It Isn't What You Think It Is: Egg Cream

It Isn't What You Think It Is: Egg Cream
Dave Lieberman

The pride of New York's soda fountains, the egg cream, contains neither egg nor cream (despite what a woefully uninformed cook at Jerry's Famous Deli in Westwood tried to tell me 10 years ago).

It is a chocolate-milk soda, and it is one of the most addicting drinks in the world.

You take a couple of ounces of chocolate syrup--Fox's U-Bet is the canonical choice--and you stir it up with whole milk to fill half a tall glass. You don't have to use a twisted, wrought bar spoon, but it would be nice. Once you've got everything uniform, add seltzer water, stirring to create froth, until you've filled the glass.

That's it. Chocolate syrup, milk and seltzer water; a magical amalgamation that even as recently as 20-something years ago (*cough*) was beguiling me and my classmates at city fountains and suburban luncheonettes alike.

I found OC's best egg cream at a place I wasn't expecting to like. Benjie's Delicatessen on Tustin Avenue in a strangely medical district of eastern Santa Ana was covered by our colleagues on Food Frenzy a month or so ago.

Benjie's pastrami and macaroni salad...
Benjie's pastrami and macaroni salad...
Dave Lieberman

In décor age and patron age, it's a lot like Los Al's Katella Deli; it doesn't look like it's been updated since it opened in 1967. I was the youngest patron by at least 20 years. It's an aging restaurant, and the vinyl booths don't help. It does, however, have serviceable pastrami sandwiches (but double-bake that bread, please, so it doesn't fall apart), good half-sour pickles (just ask), absolutely terrible straight-from-the-food-service-gallon-tub macaroni salad, and these fantaisies writ egg creams.

It's a real taste of home for an ex-East Coaster. All I need to find now is a pork roll without having to drive to LA's permanent farmers' market.

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