“(The lemons) are delicious in salads, in chicken with olives, in a marvelous Moroccan brisket, and stuffed into the cavity of a simple roast chicken with garlic and fresh herbs,” Nathan writes. “Long ago the lemons were weighted with stones to keep them submerged in the preserving liquid. (But in the) contemporary method, the lemons sink with the weight of the salt.”
We love hosting Camp Kee Tov campers learning about where food comes from. It’s one of our favorite parts of summer each year.
This year Kee Tov campers visited Terra Bella Family Farm, one of our purveyors, then came to Saul’s the next day and tasted summer tomatoes with zhoug. Their very own private farm-to-table tour.
Can a retro cuisine be part of the avant-garde?
A sold out audience of over 250 attended our February 9 discussion. Feedback and debate in the restaurant (and online!) has been tremendous.
We brought together Michael Pollan, Evan Kleiman, Willow Rosenthal and Gil Friend. We chose panelists with the credibility of loving Deli (they all eat meat, and they all eat at Saul’s) and who are also driving sustainability.
Here’s the original billing.
Michael Pollan, Journalist, Author: The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food
Gil Friend, CEO of Natural Logic, Author: The Truth About Green Business
Willow Rosenthal, Founder, City Slicker Farms
Karen Adelman, Co-Owner, Saul’s Restaurant and Deli
Peter Levitt, Co-Owner, Saul’s Restaurant and Deli
Moderator: Evan Kleiman, Host, KCRW’s Good Food, Owner-Chef, Angeli Caffe
Proceeds benefit The Center for Ecoliteracy
**Venue has been changed from Saul’s to the JCC of the East Bay just around the corner. To accommodate demand.**
Can the Jewish Deli be sustainable?
What does sustainability mean for the future of Deli cuisine and culture?
Many expectations of “real” Deli conflict with sustainability and today’s economic realities. Even “authentic” cuisine can obstruct progress toward more just, sustainable food. How does a business committed to being part of the solution persuade traditionalist customers of the importance of change?
For example, towering pastrami sandwiches once signified success, security and abundance, an immigrant’s celebration of the American Dream. But given the realities of meat production in America today – 99% is factory farmed – how can we continue to stand by this as an icon?
Even the factory farmed pastrami sandwich has become an unsustainable business model, because of its tiny profit margins.
How can we look at our nostalgia and expectations critically?
How might we evolve a shared cuisine together? How can Saul’s bring more people into the conversation?
There’s much more conversation to be had beyond the conversation we had on Feb 9 . . . come in and chat with us.
Check out our blog post on the (sometimes controversial) changes Saul’s has made over the years.
And please do stay tuned for future discussions at Saul’s. We’re thinking about the intersection of food, culture, identity, change, evolution, memory, the challenges of local, sustainable sourcing for a 100+ seat restaurant with a large, set menu . . .
Some of the press coverage of Referendum on the Jewish Deli Menu:
New York Times Bay Area Blog Organic or Authentic? The Saul’s Deli Debate
Diablo Magazine Deli Debate
KQED’s Bay Area Bites Who Owns the Deli?
San Francisco Chronicle The Thin Green Line Deli’s Efforts to Go Green Stir Up Controversy
Civil Eats Referendum on the Deli Menu at Saul’s: What is Tradition?
Ethicurean Saul’s Got SOLE: The Jewish Deli in Berkeley Evolves
Jewish Journal Foodaism A Sustainable Deli?
Jewish Daily Forward Can the Jewish Deli Survive the Sustainable Food Movement? Pass the Homemade Pickles
Berkeleyside Another Bite of Saul’s
EcoSalon Can Sustainable Restaurant Food be Democratized?
Treehugger Michael Pollan, Saul’s Deli’s Secret Pastrami Hawker?
Moment Magazine Yum! Burp! Delis, Pickles and Pastrami!
New York Times Can the Jewish Deli be Reformed?
Can the Jewish Deli change?
Or must it always stay the same to be good and authentic?
Anthony Bourdain opposes change in the Deli:
It’s a classic refrain of Deli Mavens.
Here are some changes to Deli that Saul’s has made over the years. They’ve been a bit controversial . . .
Smaller sandwiches – not twelve or eight ounces, but six. Those mountainous pastrami sandwiches were made possible in the postwar deli heyday by cheaply, industrially produced meat. A typical Italian Deli sandwich has 2-4 ounces on it. But a “real” NY deli does towering sandwiches.
No more Dr. Brown’s sodas. Cream and Celery is scratch-made in house, and Black Cherry is made only when black cherries are in season. One of the saddest changes in Jewish deli history has been consolidation of the soda industry, from hundreds of small-batch, regional and local soda alchemists in the New York area alone, to just a few brands recalling that era and those flavors, in name only. For example, Dr. Brown’s is made from high-fructose corn syrup and artificial ingredients, and owned by Dr. Pepper/Snapple Group. Plus, shipping it to Saul’s logs lots of food miles. We won Best of the East Bay in the East Bay Express for our seasonal housemade sodas.
Seasonality, a changing menu. Vegetables, legumes, grains, seafood back on the plate. And often at the center of the plate. Sephardic-inspired dishes. Deli heresy!
Smaller, regional menu – Chilled borscht only in summer and when beets are in season – “What kind of a Deli are you that doesn’t have borscht!?” Gefilte fish is housemade, fresh. We have it for the holidays, not year round.
Grassfed flavor and texture: Our brisket, corned beef and cabbage rolls are made with local, grass-fed beef. Americans hadn’t tasted corn-fed beef until after WWII. But today’s palates are accustomed to corn-fed flavor, texture and fat content, so for some customers, grass-fed doesn’t seem quite right. More here on the challenge of sourcing local, grass-fed pastrami to replace the not-as-sustainable Niman Ranch.
Handmade Acme rye from rye flour and sourdough starter, not the white flour “rye” that has evolved as “real Jewish rye” because it works better in bread machines than sticky rye flour. More here.
Wanted: Local, clean salami – Salami has been taken off the menu until we know where it’s coming from. We have many loyal customers who love salami, even industrially produced salami, and are very upset that we don’t serve it.
Many beloved delis have disappeared over the last few decades.
Believe it or not, the huge pastrami sandwich is a big reason why. It is no longer a profitable business model.
Here’s an excerpt from Save the Deli by David Sax on the subject:
Pastrami is most commonly made from a cut of beef known as the navel . . . until recently, these cuts of meat were inexpensive . . . This meant that the deli meats were cheap to buy and sell. But several factors have increased demand and prices for traditionally Jewish cuts of meat: the rising popularity of Texas–style BBQ brisket . . . Tongue prices, driven by exports to Asia, have shot up ten times since 1980. Domestically, new pressure is coming from the energy sector, where the rising cost of oil has created a boom market in corn ethanol, increasing the price of cattle feed
And customers expect deli and sandwiches to be cheap. Diners are happy to pay $20 for a steak dinner. Put the same amount or more beef between two slices of rye bread – with all the time and energy of curing – and customers expect to pay less for it.
. . . [E]ven with pastrami sandwiches at fifteen dollars and up, most New York delis are breaking even or losing money on their namesake item . . . Customers also have a perceived expectation that Jewish Delis have always been, and will always be, cheap places to eat. Were delicatessen customers asked to pay the real cost of their sandwich, they’d surely revolt.
We’ve stopped serving salami until we know where the beef comes from.
99% of meat in this country is produced by factory farms.
Help us find salami that is:
Humanely raised – Let’s not support confined animal feeding operations.
Sustainably raised – Protect our air, water and soil from pollution. Reduce petroleum use in agriculture.
Hormone and antibiotic free – Protect our public health.
Locally made is preferred, to support local production, food skills, craft, and local commerce.
Saul’s customers love salami. We have the demand. Help us procure the supply.
What is authentic Jewish deli rye? White flour flecked with a few caraway seeds, or colored a darker brown, with rye flour? A bit sour, made slowly from starter? Artisanal? Cheap in a hedonistic, guilt-free gluttony and unhealthy-just-today-late-night-at-the-diner kind of way?
Like it or not, we delis aren’t just expected to serve good (Jewish) comfort food. We are in the business of reproducing memory. And authentic doesn’t necessarily = good. Or locally sourced, quality ingredients.
How was it, we ask our customers. Just how it’s supposed to be.
Many customers come to Saul’s searching for Authenticity. That all-important barometer for deli enthusiasts is based on some other meal in another time in a far off place. Usually New York. Usually many years in the past.
And usually at a deli that enjoyed its heyday in the 1950′s and hasn’t really changed since. Or doesn’t exist anymore. Because that business model doesn’t work today. It’s a socioeconomic approach to food that isn’t sustainable.
Famous towering pastrami sandwiches hit their peak at the same time in history as the highly mechanized “efficient” industrial food system was most celebrated. That’s the main point of reference for the deli.
Given all that, dominant notions of authentic, good deli expressly does not include local sourcing, local production, relationships with small family farmers. Or ingredients that require hands and time instead of machines. In fact, the tastes and textures of industrial deli runs completely counter to these things.
Take rye bread.
Turn of the century rye bread was made with rye flour. It gives rye bread a brown color. Our bread is an 18 hour process at Acme Bakery down the street. It organic, and the bakers know the farmers who produce and mill their flour. Since it is handmade, sometimes it has air holes in it.
Most rye in New York today isn’t made with rye flour. It’s made with white flour. Production, industrial baking took out rye flour because it sticks in the machine. Industrial bread never has holes, it looks all the same.
Hundreds of delis have disappeared using cheap, industrial ingredients, trying to reproduce that 1950′s experience.
We believe deli food is only authentic it is good, and it’s only as good as it’s sourcing. That values local, organic, sustainable. Small business and farmers.
It’s our bittersweet philosophy. Memory is not Saul’s only master. That fixed, narrow point in Jewish culinary history does not define our deli.
And we had a chance to talk about a taboo subject: meat.
Why was meat taboo? For many progressive, observant Jewish eaters, eating meat at all is ethically and environmentally questionable. Some eat meat, but only meat that they have slaughtered themselves, carefully and mindfully. The Eco-Kosher movement seeks to reclaim the meaning of Kosher, with concern for the environment. And ensuring that factory farms, confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), and industrial agriculture have no place in a “Kosher” diet.
The audience seemed to share the same basic understandings about our troubled, industrial food system. And how difficult it is to find consciously raised meat, when 99% of America’s meat is factory farmed.
So veganism was sort of a benchmark, or ideal, for many participants in this conversational context.
Saul’s has a very strong meat-loving Jewish demographic, however. Karen brought up this reality. She talked about how Saul’s works hard to raise awareness about meat production. How we serve smaller sandwiches – 6 ounces instead of 8 or more ounces as is standard in New York. With humanely and sustainably raised meat. How at the deli we’re encouraging changes in consumption, with more seasonal vegetables at the center of the plate, instead of just animal-based protein.
The panel featured
- Adam Berman (moderator), founder of the Adamah Fellowship at Isabella Freedman
- Zelig Golden, Attorney for the Center for Food Safety
- Emily Freed, Farmer at Jacobs Farm
- Willow Rosenthal, Founder of City Slicker Farms
- Chaya Ryvka Diehl, Chef at Living Vision
Plus, Mollie Katzen, best selling author of the groundbreaking “Bible of vegetarian cooking” The Moosewood Cookbook spoke.
Proceeds went to City Slicker Farms: Growing Affordable Fresh Produce for West Oakland.
Alexander Sharone of the Progressive Jewish Alliance gave this inspiring speech on Jewishness
and the sustainable food movement:
So, in a world rife with injustice, where do we start to balance the scales of justice? Tonight we will begin with Food… that which provides us with the vital energy and nourishment to live and is one of the most fundamental ways in which we interact with the natural world and with each other as individuals, families, communities, tribes, cultures and a global species.
I’d like to thank the David Brower Center for hosting us in this magnificent space and I hope that you enjoyed the delicious locally sourced organic vegan buffet dinner catered by the Berkeley Student Food Collective and their amazing crew. . . . Proceeds from tonight will be donated to this amazing local organization that increases food self-sufficiency in West Oakland by creating organic, sustainable, high-yield urban farms and back-yard gardens . . . .
A little taste of PJA . . . We serve as a progressive voice in the Jewish community and a Jewish voice in the progressive community. We are inspired by our Jewish tradition and the voices of our prophets to seek the well being of the place in that which we dwell. Justice, Justice we are called on to pursue. Judaism, with its many laws and rituals surrounding food and agriculture, reminds us to pay close attention to the food we eat, the manner in which we prepare it, and to always take a moment to give thanks and offer gratitude. We are called upon to be guardians of the earth, to prevent the suffering of all beings, to provide food to those in need, to avoid the wasting of our precious resources, and at times to allow ourselves and the land to rest.
We are just beginning to fully realize that food as presented in the modern industrial system has been debased to a point where the ingredients are unrecognizable and completely devoid of nutritional value, the farmers and workers are routinely exploited in unbearable conditions, and the agricultural, chemical laden practices threaten the health and well-being of all the species on this earth. This system has to a large extent disconnected us from the source of our food and redefined the very meaning and essence of what Food is. We find ourselves in a complex global economic system where food in under lock and key and third world countries are forced to grow cash crops for export rather than subsistence crops to support their own communities. One of the great ironies of our time is the simultaneous abundance of food and great hunger that persists.
In a world that often seems incredibly chaotic and where many essential decisions about the way we live are made without our input or consent, food is a fertile starting ground where we can empower ourselves and our communities to recreate and re-envision our world in a way that supports, sustains, and affirms all life on this planet. The choices we make about food can be very powerful and have far-reaching effects. There is a growing movement and increasing awareness on this planet, at which we in the Bay Area are at the forefront, of reconnecting with the food we eat and taking into careful consideration the ways in which food reaches our plates and pallets. Our panelists and speakers tonight will explore various dimensions of food justice. They will guide us along the path food takes and ways we can restore justice to our food such as: protecting the genetic make-up of the seed itself, growing food in a way that honors the bio-diversity of the land and honors the people who work the land with fair and equitable conditions, building local food systems and access to healthy fresh food, and bringing our consciousness to the source of our food. I invite you to join us in this journey tonight, to open your hearts and minds, since you have already opened your mouths and are still digesting, and to share what inspires you about these issues with those around you. There are many ways to get involved, with many great organizations here to connect to and many people around you to learn from and collaborate with as a community. And all it takes to start is to plant a seed, as literally or metaphorically as you like. We hope that after tonight your will consider food with a new understanding. Food Justice: That’s What’s for Dinner.
We loved selling locally grown, locally cured pickles out the back of a pick-up truck at the Eat Real Festival!
Pickle plates for $1. Half-sour, pickled green tomatoes, sauerkraut, bread and butter style. Drawing together artisanal producers in the deli again. David Ehreth of Alexander Valley crafts our pickles.
We took turns exploring and bringing back amazing food to share.
From pushcarts to delis to truck-carts. Old World, New Country, and the future of food. Full circles in the history of Jewish cuisine, here we come.
We were so honored to provide a space for People’s Grocery to raise awareness about the need to create self-reliant, socially just and sustainable food systems.
Brahm Ahmadi, Executive Director of People’s Grocery, spoke on how income should not dictate people’s access to healthy food. On how health disparities and access to healthy food are directly related. On building a local food system to promote the health and economic well-being of the West Oakland community. On opportunity, empowerment, and the beauty of vibrant local economies by and for all. People’s Grocery was able to raise over 600 dollars from the audience.
What sparked the idea: Karen saw Brahm on a panel speaking a sold-out crowd at the Roxie in the Mission. We were struck by his ability to expand the thinking of an already savvy and converted audience. It is important to widen the social justice concerns of the food revolution.
We can celebrate the good food choices that we can make in this glorious food corner of the world. We can also contribute space here to help cultivate a more comprehensive vision of progressive food politics.
Back-to-local, small-batch processing with our scratch-made sodas syrups. Cream and Celery is scratch-made in house, and Black Cherry is made only when black cherries are in season.
One of the biggest changes in Jewish Deli history has been consolidation of the soda industry, from hundreds of small-batch, regional and local soda alchemists in the New York area alone, to just a few brands recalling that era and those flavors, in name only. Dr. Brown’s, for example, is owned by Pepsi and made with high fructose corn syrup and artificial ingredients.
Herbal extracts mixed with mineral water were popularized at the turn of the century, conceived as health-inducing concoctions.
While people seek these flavors for their enduring timelessness, and to revisit memories, the experience of them being made by small local purveyors has been lost. We want to put the authenticity back into these classics by making them ourselves from scratch.
Our classic, heritage flavors include celery, cream, cardamom, ginger ale. Our seasonal flavors have included strawberry, cherry, blood orange, mandarin, and meyer lemon.
We’ve eliminated demand for nearly 20,000 bottled beverages a year, displacing out-of-season, corn-syrup sodas with seasonal, natural flavors, and 360,000 plastic straws a year by offering cardboard straws.
Here’s to the movement towards seasonal connectedness, more local processing, lower carbon emissions, fewer cans and bottles wasted, fewer commodity crops (high-fructose corn syrup), and fewer heavy fossil-fueled bottled beverages transported across the country from centralized facilities owned by conglomerates . . . [glasses 'clink'].
Our summertime and autumn pickles are now locally grown, locally cured cukes, pesticide-free, salt-brined, not pasteurized. Handmade in small batches by David Ehreth of Alexander Valley Gourmet. Saul’s pickle money now stays in the local economy.
Peter and Karen, owners of Saul’s, loved the tradition of serving pickles straightaway. It represented a shared appreciation of pickles and deli so deep, you didn’t even have to ask. Why have to ask? Of course you want pickles.
But Peter was weary of feeding his worms and chickens pickles. You see, Peter takes Saul’s food scraps to his backyard five blocks away. The hens providing some of Saul’s eggs enjoy the leftovers, and the worms the chickens enjoy grow fat turning Saul’s food scraps into compost.
The wasted pickles were once cukes grown south of the border, hauled to Los Angeles, trucked up the freeway to Oakland, and picked up by Saul’s twice a week in a fossil-fuel vehicle.
Guilt and tradition seemed at odds.
Meanwhile, Peter and Karen loved the local pickle scene. Cukes grown in Brentwood and Sonoma without pesticides. No artificial preservatives or colors. Not heated or pasteurized. Fermented, with an all-salt brine. Crafted in small batches, old-world style. Sustainable style.
Could Peter and Karen divert the tens of thousands of dollars they were spending on pickles into:
the local economy
supporting small farmers who protect our soil, water and air by not using pesticides
enhancing food security
an existing delivery to Saul’s by a small, local distribution company committed to sustainability?
Yes. At least in summer and autumn, when California grows cucumbers.
And the price more than doubled in cost.
Besides, not everyone is interested in, much less obsessed with pickles. Not everyone savors every bite of pickles as they should.
Discuss: Which won, guilt or tradition?
We think there are many winners in this tale: guilt, tradition, pickles, the future of Deli, authenticity, fermentation and probiotic health, local farmland, flavor . . . tell us what you think. Feel free to kvetch about our current food system. We sure do.
Two weeks ago, we were finally able to switch our brisket, steak, hamburger and cabbage roll sourcing to 100% grass-fed beef. From Marin Sun Farms. Extremely local.
It’s so much more flavorful, the texture more real. It’s amazing. Higher in omega 3 fatty acids, beta carotene and CLA, another “good” fat, and Vitamin E. It’s leaner, so our kitchen is adjusting to new cooking methods. Our diners are advised that well-done might be too, well, done.
American had never tasted corn-fed beef until WWII. But now, most beef eaten the US is corn-fed, with a very different flavor profile and texture. Since grass-fed beef predates most of us, taste memories are made of corn-fed flavor. So it’s an adventure in revisiting and redefining authenticity, too.
What was the hold-up in going grass-fed? As a 100 seat diner, we source beef at a very high volume. Marin Sun Farms is now able to supply us at that volume.
And why not 100% grass-fed pastrami and corned beef . . . yet?
Pastrami and corned beef come from a small cut of muscle – the navel end of the brisket. Each cow yields just two briskets. And as a cut of meat with high fat content, corn-fed brisket has only a 40% yield of usable meat. So far, we can’t source that many grass-fed cows locally.
But we’re working on it. For the future of Deli.
In our Re-plating Pastrami post, we discuss the huge impact of beef on the environment – well over and above poultry, pork, and fish.
Indeed, grass-fed and local beef still has a much higher impact than other sources of animal protein, but is a significant improvement for environment and human health over grain-fed and grain-finished.
Grass-fed cattle ranching is far more of a closed-loop ecosystem. Grazing helps sequester carbon. From the Rodale Institute via Treehugger:
. . . well-managed cattle can greatly enhance the growth and propagation of grasses. These grasses can sequester huge amounts of carbon annually, especially when grazing practices include high density, short-term exposure efforts with the cattle eating the grasses down and moving on to let the grasses grow back. On just one acre of biologically healthy grassland soil, there can be between 0.5 – 1.5 tons of carbon deposited in the soil annually.
Grass-fed cattle and pastured chickens live symbiotically. Chickens can follow up on cow patties, which are full of worms, pecking and breaking patties apart and spreading them, fertilizing the grass. Check out this entertaining video of Joel Salatin, celebrity sustainable farmer, on his process.
Michael Pollan – a regular customer to whom we owe many thanks for inspiration in our persistence and ongoing quest for grass-fed sourcing – described the beauty of grass-fed cattle ranching at Salatin’s Polyface Farms for Gourmet Magazine.
And we haven’t even gotten into the petroleum inputs demanded by grain-fed cattle ranching. The synthetic nitrogen fertilizing corn and soy monocultures used to produce feed, polluting our water supply and killing marine life. The food miles required to transport grain to centralized, massive feedlots. The energy required to drill and transport these oil-based inputs.
Yes, we much prefer the taste of grass-fed, local beef.
In 1936, there were an estimated 5,000 delis in New York City. Today, only a few still exist.
The Jewish deli will not survive on nostalgia alone.
To stay relevant, Jewish deli cuisine cannot be frozen in time. Our culinary direction/choices must:
- Value local commerce and local economies
- Revive local food security
- Provide for contemporary tastes: greater appetite for fresh vegetables, legumes, grains, and fruits
- Acknowledge modern science: the relationship of food to health, and
- Recognize food production’s impact on the environment
- Humanely treat the animals we eat: know slaughter methods, quality of life.
These are issues to which we are accountable, even when upholding cherished traditions and cherished dishes. Our menus cannot continue be vast and unchanging year-round. Menus must respect season, time, and place.
Of course, tradition and social/environmental responsibility are not always at odds. Sourcing from local, small-scale food producers is one path to reclaiming our cultural roots, as we discussed in our post on authentic Jewish food.
But stewarding Jewish cuisine responsibly is more complicated than that. Beyond organic? Beyond local.
Beyond “the pastrami sandwich was THIS big!”
Meat, especially beef, contributes greatly to global warming.18% of global greenhouse gases come from livestock production. As ruminants, cows produce methane, 20 times more damaging to the atmosphere than carbon. Livestock also plays a large role in water depletion and pollution, energy use, land degradation, oil demand/petroleum-based fertilizer use and biodiversity destruction. Americans eat about eight ounces of meat a day, about twice the global average, and growing global demand is expected to accelerate the damage. Click here for one of Mark Bittman’s hilarious and compelling rants against the amount of meat we consume.
What about grass-finished beef? Shockingly, grass-finished beef has the potential to generate as much as 50% more GHG emissions than grain-fed beef. Albert Straus of the Straus Family Creamery points out in this op-ed for the San Francisco Chronicle that raising 100% pastured dairy cows isn’t always possible or sustainable even for small, organic family farms, depending on location and climate.
(Of course, there are still many environmental and health benefits to choosing grass-fed over grain-fed beef, and we are aiming for local and grass-fed as much as possible at Saul’s.)
And eating vegetarian has a lower carbon footprint than eating local meat – no matter how many food miles those veggies, soy, legumes and grains have traveled. Full study here.
What’s more: Pastrami and corned beef come from a small cut of muscle – the navel end of the brisket. This cut of beef is __ pounds on average, and each cow yields just two briskets. At this rate, a single deli potentially requires 10, 20, 30 cows a day.
What is Saul’s doing? Redefining “Jewish Cuisine”
Pastrami not the centerpiece of Saul’s or Jewish cuisine: More chicken, turkey, seafood, legume and grain-based dishes. Poultry are not ruminants, and do not have as severe an impact on climate as cows. Poultry production is also more efficient, because of reproductive cycles and grain conversion to meat. Substituting all beef production for chicken would cut meat’s projected carbon footprint by 70 percent, according to a recent study. Responsibly farmed seafood is a more efficient source of protein than all meat, both in terms of reproduction and grain conversion.
Reasserting Jewish cuisine’s rich vegetarian history: 1930’s Poland gave rise to more vegetarian dishes. Sephardic influence emphasizes vegetables, legumes, grains and seafood.
Offering smaller sandwiches: Not the traditional ten or eight ounces of meat on a sandwich – instead, six or four. Though we are purchasing less pastrami and requiring fewer cows, more sandwiches are being served. More Saul’s customers are enjoying and sharing the pastrami experience. Images of towering pastrami sandwiches may dominate the popular deli imagination. Many might argue that mountains of pastrami define authentic deli. But Saul’s is re-plating pastrami. We are sheparding a new presentation for pastrami. We are reducing authenticity’s carbon footprint.
Offering grass-fed beef where possible: we serve Marin Sun Farms grass-fed brisket and ground beef – hamburgers and cabbage rolls. We serve Niman Ranch pastrami and lamb, which is also significantly more sustainable than factory farmed.
Surviving: We want to be a cultural home for years to come. We want to stay viable as a business and a member of the local and global community. To continue serving Jewish cuisine, we seek culinary inspiration from many sources: our shared roots, our history; classic dishes; diasporic influences; the tastes and demands of our customers; social and environmental responsibility; public health . . . . . and the revelations of an evolving food consciousness. We take what is relevant from the past to the future.
To survive through the growing food revolution, Jewish diner cuisine cannot continue to be a purely nostalgic cuisine.
What is an authentic Jewish deli? At Saul’s, we believe it is much more than a mountain of pastrami. Saul’s is engaging in a larger story than one generation’s mid-20th century New York experience, which is only one stage in the evolution of our cuisine.
Saul’s connects to our Jewish roots all along the timeline of that evolution. The recipes of Old-world kitchens grew out of pre-industrialized food supply systems, local economic partnerships, community self-sufficiency, resourcefulness and hearty pragmatism. Our immigrant cuisine of the late 1800’s, which gave birth to the American Jewish deli, owed its robustness to these cultural mores. While we all might have different opinions of exactly how this or that classic Jewish dish should taste or look, the core of authentic Jewish cuisine can be traced to these roots.
In an effort to reconnect to these mores, Saul’s partners with local organic producers wherever possible, avoids industrial pre-processing, and embraces sustainability as the ultimate pragmatism. This is how Saul’s holds true to the hearty, authentic culinary traditions of Jewish culture.
This is our Jewish restaurant and deli. This is Saul’s.
Because Jewish culinary history is so rich, because there is so much work to be done to return authenticity to our food system and cuisine, Saul’s mission is quite ambitious.
We are a resource for shared culinary traditions, taste memories, and progressively, ethically
sourced and influenced dishes. We strive to re-establish the food systems of our roots,
and we are a place where diverse and intimate community congregates to eat a familiar and vital cuisine.
For the record, the nostalgic “New York style delis” of more recent memory came to represent radical changes in Jewish food values mirroring changes in American food production generally.
To name a few:
Factory-produced rye bread replacing old-world style rye from artisanal local bakeries each with their own ingredient sources and special variations in texture and flavor.
Intensive, confined feeding operations and routine use of antibiotics and hormones for smoked and cured meats.
The consolidation of the soda industry, from hundreds of small-batch, regional and local soda alchemists in the New York area alone, to just one brand recalling that era and those flavors.
Dr. Brown’s– which originated as a small producer — is now sweetened with high-fructose
corn syrup and owned by Canada Dry, which is owned by Dr Pepper/Seven Up, a unit of Dr
Pepper Snapple Group.
All this centralization brought more food miles, more fossil fuel inputs, and diminished the integrity of the neighborhood deli experience. Close relationships between local purveyors, restaurants, and customers were lost, existing more in memory than in the present.
No wonder delis conjure so much unapologetic nostalgia, so much searching to re-live memory and re-assert shared experience.
We were packed, standing room only, guests sharing tables with new friends and not-so new friends, to watch President Obama’s inauguration together. We wove through the dense, ecstatic crowd to bring food to tables, an absolute blast.
How incredible to spend this day with so many friends/customers and colleagues. Words can’t express how much it brought the community – and Americans across the nation – together.
Our annual latke tent this past Hanukkah celebrated the tradition of neverending servings of latkes.
Latkes are delicious after Hanukkah, too. Our latkes won a place on Diablo Magazine’s The East Bay’s 101 Most Delicious Things to Eat
We fry them in California-grown rice bran oil, as an alternative to corn oil.
On the grill at the latke tent