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July 22, 2019:

WHAT BECOMES A DELI MOST?

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, what becomes a deli most?  Well, I’m gonna just lay it out for you in clear and simple as well as simple and clear terms: great food, well prepared, from the best meats and fishes and whatever else.  Now, if you Yelp various and sundried delis in Los Angeles, you will read raves for every one of them – and some brickbats, too, but some delis have nothing but raves and are thought of as tops – but who exactly is doing the raving? I suspect a lot of non-Jews, frankly. I suspect a lot of food dilettantes who simply don’t know anything.  Before I get to the point of this, let me say that there is one authentically great deli in Los Angeles, and its name is Langer’s.  No other deli comes close to their pastrami and corned beef, their potato pancakes are simply the best anywhere, their kishka is delicious.  I have never had any item of food there that wasn’t perfect.  It’s really that simple.

Everyone raves about Canter’s – I believe 90% of those raves are from people who happen to live in the neighborhood, aren’t Jews, and who like that it’s open late and kind of a hangout for hipsters now.  I’ve eaten there any number of times over the years and at its best it’s decent and fine and nothing more.  I like the jernt – it’s nicely laid out and the service is good. But the food is just ordinary.  It’s really that simple.

Nate ‘n’ Al’s in Beverly Hills, used to run second to Langer’s, but something has happened in the last few years and the food is no longer what it was – far, far from it and that includes the kishka and pastrami, which both used to be great.  Factor’s is fine – but never great.  The pastrami there is hit and miss and their 1000-Island dressing just isn’t great.  The deli that replaced the mediocre Junior’s in Westwood is still mediocre and I never remember the name of it anyway.  There’s a deli on Pico near La Cienega, the area I grew up in, that people like but I simply have been burned too many times to even want to try it.

In the San Fernando Valley we’ve got Art’s, which has been around a very long time and which I have never liked for their Jewish food. I have never once had a sandwich there that I liked.  The best they do is their chicken and egg salad, but I don’t need to go to a deli for that stuff.  Then we get Jerry’s Deli, my usual hangout.  They do a lot of food very well – in fact, the only food they don’t do very well is the Jew food, save for their matzoh ball soup, which is great.  All their soups are great and they do fine Mexican food, their pasta is pretty good, they even make a good pizza.  But that’s it.  I will occasionally have my sky-high pastrami – lean – and that sandwich costs about twenty-three bucks when you have it lean.  And it’s okay at best.

Then there’s the about to close for good Marv’s on Magnolia. When I lived mere blocks from there in 1976 to 1982 it was fantastic.  Marv was old school, loved his customers, and had great meats and I brought food home from there all the time.  The first time I went was when Dinah and Her New Best Friends was airing, and he was a fan of the show so he treated me so wonderfully.  Around 1980 Marv sold it.  The new owners kept the name but not the quality – that’s what I’d heard.  But I went in there about nine years ago and had a sandwich and it was inedible.  Recently, we got a new deli that replaced the Factor’s in the Valley – it’s called Uncle Bernies, and every time I’ve eaten there (it’s a favorite of Barry Pearl) I haven’t really cared for it, I’m afraid.  Nothing horrible, but just decent, which just doesn’t cut it for me, deli-wise.  Which brings us to the point: Brent’s Deli.  The original Brent’s Deli in Northridge has been there quite a while and is hugely loved. When we were recording albums at nearby Rumbo Recorders (the studio owned by The Captain and Tennille), we’d order in from Brent’s – I always had a turkey sandwich and it was always very good. And I was to the Brent’s in Westlake Village, but didn’t love it.  But I had a hankerin’ for a great pastrami sandwich and Brent’s gets amazingly high marks for theirs.  When you search best delis in the San Fernando Valley, Brent’s comes up first.

So, yesterday, after getting seven hours of sleep, I answered e-mails then decided to mosey on over there, as I’d never actually been in the Northridge branch.  The Westlake Village branch is new and huge, so it was a bit surprising that the Northridge branch is kind of a hole in the wall in a strip mall.  It’s decent-sized once you get inside and at two-twenty it was jammed, although I got seated right away and within ten minutes it was almost completely empty.  One of the reasons I wanted to do was that they have kishka.  So, I ordered that as a starter and then the sky-high pastrami, lean, with 1000-Island dressing and cole slaw on their double-baked rye bread. The reviews on Yelp are incredible so I knew I was in for a treat.  Well, unfortunately one learns again that most of the people reviewing on Yelp know absolutely nothing about food.  The kishka arrived first and was quite large, but two bites and I’d had it.  I can’t even describe what I was eating but it was flavorless and crumbly and not kishka-esque at all, and the gravy didn’t help it much.  Then the sandwich arrived with extra 1000-Island dressing on the side.  It was lean – that was a good sign.  But it was just ordinary – everything – the meat, the cole slaw – the dressing was pretty okay.  I finished it all and the rye was excellent.  Reading Yelp you would think this deli is the equal of the great delis of the world.  Well, no. I will give my server the highest compliments – he was great, and when he saw that I’d only had two bites of the kishka he asked if I hadn’t liked it, I said I hadn’t, and he took it off the bill. That’s a great server.

After that, I came home feeling quite yuckilicious.  I answered more e-mails, and then sat on my couch like so much fish.

Last night, I watched Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo on Blu and Ray.  I’d watched a bit of it when the big Hitch set came out, and spot-checked the rest, but yesterday I watched it in its entirety.  It remains, for me, a completely mesmerizing, hypnotic, poetic, and utterly beautiful film, with great performances, a brilliant score, gorgeous photography, a good story, and Hitchcock at his peak.  It was, on its release in 1958, a flop with audiences and many critics. That was the 1950s for Hitchcock. He’d have a huge hit like Strangers on a Train, follow it with a less successful Rope and I Confess, and then he’d be back with a Dial M for Murder and Rear Window.  But then he’d have The Wrong Man, which didn’t do well, but rebounded with To Catch a Thief and The Man Who Knew Too Much, but in there was also another unsuccessful film, The Trouble with Harry.  Then came Vertigo, a huge disappointment, only to be followed by three huge hits – North by Northwest, Psycho, and The Birds.  The transfer of Vertigo is based on the restoration done by Harris and Katz and Universal did a really good job with most of it – the color is fantastic for much of it, the clarity is astounding for much of it.  When they showed it to Robert Harris prior to its release, he got them to do a few more things to it, delaying the release.  The only part of the film that simply doesn’t look good at all is the final ten minutes – those ten minutes are almost sepia in color and the contrast is off.  It’s really surprising.  I do remember that even in the restoration when it was shown in 70mm (I was there opening night in New York) those ten minutes in THAT restoration were way too dark).  I was thrilled they included the original mono sound as I didn’t care for the stereo redo.

After that, I watched a bit of The Birds, and the making of featurettes on both.  The transfer of The Birds got a lot of negativity, but I thought Universal did a fine job with it – there are so many opticals in the film it’s amazing they could get it to look as good as it does.  The I went to Vudu and watched a “free” movie, Michael Crichton’s Looker, starring Albert Finney and my old pal, Susan Dey.  It’s a really silly movie, but enjoyable now for how prescient it was – basically pre-figuring what is now commonly called motion capture.  Very ahead of its time.  Finney is fine, even if the script fails him repeatedly by making him have to act like an idiot.  Susan is fetching and does a really nice job of it.  But it’s the end of Vudu for me – it kept losing the connection, like every five minutes, and then there were endless advertisements every seven or eight. Finally, towards the end it gave me a message saying my Internet speed wasn’t sufficient enough for high definition – which of course is complete BS – my Internet speed is sufficient for anything and I had no trouble with Vudu on my computer, which is also dependent on – wait for it – Internet speed.  Then I relaxed and listened to music.

Today, I’ll be up by ten at the latest, and then I’ll mosey on over to the home environment of Marshall Harvey to see the latest version of the director’s cut of The Creature Wasn’t Nice – cannot wait.  Presuming it’s what we want, we’ll lock it and get it to the authoring house so they can do some tests for me so I can see what it and the other DVD look like when upscaled to 16×9.  I’ll eat, hopefully pick up some packages, and then relax.

The rest of the week is meetings and meals and going and doing and doing and going.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, see the latest version of The Creature Wasn’t Nice, eat, hopefully pick up packages, and then relax.  Today’s topic of discussion: What are your favorite films of Miss Kim Novak and Mr. Albert Finney?  Let’s have loads of lovely postings, shall we, whilst I hit the road to dreamland, happy to have answered the age-old question: What becomes a deli most.

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