The Kishka Chronicles

Side dishes, which often come with entrées but can also be ordered independently, are likewise very good. I love square knishes ($3.25) and these are yummy and fresh from Brooklyn. Potato pancakes ($1.95 for three, $3.95 for six) are eggier and cakier than I'm used to, but still good. The carrot tzimmes ($1.95)--buttery, honey-glazed, raisin-studded carrot slices--are sweet and fine; and kasha varniskas ($1.95)--one of the simplest things in the world to make; just toss toasted buckwheat groats with bow-tie pasta--were simply very good. Oh, and as for Zaroff's kishka ($4.95), it's a vegetable-studded patty slathered in tasty homemade gravy, and bears no resemblance to the gruel of my grandma's nightmares.

I do have a few quibbles with the food, which all seem to stem from a lack of strict attention to plates before they leave the kitchen: On two occasions the matzoh balls hid "raw" centers (middles of dry crumbs of matzoh meal); the pastrami arrived twice too freshly cut and not hot--it should be simmering in its steam pan long enough for the fat to get soft and for the meat to look wet; once a knish arrived rock-hard from over-long baking; and I had no luck with the vegetables that are offered as an alternative to the carrot tzimmes. It seemed like there were frequent breakdowns in post-chef issues, but please note that every problem I encountered was fixed in the blink of an eye by the friendly, helpful wait-kids. (It's hard not to think of them as kids, because in New York your pastrami seems invariably to be presented by a woman with high-penciled eyebrows, locked knees, and a crispy hairdo who eyes you suspiciously over the top of her glasses.)

Of course it's preposterous to expect Wolff's or the 2nd Ave. Deli to be transplanted whole to the innocent fields of Minnesota, and it's to David Zaroff's credit that he has managed to fuse Minnesota-friendly so seamlessly to his rather authentic New York deli. The Minnesota comforts include an extensive kids menu (soda, fries, sandwich, and homemade cookie for $4.95) and adult gringo options like lo-cal salads, grilled chicken breasts, and an excellent grilled cheese ($6.95).

When I mentioned the schism between New York deli-rude and Minnesota deli-nice to David he grimaced. "They've been around for god knows how long, how can you actually compete with the Carnegie or the Stage? Its so hectic, so crowded, so crazy there--but that's what you go to New York for. I don't know how long that would last here--but I'm betting it wouldn't fly." I'm betting he's right, but he deserves kudos for having the drive and the eye for detail to so effectively transform our culinary landscape to conform with his psychic one, and to offer all us transplanted New Yorkers a little oasis of home. "I still miss New York," says David, considering his accomplishments, "but I don't miss it as much now. I love it here. Except it is still really cold."


YOU'LL GO BLIND IF YOU KEEP THAT UP: According to Dr. Steven Pratt, a senior staff ophthalmologist at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, California, some eye diseases, like age-related macular degeneration (a type of vision loss that affects 13 million people), can be prevented by eating foods rich in the carotenoid lutein. The best sources for lutein? Dark leafy greens like spinach, collard greens, swiss chard, and kale; plus other veggies like broccoli, celery, green beans, romaine lettuce, green peas, and pumpkin. Pratt says you should also get foods high in the carotenoid lycopene, like tomatoes, watermelon, and ruby-red grapefruit.

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