1. With a slice of history. Today, New York’s Lower East Side is known for its lively nightlife, restaurants whose hype exceeds their collective square footage, and fashion boutiques I wish were my walk-in closet. But as importantly (and arguably more so), the Lower East Side is home to the history of New York City’s Jewish community, and few gastronomic remnants are left — like Katz’s Deli (1888), Kossar’s Bialys (1936 and the US’ oldest bialy bakery), and, arguably, a few places to buy a great pickle. But whose pickle?
The experience of researching whose recipes are the oldest, most authentic, and best tasting will put anyone in a bit of a — you know. I’m no pickle purist and certainly not about to show a preference, so I’ll put it this way: for Guss’ Pickles from the Liebowitz family in Cedarhurst NY, go to Whole Foods on Houston at the Bowery (or their store in Cedarhurst). For Guss’ Pickles from Patricia Fairhurst and her United Pickle supplier, go to the pickle stand at 87 Orchard, near Broome. And if you want a pickle on Essex Street, where many a pickle stand historically stood (including Izzy Guss’), go to the Pickle Guys at 49 Essex Street between Hester and Grand.
2. In top secret special sauce. New York loves Shake Shack. Danny Meyer’s Madison Square Park burger shop often has a two hour long line extending from it. I haven’t done it yet because of the line, and not for lack of appreciation of his restaurants, but the arrival of his pancake and bacon custard as reported by UrbanDaddy is just the trick to pull me in. Still, I know a little something about the secret sauce. Last summer, not far from the park, I attended a barbecue where an enterprising host made his own Shake Shack sauce. It was amazing. And it’s actually not that secret. Serious Eats tried to replicate the burger at home and published the results — including a recipe for the sauce. Secret or not, the fans still flock to the Flatiron district for their favorite burger.
3. With a straw. Buttermilk Channel’s classic bloody mary is as strong and spicy as the menu promises, thick with horseradish, and garnished with a homemade dill pickle. Goodbye, celery, and good riddance.
4. With your cheesecake. Pickles are an important part of the experience at the Carnegie Deli, served to you right as you’re sat. New York cheesecake’s an important part of the experience, too, but you have to pay for that. Diet cream soda — optional.
5. On your eggs. For a healthy take on a favorite snack, try this deviled egg recipe. After hard-boiling, peeling, and halving your eggs, mix yolks with equal part light sour cream, a half part of dijon or deli mustard, a little bit of pickle juice, and pepper and finely chopped chive or red onion to taste. Why? A lot of deviled egg recipes call for vinegar, and that’s exactly what pickle juice is — delicious, garlicky, salty vinegar.
6. With Irish whiskey. A friend introduced me to the “pickleback” shot a few weeks ago, a shot of Jameson followed by a shot of pickle juice, at the Half Pint in the Village. Apparently, we’re not alone — bars all over the city keep pickle juice on hand for whiskey drinkers. I would love for a chemist to explain why the two liquids — neither of which I can stomach undiluted — cancel each other out and leave a pleasant aftertaste. But watch out, because pleasant aftertaste notwithstanding, picklebacks do not make for a pleasant hangover.
7. On your buns. The Lower East Side’s new Taiwanese bun shop Baohaus pickles mustard greens for its “haus relish,” which adds a nice taste contrast to the Haus Bao with Angus steak. Also seasoned with Taiwanese red sugar, cilantro, and peanut crumbles, New York Magazine’s Best Bun of 2010 beef enjoys a marinade of cherry cola and a Chinese libation before getting bunned. (Lucky beef.) You’ll get great pickled veggies at Momofuku and Baoguette, too, but I’m giving a little love to the new guy in town.
8. Fried. Street fair vendors will hawk cheap fried pickles up and down every avenue this summer, but they’re worth their $8.50 at any of New York’s Heartland Brewery locations, served with “cool ranch” dipping sauce. They’re crisp, salty, and satisfying.
9. Over your salad. Getting Hungry, a salad/sandwich/pasta shop at Houston and Varick at the border of the West Village and SoHo, makes the best Greek yogurt dill dressing. Why? Chopped pickles. For another healthy variation on blue cheese dressing, mix two parts sour cream and two parts blue cheese or gorgonzola, one part milk (omit if you prefer thick dressing), one part lemon juice, pepper, and a bit of finely chopped pickles. It adds a nice texture and bite.
10. Snooki style. Straight from the jar, from a grocery store, with the refrigerator door open. Oh, like anyone’s above that. My favorite? Ba-Tampte half-sours. Snooki would be all over these bad boys. Food Emporium sells them in their refrigerated aisles.
Oh, one more of the Pickle Guys’ shop.