This is no joke. We still need a good deli in the Twin Cities. Despite my best wishes hopes and dreams, Rye won’t be "the one." I promised a sneak peek as soon as they opened and here it is . . . and YES I GET IT, it just opened a few weeks ago, but either a place has ‘got it’ or it doesn’t. And Rye still needs a crew who understand how to cook.
The omnipresent consultant Tobi Nidetz has done his usual admirable job getting his client’s property open, and I have to assume that the original recipes were good at some point, but the execution is awful. Everything, and I mean everything, needed salt and was righteously missing core flavors. The soups tasted like bad versions of matzoh ball and cabbage-vegetable soup, the kind you ate in a school cafeteria. The chicken broth was greasy and tasted scorched and had no chicken flavor; the matzoh ball was disintegrating in the bowl; there was one carrot floating adrift in the golden puddle but there was no vegetal flavor at all. The borscht was a borscht in name only, there was no sweetness, no sour, nothing but overcooked tomato-cabbage sludge and a bright orange grease film around the edges of the bowl. It tasted scorched as well. Someone needs to teach these guys how to make stock, and then turn it into soup without burning it so early in the process that the client only tastes the fruit of the poisoned tree.
Potato pancakes were greasy and had turned grey inside from oxidation (have any of these cooks actually cooked before?), the pickles were not cured for long enough or in a brine with enough strength so that the end result was a flaccid, flavorless cuke with brown rot spots and wrinkles on it. Being something of an expert—oh what the f*ck, being a serious expert on fermented foods of all types—and as a Jew who makes both naturally fermented and vinegar fermented pickles regularly, I can 100 percent assure you that the pickles I had at Rye were completely mishandled. That’s more than I can say for the leaden two-inch square lump of noodle kugel served as a side dish. Luke warm, it was staggeringly bad, overcooked flavorless noodles, not a whisper of egg flavor in them at all, and the binding around them was condensed custard that tasted floury. Smoked meat, the most touted item on their menu was not available on one visit; check that . . . it was not available on either visit. How can that happen? It’s a deli, not a fancy eatery mobbed in its first few weeks.
This place has had months to figure out a smoked meat recipe commensurate with all its self-generated press. How do you not have your own Montreal inspired version of pastrami when it’s your signature item? That says a lot about Rye. Machine sliced refrigerated souring onions and tomatoes with weepy signs of sitting in a storage container for too long, spoiled chopped chicken liver that was inedible, sprouts on a dry turkey sandwich that was so flavorless all I tasted was sprout, even the commercial pre ground pepper on the turkey was weak. I gotta tell you, every single element I ate needed seasoning but even that wouldn’t save the dulled flavors of almost every item I tried. How do you mess up soup?!
What was good? The bagel was decent, as was the smoked salmon that came on top of it, but the cream cheese was placed on the bagel in such a delicate portion that the thinly sliced cukes and refrigerator ‘burned’’ tomatoes out-hefted the schmear! Who would make such a thing? And why isn’t anyone tasting or correcting the flaws? The corned beef was the best thing we ate on either visit, but on one try it was hot and steamy and fatty in a good way, and on the other the corned beef was placed on a griddle and seared to a crusty finish on one side, which dried it out until it had lost its essence. Speaking of which, don’t even go near the whitefish salad. As a delicatessen maven I expected a twist on traditional whitefish salad, a chopped salad reminiscent of tuna salad but smokier and with a much keener pedigree. What I got was a cup of pre washed commodity bagged spinach leaves, a few of the spoiled tomatoes and onions, a plastic cup of lousy horseradish sauce and a dried wedge of a smoky bony whitefish chub that had been precut God knows when because the cut edges were way drier than the rest of the chub wedge.
I would suggest that Rye’s owner take a trip and visit some of our nation’s best deli restaurants. If not for any reason than to see what real chicken soup tastes like, or so he can instruct his team on how to make a sandwich: The Reuben I ordered arrived stacked like a pyramid, one whole slice of bread on the bottom, ingredients on top, two half slices of bread on the sides attached only by congealed drips of melted cheese. In the last few months Rye has insisted that it is not trying to recreate a NYC deli, but create a Minnesota one. Congrats! Its achieved neither.
As predicted our national health crisis has now gone where no litigation has gone before. The State of Ohio intervened with a boy over health issues related to diet and the parents’ culpability is in question. I know how horrific this sounds to many, but I am ecstatic. If you saw some parent giving their 12-year-old child beer or cigarettes at the mall you would do something, wouldn’t you? This is no different.
So here is the question of the day: How do you draw the line? At what point is it a family issue and when does it become one about protecting the health and wellbeing of the child? Any state officials care to comment? How about the big wrinkle in this equation? With some people, it’s not about choice. Some foods are addictive, such as drugs and booze and your body deals with these compounds in ways that it doesn’t with others according to Dr. Mark Hyman. So where does this leave us? Do you lock away the parents? The processed food companies? Both? Neither? Some? How about a NASA Apollo-sized program aimed at restoring our common sense on these issues, an education and outreach program that incentivizes the public and private sectors to put an end to subsidizing and consuming all this "cheap chemical food?"