Superlatives fall cliche when it comes to New York, New York. You’ve heard them all. The creme de la creme, the best city on Earth, the worst place ever.
You may love it. You may hate it. Its greatness is undeniable.
Growing up in NYC was an immense gift to me. I cannot even begin to express my gratitude for what NY has given me. But growing up there was tough. The in your face, tell it like it is, do or die toughness of New Yorkers is unapologetically brutal. It’s like a fierce fire that burns off weakness. It tempers your mettle or it smokes you.
The ceaseless churn of competition does bring the cream to the top. The reputation, energy, vibrant creativity, unending re-invention and unfathomable money of New York pull the best from around the world. The best in the arts, the best products and businesses, the best people. And the food...
That I create a new menu from a different region of the world each month at the Old 5Mile House, can partly be traced back to the diversity of my old neighborhood. From our humble apartment in Brooklyn, I could walk to several excellent pizza joints, Chinese restaurants, a German deli, a couple of Italian delis, a couple of Jewish delis, a handful of superb bakeries and lots more. And the delis were real. The Italian delis made fresh mozzarella each morning. It was sitting right there on the counter, waiting in its milky broth for you. The cheeses and salamis hanging from the ceiling were real - not plastic. You could pick one and take it home. These places even smelled real - like aging provolone and damp saw dust.
The Jewish deli cases were chocked full with seven kinds of smoked fish staring at you. There was an array of house made salads, potato knishes, cheese blintzes, kosher meats and cheeses and wooden barrels of huge pickles taunting you - daring you to leave without fishing out a crunchy kosher sour dill to go with your lunch. Then there were the steaming hot slabs of hand made pastrami, so melt in your mouth tender, they had to be cut by hand with only the sharpest of knives.
And don’t hesitate for a millisecond when the bearded, yarmulked, white coated counterman says “Next.” Spit out your order clear and strong or he’ll say next again and the next person in line will do it right. Talk about assertiveness training; this for a boy who had to get on his toes to fish for pickles.
Ask 10 million New Yorkers about the food in NYC, you’ll get 10 million different answers. So, what food am I choosing to celebrate from the streets of NY this July?
There is the humble hot dog. Done right - it’s heaven - a humble, crisp snap when you bite into it, juicy, brown mustardy heaven. Then there’s the classic NY steakhouse experience. We are dry aging whole Black Angus choice prime ribs to tender perfection for 14-21 days to bring you one of the best steaks on the West Coast. Along with it? Another steakhouse classic, “The Wedge,” a chunk of crisp iceberg lettuce with organic heirloom tomatoes and thick sliced, hickory smoked bacon with our own house made blue cheese dressing made with Pacific Cave Aged Blue Cheese.
Linguini and clams, a NY classic so simple, so amazing, so rare out West. Oysters Rockefeller, shrimp scampi. Could I leave out NY cheesecake? I don’t think so.
Am I crazy enough to make my own pastrami? You bet. Speaking of you bet, we’ll have the famous NY egg cream - a quirky, yummy NY beverage only doable with Fox’s u-bet chocolate syrup, made in Brooklyn.
No short cuts. No compromise. No comparison.
Robert Smith is the chef owner of the Old 5Mile House where they serve roadhouse food from around the world.
The Wedge with Pacific Blue Cheese Dressing
8 ounces Pacific Blue cave aged blue cheese or other quality blue cheese
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Celtic Sea salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 Tablespoons finely chopped shallots
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (on the coarse side)
Place everything in the processor except the cheese. Process till smooth.
Add the cheese and pulse a few times just to combine. You want it quite lumpy. Don’t over process it.
One slice of bacon per guest
Organic heirloom tomatoes
Cut lettuce head into quarters and remove core. Put a quarter on each plate and arrange tomatoes on the plate. Spoon dressing over wedge and tomatoes and drape the bacon slice over the wedge. Sprinkle with some more crumbled blue cheese if you like.
Serve with a crisp white wine.