RETRO DINING: NIELSEN’S DELICATESSEN

Nielsen’s Delicatessen, located at 4500 Richmond, has been in operation since 1952.    The restaurant was founded by Danish immigrants Ellen Nielsen Andersen and her husband Dick Andersen.  The shotgun-like structure sports a red roof, which makes it easy to spot:

Inside the narrow space is a row of vinyl-covered stools for counter dining on one side, and a deli counter on the other.

The restaurant’s minimalist “decor” (if you can call it that) is Danish, with sun-faded posters of Denmark and Danish royalty, as well as a few Danish characters:

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Get in line, and peruse the menu:

If there’s one thing that characterizes Nielsen’s Delicatessen, it is its legendary mayonnaise, copious amounts of which are used in most of the restaurant’s offerings.  In fact, hanging on the wall is a 1990 letter from Gourmet magazine, advising that they received an “enthusiastic letter” from a patron who “particularly admired the potato salad,” and asking for the recipe for Nielsen’s potato salad, the key to which is the mayonnaise:

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The mayonnaise is house-made daily, and the recipe is a closely-guarded secret.  It’s snowy and silky, unrelated to the stuff in the jar.  Some have suggested it has a hint of onion or celery.  Don’t ask questions, don’t think about the calories, just experience it.  Consider taking a pint home with you.

One of the popular items featuring the famous mayonnaise is deviled eggs.  Although they make about 120 eggs daily, If you want one, you’ll need to get there fairly early, as they usually run out around 1 p.m.

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Sandwiches, especially turkey sandwiches, are another popular item.  The restaurant takes pride in the fact that it roasts its turkey breasts daily.  The sandwiches, on your choice of wheat or white, sport a generous schmear of a spread made with–you guessed it–mayonnaise and mustard on both the top and bottom slices of bread.  People go crazy over this spread.  One time, a young lady in front of me ordered her sandwich and asked for “lots of spread.”  The employee nodded his understanding of her request, but the lady went on:  “No, I mean like a LOT of spread.  Like, a TON of spread.  Like, an EMBARASSING amount of spread.”  I don’t know why she didn’t just buy a jar and get a room.

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Get a small cup of potato salad or cole slaw to go with your sandwich, and really have yourself a party:

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Feeling especially hungry?  Order yourself a box lunch, which I refer to as the 50 Shades of White Box Lunch:

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Inside the plain white box, are a number of items neatly wrapped in white paper:

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The lunch consists of a turkey sandwich on white, a half a cheese sandwich on white, a cup of potato salad, two pickle spears, and two brownies, and makes a perfect picnic lunch for sharing:

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So what’s the secret to Nielsen’s Delicatessen’s longevity?  The answer is obvious — freshly-made sandwiches and salads, and mayonnaise.  Lots of mayonnaise.  A ton of mayonnaise.  An embarrassing amount of mayonnaise.  😉

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CHOCOLATE-COVERED STRAWBERRIES

For summer entertaining, chocolate-covered strawberries are a delicious dessert treat that are easy to make and won’t heat up your kitchen.  I’m always surprised to learn how many people have never made them or think they’re too difficult to make at home, and for those people, this post is for you.

Begin with the most beautiful firm, bright red strawberries you can find.  Check for ripeness by making sure they smell like strawberries.

Use any chocolate that you like.  You can use plain old chocolate chips, or get fancy with fair trade chocolate, 85% cacao dark chocolate, or single estate chocolate made from cocoa beans picked from a single tree by a single person.  But don’t overthink it — I use Hershey’s bars, and they work just fine and taste great.  Whatever you do, don’t use candy melts (also known as confectionery coating) — it’s not fair to the strawberries.

Make sure everything you’re using is dry and free from water drops, including the strawberries and the cooking equipment.  Otherwise, your chocolate may seize up, and then the party’s over.

The secret to a smooth chocolate coating on your berries is a tablespoon of shortening.  (I had a friend that used paraffin, but I don’t consider that a food, so I wouldn’t recommend it.)  Crisco works great (which I also don’t really consider a food.)  Simply melt the chocolate and shortening together in a small saucepan — no tempering, no water bath (which you are free to do, but your berries will not taste any better and you’ll just be in the kitchen longer and make a bigger mess).

To dress up your berries, you can sprinkle them with jimmies, nuts, or toffee bits, although they look just as tempting plain.  You can also drizzle them with white chocolate.  If you’re really in it to win it, you can use a syringe to inject them with Grand Marnier, although it might not be the best idea for a kids’ birthday party.

Have some fun and get dipping!

CHOCOLATE-COVERED STRAWBERRIES
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Recipe type: Dessert
Author:
Ingredients
  • 8-9 ounces of chocolate (chocolate chips, Hershey's bars, dark chocolate -- your pick)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
  • 1 pound strawberries, cleaned and thoroughly dried
Instructions
  1. Line a large baking sheet with waxed paper or parchment paper.
  2. Place the chocolate and shortening in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and stir until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth. (If using candy bars, coarsely chop chocolate before adding to saucepan.). Remove from heat.
  3. Holding 1 strawberry by its green top, dip ¾ of the berry into the melted chocolate (tip pan slightly to make it easier to dip). Let excess chocolate drip into pan. Place on prepared baking sheet. (If desired, can sprinkle with jimmies or nuts at this point.) Repeat with remaining berries. Refrigerate until chocolate coating is firm, approximately 1 hour. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

 IMG_6204Hershey’s bars and Crisco — easy!

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Stir together until melted

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Pretty smooth, huh?

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Time to get dippin’

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Nothing says “party” like a few sprinkles

Ta-da!