When he opens Peck’s Specialty Foods in Brooklyn this fall, Theo Peck will be continuing a family tradition that started over 100 years ago.
Peck’s great grandfather was the founder of Ratner’s, the Lower East Side dairy restaurant (and kosher institution), which opened in 1905 and closed its doors in 2004.
“I grew up at Ratner’s,” says Peck. “I distinctly remember going there after school on Fridays, and eating pierogies and potato pancakes in the bar room off the side of the restaurant. My relatives — who all worked there — would sit around drinking whiskey, smoking cigarettes and talking about their friends and family members’ upcoming surgeries.”
In 1996, Peck returned to the family business, opening The Lansky Lounge, a speakeasy-style bar attached to Ratner’s. (“We were the only nightclub in New York City that was closed on Friday nights,” he says.)
After leaving the lounge, Peck went to culinary school. He planned to open his own restaurant in 2008, but his funds were lost in the Bernie Madoff ponzi scheme.
Joan Mass, the grandmother of Herbie Ziskend, shared her recipe for matzo balls (they’re usually floaters, but sometimes sinkers) with the White House.
4 eggs, slightly beaten
4 tablespoons ice water
4 tablespoons oil
1 cup matzo meal
1 teaspoon salt
1) Place ingredients in large bowl and mix well. After mixing, cover and refrigerate for at least one hour, (the longer the better).
2) Fill a large pot with 2 quarts water and a teaspoon of salt. After the water boils, lower heat to low. Take mixture out of refrigerator and making sure that yours hands are wet with water or oil, gently form the balls.
3) Slowly add the matzo balls to the simmering water and cook for about 30 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let cool for a twenty minutes. Store in refrigerator. Do not add the matzo balls to soup until about 35 minutes before serving. They should be round and fluffy, but sometimes they’re round and firm.
Not up for cooking for the Seders this year? Not a problem. Restaurants around North America are offering seats at the Seder table for those who are hungry for updated Jewish fare like matzo balls in a lemongrass broth, tropical haroset and Turkish flourless chocolate cake.
At some, a Seder service will be led, while at others it’ll be strictly BYOH (bring your own Haggadah). We’ve rounded up some great choices, but there are many others out there. So please add additional suggestions from your city in the comments section below.
Note: These dinners are non-kosher, unless otherwise noted.
186 Franklin St., (212) 431-0606
Passover diners will enjoy Kutsher’s nouvelle twist on Borscht Belt Seder classics, like sweet onion butter for the matzo, wild halibut gefilte fish, and beef brisket with kasha, veal bacon and creamed spinach.
Details: March 25 and 26. Seder seatings at 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. $85 per person ($49 for kids under 10), 20% gratuity added to all checks.
A Jewish-themed Tribeca eatery that riffs on Kutsher’s, the 100-year old Catskills staple, is set to open in late October, according to reports yesterday.
Kutsher’s Tribeca, described by resort-family scion Zach Kutsher as a “modern-Jewish-food-inspired bistro”, will occupy a former bakery space, said the Tribeca Citizen, which also posted a draft of Kutsher’s gargantuan menu. The selection trends as a high-gloss mish-mash of traditional and nouvelle Semitic specialties. Varnishkes come with organic quinoa “kasha”, wild mushroom gravy, and truffle butter. Kugel – made with broccoli, Gruyere, and spinach, thank you very much — will accompany free-range roast chicken.
In the final installment of our Chosen Chefs series, we head to New Orleans to catch up with chef Alon Shaya, executive chef of Domenica. Like all of the chefs we’ve profiled, Shaya is a member of the tribe who’s worth keeping on your radar. If we were the betting type, we could some James Beard Awards in his future.
To hear chef Alon Shaya tell it, Israeli food helped get him where he is today. The acclaimed executive chef of John Besh’s Italian restaurant Domenica in New Orleans, was born in suburban Tel Aviv but moved to Philadelphia when he was just 4 years old.
The child of an Israeli mother and Romanian father, some of Shaya’s earliest memories were of coming home from school and smelling the roasting peppers his grandmother cooked on a flame. “Those are the memories that made me fall in love with food,” said Shaya, 32.