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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Chasing the 'grail'...

I got a call at work from a friend yesterday.  Not only is he one of my oldest friends (being a fellow veteran of the NYC club-date music scene with whom I'd played countless gigs), but he and his family are also neighbors of ours in Efrat. 

When I answered the phone my friend casually inquired when I was going to be home from work.  It seems he wanted stop by and 'drop something off'.  From that last phrase I easily deduced that he'd been abroad and had just returned.

You see, he and I both travel for our jobs, so over the years we've developed an informal routine where, when we're abroad, we often (but not always) pick up a bottle of interesting Bourbon or Rye for one another. 

It's not that either of us really lacks for whiskey or drinks so much... but rather that these casual 'hand-offs' give us on opportunity to catch up (over a drink, of course) and discuss our recent travels, family, life, etc..  These impromptu get-togethers are important since in this age of hectic schedules, even close friends and neighbors sometimes lose touch.

Anyway, I had a project that kept me late at work yesterday, so by the time I got home it was well after ten.  I wasn't going to bother him at that hour so I figured we'd catch up over shabbat.  But no sooner had I walked into the house, my kids informed me that there was something in the refrigerator that my friend had dropped off.

The refrigerator?!  I'm known to occasionally toss an ice cube into my whiskey in the summertime, but the idea of putting whiskey in the fridge just seemed, well, bizarre.  But when I went into the kitchen I found the whiskey sitting on the table... and in the refrigerator I saw one of the nicest things a Jewish American ex-pat can imagine; a couple of packages of Abeles & Heymann hot dogs.

I have to pause here to mention a curious state of affairs; Israel is technologically advanced enough to be able to manufacture and launch its own satellites into orbit... but we can't manage to make a decent hot dog.  It's truly one of life's great mysteries! 

Over the years I've developed a grudging tolerance for Israeli hot dogs (much the way an obedient child might learn to tolerate brussels sprouts to avoid a scene at the dinner table), but there is certainly no love lost between me and the spongy, oddly colored, flavorless Israeli 'naknikiya'

And Israeli ketchup... don't get me started about the that horrible, over-sweet red goop.  Thank G-d we're not entirely beyond the reach of civilization here since you can usually find Heinz 57 in most supermarkets!

At some point in the past I must have waxed nostalgic about Abeles & Heymann hot dogs during one of our post-travel tipple sessions, because thanks to my thoughtful friend, there in my refrigerator sat the holy grail of kosher hot dogs. 

I looked at my watch and thought for a moment about calling my friend up (ok, truth be told, I also thought about just firing up the grill)... but he has small kids at home and I didn't want to wake them. 

As if reading my mind, my daughter said, "He left a message; He'll catch up with you tomorrow, but wanted to let you know that he expects you to invite him over for a hot dog and Bourbon".  Now that's what I call friendship! 

Now, if only you could find a decent hot-dog bun in Israel...  :-)

Posted by David Bogner on January 15, 2009 | Permalink

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This seems like something that should be fixable.... I wonder why it's not?

Posted by: Foxfier | Jan 15, 2009 2:30:02 PM

From the people who invented matzah, I wouldn't get my hopes up over those kosher hot dug buns. Then again, we are also the people who operate Presser's on Avenue M & Ostrovitsky's on J, so...I suppose there's still some hope yet. Sadly, Leon's Bake Shop, of blessed memory, is no more. :-(

Posted by: Erica | Jan 15, 2009 3:07:44 PM

Just yesterday I was in Bet Shemesh with my wife at Super Hatzlachah (a store that caters to American and British expats), and they had something which previously I had been asking my parents to bring with them when they visited -- Vlasic baby dills!

I have actually developed a taste for Straub's, but my eldest daughter will still only eat Vlasic, and she was as excited as I was about it.

Now I just need Avraham or the Dekel market to carry them...

That's one less thing we can't get here!

Incidentally it was at the store that we experienced our first siren in Israel. While we were waiting in the shelter, we realized that if we needed to stay there for a while, there was no lack of food!

Posted by: Jonathan | Jan 15, 2009 3:25:08 PM

Oh! Erica! I <3 the horse-shoe shaped cheese danishes over at Ostrovitsky's! WOW! That is a blast from the past and brings back delicious confectioner's sugar crumb-coated memories!

Posted by: zahava | Jan 15, 2009 3:30:08 PM

David

This is what our son Zev wrote a while back about the impact of ketchup on his decision to make aliyah:

http://ooson.blogspot.com/2006/08/close-call-how-oos-almost-nixed-aliya.html

Posted by: MoC | Jan 15, 2009 3:54:32 PM

I reiterate what I told the Trep family when I visited in July. I will not consider aliyah until I know I can get Bumble Bee (or any brand, really) solid white tuna in every supermarket. I can live with Israeli ketchup, after all, it's just a condiment. But tuna is a staple, and even in the 5 star hotels, what they try to pass off as tuna is what we feed to felines here. You have DARK tuna, for heaven's sake. What are you doing with the rest of the fish???

Posted by: Marsha, freezing in Englewood | Jan 15, 2009 5:11:38 PM

Feh. Chicago offers better hotdogs - ask a native Chicagoan about the "Romanian"/"Hungarian" hotdogs (spicy or regular). You haven't actually eaten a hotdog until you've had one of these.

Posted by: tnspr569 | Jan 15, 2009 5:47:07 PM

My buddy started a company called "SuperGlatt" and their dawgs are amazing! Much better quality than the average stuff. Although A& H does rock.

Posted by: jacob | Jan 15, 2009 6:21:35 PM

Consider yourself an IBob, as in "International Beast of Burden". I have schlepped stuff from Europe back to various places of residence over the last 15 years, and its really worth it to see the expressions on friends' faces when they see what comes out of the case.

Posted by: Noa | Jan 15, 2009 7:02:02 PM

The Abeles & Heymann hot dogs are ok, even good, but they don't even compare to the hot dogs that we used to get at Fleishmann and Heymann beack when they still existed. And nobody even makes the kind of aufschnitt and rauchfleish (and landjaiger, etc) that F&H used to make back then. I also miss the pastrami, and other delicacies, from Bernsteins on the lower east side.

I wonder if there are any old Yekke butchers anywhere in Israel nowadays? Maybe in Nahariya?

I purchased a smoker a few weeks ago and have been experimenting with smoking various meats on my own. I still have never tried making my own sausages (hot dogs, etc). But I've made a bunch of briskets, a few other pieces of meat, beef ribs, chicken, and turkey so far.

Posted by: Mark | Jan 15, 2009 7:21:10 PM

I can relate. I have a friend bringing a bottle of Bookers tomorrow. Life is gonna be good once again!

Posted by: Jehoshaphat | Jan 15, 2009 7:31:58 PM

Mark: Aufschnitt? Ah, sweet (and smokey) memories of my Washington Heights childhood, getting free scraps of cold cuts from one of the kosher butchers (now all gone, sadly).

Chicagoans will be allowed to talk about hot dogs when they stop throwing the whole salad bar on top of it....

Posted by: efrex | Jan 15, 2009 7:46:32 PM

Ach, Bloch and Falk was better than F&H, although not up to Breuers standards. A&H are about the best generally available, but I am sure there are small guys making great dags. But Dave, c'mon. In a country where millions of Jews live and you can't get a bagel worthy of the name, you expected a hot dog? Now I will give a prize to anyone on either side of the world who can track down Zenfghurkin.

Posted by: jordan Hirsch | Jan 15, 2009 8:20:08 PM

Now that's something NBN is pretty sneaky about. No mention is ever made anywhere about those things they call hot dogs in this country. If I would have known, I wouldn't have subjected my poor children to their current suffering. Everytime they ask for a decent hot dog with that sad, yet resigned expression on their faces, my heart breaks.

Sigh. Aliyah's alot tougher than they say.

Posted by: Baila | Jan 15, 2009 9:11:02 PM

Oh, and Zehava: we usually went to Isaac's bakery. Ave J was where it was happenning.

Posted by: Baila | Jan 15, 2009 9:11:48 PM

Ah, if only you Americans knew...the best hot dogs were Levitt's from Montreal, A&H doesn't hold a candle to them...

Posted by: cyberdov | Jan 16, 2009 4:20:09 PM

I second the commenter above on the Romanian hotdogs. They are the best hot dogs anywhere, ever, end of story. Especially the garlic ones. Of course, they're now about $8 a package. And we don't eat them with a salad bar on top (that would be too healthy!) More like cut into quarters and wrapped in puff pastry for franks in blanks. With mustard. Deadly, but delicious.

Posted by: uberimma | Jan 16, 2009 6:05:39 PM

Tirat Tzvi has 'American hot dogs' (it's packaged with a pale purple stripe ont he front) which is the only all beef commercially available hot dog I've ever found in Israel (unless you can get to Choftez Chaim on Agripas St. in Jerusalem).

Angels Bakery makes a line of hot dog buns, they're called 'Bingo buns' for some odd reason.

I just wish I could consistently find deli mustard and sauerkraut at my local Mega.

Posted by: Devo K | Jan 19, 2009 9:10:25 PM

As the owner of A&H I would like to thank those who posted the wonderful comments. Perhaps one day in the not too distant future the A&H line of provisions will be available in Israel. Again, thank you for the kind words.

Seth Leavitt
President
A&H Products, Inc.

Posted by: Seth Leavitt | Apr 7, 2009 2:43:02 AM

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