varnishkes – pasta with kasha. It all sounded awful and I’ve never liked it. But when I see it and smell it now, it always reminds me of my mom and the stories she would tell of how her mother made those foods.

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When I turned thirteen years old,  I started having summer jobs and my own money. I began going to diners, coffee shops, Italian and Chinese restaurants. I drank cokes. I ate pistachio nuts with the red dye on them that got all over your fingers, red M and Ms (we grew up in fear of red dye #2 and BHA and BHT – which was a preservative in packaged sugar cereal),  Bonomo Turkish Taffy – the kind that was really bad for your teeth and Carvel swirl ice cream cones.  I was rebelling. But NY delis were always around. You could smell the food as you walked down the street. It was the comfortable smell of my childhood and I thought it would always be there.

With the demise of Delis and  the Yiddish language comes the loss of our Eastern European cultural roots. With the pursuit of complete assimilation into American culture, and the absence of new Eastern European Jewish immigrants, we lost our history and we are losing our food.

I did not pass on the cultural traditions and Yiddish phrases of their grandparents to my children. They don’t know about their life on the lower east side of NY in the thirties and forties. They don’t know the stories from Yiddish theatre and vaudeville that my mother used to tell or the Eastern European melodies I heard growing up.  They don’t know the old Jewish comedians, the Borscht Belt, the Catskills or that we were the people of the clarinet. But they do know a good pastrami sandwich and a black and white cookie and that Nate and Al’s Deli makes a delicious chicken soup when you are sick.

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Fly safe,

JAZ