There aren’t many places that can be closed for 17 years ago that can bring the kind of longing that the Lincoln Del does. Wendi Rosenstein knows this all too well.
As the granddaughter of the owners of the famed Minneapolis deli, she’s been asked – fairly regularly – if she’s bringing back it back. The short answer is “no.” The long answer, is, well, “no.” However, she has the next best thing.
Rosenstein and author Kit Naylor produced The Lincoln Del Cookbook, which is being released on Sept. 1. The idea for the book got started more than five years ago.
“Before she died, my Baubie Tess knew I was going to take on the cookbook project,” Rosenstein said. “I read all of the comments we received on Facebook regarding the Lincoln Del. She loved hearing from everyone. Writing the book was instrumental in my process of both mourning the loss of my Baubie and Zadie as well as a celebration of their life accomplishments in the restaurant community in creating the icon which was the Lincoln Del.
“A lot of people shared their stories and I said ‘I better put this in a book.’ I knew I needed to include as many as I could in the book.” Rosenstein said. “For family events I started testing the recipes. I took a bite of a blueberry muffin and there it was. The memories were strong.”
[box type=”shadow” ]The Lincoln Del Cookbook Launch Party!
When: Sunday, Sept. 10, 3-5 p.m.
Where: The old Lincoln Del East — now Edina Realty (4100 Lake Street West)[/box]
The book is a collection of history, stories, and more than 80 pages of recipes, although that section of the book has a significant disclaimer: The recipes may not be exactly the same.
“The hardest part was taking the old baker’s cards where you can barely read the amounts or the ingredients,” she said. “Scaling the recipes was the hardest part. We included the pictures or references to the original bulk ingredients on the recipe cards so people could see how ridiculous the amounts of the ingredients were.”
Rosenstein worked with her good friend Daniel Hemiadan, who was the Lincoln Del pastry chef, to bring the recipes down to a manageable size. But she did say that the bulk ingredients aren’t around or have different names than they used to.
“Even then it was the best attempt,” she said. “We still had to test, taste, tinker, and test again. When baking at home, the oven you use is different. The Del had humongous ovens that rotated the sheets. You just can’t match the consistent heat and rotation we had with the monstrous del ovens They are so big that when we had to remove them, you had to cut them out of the wall. I wasn’t all that excited to commit to a yield or cook time or best temperature. The recipes are all approximations. ”
Some of the recipes include the cabbage borscht and matzo ball soup. But Rosenstein said the sweets – including the beloved peanut butter chocolate chip bars and the chocolate pie – were what people were looking for.
“[The bars] were the one I made when I first started to calculate the amounts,” she said. “My cousins said they missed it so much and I knew if it tasted good to them, it was going to be OK.”
Rosenstein also rolled them out when she was a special guest at a Sholom Food For Your Soul party.
“I didn’t get one complaint,” she said. “It was my first time introducing them to someone who wasn’t a relative. They were very happy.”
Rosenstein’s great-grandfather Frank Berenberg founded the bakery in 1930, which his son and daughter-in-law, Morrie and Tess, ran for years. The Lincoln Del East, which was at 4100 Minnetonka Blvd., opened in 1957; The Lincoln Del West at 5201 Wayzata Blvd. opened in September 1965 and closed in 1994. The Lincoln Del South, at 4401 W. 80th Street in Bloomington, opened in 1975. The East and South locations closed in 2000.
“I was raising a family,” Rosenstein said, answering why she didn’t run the restaurant. “My Baubie Tess and Zadie Morrie did not want the grandkids to run the business. They knew it was a 24/7 commitment and they were proud to see us go to grad school, have careers and raise families. They valued education and family first.”
The book’s foreword was written by New York Times columnist and best-selling author Thomas Friedman. Friedman grew up in St. Louis Park, and his mother, Margaret, was the bookkeeper at the Del East.
“The Del ‘sold’ something so much more compelling that kept its customers constantly coming back, and which is increasingly rare these days,” he wrote. “It wasn’t knishes – it was community. Anybody could learn how to make knishes and sell them.
“You have to weave together its recipes for cooking memories and matzo balls, knishes and community, because the Del had a unique way of making both – and I am not sure which I miss most.”
Naylor, Rosenstein’s co-author, proved to be an invaluable resource because her enthusiasm for the project matched Rosenstein’s.
“Kit did a lot of the interviews and information gathering that was too emotional for me to do,” Rosenstein said. “As strong as the memory was when I ate the food, talking to people made me miss my grandparents so much.”
Naylor isn’t Jewish and grew up traveling the world as the daughter of an Air Force officer. She said that she longed for the kind of community that she learned the Del offered.
“It was about the community,” Naylor said. “The food was apparently wonderful. Everyone did know your name. But part of the fun was waiting in line. Everyone would kibbitz.”
Naylor said that she was happy to be a part of this project.
“This is Wendi’s tribute to her family,” Naylor said. “The family was so tight knit and she grew up in the restaurant. She took people to their tables when she was 4. “Everyone loved talking about the Del.”
The book is just a book, Rosenstein said, and not a way to start any drum beat for a revived Lincoln Del.
“When you run a successful business, it’s a 24/7 thing, which it should be if you want a high-quality business with customers coming back,” she said. “Not many people open up a restaurant unless they have huge staff support and financial support. I’ve always dreamed about it, but reality is different. We don’t need a freestanding Lincoln Del again. You can have it anytime you want at home.”
We’ve got two copies of the book along with two of the souvenir aprons to give away. Here’s how to get an entry: Comment on our Facebook post and tell us your favorite food from the Lincoln Del, tag a friend you used to go to the Del with, and share the post. Get one entry for each and increase your chances! Names will be drawn on Aug. 30.