Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Ye Olde Matzo Ball

Amusing restaurant review by Pete Wells in today’s Times. He’s covering Kutsher’s Tribeca, an homage to one of the best-known hotels from the heyday of the Catskill Mountains Borscht Belt, Kutsher’s Country Club. I was particularly struck by his comments regarding that sine qua non of Jewish cookery, the matzo ball:
“Take, for instance, his [chef Mark Spangenthal’s] matzo ball soup at Kutsher’s. Matzo ball preferences are deeply personal and beyond argument. Mr. Spangenthal aims for midrange fluffiness, so people who like a tightly compressed matzo ball that lands in the gut like a sock filled with pennies may not be satisfied.
"But they will certainly notice how flavorful these matzo balls are, and appreciate the rich broth, with its robust flavor and lip-smacking stickiness. The kitchen has been hard at work on that soup, but it has covered its tracks.”
The “deeply personal” tastes regarding this delicacy remind me of my Aunt Jeanne (pronounced “Jean” as in Jeanne Crain or Jeanne Eagels, not “zhan” as in Jeanne Moreau or Jeanne d’Arc), who, at Passover, would deliberately make both light, fluffy balls and hard-centered ones. When the soup was ladled out at the seder table, she would take requests for either hard or soft. I always asked for a mixture of both.
I also liked Wells’s calling Bob Dylan and Neil Diamond’s output “classic Jewish music.” Until I saw this, I could think only of either Ernest Bloch or klezmer:
“SOUND LEVEL Classic Jewish music (Dylan, Diamond) and pop hits of the ’70s and ’80s keep the place humming along.”
Have to mention that my favorite cuisines still run to north Italian and classic French,  but I’m open to suggestions.
Here’s the piece from today’s Times:

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