With Passover around the corner, many of us are poised to recite the words, “Let all who are hungry come and eat.”
But when nearly 1 billion people around the world are hungry or malnourished, these words become acutely daunting—particularly for communities recovering from disasters.
More than three years after a major earthquake ravaged Haiti, the country is still struggling to recover. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of problems: homelessness, violence, political corruption and, perhaps most severe, a shortage of food—resulting in hunger. In November 2012, these crises were further exacerbated by Hurricane Sandy, which ripped through Haiti before wreaking havoc in New York and New Jersey.
This post originally appeared on the blog What Is Your Food Worth?
Timothy D. Lytton is the Albert and Angela Farone Distinguished Professor of Law at Albany Law School, where he teaches courses on regulatory theory and administrative law. His book, “Kosher: Private Regulation in the Age of Industrial Food,” has just been published by Harvard University Press. In his book, Lytton argues that the $12 billion a year kosher industry is something of an unheralded story of success of private-sector regulation in an era of growing public concern over the government’s ability to ensure food safety. Kosher uncovers how independent certification agencies rescued American kosher supervision from fraud and corruption and turned it into a model of nongovernmental administration.
Recently Professor Lytton answered a few questions from the What Is Your Food Worth? Project.
Not up for cooking for the Seders this year? Not a problem. Restaurants around North America are offering seats at the Seder table for those who are hungry for updated Jewish fare like matzo balls in a lemongrass broth, tropical haroset and Turkish flourless chocolate cake.
At some, a Seder service will be led, while at others it’ll be strictly BYOH (bring your own Haggadah). We’ve rounded up some great choices, but there are many others out there. So please add additional suggestions from your city in the comments section below.
Note: These dinners are non-kosher, unless otherwise noted.
186 Franklin St., (212) 431-0606
Passover diners will enjoy Kutsher’s nouvelle twist on Borscht Belt Seder classics, like sweet onion butter for the matzo, wild halibut gefilte fish, and beef brisket with kasha, veal bacon and creamed spinach.
Details: March 25 and 26. Seder seatings at 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. $85 per person ($49 for kids under 10), 20% gratuity added to all checks.
You’ll be glad you bookmarked this one: 25 creative ways to use matzo, from s’mores to spinach and matzoh pie. [Buzzfeed]
New Yorkers, Knishery NYC is taking orders for three kinds of Passover knishes. You can pick them up at Malt & Mold on the Lower East Side or have the “knish bike” deliver to you directly. [Knishery NYC]
Looking for the perfect Seder wine? Here are a dozen kosher bottles to consider, starting at $16. [The New York Times]
Is that kosher? OU Kosher answers consumers’ most common Pesach questions. Coconut oil? Kirkland salmon? They’ve got you covered. [The Yeshiva World News]
The Gins-burg Passover cocktail at San Francisco’s Brasserie S&P isn’t named for Allen, but it looks mouthwatering nonetheless. [Zagat]
While media coverage has been typically quiet regarding the labeling of food produced with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the issue has been gaining some traction in the political arena on the federal level with Colorado Congressman Jared Polis’ recent announcement of a federal GMO labeling bill (where Hazon’s own Becky O’Brien issued her words of support. However, while the Colorado representative is attempting to bring this matter to the halls of Congress, his own state legislature recently followed the voters of California’s lead and voted against mandated labeling of GMOs in Colorado.
Meanwhile, the Maine State Legislature has also taken on the issue of mandating GMO foods in the marketplace with striking tri-partisan support, believing that labeling is in everyone’s best interest — from the consumer to the farmer, from the producers to the manufacturers.
Jewish mothers (and others) have been worried for some time now whether President Obama will have enough to eat while on his first official visit to Israel next week. We’ve known since early February that the president will have to forgo eating chametz when he stays next week at the King David Hotel, which will have already made its kitchens kosher for Passover.
“When U.S. President Barack Obama said yes to a long-overdue visit next week, his first since becoming president in 2008, it’s not clear that he knew what he was getting himself into. Gastronomically, anyway,” suggested Ilene Prusher in Haaretz.
But now we can let out a sigh of relief, knowing definitively that our president will not go hungry in the Land of Milk and Honey.
Perched on a massive dais at Manhattan’s tony Four Seasons restaurant, Edgar M. Bronfman and wife Jan Aronson talked up their new “Bronfman Haggadah” at a crowded reception this week. “Passover’s the one night of the year when children come to the table without being pissed off,” joked Bronfman, whose writings Aronson illustrated in her signature nature-inspired style.
But the real star of the evening was Noah Bernamoff, owner of Brooklyn’s storied Mile End Delicatessen, who created a menu of Passover-themed hors d’oeuvres themed around the reimagined Haggadah. Tapped by the Bronfmans to cater the event, Bernamoff squeezed six staffers into a corner of the Four Seasons’ gargantuan kitchen. Starting with a gefilte-fish cake with chrain cream and pickled carrots, and ending with take-home macaroons, the results were as revelatory as the book that inspired them.
Indeed, Bernamoff told the Forward, “The Bronfman Haggadah was meaningful. I’m so used to settling down with the Maxwell House and going through the motions. This Haggadah talks about life. And the depth of language is incredible.”
What do you get when you mash-up ‘Fruit Ninja’ (the popular touch screen game) with the laws and procedures of the ancient sacrificial cult embedded in the Torah? You get “LEVITICUS!” A downloadable game for your smartphone or tablet by the folks at G-dcast.com. The game play is remarkably similar to the premise of Fruit Ninja, except instead of slicing watermelons, pineapples and kiwis, you are slicing up goats, bulls and flour offerings.
The setting is straight out of the Torah, right inside the Mishkan (mobile holy space of the Israelites), You are the Kohen (Priest) responsible for the daily sacrifice prescribed in Leviticus chapters 1,2 and 5. Your goal is to make it through the weekday sacrifices so you can merit the honor of the Shabbat slaughter-fest, which includes the special ‘musaf’ offering. A video game where your goal it is to make it to Shabbos – dayenu. But the animals come at you fast and you must slaughter each one, in multiple combinations for extra points. You must NOT kill any animal with a blemish it says in Leviticus 22:19. Not only must you discern healthy from unhealthy animals, but non-kosher animals are also thrown at you. If you contaminate yourself by offering up a lobster to Hashem, you get one strike. Three strikes and you are out, only to start again at the day one Maariv. All mistakes are one strike, except one. If you slaughter a pig, the most abominable animal in the Torah, game over immediately.
Kosher Sports, Inc. scored big at the Super Bowl in New Orleans, where it had the concession to sell kosher stadium food to football fans. Unfortunately for the company, it has struck out in a legal dispute with a Major League baseball venue — Citi Field, home of the New York Mets.
On Tuesday, KSI got unwelcome news from the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which rejected the kosher food purveyor’s request to throw out a February 2012 ruling in favor of Queens Ballpark, Co., the company that runs Citi Field. KSI had originally filed a breach-of contract suit against Queens Ballpark in 2010 for preventing it from selling its kosher hot dogs, sausages and other products on Friday nights and Saturday.
KSI claimed it had incurred high costs in outfitting its carts in such a way that kashrut certification authorities would allow kosher food to be sold from them on Shabbat. Court documents KSI filed further stated that it stood to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in profits if it was prevented from selling on Shabbat.
“How could a kosher restaurant have opened in Park Slope without my knowing about it?” I unceremoniously asked of the first person to greet me as I walked into Chagall Bistro, who happened to be Dan Gicquel, the restaurant’s owner. Ten minutes before, I was settling in for a Sunday night dinner of hard-boiled eggs when a scan of my Facebook newsfeed turned up a friend’s posting: “New kosher restaurant on 5th Avenue and 5th Street!” I shared the news with my husband, who joined in my incredulity that this critical information had slipped past the vigilant watch we keep over all of brownstone Brooklyn’s Jewish news. A moment later, our phone rang. It was a foodie friend of ours who happened to be driving through the neighborhood. We shared the news, called the Facebook friend who had started it all, and a few minutes later, the four of us were scrutinizing the meat menu posted outside of the restaurant’s doors, its kosher certification prominently displayed, and I was demanding answers.
Gicquel explained that he and his wife moved to Brooklyn from Paris a year ago when they bought Belleville, the French bistro that had long occupied the space in which we were standing. “I am French and Jewish,” he said. “My dream was always to combine the two. And it’s opening night!” he added, possibly to help me feel less woefully ill informed. He told us there were plans to further expand the menu and he welcomed suggestions that would help him cater to the needs of the community.
The Orthodox Union wants to take the guesswork out of eating kitniyot on Passover. With no kitniyot kosher certification to go by, eaters of legumes and several grains during the holiday—traditionally Sephardi Jews, but now also others—have had to rely on their own judgment that there was no hametz, or leaven, in a food product.
Now, the experts have stepped in to alleviate any possible confusion. For the first time ever, the OU has introduced OU Kitniyot, a new certification symbol that can appear on kosher for Passover products.
“People may assume a food product is kitniyot, but there could actually be hametz hidden it,” warned Rabbi Moshe Elefant, COO of the Orthodox Union’s kashrut division in a phone interview with The Jew and the Carrot. “This new certification is critical because you can’t tell just from the ingredients list whether something is really kitniyot and nothing else.”
It is hard to describe a sharper contrast then the one between the trendy spirit of the Lower East Side of Manhattan and the idea of a steaming bowl of authentic kubbeh soup. My first association with Kubbeh soup is of a small Israeli kitchen, presided by a skilled Iraqi or Kurdish Jewish grandmother, or of an equally small kitchen-restaurant in Shuk Machaneh-Yehuda, the famous market of Jerusalem.
But last week, I found myself, rather late on a freezing winter night, in a street filled with small fashion boutiques and trendy bars, standing in line with a group of young people waiting to enter Zucker’s Bakery. A coffee shop by day, the small yet inviting space, is transformed each night into a pop-up kubbeh restaurant named “The Kubbeh Project”.
The restaurant presents a playful tension between the authentic and the contemporary: it is dominated by a large community table, set with a long blue denim runner and brown paper placemats. Young couples and small groups are seated elbow to elbow, in an unusually intimate setting I later learned was part of the Kubbeh Project’s goal. “We wanted people to sit close to each other, their conversations to blend into each other and their space-boundaries to be challenged. It’s a part of our vision of the preparation and serving of food as a mode of community-making. We would consider it a success if people felt comfortable enough with each other as to reach out and grab a slice of bread from their neighbors’ basket”.
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.”