Follow along with me this week as I share the highlights from my New York City vacation. I apologize ahead of time if the photos aren’t my normally quality. This trip proved photographically challenging...another thing that I enjoyed and appreciated.
There are many, many food highlights to my NYC2012 vacation, some of which I will never have the opportunity to repeat since they were once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Looking back on my food adventures in NYC, the meals I enjoyed, and the culinary delights I ingested, I would have to pick my experience eating at Ben’s Best as my most favorite. This might seem odd to some people when I reveal the special eats of this trip, but nothing can compare to a place that feels like home, that has a relaxed welcoming environment, and food so good that you can’t get it out of your head and know you must visit one more time before you leave. For me, Ben’s Best, a kosher deli in Queens, was that place for me, a fact I find amazing for a small-town Louisiana girl like me.
For months leading up to this trip, The Feisty Foodietalked to me about the things I’d like to do the most while there. As you all know, expanding my cuisine options is something that I’ve fought hard to develop over the last 5 years (gosh can you believe it’s almost 5 years already!) of NEB. One of my choices was to go to a true, authentic kosher deli. As soon as I said it, Feisty said she knew just the place I should visit and put Ben’s Best on the list. (And if you ever go to NYC visit her website. Geez, she’s got what seems like a near encyclopedic knowledge of great meals and fun restaurants in NYC).
Arriving at Ben’s Best, the first thing they do is bring out coleslaw and two types of pickles: half-sour and full-sour pickles. The coleslaw is a touch sweet, something I’m not used to with coleslaw down here. However, it wasn’t off-putting, and once I got used to the concept, quite enjoyed the flavor. The pickles are made in house (if I am remembering correctly) and were both tasty deliciousness. The half-sour tasted more like a cucumber than a pickle and was my favorite as I am a huge fan of cucumbers and things flavored like such.
Feisty ordered potato salad which was good as well, but the potatoes were sliced instead of chunked, another different thing for me. But hey, potato salad is potato salad. Down the hatch it went.
I ordered a lot of food here, really wanting to try out the whole experience of a kosher deli. An order of chicken noodle soup hit the spot as a great appetizer. It is here I must say this is how I wish I could get my own chicken broth to taste. As I’ve discussed before on NEB, I avoid chicken-broth based dishes (especially commercially made dishes) as I tend to not like the flavor of chicken broth, opting for vegetable stock in my own dishes. I’ve made chicken stock at my house, and while it made a good soup, it needs a bit more flavor to it. This chicken broth was just right for me, a nice flavor but not too strong.
At one point during the meal, the owner, Jay Parker, stopped by the table to ask how we were doing and to chat for a bit. Feisty mentioned that it was my first time at a kosher deli and that I was visiting the area for the week. We chatted with Mr. Parker for a few minutes and then he came by with a cup of matzoh ball soup, stating that I needed to try a few more things. The soup had that same tasty broth and the matzoh ball itself sort of reminded me of the dumplings found in our own southern chicken and dumplings dish. As well, Mr. Parker brought by a knish to the table. The best I can describe it is like this: Imagine someone taking your mom’s most flavorful and delicious mashed potatoes, wrapping them in a bit of pastry dough, and deep frying it. OMG, tasty! But I was so full at this point, I felt like John Pinette when he jokes about an Italian restaurant owner who told him “we’re gonna make you explode all over the walls.” A slightly gross image, but apt here. Mr. Parker suggested trying it with a bit of mustard, as that is how it is often eaten at his restaurant. Right he was too! And it gave me an idea that I am debating if I am brave enough to try: mini knishes for my bento box made from my own chorizo and roasted garlic mashed potatoes. Maybe when I get back from conference this is something to consider.
Ben’s Best was just the most fabulous experience and I can’t recommend enough going to try it out if you’re in the area. The highlight of my meal was the hot dog above. I doctored it with mustard, ketchup, and fried onions and nearly melted right into my seat from the taste. This is homemade: a great snap from a natural casing and a flavorful meat filling. I could have eaten 3 of these, if I let myself. If you go, get the pastrami and the hot dog too. SO GOOD!
The rest of the pictures from the meal are posted below.
I want to know where I can get this soda in Louisiana. Completely tasty and addicting!