For the past three years, Jesse Friedman and Laura Hadden have been on a quest to explore world cuisine from their modest kitchen in Brooklyn. The married couple is the force behind United Noshes, a project to throw a dinner party featuring the culinary offerings of each of the 193 member states and 2 permanently observing non-members of the United Nations, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.
Every month, Hadden and Friedman research recipes, gather ingredients, and prepare two to three feasts to represent the selected countries, going in roughly alphabetical order. Friedman does much of the cooking while Hadden documents the feast and entertains the guests. When possible, they solicit help from people familiar with a country’s culture and good.
It’s a project that stretches Friedman and Hadden’s taste buds and cooking prowess, but it also has another added benefit: Forming a loose community of people who love culinary experimentation. Old friends and new ones join the parties, as well as foodies who find out about the project and sign up for the newsletter. The price of admission is a donation to the World Food Program, a humanitarian organization fighting world hunger. Some 500 people have signed up for the newsletter, and Friedman and Hadden have thrown United Noshes events in Boston, D.C., Seattle, and the Bay Area, as well. At Friedman and Hadden’s 83rd party, a celebration of Israeli and Palestinian cuisine, the guests included a handful of writers, a ballet dancer, and an analytics expert, all there to sample offerings that included lamb kebabs, homemade hummus, and rugelach.
“We hit upon the idea because it combined two things we’re interested in,” Friedman said. “Exploring international dishes and meeting new people. We’ve met hundreds of people who are adventurous enough to try what we’re cooking. In New York, people tend not to visit each other in their homes. We wanted to open ours up.”
Workmen’s Circle poster advertising the Taste of Jewish Culture street fair // Facebook
New York’s got so many hip new delis that it may be as easy to find gefilte fish and borscht as it was in 1892, when The Workmen’s Circle held its first meeting on the Lower East Side.
So it’s no small irony that the social-justice organization is hosting the city’s first street fair aimed at showcasing smart new iterations of traditional Jewish cuisine.
The Workmen’s Circle Taste of Jewish Culture, set for July 27 on Manhattan’s Madison Avenue, is actually the organization’s sixth outdoor festival, but the first focused on food.
“The fair has always featured klezmer and social-justice-themed music,” executive director Ann Toback told the Forward by e-mail from a tour bus in Poland, where she’s researching Ashkenazi culture. “But we’ve also been experimenting with it as a chance to connect with larger audiences.”
Sharing Jewish food “is about as authentic a Jewish experience as you can get,” she said. “And selling Jewish-inspired foods via a street experience is quintessentially Jewish. It’s a perfect place to share our cultural heritage with a wide swath of New Yorkers.”
To corral the right mix of vendors, Toback tapped Noah Arenstein, the peripatetic lawyer-cum-foodie whose most recent venture, pop-up eatery Scharf & Zoyer, offered over-the-top novelties like kugel sandwiches.
Ari White thought it was time to “show Brooklyn some love”. And he did it on Sunday and Monday — with 2,500 pounds of meat.
White’s the pit boss of Bronx-based Hakadosh BBQ, whose “Wandering Que” brings kosher Texas smokehouse pop-ups to street fairs across New York City.
But White’s custom-built “BBQ rig” had never graced the streets of Brooklyn, where the Wandering Que boasts a fiercely loyal following.
So under a tent in the parking lot of Crown Heights shul Chevra Ahavas Yisroel, White served up beef ribs, brisket, lamb shanks, lamb “bacon”, and turkey legs to hungry carnivores who schlepped from across the city to sample his celebrated kosher ‘cue. The pop-up, a fundraiser for the Orthodox synagogue, was billed on Facebook as “the last Que of the Goyisha Year.”
Getting Nat Goldberg to stop for a minute is no small feat.
The Nigerian restaurant Buka, which she co-owns with partner and chef Lookman Mashood, is hopping. Their spice-selling store just opened and African Restaurant Week is going strong through Oct. 20th with three-course, $28.95-prix-fixes and a Friday night hip-hop DJ party.
Far from Goldberg’s Australian home, Jewish upbringing and architecture career, the couple’s business has created a buzz, having turned a narrow, brick-lined law office in a a newly hip corner of the Clinton Hill neighborhood into a happening, art and music-filled eatery.
“She designed it and I built it,” Mashood, a professional carpenter, says with pride, before popping back into the open-galley kitchen to oversee cooks and put together a catering order.
Recipe: Nat Goldberg’s Nigerian Chicken Pepper Soup
Goldberg believes their ethnic eatery featuring recipes from Mashood’s family and the country’s myriad ethnic groups, filled a void. Unless you really knew where to go, where to find New York’s innocuous, hole-in-wall places, you couldn’t eat Nigerian food in the city, she said. The meaning of Buka is small, side-of-the-road restaurant, maybe lacking in appearance but totally delivering in quality.
And the city’s Nigerian community has embraced them, according to Goldberg, who believes 70% of their customers are from Nigeria.
New Yorkers with a sense of adventure gravitate to Buka for cow feet or goat head cooked in Igbo spices. Goldberg is not kidding when she says the food is hot. No fusion here. Nor do they “tone down foods to suit the American palate.”
Buka’s Nigerian Chicken Pepper Soup
1 yellow onion, diced
Few sprigs of fresh mint
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
4 cups of chicken stock
Fresh habanero peppers (to taste) chopped fine
1 tbsp pepper soup spice
Salt to taste
Place chicken, onion, thyme, habanero peppers, salt and spices in a large pot.
Cook on a low flame for 25 minutes.
Add the stock and boil for an additional 20 minutes.
Remove from heat
Stir in mint and serve.
pepper soup spice sold at Buka Market
Many years ago, while I was working as a counselor at Beth Tfiloh day camp in the Baltimore suburbs, my favorite camper took a trip to Israel. She came back with the best present a 15-year-old counselor could ever ask for: a jar of chocolate spread.
At the time, I’d never encountered such a thing. And it changed my life. Suddenly chocolate peanut butter sandwiches were the stuff dreams were made of.
Fast forward nearly two decades. We live in a world where chocolate and other nutty spreads are prevalent. Just yesterday the maker of Nutella made news by cancelling World Nutella Day!
At the same time, a minor travesty was unfolding in our neighborhood in brownstone Brooklyn. Ample Hills, Prospect Height’s newest and arguably most popular ice cream shop, announced that it is cutting down from 24 ice cream flavors to 16.
In doing so, they may get rid of Nanatella, a delicious organic banana ice cream rippled with — you guessed it — creamy Nutella.
Kosherfest, the largest (and only) kosher food industry trade show in the world, hosted its 24th annual expo in Secaucus, NJ, on November 13th and 14th. Thousands of players in the kosher food world show up each year, from giants like Manischewitz, Streit’s and Osem, to the godfathers of kosher certification, including the big four: the Orthodox Union, Circle K, Star-K and Kof-K.
But a multitude of small, niche entrepreneurs in the industry show up as well, reflecting not just the trajectory of kosher food over the years, but the way in which overarching American food trends filter into the Orthodox world. Kosherfest is a far cry from the artisan food world of Brooklyn, where we are from — and where our business, The Gefilteria, is located. So we went down to New Jersey to report as independent purveyors. Here’s our minute-by-minute view of this very kosher landscape.
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.
In our new series, Chosen Chefs, we will profile up-and-coming Jewish chefs making waves from L.A. to New York. And in case you can’t get there, we’ll include a recipe from each of the chefs that you can make at home.
These are members of the tribe who you’ll want to keep on your radar. If we were the betting type, we might see some James Beard Awards in their future. First up: Chef Moshe Wendel of Brooklyn’s Pardes.
Kosher restaurants are not usually known for taking culinary risks. In response to guests’ demands, kosher chefs tend to play it safe. But Moshe Wendel, chef and owner of Pardes restaurant, in Brooklyn’s hip Boerum Hill neighborhood, is no ordinary kosher chef. And he doesn’t run your typical kosher restaurant.
Pardes serves fresh, seasonal and nuanced dishes — like beef cheek pizza — which change almost daily, opening kosher diners up to new kinds of food. And it’s noticeably un-frum location has opened religious customers up to a new Brooklyn neighborhood.
David Fox has a problem with his rabbi. I sit across from David, at his office desk, in the family factory H. Fox and Company, deep in Brooklyn. David’s family founded the company and for the past century it has manufacturing a wide variety of flavored syrups. Today, however, I am only interested in one, Fox’s U-Bet chocolate syrup, which is widely regarded as the essential ingredient for the classic egg cream, once described by Mel Brooks as “the opposite of circumcision” as it “pleasurably reaffirms your Jewishness.”
It is only Hanukkah, but the time has come once again, as it has for more than a hundred years, to ready his plant to produce the Passover batch. Fox’s U-Bet is used all around the world, and year-long; Passover is no exception.
Kashering the syrup for Passover is no small task. First the ingredients need to change. Only real sugar will do for replacing the corn syrup, producing something a bit sweeter while maintaining the smooth, round taste that distinguishes the syrup from other brands. But sugar is expensive. “Yet we don’t charge more.” Why not? “We are the only chocolate syrup that I know of that’s kosher for Passover,” he explains. “We just don’t think it’s the right thing to do.”