Tag Archives: matzo ball soup

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DGS Delicatessen: The Jewish Deli Gets a Makeover

DGS Delicatessen is not a Jewish deli in the way that one would imagine. Meg Ryan won’t be faking an orgasm here in “When Harry Met Sally 2.”  The place is too spiffed up and polished; it’s a Jewish deli gone upscale, with the accompanying pluses and minuses.

After shopping Sunday at the Dupont Circle farmers’ market, I met my friend Amanda and we rolled up to DGS at around 10:55 am.

Doors locked.

What? Not open??  Haven’t they been cranking out bagels for hungry breakfast customers all morning?  I peered through the window sadly.  A man who looked like the manager unlocked the door.

“You look confused,” he said.

Turns out DGS opens at 11 am, and we were five minutes early. The manager kindly let us in and told us, “We’ll give you the best table.”

We were led up to the second floor and a nice table at a window overlooking 18th St. This is a look at the dining room. (Remember, we were the first ones there. It filled up quickly.)

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The menu contained some of my favorite Jewish deli items, and it didn’t take long to make my decision.

I tore into this matzo ball soup and its light, fluffy matzo ball.

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The soup, flavored with diced carrots and fresh dill, was excellent; a touch on the salty side, but that’s somewhat expected since a matzo ball doesn’t impart much flavor on its own.

Potato latkes with apple preserves.

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Crispy with a hint of sweetness.  I usually like mine more onion-y, but I was happy with these.

The true test: the bagel.  The sesame bagel came toasted and I ordered it with smoked salmon cream cheese.

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It was a thin bagel that didn’t quite live up to NY standards. NY bagels tend to be fatter and chewier. Is it because they’re boiled?  Is it the NY tap water?

I had a bite of Amanda’s Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon, and it was quite good. We agreed that we liked DGS and would come back.

So the pluses are refined Jewish deli favorites (in DC!), a pleasing decor and excellent restaurant service. (The servers were all very friendly and attentive.)  I liked the look of the dinner menu too and would be interested in trying that.

The minus? DGS is pricier than a Jewish deli. In the same way I object to Ping Pong Dim Sum inflating the cost of dim sum dishes which are normally far less expensive, I have a slight beef with paying $7 for matzo ball soup and $7 for two potato latkes. But this is Dupont Circle, with the accompanying city prices, and I get that this is not the hole-in-the-wall spot your Bubbie’s been patronizing for forty years.

Some friends and I are planning on visiting Parkway Deli in Silver Spring soon, so it’ll be interesting to compare experiences. It had been a while — a long while — since I’d eaten matzo ball soup. Tasting it reawakened my passion for Jewish deli food.  I want more.

DGS Delicatessen
1317 Connecticut Ave.
Washington, DC
202-293-4400

Matzo Ball Soup

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Last year I wrote about meeting competitive eater Eric “Badlands” Booker at Coney Island.  Badlands once held the matzo ball eating record, gobbling 30 matzo balls in 5 1/2 minutes.  That’s pretty badass, and fairly disturbing, considering how matzo balls are like sponges that expand in the gut.

Even more disturbing: Joey Chestnut broke the record in 2008, polishing off 78 — 78!! — matzo balls in 8 minutes.  It’s a miracle he didn’t pop like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon crashing into a light pole.

I won’t even begin to attempt challenging the record — cause, you know, I’d die — but making a matzo ball soup?  That I can handle.

This recipe for matzo balls comes from Epicurious.com, and it’s a keeper; simple and straightforward with no funky ingredients like chicken fat or lard.  Here’s what you need:

4 eggs, separated
1 tsp salt
2 tsp grated onion
2 tbsp melted butter
3/4 cup matzo meal
7 cups stock (vegetable or chicken)

I used Streit’s matzo meal — the box only contained a half cup of meal, so I adjusted the other amounts accordingly (went with 1 tbsp of butter).

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First step is to beat the egg whites until stiff.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the yolks, salt, onion and butter.  Fold in the egg whites, then fold in the matzo meal.

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Not a pretty sight — in fact, downright unappetizing.  You want to cover this up with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.

After an hour the mixture’s ready to be rolled into balls.  Here’s where I got concerned.  The balls were awfully goopy and I was sweating with mochi-making flashbacks and visions of them disintegrating into a mealy mess upon hitting the boiling stock.

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But, what do you know, they held together!

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Now you want to turn the heat down to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.

I like my matzo ball soup chunky, so I added diced carrots and egg noodles.  And voila!  Matzo ball soup.

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I don’t know why I had so little faith in the recipe, but I was completely surprised with the result — soft, light, fluffy matzo balls, not at all like the leaden cannonballs I was bracing for.

I ate four matzo balls tonight.  Somewhere, Badlands and Chestnut are laughing their asses off.

Epstein’s Deli, Lunch of Champions

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I talked myself into going to Epstein’s Kosher Deli yesterday. Well, that’s not quite accurate — makes it sound like I put up a fight. Here’s what led up to a no-brainer of a decision:

8:30 am:  Met Team in Training teammates at Purchase College for brick workout (bike followed by run) on five hours of sleep.

9:15 am: Just about yakked (no joke) after the seventh hill repeat.

10:15 am: Ran six miles.

11:30 am: Drank a protein smoothie and collapsed in a heap on the couch.

12:30 pm: Woke from nap with an unstoppable, insatiable hunger for matzo ball soup.

And that’s how I found myself at Epstein’s staring into this glass case.  Look at all those potato pancakes and knishes on the second row.

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There’s not much I find more comforting than a steaming hot bowl of matzo ball soup.  Epstein’s keeps it basic, a Titanic iceberg of a matzo ball floating in cloudy chicken broth.  I prefer the broth to come with noodles and a few slices of carrot, but I was okay going without; the matzo ball was soft and light and the slices of bread were a nice addition.

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Turkey pastrami on rye with mustard.

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I absolutely killed this sandwich.  Murdered it.   Ate it so fast I had to remind myself to chew.

The pickles were disappointing.

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I’m not crazy about the lighter green ones to begin with (I think they’re half sours?); the dill spear was overwhelmingly salty and had an unpleasant aftertaste.  No biggie though, I still ate them. Food’s food.

I doubt this would be in any coach’s handbook as the model post-workout meal, but at least I didn’t get corned beef or a reuben with fries or something.  Didn’t even sample a knish.  That’s for next time.

Epstein’s Kosher Deli
387 North Central Ave.
Hartsdale, NY
914-428-5320

My Top Ten Food Moments of 2008

It’s the end of December, and you know what that means — newspapers and magazines are breaking out their “Top Ten” lists: top movies, books, news stories, etc.  So like a writing lemming following the editorial M.O., I’m going to do my own version of the list.  During a year of eating, ten random food moments/ thoughts stuck out from the rest.  In no particular order:

#10: Favorite Spot for Unplanned Cheese Sampling

Is there any doubt?  This goes to Mint in Tarrytown.  Why bother eating before visiting Mint?  Hassan will fill you up with samples of exquisite gourmet cheeses, plus whatever other treats he has on hand that day.  Bring a bottle of wine and a blanket and you could have a cheese and wine picnic right in the store.

#9: The Right Soup at the Right Time
The date: January 1, 2008.  The place: Westchester Diner, Peekskill.  If I remember correctly, the previous night involved a fair amount of wine consumption.  Let’s just say I was dragging on Jan. 1. Pretty much anything in my stomach would have perked me up, but on this day I beelined for the mother of restorative foods, matzo ball soup. At that particular moment in time, it was just about the best thing I’d ever tasted.

#8: Alec Baldwin Would Love This Dessert



The bombolini at Mima Vinoteca in Irvington.  These marvels of fried dough had the whole table oohing and aahing — they were warm and light with a hint of sweetness.  If I could have eaten just one dessert all year, this would have been it.

#7: I’m Not a Delivery Person, But I Play One at Summerfield Suites
Maybe my most bizarre food moment of 2008: walking through the lobby of Summerfield Suites in White Plains and being chased down the hall (and yelled at) by the front desk clerk because he mistook me for a Chinese delivery person.  That was strange along the lines of once being told, “You speak English very well.”  Uhh, thanks?

#6: Most Inexplicable Use of a Lethally Hot Object
Thomas Stone Restaurant.  I’m still scratching my head over this place.

#5: Best Use of Goat Cheese



The goat cheese tartlet at Velo in Nyack.  I always laugh when food critics describe food as “sexy” or “sensuous”, but Velo’s silky, rich thyme-sprinkled goat cheese sitting in a flaky crust and drizzled with honey is well, frankly, it’s hot.  Who needs wet clay and a pottery wheel?  Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze should have stoked their passion with a goat cheese tartlet.

#4: The When Harry Met Sally “I’ll have what she’s having” Award



To the “Mr. Lange” at Lange’s Deli in Scarsdale, a sandwich that also qualifies for the “Best Use of Goat Cheese” award, and would have sent Meg Ryan into the throes of ecstasy without having to fake it. Taken separately there was nothing remarkable about the ingredients — chicken, fried eggplant, pesto — but pressed together on a roll with a thin layer of goat cheese and this sandwich was transformed into something spectacular.

#3: Most Painful Food Moment
There’s hot, there’s very hot, and then there’s the atomically spicy Mala broth at Little Q Hotpot in Quincy, MA.  I was sipping the broth when, gaak!, it went down the wrong pipe; I coughed, and suddenly I was in agony like John Hurt in Alien when the little alien bugger burst out of him.  It was as if someone took a lighter to my throat and chest… from the inside.  Can you actually die from spicy hotpot broth?  I don’t know, but that sure felt close. Great broth though, can’t wait to go back.

#2: Biggest Wish for 2009
Frank Pepe is coming to Yonkers in ’09, so that might solve the pizza dilemma.  But there are still two small issues — we need an Ethiopian restaurant and a Vietnamese restaurant.  Come on Westchester, it’s time. Bring us injera and banh mi and we will wolf them down like a pack of hungry wild dogs. Let’s make this happen.

#1: Most Memorable Meal
(tie) Morimoto in NYC/ La Camelia in Mt. Kisco

Morimoto
I had lunch at Morimoto during NYC’s Restaurant Week (You might know Masaharu Morimoto from Iron Chef fame).  When I wasn’t gawking at Morimoto working in the open-view kitchen (the man is too cool for words), I was completely blown away by the black miso cod and sushi platter — fish so delicate and fresh, it literally melted in your mouth.  In the words of Linda Richman, it was “like butter.”

La Camelia
On Valentine’s Day 2008, this restaurant knocked it out of the park.  Okay, so a vein almost popped out of my neck during the more than 45 minute wait (we had a reservation), and it took our server about 15 minutes to swing by with menus, but then the charm of the place took over.  The coziness of the fireplace-lit dining room made us feel as though we were dining in someone’s home.  The servers were warm and friendly, like family.  And the parade of lovingly prepared tapas made us swoon.  We ate leisurely and drank wine until we were the last ones in the restaurant.  If there was a more romantic or memorable meal this year, I can’t think of it.

What food moments stuck out for you?

I hope you all had as good a time eating in 2008 as I did.  And whatever you’re doing tonight, here’s wishing you a very happy New Year!  Have fun and be safe.

In Search of Soup

Elaine: “I met this lawyer, we went out to dinner, I had the lobster bisque, we went back to my place, yada yada yada, I never heard from him again.”
Jerry: “But you yada yada’d over the best part.”
Elaine: “No, I mentioned the bisque.

Soups are one my favorite things about this time of the year. True, they’re not exclusive to fall, but when the weather turns cold, restaurants say goodbye to gazpacho and hello to the hearty stuff like corn chowder and potato leek.  A steaming bowl of soup (with crusty bread of course) can cure a cold, warm your insides and make you almost forget that it’s getting dark out at 4:30 pm.

I’m on a soup kick — if a place serves soup, chances are I’m going in.  Which is how I discovered This Little Piggy in Harrison. I was driving down Halstead Ave., glanced over to my left, and saw this sign:

“This Little Piggy”?  Now that’s awesome. The awning also said “Soups”, so based on that and the name (never underestimate the power of a catchy name), I pulled a U-ey and turned back. Very cute place, with a pig motif and large selection of salads, sandwiches and soups.

Hello, pig.

The turkey wrap was nothing special, I but I really enjoyed the Tuscan white bean soup.

At Lenny’s Bagels in Rye Brook, a soup and toasted bagel make a satisfying light lunch.  I’m usually partial to chunkier soups, but this tomato basil was fragrant and bright with tomato flavor.

One of the all-time greats, matzo ball.  This one’s from June & Ho in Rye.

Do you have a favorite Westchester soup spot?  What are your favorite soups?  And have you ever preferred a bisque to a date?

This Little Piggy
64 Halstead Ave.
Harrison, NY 10528
914-835-1121

Lenny’s Bagels
200 S. Ridge St.
Rye Brook, NY 10573
914-939-1379

June & Ho
70 Purchase St.
Rye, NY 10580
914-967-1900