Last Friday I met a friend at Saul's Deli in Berkeley and ate one of their hot pastrami sandwich's on rye with Swiss cheese and extra coleslaw on the side. It was delicious and filling--I managed eat it all except for half the bread.
However, compared to a the sandwiches I used to eat at Carnegie Deli in New York, the Saul's version is downright puny. When I was younger and had a hyper-active metabolism, I would venture to Carnegie's around midnight, usually after I had flown in from San Francisco, sit down at one of their community tables and devour a ridiculous huge sandwich with a bottle of beer. I wondered how anyone there could possibly have room for a slice of their towering cheese cakes for desert.
One night I sat next to the comedian Jackie Mason and listened to him tell hysterical, off-color jokes to anyone who cared to listen. He had a one-man show on Broadway those days and was at the peak of his game, apparently. I've cherished this experience ever since, thinking it of it as my all-time most genuine Jewish moment.
These days, there is no way I could or would eat an entire sandwich from Carnegie Deli. In fact, the last time I was in New York I walked right by the front window and wasn't even tempted to give it a try. However, Saul's is a different matter. Not only is their pastrami on rye manageable, the pastrami they use from Neiman's Ranch is the most delicious I've ever had.
So, rummaging around YouTube today I came up with this really interesting video program, "Is the Pastrami Sandwish Killing Jewish Delis?" It features the owner's of Saul's Deli, Peter Levitt and Karen Adelman, in a discussion with Gil Friend, Evan Kleinman and the one and only Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Delemma, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto), who happens to live a few blocks from Saul's and who actually eats there.