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.
Nestled in America’s heartland, off the shores of Lake Michigan, Chicago is an inviting location for visitors in search of such activities as theatrical productions, the aquarium, sports venues, art museums and, of course, food. Culinarily, the Windy City holds its own. With Chicago-style hot dogs, deep-dish pizza and ethnic food options, there are many palatable choices for any taste bud.
The majority of kosher dining options, which serve some of Chicago’s 260,000 Jews, are located in Chicago’s suburbs but are well worth the schlep. While you will find vegetarian fare available in Chicago proper, the kosher alternatives often have the freshest and finest ingredients. With a bit of searching, you’ll find some of the best hummus, good sushi and a flavorful steak at kosher establishments in Chicago. The rail system called the L connects the city with outlying areas, which makes kosher dining reasonably accessible via public transit.
As the saying goes, too many cooks in the kitchen can be disastrous. But for Tamar Adler, author of “An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace,” which came out this month, it’s a way of life. A former Harper’s magazine editor-turned chef, food educator and now cookbook author, Adler comes from a food-obsessed family. Indeed she, her mother and her brother are all professional chefs.
“An Everlasting Meal” highlights Adler’s passion for simple, seasonal cooking, which she discovered in her mother’s kitchen and honed while working at restaurants like Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse (Waters contributed the book’s foreword). Part cookbook and part literary food book, it focuses on cooking with instinct, employing all five senses to the task, promoting thrift by using every part of an ingredient, and elevating simple food to the sublime. Unlike most cookbook authors, Adler offers just a handful of traditional recipes, filling in the book’s pages with recipe riffs and kitchen wisdom. For example, she writes:
All ingredients need salt. The noodle or tender spring pea would be narcissistic to imagine it already contained within its cell walls all the perfection it would ever need. We seem, too, to fear that we are failures at being tender and springy if we need to be seasoned. It’s not so: it doesn’t reflect badly on pea or person that either needs help to be most itself.
One of the most difficult moments of my stint as Ramah Outdoor Adventure’s first Food Educator came moments before we welcomed in our second Shabbat of the season. Like many camps, Ramah holds a weekly competition for the cleanest bunk (or tent, in this case) every Friday. And like many camps, Ramah was rewarding the inhabitants of the tidiest space with sugar — the first week’s winners got Fruit Loops for breakfast. As the in-house advocate for whole foods, I was displeased with the arrangement, so when the camp ran out of Fruit Loops after a week I set out to make a change. I suggested to the camp director, Rabbi Eliav Bock, that we award the cleanest bunk a different special breakfast on Sundays: Rocky Mountain toast made with eggs from our hens. Bock gave me a look that said “What kid on this planet would get as excited over eggs as sugar?” but told me that if I got the go-ahead from the chef then it would be fine.
Four miscommunications and several days later, I was making my way to Kabbalat Shabbat when I heard someone behind me say “Sorry, Yael,” and turned around to see the Camp Abba (Camp Dad) standing at the door of the winning tent with an armload of Hershey’s bars.
This weekend “Chosen Food: Cuisine, Culture And American Jewish Identity,” an exhibit at the Jewish Museum of Maryland opens. “Not only does it look at what we eat… but also where we eat it and how food defines us as a people.” [Baltimore Jewish Times]
Pastrami is no longer just for the deli. You can make it in your own backyard. [Serious Eats]
Food & Wine seeks to name the top 25 cookbooks of the year. What’s your pick? [Food & Wine]
One of the best parts of the internet is free online classes like the 13 week long course “Edible Education: The Rise and Future of the Food Movement” hosted by UC Berkeley. [The Kitchn]
Until recently, my conception of pita was probably similar to that of most Americans: thin, dry stuff that lacks in taste… a poor translation of Israel’s version. Anyone who has been to Israel or any Israeli restaurant with house-made pita knows what I’m talking about — a thick, spongy, warm little loaf that has a perfectly sized pocket that maintains its composure as you stuff it full of falafel. It’s a staple in Israel, but a luxury in America; a phenomenon that I was completely oblivious to until moving to New York City.
So imagine my alarm last week when out of nowhere, like a pregnant woman craving pickles, I needed Israeli pita. Every day. Lunch and Dinner. Maybe for a snack in between. My go-to places in New York were draining my wallet, those cardboard-like things from the grocery store weren’t going to cut it, and, oops, landlord forgot to install the wood-fired 1000-degree oven. Crap.
I know, I know. The last thing you want to think about right now is another holiday in October. As much as many of us love the High Holidays — the sweetness, the reflection time, the motley collection of creative community sukkahs, the lulavs and etrogs, and joy — there’s a point at which (probably around now), we’re done.
But there’s one non-religious day I want you to add to your calendar now that this month of Jewish holidays is almost over.
The First Annual Food Day is Monday, October 24, with events happening all around the country. Food Day is billed broadly as a day to change how Americans eat and think about food. It’s also a very specific opportunity for individuals and organizations to make our advocacy for sustainable, fair food systems go even further.
Growing up in Mexico City, each Sunday Susan Schmidt would stand on a chair a few feet behind her Hungarian grandmother — who emigrated from Budapest to Mexico in the late 1920’s — and watch her prepare nokedli, Hungarian dumpling, served with chicken and paprika. But, Susan didn’t start cooking on her own till she was married to a fellow Mexican Jew and moved to L.A. where she still lives today. At that point, her cuisine was not only influenced by her grandmother’s Hungarian heritage and her own Mexican upbringing, but by her mother-in-law’s Polish cooking and her family’s decision to start keeping kosher. Now, she melds the Eastern European roots with her Mexican childhood creating recipes like schnitzel tortas, schnitzel served on a Mexican roll, and fideos, which she calls “Mexican lokshen,” on the cooking blog Challa-peño, that she launched this summer with her oldest daughter Alex.
The blog allows me to “write a memoir in the context of food,” says Susan, explaining that it contains more than just recipes. But, as someone who is used to just adding a pinch here and a pinch there, writing recipes has proven challenging for her. She looks to Diana Kennedy, whom some call the “Julia Child of Mexican cooking” for guidance. Once she and Alex have enough recipes, they plan to create a cookbook “to preserve and continue the culinary traditions of our family,” she writes on the blog. She hopes to combine the traditions of her grandmother and her mother-in-law with the ingredients and recipes she encountered in Mexico, creating what she calls “a fusion of flavors.”
(Watch the cooking video below)
Upper West Siders practically sat shiva when the beleaguered H & H Bagels shuttered its iconic West 80th Street store in July.
But round baked goods may rise again in those cold, dormant ovens. DNAInfo reported today that Queens-based Davidovich Bakery, which bills itself as “the only manufacturer in the world that makes hand-rolled kettle-boiled bagels for the wholesale community,” may open its first retail location in the hallowed space where H & H sated bagel cravings, 24/7, for nearly 40 years.
(For a history of the bagel, check out our timeline)
In this two-part series Eitan Kensky takes a sharp look at food travel shows and the evolution of Adam Richman’s popular show “Man vs. Food.” Read Part 1 here.
One of the most striking elements of “Man vs. Food” was the way it flattened all ethnicities into generic American challenges. The idea of de-emphasizing difference made it rare, if not unique among food shows. Both of Travel Channel host Andrew Zimmern’s shows were built around the idea of eating local and indigenous cuisines that most American’s find disgusting, such as unborn chicken eggs, squirrel and calf (testicles) — especially when the exotic locations Zimmern traveled to were in America, like the Gulf Coast, or the immigrant neighborhoods of New York and Los Angeles. “Man vs. Food,” however, didn’t exoticize ethnic foods or treat them as an other to be discovered; rather ethnic restaurants were just another way to experience over-sized, over-seasoned, or over-spiced American portions.
This approach was especially prominent during the first season when Richman visited Katz’s Deli in New York. The show went out of its way to not make reference to Katz’s Jewish origins. None of the patrons interviewed appeared to be Jewish and Richman treated Katz’s only as a general New York institution that serves very meaty sandwiches. There were, it’s true, a few codes for Jewishness in the presentation. Richman’s mother came to share the food with him, and he referred to her as the person who first introduced him to Deli, but he left out why she introduced him to it in the first place. His mother worried that his upcoming challenge would be “unhealthy,” making shtick out of the stereotype of the over-protective Jewish mother, but it backfires. Given the toxic spiciness of the food Richman is going to ingest later that night, the Brick Lane Curry House’s spicy p’haal, allegedly the world’s hottest curry, she isn’t so much the over-protective Jewish mother as the voice of reason. Nonetheless, it was striking that a 21st century food show didn’t mention that Deli is a Jewish food par excellence, and Richman’s mother presumably took him to delis as part of his heritage.
Sukkot is the holiday that celebrates the autumn harvest. The last of the three annual pilgrimage festivals on the Jewish calendar (if we’re counting from Pesach), these were the days in ancient times when our ancestors would gather the best of their seasonal produce and travel to the Temple in Jerusalem to give thanks as a community. In modern times, the communal table often takes the place of the Temple, bringing people together to give thanks for the abundance of the harvest. At the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center’s Sukkahfest more than a hundred people from all denominations of Judaism come together to celebrate and give thanks for the fruits of the season. Participants are able to see firsthand the source of their sustenance, with opportunities to visit our farm, orchard, and barnyard. Another way to show gratitude for the abundance of the harvest, and to continue to feed oneself with locally grown produce through the colder months, is preservation.
At Isabella Freedman we make every effort to utilize our farm’s produce when it is a fresh as possible — when it tastes the best and has the most nutritional value. Much of the produce grown on the Adamah farm is made into live cultured, lacto fermented pickled products. After the first frost in the fall, cabbages are harvested, chopped, salted, and made into sauerkraut. Scallions, daikon radishes, carrots, Napa cabbage, and hot peppers are mixed together to create our spicy kim chi. The last of the season’s hot peppers are mixed with sugar and cooked down to produce Bomb Jelly. After the jelly is finished cooking, it is poured into sterilized jars and canned, making a shelf stable product that can be stored anywhere in the kitchen. Lacto fermentation and canning are two time-tested preservation methods. One can imagine our ancestors marveling at their harvest of cucumbers, cabbages, or beets and covering the abundance in a brine of salted water to keep for the coming seasons.
In this two-part series Eitan Kensky takes a sharp look at food travel shows and the evolution of Adam Richman’s popular show “Man vs. Food.”
Travel food shows are mysteries with the host as detective. Our host takes us to a dark, unknown corner of the globe to try to discover something new and ostensibly worth eating. Rather than a crime, the emphasis is on the uncovering of the meal, and the moment of truth: was it as delicious as rumored? The host’s smile, mouth covering (with a napkin or with an open palm) and immediate urge to take another bite let us know for sure. Case closed.
These shows are also mysteries on another level: what is the best way to translate the experience of eating to a visual medium where the viewer can never taste the food? The similarities between the filmic techniques of cooking shows and those of pornography are now well-established. Cue the right music and camera angles and we’ll lust for anything, no matter how unappetizing it may otherwise be. The recent documentary “El Bulli: Cooking in Progress” took a different approach, going, not always successfully, for food as magic. In comes sweet potatoes, and out, after unexplained alchemy, comes something previously unimaginable. The problem with the “Cooking in Progress” approach is that food and cooking is the opposite of alchemy. Half the fun of molecular gastronomy is learning about the processes that transform food, which the film elides to preserve our wonder at the final dish.
Why was a group of rabbis singing around some tomatoes at a Publix supermarket in Naples, Fla.? No, it wasn’t a new ritual about mindful eating, but rather an act of protest. Would you pay one penny more per pound for tomatoes to ensure a better wage and a more dignified workplace for farmworkers? That’s the underlying question our prayer circle was asking.
Through Rabbis for Human Rights-North America (where I run a campaign on modern slavery), the fifteen of us have traveled from all over the country to learn about the abuses of the Florida tomato industry: sub-poverty wages, violence and sexual harassment, wage theft, exposure to dangerous pesticides, and — in six successfully prosecuted cases over the past ten years (resulting in more than 1,000 people being freed) — modern slavery. Florida produces most off-season tomatoes eaten by those of us who live east of the Mississippi, so the chances are pretty high that if you’ve eaten a fresh tomato in the winter, it came from Florida. Immokalee, where we were visiting, has been called “ground zero” of modern slavery by a federal prosecutor.
Still looking for some delicious recipes for the holiday? Check out a Sukkot-Inspired Harvest Feast and a lovely story about celebrating Sukkot in the orthodox neighborhood Crown Heights in Brooklyn. [Saveur]
Myra Goodman, co-founder of Earthbound Farm, is a quiet and unlikely pioneer for organic farming but, “If you’re buying organic baby spinach at a Whole Foods in December, chances are it’s from Earthbound,” writes Ben Harris. [Tablet]Chef
Target’s fish is going sustainable: “The second largest discount retailer in the U.S. announced Thursday that it will sell only sustainable, traceable fish by 2015.” [The LA Times]
About 30 miles outside of downtown Portland, Oregon in the heart of the Willamette Valley, is the AlexEli Vineyard and Winery, home to Oregon’s only kosher wine producing vineyard. Vintner Phil Kramer, 28, who co-owns the vineyard with his mother, Anita, purchased the 18-acre estate four years ago and has been producing wine ever since.
This October, he bottled his first kosher variety, a Pinot Noir. Inspired in part by his extended family, who keep kosher, Kramer said he has been thinking about producing a kosher variety for a couple of years, but wanted to get a good bearing on wine production before he started.