The Jew And The Carrot

Nouveau Middle East Food Goes West

By Leah Koenig

Kramer and her business partner ate at Haj Kalil, an Arab restaurant in Jaffa, Israel. / Photo courtesy of Sara Kramer

Sara Kramer is not the first busy New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast. But she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar, Middle Eastern herbs, in her suitcase.

Until February of this year, Kramer, 28, was the executive chef at Glasserie, a celebrated Middle Eastern-inspired restaurant in Brooklyn that she co-founded. Now, she and her business partner (and former Glasserie sous chef) Sarah Hymanson, plan to open two new restaurants in Los Angeles — a downtown falafel and sandwich shop first, and later, an upscale-but-approachable shared plates eatery that will draw on flavors and ingredients from the same region.

Kramer’s restaurants are part of the burgeoning New Middle Eastern food movement, which has introduced ingredients like labneh cheese and pomegranate molasses to home cooks’ pantries, and vaulted chefs like Philadelphia’s Michael Solomonov (who owns the restaurant Zahav) and London’s Yotam Ottolenghi (co-author of the best-selling 2012 cookbook “Jerusalem”) into superstardom. In Los Angeles, Kramer’s work is preceded by chef Micah Wexler, whose modern Mediterranean restaurant, Mezze, was a hit with critics and diners until it closed in 2012.

On the face of it Kramer’s decision to uproot her life might seem spontaneous. Raised in Manhattan, she has deep personal and professional ties to the city. Furthermore, she started Glasserie just one year ago.

In an interview with Grub Street last February, she hinted that creative differences with Glasserie co-founder Sara Conklin were proving insurmountable. Relocating to California offers Kramer a chance to cook on her own terms. (The fact that her boyfriend is originally from Los Angeles sweetens the deal.)

In addition, Los Angeles’s sultry climate and its proximity to abundant produce year-round make it a better fit for her Mediterranean-focused vision. “We are interested in getting food straight from the source,” she said. “And the variety of produce at the farmers markets in California far surpasses what you find in New York.” From its date farms to its perfect tomatoes, “it just makes sense to make this kind of food here,” she said of her new home.

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Corn and the CSA

By Len Zangwill

For several years, a key part of our Shabbat has been the weekly journey to the farmer’s market to pick up our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share. Beginning in early July and lasting until approximately mid-September (if we are lucky), freshly picked corn on the cob is the centerpiece of our share. We plan Saturday dinners around it. The meal begins with Mr. Matt’s corn (in my son’s parlance), and is built from there with veggie burgers for protein. If we are really lucky, we have also received beets with good greens in our share that we can use.

As far as we are concerned, the corn we get from our share is by far the best corn we can get–and we take our corn very seriously indeed. It is literally picked the day before and we’ve learned to cook it that very night (Saturday) for the best taste. We don’t even need to put any butter on it at all. It is that sweet.

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Picky Toddler? Try Buffet-Style

By Maurie Backman

It was almost too good to be true. My son, from the moment he started eating solids, seemed willing to eat pretty much anything. I remember it being a few months before his second birthday when my husband and I marveled at the fact that he had a more versatile palate than most of the children we knew, many of whom were years older. In fact, on one occasion, after dining out with a couple whose sons wrote the book on pickiness, we actually had the gall to (privately) criticize our friends for letting their children get away with eating nothing but macaroni and cheese most nights during the week.

Yes, we certainly were spoiled back then. And naive.

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Anthony Weiner's New Career: Restaurateur?

By Hody Nemes

Now that he’s lost his place in politics, Anthony Weiner has taken up… cooking?

The disgraced former Democratic Congressman from New York City is lending his support to Rockaway Restoration Kitchen, a new non-profit restaurant and job training center, according to the Rockaway Times.

The new eatery will serve up healthy nosh and offer food service training for disadvantaged residents of Rockaway, a neighborhood in New York City devastated by Hurricane Sandy.

Down on his luck politically, Weiner is now trying to give a leg up to struggling New Yorkers. The non-profit plans to train up to 150 unemployed residents each year who struggle to keep jobs because of jail time, health problems, or drug abuse, according to its website.

Though Weiner is not publicly associated with the restaurant, he has apparently been working behind the scenes to find the eatery a space to call home.

The non-profit restaurant is also seeking an executive director, though Weiner does not appear to have taken that job.

Weiner resigned from Congress in 2011 after it became known that he was sending sexually-explicit photos and messages to younger women online. He later attempted a political comeback in the 2013 New York City mayoral race, but was forced to eat crow after further explicit messages came to light.

The restauranteur streak seems to run in the family — Weiner’s brother owns two restaurants in New York City – though this seems to be Weiner’s first attempt in the food service industry.

But others have tried to yoke his name to food before. An Illinois hot dog company announcedin August 2013 that it would begin selling a new brand of hot dogs called “Carlos Danger Weiners,” named after the alias Weiner used in his online escapades.

No word yet on whether Weiner’s new restaurant will be serving frankfurters.


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'Kosher Queen' Wins Foodie Contest — With Pork

By Alix Wall

Courtesy of the Food Network

Just as Beethoven lost his hearing and could still make beautiful music, Tanya Solomon proved that she can cook a damn fine pork dish even though she can’t sample it.

That’s how the San Francisco resident and member of Adath Israel Congregation explained her triumph on “Guy’s Grocery Games,” winning $20,000 on the Food Network show.

The caterer and mother of two won without tasting a single bite of what she made.

Solomon has an unusual background for a kosher caterer. The Walnut Creek native — who was raised Catholic — worked as a nanny for an Orthodox Jewish family many years ago. After attending culinary school, she returned to the Bay Area, became a personal chef, and then a caterer. Since she was already familiar with kashrut, it wasn’t a leap for her to start a kosher catering business. And the longer she did that, well, the inevitable happened.

At Adath Israel — where her kitchen was — “I was looking at Shabbos and yom tovs, and suddenly felt, “I have a Jewish neshama [soul]. I’m Jewish, there’s no denying it,” she said.

She went through a Conservative conversion, and is in the process of obtaining an Orthodox one. She is living an observant life, having met her husband on frumster.com, a website that matches observant Jews.

Solomon was on the radar of casting agents because of her participation in a short-lived NBC cooking program. No doubt her 5-foot-10 height, purple hair peeking out from beneath her snood and oversized personality all helped.

Once notified that she would be on the show, Solomon consulted Rabbi Ben-Tzion Welton of the Vaad HaKashrus of Northern California, who told her besides not tasting the food, there were two other things she could not do: She was not allowed to cook meat with dairy or cook fish with meat. While kosher law dictates it’s permissible to eat fish at a meat meal, it is forbidden to cook them together. Strangely, it was permissible for her to cook traif.

Like “Chopped,” its better-known cousin, “Guy’s Grocery Games” starts with four contestants. The competitors have to run around a studio fashioned like a grocery store, pushing carts to collect their ingredients after they hear what the challenge is, with a total of 30 minutes to “shop” and cook their dish.

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Don't F— With My Knafeh!

By Ronit Vered

Dan Peretz // Haaretz

(Haaretz) — Danny Phillips’ knafeh place was supposed to satisfy practically every sector in this postmodern world of multiple identities and conflicts. There’s a menu based almost entirely on knafeh – one of the best loved of local foods – put together after extensive research, that gives pride of place to an ancient recipe. He uses local ingredients, including kadaif noodles made by a small local producer from the Nazareth area and cheeses from small boutique dairies. Prices are reasonable (“Knafeh is a food that makes people happy, so everyone should be able to afford to buy it,” declares the optimistic entrepreneur). And there are special items for vegans or customers with special health needs.

But there are those for whom the knafeh place Phillips opened in Jaffa’s Noga neighborhood exemplifies the bourgeois Jewish influx that is pushing some Arab residents out of the mixed city. And there is his audacity: Only an Englishman (Phillips was born in London in 1971) could come up with such completely unorthodox, savory versions of knafeh. Two dishes – knafeh with shakshouka (a nest of kadaif filled with Circassian cheese, tomatoes and egg yolks) and knafeh with spinach (a bed of noodles holds a mixture of feta cheese and spinach seasoned with sumac, lemon zest and cashew nuts) – aroused the ire of Hanin Majadala, a teacher of Arabic and an activist who lives in Jaffa.

The status she posted on her Facebook page on June 27 refers to both the Jewish-Arab and the Ashkenazi-Mizrahi conflicts, to the terrible crimes, in her view, being committed against the traditional dessert: “A post about how incredibly shameless Ashkenazim are. Knafeh. An Arab dessert. Not Mediterranean, not Mediterranean basin… Arab, asli, baladi, rasmi… the audacity and chutzpah have gone up yet another notch. Brace yourselves for Ashkenazi knafeh in Jaffa. The nerve, to open places selling Arab food and Arab desserts but with a Western twist. On the menu: Shakshuka on a bed of knafeh – so disgusting. No Arab would open a restaurant serving Ashkenazi food with an Arab twist, because we have self-respect first of all and respect for others, which you all are lacking. Nor are we lacking for good food, so we have no need to go out and adopt and steal the foods of others. And your food doesn’t taste good anyway.”

The status got 376 likes, 150 comments and 46 shares, and – whether for its bluntness or for how it underscored some painful issues – aroused a lot of stormy online discussion. The arguments that she and others raised related to socioeconomic matters, but also – as with the fierce debate over hummus and other Middle Eastern foods that are becoming part of Israeli cuisine – to issues of belonging and appropriation.

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Comfort Me with Israeli Chocolate

By Rabbi Debbie Prinz

Since Israel’s Operation Protective Edge began I have taken a break from my almost daily social media posts about chocolate. I want to mourn the devastation of the war. I want to respect the sacrifices being made by those in the Israel Defense Forces, their families and the entire country. I want to honor the injuries and the loss of life throughout in the conflict. Chocolate seems frivolous during such tragic events.

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United Noshes: The Alphabet Foodies

By Margaret Eby

United Noshes from Jewish Daily Forward on Vimeo.

For the past three years, Jesse Friedman and Laura Hadden have been on a quest to explore world cuisine from their modest kitchen in Brooklyn. The married couple is the force behind United Noshes, a project to throw a dinner party featuring the culinary offerings of each of the 193 member states and 2 permanently observing non-members of the United Nations, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.

Every month, Hadden and Friedman research recipes, gather ingredients, and prepare two to three feasts to represent the selected countries, going in roughly alphabetical order. Friedman does much of the cooking while Hadden documents the feast and entertains the guests. When possible, they solicit help from people familiar with a country’s culture and good.

Laura Hadden

It’s a project that stretches Friedman and Hadden’s taste buds and cooking prowess, but it also has another added benefit: Forming a loose community of people who love culinary experimentation. Old friends and new ones join the parties, as well as foodies who find out about the project and sign up for the newsletter. The price of admission is a donation to the World Food Program, a humanitarian organization fighting world hunger. Some 500 people have signed up for the newsletter, and Friedman and Hadden have thrown United Noshes events in Boston, D.C., Seattle, and the Bay Area, as well. At Friedman and Hadden’s 83rd party, a celebration of Israeli and Palestinian cuisine, the guests included a handful of writers, a ballet dancer, and an analytics expert, all there to sample offerings that included lamb kebabs, homemade hummus, and rugelach.

“We hit upon the idea because it combined two things we’re interested in,” Friedman said. “Exploring international dishes and meeting new people. We’ve met hundreds of people who are adventurous enough to try what we’re cooking. In New York, people tend not to visit each other in their homes. We wanted to open ours up.”

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Coming to Terms With a Carnivorous Husband

By Maurie Backman

I decided to become a vegetarian when I was 12 years old, much to my mother’s dismay, and maintained my meat-free diet for almost 15 years, during which time I never missed poultry or beef for even a moment. I decided to start eating meat again when my husband and I began dating seriously. The decision arose partially out of a sudden low-grade gluten intolerance that forced me to reevaluate my diet, and partially out of solidarity for my husband’s meat-eating ways.

See, my husband loves meat, so much so that his idea of a great sandwich is a corned beef-pastrami combo wrapped in turkey rather than bread. Give him a plate full of nothing but steak, and he’ll scarf it down. At barbecues, my husband has been known to devour enough hot dogs to rival those who compete at Coney Island. And when he needs an afternoon pick-me-up, he’ll comb through the fridge in search of leftover chicken rather than opt for the more-accessible items out on the counter.

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Jewish or Chinese? Try Both At Toronto's People's Eatery

By Michael Kaminer

Smoked fish platter at People’s Eatery // Photo by Adrian Ravinsky

Toronto has become an unlikely mecca for nouveau-Jewish food, from Caplansky’s luscious smoked meat to S. Lefkowitz’s creamy hummus to Fat Pasha’s decadent gribenes.

Now, you can add Jewish-Chinese to the mix. Just-opened Peoples Eatery is drawing on the divergent food culture of Spadina Avenue — once the heart of Jewish Toronto, now a main artery through Chinatown — for its menu, according to partner Adrian Ravinsky.

“The past is the Jewish part of it. We’re resurrecting what Spadina once was with deli and appetizer cultures represented on the menu,” he said. “The present is the Chinese and East Asian food. The future is where anything goes, culturally, and the menu does that too.”

Think oversized platters of Peking Duck or smoked fish, small plates of potato knish, whitefish salad, and “General Tso-Fu” soy, with watermelon salad, dosa, and sabich thrown in for good measure. “It’s definitely an oddball selection,” Ravinsky said. “But it’s never fusion. Those elements never make it onto the same plate. They’re placed alongside one another.”

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Living Life the Way It Should Be Lived

By Chaya Tamir

Many of us raising families and managing full time jobs have ideals about family time, environmental responsibility and Jewish engagement. These are things we know are really important both for the cohesion of our families and for the long term viability of our communities. Truly though, in trying to get it all done, these values get pushed aside as we attend to the immediate needs of scheduling and then living the rat race that we so carefully planned for ourselves. I know that we need more down time, that we need to cherish food and family, and work towards meaningful spiritual engagement, but I have difficulty making those ideals fit into the teetering Jenga structure that is my work / life / family / community balance.

Enter Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center and you get to peek into a community that operates the way life would be lived, if our values and priorities matched up.

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Vintage Jewish Deli Sign Found Behind Bodega

By Rachel X. Landes

Photo: New York Neon Blog

Earlier this month, renovators uncovered the sign for an old Jewish Delicatessen behind a closing bodega at 2705 Broadway, according to New York Neon.

Classic Art Deco lettering in blue porcelain letters contrasts with a white background. Its blue neon lights are long gone, but the nostalgia remains.

Although the name in the left corners of the sign is obscured, a search through old telephone directories revealed that B. Hudes and Sons owned the deli back in the 1930s and ‘40s, making the sign around 75 years old.

In 1942, one of the “sons,” Max Hudes, moved on to operate the famous Carnegie Deli. He was the second owner, reported Eating In Translation, and wanted to try his hand at a sit-down delicatessen, instead of his old takeout-only at 2705 Broadway.

“The neighborhood is changing so much, so quickly… to have the history unveiled like this is very exciting,” preservationist and photographer Everett Scott said to pix11.

After Hudes Delicatessen closed, it merged with the space next door and reopened as the Olympia Superette, which lasted for several years. Most recently, the Grocery & Flower occupied the space. That business recently folded — once the Grocery & Flower’s signage was torn down, Hudes Delicatessen was revealed.

The future of the sign remains a mystery. Does it deserve to be scrapped or preserved?


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Moss Café: Farm to Table Kosher Café in Riverdale

By Elizabeth Traison

Emily Weisberg knows good coffee. Over the phone, I drooled as she described the rich, bold, bitter aromas that put my mug full of reheated office-coffee-pot coffee to shame. She said, “I’ve been a barista for more than 10 years. My background is in coffee.” That’s why she’s opening Moss Café in Riverdale, NY.

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Coconut Quinoa Comfort for Tisha B'av

By Molly Yeh

Photo by Molly Yeh

On these days leading up to Tisha B’av — especially in light of the current conflict in the Middle East — thinking about food doesn’t carry the joyous qualities that it typically does. It almost feels trivial.

In my kitchen, this is not a time for cakes or colorful foods — and for many who have begun their observance, not a time for eating meat. As my mind races with thoughts of Israel and Gaza, my stomach seeks out comfort and nourishment and little else. Here is a simple recipe for a multi-use dish that can be eaten in the days prior to Tisha B’av, to break the fast as a Shabbat meal or even Sunday brunch.

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Kosher Street Meat? Head to The Dog House

By Rachel X. Landes

Good news for New York Jews and tourists hankering for kosher street meat!

The Dog House, which set up shop on Governors Island last weekend, Grill on Wheels, Schnitzi, Taim Mobile Truck, Quick Stop, and the larger mobile kosher world in providing kosher fare for the hungry masses.

The Dog House is the second food truck affiliated with Great Performances, a NYC-based catering company.

Great Performances’ CEO and co-founder Liz Neumark, said, “The Dog House is the perfect next step in expanding our participation in the New York mobile food scene.”

The Dog House also offers two more hot dogs in addition to the kosher dog: the Sausage Dog, made with lamb merguez sausage topped with green garlic yogurt, pickled red cabbage and vegetable relish, and the Vegan Dog, which comes with kale pesto, pickled shallots and spiced sunflower seeds.

The New York Dog (the only kosher hotdog) is served with spiced tomato jam and thunder pickle relish, made at Great Performances’ organic farm in the Hudson Valley.

This year, and for the first time, Governors Island will offer food services seven days a week. The Dog House will be open on the weekend from 11-7 p.m.


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Katz's Deli Wins Name Game Battle

By Laila Kearney

(Reuters) — The New York City delicatessen Katz’s has won a legal battle to force a Florida restaurant to change its name, according to court documents made public on Monday.

Katz’s Delicatessen, founded in 1888, sued Katz’s Deli of Deerfield Beach in June, claiming that the Florida restaurant had blatantly infringed on its trademark rights and tried to profit illegally from its name and reputation.

Both establishments sell Jewish and Kosher-style deli food.

Katz’s Delicatessen of Deerfield agreed to change its name in the settlement, which was signed in Manhattan federal court last week.

The Deerfield Beach restaurant owner, Charles Re, said he agreed to the change because keeping the name was not worth the legal troubles.

“It wasn’t something that we needed to have to sustain ourselves,” Re said.

Re, who is originally from the New York City borough of the Bronx, said he would change the name of his restaurant to Zak’s Deli.

Katz’s Delicatessen in Manhattan’s Lower East Side has been seen in a several movies including and in television shows such as “Law & Order” and shows on Food Network and Travel Channel.

Its best-known screen appearance may be in the 1989 romantic comedy “When Harry Met Sally,” with the character played by Meg Ryan faking an orgasm during a meal with Billy Crystal’s character.


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The Year I Ate My Heart Out

By Molly Oberstein-Allen

The second semester of my freshman year of college, I was lucky enough to study abroad at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Although I’d been to Israel before on school, family, and youth group trips, my study abroad experience gave me a deeper experience of, and as a result, commitment to, the country than I’d ever had before. I got to explore the places that don’t usually appear on tourist itineraries and make friends with both native Israelis and Palestinians. Because I was so young when I studied abroad, it also happened that I learned how to do my own grocery shopping in the Israeli shuk. As anyone who’s been to Israel knows, the shuk is loud, colorful, and bustling - a far cry from the tidy fluorescent-lit Costco aisles I was used to commanding with my mother on Thursday afternoons.

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President Obama Stops By Canter's Deli

By Rachel X. Landes

President Obama visited Canter’s Deli today, an old favorite of Jews in Los Angeles. Over the course of the meal, he sat with a teacher, a wounded veteran, and two women entering the job market, according to Mark Knoller, CBS’s White House correspondent.

Canter’s opened in 1931, and has always been a family-owned business dedicated to providing classic Jewish deli foods for the L.A. area.

Let’s hope the President had the good sense to order the matzo ball soup. Goodness knows he’ll probably need some comfort food to go with everyone’s kvetching.


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Nouveau Jewish Food Hits Streets of Manhattan

By Michael Kaminer

Workmen’s Circle poster advertising the Taste of Jewish Culture street fair // Facebook

New York’s got so many hip new delis that it may be as easy to find gefilte fish and borscht as it was in 1892, when The Workmen’s Circle held its first meeting on the Lower East Side.

So it’s no small irony that the social-justice organization is hosting the city’s first street fair aimed at showcasing smart new iterations of traditional Jewish cuisine.

The Workmen’s Circle Taste of Jewish Culture, set for July 27 on Manhattan’s Madison Avenue, is actually the organization’s sixth outdoor festival, but the first focused on food.

The slate of exhibitors reads like a nouveau-deli who’s who, including Mile End, Shelsky’s of Brooklyn, Peck’s, Baz Bagel, and Gefilteria.

“The fair has always featured klezmer and social-justice-themed music,” executive director Ann Toback told the Forward by e-mail from a tour bus in Poland, where she’s researching Ashkenazi culture. “But we’ve also been experimenting with it as a chance to connect with larger audiences.”

Sharing Jewish food “is about as authentic a Jewish experience as you can get,” she said. “And selling Jewish-inspired foods via a street experience is quintessentially Jewish. It’s a perfect place to share our cultural heritage with a wide swath of New Yorkers.”

To corral the right mix of vendors, Toback tapped Noah Arenstein, the peripatetic lawyer-cum-foodie whose most recent venture, pop-up eatery Scharf & Zoyer, offered over-the-top novelties like kugel sandwiches.

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Meet the Ginger Spice Lady

By Michael Kaminer

After tainted Mexican food left her decimated with hepatitis A – and unable to take medication, despite unbearable symptoms - Cathy Shapiro went online.

Ginger kept popping up as the preschool teacher searched for natural remedies. And those queries jogged Shapiro’s memories of her long-gone Polish-born bubbe.

“She used to put a paste of ginger and water on my head when I had a headache. She’d mix ginger and honey for my sore throat. And she’d make ginger tea when I had an upset stomach,” Shapiro recalled. “I had forgotten most of these childhood cures.”

Five years later, and completely recovered, Shapiro’s spreading the gospel of ginger through her Baltimore business, Cathy’s Ginger Spices. At five local farmers’ markets and a handful of shops, Shapiro’s peddling hand-ground spices, ginger-infused cooking oils, and potent ginger juices to a growing fan base of health fanatics, foodies, and buy-local enthusiasts.

“My business has at least doubled, if not more, since launch,” Shapiro told the Forward from her home-office in Pikesville, a heavily Jewish northwest Baltimore suburb. “I owe a lot of it to my bubbe, and to my background,” Shapiro said. “And even to getting hep A. God closes one door and opens another.”

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