Last week, news of Sam Sifton, the New York Times Restaurant Critic being promoted to the National Editor of the Gray Lady, shook the culinary world. Sifton, 45, served one of the shorter stints as restaurant critic at the Times but had gained a following toward the end of his tenure. He infused his articles with culture, history, erudition, and lots of humor. He also helped put Brooklyn on the culinary map, much to the chagrin of longtime Vogue critic Jeffrey Steingarten.
Sifton came to the Times as dining editor in 2001, a post he held for three years. Then he became Cultural editor until 2009 when he was chosen to succeed Frank Bruni as Restaurant Critic, a post he held for two years.
While being National Editor is a plum position and means that he is going up on the New York Times ladder, his foodie fans will be disappointed that he is moving on. Between his last weeks as restaurant critic and the beginning of his new post as national editor, Sifton found time to answer a couple of questions for the Jew and the Carrot.
Ron Ben-Israel is known for his eponymous New York City couture cake shop, which churns out incredible, edible pieces of art. Over 15 years, his celebration cakes — often topped with beautiful and realistic looking sugar flowers — have become favorites among society brides, fashion companies and high-end hotels alike.
On Thursday, Ben-Israel will become better known to the rest of the country during the premiere of his Food Network competition show, “Sweet Genius.” On each episode, four pastry chefs will compete in an elimination challenge. Ben-Israel will decide the winner, who will take home $10,000, based on both taste and presentation.
We spoke to the Israeli sweet genius himself about his show, his confections and his road from IDF soldier to professional dancer to cake maker extraordinaire.
Just 50 miles north of New York City, in Putnam Valley, the beautiful 248-acre Eden Village Camp is busy with preparations for the inaugural Festival of Eden. An expected hundreds of participants of all ages will gather on Sunday, September 25th to enjoy hands-on farming and green-living workshops, local organic food, live music, art, nature adventures, and Jewish environmental education, all made possible by the Saul Schottenstein Foundation B.
Eden Village is a new camp, fresh out of their second summer. The camp aims to be a living model of a thriving, inspired, sustainable Jewish community, grounded in social responsibility and a vibrant spiritual life. With a zero-waste goal and an emphasis on healthy, sustainable living it is no surprise that Eden Village takes food seriously. Organic vegetables and herbs are grown 72 feet from the Eden Village Kosher Kitchen, which will be providing kosher food options alongside other food vendors at the festival.
If you’re never braided a round challah, it can be a bit tricky. Here’s a video to help. Haaretz
The tweet that shocked the food world this week: “I’m stepping down as restaurant critic to be the national editor of The Times. #checkplease. @Samsifton
A New York Whole Foods store opened a mini in-store pickle shop this week, carrying a wide variety of artisanal pickles. Grubstreet
Bring over 300+ foodies, chefs, nutritionists and rabbis together to talk about food… and you better have a good plan for what to feed them! Planning food for the Hazon Food Conference is a delightful challenge. We have a list of food values which we try to meet at all Hazon events — and yet the values themselves sometimes conflict with each other. Add the fact that we’re not throwing a dinner party for 12, and the decisions get a lot more complicated. Food procurement and institutional cooking is an area that has a long way to go in terms of sustainability, and we’re proud of our efforts to nudge us along on that route — but we’re far from there yet. Here are some of the values we try to meet, and the choices we made to get there at this year’s Hazon Food Conference at UC Davis.
1. Local & Seasonal: Should feature fruits and vegetables that are in season in August. Ideally they are grown in Yolo County (where UC Davis is), or at least, in Northern California or California.
2. Natural, whole grain, unprocessed: In general we favor whole wheat breads over white; granola or oatmeal over sugar cereals; yogurts, jams and peanut butters without preservatives, white sugar & white flour, artificial flavorings, or hydrogenated oils.
3. Fair Trade: Especially chocolate, coffee, tea.
4. Kosher: Any processed foods (that come in a package) should be certified kosher with a ‘kosher seal’ on the packaging.
Starbucks may have famously flopped in Israel back in 2003. But with 14 stores and counting, LA-based chain Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf has managed to gain a healthy foothold among Holy Land locals and American expats — partly because, as local-info site GoJerusalem.com has noted, the stores are all kosher.
Now, with a similar tweaking of its global offerings to suit local tastes, the chain has finally opened a New York City outlet.
The new store, at Broadway and 39th Street in Manhattan’s shmate district, lacks the slightly shopworn charm of its LA locations — a comfy vibe that belies a mammoth footprint in 22 countries — but brings a fresh face to the city’s saturated hot-beverage market.
My most memorable Shabbats were at summer camp, in Wisconsin. They began after pool time with a run-around process of my cabin-mates and I straightening our hair, blowing a fuse, sitting in darkness as we freaked out until the fuse was reset, and then repeating. We wore one of the four dresses that were reserved for our four Shabbats, and if we were lucky, one of the older campers would offer to do our makeup. Friday nights ended in the gym, dancing in circles and singing our favorites, which always included “Lean on Me” and “Brown-Eyed Girl.”
In between hair ironing and song singing, there was a beautiful outdoor service… and a terrible meal in the dining hall. Chicken swimming in a pool of its grease, rice pilaf minus the pilaf and probably an almost steamed vegetable. In fact, I’ve blocked most of the food out of my mind with fonder memories of grilled cheese and tomato soup Tuesdays.
This Saturday, a long overdue concept will make its debut at Manhattan’s Hester Street Fair: Israeli schnitzel with an urban-inspired twist. Schnitz NYC, a pop-up vendor, started by three childhood friends, Allon Yosha and siblings Donna and Yoni Erlich, will launch their business with two schnitzel sandwiches topped with unconventional condiments like daikon ginger relish and caramelized onion mustard.
“There’s a big educational component with schnitzel, in general, because a lot of people don’t know what schnitzel is,” said Yosha, a businessman with a lifelong passion for food. This isn’t to say that the word “schnitzel” is completely esoteric — with trendy schnitzel trucks on both sides of the country (and even in fantasy animation land, the food’s popularity is indeed growing. But for those who are still under the impression that schnitzel is “like a sausage or whatever,” they’ll be surprised to hear that they’ve likely had something like it — though it might have been called Milanese. Or Tonkatsu. Or, dare I say, a McNugget. The bottom line is, most cultures have a fried meat tradition, and while Italian and Southern American varieties may have already earned their fame, it’s time for Israel’s comfort meat to shine.
“Jews for social justice is where I am coming from. Equal rights and equal access to the bounty of the earth is foundational,” Nora Saks said while explaining why she is a FoodCorps service member. FoodCorps is a new national service organization (funded by AmeriCorps and others) building school gardens and establishing “Farm to School” programs to address childhood obesity and food-related disease.
Fifty individuals in their 20’s and 30’s were chosen from over 1,200 applicants to serve in 2010-2011, FoodCorp’s pilot year. Among them are a number of young Jews, including Saks. She, as well as Leah Chapman, Emily Ritchie, Sarah Rubin and Erin Taylor, shared with the Jew and the Carrot why they are excited to work with schools in limited-resources communities with high obesity rates. All of them will be working with partnering local organizations to teach kids about healthy nutrition, build and work to sustain school gardens, and help school lunch programs procure healthy food from local farms.
Why is Korean-style barley salad in “The Vegetarian Shabbat Cookbook”? This barley, mushroom and veggie salad is topped off with a soy sauce–sesame dressing. It received rave reviews at an independent minyan’s vegetarian potluck this past Sabbath, and the service leader asked for the recipe. Perhaps a good vegetarian Sabbath dish is one that wows people at a vegetarian Sabbath potluck, which is a rather all-inclusive approach to Sabbath cuisine.
Authors Roberta Kalechofsky and Roberta Schiff would add two more reasons. They note that the barley salad is good for “working cooks” because it can be prepared in advance and served chilled or at room temperature for lunch Saturday. Many of the book’s recipes are “designed around food that is interesting and delicious, which does not have to be cooked on Shabbat.”
Mollie Katzen may be the godmother of vegetarian cuisine and one of the founding owners and chefs of Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, NY, not to mention one of the best-selling selling cookbook authors of all time, but she swears she never really intended to have a career in food. “It was never a goal at all,” she says.
Growing up, she wanted to be an artist. She never went to culinary school and instead saw cooking as simply a hobby that could help support her painting.
But eleven cookbooks later — with a twelfth on the way — and Katzen’s youthful avocation has long since become her life’s work. Of course, those familiar with Katzen’s cookbooks know that many of them, including the beloved “Moosewood Cookbook”, are adorned with her artwork on their covers.
While she is known for bringing vegetarian eating to the masses and likes to eat “mostly plant food,” she insists she is not anti-meat. Still, she says, “Where I’m coming from, meat is guilty until proven innocent.”
We talked with Katzen, 60, who left Moosewood long ago, about growing up kosher, how she got into vegetarianism and her foray into Harvard’s dining halls. True to form, Katzen also shared one of her newest recipes: broccoli-infused Green Matzoh Balls, perfect for the upcoming holidays.
Caught in a rainstorm in Guatemala, with only chafing rain boots to tackle the wet, muddy miles ahead, Joe Gorin is about to give in to misery. Then he remembers a Buddhist practice: walking meditation. The scene begins to change as he uses this tool for enhanced awareness and thought to smooth the journey. This scene comes from Gorin’s memoir “Choose Love: A Jewish Buddhist Human Rights Activist in Central America,” and illustrates how well his spiritual practice entwined with his human rights work in 1980s Latin America. The author, who is a psychotherapist and I just call Joe, works the plot next to mine in a community garden in Northwest D.C. Joe gave me his book this spring, after I shared that I write.
Though I’ve never trudged around Central America in the rain, and am only a neophyte meditator, I have developed a similar penchant for spotting lessons — I’ll call it metaphor meditation. It is a similar concept to the one that made Robert Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” an international bestseller. Usually used for a variety of reasons in literature, from foreshadowing (gathering storm clouds) to character development (the corset of a restricted aristocrat), metaphor can lend insight for a sustainable life as well.
My latest metaphor for meditation is weeds, those uninvited guests who have become so familiar to me in the very garden I share with Joe.
This spicy, tangy and herbed sauce is dubbed “Magic Sauce.” It would certainly liven up any Shabbat chicken. [101 Cookbooks]
Changes in school lunches could take years to implements says Marion Nestle. [The Atlantic]
“The Hangover Cookbook” (come on, we’ve all been there) has a recipe for the Israeli dish shakshuka. [The Daily Meal]
There could be no better place for the garden at Oceana High School in Pacifica, Calif., than where it is located — just outside the cafeteria. The 8,400-square-foot garden is a concrete reminder to the 600 students and 35 faculty members of the unique opportunity they have to personally engage in sustainable agriculture and learn about environmentalism and healthy eating.
The garden is there thanks to the vision and initiative of Naftali Moed, one of the school’s students. The 17-year-old senior recently won a $36,000 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award, given by the Helen Diller Family Foundation, a supporting foundation of San Francisco’s Jewish Community Endowment Fund, for his exceptional leadership in turning a gravel lot into a thriving mini-farm and site for environmental education.
The wiry, yarmulke-wearing Moed lives in Pacifica with his two mothers and his sister, Shoshana, who is a freshman at Oceana. The family are active members of the Coastside Jewish Community, an inclusive, nondenominational community of 80 families living in Pacifica, Half Moon Bay and the other coastal communities south of San Francisco.
This piece is cross-posted from JTA.
Daniel Rogov, who helped develop Israeli wine and food culture and thrust Israeli wine into the international spotlight through decades of sharply written critiques, died Sept. 7 in Tel Aviv. He was in his 70s, by several accounts, but his exact age has not been made public. In addition, the name Daniel Rogov was a pseudonym and few knew his real name.
Rogov, widely regarded as Israel’s leading food and wine critic, died a revered figure in the world he helped create. A week before his death, Rogov was treated to a celebratory tribute in his honor attended by hundreds of Israel’s leading food and wine professionals and fans at a Tel Aviv hotel.
In February of 2008 I was living in Nashville, finishing up graduate school at Vanderbilt University. One Friday morning in February I boarded a plane bound for Chicago, heading to my parents’ house to surprise them for Shabbat. My mother had just finished chemotherapy for breast cancer, and on the phone she sounded worn out and depressed. An automatic fare alert had notified me that I could get amazingly cheap tickets to Chicago for the weekend, and on a whim I decided to go.
In the days before my trip I made up an elaborate plan. My uncle would pick my up from the airport and drive me home. I planned the menu and coordinated with a family friend who went grocery shopping for me, and left the groceries at our next door neighbor’s house for me to retrieve when I arrived.
When you think of food – what comes to mind? Usually we think of tastes, smells – the sensual experiences of eating. If we dig a little deeper, we’ll get to issues of producing food (growing, raising, processing…) and preparing it – buying, cooking. If we really “unpack” the idea – we’ll think about the lack of it – hunger – and all the different social, economic, environmental, and political issues that are embedded in our food system that makes it the way it is…
The Israel Sustainable Food Tour, sponsored by Hazon and the Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership will deal with all these issues and more. We will hit the ground picking, kicking off the week in the field, doing the age old activity of leket, gleaning, collecting agricultural produce straight from the fields, for distribution among disadvantaged populations. The organization that promotes food rescue, and other initiatives to combat nutritional insecurity is called Leket – Table to Table – a worthy beginning to a week focused on the sustainability of our food system – including issues of justice and fair access.
This week we bring you two stories about hummus around the globe. Tell us about your favorite hummus in the comments.
In just over a year, Ze’ev Avrahami, an Israeli reporter living in Berlin, turned a passionate quest for the perfect hummus into a thriving underground food business. This month, he’ll open Sababa, an Israeli bistro in the ‘It’ German capital — Berlin. “My mother taught me to love our Jewish Oriental food. She’s quite happy about my new career,” Avrahami told us.
Growing up in Tel Aviv where hummus is a 24/7 nosh and a must-have in every fridge, Avrahami felt deprived when he moved to Berlin in 2007 with Kirsten, his journalist wife. “I had trouble finding good food here in town, well let’s say the kind of food I like.”
“I am surprised that the only leafy item in my CSA box this week is lettuce,” began one Facebook post from a friend. Her pithy commentary summed up what seems to be the experience of many who open their kitchens to weekly mystery deliveries from the farm. Eating locally means eating a lot of greens. I’ve seen crowd-sourced requests for ways to cook amaranth leaves, escarole (that was me), tatsoi, purslane and various kinds of kale and chard. Not to mention the tasty looking yet delicate leaves that come attached to beets and turnips. Sturdier than spinach, yet delicate enough to require cooking within a day or two, greens inspire culinary creativity in my friends. But why so many greens?
For CSA farmers, I suspect the abundance of greens has a lot to do with flexibility. Greens such as chard and kale grow well in the cooler weather of the beginning and end of the growing season. They don’t require as sustained periods of heat to get them going (the way melons or peppers might), they grow quickly and in a difficult growing season, they can be started in a greenhouse and then transported. Greens aren’t as easily damaged in rains as lettuce or delicate greens. Part of a CSA membership is learning to eat what the land produces, rather than what we are used to, and greens have been an education.
This week we bring you two stories about hummus around the globe. Tell us about your favorite hummus in the comments.
“Everyone thinks they make it the best,” is what Abdul Lama said as he stood at the cash register under a portrait of Jordan’s King Abdullah and Queen Rania in his Mediterranean Wraps restaurant on California Avenue in Palo Alto, California. Lama was speaking of hummus, and it appears that his statement is correct — at least from the bit of research I did among the professional authentic hummus makers here in Silicon Valley.
“There’s only one way to make hummus,” Lama’s business partner Abraham Khalil told me emphatically as I sat with him at a table at Mediterranean Wraps’ second location, on busy University Avenue near the gates to Stanford University. The frustrating thing was that he was only willing to go so far in revealing just how he specifically makes his popular hummus.