Foodie Tuesday: Why is this night different from all other nights?

Pesach ends tonight at sundown, so I can just get my Passover post in under the wire. This year, we ate Passover seder at Sammy’s Roumanian; that night at Sammy’s was indeed different from all other nights. Any one of the quirky elements that comprised our Sammy’s experience would merit a blog post unto itself (the 1970s rec room decor and the septuagenarian singer/pianist’s medleys of horas, Billy Joel, and Broadway come to mind). However, since this is a Foodie Tuesday post, I’ll stick (mostly) to the highlights of our Passover dinner.

Appetizers were plentiful, if not terribly memorable. I was having dinner with a bona fide Jewish mother–my future mother in law, no less–and I told her unequivocally that the matzoh ball soup at Sammy’s couldn’t hold a candle to hers. I was telling the truth, but for future reference, here’s a tip for all you shiksas marrying into Jewish families: it’s always a good idea to maintain loyalty to your mother-in-law’s matzoh ball soup. (Can I get a witness!?)

Gefilte fish was served. As I do every Passover, I piled on a heaping dollop of horseradish, ate a bite, shuddered, and moved on. I don’t think that loving gefilte fish is in my DNA. Then again, my Jewish fiancé doesn’t care for it either, so go figure.

The golden elixir that is schmaltz.

Next came chopped liver, which was made tableside by our server. It was, hands down, our favorite part of the seder, so tasty that I found myself questioning the origins of the old saying, “What am I? Chopped liver?” Well, if you’re fabulous and the center of attention, then yes, you may in fact be chopped liver at Sammy’s Roumanian.

Our server piled a hefty lump of chopped liver atop shaved radish and frizzled onions in a stainless steel bowl. Then she reached for a small maple syrup dispenser, which was filled to the brim with a clear golden liquid. “Get your Lipitor out,” she instructed, and proceeded to theatrically pour the schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) atop the liver, radishes, and onions. She stirred vigorously and set the bowl on our table with a thud. Dumbstruck, we all just stared for a moment. When we recovered our wits, we dug in.

Tableside chopped liver.

I know, I know–there are those of you who are probably suppressing gags as you read about a massive bowl filled with liver and chicken fat. You guys, seriously. It. Was. Awesome. The earthy liver was imbued with a slight silkiness, courtesy of the schmaltz. The frizzled onions imparted a little bit of sweet pungency, and the radish lent a clean, sharp crunch. E. had the rather inspired idea to pair the chopped liver with the cloying, viscous Concord Grape Manischewitz on the table. “It’s the Lower East Side version of foie gras with Sauternes,” he reasoned. The pairing worked, but we switched to Sammy’s stalwart drink, ice cold vodka, soon after.

What else can I tell you about the Sammy’s seder? For entrées, we opted for Sammy’s signature steaks, which were buttery-tender and redolent of garlic. Lots and lots of garlic. As the evening wore on, hijinks ensued. Our waitress belted “I Will Survive” into a cordless microphone as she worked the room. Horas were danced. Dayenu segued into “Uptown Girl,” which became “Doo-Wah-Diddy,” and somehow it all kind of worked. (I’m not making that up. I couldn’t make that up. I’m not that creative.)

The meal ended on a non-Kosher but very tasty high note. All the fixin’s for real-deal chocolate egg creams were brought to our table: seltzer (in an old-fashioned seltzer bottle!), milk (this is the non-Kosher part), and Fox’s U-Bett syrup. On the dance floor, a tall woman in leather hot pants was shaking her groove thing next to a 60-something man in a yarmulke. I sipped my egg cream. All was right with the world.


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