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.
But I have also been away from home. After a long, long winter, and writing
a long, long proposal, I needed a change of scene, a dose of sun, and a chance to
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.
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 a rooftop pool, and the beach was right across the street. Where would
we have to drive to?
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.
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 XL; and 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.
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 spoke Spanish, which
we do not. But our fellow passenger did, and she was able to translate.
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 who’d 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.
Our daughter Allegra and her fiancé JP were joining us for a long weekend, along with their little dog Luna. I 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.
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.
They wanted to be able to take Luna, their 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.
Earlier this winter, they had seen something on their favorite show on the Food Network, The Best Thing I Ever Ate. The 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, Florida, just south
of Bal Harbour.
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.
The traffic was heavy driving up Collins Ave., and after we had managed to park, we got a little lost wandering around the neighborhood. We 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."
They have tongue, for example. I can’t remember the last time that I tasted tongue, something that I 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.
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 there’s the
dish called Lobster Jewchachos. I don’t know what it is. 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 these, along
with the Krunchy Spicy Tuna Latkes and a bowl of matzo ball soup.
Matzo ball soup is something I make it a point to never order anywhere. No matter where I go, I’m always disappointed. Disappointed by the
matzo balls, and even more disappointed
by the soup, which never tastes homemade. Or as good as mine.
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.
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 a double-decker sandwich with an extra slice of toast in the center separating the “Jew” part (thick-cut, juicy slices
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.
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.
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!
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 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.
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?