There’s nothing like dining with a local when traveling. A homecooked meal is often a welcome reprieve from a week of restaurant dinners and the insider tips you can glean from someone who lives there beat any tour book. If you’re not lucky enough to have friends or family in Israel (or even if you are), a new company called EatWith is your virtual insider friend.
Part supper club and part social experiment, the idea for EatWith came to founder Guy Michlin while on vacation with his family in Greece in 2011. “We always look for the authentic places [when we travel], but we couldn’t find them and fell into every possible tourist trap,” explained Michlin in a phone interview. “On this specific trip almost by accident I managed to get us an invitation to a local family for dinner and this was by far the highlight of the trip.”
Israeli-born and a graduate of Stanford Business School, Michlin had been on the lookout for a start-up idea, and he knew he was onto something. “When I came back to Israel ,” he recalls, “we started thinking about it and brainstorming. How can we take this unique experience and turn it into a business?”
I am not a picky eater. I attribute it to my grandmother – a glamorous and persistent Persian, Jewish woman – who, through ingenuity and wisdom, somehow persuaded generations of children to drink salty, carbonated yogurt (doogh) and eat foods that “touched,” like white rice smothered in an ominous brown sauce (khoresht-e fesenjoon). Although, it wasn’t always easy to be the kid at summer camp whose parents packed “weird” leftovers for lunch, the food was never boring. But it wasn’t meaningful either.
When I moved to Israel after college, I discovered that it wasn’t just my family who ate this way. Indeed, food seems to be one aspect of “life in the old country” that no Jewish community dared to leave behind on the trek to Israel. Children all over the holy land had “strange” ingredients in their school lunches but didn’t point to an arduously prepared dinner and say, “Ew, Mommy; it looks dirty,” like my brother did as a child. On the contrary, it wasn’t unusual to be seated beside a young kid at Ima Kubbe Bar feverishly shoveling an ancient recipe into his tiny, kid mouth. Wandering through the Machaneh Yehuda market (“the shuk”) in particular was like a passport to “our peoples’” dining table, for in the market, I could eat breakfast as a Tunisian, lunch as a Baghdadi and dinner as a Pole. The market vendors increasingly began to feel like family and the foods launched me into wholly different generations, countries, and Jewish peoples. And I never looked back.
Kosher in Paradise is an aptly named new restaurant in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. [YeahThatsKosher]
Feeling ambitious this weekend? Try making your own bagels with a recipe from Rockaway Beach. [CNN Eatocracy]
A hippie staple gets a Passover twist. Matzolah granola, the “Trail Mix of the Exodus,” features matzo in the recipe. [Kosher Eye]
It turns out negotiations are sometimes literally on the rocks at the United Nations. [The New York Times]
Some people think of Jewish food and imagine matzo ball soup and chopped liver. Jeff Aeder thinks southern barbecue — sort of. Aeder, a real estate investor, is the founder of Milt’s Barbecue for the Perplexed, a kosher barbecue joint that opened at the end of January in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. Named after his uncle Milt, with a tip of the hat to Maimonides’ “Guide for the Perplexed,” Milt’s was conceived to meet the needs of the neighborhood’s growing Jewish population. And he just really likes barbecue.
Chicago is home to a thriving local barbecue scene and, according to Aeder, “There’s no sacrifice you have to make to do kosher barbecue. Except, you know, pork.” The head chef keeps kosher, but the sous chefs have traditional barbecue backgrounds. For his first foray into the restaurant business, Aeder sent the chefs to sample dishes at his favorite restaurants across the city and says the “barbecue community” was extremely helpful as they did their preparatory research. “I didn’t want people to say this is good for a kosher restaurant,” says Aeder. The menu, which draws its influence from a variety of barbecue styles, features meats smoked in house — including spare ribs, chicken wings, and brisket, pulled barbecue chicken and smoked brisket sandwiches. The meals are rounded out with Southern classics like fried okra, cornbread, and a rotating selection of infused bourbons. Milt’s most unusual concoction, is the Milt Burger, a char burger with chopped brisket, chili, beef “bacon,” crispy onions, and barbecue aioli. All guests are served a plate of pickles and three homemade barbecue sauces — the vinegar-based house sauce, a Carolina-style sauce, and a Kansas City sauce.
I’m the rabbinic intern for a small synagogue in Manhattan, but they also employ me as their kiddush caterer. I can be found leading services on Shabbat but I also have made sufganiyot with families for Hanukkah. I may have left the professional food industry behind, however food, particularly Jewish food, is still a big part of my life and will continue to be integral to my rabbinate.
It looks like room service isn’t going to be an option for President Obama when he stays at the Kind David Hotel in Jerusalem on his upcoming trip to Israel. He’ll arrive on March 20, less than a week before Passover begins and according to The Times of Israel, the hotel’s kitchens will have already been made kosher for the holiday. (We’re taking this to mean that a pancake breakfast or late-night shwarma in bed are out of the question.)
We wouldn’t want Obama to go hungry, so we took it upon ourselves to ask some of Israel’s best food critics and most dedicated eaters where the president should go to get a taste of the Holy Land. (While we created the list with the president in mind, we won’t mind if you take advantage of it too!)
A Taste of Tel Aviv
Janna Gur, chief editor of Al Hashulchan (On The Table) magazine, suggests the president spend 24 hours in Tel Aviv focusing on gastronomy rather than diplomacy. “He’ll have a hard time pushing the peace process, so he should have some fun in Tel Aviv,” she said. Here are her recommendations:
After more than 15 years of marriage to his Jewish wife, chef Todd Gray considers himself something of an authority on Jewish food. But the James Beard Award-nominated chef of Equinox Restaurant in Washington, D.C. is quick to point out that he didn’t always know the difference between kreplach and kneidlach.
“I had no exposure to Jewish food prior to meeting Ellen,” Gray said, referring to his wife Kassoff Gray, who co-owns the restaurant. Together the couple has written The New Jewish Table: Modern Seasonal Recipes, which appeared in stores this month.
Gray hails from Fredericksburg, Va., where “the number of Jewish people could be counted on one hand,” he said. When he attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, he began trekking south into the city for tastes of bagels and pastrami sandwiches. But it wasn’t until he met Ellen — and soon afterwards, her Jewish family — that he gained a deeper understanding of the ingredients and traditions behind Eastern European-style Jewish food.
Passover, which starts on March 25 this year, is just around the corner. Families can keep children involved in the Seder with Passover Bingo, a board game invented by Denver lawyer Tamara Pester.
“I have a niece and nephew who are now 9 and 12, and we always do Passover at my sister’s house in St. Louis,” said Pester. “My niece and nephew would get really restless during the Seder, so I wanted to do something to keep them engaged.”
Bring a taste of Israel home this weekend with this recipe for baked za’atar eggplant fries with lemon tahini dip. B’tayavon! [The Kitchn]
…and this pomelo and arak cocktail courtesy of our friends at the Kubbeh Project. [New York Magazine]
Is a pastrami and egg sandwich a good idea? You decide. [Serious Eats]
…And what about pastrami on a bialy? [Serious Eats]
DIY seltzer and soda in all their fizzy glory. [Diner’s Journal
Are you a Michael Pollan fan? So are we. His family is putting out a cookbook! [Grub Street
The Jewish Week reports that the hip, super-stylish Soho restaurant is being made to undergo a rebranding as a result of its seeking kosher certification from the OU. Paying homage to a 9th century B.C.E. queen of ancient Israel who built temples to pagan gods and negatively influenced her husband King Ahab, may have worked until now. After all, the restaurant touted its “decadent” atmosphere on its website.
But now that it has decided to try to attract more traditional kosher diners, Jezebel is being thrown out (though perhaps not as violently as the actual biblical queen was).
Breakfast: Smoothies, smoothies, smoothies. The ingredients always contain a mixture of:
1) A milk (almond, soy, kefir)
2) Frozen fruit (berry blend, bananas, peaches)
3) A nut butter (peanut, almond, cashew)
I use my Magic-Bullet smoothie maker and in 1-2 minutes, my breakfast is complete. Once it’s blended, I pour the contents into a reusable bottle and toss it in my bag to drink on the subway. Each smoothie costs me less than $2.00 and contains enough vitamins, nutrients, and protein to keep me energized throughout the morning hours. My favorite combination is soy milk, frozen bananas, and peanut butter.
Have you ever wondered what would happen if hipster organic met bubbe’s cooking? Well, someone did — and they shared it on Pinterest.
In the last couple of years, Jewish cookbooks (or rather, hastily scrawled index cards) have been dusted off and made-over. Celebrity chefs have taken up traditional food and given it a twist. This phenomenon isn’t restricted to the Jewish world — How many different takes on mac ‘n’ cheese have you seen in restaurants lately?
This slightly nostalgic, back to our roots with style, Martha Stewart-envy attitude is the basis of every Pinterest board out there. The DIY social media guru takes ordinary, cluttered, non-glitter-full lives and gives them new meaning. After 10 (OK, 20) minutes on the site, you find yourself thinking things like: How did I ever live without an adorable lamp hand-carved out of elk antlers? What was I thinking making any pancake that wasn’t artfully heart-shaped?
So, to add to the discussion, we thought we would let Pinterest have its say. Behold, the top 10 wacky, scrumptious, and slightly frightening Pinterest takes on Jewish food:
With Passover looming ever closer, now might be a good time to brush up on your kitchen skills.
Luckily there are classes around the country that focus on Jewish and kosher cooking, many of which are taught by well-known restaurant chefs like Michael Solomonov of Zahav and cookbook authors like Joan Nathan.
Here’s a round up of some of the best — both Ashkenazi- and Sephardic-style — that are guaranteed to have you cooking gourmet meals in no time.
The Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture is home to a farm, a farmers’ market and one of the country’s best farm-to-table restaurants, the high end Blue Hill at Stone Barnes captained by chef Dan Barber. On Saturday, March 9th from 1 to 2:30 p.m. famed Jewish cooking expert and prolific cookbook author Joan Nathan will teach Grow Your Own: Passover Seder which will feature her take on the traditional meal complete with seasonality and a touch of the farm ($36 for members, $40 for nonmembers).
Most of the time, I do what I want. It’s what’s so great about being an adult. I get to eat baked potatoes at midnight and watch terrible television by myself. I get to choose the music I listen to, the clothes I wear, the jobs I keep.
I’ve kept kosher in my own way for as long as I can remember. It used to be that I wouldn’t eat meat and milk together, and wouldn’t eat shellfish or pork. Those rules, though a loose interpretation of the laws of Kashrut, meant something to me. They kept me tied into my history, my Jewish inheritance. But sometime in my mid-twenties, I began to slip. First I had chicken and cheese together. Then I ordered a turkey and Swiss sandwich. Last year I had a cheeseburger for the first time.
The post originally appeared on What Is Your Food Worth.
I am not a hoarder. I am constantly trying to simplify, to reduce my house of the “stuff” that has accumulated over my many moves. But the one thing that I keep adding to is my cookbook collection. On a recent trip to Las Vegas, I found myself in the most amazing used bookstore, Amber Unicorn. Lest you think I just happened upon this hidden gem in a Nevada strip mall, the credit for the find goes to Ruth Reichl who raved about it in a Saveur Magazine piece back in April. My mother and sisters were generous enough to give me a few minutes on our way to check into Wild Bill’s Gambling Hall and Saloon. I could have spent days there just methodically going through the rows and rows of cookbooks. The Jewish section was extensive and I immediately reached for the community cookbooks, with their spiral bindings. One volume, which I had to take home with me, was called “Centennial Celebration Cookbook: 100 Years of Jewish Cooking in the Ozarks.” Ozarks!! Some of these cookbooks I use, some I just love. This is a list of Jewish cookbooks I love to use.
Here are my five favorite Jewish cookbooks (in no particular order).
“Elizabeth, why does God make weeds?”
“Well, that’s a really good question. What do all of you think?”
“I think it’s so that the bugs have food to eat.”
“It’s because weeds protect the dirt from getting too dry.”
“Well, weeds are also plants and they deserve to grow too.”
“We have weeds because it teaches us to take care of the garden. If we have too many weeds in the garden, our plants won’t grow.”
This memory is just one example of the engaging conversations I had with campers last summer during the ten weeks I spent as the Amir Farmer at URJ Camp Kalsman in Arlington, WA. The Amir Project hires college-age students to build gardens and run educational programming related to environmental and social justice issues at summer camps in the U.S., Canada, and Israel. Amir also facilitates relationships between camps and local food banks where the produce can be donated, since camp ends before the harvest is complete for the season.
From the destruction of Sandy, a Far Rockaway bagel shop rises. [Eatocracy]
A look at Katz’s through the years. [EV Grieve]
It’s almost Purim. Check out this guide to hamantaschen in NYC. [Village Voice]
10 beautiful and edible gifts to give Purim. [Food 52]
Which brisket was crowned king? [Serious Eats]
Head to Mile End when you feel like Montreal-Jewish-Sichuan. [Bon Appetit]
To say that New York City is the place to eat pizza is like saying New Orleans is the place to celebrate Mardi Gras — it simply goes without saying. But the pie that made New York famous for isn’t what it once was. Pizza lovers and pizzaioli (the men who make pizza) have moved away from the single slice and towards artisan interpretations that are served by the pie — as any good Italian would tell you they should be. These stellar pizzas are made with Caputo flour, baked in ovens schlepped over from Italy and topped with house-made mozzarella.
Kosher pizza lovers have sadly been left out of this almost entirely. Sure there’s good kosher pizza. But authentic Neapolitan kosher pizza? Sorry, but it just doesn’t exist. Hopefully, that will change on Monday with the opening of Pizza Da Solo, the newest restaurant in the Prime Empire. The tiny midtown takeout shop will be headed up by master pizzaioli Giulio Adriani. The owner and chef of noted pizzeria spot Forcella, Adriani started his career at 13 in Naples and has gone on to be certified as a Neapolitan Pizza Master by two Italian culinary associations.
The pies at Pizza Da Solo will be made in traditional Neapolitan style, meaning the dough will be flash-fried, topped and then finished in an 1000 degree wood burning oven from Naples. (The shop’s pizza makers spent a year working under Adriani at Forcella to learn the technique.) The 10-inch personal pies will come in traditional interpretations like the Margherita and modern takes like breakfast pizzas — think egg topped pies and one with smoked salmon — as well as dessert pizzas spread with Nutella a la Max Brenner.
My late grandparents lived in a small city on the Canadian prairie when I was little. With no butcher anywhere close by, my grandfather took it upon himself to purchase kosher meat for the entire community. He would have the meat the meat flown in from Montreal, which was thousands of miles away. And, when the order finally arrived, he would divide up the meat and personally deliver it to the various households.
Things are different today. My grandfather would be startled by news of a kosher meat delivery service called The Kosher Express, which delivers kosher meat ordered online to your doorstep anywhere in North America.
The Aurora, Colorado-based company, which sells kosher certified beef, lamb, veal, chicken, turkey and even bison by mail order, was launched in 2010 by Robert Bernton, who was only 23 years old at the time. All of the products are certified glatt kosher by the Orthodox Union and are frozen fresh for shipping — first to The Kosher Express warehouse in Missouri, and then from there to customers’ homes and businesses (many deliveries go to hotels and vacation destinations, including one that went to Disneyland).
“I stood willingly and gladly in the characters of everything - other people, trees, clouds. And this is what I learned, that the world’s otherness is antidote to confusion - that standing within this otherness - the beauty and the mystery of the world, out in the fields or deep inside books - can re-dignify the worst-stung heart.” – Mary Oliver
Sometimes I marvel at how hard it can be just to be myself, to be the person I expect of myself, to be the version of myself that others probably expect, too. I end up staring off into space, dreamily fixed elsewhere, thinking abstractly about where I’ve been and how far I still have to go in a world that paints me flat. Sometimes my friends privately settle on the word ‘melancholy’ after they’ve known me for a few months. They present the word to me carefully, like a confession of their judgment, holding it by its edges, setting it carefully into my hands. Melancholy. It’s as if the word itself, a little gift, might capture and hold my disquietude, the parts of me that clamor against patters, expectations, what’s tried and true, and if I hear it, perhaps – poof! – fulfillment and happiness! Thinking of this, I don’t want to write another ‘perfect’ or, even, the ‘best’ hamantaschen recipe, the tried and true the ones we all love, and know. And what we all expect. I want something else today.
On Purim, we celebrate Jewish survival and redemption. It is one of the most popular Jewish holidays because it is built on hope. Purim is a reminder that no matter how bad the circumstances, or whatever we fear around the corner, things will turn out well in the end. It’s greatly loved for the merriment to be had celebrating Esther’s victory with the king, her great success, not to mention her great skill and tact. It is with this in mind that Jews observe Purim. The day before Purim is a fast day, followed by two days of celebration: dancing, merrymaking, feasting. Jews will linger in temple into the early morning hours, drinking and masquerading, dressed in full costumes – drunkenly assuming new identities.