Thursday, April 11, 2013

Hand Crafted Sandwiches

As I mentioned before and as David Sax, in his book wrote, the old fashioned Jewish Deli has been disappearing. For decades old school art of meat and vegetable curing has been dying. As Sax points out, the deli was a place that poor, working, immigrant Jewish families could turn to for tasty and affordable meals. Sadly, like with so many other things, costs have skyrocketed. Brisket, the workhorse of the deli, once an almost give away meat has become very expensive. To make a place profitable prices became rather out of line for what was being delivered.
Out of this demise, much like the Phoenix rising from the ashes, we have new delis opening up. People had to lose what they’d loved to realize what they were missing. Suddenly deli has gone from a neighbourhood staple to an artisan craft worthy of loftier prices. A sort of circle of life if you will.

Ben Venasio and Izzy Bernath were working as plumbers for Ben’s father. True food lovers they’d schedule their day around lunch. Finding the best places to eat near their given jobs. Much to Izzy’s chagrin, finding a fully kosher deli proved impossible.
Ben came from a restauranting family and had also been working with his grandfather curing meats. Much to Ben’s chagrin, the amount of red tape between him and his dream of home made sausages and salamis proved discouraging.
Ben & Izzy'sThe boys would craft a plan to satisfy both dreams. Izzy would get his kosher deli and Ben could get back to hand crafting cured meats. Together they opened Ben & Izzy’s Deli in the heart of Toronto’s large Jewish community.

B & I InteriorBen & Izzy’s occupies a small space in a strip mall in about as Jewish an area as you’ll find outside Jerusalem. The place seats upwards of 30 and has a nice rustic feel. The somewhat old building has exposed brick accented by faux brick, wood and glass. The black and white checkerboard floor really makes the whole place look sharp.
There’s the smoker and steamer right behind the counter where sandwiches are cut and finished as well as a large kitchen in the back. That’s where the bulk of the cooking will take place. All the curing will occur below grade. Speaking of which, the goal is to make everything in house save for the breads and mustards. The cured meats, pickles, hot dogs even aging steaks. All will be COR kosher.

So let’s get a look at what’s the boys have going on.

Ben carving PastamiAll breads are supplied by Isaac’s Bakery just down the street. The rye bread is fantastic. Soft yet sturdy with a nice rye flavour.
As well, they don’t own a meat slicer. All meats will be carved by hand.

PastamiThe Pastrami is fabulous. A little on the lean side but that seems to be the way the area residents want it. At its fattiest, the sandwich would best be described as “Medium fatty.” It was still plenty juicy and had a strong hit of pepper with nice back notes of all spice and smoke. Ben claims it’s just a basic recipe. The meat is piled high enough (not like those goofy, foot high piles of meat you sometimes see on TV) but not so high that you have to unhinge your jaw to eat it. All in all, this is one terrific sandwich.

Smoked MeatThe Smoked Meat sandwich is just that much better. The wider variety of spices, Ben’s own mixture he’s been working on for 5 years, lends to a rounder flavour. While still peppery, it’s more subtle and covers a broader spectrum of flavours. Again, served on rye it’s arguably the best smoked meat sandwiches in the city. They didn’t have any spicy mustard on hand but will in the future. The stronger mustard will stand up to the richness and balance out the sandwich nicely.
So there you have it folks, real deal kosher deli, made by hand in a nice little rustic setting.

Beef BaconBeing completely Kosher they naturally have no pork products. That of course means no bacon right?? Well no, not at all. Ben is curing beef navel and smoking it to produce his own beef bacon. It’s awfully good too. Again, much like Caplansky’s it’s like bacon light.

You can find Ben & Izzy’s at 3513 Bathurst St. in Toronto, On.

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You can also find them on Twitter.

Well that’s all for now folks, see ya next time in the food court.

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