Monday, January 28, 2008


Woody Allen could probably make a movie out of this...from me, you'll have to settle for another installment of, "MORE GLIB ThAN PROFOUND."

It bothers me that the word delicatessen has been nearly forgotten. After all, its a lovely German word--which when loosely translated means; a place to eat delicacies.

Where have these eateries gone?

"Mom and Pop" delicatessens have vanished from our culture partly because of the end of ethnic neighborhoods, soaring costs and enormous carpetbagging, corporate franchises. What's left is a "deli." These days, a deli is synonymous with convenience stores or sandwich shops. It's not only an abbreviated name but the quality it provides has been watered-down with general goods...while customer service suffers due to an indifferent, minimum wage earning staff.

In my upbringing most delicatessens were kosher or kosher-style. But, I also loved to get a ham and cheese with potato salad at Karl's German Delicatessen on the "L" (Avenue L in Canarsie) . Additionally, I was introduced (late in life, I was seventeen) to my favorite, Genoa Salami at a salumeria (sala-maria), a pork store/butcher shop that many people referrred to as, an Italian Delicatessen.

However, this week's rantings are reserved for the THE KOSHER-STYLE DELICATESSEN. These delicatessens were sit-down restaurants/caterers. The front counter (cash register area) were"decorated" with stringed frankfurters hanging on the back wall. Also, for the walk-up trade and impulse buyers, there was cold drinks and a grill with franks and knishes (a novice could get away with pronouncing it kin-NISH...but to be more ethnically correct, try: k'nish).

Delicatessens had tables and chairs scattered about with a kitchen out back. The attentive waiters always seemed to be hyper, old bald men with sweaty foreheads named Yussel, Murray or Bela the Fella, (forgive me, these references are mid-70's and earlier, these "old" men were probably in their 40's).

While waiting to be served, one could feast on the complimentary sour pickle bucket. I liked to slather the spicy brown mustard on my two favorites, a hot corned beef on rye with sauerkraut inside or an extra lean pastrami (on rye). I would wash it and a knish down with a bottle of Dr. Brown's CEL-RAY soda, ( a celery flavored soda and nobody except me, likes it).

My mother used to get a whole dinner and one of her favorite entrees was Romanian steak. I tried it once and liked it. Down through the years because true delicatessens are nearly extinct, I have forgotten about it...until recently at my friend Carmen's house, I tried her skirt steak.

Carmen soaks her skirt steak over night in a marinade called "Mojo." Mojo is a Goya product found in most supermarkets, in the Spanish food aisle. Mojo is used to enhance chicken, pork and beef.  It comes in a yellow labeled, 24-ounce bottle.

Mojo's flavorful ingredients include, bitter orange, lemon, garlic and onion. The only other additive Carmen uses is, Goya's all-purpose seasoning called, adobo.

I called my mother and told her how good skirt steak was and she said, "Dummy, skirt steak IS Romanian steak! You've always loved it."

Thanks for your support mom.

Nevertheless, I bragged and continue to brag about Carmen's skirt steak. I tell everyone that it's great barbecued, broiled or fried in a pan...I've had it each way.

At my casino job, I mentioned my love of skirt steak to one of my roulette players and she wanted the recipe. My supervisor overheard and I promised him the recipe too. Well that's where the odyssey begins. I asked my wife and she was vague. So, I E-Mailed both the chef AND her husband Jerry. Jerry robustly told me that he would get her right on it...but it never happened.

A week passed and the player came back into the casino. She was disappointed that I hadn't sent out the recipe. I told her that I didn't forget.  I compared the formula to the recipe for Coca-Cola.  When she scoffed I said, "It's a closely guarded secret with possible military significance. If my friend told me, she'd have to kill me."

This woman doubted my sincerity. So I tried (unsuccessfully) to make a connection with the secretive nature of the skirt steak and the egg salad recipe from 1966's Woody Allen movie, "WHAT'S UP, TIGER LILY?"


Well I finally cornered the chef and Carmen said, "It's no recipe...just cover the meat over night in mojo and sprinkle some adobo on it."

Last week, I took my mother out for lunch and we went to the world famous, (infamous) Arch Diner, (bordering Canarsie and East Flatbush). I saw Romanian steak on the menu. My mom said it was good there.  I found out the hard way, it wasn't. In retrospect, I should have drove six neighborhoods farther away to last delicatessen standing because the Arch didn't use enough mojo and adobo...if they used any at all!

Monday, January 21, 2008


To help my son ward off exaggerators, I told him at a young age: I have complete faith in anything your mother says to me. However, I would have to draw the line if she told me that she was abducted by aliens. That my dear boy--is something I would have to see for myself !

I understand the third grade exaggerator mentality because I once pulled out my omnipresent stack of baseball cards and told Stuart Weiner that my father was a major league baseball player and he believed me.

Bespectacled Stuart (Stuie) Weiner and I met in kindergarten and became friends in third grade. The school districts changed and he went to another school until we were re-united in junior high. By then he was wearing thick glasses. We remained close through college and just prior to me moving to Las Vegas, he re-located to a suburb of San Francisco. While I lived in Nevada, I visited him up there three times and on a fourth occasion attended his wedding. Somewhere after 1981 we became estranged until the advent of personal computers. Around 2000, we exchanged some E-Mails and once again went our separate ways.

Stu as he now prefers to be called, is best know for his antics during eye-test day in third grade. Other than this episode, our teacher Miss Lauffer, didn't leave a profound educational mark on me. However, she was a petite brunette hottie who looked sharp in tight black skirts, (that's another story but thanks David Schatten for bringing it to my attention at the tender age of eight).

When Stuie was called to be tested, Miss Lauffer pointed to a bunch of letters on the eye-chart and he correctly identified them. She then told him to remove his glasses. This time around he couldn't answer. Instead of going lower on the chart, she pointed higher, to the bigger letters.

After pointing to the giant "E" at the top she said, "What letters CAN you see?"
He said, "Where?"
She said, "On the chart."
He said, "What chart?"
She said, "On the wall."
And he said, "What wall?"

Sometime during college days, Stuie and I went out to Atlantic Beach on Long Island to a bar called Porthole. Stuie's depth perception was so awful (even with his glasses) that he got into several accidents in his early years of driving. So, I always insisted on driving.

At Porthole, we had a few too many tequila sunrises (thanks for your influence RBOY). On the way out, Stu asks for my keys and tells me I'm too wasted to drive. I tell him that there was no way he was driving my dad's car--even if he was sober. At that point he made a lame statement about perception and difference between seeing and understanding.

I really had no idea what he was talking about and said, "I KNOW you can't see...and what could you possibly understand, you thought my father was Jake Gibbs."

That incident came to mind a few days ago when a player at work told me that a filthy homeless man positioned himself in one of my casino's restrooms and was handing paper towels to the men washing their the hope of getting a tip.

This particular men's room is off the beaten path and is usually only used when a show lets out or by poker players. Sometimes when my breaks are boring or if they are televising poker games, I venture over. But there is so much abuse of the NO SMOKING LAW in that hall--I don't go there much any more.

In my quest for truth, I braved the smokiness and marched through the plethora of whining poker players to that restroom. To my surprise a stinking yet enterprising man, in layered tatters was indeed dispensing paper towels. On the sink next to him was an opaque plastic cup that was about one third filled with change.

Like I said, "There are some things you have to see for yourself."

Monday, January 14, 2008


In a new strip mall on the White Horse Pike, just west of Haddon Avenue in Absecon, two new side-by-side fast food places have opened up.

First, "Five Guys Burgers" as the name suggests, specializes in hamburgers. Their menu also includes fries, hot dogs and sodas but little else. Judging from our single experience yesterday, 5 Guys got extremely high grades from us. The burgers were tasty, the overly generous portion of fries were great and the service was friendly and efficient. Their gimmick is that the food is cooked to order so there was a 10 minute wait.

To occupy the customers, there are complementary ballpark peanuts on every table. This is important because the place is stark. The white tiled walls are covered with magazine reproductions of positive articles and lists of awards they have won, (i.e. #1 burger according to Washingtonian Magazine 2001-2007). The rest of the "decorations" are limited to piled sacks of potatoes and boxes of ballpark peanuts. Therefore 5 Guys' ambiance is generic to say the least.
Two cheeseburgers, one large fries and 2 sodas were $16.50.

It should be noted that I went to a "Rate 5 Guys Web-site" and almost all the comments were a mixture of good and bad with a heavier slant towards the negative.

If you never heard of the place, it was founded in 1986 by Janie and Jerry Murrell and their five sons (guys) in Arlington Virginia. Most popular in the Washington D.C.-Baltimore area, there were 205 locations along the east coast from Florida to Connecticut, as of October 2007. Plus, an additional 1000 more are either being built or are in the planning stage. The company CLAIMS ! that each store does a million dollars a day in revenue?

Next door is the Pretzel Factory.

It sounds oxymoronic that a STORE could actually survive selling only pretzels (and pretzels with little hot dogs inside).

I must say that I am prejudice because I never have found much allure in a pretzel. My few associations with them have been at or after a sporting event. They are usually hard, tasteless dough with salt on them. So I didn't even want to dignify THE PRETZEL FACTORY with my presence. Alas, I caved-in and went. To my surprise there was a line out the door to buy what I was certain would be crap!

While waiting, the enthusiastic chatter among the waitees made it sound like we were going to be eating a kingly feast.
I was almost swayed when a lady said, "I had them cater my party."
Another women said, "Oh, they are to die for when you get them warm from the oven."

Well at three for a dollar...I now wish I had my dollar back! My warm straight from the oven pretzel was just as tasteless as any other crappy pretzel I ever had...maybe less salty...but in this case, that's NOT meant as a least that way it would taste like salt!

I understand that Philly people love their pretzels with mustard and/or other dunkable sauces but I know crap when I eat it and unlike 5 Guys, I doubt this place will be around for the long haul

Monday, January 7, 2008


Sorry to disappoint all you snow bunnies out there but here it is January 7th and its going to be 65 degrees in South Jersey today.

Of course, about a week ago, there was a bit of frost on my windshield. So I went into my "I must end my denial, face facts and admit its winter mentality." Its a Three-Step process.

The first step was to unearth my windshield scraper. It took about 20 minutes to find and couple more to get the spider webs off.

Step Two was locating the halite (rock salt). I was lucky because the rock salt was exactly where I left it last year. Except...that (from moisture?) it had fused to the wall of my garage. Freeing the bag from the wall was slowed because of the insurgence of bile in my mouth when I spotted the rodent feces, in, on and around the bag. (A few years ago the saga of Arnold Schwartzenmouse occurred in my garage...if you're good little readers, I'll save that spine-tingling story, which will be accompanied by a continuous musical loop of "When Johnny Comes March Home Again," for another time).

The last step was finding my Donegal Tweed Hat. This hat and the onset of winter makes me reminisce when I had the dealer school and a student known to all...simply as; McB.

McB was an Irish citizen working in the US. He enrolled as a craps student and at some point came to me to request time off to go back to Ireland. Everything was arranged and McB, to be social, offered to bring me back something from his trip. After I said no thanks, he insisted, so I asked him to bring back an Irish dollar bill.

When McB returned, he gave me the One Punt note, I still have it as part of Andrew's foreign currency collection. McB also surprised me with a Donegal Tweed hat. The shape of this hat is what I call a cab driver hat.


As some of you might have noticed, I'm a bald guy. It certainly is not a good thing but in reality, its not bad thing either. Therefore I have never found it necessary to go the Rogaine/minoxidil route, nor have I ever considered wigs, toupees or other cover-ups, like hats.

However, McB's hat intrigued me and I truly considered wearing it BUT it was the ugliest thing I ever saw. It didn't have a single pattern, the hat was cut into quarters with a different scheme in each one.


My father on the other hand, had a beautiful full head of hair. Ironically, he covered his tresses because he was ALSO a hat guy. He had so many; tams, berets, baseball caps, kepis, Greek sailor's caps, those hideous Russian/mailman hats...the ones that could snap the flaps over the top to expose your ears or underneath your chin to cover them. He also had various fishing hats, straw hats, cowboy hats, woolen pupke hats (with and without the pom-pom beanie on top), fedoras and derby's.

It should be noted that he didn't have a deer stalker hat but I didn't need to be Sherlock Holmes to know that he coveted my brother-in-law's .

He also didn't have a stove-pipe hat, fez, tuque, pithe helmet, Mexican sombrero, top hat, Panama hat, bowler or a cab driver hat.

So I bring him McB's cab driver hat and offer it to him. Well, he knows all about the great Donegal Tweed hat tradition and immediately treasures it. Dad wore it for abut ten years until he passed-away in 1995.

At that point, I took back the hat. I still won't wear it in public. But if you want to see me wearing it, come around my house, the next snowy morning because, its my official snow shoveling hat.

It might sound crazy but it has kept dad's smell...and that adds to the comfort it gives me, even if its only a few times a year. Of course if this global warming keeps up, my little ritual could end too.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008


The new year is upon us and in my never ending quest to share the unimportant with you, I give you JANUS !

Janus is the Roman god of beginnings and ends, as well as doors, gates and doorways. Images of the Janus head consists of two faces looking in opposite directions. Janus symbolizes change or transition.


Janus can also represent time itself with one face looking forward into the future and the other seeing the past. Ergo, the month January gets its name from Janus, (as the first month, he can see the upcoming year as well as the events of the previous one).

Because of his link as the keeper of doors etc, the word janitor also comes from Janus.

Additionally, Janus was worshipped at the beginning of harvest and planting season, plus, marriages, births and other beginnings. He also acted as an intermediary between; barbarity and civilization, rural and urban concerns and clashes of the young and old.


It is not my intention to make fun of the Afghani people or anyone else. This particular nugget of information is not a joke, it was published in last week's computer news.

Apparently there was a recent Afghan holiday in which giving to the under privileged is encouraged. A man was driving his car and saw somebody selling a camel. He bought the camel, had it slaughtered and brought it to an impoverished part of his town.


His good deed fed many hungry people. His good deed also killed 23 of them and sickened many more. Later, it was discovered that this was a diseased camel, suffering from anthrax. Those who partook in the holiday feast, experienced severe symptoms and those who succumbed, died within a few hours.
I guess the moral of the story is: never eat camel meat that was gotten from the trunk of a guy's car!

P. S. I think the same moral should also include shrimp.