NYC deli owners find success with Montreal Jewish comfort food
Published Sunday, December 9, 2012 4:18PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, December 12, 2012 8:48PM EST
Montreal is known for its delis -- and its diehard deli fans -- so when one Montrealer moved to New York, he brought some of the city's traditions with him.
Owner of Brooklyn’s Mile End Deli, Noah Bernamoff started making latkes when he was about six years old. As his mother Brenda recalls, not many made it to the table.
“When we finally sat down to dinner, everybody had eaten so many that I'd have to stand and fry more,” she said.
Noah always loved the traditional Jewish fare of his childhood.
“The holidays are a very important part of the education of a young Jewish child and obviously latkes is the most fun thing in the whole world to eat,” he said.
As he grew up, his love for food -- and tradition -- grew. He wooed his New York-born wife with Montreal gems.
“Sandwiches at Schwartz's, bagels at Beauty's and everything in between,” said Rae Bernamoff, who is now the co-owner of the Mile End Deli.
Rae's dream job led the couple back to her hometown, where Noah entered into law school, but missed home.
“I started making smoked meat in our apartment in Park Slope in Brooklyn,” he said. It got really good and I thought to myself this could maybe be an outlet out of law school and onto a different path.”
The couple opened the Mile End Deli in Brooklyn in January 2010.
The response was positive, in part because they found a niche, said Rae.
“We weren't coming into New York and opening up a New York deli. We said 'We're a Montreal-inspired Jewish deli,' so we take cues from the foods that Noah grew up eating and we're translating it for modern-day Brooklyn,” she said.
They make their smoked meat from whole brisket, dry-cured without preservatives and smoke it over real wood.
“I think we're actually creating smoked meat that might actually be more authentic than even authentic smoked meat in Montreal,” said Noah.
When they first opened, they ran out of smoked meat by the early afternoon. They opened an off-site kitchen space in Red Hook for curing, smoking, pickling & baking, and have since opened a sandwich shop in Manhattan.
Their latest venture is a page-turner.
The Mile End Cookbook is divided into two sections: One explains staples from beef salami to cured salmon and another one tackles dishes for the table.
“Things like roast beef, you can see is such an easy recipe to make,” said Noah.
In both the book and at the deli, the Bernamoffs are bridging old and new.
“On one hand, we're trying to accommodate that nostalgia and deliver the meaning that people are seeking, and on the other hand we're trying to deliver something that's innovative and new,” said Noah.
And yes, there is a recipe for latkes in the book. They also serve them for brunch at the deli.
“I really like when the latkes themselves are really imperfect. I think they're more fun when you have all these little bits that are flying off the sides. They actually get really crispy and crunchy,” said Noah.
Latkes will be on the Bernamoff family table for Hanukah -- if they can make it there.