The Jew And The Carrot

Israeli Wines Start a New Season

By Peter Weltman

flickr/stateofisrael

Misconceptions about Israeli wine that remain isolated to Manischewitz should only happen to those living in a vacuum. Israel is definitively part of the emerging new world winemaking scene. Making sun baked and ripe wines still constitute the majority of wines from the Holy Land, but from big companies on down, it is clear that some Israeli producers are looking the other way. They are now beginning to define their wines by freshness and restraint.

On June 4th, 2013, fifteen Israeli winemakers descended upon Manhattan’s City Winery for an intimate showcase of their portfolios. After attending IsraWineExpo a few years ago in Tel Aviv, I was excited to taste new releases of familiar bottles, while hoping to find new producers and styles.

What set the tone was a transparent pre-tasting discussion between Alex Haruni of the Upper Galilee’s Dalton Winery, and Josh Wesson, founder of wine retail empire Best Cellars. Through his humor and gentle quips at kosher wine stereotypes, Josh was able to inspire Alex to speak on behalf on the Israeli industry as a whole. Alex’s openness regarding winemaking practices exhibited the kind of confidence one gains over time. “Eighteen years ago, we were making the best wines we knew how,” Alex said, “and over the last five years our wine making is now less interventionist.” Older vines, understanding terroir, and honing techniques have allowed the winemakers to do less manipulation and yet yield better results.

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Good Listening: Israeli Food Maven Janna Gur

By Devra Ferst

Janna Gur cooking in her home in Israel.

As a food editor I enjoy a good story as much as anyone. But, what I love most is getting to eavesdrop on a conversation between people who really know what they’re talking about when it comes to food.

On this week’s episode of “Taste Matters,” a podcast hosted by James Beard VP Mitchell Davis, we get to hear Israeli food expert Janna Gur and Davis joke about chopped liver becoming a trendy food in Tel Aviv and find out why so few Israelis know what a knish is. But, more importantly, Gur breaks down what is going on in the Israeli food scene and argues that the Holy Land is at the beginning of its second food revolution. But what does that mean for diners? Listen to the full podcast below to find out.


Pork Is Kosher, Announces The Onion

By Yermi Brenner

Thinkstock

We have some very exciting news: The 6,000-years-long Jewish ban on pork has been lifted! The Onion is reporting that the World Rabbinical Council has announced that Jews worldwide are now allowed to “dig in to the delicious taste of ham.” No more holding back on the bacon, or skipping “the other white meat” at barbecues. We are finally free to feast on pork-filled Chinese dumplings and maple bacon donuts .

Well, not exactly. The Onion is of course a satirical news outlet, and the World Rabbinical Council is a made-up organization. The pork ban is still standing firm. But what would happen if it had indeed been lifted?

Right off the bat, we would expect Williamsburg-based Hasids to flock to Traif, the ironic restaurant which celebrates all things non-kosher, located in the heart of New York’s hipsters’ hub.

The supermarket in Sunnyside, New York, which sold kosher pork could get back to doing so without being troubled by the New Yorker.

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Budapest Jews Plan World's Largest Kosher Sandwich

By JTA

Thinkstock

Organizers of a Jewish festival in Budapest said they will try to set a world record for the tallest kosher sandwich.

Many dozens of bread slices will be used to construct the tower on Sunday on Kazinczy Street in the Hungarian capital’s so-called Jewish Quarter during the sixth Judafest cultural street party, organizers said on Facebook. One of the organizers told JTA the plan is to have a 7-foot stack at least.

The Guinness World Records website shows no record for kosher sandwiches, but the tallest non-kosher sandwich was made in 2007 in India and measured 50 feet. It contained 100 pounds of cucumbers, 88 pounds of meat and 330 pounds of butter.

Judafest is expected to attract thousands and is among the largest Jewish events in Hungary. In addition to assembling the sandwich, participants will participate in a cookie-baking contest.

In addition to the culinary activities, visitors to the one-day festival will be invited to watch films about Jewish humor, notably by and featuring Woody Allen. There will also be walks and a rickshaw tour of the Jewish quarter.

The Budapest branch of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee launched Judafest.


A Taste of the Tenements

By Anne Cohen

David X. Prutting/BFAnyc.com
Cake in the shape of 97 Orchard Street

If you’re an American Jew, there’s a pretty good chance that somewhere, somehow, someone in your family made dinner on the Lower East Side.

Though the area has been home to a countless nationalities and ethnic groups, it holds a special place in the hearts of American Jews, many of whom can trace their first foothold in the country back to “the old neighborhood.”

On June 5, the Tenement Museum celebrated its 25th anniversary, and the 150th anniversary of the restored building at 97 Orchard Street, which housed over 7,000 people from more than 20 countries from 1863 to 1935.

As a tribute to the many sights and smells imprinted into the tenement’s walls, the gala was set up as an edible timeline, a “taste of the tenements,” catered by current local vendors and restaurants and inspired by the neighborhood’s residents. Here’s a window into what they would have been eating, and where you can find those treats today.

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Longest. Shabbat Table. Ever.

By Yermi Brenner

Aviv Hofi

Imagine your regular Shabbat dinner. Now extend the table and summon several more chairs. And a few more. OK, now add about a hundred more seats. Your table is still not likely to be even half the size of the record-setting Shabbat dinner that was recently on display in the Israeli city of Bnei Brak.

A 197 feet long table, with room for more the 300 participants, was assembled by the Bnei Brak-based Coca Cola Israel company, in what is said to be the longest Shabbat dinner setting ever. Arranged on it was the traditional Shabbat fixings, including china plates, crystal goblets, Kiddush wine, challa bread, and, of course, dozens of Coca Cola bottles. Several hundred members of the Bnei Brak community took part in a pre-Shabbat meal around the long table, in which traditional meat, fish and cholent dishes circulated in the unique setting.

The Israeli news outlet Ynet reported that the initiative is expected to be recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records. And, while the folks from Guinness have yet to confirm whether the table will be recognized as a world record, Coca Cola’s has already declared the event a success.

Aviv Hofi

Who will one up this Shabbat table? Several years ago, when a group of Israelis prepared the largest hummus bowl ever weighing in at 8992.5 pounds, chefs from Lebanon united and created an even bigger serving of the chickpea dish weighing 23,042 pounds.

While it is highly unlikely that Bnei Brak’s record would ever be challenged by anyone from Lebanon, maybe someone in Brooklyn would like to take on the challenge? If so, please save us a seat at the table!


Robert Sietsema's New York Taste Buds

By Anne Cohen

Courtesy of Robert Sietsema
Masked Man: One of the last anonymous critics, Robert Sietsema poses here in his signature quirky mask.

If you’re a person who spends their weekends schlepping to the outer-boroughs for a taste of New York’s best ethnic cuisines, or, if you are a dedicated reader of the Village Voice, or just a person who likes to eat in the city, you owe a debt to Robert Sietsema.

Sietsema’s taste buds have been New York’s flavor barometer for over 25 years. Starting with “Down the Hatch,” followed by a stint at Gourmet and finally serving as the Village Voice’s restaurant critic for 20 years, he has chronicled the city’s food scene longer than almost any other critic, uncovering hidden gems and whole-in-the-wall ethnic restaurants one review at a time.

His memorable tenure at the Voice came to an abrupt end when Sietsema was somewhat unceremoniously fired in May, along with gossip columnist Michael Musto, and theater critic Michael Feingold.

Fortunately for readers, Sietsema has found a new home at EaterNY, covering what he calls his “natural beat.” As a regular columnist, he’ll continue his pursuit of the perfect dish through a series of “micro-neighborhood dining guides.”

The Forward’s Anne Cohen recently spoke with Sietsema about his take on the future of food journalism, his favorite New York deli, and what he really thinks of gefilte fish.

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The Best Dishes in Israel Under $13

By Haaretz/Rotem Maimon

wikicommons
Unexpected Cheap Eats: In Israel, it’s not just falafel that comes cheaply. Ethiopian injera and malaysian food are two other delicious and inexpensive options.

That’s it, we’re out of cash. Call it a crisis or a temporary slowdown, most of us have less money in our wallets, but still feel the need to indulge once in a while. Our challenge this week was to find restaurants offering worthwhile dishes that would also give us change from 50 shekels. The conditions: No deals, no fast food, no cafes, and no business meals - only fun places that don’t cost an arm and a leg.

The Malaysian dish at Giraffe (NIS 49)

Value for money is a substantial part of the Giraffe chain’s DNA. Whether it is Tel Aviv, Haifa, Rishon Letzion, Herzliya or Eilat, one can be sure that the dishes are always large and fairly priced. The hot Philippine dish, the chicken in lemon and the pad thai were all fair candidates, but we chose the Malaysian dish. For one thing, you simply cannot stuff anything more into your mouth after you finished. The dish can be altered for vegetarians and those who prefer not to mix milk and meat.

Tip: The dish costs NIS 10 less when ordered as take-away.

Double Injra Beintu at Tanat, (NIS 42)

Vegans, arise! Tanat is the best vegan restaurant you’ve never heard of. Tanat offers an introduction to Ethiopian cooking, with a series of appetizing, cheap and healthy dishes. Injra Beintu includes injra bread with three dishes: lentils, siah (Ethiopian humus) and beet leaves, with a salad. Those already familiar with Ethiopian cooking could try the mushroom injra.

Tip: a single Injra dish costs NIS 35; adding one of the cheap shakes – such as avocado – costs only NIS 15 more.

Tanat, Chlenov 27, Tel Aviv


Kosher Traveler: Inside the West Bank

By Abra Cohen

David Shire

The West Bank is often in the limelight making political headlines, not gastronomic ones. But hidden beneath political and religious agendas, are a small group of artisans turning out various boutique edibles.

Located only half an hour outside of Jerusalem, the Gush (short for Gush Etzion: settlement areas that were built after the 1967 war) is host to vineyards and endless fields of olive trees. Members of local communities are utilizing ingredients that are grown nearby to create and sell organic wine, small-batch ales and brined goods. Small coffee roasters are opening as are companies making hand-crafted chocolates.

While accessible by bus, the best way to get into Gush Etzion is with a car. You can easily eat your way through the “block.” Try to arrange ahead of time, as many of these businesses are small and require reservations.

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Foraging Israel: Lamb-Stuffed Mulberry Leaves

By Miriam Kresh

Miriam Kresh

In a dusty field near my apartment in Petach Tikvah, a huge, old mulberry tree stands alone. During a few weeks in May, its leafy branches hide kilos of those delicate deep-purple berries. If I get out early enough in the morning, I can garner some of that fruit, but I’m competing with other pickers: birds, kids on their way to school, and the Arab construction workers who sleep on site and wake up with the sunrise. Every block in my neighborhood is graced with one or two large, shady mulberry trees. They were likely planted here for the love of their shade and fruit by members of a local moshav in the late 1880s.

Mulberries in Israel go back as far as the mid-1500s, when Joseph Nasi, Jewish diplomat and administrator under the Ottoman rule, tried to re-establish Tiberias and nearby villages as an independent state for refugee Jews from the Papal States (Italy and southern France). Silk was an important luxury product, so mulberry trees were planted there to feed silkworms for the hopeful new industry. The plan failed when the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Venice warred, but the mulberry trees remained, scattering their descendants far over Israel.

Safed also has ancient mulberry trees, and I have harvested their fruit many times when I lived there. I would dry whole berries in the shade, crush some to ferment the juice for wine, and take part of the harvest to cook with sugar for jam. But what I didn’t know is that the leaves are edible too.

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Is The World Ready to 'UnDiet'?

By Elizabeth Traison

courtesy of Meghan Telpner

We’ve all been told never to judge a book by its cover, but in the case of Meghan Telpner’s recently released book, “UnDiet”, the hot pink, sans-serif cover tells you exactly what you’re getting into. If, at first glance, you couldn’t tell what the ensuing 200-plus pages hold, the rainbow-colored claim to be “the shiny, happy, vibrant, gluten-free, plant-based way to look better, feel better, and live better each and every day” is stated out right on the cover.

If you are a middle-aged female looking for a shiny, happy book with agave-coated nutritional facts and obtuse sexual references to feel better than “UnDiet” is absolutely the book for you. If, like me, words like “awesometown” and “barfiest” make you want to stand on a soap box with nothing but a dictionary, then perhaps we aren’t quite ready for the “UnDiet” challenge yet.

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Assaf Granit Is Changing Jerusalem's Food Scene

By Devra Ferst

Liz Clayman

On every plane that touches down in Israel, there is inevitably a group of people who head straight to the Kotel — no matter the hour, they feel they haven’t arrived in the Holy Land until they pray at the wall. I save the Kotel for later and make a pilgrimage straight to Shuk Machaneh Yehudah, Jerusalem’s longstanding market. Here, small wooden stalls are piled high daily with fresh produce grown around the country, fluffy pitas are turned straight from the ovens into bags for shoppers and the halvah men entice shoppers with samples from their endless mountains of the sweet sesame snack. Members of diverse communities converge here, particularly in the hours before Shabbat. It’s one of the divided city’s few points of common ground. It is my Jerusalem.

When I’m away from Israel, I follow the news of the shuk as closely as an outsider can. And even 6,000 miles away, the name Assaf Granit and his restaurant Machneyuda (which shares the same name as the market, but a different spelling) has rung loud and clear.

In 2009 Granit and his partners Uri Navon and Yossi Elad opened a restaurant located just beyond the edge of the market inspired by this bustling place. The chefs change the menu twice a day — an impressive feat for any restaurant, but even more notable in a country where the import of ingredients from other corners of the earth is often challenging.

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Mixing Bowl: Kosher Picnic Recipes

By Devra Ferst

Thinkstock

Check out Gil Marks’s new column on cakes over at the History Kitchen. His strawberry shortcake makes a perfect summer Shabbat dessert. [History Kitchen]

10 Great kosher picnic dishes to know. [Food 52]

Headed to London soon? Check out the city’s newest kosher restaurant. [Yeah That’s Kosher]

Solo Restaurant is going dairy! Get read for pizzas galore. [Yeah That’s Kosher]

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Meet the Last Jewish Waiter — at Katz's Deli

By Maia Efrem

Baldomero Fernandez

When David Manheim first started working at Katz’s Deli, he was a teenager promoting their delivery service and was paid in sandwiches. When he came back five years ago as a waiter, he knew he wouldn’t leave until he made something to showcase the soul of Katz’s, as he pegs it: “The Empire State Building of the Lower East Side.” This deli will celebrate its 125th year serving up some of the best pastrami in town on June 2nd, and it’s only fitting that it serves some old school Jewish humor with the slaw.

A Manhattan native, Manheim, 38, first got the attention of the food, and Jewish, world in late April when he launched his blog The Last Jewish Waiter with an accompanying hilarious video of the shenanigans behind the counter (where all the magic happens) and his often welcome abuse of Katz’s patrons. Deciding to film the deli, Manheim eschewed the reality show mold, which he feels is often fake and opted for a behind-the-scenes feel. “I’ve always been interested in shows that show the process and aren’t pretentious. That’s my vision for this, it should be just like The Muppet Show, a show about making a show yet shows the imperfections of a team.”

Growing up in Chelsea to parents who are both teachers, Manheim was on two different cable shows when he was younger and knew he was comfortable on camera. After a brief stint in Los Angeles, Manheim returned to New York and started waiting tables at Katz’s, which he hopes is only a stepping-stone to the next phase of his career. “I love talking to people and I love it when it’s good,” Manheim told the Forward. “I just have a problem with authority and I don’t particularly like to be told what to do, which is funny for a waiter.”

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Happy 125th Birthday, Katz's Deli! To Many More Years of Pastrami

By Susan Armitage

Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

Since Katz’s, that holiest of holy sites for pastrami worship, opened in 1888, Yiddish theatre actors, immigrants from countless countries, politicians, movie stars and grandparents visiting from Florida have come to fress on the deli’s superb sandwiches. The Jewish food landmark turns 125 this weekend, so to celebrate, we took a walk down memory lane, from the early days before the deli was called Katz’s to Meg Ryan’s “Oh, my God” moment to the deli’s first-ever Passover Seder this year.

This weekend, Katz’s kicks off its birthday party, hosting a Shabbat dinner that melds deli with another long-standing Jewish tradition: Chinese food. Chef Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese, who recently won a James Beard Award, will put his own spin on Katz’s classics. He’ll be joined by Bill Telepan of Telepan, Joey Campanaro of The Little Owl and pastry chef Sarabeth Levine.

The anniversary celebration continues with live music at Katz’s this Saturday and a pastrami-eating competition on Sunday. Too much of a good thing? Never! Ess gesunt!

Share your favorite Katz’s Deli memory with us in the comments!

(To scroll through the years of Katz’s, click on the right of the images below.)

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Michael Solomonov Has Left the (Kosher) Building

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Michael Persico

Well, that didn’t last long. We’re talking about star chef Michael Solomonov’s tenure at Citron and Rose, the hot new kosher fine dining establishment in suburban Philadelphia. Only half a year after opening the restaurant with owner David Magerman, Solmonov, known for his innovative Israeli-inspired fare at Zahav, and his partner Steve Cook are pulling out —and they are taking their chef de cuisine, Yehuda Sichel, with them.

To fill Sichel’s spot, Magerman has brought in Philadelphia native Karen Nicolas, the former executive chef at Washington, D.C.’s Equinox. One of Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Chefs for 2012, Nicolas has some serious cooking chops, but she’s never cooked kosher food — or Jewish cuisine for that matter.

Nicolas is still practicing the pronunciation of classic Jewish dishes and learning what cuts of meat are kosher, but she has ambitious plans for the Citron and Rose menu. Her goal is to make traditional European Jewish food as modern as possible. “Not many people have really done this with Eastern European cuisine on a high end level,” she said. “I plan on modernizing it and making it more seasonable.”

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Best Kosher Hot Dog? Chicago's Romanian!

By Jessica Fisher

Flickr/Chris Kiess

Last week, hot dog aficionado Eli Cohn-Wein laid out his eight favorite kosher dogs to grill up this summer. As a dog devotee, I was excited to see which was crowned king. But, as I read through the list, I realized some great franks — including my favorite, Romanian Kosher — are conspicuously absent. I wasn’t the only one who left the list was lacking — one reader started an online petition to include another brand, Jeff’s Gourmet.

I’m here to take an official stand on behalf of the dozens of commenters who share my position: Romanian Kosher Sausage Company’s hot dogs are hands-down the best kosher hot dogs America has ever experienced.

Let’s set a few things straight here. New Yorkers tend to assume that New York and its environs are the kosher Mecca outside of Israel. It’s a fair position, especially since New Yorkers often forget that there is life on the other side of the Hudson, but there is certainly great kosher food to be found elsewhere. Furthermore, Chicago is the sausage capital of the United States; we know what we’re doing when it comes to encased meats.

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Mixing Bowl: Weekend Desserts, Harrods Goes Kosher

By Devra Ferst

Thinkstock

New Israeli food is taking over New York. [New York Magazine]

Planning a swanky wedding in London? Harrods is now catering kosher simchas! [Jewish Chronicle]

Three words: Smores Ice Cream. [Food52]

Incase that doesn’t suit you, here are 20 other desserts, perfect for Memorial Day celebrations. [Serious Eats]

Smithsonian Magazine just released it’s annual food issue. Check out pieces by Michael Pollan, Ruth Reichl and Mimi Sheraton. [Smithsonian Magazine]

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John Kerry Stops To Smell the Shwarma

By Reuters

Getty Images

Secretary of State John Kerry stepped off the diplomatic track on Thursday and onto a West Bank street where he sampled a shawarma sandwich and a pistachio-sprinkled Palestinian sweet.

In a rare gesture for a U.S. secretary of state - but a staple of U.S. political campaigns - Kerry dropped by the Samer Restaurant in the Palestinian city of Ramallah to enjoy typical Middle Eastern fare.

“Man that is good,” Kerry said after biting into his shawarma, a sandwich filled with slivers of meat roasted on a rotating spit, typically wrapped in pita bread and garnished with tomatoes, tahini sauce, hummus and pickled turnips.

The top U.S. diplomat, who is in Israel and the Palestinian territories to try to revive peace talks that collapsed in 2010, then walked across the street to a sweet shop owned by the same man. There he dug into Kunafeh, a cheese pastry soaked in sweet syrup, and sipped coffee.

While U.S. secretaries of state have travelled to the West Bank dozens of times, they seldom step out of their official meetings to sample the local culture. One of Kerry’s aims is to perk up the Palestinian economy, something he may have done in a very small measure by insisting on paying for his food.


The Truth Behind Tnuva

By Jeffrey Cohan

wikimedia

Tnuva, the giant Israeli food company, made headlines this week with an admission that was stunningly candid, if not exactly a revelation.

In documents filed in Jerusalem District Court, Tnuva admitted that the slaughter of farm animals, if exposed to public view, “would horrify most meat-eating consumers.”

It’s one thing for Paul McCartney, the former Beatle, to famously say, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.” McCartney, after all, has become a leading advocate for the compassionate treatment of animals.

But for a supermarket chain, for a business that sells meat, to say something of a similar vein … Well, that’s big news.

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