You see, Elaine, the key to eating a black and white cookie
is that you wanna get some black and some white in each bite.
Nothing mixes better than vanilla and chocolate.
And yet still somehow racial harmony eludes us.
If people would only look to the cookie, all our problems would be solved.
While creative personnel and television promos touted Seinfeld as the “show about nothing,” the truth is every episode of the half-hour comedy offered a number of complex plots, sub-plots and plot twists. So much of the hilarity centered around food moments that readers of Chow declared Seinfeld the “show about food.” It makes sense. In its nine year run, Seinfeld introduced or reintroduced into American pop culture and vernacular such foods and food terms as pastrami, the most sensual of all the salted, cured meats; the really big salad; make and bake our own pizza; vegetable lasagna; Papaya King hot dogs; the soup Nazi and many, many more.
While Albuquerque has become increasingly cosmopolitan, it wasn’t until the August, 2013 launch of Nosh Jewish Delicatessen & Bakery that Duke City diners could discover for themselves some of the iconic foods mentioned on the “show about food.” Located on the southeast corner of Amherst and Silver in the Nob Hill district, Nosh fills one of the food voids most commonly lamented by readers of this blog. It is an authentic Jewish deli and bakery with some contemporary variations on tradition. Those slight variations don’t include red or green chile; not a smidgeon is to be found. A Duke City restaurant not serving chile is as rare as, well…a Jewish deli has been.
Step ten feet into the cozy, 1,000 square-foot eatery and you’ll run into the counter where you place your order from menus hanging on the wall. From that counter, you’re witness to the heart and soul of the operation—the open kitchen and bakery where deliciousness is prepared. Your eyes will quickly train on baked goods sealed in clear wrapping and you’ll make a mental note to buy a loaf or three on your way out. You’ll take in the pastry case where luscious desserts will tempt and test your willpower. You’ll marvel that so much can get done in such a relatively small space.
The diminutive dining room means seating is in personal space proximity. Weather permitting, al fresco dining on sidewalk tables is also an option. Nosh also seems to do a robust take-out business. Breakfast (until 11AM) and lunch (after 11AM) menus include a couple of cross-over items (potato latkes and matzo ball soup) which are served on both sides of 11AM, but if you’re looking for Challah bread French toast for lunch or a pastrami sandwich for breakfast, you’re out of luck.
Our inaugural visit was after 11AM which meant pastrami, which Jerry Seinfeld’s friend George Costanza declared “the most sensual of all the salted, cured meats.” Pastrami has been a passion for me from the moment I discovered it in the Boston area half a lifetime ago. It’s not something most of us would consider incorporating into our bedtime rituals as George Costanza did, but for those of us hooked on pastrami, there is no better deli offering. As do the great delis in Boston, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, Nosh makes its own pastrami. It’s a pain-staking process obviously undertaken with love.
Nosh’s pastrami sandwich is hand sliced and served on double-baked rye with a side of grainy deli mustard. Compared to most Duke City sandwich makers which scrimp on meats, Nosh’s sandwiches are ungashtupt (Yiddish for overstuffed). The pastrami is lean and peppery with that distinctive deliciousness imbued only on pastrami. Nestled on a double-baked rye with personality and a smear of Ba-Tampte (Yiddish for tasty) deli mustard, it’s a sandwich which just might inspire carnal yearning.
As with New Mexican chile, pastrami needs no amelioration as it is incomparably fabulous on its own, but if you want to let your hair down, you’ll want to try Nosh’s Amherst, pastrami (or corned beef) with Swiss cheese, Russian dressing and coleslaw on rye. What makes this sandwich sumptuously successful is that the pastrami is still clearly the star. It’s not overwhelmed by the sweet coleslaw or the boldness of the Russian dressing. All sandwiches are served with a pickle spear and your choice of potato salad, coleslaw, onion rings, house or sweet potato fries, or fruit. The onion rings are strictly an out-of-the-bag variety.
In a classic Seinfeld episode, George Costanza tells a woman he loves her but is unsure whether or not she heard him. Ever the nurturing friend, Seinfeld’s “consolation’ to George was “that’s one giant matzo ball hanging out there.” Later George ordered matzo ball soup. At Nosh you can order matzo ball soup for breakfast or lunch. It’s good anytime. If you aren’t familiar with or haven’t tried them, matzo balls are a dumpling of sorts. They’re considered a Jewish comfort food favorite. The soup is made from chicken stock, short noodles and vegetables. Save for being just a bit under-salted (my preference), it’s a very good, very healthful chicken noodle soup.
“You can’t beat the babka.” That was Jerry Seinfeld’s assessment of the chocolate babka at a New York City deli, but which might also apply to the chocolate babka at Nosh. Sometimes considered bread and sometimes considered a cake, chocolate babka has qualities of both. At Nosh it’s sliced like a bread, but its chocolate-cinnamon amalgam says cake. The babka is moist and dense with a flavor profile unlike any other cake you can have. You really can’t beat the babka.
The black and white cookie, dubbed by Jerry Seinfeld as “two races of flavor living side by side,” is a soft, shortbread type cookie iced on one half with vanilla fondant and on the other half by chocolate fondant. While President Obama may dubbed it “the unity cookie,” just try sneaking a bite from a loved one’s cookie. You’ll be risking life and limb. To preserve peace at your table, order two (or six).
It wouldn’t be a true Jewish deli if bagels weren’t on the menu. Nosh imports its bagel dough from a kosher bakery in New York. Whether you have them with butter or with cream cheese, you’ll enjoy the dense, chewy texture and flavor. The bakery showcases a number of breads, albeit not a marble rye such as the one Jerry Seinfeld swiped from an old woman. The Challah bread is artistic in its braided beauty and absolutely delicious on its own, with a sandwich or on toast.
Those of us who didn’t grow up with a Jewish bubbe (Yiddish for grandmother) may have missed out on Jewish cooking, but frequent visits to the Nosh Jewish Delicatessen & Bakery will make sure we make up for it. Now, there will be naysayers who declare Nosh falls short of their favorite New York or Los Angeles delis they’ve frequented for decades. Instead, we should all celebrate that Nosh has the chutzpah (Yiddish for boldness coupled with supreme self-confidence) to open a Jewish Deli in Albuquerque where transplants will ultimately make those comparisons.
Nosh Jewish Delicatessen & Bakery
116 Amherst, S.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 19 October 2013
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET: The Amherst, Pastrami Sandwich, Matza Ball Soup, Chocolate Babka, Black & White Cookie, Bagel, Challah Bread