Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Oy Vey Deli

There is a deli in the Villages retirement community, in Lady Lake in North Florida, that had my wife salivating. It turns out Toojay's is a chain and they have an outlet as far as south as Fort Lauderdale and I expect we will be paying them a visit in the future. Nancy a long time resident of Big Pine Key wanted to bring my wife to dinner here and get her opinion on the place. No one cared about my opinion, not least because I'm not Jewish and I'm not that discriminating when it comes to a disgusting dish like chopped chicken livers:
The white specks are, I am reliably informed, chicken fat. You spread some of the mush on a piece of rye bread, add a raw onion ring and chow down making appreciative noises, which don't come easily to me when faced with my least favorite meat dish. I would walk a long way from the camp fire to avoid eating liver. Apparently these two got this dish as a special treat from their grandparents as kids and it brings back happy memories. I remember homemade pesto pasta and eggs fried in olive oil and fried rice balls which make me happy to have grown up in Italy.
My wife likes to tell me what to photograph from time to time, so instead of me photographing my impressions I end up taking a picture of what she thinks is important. Apparently this soda is the authentic accompaniment to the meals of her youth. "Can't go to a Jewish deli and not have a cream soda." she mumbled though her chicken liver. We had diet versions because we are middle aged. Nancy got some elaborate brisket sandwich which came grilled with cheese and I had a taste and it was delicious even to the palate of an uninformed goy. My wife got corned beef, rolls of meat balanced between two thick pieces of rye bread (what else). She got on with the job of disassembling it and rebuilding it to her taste. She has to modify all of her food with sauces and mustards:
I woofed my pastrami as it was, plain and simple between more rye bread and it was excellent.
When we lived in California the highlight of a trip to visit Uncle Hy in Los Angeles was a stop at Junior's Deli on Westwood Boulevard, which is a one off restaurant that has been around for half a century. It was the first time I'd been to a Jewish restaurant/deli and it remains the benchmark in my mind for what one should look like. I have to say Toojay's is a pretty close imitation. Not only was the food piled up on our plates the same way, the take out counter looked very similar:
The decorations were of the kind one expects in a chain I suppose, even though service lived up to billing:
The waitress who looked after us tried to talk me out of my chosen "dessert" and though she failed I appreciated her honesty. I have long wanted to try something called an egg cream drink. I know it has neither eggs nor cream but I wanted to see what milk, soda water and chocolate sauce tasted like mixed together. Perhaps I should have grown up in the greater New York City area to be able to appreciate this concoction, but despite the presence of chocolate and milk it was an utterly repulsive drink. It tasted dry and chalky despite looking like a milk shake with a big white froth on the top.I sucked it up for two mouthfuls, and as predicated by the waitress, I gave up. She laughed, and I gave her an extra big tip for her honesty. Had I really wanted dessert I should have ordered one these small mountains of cake:
But my wife saved the night by ordering some arugula to go and I got my chocolate fix at home.
I like to tell my wife that Jewish food is all brown or white- gravy, meat, potatoes, WHITE fish, and so forth. She says beet soup is red, I argue that's a Russian dish. The best place to have this debate is in a place like Toojay's. I look forward to our next discussion.