Food Blog

Skipping the Holiday Traditionz

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Introduction

In 2017, there was no celebration of Passover because we had lost both Gertz matriarch and patriarch, Fran and Jerry. In 2018, Dee held a Passover Seder to honor her father, mother and grandmother. This year, the Gertz Girlz skipped holiday traditions and went their separate ways for both Passover and Easter. Dee decided she was too tired to create another Passover Seder. It’s one of those transition years, where we just needed to chill in our respective corners.

Gertz Girl LisaLisa Sez:

I’ve made it no secret that Easter is one of my least favorite holidays. It’s still too chilly here in New England for the lightweight clothing the catalog companies would have us wearing. Not a fan of a week’s worth of ham leftovers. Not a fan of pastel colors. And the smell of lilies makes me nauseous. Add to that fact that Eva and I were left with no real plans for this particular holiday weekend, and I was itching to get out of New Hampshire – so Brookline, Mass here we come! Specifically, it was Coolidge Corner that we headed to, in search of a non-Easter Sunday in this Jewish-centric neighborhood of my young adulthood.

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Lisa and Eva start their road trip!

I have great memories here in this village, where I could go everywhere without ever getting in my car. Sunday mornings meant walking to Kupel’s Bakery for my iced coffee and a warm sesame seed bagel with smoked lox, capers, a slice of tomato, red onion and of course a “shmear” of cream cheese. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

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A trip down memory lane: the mouth watering bagel sandwich at Kupel’s Bakery.

Then it was over to the Brookline Booksmith, arguably one of the best independent bookstores in the world, for a good browse. In the afternoon or evening I might take myself to the Coolidge Corner Theatre, an arthouse theatre that opened in 1933, where I could happily spend a couple of hours watching such subtitled and excellent films as Cinema Paradiso and Camille Claudel (available now on Netflix by the way). On a weeknight after work, I might head over to my favorite little Chinese restaurant on Beacon Street to sit at the bar with the little tv, have a glass of wine, and watch my favorite team, the Boston Bruins.

Ah yes, the Bruins. Another factor in this year’s Easter Sunday was that it was Game 6 and potentially our elimination game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with the puck dropping at 3pm. So here was the plan: We would leave New Hampshire around 11am, get to Coolidge Corner by noon, find a first rate deli, gorge ourselves silly on good Jewish food, walk the neighborhood, and head home in time to watch the game on our own big tv (where I could swear at the refs all I wanted.) This executed so perfectly that it will go down as one of my favorite Easter Sundays ever.

There was little to no traffic as we glided into a parking spot less than a block from the action. My favorite deli restaurant, Ruben’s Deli was no longer, so we decided to try one that didn’t exist when I lived there in the 90’s, but which had high recommendations – Michael’s Deli on Harvard Street.

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The stars aligned here! Great deli and lots of Bruins paraphernalia.

Man–when the stars align. Not only were we about to eat some of the best “deli” we could wish for, the place was covered with Bruins paraphernalia, including the owner (Steven, not Michael for some reason) who was wearing a B’s shirt. We were in heaven.

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Friendly deli guy and (obviously) a big Bruins fan…hold the mayo!

Once at the counter, a friendly guy directed me to the item I had been fantasizing about for hours…a hot pastrami on dark rye. “You want that with mustard?” he asked. “Of course!” I barked at him with a smile. He grinned and leaned towards me conspiratorially, “You know I actually get people who ask for mayo?” he said.  “Oh, that will be your next customer,” I said, jerking my thumb back to indicate Eva, who I was having fun throwing under the Jewish food bus. He winked at me as she ordered her Rueben sandwich ‘with mayo please’.

While we waited for our food to come out, we studied the visually busy little restaurant. Boasting a deli case filled with everything from liverwurst to their house-made pickles, we noticed another case just for knishes. I got a kick from a sign listing the specials titled “Bruins Playoffs Krazy Knishes: the “Jake DeBrisket”, the “Zdeno Ch-ocolate”, and the “Patrice Burger-on”. I had found my tribe here.

Gertz Girl DeeDee Sez:

OMG…knish envy! Is there such a thing? There is now, I guess. I can’t remember the last time I had a knish. Probably in Baltimore, most likely 1995. To me, Baltimore and knish go hand-in-hand. Along with what any self-respecting deli would call roast beef, which is basically brisket. So good.

 

Gertz Girl LisaLisa Sez:

Our sandwiches were ready fast, along with a plate of warm latkes (with sour cream and apple sauce for dipping).  Oh Baby. Those sandwiches. My pastrami sandwich was perfection and I mean PERFECTION. Warm, salty and richly flavored with just the right amount of fat clinging to the edges, the meat was cut to the correct thickness and contrasted beautifully with the pungent and soft dark rye bread, and the spicy mustard.

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Lisa’s pastrami sandwich, also known as PERFECTION!

Gertz Girl EvaEva Sez:

I watched my mother’s ecstatic first bite and then tucked into my Reuben. The corned beef was a two-inch stack between the grilled rye bread, oozing with melted swiss cheese, sauerkraut, Russian dressing, and yes, mayo (so sue me!). As I finished the sandwich I said, “There’s really no need to order a Rueben anywhere else, because I’ll never have one better than this.”

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A very happy Eva with her Rueben…the best Evah!

Gertz Girl LisaLisa Sez:

I agree and apparently so did Anthony Bourdain and the Phantom Gourmet, among others. We finished up our outstanding lunch and managed to chat with the owner Steven Peljovich, who does some really nice community service with donations to the Shawn Thornton Foundation, among others. Such a nice guy, and I tried to calm him down about the upcoming game.

Gertz Girl EvaEva Sez:

As we left, I noticed a cool Jewish Food Zodiac chart on a fridge. We looked up our birth years and they were very appropriate. Mom’s was Pastrami and mine was the Black & White (Mrs. Maisel would approve!)

 

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Jewish Zodiac? Oy vey!

Gertz Girl DeeDee Sez:

I’m not able to read the chart, but if there is a knish, that would be my birth year. Latkes are a close second, but I’ve never enjoyed a blintz. Not sure why since it’s basically a crepe, which I love. And if the Jewish Zodiac could guarantee my grandmother’s homemade Kosher dill pickles, which were so crunching and garlicky, that would work. Man, I miss that taste! I’ve never experienced it anywhere, at any deli or supermarket. The taste was all hers.

Gertz Girl EvaEva Sez:

The rest of the day we walked around Coolidge Corner, heading towards the section known as Little Israel, people-watching and noticing that everything was in bloom – forsythia, magnolias, and multiple small front yards filled with tulips and daffodils. I wanted to explore a side street and my mother chose Beal Street so I could see the cathedral of giant sycamore trees, and the birth home of John F. Kennedy.

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Happy tree hugger Eva.

We ended up at J.P. Licks for some Extreme Chocolate ice cream to end our gastronomic adventure. As we left the shop, I noticed the marquee at the Coolidge Corner Theatre read, “Julianne Moore here on Thursday to accept her Coolidge Award!”  From the ice cream to the theatre, this neighborhood remains “cool” in every way.

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Eva’s ice cream in a very cool place.

Gertz Girl DeeDee Sez:

Not a big fan of Easter either, Lisa. But I was as a child. My mother’s family did it up great (as a secular holiday). Egg hunts are among my favorite memories. My cousin Michael was very competitive, and I’m not, so I enjoyed finding eggs and leaving them alone so that he could find them. I didn’t care about the eggs; my joy was watching my adored cousin’s face as he found what I left alone.

In 2017, I hosted Easter for my husband Doug’s family. It was a lot of fun, making baskets for the grandkids, and watching them open them with the excitement I remembered as a child.

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Handmade tags with Easter baskets for each of the grandkids.

And it was wonderful to see the kids enjoy what I had created. I imagine that was what it felt like for my grandparents.

This year, I found myself too tired to do Passover or Easter. I just wanted to be indulged. So my husband Doug, his mother Ellen and I went for Easter Brunch at the Westford Regency.

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Ellen Short and Doug Short. The Easter bunny chair is in the background.

It was great. (And don’t tell anyone, but Ellen took her cranberry muffin home.) Plenty crowded, but so well organized you felt as if you were the only ones there. The staff was so attentive, and the food was plentiful, fresh and delicious. I piled my plate with the usual buffet offerings I go for. But I also added pot stickers, which Ellen pointed out to me. Yum!

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Dee’s usual Eggs Bennie, assorted fruit and veggies, shrimp cocktail…and pot stickers!

And then there was the Easter bunny, which most of the kids seemed to love. Some kids are afraid of big, walking cartoon characters; I know I was as a child. As an adult, all I could think was how hot the actor must have been in the costume. But he (or she) carried it off with aplomb.

As always at a brunch buffet, I wished that I could make a second pass and try some of the other offerings, like ham and prime rib, but alas, I was too full. I did manage a cream puff (a usual go-to dessert) and it was heavenly. The Westford Regency does a Sunday brunch that I love. It’s not as expansive (or expensive) as this holiday brunch, but is always just as good.

Gertz Girlz Final Dish:

We are happy for every happy holiday we have – even for the ones that offer us a break from the kitchen and offer up some quality time to simply enjoy a meal….with mayonnaise or not!

Dee was grateful for her hassle-free and wonderful brunch with her hubby and mother-in-law. And as for Lisa and Eva, they got home in time for the puck drop, and yes, of course the Bruins beat the Toronto Maple Leafs to stay in the series. Because nothing could’ve gone wrong on their perfect “non-Easter” Sunday!

 

Food Blog

Dee Heartz Christopher’s

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Introduction

Hard to believe, but Dee is now another year older since we started the Gertz Girlz blog (funny how that works). For her birthday celebration, we traveled to one of her favorite past haunts. It was an uncommonly warm–and impossibly sunny–day for early March; in fact, it was a perfect day to visit Cambridge MA and be a part of the bustling life of city dwellers and college students; the frenetic bus, car, cab, and foot traffic; and the sense of belonging that occurs in one of Dee’s favorite cities.

Gertz Girl DeeDee Sez:

Oh Cambridge, My Cambridge! How I’ve loved and missed you so. You were there for me at just the right time: when I was young and everything was possible, and you were right at my door (or just a few miles away). Back then, I lived in Belmont, within walking distance to the Mount Auburn Cemetery. If you’ve never been, don’t let the idea of graves keep you away. It’s an extraordinary place, filled with gorgeous landscaping, walking paths, horticulture, architecture, history; and in the spring, lush lawns abut a pond filled with gorgeous waterfowl. It’s a place that is magical and alive.

While my home was in Belmont, my life was in Cambridge. I knew every square inch of every Square (except Kendall, which in the 1980s wasn’t all that interesting; I understand it’s more interesting now). I ate hot dogs at The Tasty in Harvard Square, which is gone now, but immortalized in Good Will Hunting (as an aside, I find it irritating that the characters ate hamburgers…really?…the hot dogs were amazing!). I had so many dining experiences in so many of Cambridge’s Squares, and way too many to mention here.

But oh, the memories of Christopher’s…

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Located at the corner of Mass Ave and Porter Rd, we can’t guarantee a day as gorgeous.

I’m now living in a country town I love. It’s nice to be a country mouse when you’ve had your fill of city life. But I have found that the city mouse in me still wants to scurry in the flurry of city energy once in a while, and so, the Gertz Girlz indulged me on a birthday trip down memory lane.

Thirty years ago, when I visited frequently, Christopher’s was the place for the young, casual, and hip, and I was two of those things–guess which two (lol). Today, with Lesley College taking the place of the Porter Exchange, it’s still–and especially–a young person’s place. And it should be. Cambridge is meant for the young, if not the young at heart. And after all those years, I was THRILLED to discover they still offer Yuppie Nachos on the menu. I don’t know if ‘yuppie’ is now an un-PC term, but good for Christopher’s for keeping the name, and more importantly, keeping it on the menu! Yuppie Nachos was all I wanted, and Christopher’s didn’t disappoint.

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Yuppie Nachos, baby!

Yuppie Nachos, like all nachos, are easy to make, but years ago they figured out a winning combo: chips, jack and cheddar cheese, and the most important ingredients: sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese. Back in ‘my day’, they didn’t offer guacamole, but they do now, thank you! DeeLish!

Gertz Girl EvaEva Sez:

It was exciting to make a trip to the city (like my aunt and mother, I may be a city girl at heart). For someone who lives in the New Hampshire ‘burbs there is no end of fascinating people watching as you sit at traffic light after traffic light. And this was the perfect casual campus checkout…Lesley College you are not for me but at least I know where you are now!

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Eva and Dee: two generations of city mice living a country life!
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Eva’s Boneless Buffalo Wings (made from naturally raised chicken) and side of steak fries.

Gertz Girl LisaLisa Sez:

Buyer’s remorse is a real drag when you’re talking about food. I now have been on the Keto diet for three months. I have perfected cooking a >bleeping< omelet to the point where someone should be hiring ME to work the brunch station. Which is why I never should have ordered it at Christopher’s. But it had salmon and cream cheese in it and that was the bait for me.

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Lisa’s Omelet. Dee hates salmon so also regretted Lisa’s choice 😉

Ultimately, I ended up looking longingly at other, more interesting choices and wishing I had made them…like a big juicy bun-less burger for instance. Still, I had my appetizer splurge and those Yuppie Nachos were all that Dee had bragged about. They made me want to tie a cardigan around my neck and change my name to Muffy. Let’s just say they were in the top five nachos I have ever eaten, and that’s saying something!

Gertz Girl EvaEva Sez:

If there is one thing I love more than people, it’s dogs. So when we walked into Christopher’s I was instantly giving them props on their decor. Our extremely nice waiter Dan explained that they feature local artists’ work and change it up on a regular basis. Our timing was perfect…beautiful, huge, paintings of dogs on every wall surface of the restaurant and bar! I was in heaven.

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Check out other beautiful art at CambridgeEatsandBeats.com

They are all for sale but I don’t think I’ll have that kind of space in my dorm room!

Gertz Girl LisaLisa Sez:

I love good art almost as much as Eva loves dogs. It was kind of spectacular when we entered Christopher’s to see these very large-scale close-up paintings of all different breeds of our canine friends. Please note as of this writing that the Dog Exhibit has moved on. Christopher’s retains an art consultant named Hailey Cormier with CambridgeEatsandBeats.com if you would like more info on these gorgeous works of art.

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This guy obviously wanted his fair share of our food!

Gertz Girlz Final Dish:

It’s always fun to revisit your old stompin’ groundz. We were happy to experience this with Dee, to celebrate another birthday, and to see some of her young-self past with our very own eyes. Another bonus that day at Christopher’s was the staff.

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Dan Flynn, the Beverage Manager, adding lemon shavings to Dee’s birthday martini. Such a nice guy!

We had two “Dan’s” (waiter and beverage manager) who couldn’t have been friendlier or more informative and patient with all our incessant Gertz Girlz questionz! We highly recommend this wonderful old(?) pub to everyone who loves wonderful old(?) pubs!

More info: christopherscambridge.com

 

Food Blog

Seaglass Celebrationz

 

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Introduction

There’s a melancholy beauty to the beach in winter. When the sky is gray-blue and the wind still, the atmosphere is warm and cozy, even if the temperature is frigid. This was the perfect setting for a February visit to Seaglass in Salisbury, where the large dining room boasts windows all around. There is no bad seat for enjoying the ocean view.

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Dee’s view during brunch, sans Surfside Five full-swing Sunday reggae party.

Which is great when you have a lot to celebrate. Like a birthday (Lisa’s) and a one year anniversary (Gertz Girlz). Not to mention the Super Bowl: on this Sunday we had these to celebrate, and more; it was also a long overdue meal for the three Girlz, who were dealing with the flu and more in January.

Gertz Girl LisaLisa Sez:

I will eat vicariously through my carb-loving daughter for the next few months, but there is enough feast for the eyes in Seaglass to occupy anyone. It is quite pretty with some architectural details like a large fireplace and bar, and a decidedly sleek interior design. And as an Aquarian, I have a deep appreciation for personal space. One of my pet peeves at many brunch buffets is bumping into the elbows of people on the feed line. Seaglass offers a very spacious buffet room, with stations placed strategically around the room, and this was a very relaxed and enjoyable brunch browsing experience.

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Plenty of seats at the bar!

The last time I dined here, a full moon and high tide created a dramatic dinner show of thunderous waves smashing rhythmically against the large picture windows which overlook the ocean. And if you come during the busy summer months, the windows to the right offer a view of the Surfside Five restaurant deck in a full-swing Sunday reggae party!

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Lisa’s Keto Plate

Gertz Girl EvaEva Sez:

Any place by the sea is for me!! I really like Seaglass restaurant and breakfast/brunch is my favorite meal out. The buffet here was great with a good selection, but my favorite dish was the creamy Eggs Benedict served over crispy home fries, a good contrast in tastes and textures.

 

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A very happy Eva

Gertz Girl DeeDee Sez:

I love a breakfast brunch buffet, though they tend to be a bit pricey for someone who gets full quickly, so I never get my money’s worth. But this is beside the point: the fun is in the variety, walking from one station and chafing dish to the next, lifting lids to discover hidden treasures, then locking in on what that first piled plate will include.

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Dee’s first (and only) piled plate

At this point, Gertz Girlz readers know of my passion for Eggs Benedict. Unfortunately, this dish doesn’t do particularly well in a brunch buffet setting, but I still give props when it’s offered, as it was at Seaglass. I think they should consider keeping extra hollandaise on the side over a heated fondue pot, because these bennies were fairly naked. Instead of the traditional English muffin, the poached eggs rest on a hash brown patty. This made it harder for them to stay together and I found myself chasing them around the chafing dish with a spatula, sliding the egg back on top of the hash brown patty before hoping I could get the prize on my plate without an embarrassing incident (I did). But the taste pairing was right, and except for the yolks being cooked through, it was satisfying.

The bacon slices clung to each other in a jumble, but this is a good thing if you want a lot of bacon but don’t wish to look like a–AHEM–pig. The sausage was slightly sweet and yummy; I wish I had grabbed more than one. The breakfast potatoes had a bit of a spicy kick but were a little dry; I relied on my delicious and Instagram-worthy Bloody Mary to wash them down (there’s always a silver lining). I also helped myself to a healthy serving of shrimp cocktail, which was excellent.

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The Bloody Mary…a buffet in a beverage!

Gertz Girl LisaLisa Sez:

As usual with the Gertz Girlz, you never know where the conversations will go and during our leisurely mealz, we discussed Eva’s recent genealogy results from 23andMe. It turns out she is more Irish and Ashkenazi Jewish than we anticipated…which explains her deep love for both mashed potatoes and potato pancakes!

Gertz Girlz Final Dish:

Everyone will be happy to know that Lisa did allow herself a splurge on her birthday, and at the end of her protein packed brunch, basked in the deep joy of a rich chocolate mousse, served in a guilt-free shot glass with a tiny spoon. That should hold her over for a few months?!

Overall, the Gertz Girlz left Seaglass quite satisfied, and were talking about the Superbowl snackz we planned to have later that day. We take pride in celebrating our one-year anniversary of the Gertz Girlz food blog with this latest post. Here’s to another fattening year, discovering new places to nosh, recipes to try/share, and family get-togethers to savor.

To quote our champion Tom Brady, “We’re still here!”