"I have the simplest tastes. I am simply satisfied with the best." - Oscar Wilde

"I came, I saw, I ate." - Au Gourmand

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Mile End - January 9, 2011

If you fall in love at first sight with the potential spouse-to-be in an arranged matchmaking, is the resulting marriage still “arranged”? How about if you fall in love with the picture of the person, does it still qualify as love at first sight? I fell for the smoked meat at Mile End when a go-between sent me a series of pictures of potential candidates to choose from (thankfully, food does not require me to be monogamous as I also picked Scarpetta). It has taken me a while to get to the first meeting – an insane queue, sub-zero temperature and unfamiliar territory in place of sweaty palms, uncomfortable silences and idiotic conversations; I fly from flower to flower, seeking out beauty where I find it. However, here I was, finally – the errant, procrastinating and much distracted suitor.

The Beauty – lox, cream cheese, tomato, red onion, capers, bagel

The famed Montreal bagel was indeed lighter, sweeter and somehow the sesame seeds stood up taller; and what was more, there was a hole. Don’t I hate it when a bagel is so inelegantly fattened up so that the hole gets squished into a grimace? I have come of late strayed away from my former loves – Ess-A-Bagel and H&H – because bagels became too heavy, too dense and filled with too much cream cheese. The “Beauty,” as it turned out, was not only beautiful on the outside, but it was also beautiful inside: The lox, not overly fatty, was fresh and classy; and the amount of the cream cheese was demurely exact, unlike some places where more is synonymous with good in a self-delusional justification. The tomato, red onion and capers all played their parts convincingly and managed to drag me back to the world of bagels, well, Montreal bagels.

Chopped Liver – onion relish, egg, pletzel

Shockingly smooth and amazingly light, this luscious chopped liver was not like any other that I had had before. The pickled onion relish and eggs were nice complements. Spread over their pletzel - a flatbread with poppy seeds and onion – was such a delightful sensation that soon my folks were trying to scrape off the faint traces from the small bowl. However, compared to the bagel, the pletzel seemed rather inadequate, so I spread my liver over the lovely bagel instead.

Smoked Meat – cured & smoked beef brisket, rye, mustard

While this was the reason that I traveled far and away, this particular meeting was a failure. While the meat was tender – partly because of fat, too fatty for smoked meat – and carefully carved, it lacked the smoky flavor I was looking for. The composition of the sandwich, 7 oz., was decent, compared with its New York Jewish cousins, with strong smear of mustard. Lesson of the day: Some things are better imagined than actually had – i.e., the pretty girl from afar may have tons of pimples.

Poutine – frites, cheese curds, mushroom gravy

A Supreme Court clerk had two loves: The poutine and the Constitution. He used to extol the virtues of poutine to me diurnally, interspersed with other more cerebral considerations. Now, I see. The fries, by themselves, had already triumphed against many of their brothers on the other side of the river. But why should we stop at just being “great”? Whoever invented the poutine must have been a true glutton: It needs not one good thing, but three. The cheese curds, frankly, had nothing to do with the rest of the dish: Consider nachos, in which the melted cheese acts as a glue, will it be as tempting if the cheese were not melted? These fresh, elastic and springy balls of cheese – similar to mozzarella – seemed ready to jump out of the dish and run. Nevertheless, the genius of the poutine was that it had mysteriously managed to instill, drill and brain-wash my mind so that now I cannot consider a poutine without the cheese curds.

In fact, there is no flame hotter than the love of a new zealot: In the spur of the moment, with the last few dregs of the poutine in front, I have decided to fly to Montreal in the dead of the winter… God help us gluttons.

Mile End
Address: 97A Hoyt Street, Brooklyn, NY 11215
Phone: (718) 852-7510

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