Friday, October 19, 2018

New York Stories #5: Miznon

New York City
    So how does the Miznon in New York City measure up to the one in Paris? Not quite as well, I'm afraid to report.  At least not cauliflower-wise.
    Last year, visiting our older son at the Sorbonne, we ended up in La Marais, "The Swamp," the old Jewish quarter, (birds of a feather...) where we jammed ourselves into Israeli chef Eyal Shani's outpost of "Mediterranean street food." (The original, not the second one opened earlier this year).  It was wall-to-wall—commotion and aroma and a mild roar of French and Hebrew. But we claimed a spot at the bar, and ordered the speciality of the house, despite its unpromising premise: roasted cauliflower.
Miznon, Paris
     You wouldn't order it, would you? I sure wouldn't. But it was, I was firmly told, what people order. You have to. It's obligatory. Always surprising what you'll do when told you're supposed to. "Get the bucket of raw cow brains—Buzzfeed said it was exquisite..."
    Maybe that's because people know. The wisdom of crowds. The roasted cauliflower was an epiphany.  If you can't imagine eating and entire cauliflower with a knife and a fork, well, trust me, it's that good. The broccoli I had insisted on also ordering—I like broccoli—was an anti-climax, superfluous and sad. My wife viewed the vegetable as if it were a personal flaw of mine, after that superlative cauliflower, which we not only ate, in transport, but then cherished the memory of eating, and tried reproducing the wonder ourselves at home but couldn't come close. We suspect it's somehow treated—steamed, soaked, something—beforehand.
     When I saw that a Miznon opened earlier this year in Chelsea Market, not far from my older son's law school ("It's following him!" I said) giving it a try was my primary mission during our trip to New York.  See the boy, then get that cauliflower and, oh I suppose, go to a museum or a play or something. I couldn't tell if I wanted the jet-setting joy of going to both locations (there's also an outpost in Tel Aviv) or just wanted the pleasure of tasting that roasted miracle. 
New York
   You can't go home again. Maybe the surprise of that first perfectly prepared cauliflower can never be recaptured. Maybe the vegetable itself wasn't as good (although it should have been; cauliflower are in peak season in the fall). My wife pointed out that this didn't have the delectably-charred leaves. We still gobbled up the thing (well, I did, as she pointed out, without a smile, later). We also ordered the "bag of beets"—roasted beets, which weren't that bad. Or at least I wasn't blamed for them.
    The restaurant was very loud—some kind of DJ blaring some kind of sounds, music apparently—and we quickly moved on try out a nearby taco place that had received high marks. Having been to Tel Aviv once, that's plenty for a lifetime, and I have never been tempted to go back for any reason. Not until I realized that if I go, I could complete the hat trick, Miznon-wise. Suddenly, the Promised Land beckons. I can be strange that way.


  1. Have you ever had Israeli couscous? The best vegetable (I think) I ever had. You've been punting on Israel, earlier in your career you'd write almost every time there was a flair up, it seems as though you're going into the closet on Israel. What's the solution? Will Israel survive the weekly marches to the border? Did you know that policy was suggested by Norman Finkelstein, the former Depaul professor?

  2. I like broccoli too -- must be a June 10th thing. But to me cauliflower is like tofu: no taste of its own, it takes on the flavor of whatever you cook it with, which seems to have been very good at Miznon in Paris, not so good in New York, and horrible whenever I cook it. Well, not really horrible, just not too tasteful.


  3. I've made roasted cauliflower-delicious! Although I haven't roasted an entire head; it's been broken into florets. Roasting has become my favorite way of preparing veggies; butternut squash may be the best.

  4. How do i go about attempting this fascinating roasted albino cousin of broccoli?

    1. You can find lots of great recipes online. Basically, you'll cut it into florets, toss it with olive oil and your seasonings of choice, and put it on a sheet pan in a 450 degree oven for about 20 minutes,until the edges have started to brown.

  5. And i think couscous is actually a fotm of pasta!


Comments are vetted and posted at the discretion of the proprietor.