Blurt: Seven Days Staff Blog

NOTE: Blurt has been retired and is no longer updated regularly. For new content, follow these links:

OFF MESSAGE: Vermont News and Politics
BITE CLUB: Food and Drink Blog

« Parini Film Adaptation Makes Those NYC Arthouse Crowds Swoon | Main | See Precious at the Roxy this Friday and benefit Women Helping Battered Women »

December 15, 2009

Best Bites: Ben & Bill's Deli

595 Shelburne Road, Burlington 657-3673

Fall 2009 216

When I was a kid, Jewish delis scared me a little. Looking into the case, I was nose-to-nose with the piles of chub and their cured, dead eyes. The old-world smells seemed somehow unclean. This is why they hate us, I thought.

Since Ben & Bill's opened in the Burlington Price Chopper, I have been facing my fears, and then some. Two days after eating a Hot Brisket sandwich ($8.49), I am still swooning. The well-marbled but otherwise lean meat tastes almost creamy, especially in a light bath of Russian dressing. The warm, seeded rye on which the meat lies is baked in-house. It's mild but for the musky crunch of the caraway seeds.

Something you really don't see every day is the stuffed knish ($7.49). Before grilling up the potato pocket, Ben & Bill's stuffs it with your choice of pastrami or corned beef. My pastrami was thick-cut with pockets of fat that melted into the mashed-potato filling of the knish. The outside of the knish was suitably chewy, making for a delightful symphony of textures.

The homemade potato chips added to that mélange. The spuds were cut thicker than most chips; most were crisp, a few were pleasingly chewy. All were delicious.

Fall 2009 219 The case at Ben & Bill's includes Jewish deli staples, from Dr. Brown's sodas ($1.19) -- I got Cel-Ray -- to latkes, noodle kugel, chopped liver and frightening mummified fish. There are chocolate and cinnamon babkas and two sizes of black-and-white cookies, but part of the beauty of eating at the Price Chopper food court is variety.

I headed to the bakery for a decidedly goyishe snowman-shaped brownie sundae.

What a dissapointment from 7days to be heaping praise on price chopper for their feeble attempt at a 'real' deli. Meat from midwestern CAFO feedlots, bread from factory-farmed suppliers, no local ingredients, and all happening inside a stale and aseptic environment. "The well-marbled but otherwise lean meat tastes almost creamy, (etc)" Time to watch 'Food Inc.' again Alice, then perhaps you'll learn why the meat looks and tastes this way. The seating area feels like a dungeon, yet you didn't even touch on it. Shame on 7days for actually paying ms. levitt to research and write this article; what a joke.

By way of contrast to Dan's over the edge hypertensive tirade against Ms. Levitt's review of B&Bs, I offer congratulations for 7 Days for expanding their food reviews into new areas.

Food, especially with cultural ties, is very important to our lives and it is found in diverse places including supermarkets as large as PC and delis as small as Sadie Katz (which I love). Their ingredients probably come from the same source. I would not fault Price Chopper for taking a risk and developing this part of their business - there's clearly a passion between the owners and the idea of the deli. Price Chopper is a family-owned regional supermarket that supports community organizations beyond what most companies do through their Golub(sp?) Foundation. Keep up the good work Alice and 7D.

I feel compelled to respond to the comments posted by Dan (12/16/09). I enjoyed my visit to this in-store Deli, where I found the staff to be extremely helpful, generous (with sample tastes offered for every item), and as knowledgable as one could expect in an outpost so far from Brooklyn. But I truly LOVED eating the smoked sable, chopped liver, lean corned beef, and the Carnegie Deli apple strudel. LOVED IT ALL! Commenter Dan, I am not interested in watching "Food Inc." or thinking about CAFO beef lots prior to eating soul food--the kind of meal I enjoy perhaps once a year. In fact, it was so damn good, I'll have to go to Price Chopper's Jewish Deli more often! It just may be worth the heart attack.

They say that ignorance is bliss, and in the case of where our food comes from, this seems to be the case. 'Not Dan' and 'Andy', best of luck to you as you travel down a very slippery slope. I shudder to think of what you both feel about the world's other problems.

A Jewish Deli in a supermarket? I am not even a practicing Jew and I know instinctively there is something wrong with this, as would anyone who has experienced a genuine kosher deli.

It's particularly telling that the article starts out contrasting the "scary" experience of a genuine Jewish business with the gentrified version offered in a chain supermarket: sure, the smell of smoked meats is the perfectly rational justification for thousands of years of antisemitism and murder! If only Jews had made things less "ethnic" long ago, Gentiles wouldn't hate us!

News flash for ya: that smell is the FLAVOR of the food, and if it's missing, then so is much of the flavor, not only of the food, but of the experience. If I went to "Ben & Bill's", would I be able to meet Ben? Would Bill tell me jokes? Oh wait, it's just a name... slapped on an impersonal "deli" in a supermarket. And THAT means that no matter how "right" they get the food, it's merely a faux deli designed to compete with small businesses that need and deserve your support more.

Hey fellas lighten up on the mustard. It's just a sandwich. Geez....!

Personally, I think if you have to resort to "shame on ____," then you've already lost your argument.

And from Dan and Jason's comments, I'd wager they've lost a little perspective too. Guys, the tea party movement called; they want their hyperbole back...

Happy holidays. Stay warm.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Stuck in VT (VIDEOS)

Solid State (Music)

Mistress Maeve (Sex)

All Rights Reserved © Da Capo Publishing Inc. 1995-2012 | PO Box 1164, Burlington, VT 05402-1164 | 802-864-5684