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Zabar's: A Family Story, with Recipes

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The fascinating, mouthwatering story (with ten recipes!) of the immigrant family that created a New York gastronomic legend: "The most rambunctious and chaotic of all delicatessens, with one foot in the Old World and the other in the vanguard of every fast-breaking food move in the city (Nora Ephron, best-selling author and award-winning screenwriter). When Louis and Li The fascinating, mouthwatering story (with ten recipes!) of the immigrant family that created a New York gastronomic legend: "The most rambunctious and chaotic of all delicatessens, with one foot in the Old World and the other in the vanguard of every fast-breaking food move in the city (Nora Ephron, best-selling author and award-winning screenwriter). When Louis and Lilly Zabar rented a counter in a dairy store on 80th Street and Broadway in 1934 to sell smoked fish, they could not have imagined that their store would eventually occupy half a city block and become a beloved mecca for quality food of all kinds. A passion for perfection, a keen business sense, cutthroat competitive instincts, and devotion to their customers led four generations of Zabars to create the Upper West Side shrine to the cheese, fish, meat, produce, baked goods, and prepared products that heralded the twentieth-century revolution in food production and consumption. Lori Zabar--Louis's granddaughter--begins with her grandfather's escape from Ukraine in 1921, following a pogrom in which several family members were killed. She describes Zabar's gradual expansion, Louis's untimely death in 1950, and the passing of the torch to Saul, Stanley, and partner Murray Klein, who raised competitive pricing to an art form and added top-tier houseware and appliances. She paints a delectable portrait of Zabar's as it is today--the intoxicating aromas, the crowds, the devoted staff--and shares behind-the-scenes anecdotes of the long-time employees, family members, eccentric customers, and celebrity fans who have created a uniquely American institution that honors its immigrant roots, revels in its New York history, and is relentless in its devotion to the art and science of selling gourmet food.


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The fascinating, mouthwatering story (with ten recipes!) of the immigrant family that created a New York gastronomic legend: "The most rambunctious and chaotic of all delicatessens, with one foot in the Old World and the other in the vanguard of every fast-breaking food move in the city (Nora Ephron, best-selling author and award-winning screenwriter). When Louis and Li The fascinating, mouthwatering story (with ten recipes!) of the immigrant family that created a New York gastronomic legend: "The most rambunctious and chaotic of all delicatessens, with one foot in the Old World and the other in the vanguard of every fast-breaking food move in the city (Nora Ephron, best-selling author and award-winning screenwriter). When Louis and Lilly Zabar rented a counter in a dairy store on 80th Street and Broadway in 1934 to sell smoked fish, they could not have imagined that their store would eventually occupy half a city block and become a beloved mecca for quality food of all kinds. A passion for perfection, a keen business sense, cutthroat competitive instincts, and devotion to their customers led four generations of Zabars to create the Upper West Side shrine to the cheese, fish, meat, produce, baked goods, and prepared products that heralded the twentieth-century revolution in food production and consumption. Lori Zabar--Louis's granddaughter--begins with her grandfather's escape from Ukraine in 1921, following a pogrom in which several family members were killed. She describes Zabar's gradual expansion, Louis's untimely death in 1950, and the passing of the torch to Saul, Stanley, and partner Murray Klein, who raised competitive pricing to an art form and added top-tier houseware and appliances. She paints a delectable portrait of Zabar's as it is today--the intoxicating aromas, the crowds, the devoted staff--and shares behind-the-scenes anecdotes of the long-time employees, family members, eccentric customers, and celebrity fans who have created a uniquely American institution that honors its immigrant roots, revels in its New York history, and is relentless in its devotion to the art and science of selling gourmet food.

30 review for Zabar's: A Family Story, with Recipes

  1. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    Lori Zabar’s Zabar’s: A Family Story, with Recipes is a memoir, family history, and wonderful nostalgia fillip. Zabar’s, the famous Manhattan “appetizing” store, holds a magical place in the lives and memories of many current and former New Yorkers. People plan their hotel stays to be within steps of Zabar’s on the Upper West Side (yes, me too). You’ll find the widest imaginable selection of cheeses; delicious babkas, knishes, and bagels; a selection of lox and other smoked fish of such high qua Lori Zabar’s Zabar’s: A Family Story, with Recipes is a memoir, family history, and wonderful nostalgia fillip. Zabar’s, the famous Manhattan “appetizing” store, holds a magical place in the lives and memories of many current and former New Yorkers. People plan their hotel stays to be within steps of Zabar’s on the Upper West Side (yes, me too). You’ll find the widest imaginable selection of cheeses; delicious babkas, knishes, and bagels; a selection of lox and other smoked fish of such high quality that famed chef and restauranteur Andre Soltner quietly purchased smoked salmon for Lutèce from Zabar’s; the best chopped liver and whitefish salad in New York; shiva platters so scrumptious that dead Jews were rumored to come back fto fress; and, of course, a remarkable selection of affordable everyday and arcane kitchen gear. Need a duck press? Go to Zabar’s, of course! The sheer scale of Zabar’s sales is almost unimaginable: ”For the thirty thousand customers who came into the store each week, the biggest sellers were the basics. Fish: five thousand pounds each week, including two thousand pounds of smoked salmon and fifteen hundred pounds of pickled herring. Cheese: two thousand pounds each week of Brie alone. Meat: three thousand pounds of smoked meat per week. And, of course, coffee: eight thousand pounds a week.” Lori Zabar, a distinguished New York historic preservationist and a proud third generation Zabar, recounts the Zabars’ immigration story. Some parts of the Zabars’ story — the deaths in pogroms and the Holocaust — are sadly common; other parts of the Zabars’ story — the merchant and merchandising genius and innovation — much less common. In Zabar’s: A Family Story, Lori Zabar both recounts the Zabars’ history and the growth of Zabar’s and also selects anecdotes that lovingly illustrate Zabar’s unique role. Here’s novelist Joseph Heller’s daughter, Erica: ”’We did not worship at a synagogue or church. . . “Our holy place was — and is — Zabar’s. Every Sunday morning my dad and I would make the slow trek (actually 123 steps from Zabar’s to the Apthorp) as if from our shtetl, dragging back bags and bags of bagels, onions, cream cheese, kippered salmon, sable, tomatoes, pickles, and, finally, rugelach.’” Zabar’s is a proudly democratic store. No deliveries, no matter how famous the customer. Except, of course, for Barbra Streisand and Lutèce. Zabar’s was the source of many fantasies. Here’s a typical fantasy voiced by Nora Ephron: ”’Sometimes I imagine I. am a Zabar. . . I imagine that we Zabars all live together in a West Side apartment with pots and pans hanging from the living-room ceiling. I imagine that every night those of us who have worked at the store that day bring home six kinds of bread and the week’s smoked salmon special and we sit around blindfolded conducting taste tests on the relative merits of, say, the beluga and the sevruga, and I imagine we have bitter fights about how to eliminate the congestion at the cash registers and how to get the space in which we plan to expand to look ass cluttered and discombobulated as the rest of the store. In my mind’s eye, on the outskirts so this, Zabar children scamper around, nibbling chocolate croissants.’” I now live two hundred miles from Zabar’s. Age and the pandemic prevent me from visiting New York. But as I write this, I’m constructing my next shopping list from www.zabars.com, with novy, belly, tongue, egg bagels, babka chopped, liver, whitefish salad, potato and kasha knishes, sourdough rye, and, of course, coffee and latkes.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jessica - How Jessica Reads

    I've never been to Zabar's, but I've seen it referenced in countless movies and books, so it was fun to learn the background of the Zabar family and the founding of the store. I found the first half (about the family's diaspora after a pogrom in Ukraine, and their initial store beginning in NYC) most interesting. The legal quarrels of the 80s were dull. But overall, I quite liked it. I've never been to Zabar's, but I've seen it referenced in countless movies and books, so it was fun to learn the background of the Zabar family and the founding of the store. I found the first half (about the family's diaspora after a pogrom in Ukraine, and their initial store beginning in NYC) most interesting. The legal quarrels of the 80s were dull. But overall, I quite liked it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Andrea Stoeckel

    "The Zabar's family motto is that we can achieve anything as long as we do the research and persevere. Prior experience is not a prequsite for sucess" As a non-New Yorker. I was introduced to the concept of Zabar's on WOR radio with Arthur Schwarz while I was in seminary in the mid 80s. I would go there as I could and simply loved the atmosphere I found there, and even if I couldn't afford much as a grad student, I always left with some coffee and spread the word as best I could. So when the Zoom "The Zabar's family motto is that we can achieve anything as long as we do the research and persevere. Prior experience is not a prequsite for sucess" As a non-New Yorker. I was introduced to the concept of Zabar's on WOR radio with Arthur Schwarz while I was in seminary in the mid 80s. I would go there as I could and simply loved the atmosphere I found there, and even if I couldn't afford much as a grad student, I always left with some coffee and spread the word as best I could. So when the Zoomcast of the "book drop" was scheduled, we watched with wonder as the story of the Zabars, told BY the Zabar family unfolded, without the author as Lori Zabar passed just prior to the book's release. I had so much fun reading this book. It was like I was at a table like the one the author talks about on the family trip to Israel. Everyone talking, laughing and sharing food. Some people have been negative about the lack of recipes from Zabar's. They need to remember this is a *family story* not a recipe book, even if it was a #1 book the week of its publication last month: a book about Jewish history seen through the eyes of 5 generations of one family by a gifted storyteller. I am naming it my #1 book so far this year. Highly recommended 5/5

  4. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    It's not everyday that you read a book about a grocery store, and yet this one has a rich history. It was quite interesting to see the author not mince words even as she highlights the flawed characteristics of their family. The end of each chapter includes a family recipe. I will probably make at least one of them soon. It's not everyday that you read a book about a grocery store, and yet this one has a rich history. It was quite interesting to see the author not mince words even as she highlights the flawed characteristics of their family. The end of each chapter includes a family recipe. I will probably make at least one of them soon.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Phoebe E

    A delightful history of the Zabars family and their business, which has become an upper west side (and NYC) staple. As someone who lives quite close to Zabars, it was so fun to get a behind-the-scenes look into how this business came to be, and the values that still guide it today.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Judy G

    Where to begin with this review? I am one of a vast majority of people who know and love Zabars a food tabernacle on Broadway and 81st St NYC there for decades. Also I am Jewish and grew up in NYC and this establishment that has become way more diverse than in its beginnings and middles is one of many aspects of jewish Za ew York. ab Lori was the granddaughter of Louis Zabar (born Mordechai Zabarka in Ukraine) and Lilly Zabar. Very very sadly Lori died last year of cancer and yet this book was co Where to begin with this review? I am one of a vast majority of people who know and love Zabars a food tabernacle on Broadway and 81st St NYC there for decades. Also I am Jewish and grew up in NYC and this establishment that has become way more diverse than in its beginnings and middles is one of many aspects of jewish Za ew York. ab Lori was the granddaughter of Louis Zabar (born Mordechai Zabarka in Ukraine) and Lilly Zabar. Very very sadly Lori died last year of cancer and yet this book was completed the story of Zabars and the family... to b continued by Judy g

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kristin

    A lovely, pretty book, with nice recipes, photos, and being mostly a history-spanning multi-generational memoir. I wasn't compelled to read it in full because the many ways that it references Zabar's assumes intimate knowledge of it already, so it seems mostly a book for people who already have a connection to this place and/or are closely familiar with its fame from living in the region. I had never heard of it. A lovely, pretty book, with nice recipes, photos, and being mostly a history-spanning multi-generational memoir. I wasn't compelled to read it in full because the many ways that it references Zabar's assumes intimate knowledge of it already, so it seems mostly a book for people who already have a connection to this place and/or are closely familiar with its fame from living in the region. I had never heard of it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Abena Anim-Somuah

    I finished this book in a night and wow was it phenomenal. Lori Zabar tells a wonderful story about a cultural institution that has shaped New York in infinite ways. It’s more than the history of a humble grocery but rather a recollection of a family’s story rooted in resilience, passion, and the love of feeding people. I only hope that I can make something as culturally relevant as Zabar’s one day

  9. 5 out of 5

    Holly

    Love the store, love the book! So interesting to read the history of the store and the whole Zabar family. Zabar's is famous for so many reasons and most are discussed in this book. The impact on food culture, the shrewd (and often hysterical!) marketing, the attention to detail and quality, the family interactions are all unfolded as well as providing some recipes. A food lovers dream book! Love the store, love the book! So interesting to read the history of the store and the whole Zabar family. Zabar's is famous for so many reasons and most are discussed in this book. The impact on food culture, the shrewd (and often hysterical!) marketing, the attention to detail and quality, the family interactions are all unfolded as well as providing some recipes. A food lovers dream book!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Eve Pines

    I remember visiting Zabar's many times as a child, so it's interesting to read the history of the store and the family. It is very sad to hear that the author passed away right before this book was published. I remember visiting Zabar's many times as a child, so it's interesting to read the history of the store and the family. It is very sad to hear that the author passed away right before this book was published.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    3.5 The history of a New York institution and the family that made it, told from an insider's perspective (a member of the Zabar family). 3.5 The history of a New York institution and the family that made it, told from an insider's perspective (a member of the Zabar family).

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jenn

    A very readable family history/love letter to Zabar's. Perhaps most interesting to people with an NYC connection. And it WILL, of course, make you hungry, from the very first page. A very readable family history/love letter to Zabar's. Perhaps most interesting to people with an NYC connection. And it WILL, of course, make you hungry, from the very first page.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Beth E

    I've never been to Zabar's, but I found the book very interesting. I've never been to Zabar's, but I found the book very interesting.

  14. 4 out of 5

    =^.^= Janet

    Definitely not a cookbook with only 10 recipes but this is an enjoyable book filled with the history of a NY institution ... I love history and I love food so it was a perfect match for my reading list!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Christine

  16. 5 out of 5

    Deb

  17. 4 out of 5

    Theresa

  18. 5 out of 5

    Whitney

  19. 5 out of 5

    Taylor Rakocy

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kim

  21. 4 out of 5

    Erica Harris

  22. 5 out of 5

    SOPHIA NORALUS

  23. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth R. Bowen

  24. 5 out of 5

    Abbi Smith

  25. 4 out of 5

    Joanne

  26. 5 out of 5

    Aubrey M

  27. 5 out of 5

    Amy Gray

  28. 5 out of 5

    Barry Harris

  29. 5 out of 5

    Dean Knight

  30. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

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