The Jew And The Carrot

Giving a Fig for Fine Spirits

By Ezra Glinter

Ezra Glinter
Dorit and David Nahmias of Nahmias et Fils

I’ve got an aunt who likes to tell me that being a movie critic must be the best job in the world. You get to watch movies all day and write about them. What could be better, right? Real life film critics might add a few caveats, like the low pay, job insecurity, fierce competition, long hours and constant struggle against obsolescence, but hey, point taken. There are perks.

The same goes for most cultural journalists. Besides doing what we love, there are usually little extras that come with the job — review copies, advance screenings, press showings, and so on. It’s all pretty swell. But when it comes to freebies, one thing is certain: There’s no beat like the booze beat.

That’s something I learned when an invitation landed in my inbox to attend the winner’s circle of the New York International Spirits Competition on December 3 at the tony 3 West Club in Midtown Manhattan, a venue that happens to be in the same building as the Women’s National Republican Club. It was an especially pleasant surprise because, though I’ve done a couple of liquor-related pieces before, it’s not a regular subject of mine — yet.

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Mixing Bowl: Hanukkah Edition

By Devra Ferst

Thinkstock

If you’re going to take advice from someone on how to make a proper latke, that person should be Melissa Clark. [New York Times]

Everything you ever wanted to know about hosting a latke party. [Serious Eats]

Latkes goes modernist. [Saveur]

Try them with….brown butter and cinnamon applesauce. [Serious Eats]

Looking to celebrate the holiday of oil without covering your kitchen in it? Here’s a great list of events. [Serious Eats]

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Edible Gifts: Chocolate Covered Salted Caramels

By Katherine Martinelli

Katherine Martinelli

This Hanukkah, give presents from the heart and the kitchen with homemade food gifts. In this series, we’ll present four sweet and savory ideas to spice up your holiday gift giving for everyone on your list.

Homemade candy makes some of the best DIY holiday food gifts. Besides its visual appeal and delicious taste, most candy recipes produce big batches, so you can knock everyone off your list at once. This year I decided to try my hand at salted caramels, which are simultaneously nostalgic and trendy. They’re not difficult to make, but the secret is all in the temperature.

The base of all caramel recipes is essentially the same: butter, sugar, cream, and corn syrup. Of course, the kind of butter (salted vs. unsalted), sugar (white vs. brown), and cream (heavy cream, condensed milk, or even crème fraiche) vary wildly, as do the order in which to cook it all.

After a good deal of experimentation, I can tell you that I have a preferred method (see below), but that cooking the ingredients in a totally different order also yields tasty results. For example, you could cook the sugar, water and corn syrup together first before adding the cream and butter.

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Edible Gifts: Infused Oils

By Katherine Martinelli

Katherine Martinelli

The best kind of Hanukkah gifts are those you can make and your friends eat. In this series, we’ll present four sweet and savory ideas to spice up your holiday gift giving for everyone on your list.

While fried foods grace the Hanukkah table, perhaps no gift is more appropriate than oil. Nice olive oil, with its grassy, fruity undertones, makes an excellent present on its own. But to up the ante and personalize the offering, try your hand at infusing the oil first. The possibilities are endless, the presentation visually appealing, and the taste memorable.

Infusing oil is as simple as putting the flavors you want in a bottle along with some decent olive oil. Just let it hang out together for a week or two and you’ve got yourself a special treat worthy of finishing sauces, amping up salads, and drizzling on bread. It makes a great last minute gift because even if it’s not done infusing, you can instruct the recipient to wait to use it to let the flavors develop.

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2012's Best Jewish Cookbooks — Day 2

By Molly Yeh and Ben Harris

From our eight favorite books from the year — one for each night of Hanukkah — we present two below. (Check back every day this week for another two books.) They are all great holiday gifts for the passionate cook in your life or a treat for yourself.

2012’s Best Jewish Cookbooks — Day 1

Meat Smoking 101 for the Deli Fanatic

The Mile End Cookbook: Redefining Jewish Comfort Food From Hash to Hamantaschen
by Noah and Rae Bernamoff
Clarkson Potter, 224 pages, $27.50

For the restaurant that is described by co-owner Noah Bernamoff as a “Montreal greatest-hits album,” its cookbook reads like an intimate liner jacket to your favorite new band’s cover record, where Jewish delicatessen classics are covered by twenty-somethings with a knack for all things local and homemade. A first skim, with sightings of DIY salami and Montreal smoked meat, may intimidate even an experienced chef, but Noah and Rae Bernamoff’s humble-beginnings narrative is relatable enough to encourage even a culinary novice to take a stab at some of the more complicated recipes.

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Turning the Tables: The Miracle of Latkes

By Rabbi Noah Tzvi Farkas

wikimedia

As we fire up our Hanukkiot, our thoughts turn to miracles and their place in our lives. After all, the story of Hanukkah includes the miracle of the Maccabees’ victory *and( the oil, which lasted eight days. With those miraculous events, we come to the lesser (but no less relevant) miracle of the potato latke.

This little potato pancake has become the central food of the holiday. According to some, we eat latkes because they are fried in oil, symbolizing the miracle of the oil that lasted eight days. But what else can we learn from the little latke? Is there a way to connect it to the holiday beyond the fact that it’s fried? With these questions in mind, here are a few tips for considering the miracles at our tables:

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Edible Gifts: Healthy Recipes in a Jar

By Katherine Martinelli

Katherine Martinelli

The best kind of Hanukkah gifts are those you can make and your friends eat. In this series, we’ll present four sweet and savory ideas to spice up your holiday gift giving for everyone on your list.

Holiday food gifts are often sweet, rich, and calorie-laden. While the colder weather calls for comfort food, why not deliver it in the form of a steaming hot, one pot meal? Recipes in a jar — where the dry ingredients are attractively layered in a clear jar — are a fun and creative gift for a food lover. But instead of the usual cookie in a jar, this Hanukkah hit up your pantry and give the gift of homemade three-bean chili or Middle Eastern mujadara.

The premise is simple: Take your favorite grain recipe, separate out the dry ingredients, and layer them in a nice jar, then include a recipe for the recipient. Unlike baked goods or candies, these presents are shelf stable so there’s no pressure to eat them immediately and the recipient will have a hot meal at their fingertips whenever they like.

Bean chili is a perfect contestant for a recipe in a jar — you can use the recipe below, or adapt your favorite. Use any beans you like (though a mix of red kidney beans, white beans, and black beans has a nice effect) and add in a spice mix. This recipe produces a hearty and richly flavored vegan chili that would satisfy vegetarians and meat lovers alike.

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2012's Best Jewish Cookbooks

By Devra Ferst

Nate Lavey

This year my desk has been strewn with cookbooks containing recipes for homemade pastrami, sweet potato and farmer cheese blintzes, German Jewish cakes, Sephardic treasures from the island of Rhodes and delicious dishes to keep one warm during the winter. These cookbooks have called me to the kitchen and many have made appearances both at my dinner table and at the table of the reviewers below. The books have coached us through fermentation experiments, allowed us to travel to Zimbabwe without leaving our kitchens and helped us understand the culinary legacy of Jerusalem’s diverse population.

From our eight favorite books from the year — one for each night of Hanukkah — we present two below. (Check back every day this week for another two books.) They are all great holiday gifts for the passionate cook in your life or a treat for yourself.

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8 Beers for 8 Nights

By Hannah Rubin

Shmaltz Brewing Co.

With dancing rabbis, clowns, and unicorns adorning their bottles, and names like Genesis Ale and Funky Jewbelation, Shmaltz Brewing Company’s He’Brew beer commands the attention of the liquor store browser — myself included.

The little-engine-that-could brewing company has made big waves over the past 16 years. Starting as an inside joke between Southern Californian friends, the brewing company, which celebrates “delicious beer and delicious shtick,” now has products on the shelves of 31 states. And its beer, brewed in Saratoga Springs, has won worldwide acclaim.

And so, I gathered some fellow beer connoisseurs and foodies in order to judge how good this He’brew beer actually was. Lucky for us, Shmaltz’s Holiday Gift Pack just hit store shelves, and includes eight diverse varieties of their wildly different craft brews.

The results? Delight. These brews are fun, distinctive, flavorful, clever and generally enjoyable to drink. The packs are expensive, from $25 to $30 depending on the store, but worth it. And so, with the opinions and insights of my overly opinionated sensitively-beer-tongued-friends, I provide you with a guide for enjoying each beer to its fullest flavor potential.

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Edible Gifts: Gourmet S'mores

By Katherine Martinelli

Katherine Martinelli

The best kind of Hanukkah gifts are those you can make and your friends eat. In this series, we’ll present four sweet and savory ideas to spice up your holiday gift giving for everyone on your list.

Every holiday season, I don an apron and crank out huge batches of truffles, granola, chocolate bark and other edible treats as gifts. Besides the fact that homemade presents are a boon for my budget, I also like that they have a special, personal touch. I try something new each year and last year’s edible DIY project took the cake (err, cookie): Homemade marshmallows and graham crackers, along with a piece of nice chocolate.

If you’re anything like me, then the mere thought of homemade marshmallows knocks your socks off. Before seeing the recipe in Karen Solomon’s “Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It”, I had only vague notions that marshmallows came from anywhere besides a plastic bag in the grocery store. But, like so many things, homemade marshmallows are a game changer.

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France's McD's Tries Out Bagel Burgers — Yuck!

By Renee Ghert-Zand

McDonald's France

For a bagel purist, the thought of a bagel burger is far from appetizing. Cream cheese, lox, fried eggs, and sometimes deli meat belong between two halves of a sliced bagel—but not a ground beef patty.

But if McDonald’s were to ever introduce a bagel burger, it would have to do so in New York, home of the world’s best bagel — right? Wrong. The fast food giant has debuted its bagel burger in France, home of the baguette and croissant, not the Jewish roll with the hole.

To add insult to injury, one of the three varieties of “Bagel Stories” they’re offering at McDo (as McDonald’s is popularly known in France) involves slices of — gasp! — bacon sandwiched somewhere between the two bagel halves.

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An Underground Food Culture Emerges in Jerusalem

By Anabelle Harari

Anabelle Harari

“Good coffee” in Jerusalem. “It’s sort of a misnomer,” says Jerusalem resident and former barista Emunah Weisberg “People think Israel has a great coffee culture because Israelis are always sitting in cafes. But people are actually just drinking Nescafe and poorly pulled shots of espresso.”

The Wisconsin native launched At Home Café, a weekly pop-up café that she runs outside of her home in the funky Jerusalem neighborhood Nachlaot, after enduring two years without quality coffee since moving from the U.S.

The area, which is located next to the city’s Mahaneh Yehudah market and is known for its eclectic houses filled with artists and students, has become host to a vibrant underground food scene lately.

From pop-up cafes, microbreweries and a communal living room — Nachlaot is shaping up to be a microcosm of artisan foodies, bridging the gap between good food and community. Like Weisberg, many of these businesses were founded by individuals who simply wanted to provide quality products that they couldn’t find themselves.

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Shiva for the Stage Deli

By David Sax

Flickr: diana.shumate

After 75 years in business, New York’s Stage Delicatessen announced its closure today. For a deli world already used to deaths and disappearances, having seen thousands of landmarks wiped clean from our palate over the past decades, the end of the Stage plunges deep into the heart of deli lovers. The magnitude of its loss is incalculable. The significance is simply staggering.

Oh sure, in her later years she was easily dismissed as tired, failing, cranky, and limping along. Just a mere hint of her former greatness remained visible through the accumulated knickknacks and tchotchkes, and her telltale shtick. Once the talk of the town, now just seemed warmed over and rehashed for the tourist throngs, like a day old slice of salami repurposed into an omelet. They’ll say it hadn’t been the same for years, or even decades, and that her time was past, but they know in their hearts that even at this age, she was taken from us too soon.

Yes, there were older delicatessens, and bigger delicatessens, and, many will argue, better delicatessens than the Stage in its most recent incarnation. But there are few Jewish delis in America that were as influential to the evolution of the deli’s culture than the Stage. It was the deli that many others took their cues from, the deli that made the food famous, the place that Americanized the Jewish delicatessen.

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Mixing Bowl: Mourning Stage Deli; Hanukkah News

By Devra Ferst

While we’re mourning the loss of the landmark Stage Deli, another deli is in trouble. Sarge’s experienced a serious fire this week but hopes to reopen. [Grub Street

New York is hosting the most bad ass latke throwdown there is. Serious Eats has some free tickets to win! [Serious Eats

Eight oil-fried gourmet foods for Hanukkah including: Panko latkes, Sweet potato parsnip latkes with feta and leeks, not to mention zeppole. YUM! [Food52]

Kutsher’s is serving eight different latkes for eight nights of Hanukkah. Offerings include pastrami smoked duck, pear butter, and sour cherry latkes” as well as a Peking duck, cucumber, scallion, and sesame hoisin variety on the last night. [Grub Street]


After 75 Years, Stage Deli Serves Its Final Sandwich

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Flickr: diana.shumate

“The loss is unfathomable,” said “Save The Deli” author David Sax. He was despairing over the closure of New York’s famed Stage Deli, which happened last night at midnight.

The 75-year-old Midtown landmark located just a couple of blocks from Carnegie Hall (and from its rival, the Carnegie Deli) still has its website — with tantalizing photos of overstuffed pastrami sandwiches, crunchy pickles, tangy coleslaw, and creamy cheesecakes — up, but now the food is only for looking at, not tasting. Gone are the sandwiches that gustatorily honored celebrity customers like Mel Brooks, Larry David, Katie Couric, Howie Mandel, Al Rocker, Cindy Adams and Dolly Parton.

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Kugel for the Soul: Recipes for Health

By Avery Robinson

Avery Robinson

“I beg to differ…what you have made is NOT a kugel.”

This is the opening line to a comment by Jezzie in Scottsdale, AZ in a recent New York Times article, named “Kugel Challenge.” What started out as simple question to replicate a quinoa kugel featured at a dinner has turned into one of the greatest comment battles about Jewish food in a while (read: since the annual High Holiday brisket and matzo ball soup discussions).

Martha Rose Shulman, of the “Recipes for Health” column of the Times offered five recipes for healthy, alternative grain kugels for this wary reader. Naturally, “healthy” and “alternative grains” have struck some serious cords within the Jewish (or otherwise) kugel-consuming communities out there.

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Pigeon Matzo Balls in Bay Area

By Andy Altman-Ohr

Courtesy of Commonwealth
Holiday Dinner: Chef Jason Fox,of Commonwealth in San Francisco will be preparing a five course Jewish holiday meal on December 5th.

This is how they’re doing matzo ball soup in San Francisco this year:

First, get an overnight delivery of wood pigeon flown in fresh from Scotland. Actually, first make sure the birds were shot in the wild. With tiny buckshot pellets. Then slow poach the breast meat in a sweet, salty brine. Give it a crust of black pepper and coriander.

For the broth, make it using the pigeon bones, then reduce it by half to make it oh-so rich. As for the matzo balls, construct them with homemade matzo, fresh local eggs, toasted caraway seeds and a touch of soda water.

And there you have it: “Wood pigeon pastrami with caraway dumplings in a double consommé” — or, as chef David Bazirgan calls it, “my take on matzo ball soup.”

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Kitchen Chat With Chef Michael Solomonov

By Dylan Gottlieb

Michael Persico

This blog post is cross-posted from What Is Your Food Worth.

Ask anyone who’s the biggest macher on Philadelphia’s Jewish restaurant scene, and the answer is invariably the same: Chef Michael Solomonov.

Chef Solomonov is best known for Zahav, his shrine to modern Israeli cooking. But in recent years, he’s added Percy Street Barbecue and the Federal Donuts chicken-and-doughnut joints to his growing restaurant empire.

In early November, Chef Solomonov threw the doors open on his newest venture, the Main Line glatt kosher restaurant and catering company Citron and Rose. He’s re-imagining some kosher classics (chopped liver paired with sour cherry, chocolate and pumpernickel; cholent with crispy duck breast standing in for the classic beef or chicken) and even serving a few kosher cocktails (the Lower East Side, made with gin, cucumber and dill; the Reb Roy, with Manischewitz replacing the Rob Roy’s vermouth). Here’s a look at the complete dinner menu.

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Polish Court Outlaws Kosher Slaughter

By JTA

A constitutional court in Poland reportedly has ruled against allowing Jewish and Muslim ritual slaughter in the country.

The Warsaw court’s ruling, which was made known on Tuesday, said the government had acted unconstitutionally when it exempted Jews and Muslims from stunning animals before slaughtering them as their faiths require, according to Piotr Kadlcik, president of the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland.

Kadlcik told JTA that in addition to the special exception announced by the Polish Ministry of Agriculture, Jewish ritual slaughter, or shechitah, is permissible under the 1997 Law on Regulating the Relations between the State and the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland.

“It appears there is a legal contradiction here and it is too early to tell what this means,” he said. “We are seeking legal advice on this right now.”

Poland has approximately 6,000 Jews, according to the European Jewish Congress.

According to Kadlcik, Poland has no kosher slaughterhouses but locally slaughtered kosher meat is nonetheless served at kosher cantines across the country.

“I’m not sure we will be able to keep serving meat there,” he said.


LA's Pickling Maven

By Michael Kaminer

Courtesy of Brassica and Brine

Brassica and Brine isn’t a maritime law firm. But the Los Angeles company, which specializes in fermented vegetables, is judicious about preserving vegetables. Using produce sourced from local organic farmers, founder Uri Laio uses ancient, labor-intensive techniques to create kimchi, kraut, kombucha, pickled root veggies, and more. He’s earned a cult following in LA for an artisan spin on “lacto-fermentation”, a technique that supercharges both flavor and nutritional content. Laio, an Orthodox Jew, swapped law school for craft food production in 2010 after a stint on the Isabella Freedman Center’s Adamah Farm in Falls Village, CT. Adamah’s aim is to “cultivate the soil and the soul”; Laio’s own mission hews close to that ethos. “One of my goals in creating Brassica and Brine is to bring the most healing foods on earth into the Jewish community,” Laio, 29, told the Forward from Los Angeles. Brassica and Brine products, with their distinctive retro-cool labels, are available at LA foodie haven Farmshop, megamarket Western Kosher, and at local farmers’ markets. His full range is also available at Brassicaandbrine.com. Brassica, by the way, is the Latin name for cabbage.

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