Not everyone appreciated my friend Bob’s stark honesty as much as I did. For nearly twelve years, Bob was my most trusted source for information on the Santa Fe dining scene. He was also a huge advocate for my writing, even when his reaction to one of my particularly “long way around” missives was “what?.” From a style perspective, he was a “get to the point” guy while your humble blogger sometimes (okay, okay, always) takes a circuitous, raconteur’s route to get somewhere. Bob often chided me for not liking cumin on New Mexican food, once telling me “when you fault a place for cumin it immediately moves up on my list of places to try.” Perhaps because of the scarcity of just-off-the-boat seafood in our landlocked state, he frequented Pappadeaux which I told him for my tastes should be renamed “pappa don’t.” For years I tried getting Bob to submit comments to the blog (“to elevate the dialogue” I pleaded), but he preferred our one-on-one conversations.
Our differences of opinion extended far beyond restaurants. A former executive at Universal Studios, Bob couldn’t understand my high regard for the irreverent comedy Blazing Saddles. His tastes were far more artistic and less sophomoric. We didn’t always agree on which candidates for political office were the lesser evils, but concurred that the lesser of two evils is still evil. One thing upon which we always agreed was the dearth of real New York style delis in the Land of Enchantment. It’s a subject about which we commiserated frequently. Having lived in both Los Angeles and New York, Bob missed the piled high pastrami and behemoth brisket sandwiches offered by delis at both conurbations. When we last broke bread together (he finally talked me into joining him at Pappadeaux), he confided his desire to escape Santa Fe’s winters and move to Palm Springs which he told me had a number of authentic delis, the type of which he loved and knew I would, too.
My friend Bob made it to Palm Springs six months before I did. He passed away in June, 2017. When we stepped into Sherman’s Deli & Bakery, I told my Kim “Bob is here and he’s happy that we’re here, too.” I missed my friend and wished we were enjoying the pastrami together…although it’s a given we would have disagreed on something, perhaps whether or not caraway seeds have a place on rye bread (I’ll take the pro to his con). Despite our differences of opinion, Bob and I were both, in his words, “your mileage may vary” guys. We liked and respected one another so much that our differences just made for more interesting conversation.
It’s unlikely we’d get much conversation in at Sherman’s. For one thing, it’s a very loud, very crowded restaurant. Both the interior dining room and outdoor, dog-friendly patio are rather on the noisy side. Besides, who wants to talk much when you’ve got a mountainous meal in front of you? Were I able to get a word in, I would probably have mentioned that a framed photograph of him should have been hanging on the walls beside the numerous glitterati (Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Barry Manilow, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Rita Hayworth, Red Skelton, Marilyn Monroe and countless other celebrities) who have frequented Sherman’s. His retort would probably have been to remind me that his role wasn’t “star,” but “star-maker.”
Sherman’s is an old-fashioned kosher-style Jewish deli to which savvy patrons pilgrimage from all over the world. Sherman Harris launched his eponymous restaurant in 1963 when Palm Springs was the playground for Hollywood icons. Harris himself became a Palm Springs institution for his restaurant and philanthropic endeavors, earning a star on Palm Springs’ Walk of Stars on Palm Canyon Drive. Today, Sherman’s is owned and operated by his children Sam Harris and Janet Harris who have carried on the famous Sherman’s legacy of great food and great customer service. While Bob, an old friend, was the first to tell me about Sherman’s several years ago, confirmation on its greatness came from Loren Silver, big brother to my friend Sr. Plata. Loren raved about the freshly baked breads and breakfasts.
When Food Network celebrity Guy Fieri roared into Palm Desert in his signature red hot Camaro for a taping of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (the episode first aired on May 12, 2017), one of his three area destinations was Sherman’s Deli & Bakery, albeit not the original, but a satellite just a few miles from the flagship. In an episode entitled “Turkey, Taters and Dogs,” “Triple D” showcased Sherman’s turkey pastrami and latkes (more on these treasures below). Fieri raved about Sherman’s delicious rye bread, up to 100 loaves a day baked in-house. He also helped prepare the turkey pastrami, a two day process (24 hours of brining followed by 24 hours wrapped up in spices, followed by it’s final destination: the smoker).
Having been privileged to serve as a judge for the Roadrunner Food Bank’s Souperbowl (the next event will be held on Saturday, January 27th, 2018 from 11 am to 2 pm.) on eight occasions, I’ve enjoyed some of the very best soups prepared and served by many of the Duke City area’s very best restaurateurs. One soup never served to our esteemed panel has been sweet and sour cabbage with beef, a Jewish staple for generations. It’s long been one of my favorite soups though I didn’t have a bubbie to prepare it for me. Sherman’s sublime version is served hot and in plentiful portions. Shards of beef, tender white cabbage, pearlescent onions and endless delicious define this elixir about which Sherman’s says “this outstanding soup is one that has made our reputation what it is today.”
Another soup not yet featured at the Souperbowl is an old-fashioned matzo ball soup, often considered the quintessential Jewish comfort food. Made with chicken stock and matzo balls, a type of dumpling made by mixing chicken fat, matzo meal, water, and spices to taste, it’s a popular choice for Passover, but some of us like it all year-long. Sherman’s matzo ball soup is served in a swimming pool-sized bowl and arrives at your table steaming hot. It’s a soup so good you’d order it on one of Palm Springs’ many sweltering summer days.
You might think there’s a shortage of beef across the Land of Enchantment considering the parsimonious portions of meats with which New Mexico’s restaurants adorn their sandwiches. Clara Beller’s “where’s the beef” lament should be the battle cry of diners who have got to feel cheated by meats folded over so as to give the appearance of more meat. A typical sandwich at Sherman’s has several times more meat than most sandwiches in Albuquerque. The #17 (corned beef, pastrami and turkey with cole slaw and Thousand Island dressing on buttery, grilled light rye), for example, is a skyscraper-sized behemoth with perhaps as much as three-quarters of a pound of each of the three meats. It’s really three sandwiches in one. Understandably, my favorite was the pastrami which is sliced thin and brined beautifully with caramelized edges.
My Kim’s choice, another wonderful sandwich was constructed with pastrami and corned beef with cole slaw on grilled rye bread. Sans turkey, this sandwich better showcased the sweet tanginess of the cole slaw, a moist, creamy version. It also gave us the opportunity to better appreciate the light rye with the caraway seeds my friend Becky Mercuri appreciates on New York rye. Sherman’s rye comes unadorned, but you have your choice of mustard–either Beaver brand deli mustard or honey mustard. Both are terrific. Because Sherman’s sandwiches are so large, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to open your mouth wide enough to enjoy them as you would other sandwiches. These are best enjoyed with knife and fork or deconstructed. That pastrami is heavenly…where my friend Bob is now enjoying his.
If the term “latka” conjures images of the television sitcom character Latka Gravas, you need to visit an authentic Jewish kosher-style deli…and soon! Latka (more commonly spelled “latke”), traditional Jewish potato pancakes often served during Hanukkah, are a specialty of Sherman’s (which graciously shows how they’re made on this video). Sherman’s latkas are the very best we’ve ever had! Served with apple sauce and sour cream, the latkas are absolutely addictive, so good you won’t want to share them. They’re crispy (almost caramelized) on the outside and fluffy and light on the inside. Sherman’s thinks so highly of their latka that they offer a specialty sandwich in which a generous serving of Corned Beef or Pastrami is made into a sandwich with two homemade potato latkes in place of bread. We had our latka on the side, but could easily see the appeal of latkes in place of bread.
My Kim jokes that my favorite part of “adultery” (her wordplay for adulthood) is not having to wait until after a meal to have dessert. Indeed, it’s not uncommon for me to have dessert before enjoying any savory fare. The temptation to do so was certainly rife at Sherman’s which has one of the most alluring dessert cases we’ve ever seen with slabs of beauteously frosted cakes, pulchritudinous pies, craveable cookies and sumptuous specialty items such as bobka, cannoli, sticky buns, cinnamon rolls and Boston Cream pie (which I blame for my “freshman fifteen” after having lived in the Boston area for two years right out of high school). Sherman’s rendition is as good as many decadent cake slices I enjoyed in Boston. Layered with custard and topped with chocolate ganache, the Boston cream pie is as moist and tender as any in the Bay State.
Sherman’s Deli & Bakery is an old-fashioned kosher-style deli, the type of which my friend Bob and I would wander in the desert for forty years to visit. It’s an outstanding deli and bakery.
Sherman’s Deli & Bakery
401 East Tahquitz Canyon Way
Palm Springs, California
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LATEST VISIT: 27 December 2017
# OF VISITS: 1
COST: $$ – $$$
BEST BET: Corned Beef, Pastrami, and Turkey Sandwich; Corned Beef, Pastrami & Swiss on Light Rye; Latka; Homemade Sweet & Sour Cabbage With Beef; Boston Cream Pie