This week’s annual Sommelier Wine Expo in Tel Aviv brought dozens of Israeli wineries under one roof at the Nokia Arena. From tiny boutique producers to large companies, and from the northern Golan Heights to the Southern Negev, the mostly Israeli wines spanned a range of styles, offering something for everyone. After somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 wines were sampled, it was found that these five wines represent that spectrum, while standing out in the crowd with a distinctive product. All five are kosher, and most should be available in the United States.
Galil Mountain 2008 Avivim
One of only four white wines from Galil Mountain winery, Avivim is a blend of 25% Chardonnay and 75% Viognier. Although their straight Viognier is a pleasant wine, this blend offers more complexity in each sip. Viognier, which is a grape originally from the Rhone Valley in France, is a white wine varietal that has become quite popular in Israel. Aged for nine months in new French oak barrels, the dry white is golden in color and has notes of tropical fruits and honey with nice acidity. A joint venture between Kibbutz Yiron and the large Golan Heights Winery, Galil Mountain Winery has been producing wine in the Upper Galilee since 2000. It produces 1,000,000 bottles annually, only 10% of which are white. Galil wines are widely available in the United States.
Pair with: Fish or pasta.
With the next Presidential election a year away and the new Farm Bill scheduled to move through Congress in 2012, it is time to take stock of President Obama’s record on food policy, and to see what the Republican presidential candidates have said and done so far on the subject.
We are well passed those heady days for food progressives when Michael Pollan wrote an open letter to the “Farmer in Chief” (actually, the President Elect) about the interconnectedness of the environment, healthcare costs and the oil and food industries. It seems ages ago that Alice Waters put forth names of candidates for Secretary of Agriculture, and Ruth Reichel made suggestions for the White House chef. The excitement around Michelle Obama’s planting the White House’s organic vegetable garden with local school children is by now a long-forgotten memory. (Though she has a cookbook coming out soon.)
So how has the President lived up to expectations in the eyes of those who care about food policy, and what can we expect from the competition? Here’s what they have had to say about food so far.
I recently came upon a thoughtful piece from Dr. Janet Chrzan of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania and Founder of the Oakmont Farmers’ Market in Havertown, PA. Chrzan wrote about an experiment she did (as a mental break from her academic writing) about the cost of food. While trolling through old advertisements on the “Philadelphia Inquirer”, she found one from 1951 advertising Thanksgiving turkeys for 73 cents per pound. That caught her eye because it’s so much more than what they cost nowadays at the supermarkets. She assumed it was used as a “loss leader,” a retail term that depicts merchandise used to entice shoppers to step into the store and at a price that may not actually reflect the costs. She recalled that the price last Thanksgiving was 39 cents per pound, which she remembers because she tracks loss leaders, comparing them with the prices at the farmers’ market she runs.
Using an online calculator, she translated the old advertised price into 2011 dollars, arriving at $6.40 per pound, based on inflation of 3.68%. Conversely, 39 cents in 2011 translates into 4 cents per pound in 1951. “Wow,” she wrote, “that demonstrates just how much industrial farming has decreased the cost of food over 60 years…but it also puts into perspective the value of the turkeys that my turkey farmer produces, using methods similar to the methods used in 1951. He charges $3.50 a pound for pastured hormone-and-antibiotic — free birds, almost half the comparable price of the loss leader of 1951. And the turkeys taste really good.”
Chocolate balls are as iconic as falafel in Israel, yet most tourists have never heard of them. After all, nobody is hawking these colorful confections on street corners. Kadorei shokolad, as they are known in Hebrew, are part of the quintessential Israeli childhood but they’re rarely seen outside the home. They might be ignored by culinary aficionados but insiders know that the very best are made by enthusiastic kindergarteners.
It’s a one bowl wonder, made with cocoa, sugar, milk and biscuits, all mashed together into a dark brown goop. Preschoolers are usually relegated to bashing the biscuits with a rolling pin, a job they do with gleeful abandon. Little lopsided balls of the mixture are rolled into shredded coconut or colored candies and placed on a serving tray to set or popped straight into their mouths. It’s a plebian version of Belgium truffles.
Once erroneously thought to be a swampland, the university town of Ann Arbor, MI and surrounding Washtenaw County are actually ideal land for farm stock. Many German Jewish immigrants settled in the small town and became farmers, peddlers, fur and skin traders, and eventually business owners, many of which were grocers. Over 170 years after European Jews brought their families, foods, and traditions to Michigan, the Jewish duo and modern snack makers behind WholeHeart Group are bringing a unique vision to life in and around Ann Arbor. With underlying Jewish values and personal histories woven throughout their professional and personal endeavors, they are striving to create healthy, prepared foods and use all profits to help under-served populations gain the skills needed to succeed in the healthy food business.
WholeHeart’s Patti Aaron and Dena Jaffee are showing Ann Arbor and surrounding areas what happens when a love for cooking and helping others permeates food. The quality of ingredients in products like their Cherry Crunch granola speaks for itself; with Michigan-grown oats, ground flax, and dried cherries, the taste is hard to resist. Each ingredient tells a story too: Hungarian Jews once harvested an abundance of sour cherries during the fall months, which is linked to their prevalence in Shavuot dishes like sour cherry pies and soups. WholeHeart’s commitment to the small producer also mirrors days of old in Jewish Ann Arbor as peddlers and tradesmen sold directly to consumers and through select food merchants.
Jewish cook offs are sprouting around the country. But the mother of all of them is Manischewitz’s cook off. See if your recipe has what it takes to win the national competition. [Manischewitz]
Many Jews remember the day Oreos went kosher and Hydrox went out the window. But should we really be eating the sandwich cookie? [Tablet]
Costa Rica is known for its lush vegetation, beaches, exotic animals and rain forests. Located close to the equator, it’s tropical climate has plenty to offer for the adventurous traveler and the laid-back beach goer. Both the Pacific and Caribbean coastlines have spectacular beaches with great places to scuba, snorkel relax or take in the wildlife. In between the beaches, you will find mountains, volcanoes and pristine national parks all around the country. Costa Rican cuisine is fairly basic; black beans and rice are usually a part of any meal. You can easily stick to a vegetarian diet by adding salads, which are often a decent size and a typical fresh white cheese. The country also prides itself on grass fed cattle and fresh fish.
Like other Central and South American countries, Costa Rica is predominantly Catholic. However, there are pockets of Jewish communities throughout the country totally about 3,000, and some towns draw a sizable amount of Israelis tourists. Much of the country’s Jewish population are descendants of Jews that fled Europe in the 1920’s and ’30’s. While Jews make up a very small percentage of Costa Rica’s population, the current vice president, Luis Liberman and legislator Luis Fishman are both Jewish.
Imagine sitting down to an intimate community dinner with a smattering of neighbors and fellow city dwellers. The host directs you to a buffet table of simple spaghetti and offers you a can of soda. Perhaps you think nothing of the no-frills meal you’re about to enjoy, until you notice that your neighbor Jill, who works in finance, and is seated at the small table next to you, receives a steaming, full plate piled with lean meat, mashed potatoes, and vegetables and a healthful sparkling drink. Meanwhile the family of four that lives down the street, and whose head of household you know has recently been laid off from her job at the post office, has been ushered to a third table in the corner and is being served only small portions of white bread and water.
As your face boils at the indignity, and your pasta starts to leave a bitter taste in your mouth, you might question who would host such an uncomfortable and poorly distributed meal — and why.
I spent most of freshman year at Harvard threatening to transfer. I quickly realized college wasn’t going to be a delightful blur of Solo cups, but rather, a lot of solitary lunches. I was tired of the awkward icebreakers, and all I desired was the comfort and familiarity I had enjoyed at home.
Luckily, I discovered a reprieve from my loneliness once a week at Hillel Shabbats. While my family is not shomer Shabbat, we lit candles, said blessings, and enjoyed a meal to celebrate the end of a stressful week. I never expected to attend Hillel Shabbats regularly, but they allowed me to relive a ritual from home. As a result, they became a core part of my social life.
The quintessential Shabbat experience at college was the tisch, which literally means “table” in Yiddish. Traditionally, a tischinvolves Jews gathering around their Rebbe at a table, hearing sermons, singing songs and enjoying food. At our tisches, we strayed far from that tradition. Men and women sat together, and in addition to schnapps, there was Smirnoff Ice. It was an odd combination of traditional spiritual joy and collegial spirits-induced boisterousness.
The owner of a kosher restaurant in Manhattan’s Financial District is blaming Occupy Wall Street for his decision to fire almost a quarter of his staff.
The restaurateur made the comments after dismissing 21 workers, and told the website the entire business could go under if the protests don’t end within three weeks. Police barricades have diverted a large amount of foot traffic away from Wall Street since the demonstrations began six weeks ago, and the restaurant has also faced diminished business — a 30% drop, reportedly — due to marches, closed subway entrances and checkpoints.
The oldest bialys store in the country is still on a roll. The sweet smell of bread will continue to waft down Coney Island Avenue, as a landmark kosher bakery in Brooklyn gets a whole new lease on life.
Coney Island Bialys and Bagels, teetered and fell in September, after Steve Ross, whose grandfather began the company 91 years ago, called it quits. In a twist of history — and, one might say, a twist of bread as well — the store has been saved by two Muslim businessmen who leased the space and started a corporation under almost the identical name. They’ll keep the kosher shop’s offerings the same, preserving its history.
“It’s the same bialys…We are using the same recipe, too,” said Peerzada Shah, who now co-owns the business with Zafaryab Ali, who worked with Ross at the bialy shop for a decade. “We want to keep the place on track,” said Shah. And since re-opening in September, customers have regularly told the pair, “We appreciate that you’re keeping the store open,” according to Shah.
The “Knishening,” as chef and founder Noah Wildman coined it, was set to take place at this past Saturday’s Hester Street Fair, where his company, Knishery NYC, would make its debut. Toiling in his home kitchen, Wildman had produced 500 knishes in flavors ranging from the classic potato to a more modern and gourmet mushroom quinoa and dessert flavors. But what’s a cook to do with piles of his product when a freak snowstorm forces the organizers to cancel the fair? Why, bring it to the people, of course.
After getting permission from the Lower East Side’s cooperative village to put a table full of his product in a local park, Wildman used social media to invite his fellow knish lovers and friends to stop by for a sample. Lower East Siders moaned with pleasure, saying “God this is so good,” one said, while scurrying back to the tins for seconds and thirds. Wildman proudly stood by as an estimated 175 people came and consumed his fresh-baked knishes.
This afternoon I picked up a radish and decided to taste it. When I rubbed it on my pants to take the soil off the spot I planned on biting, it came out this stunning crimson color that stopped me in my tracks. I took a second to imagine everything in my frame of vision as a photograph and marveled at the beauty of my pink smudge against the dull orb in my cracked, earth-caked hands, and then I made a blessing over it and took a bite. This is farm life — seeing God in a radish! Yes, it so happens that most of the people around me are devout Christians, and the Jews around here eat together at the Crab House on Rosh HaShanah morning, but in a very important way I’m living a more meaningful Jewish life than ever before.
So why do I sound apologetic and defensive?
In his recent article “A Jewish Farmer Grows in America” Ben Harris described the process that led him from the life of a journalist to the life of a farmer, a journey that resonates strongly with my own, and I daresay with those of many other young farmers as well. But one thing Harris does not discuss in his article is how he was received by those who populate the life he left behind. I don’t know the details of his experience, but I can speak for myself and share my own inside story.
With the end of the High Holidays, autumn is in full swing here in Israel. Everyone feels it — from produce lovers, like myself, bidding goodbye to the delectable sweetness of the summer’s watermelons and mangoes, to the country’s farmers harvesting this season’s new delights and preparing for the coming rains.
You don’t need to pay attention to the weather to figure out that autumn is upon is; all you need to do is look out the car window.
Enormous date palms, lining the streets and highways of the country, have grown heavy with ripening dates, their fronds sagging under the weight of the bright red, golden, and tan fruit. Dates are eaten both fresh, when they are crunchy and smooth, or dried, when they are enjoyed soft, sticky, and sweet as candy.
Running a landmark Jewish deli isn’t easy, especially when you hear a rumor that Jack Nicholson might show up.
That’s the premise behind “Family Pickle,” a new reality TV show that launched this week on the RLTV cable channel.
Filmed at the Carnegie Deli in midtown Manhattan, the series follows the trials and tribulations of the restaurant’s owners, second-generation proprietor Marian Levine and her husband, Sandy. Operating on what RLTV describes as “equal parts love, laughter, and loudness,” the Levines work alongside their kids to maintain the 74-year-old family business, where challenges include a food delivery that gets delayed on its way to Las Vegas, and a rumor that the “Chinatown” star might show up for a nosh.
Matt Rees takes a very close look at Ariel Sharon’s eating habits and what they meant. [Salon]
Where can you get great shakshuka in New York City? Lauren Shockey dishes on the places. [Village Voice]
Josh Ozersky and Mark Bittman duke it out on the issue of industrial food. [Time]
The end is near for H&H. The bagel plant now faces eviction. [Eater]
Is your latke recipe the best? Put it to the test at the Edible Manhattan and Great Performances contest. [Edible Blog]
Come November 15, New Yorkers need not pile into the upstate-circa-1950s-bound DeLorean to experience the hospitality and family atmosphere of Kutsher’s Hotel & Country Club — a classic of the Borscht Belt. With the opening date of Kutsher’s Tribeca fast approaching, the buzz is mounting, and it’s grabbing the attention of city dwellers that hold fond memories of vacationing in the Catskills. Though Jewish delis and appetizing shops like Mile End and Shelsky’s, and even the quickly flopped Octavia’s Porch have helped put Jewish food back on the New York foodie map, members of the Borscht Belt golden era seem to bare the most excitement for this new American Jewish bistro.
In a recent talk and tasting event at New York City’s Tenement Museum, former Kutsher’s employees, vacationers and even a few who stayed down the road — at the Concord and Grossinger’s — gathered to learn about the new restaurant and sample the menu. “We’d say, ‘We’re going to the mountains,’ and everyone knew where you were going.” recalled Rosalie Reinhardt, now 83, of the Borscht Belt’s heydays. Another guest at the event, Vivian Gornik, a waitress at Kutsher’s in 1958, spoke of how that era came to a slow in the 1960s when families had enough money to fly to Florida or Puerto Rico, “The last incarnation was when men came to get laid and the women came to get married!” Gornik said with a laugh.
During the month of High Holidays, I rediscovered my Jewish conscience. Not in a big, showy way, but in an ”oh this is what this is all about moment.” I was raised on a sort of ‘hallmark Judaism’, which tamed the most radical statements of equality and justice in our tradition. In my suburban synagogue, “justice, justice, you shall pursue,” became “be nice and stand up for your friends.” But that’s definitely not all that it means; it’s a much bigger call to action. It’s a challenge, an order, and the unrelenting, unapologetic demand that we must make this world better for others.
There is a certain righteousness of purpose in challenging the status quo in the name of justice. It’s a noisy, powerful form of protest, but it’s not the only way. Over the past few years, two organizations have been working to make social justice synonymous with kosher food. Their work fills an important need in our community, but it seems worthwhile to pose the skeptical question: can a mere label really change the way Big Kosher Food does business?
Most of the Shabbat dinners at my home are seasonal. Usually this means relying on what I find fresh in the market to inspire the menu that I make. This week however, I’m taking my inspiration from the seasons of the Torah. In the story of Noah, this week’s Torah part, the tale of the Tower of Babel is told in nine short lines, which provided the inspiration for my Friday night menu with dishes from around the globe.
In the story, the people of Shinar, you might recall, got it into their minds to build a tower so high that it would reach into the heavens. They were trying to make a name for themselves, but clearly this was not what God had in mind. As the tower grew in stature the people found that they could no longer understand each other, having each been bestowed with the ability to speak a unique language. The project was abandoned and the people scattered. The name given to the tower, Babel, shares a root with the Hebrew word for confusion and the English word babbling. The story’s message is simple: many languages leads to confusion and breaks down our ability to connect.
Daniel Asher, a Jewish chef based in Denver, has promoted sustainable food in two restaurants in the Mile High City. Asher whips up organic delicacies at Linger, which opened in June of this year, as well as the Denver institution of Root Down, which opened in 2008.
The son of a Romanian father and a French-Canadian mother, Asher said food was always a part of his upbringing in Montreal and Chicago. “Our house was very food-focused, without a doubt,” Asher said during a lunchtime interview in Linger, which features a view overlooking downtown Denver.