In olde tymes, publishers would send a hard copy of a book to critics for review. In rare cases, this would be a galley copy, with a weird cerlox binding and double-wide pages, but usually it was something that resembled the finished version of the book. Technology has made this process much easier and cheaper – PDF files sent via the Cloud or email have replaced hard copies sent by mail, and pretty much everyone is happier for it, even reviewers who, while they often considered the reward of hard copies part of their (usually very minimal) pay structure, tended to find themselves with stacks of samples of things (books, CDs, jars of weird jams) that they really didn’t want.
The roundabout point of my complaint here is that, with a PDF file for review, I’m now going to have to go out and buy myself a copy of Eating Delancey. That’s right, even after reading it for free, I enjoyed this book so much I’m still going to buy my own copy.
My first experience with Jewish food was at an old Spadina landmark called Switzer’s. I lived in Kensington Market, and Switzer’s (which was one of a handful of Jewish delis in downtown that survived into the 80s) was right around the corner. It was here that I discovered the wonders of latkes, smoked meat sandwiches, egg creams and my beloved blintzes.
I remember that I ordered on a guess, going only by the description and an assurance from the waitress that they were delicious. When the ricotta and cream cheese-filled crepes arrived with their side dish of blueberry sauce, I was hooked, and for the remaining years that I lived in the market, I was a regular at the Jewish restaurants in the ‘hood, from KOS to the Bagel and Free Times Cafe.
As the delis got crowded out and moved on, blintzes became harder to find downtown. They don’t show up on the menu of the average greasy spoon; they’re one of those things that requires some hunting. I’ve been having a craving recently, and this is what I uncovered.
As the last Jewish deli holdout in the Spadina area, The Free Times Cafe (320 College Street) is probably a good place to start in a search for blintzes. In addition to their Sunday brunch buffet (which includes blintzes, latkes and gefilte fish), blintzes appear on their regular menu, both alone and combined with latkes (be still my heart!).
I’ve never tried the blintzes at United Bakers Dairy Restaurant (506 Lawrence Avenue West), but they’ve gotten very postive feedback on local food forums.
The blintzes at Dunn’s (284A King Street West) are passable in a pinch, although based on a review we did of brunch, their other breakfast offering might not be up to par.
I came across some Internet buzz that Canoe (66 Wellington Street West, 54th floor) used to serve a dessert blintz stuffed with ricotta and hazelnut, but it no longer appears on their online menu.
Sadly, that seems to be it. The now defunct Shopsy’s used to serve blintzes, and I’m pretty certain that I once, years ago, had them at Fran’s in the middle of the night, but they’re off the menu there now.
It’s kind of a pitiful list, really, and makes me sad for the loss of the many downtown delis that shaped my love of Jewish food. It’s been a while since I’ve been to the Free Times, though, so a visit there for blintzes is on my to-do list in the coming weeks.