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Sunday, March 25, 2018

A Word From the Weiss 


       Where have I been? I’ve been away from this space, as you must have noticed. Working on a proposal for a new book, which turned out to be gargantuan effort. “Gargantuan,” in fact, is the word that my literary agent used. He thinks that it’s too long.

Getting away from it all in Miami Beach.JPG

      But I have also been away from home. After a long, long winter, and writing a long, long proposal, I needed change of scene, a dose of sun, and a chance to stay sane.

     So we spent two weeks in Florida, in insanely sunny South Beach.

     Two-plus weeks, to be exact, nearly twice as long as we normally go for. But since my husband semi-retired in September, we had nothing to rush back to – nothing but snow and cold.

Pina coladas by the pool.jpg

     Since we were going away for such a long stretch, though, changes needed to be made. Changes to our usual routine, that is. We were far from the only ones with fun and sun on our minds, so hotels in South Beach were a bit pricey. In the interests of economizing, we chose one that wasn’t too posh.

     We realized that it would also be prohibitively expensive to rent a car for so long. The rental alone would cost upwards of $600 for two weeks. Parking, even at our not-too-posh hotel, would have added another $600 for 15 nights. Besides, our hotel had rooftop pool, and the beach was right across the street. Where would we have to drive to?

      If we needed to travel anywhere beyond walking distance, we would make like our kids do these days. We would call an Uber. You know how to call an Uber, don’t you? You just put your lips together and blow.

How to call an Uber.jpguber car.jpg

      Just kidding! You download the Uber app on your smart phone and add a credit card or other source of payment. Then anytime you need to go somewhere, you type in your destination, and Uber tells you how much it will cost, how soon a car will pick you up, and the make, model, and license plate number of the car that will come to get you.

      For each trip, in fact, it offers you three different prices – one for a private Uber, called UberX; one for a larger Uber, called Uber XLand a third for their ride share program, called Uber Pool. In the interests of economizing even more, I discovered that opting for the pool usually made sense.

Ride sharing with Uber Pool.jpg

       During the two weeks we were Ubering around Miami Beach, we were never once taken out of our way in order to drop someone else off first. We simply saved a few bucks on every trip. Plus, our fellow passengers often proved to add something positive to our ride. In one case, we had trouble conversing with our driver, who only spokSpanish, which we do not. But our fellow passenger didand she was able to translate.

The Delano Hotel.jpg

       Another time, the other passenger turned out to be the concierge at the Delano Hotel, the poshest place on the beach, and he offered some useful advice. (Our not-so-posh hotel smelled like weed 24/7; I don't think it had a concierge.)

      Then there was the Uber we took from the airport to our hotel. Our driver stopped at a synagogue en route to pick up a young man whod been attending a wedding. He turned out to be the bartender at a hotel near ours and invited us to come over for a free drink.

      There were, however, three places that I needed to go during our trip that were beyond Uber range, so I decided to rent a car for three days, after all.

JP and Allegra in Miami Beach.jpg

       Our daughter Allegra and her fiancé JP were joining us for a long weekend, along with their little dog LunaI wanted to be able to drive them to the airport on the day they left.

       While they were there, I also wanted to take them to the Coconut Grove Arts Festival, about 15 miles south of Miami Beach, which is always festive and fun.

       Plus, I wanted to pay my usual annual visit to my late mother’s best friend Nada, who lives in Boynton Beach.

Nada and me 2018.jpg

      That would leave one day between all of these activities when we would have a car, but no particular agenda.

      I told the kids that I would take them anywhere they wanted to go within reason. Meaning anywhere within 100 miles. It didn’t take them long to come up with a plan.

Luna in Florida.JPG

      They wanted to be able to take Lunatheir Schnoodle (a miniature poodle/schnauzer mix), to the beach. That meant that we needed to drive somewhere, because the beach across the street did not allow dogs. And the closest public beach that did was in Haulover Park, up Collins Avenue, about a half-hour's drive from our hotel.

       And as long as we were going up there, they had another destination in mind.

Allegra and her fiance JP in Miami Beach.JPG

       Earlier this winter, they had seen something on their favorite show on the Food NetworkThe Best Thing I Ever AteThe episode in question had focused on the best thing available between two slices of bread. And one of those things was something called the Jewban.

       I’m not sure if this delicacy was a combination of Jewish and Cuban, or it was simply something likely to be banned by Jews. All I know is that it was a sandwich available only at Josh’s Deli in Surfside, Floridajust south of Bal Harbour.

Josh's Deli in Surfside, FL.jpg

       Was this concoction kosher? Probably not. Josh’s Deli proudly identifies itself as “A Jewish Deli Done Wrong.”

      But as I have always admitted, I have never really maintained a kosher household. At least, if I am attempting to keep the laws of kashrut, then I am definitely doing it wrong.

      So I was perfectly willing to drive the kids there and let them find out for themselves. Find out what was so great about Josh’s Deli. Or at least about their famous (or infamous) Jewban.

Luna in the car on the way to Josh's Deli.JPG

      The traffic was heavy driving up Collins Ave., and after we had managed to park, we got a little lost wandering around the neighborhoodWe walked around several corners, then down a deserted alley. Then, finally, we saw it: a rather non-prepossessing storefront amid banks, boutiques, and other shops.

      Josh’s, it turned out, is only open until 3 p.m. each day, but serves breakfast all day. It also serves all-day lunch.

      Both its breakfast and lunch menus feature many items loved by Jews, including lox, bagels, corned beef, and pastrami. All of the meats are cured, smoked, and/or roasted in-house. All of the bagels are baked on the premises, too.

      But nearly all of these items are served in a way that is unorthodox, to say the least, or, as stated, is somehow "wrong."

At least it has lox and bagels.jpg

      They have tongue, for example. I can’t remember the last time that tasted tongue, something that relished when I was young. But this tongue is served on a Deli Melt Tongue Frita Burger, which the menu said included “papas frita,” beefy aioli, and cheddar. I have no idea what papas frita is. All I know is that eating tongue with cheese is wrong, about as wrong as eating it with mayo. Or, at the very least, it isn’t kosher, because it mixes milk and meat.

Our search for the Unholy Grail at Josh's Deli.JPG

But even if you can find something on Josh’s menu that sounds right, and/or kosher, it still probably isn’t. Take their Three Eggs Any Style, for example. Whether you opt for scrambled, fried, or sunny side up, these eggs are all served non-kosher style, with a side of pastrami smoked bacon.

      Then theres the dish called Lobster Jewchachos. I don’t know what iis. I don’t even know how you pronounce it. But for the sake of those readers who do keep kosher, I’m not even going to go there… and you probably aren’t either.

      We had already gone all the way to Josh’s Deli, though. Gone in search of a decidedly unholy Grail, the famous (or infamous) Jewban. Since there were four of us, we decided to order two of thesealong with the Krunchy Spicy Tuna Latkes and a bowl of matzo ball soup.

The matzo ball soup at Josh's Deli.JPG

      Matzo ball soup is something I make it a point to never order anywhere. No matter where I go, Im always disappointed. Disappointed by the matzo balls, and even more disappointed by the soup, which never tastes homemade. Or as good as mine.

      That was my policy, at least, until the moment I tasted Josh’s. Tasted it and swooned. The broth was rich and flavorful, loaded with succulent bits of chicken and tenderly simmered vegetables – not the usual mélange of mushy carrots and celery, but healthy veggies like kale. The bowl's single giant matzo ball was heavier than mine are, but in a good way, I'd say. It had heft and hearty substance. It tasted almost healthy, too.

Allegra and JP enjoying the Jewban.JPG

     I got to devour most of this delicacy myself because my companions had only one thing in mind. OK, make that two. Those two Jewban sandwiches, which soon enough arrived at our outdoor table. I watched as everyone eagerly lifted his or her half and eagerly bit in.

     The menu had listed the ingredients as pastrami, pork, pickles, Swiss cheese, mustard, and something called crack sauce. The Jewban turned out to be double-decker sandwich with an extra slice of toast in the center separating the “Jew” part (thick-cutjuicslices of hot pastrami and dill pickles) from the “ban” part (pork). Accented with gooey melted Swiss, mustard, and some sort of other tangy condiment, these half sandwiches were massive, even without the accompanying side of salad, fries, or slaw.

My husband devouring his half of the Jewban.jpg

     In a word, gargantuan.

     Almost too big to eat, yet too delicious to leave even one morsel or crumb behind.

     So, was this truly the best thing available between two slices of bread? Could be.

The Krunchy Spicy Tuna Latkes at Josh's.jpg

     But the most delicious things on a plate, if you ask me, were those Krunchy Spicy Tuna Latkes – deep-fried, crispy golden nests of shredded potatoes topped with dark-pink slices of tuna sashimi and a dollop of cream cheese spiked with hot srichacha sauce. Yum!

     We were all so impressed that we went inside in search of their creator, Josh. We not only wanted to meet him, but to implore him to open a branch in NYC, where there are many Jews – Jews who would no doubt appreciate his deli, even (or especially) done wrong.

       I also wanted to bestow on him my website's highest honor, the NiceJewishMom.com Spiel of Approval ("I tried it! I liked it!). 

     We found him behind the counter wearing a hat and an apron and wielding a very large knife.

Josh of Josh's Deli.JPG

     Josh appreciated our praise, but was not prepared to grant our plea. He long ago abandoned the Northeast for the Florida sun. Thanks, but no thanks, he said; he had no interest whatsoever in bringing his artistry or culinary blasphemy north.

Relaxing in the rooftop pool.jpg


With my husband chilling by the rooftop pool.jpg

     Oh, well. Guess you’ll just have to take my word for it. Take my word, or go to Florida yourself, and I strongly suggest that you do.

Josh’s Deli is not just worth hiring an Uber for. It’s worth renting a car for. Heck, it might even be worth flying down to Florida for.

       You’ll get a change of scene.

       You’ll get your fill of sun.

       And if you need a break, and you aren’t strictly kosher, what’s wrong with a little deli done wrong?

7:24 pm 

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That's me. The redhead on the right. But that is NOT my baby.

     No, sir, that's not my baby. How could any mother smile beatifically while her own child wailed? Never mind that neither of my offspring ever cried so plaintively, as far as I recall (not while I was there to nurture them through their every perceptible need... although my son still complains that I often dressed him in garish and girlish color schemes, scarring him FOR LIFE).
     Besides, I'm distinctly beyond prime delivery age ("Kitchen's closed!" as my mother might say), and my kids had departed the diaper stage by the dawn of the Clinton Administration. Now in their 20s, both are currently living on their own, in not-too-distant cities, although each manages to phone me daily. In fact, to be exact, several times a day, then sometimes text me, too. (That may sound excessive, and emotionally regressive, but I subscribe to the Jewish mother's creed when it comes to conversing with kinder: Too much is never enough.)
     Two demanding decades spent raising two kids who are kind, highly productive and multi-talented, who generally wear clean underwear (as far as I can tell), and who by all visible signs don't detest me are my main credentials for daring to dole out advice in the motherhood department.
     Presenting myself as an authority on all matters Jewish may be trickier to justify.
     Yes, I was raised Jewish and am biologically an unadulterated, undisputable, purebred Yiddisheh mama. I'm known for making a melt-in-your-mouth brisket, not to mention the world's airiest matzah balls this side of Brooklyn. My longtime avocation is writing lyrics for Purim shpiels based on popular Broadway productions, from "South Pers-cific" to "The Zion Queen." Then again, I'm no rabbi or Talmudic scholar. I can't even sing "Hatikvah" or recite the Birkat Hamazon. Raised resoundingly Reform, I don't keep kosher, can barely curse in Yiddish, and haven't set foot in Israel since I was a zaftig teen.
     Even so, as a longtime writer and ever-active mother, I think I have something to say about being Jewish and a mom in these manic and maternally challenging times. I hope something I say means something to you. Welcome to my nice Jewish world!   
In coming weeks, I will continue posting more personal observations, rants, and even recipes (Jewish and otherwise). So keep reading, come back often, and please tell all of your friends, Facebook buddies, and everyone else you know that NiceJewishMom.com is THE BOMB!
The family that eats together (and maybe even Tweets together): That's my son Aidan, me, my daughter Allegra, and Harlan, my husband for more than 26 years, all out for Sunday brunch on a nice summer weekend in New York.

Comments? Questions? Just want to kvetch? Please go to GUESTBOOK/COMMENTS.