Zabar's: Nirvana For The Gourmand

June 3, 2008

I grew up in a little resort called Sunriver in Central Oregon. It's beautiful, and I was so fortunate to have been exposed from an early age to the outdoors: cross-country and downhill skiing, tennis, canoeing, swimming, biking. But the closest town, Bend, at the time was significantly limited in its cuisines. And I use the term 'cuisine' very loosely.

Fortunately my father was a pilot for TWA and we got to travel quite frequently; experiencing the cultures and cuisines of the world. It was fabulous! I was so smitten that I have since lived in three other foreign lands. I can show you the best little spots in Tokyo, give you a tour of Siena, or take you to a bouzouki bar in the Greek isles where you can dance with the locals and break plates. But I had never really traveled within my own country. I'd been to New York numerous times, but always did the touristy things; never seeing the true 'locals' New York.

Then Barnaby, a native New Yorker, took me to the great city one long weekend and my world opened up. Truly, New York should be given it's own status as a country within a country. Like San Marco or Vatican City.

New York made me -the 'world traveler' - feel like I was born in a barn. I saw foods that I'd never seen before. And the one type of food that knocked my socks off? Jewish. I'd never heard of the likes of rugelach, matzah brei or kugel. In fact, I'm so naive in the ways of Jewish food that if you looked up shiksa in the dictionary there would be a picture of me.

Barnaby had an agenda of all the places he wanted to show me. One such spot was Zabar's. Zaaaabaaar's! - I sing in falsetto. I was like a kid with her first lump of Play-Doh. Taking a sample here and there, then licking the goodness off my fingers. (Come on now, stop wrinkling your nose like that. You know you ate your Play-Doh! Probably your paste too).

Zabar's is magic. Heaven. It's Nirvana to the gourmand. They have everything from a bevy of coffees and teas to an eye-popping delicatessen. They hand slice their smoked fish! I know you New Yorkers are now saying, "well, yeah," but we don't do that on the West Coast. Their cheeses will make you weep, their take-and-heat-at-home dishes divine, and their Housewares department will make you drop coin faster than the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale.

Upon my reluctant departure, I passed patrons entering for their evening shopping. The smart ones, and there were many, all had their own folding shopping carts. I gave them a knowing wink, like I'm some cool New Yorker.

You just don't leave with only one bag.



Greg Bulmash's picture

They used to hand-slice their smoked fish on the west coast at Jay's - A Great New York Deli in Long Beach, California. But between a bad lease, California's outrageous worker's comp system, and the fact that it was Long Beach, the deli went out of business after about 3 years.

But now that you and Barnaby are in Seattle, PLEEEASE blog if you can find good pastrami or any place that sells Wilno Kosher Salami. The closest truly good pastrami I found was in San Francisco, and I have to beg my dad to bring us a Wilno salami when he comes to visit.

Last, has Barnaby introduced you to the joys of gefilte fish?

dreama's picture

I know of what you speak....I too sing in falsetto when I think of the times I had in Zabars. I remember the times when all the flight attendants who dragged home bags and bags of items after a NY layover....those were the days!!!

Rosebud's picture

Sounds like a fabulously fun place. Will you take us there? Makes my mouth water just reading about it.

Steve's picture

Zabars needs to open a branch in El Fuerte for visiting pilots!

Ken Wetherell's picture

Hey Sheri, remember your awesome fried potatoes when we were kids? Remember how I was effusing over how good they were and dad said, "Ya, but she cheats! She uses a lot of butter!" I love that story.

You have to try Denise's latkes during Hannukah. Yes, she uses a lot of oil! Potatoes, onions, eggs, oil and salt...the holy five. Drop on some sour cream and hold on baby! :)

Zabars sounds great. I hope to check it out someday.

Daniel's picture

I know a deli in Columbus Oh that has delicious pastrami and also carries Wilno Kosher Salami. They ship UPS across the U.S. if you are ever in a pastrami/salami bind. Oh and it's called Katzinger's. Similar to Kat's deli and Zingerman's..but not under the same ownership.

hope this is helpful!