Christmas Dinner! I grew up with traditional Southern fare on Christmas Day. Usually it was a repeat of Thanksgiving with turkey and dressing and/or ham being the star of the show. It was also usually served in the early afternoon.
As an adult, I ventured out a bit and began serving prime rib or beef tenderloin, except for the year I cooked a goose. And, being Texans, my family added the tradition of tamales on Christmas Eve.
This year was the first time ever that I had Pastrami for my mid-day meal on Christmas Day. I was at Katz Delicatessen, the famous Jewish icon located in the lower East Side of New York City.
The restaurant walls hold pictures of the many famous people who have eaten at the establishment since it’s inception in 1888. Tables fill every bit of floor space and cooks line an entire wall, filling orders for Matzo Ball soup, Pastrami, Corned Beef, Latkes, Hot Dogs and other traditional Kosher foods.
When we arrived by taxi, people were lined out the door and to the end of the block, waiting in the bitter cold for a ticket to get in. (You take a ticket and you have a choice of placing your order at the counter and hoping to find a table when your food is ready or waiting for a reserved table.) Sissified rather than citified, our party opted to ensure that we had a seat and ordered at the table.
Everybody who is anybody in the City has eaten at Katz’s, but most of us remember the famous “I’ll have what she’s having” scene from “When Harry Met Sally.” Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal were lunching at Katz Deli.
In addition to all of the good deli delights, the restaurant offers the famous fountain drink that originated in Brooklyn and is served exclusively in diners and delis—egg creams.
An egg cream has been on my bucket list for years and as many trips as I have taken to New York, I never had one.
After placing my food order, “I’ll have an egg cream,” I said to the waitress.
It was delicious. I had chocolate at Katz'snd the following day we lunched at a diner in the Village and I had vanilla. I loved them both.
According to most historians, the Egg Cream was allegedly created in the early 1900s by a Jewish candy shop owner, Louis Auster, who came to America and opened a candy store in Brooklyn, New York. It is reported that 3,000 Egg Creams a day were sold until the day the store closed.
Louis Auster rented his store on the corner of 7th street and 2nd avenue from Harry Harmatz, the founder and owner of Ratner’s Dairy Restaurant.
Harmatzs’ grandson, Lionel Levy, recalls, “When I was a youth, I tasted the original egg cream, and the taste still lingers in my memory. I used to buy an egg cream for 12 cents and would pay twenty dollars for that same drink today.”
Back home from New York, I decided to try to make my own egg cream. I had no preposterous notions that it would taste the same as drinking one in the Big Apple, but according to the recipes on-line you can make a good replica of the famous fountain drink in your kitchen.
In spite of its name, the drink contains neither eggs nor cream. An egg cream is a beverage consisting of milk, carbonated water, and flavored syrup.
Fox’s U Bet Chocolate syrup, or Bosco Chocolate syrup are the favored syrups and the ones used in the original drinks served in Brooklyn and the Bronx. Fox’s U Bet can be purchased on-line at Webstaurant.com. I remember Bosco chocolate syrup as a kid and although I have not seen it lately in a store, it can be purchased at Walmart.com.
Chocolate Egg Cream
Serving Size: 1 Serving
Approximately 1/2 cup cold whole milk*
1 cup bottled seltzer*
2 tablespoons chocolate syrup*
*Skim or 1% milk will not foam as well.
*I like Kroger brand seltzer water
*Could not wait for a shipment so I used Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup
Pour 1/2 cup of cold milk into a tall soda glass.
Add seltzer or club soda to within 1 inch of the top of the glass; stir vigorously with a long spoon (this will cause it to become white and bubbly with a good head of foam).
Very gently pour 2 tablespoons of chocolate syrup slowly down the inside of the glass; briskly stir with a long spoon only at the bottom of the glass where the chocolate sits. The resulting drink should have a dark brown bottom and a 1-inch high pure white foam top (if you mix it too much, the foam disappears).
NOTE: Drink Immediately! Do not let the prepared Egg Cream sit for a long period of time (5 minutes or more) as it will go flat.
Another version changes the amount of milk:
New York Chocolate Egg Cream
2 heaping tablespoons of Fox’s U Bet Chocolate Syrup
1/4 cup of chilled milk
Seltzer to fill the glass (about 1 cup)
Pour syrup into a tall glass; add milk, but do not stir. Add seltzer until the foam nearly reaches the top of the glass. Using a long spoon, briskly but gently blend in the chocolate. Serve with a straw.
For a vanilla egg cream Martha Stewart suggests making vanilla simple syrup by boiling 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water until sugar is dissolved, then adding 1 ½ teaspoons of good vanilla extract. When cooled, use the simple syrup in place of chocolate syrup.
P.S. I have searched our own city and sure enough, Highland Park Pharmacy Soda Fountain serves both vanilla and chocolate flavors of the historic New York drink.
Give it a try and see if you are as smitten as I.