I N S I DE
Volume 35 Number 4 Winter 2014 $3.50
Food Trucks • Cooking Classes • Family Faves Israeli Dives • Bourbon, Beer & Bubbly Biblical Grub • Feeding the Needy
THE WAY WE EAT V35 N4 WINTER 2014
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a letter from the editor I love to eat. This isn’t news to anyone who knows me personally or who reads anything I have written on the subject of food. It’s also nothing new: My mother still loves to tell the story of how, when she gave me the option of picking where I could go for my 5th birthday dinner, my choice was the only French restaurant in San Antonio in 1972. The relationship between Jews and food has to be one of the happiest and longest on record. We love to prepare Shabbat meals, holiday feasts and fish brunches at home. We eat out in such numbers that many restaurants revise their inventories and revenue forecasts downward on Passover and the High Holidays. Jews love food — it is an integral part of our lives, and this is a magazine about Jewish life. So, why focus an issue on the topic now?
Greg Salisbury, editor
We wanted to tell stories that wouldn’t be told anywhere else. The glorification of food has permeated every level of popular culture, from cooking shows on prime time network television to chefs becoming gossip column fodder. That’s not a judgment, but simply a statement of fact that dictated what we would not be covering in this issue.
The glorification of food has permeated pop culture, from cooking shows on network television to chefs in gossip columns. That’s not a judgment, but simply a statement of fact. The subjects covered here delve into issues like how Jewish Philadelphia is responding to the rising levels of food insecurity facing our neighbors on a daily basis (p. 36), the challenges faced by three local chefs who have branched out to add “cookbook author” to their resume (p. 42); and what it takes for someone to leave a 9-to-5 America in order to pursue the dream of owning his or her own food truck (p. 56). Finally, while many of us live to eat, as we approach another holiday season centered around celebrating our bounty, please join us in supporting those who struggle to get enough to simply eat to live. Volunteer, cook, donate — whatever you can do will help us do whatever it takes. Greg Salisbury
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We reveal more. Aberdeen Israel Fund, Inc. To get the most out of dynamic Israeli markets, we believe you need to be equipped to shed light on potential opportunities. Aberdeen Israel Fund has been investing in Israel for over 20 years. For more information about investing in Israel, contact our Investor Relations team at 866-839-5205 or e-mail us at Investor.Relations@aberdeen-asset.com.
Closed-end funds are traded on the secondary market through one of the stock exchanges. The Fund’s investment return and principal value will fluctuate so that an investor’s shares may be worth more or less than the original cost. Shares of closed-end funds may trade above (a premium) or below (a discount) the net asset value (NAV) of the fund’s portfolio. There is no assurance that the Fund will achieve its investment objective. Foreign securities are more volatile, harder to price and less liquid than U.S. securities. They are subject to different accounting and regulatory standards, and political and economic risks. These risks may be enhanced in emerging market countries. Concentrating investments in the Israel region subjects the fund to more volatility and greater risk of loss than geographically diverse funds. Aberdeen Asset Management (AAM) is the marketing name in the U.S. for the following affiliated, registered investment advisers: Aberdeen Asset Management Inc., Aberdeen Asset Managers Ltd, Aberdeen Asset Management Ltd and Aberdeen Asset Management Asia Ltd, each of which is wholly owned by Aberdeen Asset Management PLC. “Aberdeen” is a U.S. registered service trademark of Aberdeen Asset Management PLC.
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The Jewish Lifestyle Magazine EXECUTIVE EDITOR LISA HOSTEIN VICE PRESIDENT/GENERAL MANAGER DAVID A. ALPHER EDITOR GREG SALISBURY DESIGN DIRECTOR JOSEPH KEMP PRODUCTION DIRECTOR JOSEPHINE KUKUKA PREPRESS MANAGER SALVATORE PATRONE TRAFFIC MANAGER ELIZABETH THOMPSON PRODUCTION CONTROL MANAGER TERY MORAN-LEVER PRODUCTION ARTISTS LUD HUGHES, LIONELL ROBINSON SALES & MARKETING COORDINATOR COLLEEN DUNLAP MARKETING DIRECTOR JOSHUA HERSZ ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES MELISSA BARRETT, NORMA KRAMER, DEBBIE LUSANA, TAYLOR MACH, HELENE ROTHMAN, SHARON SCHMUCKLER, BRUCE WARTELL CLASSIFIED ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES BEVERLY ALDORASI (MGR.), VICKIE FARBER, NICK STALLER NATIONAL REPRESENTATIVES JOSEPH JACOBS ORGANIZATION, INC. 60 E. 42ND ST., NEW YORK, N.Y. 10165 212-687-6234 ISRAEL REPRESENTATIVES INTERNATIONAL MEDIA PLACEMENT POB 7195, JERUSALEM 91071 ISRAEL 972-2-252933 FINANCE MANAGER CHERYL LUTTS ACCOUNTING MARIE MALVOSO CIRCULATION NICOLE MCNALLY Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia PRESIDENT BERNARD BUD NEWMAN CEO NAOMI ADLER PUBLISHER’S REPRESENTATIVE JEROME P. NACHLIS Jewish Publishing Group JAY MINKOFF (CHAIRMAN) DANIEL E. BACINE (IMMEDIATE PAST CHAIRMAN) HARRIS DEVOR, DANIEL ERLBAUM JOEL FREEDMAN, JOAN GUBERNICK MATTHEW HANDEL, MICHELE LEVIN RUSSELL PAUL, HERSHEL RICHMAN PETER SOLOFF, JON STEVENS JEWISH PUBLISHING GROUP 2100 ARCH STREET, PHILADELPHIA, PA 19103 MAIN PHONE NUMBER: 215-832-0700
volume 35 number 4
HUNGRY FOR ANSWERS
Jewish Philadelphia responds to the food inscurity issue. Fredda Sacharow
GOOD ENOUGH TO READ
COOKINGâ€™S COOL The best way to learn how to cook lika a pro? Take a class. Joseph Kemp
Local chefs are in demand as cookbook authors. Robert Libkind
JUST THEIR TRUCK Meet some of the people riding the food truck revolution. Keri White
PH OTO S: 36 COU R TESY K LEIN JCC; 48 JA K EMP; 56 CO U R TESY FLAME EATER S
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A Truly Biblical Diet Ronit Treatman
SHAPE Dorsal Wins Beth D’Addono
Gefilte By Association Gail Snyder
A New Wrinkle Carol Saline
The Pour Man’s Advice Column Richard Pawlak
High Plains Gifters Greg Salisbury
ISRAEL Off the Eaten Path Ilan Ben-Zion
FRESS Hearth of the City Greg Salisbury
JUST A MINUTE Safe From Treif Greg Salisbury
PH O TO S: 75 CO U R TESY PETR U CE
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A DIET OF BIBLICAL PORTIONS What did the ancient Israelites eat — and why?
By Ronit Treatman
ne of the first things Jewish children learn about ancient Israel is that it is referred to as “the land of milk and honey.” Beyond that evocative phrase, though, how much do we really know about what the Israelites ate, and what, if any, of their food traditions live on today?
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Ancient Israel was a fertile land — a land of dates, pomegranates, figs, olives, grapes, barley and wheat. This was a land that could sustain flocks of sheep and goats. While not a cookbook, the Torah was a guide to what the Israelites were and were not permitted to eat. These ancient rules persist to this day, shaping our present diet. While they found abundance in The Land of Israel, the Israelites were respectful of their resources — and there was no waste. All food that was not consumed fresh was preserved somehow. The yearly cycle was centered on provid-
ing for the future, so that there would be food during all the seasons of the year. While the land was blessed, they always needed to anticipate the rhythm of the seasons, and the potential for natural disaster to create shortages. They entered a Mediterranean territory with hills, shrubs and sparse amounts of fresh water. Goats and sheep could thrive in this environment — they were nimble enough to navigate the terrain and were willing to eat plants that larger livestock would reject, such as woody shrubs, vines and weeds. Goats and sheep also require less water than other
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livestock. The Torah describes the flocks that were kept in Genesis 29:9, when Rachel and Jacob meet as she brings her sheep to the well, and in Exodus 2:19, when Joseph rescues Zipporah and her sisters as they give water to their father’s sheep. Goat and sheep’s milk was a staple for Ancient Israelites. The first yogurt-like cheeses were accidentally made by shepherds around 8000 BCE, when sheep and goats were first domesticated. They kept the milk in sacks made out of goat stomachs in the warm climate. The rennet naturally found in the stomachs curdled the milk, transforming it into a yogurt-like cheese. The shepherds were
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not in a position to waste any food, and decided to eat the “spoiled” milk anyway. They discovered that they liked its tart flavor. This was the first labaneh. This became an important way of preserving milk. The milk was poured into a sack made of goat leather and then hung from a wooden peg, where it was rocked back and forth so that, after about 90 minutes, the fat had separated from the other liquids. Salt was added, and the cheese was drained. Some of this cheese was eaten fresh; the rest was left in the sun until it became dry and hard. This type of cheese was called afiq, and has a strong, salty flavor. It could be stored indefinitely in this state, and was reconstituted with boiling water and then eaten. What about the water left behind in the process of cheese-making? In a culture where nothing could afford to be squandered, it became a refreshing sour drink called qom. Afiq and qom are still prepared in some traditional Bedouin households to this day.
Goats and sheep are ritually clean, since they have cloven hooves and chew their cud (Leviticus 11:3-8 and Deuteronomy 14:4-8). Their milk is therefore permitted — but the Israelites needed to find a different method to preserve milk. The laws of kashrut forbade them from mixing milk with meat (Exodus 23:19), so in order to comply with the laws of kashrut, shepherds did not keep their milk in goat skin bags, but in clay jars instead. Cheese was made by heating the milk over a fire and stirring it with a fig tree branch. The sap of the fig tree curdled the milk. This produced a cheese very similar to ricotta, made even more delicious with a drizzle of honey.
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Ironically, the first inhabitants of the land of milk and honey may not have had much of the latter available in biblical times. The “honey” referred to in God’s description of the Land to Moses has traditionally been interpreted to be not honey from bees, but rather fruit honey. Fruit honey was made by slowly cooking dates, carobs, figs or grapes with water until a syrup was obtained. Date honey was the most commonly available fruit syrup in those times. It was one of the methods used for preserving fruit for year-round use. However, the Torah specifically mentions honey from a honeycomb when describing how Samson ate honey from the carcass of a lion (Judges 14:8-9). This inspired his riddle, “Out of the eater came forth food, and out of the strong came forth sweetness” (Judges 14:14). An archaeological excavation at Tel Rehov in Israel is challenging the notion that “honey” was not honey from bees. One hundred beehives from the First Temple period were discovered during a 2007 dig. The cylindrical hives, made from unbaked clay and stacked one
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Faith on top of the other, form the only apiary in the Near East that has been unearthed from this period. Why was bee’s honey permitted? After all, bees are unkosher insects. Honey is made from the nectar of flowers, which is processed by the bees. But the end result is not part of the bee’s body, and since it does not originate from the bees, it is kosher. Bees were valuable not just for the honey they produced, but also for pollinating many edible plants. Not all insects in biblical Israel had such a benevolent effect on the environment, as even the land of abundance was not immune to natural disasters. One of the worst catastrophes to befall people
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of the ancient world was the arrival of locusts. Desert locusts would travel from Africa to the Near East, arriving in Israel by way of Egypt. There were millions of locusts in one swarm, eating every plant in their path. Locusts are the only insects that are kosher, according to Leviticus (11:20-23): “Every flying insect that uses four legs for walking shall be avoided by you. The only flying insects with four walking legs you may eat are those with knees extending above their feet, [using these longer legs] to hop on the ground. Among these you may only eat members of the red locust family, the yellow locust family, the spotted gray locust family and the white locust family. All other flying insects with four feet [for walking] must be avoided by you.” This was probably an act of compassion for pikuach nefesh, the preservation of life.
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At the first sign of locusts, a shofar was sounded to alert the community. People dropped everything in order to deal with this threat to their survival, capturing as many locusts as they could with nets. The locusts were blanched in boiling water, after which their heads, wings and legs were detached before being peeled “like the scales off a fish.” Then they were preserved with sea salt or vinegar in wooden barrels. These preserved locusts carried the people through the famine that inevitably followed the destruction inflicted by the swarm. Yemenite Jews have retained the knowledge of identifying, preparing, and eating kosher locusts. During Israel’s last locust infestation
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in 2013, Israeli Yemenite men traveled to the southern border with Egypt. They captured the desert locusts with nets and brought them home alive. There, they were prepared in the traditional Yemenite way: blanched, then slow-roasted in the oven overnight. The next day, they were consumed like potato chips as a crunchy snack. God gave the ancient Israelites a good land, which nourished them. Goats and sheep supplied milk, and dates yielded fruit honey. By being respectful of the laws of kashrut, not wasting, and providing for the future, the people of Israel persevered and survived disasters such as plagues of locusts. We celebrate God’s gifts of abundance and give thanks to this day. ❏ Ronit Treatman, the creator of Hands-On Jewish Holidays, lives in Philadelphia.
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WORKING ON A NEW WRINKLE
Your skin may be trying to tell you that you’re getting older, but that doesn’t mean you have to listen. By Carol Saline
haven’t been to one birthday party recently for someone over 60 where most of the women in the room don’t look five to 10 years younger than the age on their driver’s license. The reason that 70 is the new 60 and 50 is the new 40 isn’t the discovery of the Fountain of Youth by some intrepid explorer. The magician is either a dermatologist or a cosmetic surgeon armed with a vast array of peels, lasers, surgical nips and tucks, and fancy heat and light therapies that can miraculously turn back the clock — at least temporarily.
Just a few decades ago, a woman who wanted to look younger (men didn’t hop on the bandwagon until more recently) had two choices: a face-lift or a chemical peel, both of which required deep pockets and the willingness to hide in your house for a month. Back then, the prevailing technique for face-lifts pulled the skin so tightly 22
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that it stretched over the face like a snug stocking. And the chemical peels often left patients scarred or white as ghosts. Aging society dames smiling from the social pages either looked old and wrinkly like their money or as if they were wearing masks. If you’d had “work done” — the euphemism for cosmetic surgery — it was fairly obvious.
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Health Not so today. The current approach to ageless beauty is to start young, do less and gradually build up to more. In South America, women typically begin some kind of skin resurfacing in their 20s. In the United States, 40 is a more common age to take the plunge — that’s when the mirror starts to reflect the early signs of aging in your skin texture and elasticity. Most likely, the gateway procedure will be Botox, a wrinkle-relaxing injection classified as a neuro-modulator. Six million Botox injections were performed in 2013 to treat wrinkles, crow’s feet and frown lines. It’s been around long enough that its safety and efficacy are well proven. Center City dermatologist Dr. Jason Neustadter believes that if you took two 35-year-olds and began using Botox on one and not the other, all things being equal, the woman using Botox would have fewer wrinkles 10 years later. “The reason,” he says, “is that Botox would prevent her from creating the wrinkles that come from repeated facial motion.” Botox is the leading injectable, but by no means the only one. Equally popular are the injections known as fillers, which are used to plump up fine lines and wrinkles or replace lost volume. Barbra Streisand acknowledges using fillers with a why-wouldn’t-I insouciance. New facial fillers are constantly entering the market to replace old staples. Years ago, collagen and silicone injections were all the rage; nobody uses them today. The current front-runners are from the family of hyaluronic acids, which come from a carbohydrate occurring naturally in the body that holds water and keeps skin radiant
and hydrated. Juvederm, Restylane and Perlane are hyaluronic acids of varying viscosity used to soften worry lines. Belletario, introduced in 2012, is the thinnest of the hyaluronic acids and favored by Dr. Neustadter for filling those vertical lines over the upper lip that my aging mother’s lipstick used to bleed into like so much spilled beet juice. The latest rage is a hyaluronic acid called Voluma. As its name suggests, it’s aimed at restoring volume. For some maddening reason, as we age our stomachs get fuller and our cheeks get flatter, our jawlines droop and our chins get flabby. Voluma is placed under the muscle and deeper into the skin than other fillers so that it both lifts and fills. Welcome back, cheekbones! The results are immediate and last up to two years. Sculptra is another type of injectable that was initially used to improve the sunken visages of AIDS patients. Unlike other fillers, it creates volume by stimulating collagen, the structural protein that supports the skin. (Collagen is the target for just about every youthrestoring procedure because it’s the linchpin in the scaffolding that holds up the skin. Collagen production gradually diminishes with aging, causing faces to sag.) Another option is Radiesse, a puttylike substance made from calcium-based microspheres that acts as a collagen stimulator and a volumizer. A significant advantage to injectables is that you are in and out of the doctor’s office in no time, with virtually no recovery except for a possible bruise mark or redness at the site. Fillers can cost from $500 to $1,000 per vial
As skin ages, collagen in the dermis layer breaks down. This causes the epidermis to collapse, which results in wrinkles.
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and last one to two years. The choice of which filler is best for you should be left to your doctor. They all seem to have their preferences and can guide you on what suits your needs. Be advised that the doctor’s skill and training in injectables is a critical factor — so don’t go bargain shopping! Unfortunately, as time marches on, fillers may not be enough of a defense against aging’s onslaught. You might have to move to the next step: skin resurfacing and tightening. Here is where the wicket gets sticky. New products and techniques are constantly emerging to rave reviews, but the research to support them tends to be less scientific and more anecdotal. Once again, it’s best to rely on a doc-
Collagen is the target for just about every youth-restoring procedure because it’s the linchpin in the scaffolding that holds up the skin.
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ome tour our luxurious new community in North Wilmington and see why Verna and her fellow residents love the freedom and comfort of life at Lodge Lane. With services and amenities that offer beautiful surroundings, delicious meals and caring, round-the-clock assistance, you can rest assured that you or your family member will get digniﬁed care in a warm, friendly environment. For more information, call Pam Reiger, Director of Marketing and Sales 302-757-8100 ❖ www.lodgelane.org 1221 Lodge Lane, Wilmington, DE 19809
Lodge Lane - where elegant living meets peace of mind. tor you trust to steer you in the right direction depending on factors like your age, your weight, your skin quality, elasticity, etc. If you were to visit Dr. Kathy Rumor, a former aerospace engineer who became a plastic and reconstructive surgeon nine years ago, she might recommend PRP (platelet-rich plasma) microinjections. PRP has been successfully used for more than a decade in orthopedics and wound care to promote healing. Because plasma is thought to be rich in growth factors, it’s migrated to skin care, where it’s purported to stimulate collagen formation. A small amount of the patient’s own blood gets spun in a centrifuge to separate out the platelet-rich plasma which is then spread over a numbed face. Dozens of micro-needles puncture the skin so the plasma enters deep into the underlayers. “It gets incorporated in the collagen,” explains Rumor, “where it revives tissue, increases volume, improves blood supply and gives the patient a natural radiance and glow.” She also uses PRP in hair restoration to revitalize follicles. Because PRP is blood-based, it’s been nicknamed “The Vampire.” Rumor is also very high on Thermi RF, a minimally invasive necklift done in the office, which revs up collagen by sending radiofrequency heat waves under the skin through a cannula the size of a coffee stirrer. The heat gets rid of excess fat and contracts loose skin. She likes to couple it with a laser treatment called ClearLift for tightening crepe-y skin around the jaw and neck. Skin rejuvenation has been revolutionized by the development of all kinds of lasers designed to restore the bloom of youth. The key words in laser resurfacing are “ablative” and “nonablative.”
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Health Ablative (or invasive) lasers are the most aggressive. They remove the top layer of skin by essentially creating a burn-type wound that stimulates the growth of new skin. Ablative lasers are good for deeper wrinkles, older skin, sun damage and deep acne scars. Recovery from the redness, which looks like a really bad sunburn, can take two to four weeks. Nonablative (or noninvasive) lasers bypass the top layer of skin and work by delivering heat to the tissue beneath to instigate collagen growth. These lasers work best on fine lines, mild wrinkles and some age spots. Recovery is usually overnight; expect some mild redness. There is a downside to the no-downtime bonus of nonablative lasers: You will probably require several treatments to see significant results. There’s an intermediate option called Fraxel. This laser targets both the top and mid-layer of the skin by delivering thousands of tiny columns of deep heat over the surface and into the skin. There are different levels of Fraxel treatment with varying recovery times. Expect improvements — but nothing terribly dramatic — and plan on more than one treatment to produce significant change. That’s where the dollars add up. Laser treatments are usually done by a dermatologist or a cosmetic surgeon. Dr. Franziska Ringpfiel, a Haverford dermatologist who specializes in noninvasive skin resurfacing, raves about Picosure, a pressure wave that sends short bursts of energy straight into the
HINT: WHEN YOU LOOK IN THE MIRROR AND USE YOUR FINGERS TO PULL THE SKIN OF YOUR NECK AND JOWLS, YOU NEED A NECK LIFT. 26
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DESPITE THE RESTORATIVE WONDER OF LASERS AND PEELS, THE PROVEN PATH BACK TO LOST YOUTH LEADS TO THE OPERATING ROOM.
dermis (the second layer of skin). “No downtime, no pain,” she says, “and amazing results.” Plan on several treatments spaced three to four months apart at $500 a pop. She is also high on photo-dynamic therapy for tightening and toning by means of a visible light beam on skin that’s been painted with a photosensitizer. Clinical aestheticians will frequently offer gentle laser treatments as part of their services — kind of a lunchtime brightener. Ellen Ehrlich of Main Line Center for Laser Surgery likes Clear and Brilliant for improving skin tone and the E Matrix radio-frequency laser for simulating collagen and softening lip lines. Jane Marie Amato at Deme uses IPL (intense pulse light) for treating rosacea, getting rid of red spots due to broken capillaries and brown spots from sun damage. She endorses ClearLift Laser for fine lines and Rejuvapen for collagen stimulating. “All the lasers that we aestheticians use,” she says, “can’t make a 50-year-old look 30, but she will look rested and refreshed.” Dr. Kevin Cross is the go-to plastic surgeon for the cognoscenti in Philadelphia. In his opinion, “There are a million things out there that claim to tighten skin and most of them don’t, except for Ultherapy. It has been studied and proven, and nobody else has their science.” Ultherapy employs ultrasound waves to penetrate the skin and create heat that tightens collagen at a deep dermal layer. Cross says that 80 percent of his patients get a four- to five-star result for two to three years, but it’s not for everybody. “You’re likely to be happier with the outcome at 50 than at 70,” he says. The procedure takes about an hour with what most people report as tolerable discomfort. Despite the restorative wonder of lasers and peels, the proven
Ritz-Carlton Managed Residences, SARASOTA-FL path back to lost youth leads to the operating room. The approach today has shifted from fullblown face-lifts toward working on targeted areas. “Most of my patients can point a finger to the part that bothers them,” says Cross. “There’s been a shift from asking the doctor, ‘What can you do to make me look better?’ to saying ‘I’d like to improve this or that. How can you do it?’ ” Hint: When you look in the mirror and use your fingers to pull the skin of your neck and jowls, you need a neck-lift. Today, that’s a relatively simple procedure with about a week of recovery, mostly due to swelling and bruising. When you adjust your mirror image by pulling your hair back to get rid of crow’s feet and saggy eyelids, you need a modified brow lift. Popularly called the “Ponytail Lift,” this is a minimally invasive surgery that makes tiny incisions at the edge of the brow line to tighten the muscles that hold up the forehead and upper eye. It can be done in the office, with a week or so for recovery. If you can’t pinpoint a target, you’re probably a
candidate for a full face-lift. Surgeons used to try to reverse aging mainly by tightening and pulling skin. Now it’s understood that aging is not only a problem of loose skin but also just as much one of lost volume. “Almost every face-lift I do now involves injecting some of the patient’s own fat to replace volume,” Cross says. “We are at the point where that’s now state of the art.” Facial aging is not rocket science. As we pile on years, the support structures of our once-youthful visage get stretched and tired, leading to loose, sagging skin, a decrease in volume and changes to the skin surface that cause wrinkles, age spots and enlarged pores. To a great extent, all of these can be improved with the magic hands of a good doctor. Maybe it’s ultimately true that you can’t fool Mother Nature, but you can send her packing for a while and fool just about everyone else. ❏ Carol Saline is the chief medical affairs correspondent for Inside.
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DORSAL WINS The fight to keep your back healthy is neverending. By Beth D’Addono
t happens once an hour during my workday. The step-counter app on my phone, that electronic tyrant that nags me unless I walk at least 10,000 steps every day, sends me a berating alert: “You’ve been sitting too long. Get moving.”
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Sedentary jobs are to back health what an unripe tomato is to a perfect Caprese. Sitting on your bum is the nemesis of a conditioned body and especially deleterious to maintaining a healthy back. The next time you’re out walking, take note of how many of your fellow homo sapiens are hunched forward, round-shouldered, leading their ambulation with a neck jutting unnaturally towards 12 o’clock. The result of habituated poor posture, this sad state of affairs takes a toll on eight out of 10 people over the age of 18, according to the National Institutes of Health. In his practice at the Atlantic Spine Center, which has locations across New Jersey, physical therapy specialist Shridhar Yalamanchili sees many patients whose posture is more akin to a comma than an exclamation point. When he works with a new patient, the first goal is toward mindfulness and behavior modification. “We analyze posture as he or she is going through the workday,” said Yalamanchili, who takes an integrated approach to applying a variety of clinically relevant treatments to manual orthopedic physi-
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In a perfect world, a person working at a desk would take a break every 45 minutes and move around. cal therapy. “Think about how you use your back during the day,” he said. “Make a list of all activities where you are hunching over, holding static positions for a prolonged time and twisting your spine. That’s the first step to changing and avoiding these behaviors.” In a perfect world, a person working at a desk would take a break every 45 minutes and move around — a simple fix that decreases the stress on soft tissues, discs and nerves caused by the static posture that defines so many computer-related occupations. And since our bodies don’t operate in a vacuum, making one shift affects other parts of the whole. “These breaks also serve to decrease eye strain, which then usually causes postural deviations in a desk job environment,” he explained. “Give your eyes a break by focusing on a distant object to help relax the eye muscles.” Posture is paramount, agreed sports medicine practitioner Dr. Rose Boehm, who practices at Moss Rehab. “One of the most important things is sitting with your knees slightly higher than your hips for good lumbar support,” she said. The knees should be at about a 90-degree angle, even if you need to rest those tootsies on a footstool to make that happen. That takes the pressure off of your spine. The way in which we lift heavy objects is another contributing factor to a sore skeleton. About the worst thing a person can do is reach into an overhead compartment on a plane to wrangle a heavy
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Shape bag. Yet for many frequent travelers, this is a daily grind. Bags with wheels help on the transport end, said Boehm, and when you do need to lift, use two hands and keep the bag or item close to your body. Young backs aren’t immune to problems, she added. Children with still-developing bones and muscles shouldn’t be toting backpacks inappropriate to their height and weight. A backpack on wheels is not a bad idea at any age. Whether someone has a desk job and sits hunched over the computer, carries heavy equipment or walks around in high heels all day, there are simple things to change and check to reduce and eliminate pain, according to Dr. Todd Sinett, author of The Truth about Back Pain and a second-generation chiropractor based in New York. “The first thing that you really need to understand with back pain is that most of it isn’t caused by sudden trauma,” said Sinett. “Most people’s back pain evolves, little by little, until one day, they reach for something or turn a certain way, and that’s the tipping point. Posture and daily habits are the first factors to take into consideration. Coming up with a stretching and exercise routine that aligns your spine and helps you stand tall is key to achieving better vitality and flexibility, he added. Reversing that hunched-over stance might be as simple as stretching on a large exercise ball, belly button pointed up to the ceiling for a few minutes at time. Sinett devised something he calls the Backbridge System for people in need of more stability than an exercise ball provides, a stretching system that he believes gradually brings the spine back to its normal curvature. Sinett takes a holistic approach to his specialty, using a head-to-toe appraisal of his patients in the diagnostic process. One of what he calls the “spinal choke points” is shifting your balance by wearing shoes that don’t fit the activity or don’t fit your foot right. “Good shoes are key,” noted Boehm. “You want to wear heels, that’s fine. But wear your sneakers walking to and from work. Use gel inserts for extra cushion. And realize that your sneakers aren’t meant to last forever — replace them on a regular basis. Skimp on shoes and you’ll pay the price with back, hip and knee pain.” Experts agree that weight control and exercise deliver a
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one-two knockout punch to chronic back pain. “Weight control is important for everything,” said Boehm. “Even five to 10 pounds adds extra strain” on your back. Cross-training, as opposed to focusing on only one sport, gives your muscles a more balanced workout. “You need all of your muscles to hold your back upright,” she said. “But the most important are your big core muscles. We are all about our quads, biceps and triceps, but developing a strong abdominal core is the single most important thing we can do to help maintain a healthy back.” Boehm likens the back to a transmission belt — if you don’t keep that belt stretched and in good working order, it’s going to break. She’s also a firm believer that smoking, which restricts blood flow, is a contributing factor in chronic back pain. “Nothing good comes out of smoking — nothing at all,” she emphasized. “No matter what kind of occupation you are in, most people benefit from stretching programs that help loosen muscles that tighten during the workday. Hamstrings and hip flexors are muscles that can get tight and affect your lower back alignment,” said Yalamanchili. “There is scientific evidence to show that people of various fitness levels in all kinds of occupations benefit from strengthening their core muscles. Core muscles help support the spine and stabilize it when we use our upper and lower limbs for any activity. This, combined with a cardiovascular exercise program like brisk walking, can maintain a healthy spine.” As for diet, a bulging waistline not only affects the core muscles that support the spine but is unhealthy for your heart. ”Focus on eating a healthy, balanced diet for your overall well-being. Whole grain-based, nutritious meals that keep you full longer will also help you avoid diseases caused by obesity,” said Yalamanchili. Sinett takes the idea of good nutrition a step further by recommending that his patients avoid inflammatory foods, including sugar, caffeine, processed white flour and alcohol. “Think about how you feel when you’re hung over — your muscles feel tight and achy. What you eat affects your musculature as much as it does your other body systems. Everybody is different — you just have to listen to your body and see what you can handle.”
Stress is another factor. “ ‘Uptight’ is the perfect descriptor,” said Sinett. “When you’re stressed out, your muscles contract and feel tight.” The emphasis is as much on wellness as it is on rehabilitation at Conshohocken Chiropractic & Rehabilitation Center. “Basically half the people I see on every given day are wellness patients,” said Dr. William Tsoubanos, whose calm, no-nonsense approach has been guiding patients to better back health for more than 30 years. “Once we get problems resolved, then we talk about exercises, stretches, how to prophylactically deal with back issues.” Most of what Tsoubanos and his partner Dr. Michael Morgan
“No matter what kind of occupation you are in, most people benefit from stretching programs that help loosen muscles that tighten during the workday.” treat isn’t traumatic — it’s positional. “It’s pronicity — being in the wrong position for too long,” said Tsoubanos. “A lot of it is common sense. If you’re holding the phone in the crook of your neck taking notes, it’s time to get a headset. It’s not a great idea for kids to study lying on their bed. Don’t wait until you have a problem; think about good healthy habits. If you’re at your desk for hours at a time, it makes sense to walk to the water cooler. Don’t twist your neck looking at your screen, keep a neutral angle to your wrist on the keyboard and be sure your back conforms closely to the back of your chair. It’s all about the core, keeping your lower abdominal muscles strong and the hamstrings stretched. My patients tell me they exercise, but they do what they like doing, not always what they need to do to stay healthy.” People with pre-existing back pain or other serious health issues that might be exacerbated by a new regimen should get clearance from their doctor and exercise under supervision, at least in the beginning of their program. It’s important to also remember that if you have back or neck pain that lasts more than three to five days, see your doctor, advised Yalamanchili. Surgery, for most people, is the very last resort. “Many causes of back pain can be addressed using conservative methods like physical rehabilitation and pain management procedures,” said Yalamanchili. “If you have been told that you need back or neck surgery, consider a specialist who is trained in using minimally invasive techniques for faster recovery and better outcomes.” ❏ Beth D’Addono is a longtime contributor to Inside and Special Sections of the Jewish Exponent.
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GEFILTE BY ASSOCIATION Family recipes are among the most important historical documents â€” and the most treasured. By Gail Snyder
Think back to the seders, Shabbat dinners and family meals of your childhood. What do you remember most about them? Which foods became so ingrained in your brain that you can almost taste and smell them? Have you shared these foods and their associations with your children or their children? If not, there is no time like the present.
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his radar … so far. At 50, Kuhn, who grew up in North Jersey, can still recall spending second seder nights with relatives in Brooklyn when she was a child. To get there, her family would pile into their station wagon with her mother, Esther, clutching a big metal pot of tzimmes in her lap. Unfailingly, her mother would worry that she had once again burned the slow-cooked dish made from carrots, prunes, potatoes and flanken, but every year the relatives raved about it. Joan Nathan’s Sauerbraten recipe figures in many families’ food traditions.
J A KEM P
What’s that, you say? Some of the foods you grew up with are no-nos in today’s health-conscious age, and besides, your family is so busy that you hardly sit down for an ordinary meal together? Not to worry. Whether you have a busy career with little time to cook, have small children, a house full of picky eaters or are part of the sandwich generation, there are tips that make sense in an era when food choices can be politically, environmentally and nutritionally incorrect. It may seem shocking, but awardwinning and prolific Jewish cookbook author Joan Nathan says during an interview that we’ve reached the point where “so many people don’t think of food as something wonderful to eat. I think they are afraid of food. I know too many people like that.” For guidance on maximizing the wonderful side of eating, Nathan follows the advice of medieval philosopher Maimonides, who advocated a moderate lifestyle that stops short of satiation; for her, this means limiting consumption of her beloved chopped liver to once a year. The Martha’s Vineyard and Washington, D.C., resident says that thanks to the Internet and the wide availability of Jewish cookbooks, it is easier for families to learn about less familiar kinds of Jewish cooking. Her latest cookbook, Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France, is but one example. In addition, an explosion of ethnic restaurants has dramatically increased the variety of foods families are embracing — including Jewish fusion. Even so, the appeal of tradition remains strong. Nathan says, “I personally always bring out the traditional for Thanksgiving, for Passover, for Purim and all the Jewish holidays. And the reason I do that is that I think it is really important for all of us to take recipes from our history and to make them for the next generation.” After all, she maintains, if people serve sushi for the Jewish holidays, how will the younger generation learn about their heritage? She adds, “It seems to me that a parent’s role is to create memories for their children — and memories over food are wonderful memories.” Admittedly, having young children who display little interest in trying new foods can be challenging to a parent concerned about leaving a family food legacy. Just ask Laura Mendelsohn Kuhn of Lafayette Hill, whose 9-year-old son has to be coaxed into eating just about everything. An only child, Julian views family gettogethers as a chance to play with his cousins; food is barely on
“I never liked it or appreciated it,” Kuhn now says. “But when I started cooking for my seders, I began remembering how everybody loved the tzimmes. I felt a real twinge of nostalgia for some good, old-fashioned super-heavy soul food.” Because her parents were away in Florida with no access to their recipes, Kuhn searched cookbooks for a version that was close to the one her mother made. She found it in one of Nathan’s cookbooks. If Nathan could advise Kuhn, she would tell her not to make a big deal about her son’s picky eating habits — but not to cater to him, either. Instead, she would encourage Kuhn to have Julian join in the food preparation. “It seems to me that if you involve” picky eaters “in cooking, they are going to like it — I am all for that,” Nathan says. Some picky eaters may eventually regret it when they become adults. As a child growing up in the Queens section of New York City, Lesley Weissman-Cook, 61, now of Doylestown, lived on pizza, ice cream and potato chips. She refused to eat her paternal grandmother’s stuffed cabbage until she was in her 20s. “I wish I had not been such a picky eater,” Weissman-Cook confesses. “I missed out
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Generations on memorable tastes.” Her mother was not a great cook, but she did make great pot roast, thanks to a recipe that was passed down to Weissman-Cook. In fact, that pot roast, accompanied by homemade latkes, remains her own daughter Rebecca’s favorite meal. Rebecca, 27, works as a restaurant server in San Francisco. She eats all of her meals out and keeps no food in her refrigerator. Despite her millennial lifestyle, Rebecca asked her mother for the latke recipe and has made them for herself. “This makes me feel great,” Weissman-Cook says. Also coping with some finicky children is Steve Cook, a South Philadelphia resident who, along with Michael Solomonov, is doing a marvelous job pleasing the palates of adult diners with their restaurants Zahav, Federal Donuts, Percy Street Barbecue, Dizengoff and Abe Fisher. Cook, who is no relation to Weissman-Cook, has four kids — 2-year-old twins, a 5-year-old and a 7-year-old — who love their mother Shira’s homemade challah and not much else. The 41-year-old Cook went through his own period of rebellion growing up in Miami and Detroit, the son of a Reform rabbi — as well as the brother and nephew of rabbis. “It’s not the easiest thing to be the son of a rabbi,” Cook says, ac-
Heirloom recipes JOAN NATHAN’S ‘MY MOTHER’S SAUERBRATEN’ Excerpted from Joan Nathan’s Jewish Holiday Cookbook (Shocken Books). Nathan says that this recipe is perfect for Chanukah. Serves 8. 2 tsp. salt, or to taste 1 tsp. pepper 3 Tbsps. brown sugar 1 cup chili sauce 1½ cups white vinegar 1 5-pound brisket of beef, shoulder roast of beef, chuck roast or end of steak 1 cup chopped celery leaves 2 onions, sliced 4 carrots, sliced 2 cups water Mix the salt, pepper, brown sugar, chili sauce and vinegar together. Pour over the meat and let stand overnight in the refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 325˚. Place the meat in an ovenproof casserole and pour the marinade over the meat. Cover with the celery leaves, carrots and the water.
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knowledging that it was easier for him to relate to Judaism through food than it was through synagogue attendance; his teenage desire to push back against his parents’ mandatory Shabbat dinners got him nowhere. Today, with an observant wife at his side, Cook and his family are also doing weekly Shabbat dinners. What changed? As a father, Cook says he recognizes the importance of passing on the tradition of Shabbat, particularly now that his older children have graduated from a Jewish preschool to a secular elementary school. Cook also marvels at how his mother, who made a terrific pot-roasted chicken with kasha, lots of paprika and carrots, managed to put meals on the table every night while working full time. “I don’t know how my mom did it,” he says. “She made three-course meals every night and we are struggling with one simple dinner” for Shabbat. Forty-six-year-old Aviva Goldfarb of Chevy Chase, Md., is making it her mission to help families who want to share healthy meals together with less time spent preparing them. A parent of two teenagers, she is the founder of the meal-planning website, The Six O’Clock Scramble (thescramble.com). Goldfarb says that a good place to start when committing to making dinner is to recognize why we need family meals in the first place. “We are rushing around so much trying to get so many things done, to be productive all the time. If you stop at some time in the Cover and bake for about two hours, basting often with the marinade. Remove the cover and bake for one more hour. (Allow approximately 30 minutes per pound for roasting) When done, strain the marinade and reserve. This dish is best prepared in advance so the fat can be easily skimmed from the surface when the meat has cooled. When ready to serve, slice and reheat in the same pan marinade. Note: You can also put all of the ingredients in a covered casserole and bake in a 200˚ oven overnight, for about 9 hours. This slow cooking breaks down the membranes of the meat, making for a more tender roast.
MRS. STAHL’S POTATO KNISHES Excerpted from Knish: In Search of the Jewish Soul Food by Laura Silver, (Brandeis University Press/University Press of New England). Makes about 18 knishes. Dough: 3¼ cups ﬂour 1 Tbsp. sugar 1 tsp. salt ½ cup vegetable oil 1 cup lukewarm water Turn on oven on low until dough is ready. Mix flour, sugar and
day and unplug from the chaos and disconnect from technology, it gives you an opportunity to connect with each other. It’s why we have families in the first place.” She says the keys to making delicious meals in a half-hour or less or special-occasion meals in about an hour are organization, advance planning (or relying on a resource you can trust to do that work for you) and a guilt-free embrace of shortcuts and imperfection. “The idea is not to do it perfectly or to end up exhausted, but to have a gathering where you enjoy yourself. The important thing is the gathering and the mood we set, and being grateful for what we have.” Indeed, some of the most indelible food memories we have may come from foods we regularly consumed that were purchased outside the home. They can link us to our relatives just as surely as homemade food can. For Laura Silver, the Brooklyn-based author of Knish: In Search of the Jewish Soul Food, the knishes her family purchased at Mrs. Stahl’s in Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach neighborhood were intimately tied to memories of eating them with her grandmother. Today, Silver, whose book tour brought her to the National Museum of American Jewish History in August, is perhaps the leading expert in the country on the savory filled pastries. The 40ish Silver explains that when she was a child, her parents would always stop at Mrs. Stahl’s knish store before taking Silver to visit her grandmother. As Silver got older, she made the trip alone. salt. Add oil and water. Mix with a spoon until the dough pulls together, or use a food processor or stand mixer (with a dough hook). Turn out the dough on board and knead it, incorporating all pieces. Knead until dough is one piece, smooth and glossy. Turn off the oven. Oil the dough and place it in oiled, covered bowl. Place in oven until you are ready to use it. Let the dough rest at least two hours; the dough should barely rise, if at all. Keeping the dough overnight in the refrigerator is fine. Bring it back to room temperature before use. Potato ﬁlling: 6 lbs. russet or new potatoes 1 cup oil ¼ cup salt, or to taste 1½ tsp. pepper 8 cups thinly sliced raw onions Scrub potatoes and peel them, unless the new potatoes have very thin, unblemished skins. Boil potatoes for about 20 minutes until knife-tender, then drain. Mash with a potato masher. Add oil, salt and pepper to taste. Mix. Stir in the onion. Assembling and baking Vegetable oil and flour as needed. Preheat oven to 450˚.
The connection grew so strong it was as though Mrs. Stahl and her knishes became part of the family. “When my grandmother died, I would go to Mrs. Stahl’s as a way to access her, to pay homage. They became inseparable basically. You know, it wasn’t even a conscious thing. It was this routine and a way to almost conjure her. The Jewish tradition says you go to the cemetery and place a stone, and I did that, too, but going to Mrs. Stahl’s was a more life-affirming act,” Silver says. In 2005, when Mrs. Stahl’s closed its doors forever, Silver mourned the loss of her grandmother all over again. However, rather than just accept it as a sign of changing times, the journalist in her wanted to know why it had closed, and she set out on a personal journey to explore everything knish-related. It led her to a small town in Poland called Kynszyn, where, legend has it, the knish was born some 400 years ago — and, previously unknown to Silver, her maternal grandmother birthplace. Her journey ended in San Francisco, where Mrs. Stahl’s granddaughters made the storied potato knishes for her and, more importantly, showed her how to make them herself. Silver now teaches the art of knish-making to others. “If you want to keep the tradition alive, we all have to pitch in,” Silver says. She foresees a long and successful future for the knish. With a little effort, the same can be true for your favorite ancestral foods. ❏ Gail Snyder has long enjoyed preparing holiday meals with her daughters Michelle and Ashley. Roll out about half the dough on a lightly floured counter or tabletop. Roll with handleless rod-style rolling pin out from the center until dough is thin enough to see through, about 1 ⁄16-inch thick. Oil top edge of dough with a pastry brush. Place a 2-inchdiameter line of filling about 2 inches from the top edge of the dough. Pick up top edge and drape over filling. Brush oil on dough in a 2-inch strip on the bottom edge of the filling. Pick up the dough with filling and roll again onto the oiled dough, compressing the filled dough as you turn it. Repeat until the dough covers the filling three to four times, being sure always to brush oil on the dough first. Use a knife to separate the filled potato knish log from the remaining dough. Cut off edges of filled dough. Cut the filled roll into pieces about 6 inches long and coil each piece like a snail. Tuck the remaining end into the bottom of the coil. Alternatively, place the stuffed roll of dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet and slash with a knife crosswise every 2 inches. Leave an inch of space between each roll or coil of dough. Bake 20–25 minutes until the knish skin is browned and knishes are cooked through. Start knishes on lowest rack of the over and raise them to top rack after about 10–12 minutes. Let the knishes cool in pan. If you cooked the knishes in long rolls, cut them into individual pieces. Knishes can be reheated in the oven or in a skillet on the stovetop.
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Above: prepping for the Mitzvah Food Projectâ€™s new initiative, the Choice Food Program, at the Klein JCC. Below: the University of Pennsylvania chapter of Challah for Hunger takes a break from being kneady in the pursuit of making challah to raise money for hunger relief.
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Jewish organizations respond to the reality of food insecurity in the Delaware Valley.
By Fredda Sacharow
abina Dopiro hunches over the touch-screen monitor outside her office at the Raymond & Miriam Klein Jewish Community Center in the Northeast, fingers dancing across the keyboard as she scrolls through her options.
Fruit? Start with applesauce, apples, blueberries, canned mandarins, fresh oranges. Protein? Frozen chicken, sardines, beans, tuna and more. Dopiro is showing off the ambitious undertaking that Mitzvah Food Project officials consider their crown jewel: the Choice Food Program, which allows recipients to select from a broad array of items — including fresh fruits and vegetables — that will help ensure they won’t go to bed with empty bellies. Later on this crisp fall day, dozens of clients will take their turns at the computer station where Dopiro is now sitting, and at three others arranged around the converted racquetball court in the sprawling JCC complex on Jamison Avenue. Once they place their “orders,” an army of workers will scurry to load brown bags full of canned goods, produce, meat and dairy products for the clients to take home. It’s all about options, nutrition and dignity, says Dopiro, Klein site manager for the Mitzvah Food Project, one of a vast mosaic of Jewish resources in the city and suburbs that are supported by organizations like the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia as they respond to the needs of a hungry population.
Some one million people in the Delaware Valley face hunger every day, according to Philabundance, the region’s largest hunger-relief organization. Many of those people are Jews. They fit no statistical profile. They are teacher’s aides, physician’s assistants, baristas; they are the newly out-of-work computer analyst and the lawyer who was laid off last year. They are mothers and sons. “About 4½ to five years ago, we did a comprehensive study looking at food insecurity in the Jewish community” in the Philadelphia area, “someone at risk of skipping or reducing the size of a meal because of poverty. We found 11,300 individuals are at risk for food insecurity on any given day,” says Brian Gralnick, director of the Federation’s Center for Social Responsibility. No single relief organization or social service agency alone can fill a gap that large. In Philadelphia, a number of groups have risen to fulfill this most basic of needs, among them the Mitzvah Food Project, the Jewish Relief Agency, the Jewish Farm School, Challah for Hunger and Cook for a Friend. A certain amount of redundancy is inevitable, anti-hunger workers concede: similar goals, similar visions, even many of the same clients. But picture the effort as a patchwork quilt, the separate pieces meshing to spread a safety blanket across a region where families remain very much at risk.
Feeding a Need
The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as “limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.” In blunter terms, it means not knowing — or being sure — where your next meal is coming from.
The Mitzvah Food Project began with a single community site in 1996, expanding over the years to keep pace with a growing demand. Today, it plays a key role in feeding Jewish Philadelphians, with five pantries strategically located throughout Greater Philadelphia. In addition to the Klein JCC, the project operates pantries out of the Kaiserman JCC in Wynnewood; the Jewish Community Services Building in Center City; Congregation Beth Shalom in Elkins Park; and Congregation Tifereth Israel in Bensalem.
Nationwide, the USDA reported that 6.8 million U.S. households faced what officials termed “very low food security,” meaning normal eating patterns of one or more household members were disrupted, and food intake was sometimes reduced, because they had insufficient money or other resources for food.
Funding comes primarily from individual donors, including corporations and organizations, as well as from government dollars, project manager Deirdre Mulligan says. The Federation kicks in about 18 percent of the budget; government and private grants and in-kind food donations round out the rest.
Closer to home, the figures tell an equally grim story.
Qualifying for assistance is relatively hassle-free — by design.
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Hungry for Answers “You call and tell us you have need, and that’s it,” Mulligan says. “We’ll try to locate the pantry closest to you, and you fill out a one-page intake form. If you’re getting food stamps, we ask you to provide a letter of proof. We try to make it as painless as possible.”
With its shiny new touch-screens and 60 volunteers responding to clients’ printouts, this is clearly not your father’s soup kitchen. Some of the food they pack comes from Philabundance; additional donations come from BJ’s Wholesale Clubs, Food Basics supermarkets and other establishments.
She never loses sight of the fact that these are people coming for help, not numbers, she says. Many Jews are too proud to ask for government assistance; others feel the stigma — real or imagined — the world imposes on those who have fallen on hard times.
This day, volunteers are breaking down 50-pound orange mesh bags of onions into more manageable one-pound bags to meet clients’ requests. Others are stocking the freezers with meat; kosher items go into a specially marked freezer for the 10 percent of clients who observe the laws of kashrut.
“We had one client who believed she would be a burden on society if she went for food stamps,” Mulligan recalls. “It took our social worker three months to convince her to apply.”
“We don’t accept pork, shellfish or products with mixed meat and dairy. We give treif items to other food banks,” says Dopiro, pausing when volunteer Renee Kelly brings over for inspection a package of sausages whose label notes — in fine print — that it contains pork casings.
Back at the Klein, Dopiro shows a visitor around the Choice Food Program, which serves about 1,300 families a year. About 90 percent of them have incomes that place them under 250 percent of poverty, or $59,625 for a family of four. (The U.S. government’s 2014 guidelines define 100 percent of poverty at $11,670 annually for one person or $23,850 for a household of four.) Roughly half the clients at the Jamison Avenue program are seniors; many are Russian immigrants. For most, Dopiro says, the facility is not the sole source of food, but rather a supplement to food stamps, unemployment benefits and other income.
Add it to the pile headed for Feast for Justice, Dopiro tells the eagle-eyed volunteer, referring to a food cupboard run by nearby St. John’s Lutheran Church. In another wing of the Klein, some 225 participants in its Congregate Meal Program gather for the day’s lunch: garden vegetable soup, hamburgers, cole slaw, lettuce and tomatoes, with fresh plums for dessert. The hot lunch, funded in part by the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging, is free, with a suggested $1 contribution.
LIVING HUNGRY: ONE WOMAN’S STORY arol has become a pro at the fine art of stretching. Food, that is. “You make use of everything. I can make pasta last three days,” the 78-year-old breast cancer survivor says. Once a month, she opens the door of her two-bedroom-with-loft condo in North Wales and welcomes in a driver from the Jewish Relief Agency bearing a heavy cardboard box filled with goodies: pasta, yes, but also beets, string beans, corn, tuna, sometimes matzah ball soup. For the next few days, Carol (she prefers to give only her first name) won’t have to worry about filling her refrigerator — or her belly. It’s a welcome respite. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. As a child, she lived what she calls a “country club life”: trips to Europe, good schools, a degree in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin. Now, after a series of setbacks, she supplements her $720-a-month Social Security benefits and her $69-a-month
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pension by selling costume jewelry and other trinkets at local flea markets. Carol lives by herself. Her four children are grown and out of the house, and her beloved Scottish terrier died last December. Despite Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, she declares herself in perfect health. “Someone told me that because of my financial situation and also being Jewish, JRA would be a nice organization to be with. So I called and spoke with Amy. She was just lovely, and she signed me up for a box a month.” That would be Amy Krulik, executive director of the food-relief organization, who notes that Carol is one of 49 million Americans at risk for hunger — 15 percent of the country’s population — and that food insecurity cuts across all ages, life stages and education levels. “You can’t think month to month — you can’t think past a week, and that’s the scariest part,” Carol says. “I came from a well-to-do family, so I know both sides of the coin. And
believe me, I much prefer the other.” JRA is not her only source of nutrition. Several times a month, she’ll pick up dinner at a nearby church, and every other week or so she gets a food package from MANNA, which provides meals to those grappling with a serious or chronic illness. A JRA pre-Rosh Hashanah delivery of honey cake, grape juice and Tam Tam rye crackers provided a recent treat. “I’m like an eater that picks during the day — I have no huge meal at dinner time. Even if I don’t eat for a day it won’t kill me, but I haven’t reached that point,” Carol says. Reaching out comes hard for her, she acknowledges, but she’s filled with wonder and awe that the resources are there for folks who need them. “We all grow up and have a certain amount of pride, but there comes a time when you have to throw pride out the window,” Carol philosophizes. “It’s not the easiest thing, but it boils down to priorities, and I am very grateful to JRA for what they’ve done, very appreciative.”
Penn Valley’s Har Zion Temple is part of a network of local food providers.
Raechel Hammer, vice president of strategic development and compliance at the Klein, notes that the agency provided between 65,000 and 70,000 lunches at four sites last year to area residents 60 years old and older. An estimated 80 percent of those served are Jewish — although the program is open to anyone — and many are Holocaust survivors. Close to a third of the participants live under the poverty line. “There is a lot of invisible poverty out there; people often take pride in how they look, so you have no idea,” says Hammer, a social worker by training. “This is the Greatest Generation — the last thing they want to do is ask for help. The key is providing help in the most dignified manner possible.” Loneliness and isolation are often hunger’s silent partners. That’s where the citywide Cook for a Friend program comes in. More than 600 volunteers meet weekly or monthly at the Klein JCC or area synagogues to prepare meals for distribution. For many at home on the receiving end, it’s the only contact they’ll have with the outside world, says Sue Aistrop, the Klein’s director of community services. “We do a survey every year, and most of our recipients tell us our drivers are friendly and caring, and that they feel more comfortable in their homes because of the meals we’re providing,” Aistrop says. At any given time over the past year, the Cook for a Friend program served about 350 people, who pay $2 per meal; the number varies as participants cycle in and out, Aistrop notes. All the food is funneled through the Klein facility.
cumstances are more challenging than people are willing and able to articulate,” Krulik says. “If you think you need help, our goal is to make sure you’re getting it.” Often, the line between volunteer and recipient blurs; an out-of-work man might be packing boxes one day, and opening his front door to accept a parcel from a JRA driver the next. JRA delivers to all five counties in the Philadelphia region, including communities on the Main Line — a surprise to some people, Krulik says. Wherever they live, recipients are incredibly appreciative of the efforts. “They routinely offer candy, pieces of fruit, pieces of costume jewelry to express their gratitude for the mitzvah,” she says.
Delivering Relief The Jewish Relief Agency’s efforts to feed hungry citizens draws in people of all ages — the oldest volunteer on one recent packing and distribution gathering was 96, and the youngest was still in a stroller. More than 200 community organizations — synagogues, youth groups, camps, day schools, college fraternities and sororities — send teams to the 15,000-square-foot building on Dutton Road in the Northeast where the JRA houses its distribution warehouse. When executive director Amy Krulik took on the job just over seven years ago, JRA’s volunteer base stood at 5,000. It’s roughly three times that today. The increase reflects not only the burgeoning demand for food relief, but also an uptick in the urge to do communal service, Krulik believes.
Her staff works with other agencies such as Jewish Family and Children’s Service and Federation Housing, Inc., to make referrals as needed. “Our job is to make sure we send people to the right place, and explain what other resources are available,” she says. Funding for JRA’s $1.2 million annual budget comes from private donations, Federation, United Way of Greater Philadelphia, the Walmart Foundation and other sources, including a small amount from federal and state agencies. Large-scale programs like JRA and the Mitzvah Food Project depend heavily on the efforts of synagogues, relief workers agree, notably year-round food drives that typically ramp up between Rosh Hashanah and Kol Nidre.
“On Sunday mornings, it’s a giant human assembly line,” she says. The product: boxes of food packed with a healthy mix of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, a protein such as tuna or gefilte fish. The recipients: pretty much anyone who asks.
“Our members are very responsive,” says Melissa Johnson, executive director of Main Line Reform Temple in Wynnewood, where congregants fill and refill five giant corrugated watermelon crates to overflowing throughout the year.
“There are no specific income requirements — we recognize that family cir-
“We collect about 10 tons of food for each holiday food drive,” Johnson says.
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Hungry for Answers “It’s been a commitment of our synagogue since its inception: to ensure that we are looking out for members of the surrounding community.” At Har Zion Temple in Penn Valley, where members have been signing up for the Cook for a Friend program for more than two decades, brown bags donated by Trader Joe’s are quickly stuffed with canned tuna, peanut butter, pasta and the like. Congregants also prepare turkey dinners just before Thanksgiving, says Andrea Coren of Wynnewood, chair of Har Zion’s Tikkun Olam Committee. It’s an intergenerational effort: religious school students prepare the soup and decorate the computer-paper boxes that hold the meal; members donate food and sweat equity; and even the caterers who serve the synagogue kick in with kugels. Jewish Family and Children’s Service supplies the names of the recipients, Coren says. “And if we know of needy people from the congregation, we give to them as well.”
Growing at the Grass Roots Imagine tearing into a freshly baked kosher challah — maybe one studded with chocolate chips — while knowing that the $4 you paid for it is helping JRA or Philabundance. That’s the goal of Challah for Hunger, one of several relatively low-profile organizations turning out the next generation of antihunger activists in the city and its surroundings. From its headquarters on Camac Street in Center City, the nonprofit oversees 70 chapters internationally, including at the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University. CEO Carly Zimmerman calls the chapters “social-change bakeries.” “For many students, this is a first step about learning about food justice,” Zimmerman says. “We’re teaching students leadership, communications skills, advocacy skills. For me, every challah is the beginning of a conversation.” Five to 10 students come together at Temple’s Hillel every other Wednesday to bake. They turn out 15 to 25 loaves, which will be sold to fellow students, as well as to faculty and staff. A portion of the proceeds goes back to Challah for Hunger; some goes to Hillel, and the rest — last year, about $100 — to JRA. Meanwhile, Bala Cynwyd native and Akiba Hebrew Academy (now Barrack) graduate Nati Passow has turned his energy to “teaching people the value of sustainability through teaching them how to grow food.” Passow is cofounder and executive director of the Jewish Farm School, whose initiatives include sending college students for weeklong stays on an organic farm, and sponsoring urban sustainability workshops on a two-acre educational farm in New York’s Hudson Valley. A writer, carpenter and educator living in Philadelphia, Passow says more than 5,000 students have come through his organization’s programs over the past eight years, learning basic Jewish concepts such as leaving the corners of a field unharvested to be gleaned by the needy.
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“The main way we’ve been involved in issues of hunger is through education,” Passow says. “Our whole Jewish justice curriculum looks at hunger and food access — both nationally and internationally — through a Jewish lens.”
The Way Forward There are a myriad of ways to address the issue of food insecurity. Robin Rifkin’s is advocacy. A nutritionist by vocation and an anti-hunger advocate by passion, the Melrose Park resident is a founder of the Community Supported Agriculture program at Reform Congregation Kol Ami in Elkins Park — the first CSA in the area affiliated with the national nonprofit Hazon. “Any extra food we get in a particular week — anything that people don’t pick up — goes to an emergency food bank,” says Rifkin, who serves on the Mitzvah Food Project’s steering committee and is active with the Action Against Hunger committee of the Old York Road Kehillah, a collective of synagogues and area organizations. With the committee, Rifkin helped coordinate a public dialogue last summer with Beverly Mackereth, secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Welfare, to discuss ways to streamline the application process for food stamps “Food drives and collections are one way of dealing with the immediate problem, but you also have to make it easier for people who are eligible for the SNAP program to receive them,” Rifkin says, referring to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. “A lot of times, people hear how challenging it is, so they don’t even bother to apply.” Rifkin also helped plan Hazon’s second local Jewish Food Festival on Nov. 16 at Temple Adath Israel in Merion Station. The daylong event will bring together foodies, farmers, rabbis, restaurateurs, educators and others to discuss such topics as food access, sustainable food systems and congregation-based food justice programs. Federation’s Brian Gralnick believes one of the greatest challenges facing advocates is shattering the myth that it’s a shandah — a shame — to apply for public benefits. “The fact is the government has a lot more money than this Federation does. We tell individuals they’ve paid into these benefits for years, and in some ways it’s their right to claim that money back. The bigger shandah is asking Federation for help if there’s money from other sources on the table.” Another vital step, Gralnick says: Pick up the phone and share with elected officials the impact of hunger on everyday life, urging them to prevent further slashes to the food stamp program. “Ending hunger in our country will save us money in the long run — it is the Jewish and moral thing to do.” Fredda Sacharow is a longtime journalist for numerous local and national publications.
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Local chefs find that they are in demand as cookbook authors. But how does success on the plate translate into success on the page?
By Robert Libkind
ome cookbooks are meant to be drooled over at the coffee table, with gorgeous, large color photographs and text aimed at activating the salivary glands. Then there are the cookbooks meant to be used, to become dog-eared and spattered from repeated reference. To Richard Landau and other Philadelphia-based chef-authors, it’s the second category that appeals to them. “The biggest compliment a cookbook author can get is for someone to say they use the recipes,” said Landau, who, with his wife, Kate Jacoby, wrote The Vedge Cookbook, based on dishes served at their hit Center City restaurant of the same name. “We hear from people using the book, cooking their way through it,” said Landau. “That’s a big score for us. It’s a companion in your kitchen. It’s a very real cookbook — you can cook from it.” Beyond the emotional kick from reader response, Landau said he and Jacoby undertook cookbook writing as companion pieces to their restaurants, “like a program to a concert.” They self-published two earlier cookbooks based on their previous restaurants, Horizons Café in Willow Grove and Horizons off South Street in Philadelphia. They had the concept and framework for the Vedge cookbook in mind long before opening their third restaurant, but it still took a solid year of writing, editing and photography supervision before it went to the printer. The editing process was the eye-opener for Landau. “When that first manuscript comes back from the editor with all the writing on it, my God, you want to jump off a bridge,” he exclaimed.
Vedge’s spiced little carrots is one of its signature dishes.
Steve Cook, who finished writing the last chapter of the as-yet untitled Zahav
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Good Enough to Read cookbook this fall with business partner Michael Solomonov, finds keeping the home cook at the forefront is critical.
recipe-centric tomes on beans, pasta, baking, fish and meat, along with coauthoring stints with Georges Perrier and Guillermo Pernot.
“A couple of our earlier dishes at Zahav were a little ‘chef-y,’ techniquedriven,” said Cook. “One of my earlier dishes was sweetbreads wrapped in chicken skins, but you’re not going to throw that together for the kids.”
Finding time to write a cookbook is a challenge to authors whose “day job” is running restaurants, according to Green, the chef-manager of Baba’s Cafe at Material Culture, a furnishings emporium and auction house at 4700 Wissahickon Ave.
He and Solomonov undertook the project, after years of discussion, to introduce Israeli cuisine to a wider audience beyond those patronizing the restaurant. The goal, said Cook, is to promote “a view of Israel that isn’t the one talked about most often in the media, and one that shows it’s about more than hummus and falafel.”
“Cookbook writing is hard to fit in,” she said. “I initially declined to write the spice book, but decided it was both an opportunity and a challenge.” For book projects she initiates, Green approaches the publisher with what becomes the germ of the book: the table of contents and a sample chapter. For several of the books she was assigned to write, like the first in her Field Guide series, the publisher established the format, though she expanded upon the initial structure in subsequent volumes. “My last few books have had very strong photography, so you have to think about the visual part of it. The photo books involve a lot of step-by-step process,” she said. When working with chefs as a co-author, “you’re there to make them look good and make sure every recipe is clear, so there is a lot of back-and-forth” Green said. Working with both Perrier and Pernot was rewarding for Green. Serving as Perrier’s co-author for her first book “allowed me to write on my own and get editors to look at it. I had a track record,” she said. ¡Ceviche! , her book with Although he has long since transitioned to focusing on the business side of his restaurants, Steve Cook was the chef at Marigold Kitchen, his first venture.
Among the many attributes Solomonov brought to the joint project is that “he doesn’t cook food for his own ego — he wants to make the customers happy,” said Cook, whose first venture as owner and chef was at University City’s Marigold Kitchen, where he later hired Solomonov to replace him in the kitchen. “Mike’s approach is why Zahav is successful, and our cookbook is in that same vein. It’s not about the chef’s ability to do tricks.” Landau’s publisher for The Vedge Cookbook insisted on keeping it userfriendly. “We took our restaurant dishes and made them home-friendly so you don’t have to have a smoker or grill or fancy gadgets,” he said. Aliza Green, with 15 cookbooks and food guides to her credit, aims to educate the home cook. “If I hadn’t ended up cooking, I would have been a history professor,” Green said of her penchant for pedagogy. She is currently working on The Magic of Spice Blends, which she describes as an outsized book on how to use seasonings in recipes. She’s also written a series of Field Guides on ingredients (Meat, Produce, Herbs and Spices, Seafood) which focus on the nature, care and use of those foods as well as
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Pernot, the Nuevo Latino chef behind Cuba Libre in Old City and Atlantic City, earned them both a James Beard award. An author’s work isn’t done once the book rolls off the presses. That’s when they must then find time to promote it. “Publishers expect you to do more and more of the promotion on your own,” said Green. “For Running Press, I did extensive book tours that the publisher paid for, but that doesn’t happen anymore for most authors.” Today’s author must also devote time to websites, social media and blogs. Special events and guest chef gigs also demand time to spur sales. Product placement helps, too. Fante’s kitchen supply store in South Philly’s Italian Market told Green they rarely sell a pasta-making machine without also ringing up a copy of Green’s Making Artisan Pasta. Cookbooks are more than “merely a collection of recipes printed and bound together,” according to Cook. “A cookbook, especially a restaurant cookbook, has to tell a story. In this case, our cookbook is the story of Zahav.” That restaurant is now six years old — “middle-aged” as far as restaurants go, and with “a lot of history,” he said. “To try to tell that story through the food is the challenging part. We want people to get excited about the restaurant and the
recipes. The stories around the recipes, where they came from, what influenced them, that’s both interesting and challenging.” While Solomonov provided most of the recipes, Cook shouldered the writing burden for their new cookbook. “As an entrepreneur, I’ve worn many hats and always loved to write, though I’ll be super-happy when the manuscript is developed,” he said. “The first chapters write themselves, catching up with your mind — it comes naturally, it’s very exciting, fun and rewarding. But as you start knocking off chapters, it gets harder and harder, all the easy stories that you think about in the beginning fade, the walls start to move in. Your universe of material becomes smaller in trying to determine what would be a good story to tell. The creative part becomes work.”
Vedge’s Landau finds inspiration in writing the text and telling the stories, introducing each dish and its origins. Aliza Green has been influencing the way people cook and eat in Philadelphia for so long that she even got the quiche to the city from Mayor Michael Nutter at this 2009 event at Headhouse Square.
“I loved the writing part,” he said. “My next dream is to get a cookbook out that talks more about the mentality behind what we do. It’s not just the cooking — there’s an energy behind it from loving food, traveling, the stories behind it all.”
Born in Washington, D.C., as a child Green lived in Holland for a year, spent a summer in Italy as a 5-year-old and went to first grade in Israel, followed by summers in Mexico and France. She’s continued to travel as an adult — Brazil, Venezuela, Turkey and India, to name just a few.
Landau said the best cooking advice he ever received was from Joe Fischer, the owner of the now-shuttered Tale of the Whale seafood restaurant in Glenside, where a young Landau once tended bar. Fischer told him the first rule of the business is that the food simply has to taste good. “I don’t like dishes where you have to think about why you should like it,” he said. “I’m appealing to a sense of taste — this is Philadelphia, not San Francisco.”
“The biggest influence on my cooking and writing — indeed, it shaped my career — is that I lived in so many places growing up, exposed to all sorts of cuisines and markets beginning at an early age,” she said. “I can remember when we lived in Mexico — I was 11 — where our maid taught me how to make chiles rellenos.”
Philadelphia may not be San Francisco, but other locales influence local cookbook authors. Although only three of Green’s cookbooks have had dedicated international themes (Perrier’s Le Bec-Fin Recipes, ¡Ceviche! and her solo artisan pasta volume) recipes from around the world show up throughout her writing, partly as a result of an itinerant childhood spent following her theoretical physicist father to his global academic and conference commitments.
Foreign influence is what the Cook-Solomonov cookbook is all about. But their Zahav cookbook, both emphasize, is American-Israeli. “Mike trained here and understands the American consumer, but at the same time he’s Israeli and spent time in kitchens there,” said Cook. “I think of him as an interpreter. He’s got one foot in both worlds, and if anyone is going to convey this ideal of an ever-changing Israeli cuisine, Mike’s the guy to do it. Our cookbook is for an American reader who can relate to Mike in a way you may not be able to relate to an Israeli cook.”
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Good Enough to Read SPICED LITTLE CARROTS WITH CHICKPEA-SAUERKRAUT PUREE
Both the forthcoming Zahav cookbook and Green’s current project are all about seasonings.
I grew up on deli food, and it’s usually what I crave from my omnivorous childhood. The one thing I miss the most is a Reuben sandwich, and those flavors are the inspiration for this dish. At the restaurant, we finish young carrots on the grill over wood chips for a nice infusion of smoke. But even when simply baked, as we do here, the flavors in this dish harmonize to create an Eastern European vegetable tribute to the Jewish deli. Prep time: 15 minutes. Cook time: 20 minutes. Serves 6 to 8 4 tablespoons olive oil 1 tablespoon Montreal Steak Spice Blend 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar 1½ teaspoons salt ½ teaspoon ground cloves 2 medium garlic cloves, 1 minced and 1 smashed 2 pounds young or baby carrots, tops removed, leaving 1 inch of stem intact (substitute “baby-cut” carrots if necessary) 2 cups cooked chickpeas or one 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained ¾ cup bottled sauerkraut with 2 tablespoons of its juice 2 tablespoons minced fresh dill 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Solomonov said specific spices, along with techniques, are used in the cookbook to evoke Israeli cuisine. “The quality of spices we get are really good, and although there are a couple that are exotic, we make translations for the home cook so they are user-friendly.”
Recipe from Vedge: 100 Plates Large and Small That Redefine Vegetable Cooking, copyright © Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby, 2013. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold.
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MICHAEL SPAIN- SM IT H
Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl, whisk 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the steak spice blend, vinegar, ½ teaspoon of the salt, the cloves, and the minced garlic. Add the carrots and toss until combined. Transfer the carrots to a sheet pan, cover with aluminum foil so that they will steam through, and roast until forktender, 15 to 18 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to roast until the carrots are soft, an additional 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the carrots to cool. Meanwhile, to make the puree, combine the chickpeas, sauerkraut and its juice, dill, mustard, pepper, remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and the smashed garlic clove in a food processor. Process into a smooth, hummus-like consistency. To serve, spread the bean puree onto a serving plate and arrange the carrots, either still warm or fully cooled, on top.
Green’s Magic of Spice Blends cookbook, in the final stages of preparation, will feature 50 mixtures suitable for home cooks. It goes back in time to the first cookbook she read, Craig Claiborne’s Cooking with Herbs & Spices, a gift
Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby, owners of Vedge and the new V Street.
from her parents on her 11th birthday. (The book inspired the name for her first catering business, Herbs and Spices.) The first cookbook she bought for herself was Claudia Roden’s A Book of Middle Eastern Food. Other influential volumes for Green include The Cuisines of Mexico by Diana Kennedy and “of course” Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Cookbooks were never on the radar of the young Landau, a self-taught cook. But one cookbook author became his hero: Graham Kerr. Those with long enough memories may remember Kerr, an English hotelier by way of New Zealand, who gained fame nearly half a century ago as “The Galloping Gourmet,” which was the name of his first cookbook and popular television show, where a glass of wine was always close at hand on the set, along with prodigious quantities of butter and cream. Kerr’s cooking in those
days was the antithesis to the vegan regime at which Landau excels. “He made all this really rich food, then his wife had a heart attack, so he completely cleaned up his cooking,” said Landau. “His theory was, if you take out all the cheese, butter and cream, you’ve got to add stuff back in: color, texture, flavor. That’s the approach I took from him.” Although raised by Jewish parents — his mother’s family were assimilated German Jews who celebrated Christmas, which his Russian-Jewish father found appalling — Jewish cooking was not in Landau’s blood. The flavors, however, were. “We were a classic 1970s family that loved to cook, but we didn’t do grandma’s recipes,” Landau said. “We’d grill, and it was a time when woks and Chinese cooking were in vogue.” Still, Ashkenazi food struck a familiar and welcome taste for Landau, who fondly recalls the sensory joys of the Jewish deli he still craves. “I grew up in Elkins Park, where we had a restaurant called, of all things, the Chuck Wagon. I loved their big rye bread sandwiches along with the sauerkraut, pickles, caraway and dill. That is my comfort food, Jewish soul food,” said Landau.
He disagrees with those vegans and vegetarians who say that if you elect to avoid meat, you should not allow yourself to enjoy the flavors associated with meat. “There are a lot of flavors that can be translated into a vegan dish,” he said. Curing, pickling, smoking and spicing “are not exclusive to meat — they’re methods. We take those methods and apply them to vegetables.” Landau’s carrot-hummus dish from the restaurant and The Vedge Cookbook is a case in point. It features a pastrami-like spice blend, sauerkraut and dill. “It’s a direct inspiration from the Reuben. We don’t want to make a Reuben — we just like that flavor profile.” Landau regards his cookbook as a companion piece to the restaurant, “like a program at a concert.” To write a cookbook, he explained, “you’ve got to have the passion.” None of Philadelphia’s chef-authors do it for the money. While a successful restaurant with the requisite hard work can provide suitable remuneration, there’s not much of a financial return for a cookbook. One of Philadelphia›s most successful chef-entrepreneurs, Marc Vetri, proved that point in a recent Instagram picturing his first book’s royalty check for the most recent six-month period ($126.34) with this comment: “Note to chefs ... if you write a book ’cause you think you’re gonna make money ... think again.” Robert Libkind is a longtime observer of the Philadelphia food scene. This is his first contribution to Inside.
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PH OT OS/JA KEMP
The class learns about fennel with Chef Will Johnson at La Cucina at the Market.
No matter your predilection, there is a class to teach you how to make it.
By Joseph Kemp
ver the past 20 years, Philadelphia has become renowned as a food town. Our restaurants and markets are respected worldwide. We have been at the leading edge of the food truck phenomenon and we’ve got respected culinary arts programs turning out chefs ready to take the movement to the next level. But what if you want to try this at home? What are the options for those of us who want to learn to cook, learn to cook better, or simply learn to do it like the pros?
lection of cookbooks, equipment available for purchase and spice mixes made on the premises. Cook, which has been open since 2011, is the brainchild of Audrey Claire Taichman, owner of the restaurants Twenty Manning Grill and Audrey Claire. Taichman wants attendees to have “a great meal, but also the opportunity to engage with and learn from a real master of food or drink. I don’t want it to be stuffy and formal. It should be like a great dinner party at their own home should feel.”
Eyes Forward, Hands to Yourself
While it’s a rare treat to sit and learn a few feet away from people who really, really know what they’re doing in a kitchen, it’s not an inexpensive one — classes at Cook in October ranged from $75 for a pumpkin dessert class to $195 for the monthly competitive Open Stove series. But since more than half of the month’s classes were
Behind the striped awnings of a quaint corner storefront in Rittenhouse Square is Cook, the 16-seat demonstration kitchen where, about 25 times a month, top local and national chefs create unique five-course meals in an atelier setting. It is also a kitchen boutique with a huge se-
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Above: At Cook, Rachel Klein sautés vegan scallops (sliced royal trumpet mushrooms) and Carley Leibowitz displays her freshly made pear tart. Below: Fig and pear salad with arugula, eggplant bacon and herbed cashew cheese
brainer for us. And it helps to diversify our customer base.” Though not hands-on, dinner at Cook was an interactive experience for the 12 attendees, with Klein and Leibowitz explaining the various processes, sourcing exotic ingredients and answering questions on the fly.
sold out when I checked on Oct. 3rd, it’s safe to say that Taichman knows her demographic. I was able to get a seat at a class called Vegan Late Summer Harvest, taught by Rachel Klein and Carley Leibowitz of South Philly’s Miss Rachel’s Pantry. The Pantry has been around since 2007, servicing two distinct demographics at once: vegan and kosher. “As someone in a sometimes under-served market, I wanted to provide another option for the Philadelphians who keep kosher,” Klein said. “Since there are so few ingredients we have to be wary of with vegan cuisine, it’s a no-
Helpful hints flowed as the chefs whipped up a coconut-miso bisque and plated salads. We were encouraged to make our own spice blends, like the curry Klein would be using in the soup. “I like to keep multiuse ingredients handy,” she said, explaining why she made the soup with white miso, the mildest version of the fermented soybean paste. Her restaurant kitchen, like a home kitchen, only has so much space, so she develops recipes that can be built from a limited set of ingredients. We learned that Jerusalem artichokes (in a puree that night) also make good home fries. We learned that vegan butter is basically margarine. We learned that if you soak cashews overnight, they become soft and creamy, and easy to transform into vegan “cheese.” Yes, we learned about vegan cheese, which is not only a thing, but a very good thing. Klein’s version has the texture of a firmer ricotta and, while it doesn’t have a milky flavor, the fattiness of cashews and soy milk give a similar mouth feel. Klein suggested variations on her recipe — adding turmeric or saffron for color and herbs, garlic or even miso for flavor.
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Cooking’s Cool Then there’s the dark lord seitan — the primary reason I’ve been skeptical about vegan cooking for years. Seitan lies. Some years back, when vegan items began appearing on menus, it was often seitan — wheat gluten forced into familiar, meaty shapes — that tried to trick us, the omnivores, into believing we could abstain from our meat and eat it, too. But no matter how much barbecue sauce seitan floated in, we weren’t fooled. But if you treat seitan as a food on its own — in this case, sautéed with a rosemary glaze and served with fresh veggies — it’s a nice addition to a dish. And it turns out that if you don’t expect royal trumpet mushroom scallops to taste like scallops, you’ve learned that an unexpected preparation makes a beautiful and delicious presentation. And yes, a little Old Bay seasoning does seem to trigger your sense memory into making a lobster mushroom ravioli filling not only look, but kind of taste like its seafaring namesake. Dessert that night, prepared by Leibowitz, was another revelation. The crust of the cashew “brie” and glazed pear tart was made from equal parts dates and raw walnuts, processed together. No added sugar or fat, no baking, and all wonderful. The brie played off the sweetness of the dates and pears. Granted, a little squeeze of bourbon caramel sauce (2 parts sugar, 1 part coconut milk, finished with the booze) doesn’t hurt anything, ever. I left Cook with a full belly and renewed hope for humanity. My counter neighbors, Don and Robyn Freeman of Haverford, left with some new ideas on healthier cooking at home. They’d been given a gift certificate to Cook and, when they looked through the list of classes, chose Klein’s. Robyn, during introductions, shared that she’d just finished chemotherapy. As a result, she was cutting a lot of things out of her diet and needed recipes for vegetable dishes. “Rachel was very knowledgeable,” she said. “I had no idea about the mushrooms and she told us where to get all of the ingredients. I’d definitely make some of these.”
Above: Will Johnson gives Michele Moreton knife tips during class. Below: Dinner at La Cucina at the Market included pan-roasted sea bass, cauliflower risotto and cilantro-tomato salad.
Prima Cucina If Cook is the ingénue of the cooking class scene, Anna Maria Florio’s La Cucina at the Market — open since 2008 and, until recently housed at Reading Terminal Market — is the grande dame, covering everything from wine and cheese pairings to basics like knife skills. Classes are always hands-on at La Cucina and Florio happily shares the spotlight. “I have always had other chefs teach classes. Nobody wants to see the same person over and over again. Ideally, I’d like to use more people — it’s just about finding the right people who have cooking skills, but also are passionate about teaching.” One of those people is Will Johnson, of Mia & Me Catering, who runs his company out of the Dorrance H. Hamilton Center for Culinary Enterprises, a business incubator in West Philadelphia where La Cucina is operating until Florio finalizes a move back to Center City. Johnson’s class was titled “Simple, Elegant and Delicious,” and featured grilled
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flatbread, pan-roasted striped bass, cauliflower risotto and cilantroonion-tomato salad. The demonstration kitchen at the center is beautifully appointed and the 12 class members sat at the long island counter while Florio and Johnson made their introductions, talked about the menu and convinced us that yes, we did want to do a lot of hands-on work.
Johnson talked about the ingredients as the class worked, explaining why he was pairing certain flavors, how he likes to combine textures and how important it is that food looks good. “We eat with our eyes first!” is his mantra. He introduced the class to some of his favorite enhancements: fennel tops, micro greens, fresh herbs. The class sliced apples; diced onions for stock, salad and rice; stripped thyme leaves; chopped tomatoes; layered flatbread with cheese and apple slices. A head of cauliflower was cut down and then tossed with olive oil, seasoned and sent to roast in the oven with the flatbreads.
Clean Your Plate, Not Your Kitchen
Flatbread break was enjoyed with a discussion of the flavors, textures and appearance — a final drizzle of reduced balsamic vinegar giving it a sweet/sour kick. Then it was back to work and everyone got a chance to help build the risotto, adding hot stock and stirring in turn. When the rice was just about finished, Johnson brought out a container of local striped bass.
Dimacali has been cooking professionally for 10 years and evolving her business along the way. Though she’s done culinary coursework, she’s mostly field-taught, having worked in restaurants in college while she studied engineering. “My background as a structural engineer in another life makes me very detail-oriented, and that’s a big part of what makes me a great instructor,” she said.
Behind a bright orange wooden pumpkin hanging from a hook is the door to an unassuming Northern Liberties rowhouse. And behind the door is Clean Your Plate, Christina Dimacali’s home and classroom on a revitalizing block of North Sixth Street. The interior is bright, open and airy; a living room/dining room space opens to an immaculate kitchen, all modern black and stainless steel with a large, granite-topped island. A stainless steel table extended the island and held our dinner’s prep ingredients and tools.
The chef explained how and where to buy fresh fish. We smelled it: The smell of the ocean is the smell of a fresh fillet. The fish lesson was the most educational for me. I’ve always had trouble cooking fish. As this recipe was a pan roast, that meant a brief stay in a searingly hot pan followed by a trip to the oven with a little stock to make some steam. We didn’t use a non-stick pan, a tool that works great if your pan is brand-new, but makes you hate life when it’s not. Johnson used a big aluminum pan with a good coating of oil. The seasoned fish sizzled on one side for a few minutes, crusting up nicely. Then Johnson showed us how to use a thin fish spatula to release it from the pan without breaking the flesh or leaving the yummy crust behind. A quick sear on the other side and a baking sheet was filled with halffinished fillets. It took a few minutes to clean up the extra veggies and the cutting boards and pull the chairs back and that was all it took for the fish to finish. In the meantime, the tomato salad was tossed together and warm plates were brought out. Wine and water glasses were filled. I really enjoyed the cold tomato salad plated with the hot risotto because it warmed some of the tomatoes, adding another dimension to the dish.
Above: Chef Christina Dimacali and Irene Frampton assemble chicken adobo at Clean Your Plate in Northern Liberties. Below: Dan dan noodles with beet greens was a big hit.
Over dessert, I chatted with the group next to me. Michele Moreton came in from South Jersey to meet up with her son, Tim, daughter Ashley, and Ashley’s boyfriend, Jed Lemen from Rochester. It was Jed’s idea to take the class. It was an anniversary date of sorts, but mostly he wanted to take Ashley there because of a scene in the movie Hitch where Will Smith goes on a date at a cooking class. And that’s as good a reason as any.
I asked Florio what she hopes students take home from one of her classes. “I hope they come away knowing how to make nice-looking, affordable meals that they aren’t intimidated to produce,” she replied. On my way home, I got on the subway at the Will Smith mural stop and the world came full circle.
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Cooking’s Cool has its own recipe. Her grandmother’s recipe includes a nontraditional step that she calls a reverse braise. Usually, before a meat goes into a braising liquid, it’s browned in the pot to give flavor to the meat and the liquid. But meat for adobo isn’t usually browned. It marinates then cooks in the same liquid. We gave the finished bone-in breast pieces a quick sauté in oil. Dimacali noted that in the Philippines, thighs would usually be used, but around here, most people seem to prefer breast meat. Those people are boring. But the adobo was still very good, served with potatoes from the same pot.
Cleaning your plate is easy when it’s full of garlic-and-chili-braised pea leaves and Filipino chicken adobo.
Classes at Clean Your Plate are limited to no more than eight people. Dimacali feels it’s important for people to get their hands on the food to really gain experience and knowledge. “I’ve been to classes where you chopped an onion and then you walked away and you were like, ‘What just happened?’ ” she said. I arrived first for the Asian Spice class and Dimacali opened my wine bottle, saying riesling was the perfect choice for the menu. When my first classmate, Zach Shimota, arrived from Old City, he brought beer and our chef approved of his choice. I felt less special. As we waited for our final two classmates, I asked Shimota why he decided to take the class. “Everyone makes fun of me because I always eat TV dinners,” he said, leading Dimacali and me to reminisce about the TV dinners of our youth. Are there still foil trays? Do you have to peel back the cover over the blueberry cobbler? Shimota had no idea what we were talking about. We’d be making dan dan noodles, tuna sushi and chicken adobo. The noodle dish excited me. It would be in the style of Han Dynasty, one of my favorite restaurants. I envied the people who would be getting their first taste of Szechwan peppercorns that night. That original hit of peppercorn, chili oil and chilies at Han opened my eyes and taste buds as well as my pores.
It was a clear, warm, late summer evening, so Dimacali set a table in her small backyard for the four of us. As we chewed, we chatted. We talked about restaurants in Philly that we’d tried or wanted to try. My other classmates, the Framptons, have settled in Philadelphia after some time in San Diego, hailing originally from the Midwest. The class was a birthday present from Matt to Irene. Matt’s takeaway: “All these different ingredients I never knew about. I’m going to try finding some of that stuff.”
The Master Speaks How many dumplings do you think you can eat? I used to think I could eat all of them. A few years ago, I’d become so tired of American Chinese food that steamed dumplings were all I’d order. Then I took the Dim Sum class with Joseph Poon and I found there is, indeed, a limit. Someone just had to keep putting them in front of me. A word of warning: unless requested not to, Joe Poon cooks with pork and shrimp. Almost everything we made had one or the other. But I did talk with him about substitutions and he recommends using ground chicken, turkey or even tofu as wonton filling. He suggested using a tiny bit of seaweed with the dried flounder, old chicken and black pepper in his amazing wonton soup stock. I’m working on getting the proportions just right. As a groundbreaking Asian Fusion chef, Poon wants his student to learn the basics and then create recipes that are unique and personal.
As happens so often in a good dish, a few great ingredients in the right proportions makes the whole thing work. Our noodles rivaled Han Dynasty’s. Some beet greens quickly cooked in the noodle water complemented the spicy noodles. We paused to enjoy. Temporarily sated and still mopping our brows, we got to work on the chicken adobo. Soy sauce and white vinegar were measured into an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven with some garlic, spices, sugar and a bay leaf. Chicken and potatoes followed. Dimacali described adobo as the burger of the Philippines: Every family makes it and every family
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Cream Cheese Rangoon, a non-treif variation on a classic dumpling.
Above: Joseph Poon (right) talks about needle noodles while Carley Marion (left) and Thomas Paul make them. Maddie Sullivan awaits her turn. Below: Moon cake and moon bunny, two of the 1,001 things you can make with needle noodle dough
Joseph Poon is a master chef. One of 300, voted into mastery by executive chefs worldwide. He founded Philadelphia’s Sang Kee Peking Duck House in 1979 and Joe’s Peking Duck in 1984. He worked in corporate restaurant management, and then opened three more Chinatown restaurants. At 65, Poon is retired from day-to-day cooking and fills his schedule with walking tours of Chinatown, tours to China, demonstrations of his amazing fruit- and vegetable-carving skills and cooking classes held at Joseph Poon Chef Kitchen. PHOTO S/JA KEMP
I spent three hours with Chef Poon and seven other students on a sunny Sunday in September. Upstairs from the Cherry Street Chinese Kosher Vegetarian Restaurant is the ghost of Poon’s last full-time restaurant. As the class assembled, we were offered bottles of water, instructed on how to fold our towels, tied on aprons and then we were ushered back to the open kitchen to wash our hands. Poon was busy fishing bits of fish and chicken out of a wok full of rapidly boiling stock and into a chinois. Others use cheesecloth to strain their stock, but Poon finds the fine-mesh sieve to work fine.
Chef Poon’s patter was nonstop. More information that you require, more than you can hope to absorb. One instruction was often interrupted mid-sentence by a necessary sub-instruction, rule of thumb, strong opinion about the restaurant business or personal anecdote.
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Cooking’s Cool Poon sent us back to our seats at a long, stainless steel table. Two plates of cream cheese and two stacks of wonton wrappers awaited us. We would be making Cream Cheese Rangoon, a more Semitophilic version of the Burmese crustacean concoction. Poon demonstrated the process: a small wad of cream cheese in the center of a wonton wrapper, pull up the sides and fold into pleats, pressing to seal the dough. My classmate, Thomas Paul, and I were tasked with frying the dumplings. Goldenbrown, Poon said. Take them out when they’re golden. I was a little nervous. My eyes darted back and forth between the dark oil and Poon’s dark eyes. He smiled and shook his head. I was on my own. Finally, I raised my basket one last time, as did Paul. We looked at the chef and the chef approved.
Unsurprisingly, fried wonton wrappers filled with hot cream cheese taste pretty darn good. The last of the duck sauce was mopped up and the plates were cleared and replaced with fresh ones: two stacks of American-style wonton wrappers and two plates of filling. Poon showed us how to fold American-style dumplings. Then he showed us again, slowly. We got the idea when he explained that they should look like large tortellini. After wrapping and rewrapping, our finished wontons sat perched like a menagerie of origami deep sea creatures. That was good enough, though. Back to the kitchen. Two woks filled with boiling water were then filled with dumplings. We stirred them immediately and kept them gently moving. After a couple of minutes,
Staring at Fish Heads, Smelling Pastrami: A Day at C&R Kitchen the restaurant’s shift from a fine-dining destination to a more casual, everyday dining spot. I was shown around the kitchen and introduced to Kandler, while Bay started tearing things apart. As the low-key, mellow Kandler busily stepped from one job to the next, Bay was moving shelves, stacking dry goods bound for their sister operation, Six Points Kosher Events, and checking with Kandler on the kosher status of equipment he no longer needed or wanted in his kitchen. Kandler is the mashgiach at C&R, the kosher supervisor. Not only does he inspect every food order that comes into the building, but he is also responsible for lighting every fire that will be used for cooking. In one case, that means lying down on the floor with a burning napkin, reaching way under the oven. Kandler started his career as a kosher supervisor, but wanted to get his hands in the glitzy business of food preparation, so he started cooking. I was amazed at how many projects he got done in the few hours I was with him. Pastramis went into the smoker and then the oven. He braised about 20 fish heads for the holiday dinner at his synagogue. He made a challah for Shabbat. He cut the kernels off a dozen ears of corn (the cobs get added to chicken stock), quartered pounds of potatoes and diced a bunch of onions. He roasted a duck that he’d dry-aged in the walk-in because he saw it on another restaurant’s menu. He took a cart full of leftovers and transformed it into a staff dinner that was the first of three delicious meals I would eat that night. All the while, he answered Bay’s questions, my questions and the questions of the other cooks. He went back and forth to the Cryovac, sealing up bags to be used later. “Most of the time,” Kandler said, “cooking is about hustling.” When the other cooks arrived at around 3 p.m., that’s when the kitchen really started to buzz. Without wasting any time, they started their prep. Fresh pasta was made for the dinner special. I asked one of them, Todd Vanwagner, if the tangles of finished spaghetti were laid Chef Rob Kandler at work in C&R Kitchen’s basement prep room. On the right is all out in portion sizes and, just to humor me, he took out the pastrami waiting to go into the smoker.
ost people will tell you, you learn more working in a restaurant than going to cooking school.” The person who told me that was Rob Kandler of Merion’s C&R Kitchen, formerly Citron & Rose. Kandler had just become the sous chef after working as a line cook since the kosher meat dining establishment opened in 2012. Valentin Bay, the restaurant’s executive chef, was the first person I met upon arriving at C&R for my stage. Pronounce “stage” in French — stohj — and it sounds impressive. In real life, it’s a chance for a student or a curious chef to see how a kitchen works from the inside. It’s also a chance for a restaurant to get a free day’s labor. I showed up on a slow Tuesday, so the advantage was mine: I didn’t really have to do any work, but both Kandler and Bay let me follow them, picking their brains. A couple of days before Rosh Hashanah, both chefs were taking advantage of the dearth of reservations to do some work that’s not on the menu. Bay was rearranging practically everything in the prep kitchen downstairs. “In my mind, we’re opening a new restaurant,” he said. That means new staff, new rules and a new menu that would better reflect
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when the dumplings started to float, Poon added a cup of cool water. When the water came back up to the boil, he pronounced them cooked. But they still needed to be browned and sauced. Quick work under the tutelage of the old pro and an 80,000 BTU stove. As we ate this round of dumplings, we made Hong Kong wontons for the soup. This time, thin Hong Kong-style wrappers were used since these would only be boiled. Hong Kong-style dumplings are wonderfully uncomplicated: A dab of filling goes in the center of the wonton in the palm of your hand and then the sides get wrinkled up around it. Poon showed us how to slam each one down onto the plate. I’m not sure if that was to get the right shape or just entertain the chef. a scale and yes, each one was within a tenth of an ounce of the 3-ounce portion. “I do this a lot,” he said. I learned that the restaurant’s kosher ice cream, which Mike Brunetti was making in the Paco Jet, is made from coconut and soy milk and flavored with fruit. I got a taste of the mango. Wonderful. Brunetti is the garde manger, which means he is responsible for desserts, salads and other cold dishes. Kandler gave me the lowdown on the pastrami. It gets brined for 10 days, then dry-rubbed with pepper and spices and smoked for two hours, then finished in a low oven for three more hours. All day long, I smelled it. I’m making one. It was all plastic bins and tray liners, jockeying for space in the convection oven, slicing, dicing and cleaning up until 5 p.m., when happy hour started. Staff dinner was fit in and everyone took a precious 15-minute break to eat off china plates on our laps. The rest of the staff talked to the chefs and carried things up to the dining room. “This is my least favorite part of the day,” said Kandler, “schlepping everything upstairs.” Upstairs, the private room was set up for the lady with the name tag who would be bringing in a group very soon. The chefs manned their stations in the open kitchen: Vanwagner at the meat grill, Kandler at the stove, Brunetti at the garde manger station while also covering the fish grill for the chef who called out sick. The chefs checked their mise — low boy refrigerators filled with their prepped ingredients. I was introduced to Justin Specht, the expediter. He and chef Bay would take turns calling orders. He’d check on the tables and cross-check with the waiters, letting the chefs know when to fire the dishes so that the orders for a table all come out together. And then there was an issue. Nobody could find the tomatoes. They were on today’s order, has anybody seen them? Nope, nope. At 5:15, the tomatoes were on their way — the purveyor forgot them. Water glasses were filled and the big party trickled in. Martinis and white wines were carried on trays from the bar. An order of the spaghetti and meatballs was made up and plated. The wait staff tasted it. Specht tasted it. Bay tasted it. Then he went back behind the kitchen’s half wall to talk Brunetti through an order of pasta with mushroom sauce. A pinch of pumpkin spice went into the mushroom sauce. It’s Bay’s trick, adding a seasonal signature spice to every dish — not enough to taste, just something that brings everything together. “This is the closest thing to cheese we have on the menu,” he told me when he told me to eat it. It is
I stopped Thomas Paul and Carley Marion on their way out to see why they’d come and what they thought of the class. It was Paul’s idea to take a cooking class because he wanted to learn how to cook. He either has a limited repertoire or he always cooks the same thing, depending on who answers the question. Paul seemed almost disappointed when he said his culinary takeaway was, “Making dumplings is easy. Pan-fry and steam.” Shrug. He’d expected more of a challenge. But like writing a poem, I suspect that bringing just a few elements together to create something memorable will always be a challenge for the home cook, just as it is for the professional ones. As it should be. Joseph Kemp is the design director for Inside and a pretty good pretend chef.
Chicken backs, fish heads, corn cobs and aromatics slowly become delicious broths.
very good. Rich and earthy and yes, cheesy without a hint of dairy. Orders came in from the bar and Brunetti plated fries, hummus, pretzels, wings. Finally, the orders from the private room came in. This is what I’d been waiting for — to see the kitchen in action, to see the hustling. Brunetti got the first fish orders: three trout and a salmon, one of the trout well done. There was discussion about how to time that. Vanwagner covered the fries that go with his steaks and burgers. Kandler only had a goulash which was getting heated on the stovetop and then held in his oven. He chatted with me, with the servers, with some friends who came in for happy hour. Orders went in turn to the expediting station where they were garnished, inspected and matched to the proper seats. And just like that, the rush was over. It seemed like about 10 minutes of controlled chaos and then the chefs went right into cleaning their stations. Until a waiter rushed back in — short one burger. So it was all hands on deck to plate one order, fast. And it got done and sent off with head-shaking and apologies and wondering how that happened. And then the low boy refrigerators were pulled out and two cooks somehow shimmied themselves behind them and under the counter and they started cleaning because the work never stops and everything needed to be squared away before the holiday. I said my goodbyes, thanked the chefs and headed home. I was tired, having watched all that hard work.
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PHOT OS/ JA KEM P
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Just My Truck
How do you become part of the mobile food renaissance?
By Keri White
ike craft beer, sriracha and sushi before them, food trucks have moved from trend to earning their place at the American dining table. Gone are the days when a mobile meal meant a “dirty-water dog” from a pushcart; culinary feats are achieved daily in Philly’s thriving food truck scene, and Jewish foodies are in on the action. We caught up with four local Jewish food truck owners who shared their journeys, and it was quite a ride.
Aside from all being Jewish, our Fab Four were fairly diverse, but they had several things in common: a love of food, gregarious personalities, an entrepreneurial streak and comfort with risk and uncertainty.
Serving Bagels with a Side of Tzedakah During his time at the University of Pennsylvania, Dave Fine, owner of Schmear It (schmearit.com) became well-acquainted with the ubiquitous food trucks offering everything from Korean to crèpes on the streets of University City. Little did he know he’d be manning one himself within two years of his graduation.
COURT ESY SCHM EAR IT
After graduating in 2011, Dave returned to his native Baltimore to work in the nonprofit sector. “I liked the mission of the work, but I found the limitations due to lack of resources frustrating,” says Fine. “I began to look at creative for-profit business models where resources were more plentiful and the work could really make an impact — like Tom’s Shoes and Warby-Parker Eyeglasses. They have one-for-one policies where every time a customer buys a pair of shoes or eyeglasses, the company donates a pair to a person in need. That struck me as a really innovative and effective way for a brand or product to make a social impact.” After ruminating on how he might mimic that model, Fine arrived at the answer: food. Thus was born Schmear It, which, according to its mission, serves bagels with “custom-crafted, made-to-order schmears AND social good.”
Above: The process of making strawberry cream cheese at Schmear It. Opposite, top: The Schmear It truck Opposite, bottom: Scott Kaplan of Jerry’s Kitchen is ready to schmooze.
Fine admits it was a bit of a leap: “I have no culinary experience, I didn’t have the funds for a brick-and-mortar restaurant, but then I thought of a food truck, and Philly seemed to be a good place to launch one.” He looked around at what was missing from the current local fleet, and saw that there was no bagel truck. With no real cooking experience, he knew he had to come up with something simple, but it also had to be unique and appealing. “I’m sort of the Cold Stone Creamery of schmear,
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Just My Truck
businesses with values-based missions that leverage the power of the Jewish community for the benefit of all communities. His pitch resonated with the Tribe 12 organization: “First off, bagels are traditionally Jewish, so that was a good place to start. Secondly, I always liked the festive bagels-and-lox meals with my family, and I wanted to bring that piece of my cultural heritage to Penn and the larger community. There are a lot of Jews at Penn but not a lot of good bagels available nearby. Finally, I had the inclination to ‘do good,’ and that really hit on the Jewish values of Tribe 12 and the Federation.” An egg bagel with a whitefish schmear and a hot La Colombe in Love Park
Fine says. “We source our bagels from South Street Philly Bagels, and I mix each schmear to order.” The most popular items on the Schmear It menu are the “Loxsmith,” a traditional Jewish preparation of cream cheese, lox, scallions, tomatoes and cucumbers; and the “Stuffed French Toast” with cream cheese, strawberries, bananas, walnuts, cinnamon and maple syrup. True to Fine’s original mission, each bagel is served with a side of social good. According to the Schmear It website, “the truck doubles as a grassroots fundraising and marketing platform for local nonprofits. Every two weeks, Schmear It features a new local cause and donates a portion of sales to support the organization.” Previous beneficiaries have included: Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia; Pegasus Therapeutic Riding Academy; Smith Memorial Playground; Mighty Writers; Dragonfly Forest Camp; and South Philadelphia High School Community Gardens. Fine credits his grandfather with helping form his social conscience: “I vividly remember my Zayde reciting the line” — from Leviticus on the practice of gleaning — “about leaving the four corners of the field unharvested for the poor. He always gave back and helped others, even though he wasn’t a wealthy man.” Fortunately for Fine, his family was extremely supportive of the food truck venture. He also got some help from the Tribe 12 Fellowship Program, which helps Philadelphia’s young Jewish professionals create
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With a year on the truck under his belt, Fine reflects back on the ride: “I love connecting with customers, having them come back again and again to enjoy my food, to bring me their friends and their charities to support. Sure, it’s hard sometimes; I’m the chef, the sourcer, the accountant, the scheduler, the mechanic — I wear all the hats. When I first started, the truck’s engine went and I had to completely overhaul it. There’s always something unexpected happening and I don’t get much sleep. But I love it. Every day I’m happy to go to work — I’m excited about the next cool opportunity that will come my way.”
Going Mobile to Stay Close to Home Jerry’s Kitchen Food Truck (jerrys-kitchen.com) owner Scott Kaplan also credits his grandfather with inspiring his current path. Jerry’s Kitchen, named for Kaplan’s Poppy, Jerry Klein, is a newcomer to the scene, having launched in late August. “My grandfather was my mentor, my inspiration, my muse,” Kaplan explains. “He loved to eat, to have us gathered around as a family. He was just the greatest guy. He died four years ago and I still think of him every day.” Kaplan always loved to cook, and early on he apprenticed at White Dog Cafe. “What I learned through that experience,” Kaplan says with a smile, “is that I am not a commercial cook. I really thought I wanted to be a chef until then, but it wasn’t for me. So, I went back to college, and worked in the business world in sales and management for 12 years.” After a three-month consulting assignment in New York that took Kaplan away from his wife, Eva, and their three young daughters, he decided to try something else.
The rustically affixed menu of the day at Jerry’s Kitchen, where house potatoes are served with every sandwich — in this case, a huge vegan black bean burger. Each order is also served with a side of schmooze, courtesy of owner Scott Kaplan.
Although he knew a chef’s life was not for him, Kaplan had a good feel for food and, after 12 years in sales, management and consulting, he understood business and customer service. He thought about a restaurant, but, like Dave Fine, a brick-and-mortar venture required more of an investment than he was prepared to make, and he feared it would tether him to the place. He wanted something flexible and nimble. A food truck fit the bill. Jerry’s Kitchen serves modern American food, including a healthy selection of vegan and gluten-free options. The goal is to offer generous portions of delicious food, each of which comes with the chef’s signature side of potatoes, which meet halfway between potato chips and home fries. Recent menu highlights include tarragon chicken salad sandwich with sprouts and avocado (Kaplan’s favorite), black bean burger, homemade granola, and a hamburger with grilled mushrooms. Although the Kaplan home is kosher, the food truck is not. Kaplan explains: “I have experience keeping kosher, and I am offering a number of vegan items so people who keep kosher can consider those options. A Conservative rabbi said he would eat a veggie burger from Jerry’s, so I figured that was a pretty good endorsement.” Kaplan loves the food, but he’s not in the kitchen, “We have an experienced local chef behind the stove; he’s cooked at a number of acclaimed Philly restaurants,” he says. “My role is the business and customer relations side of things. I’m out in front of the truck taking orders, interacting, connecting with our guests, getting their feedback. I like the schmooze. I get it from my mother — being social is in my DNA.” Kaplan says his mother, Carol, was “an uber-hostess. She was always entertaining; we hosted huge gatherings for the holidays with tons of family and friends, and that made an impression on me as far as bringing people together with food.” Was she a typical Jewish mother? Scott
laughs. “You mean the guilt? Well, she was strict; she was a bit of a whip-cracker and she didn’t take nonsense. And I was kind of hyperactive, so it was probably a good thing.” Kaplan considers his Jewish heritage when he reflects on launching this enterprise: “I think of the tradition of passing down things from generation to generation, and working in a family business. My daughters are excited about the idea of working on the truck. For now, they just play on it and pretend, but eventually we could be looking at a larger venture, a true family business. That, to me, is a very Jewish ideal.“
Learning to Kibitz on the Road Neil Parish, owner of Reuben on Rye (reubenonrye.com), joined the world of food trucks through a different route. As longtime proprietor of The Kibitz Room Deli in Cherry Hill, Parish viewed the food truck as a natural outgrowth of his bricks-and-mortar business. He explains, “We saw food trucks becoming increasingly popular, and that seemed like a good way to take our business to the next level.” But Parish’s entry into the food business came a long time before his foray into this current trend. “When I turned 16, I went up to my father and said, ‘Dad, I’m 16, I’m getting my driver’s license, so will you buy me a car?’ Dad said, ‘You want a car? You get a job!’ So I got a job at Kaplan’s Deli in Randallstown, Maryland.” The deli business seemed to be a good fit for Parish: “I wasn’t a great student; I always preferred working to studying. And deli food was familiar and comfortable. Growing up, every Friday night and Sunday after Hebrew school we would have a deli tray with corned beef, pastrami, smoked fish, bagels. I came from a big family, and this was sort of a cultural thing.” Reuben on Rye launched in 2012. The truck is essentially a traveling Jewish deli with a menu featuring cold sandwiches, Reubens, salads,
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COURTESY REUBEN ON RYE
Just My Truck
Top: The sandwich that spawned a truck: Reuben on Rye’s reuben. Bottom: The truck, ready to show people what a mobile deli can do.
matzo ball soup and knishes. Like his brother-truckers, Parish learned quickly that to optimize the business he had to be nimble. “The market was becoming saturated, spots were often scarce, and we found the permitting and licensing process to be challenging. So Parish decided to focus more on The Kibitz Room and use Reuben on Rye more for catering and special events. “The truck was always a sideline business for us, he explains. “Things like Night Market, neighborhood festivals and street fairs are a perfect fit for the truck. We seek those out and always get great response. We also do private events like Bar Mitzvahs and weddings. We did the food truck thing for two years and it was fun, but we kind of feel like that chapter has run its course.”
A Wood-Burning Passion Josh Schainbaum, self-described “Owner and Chief Dough Wrangler” of Fire Eaters Pizza (fireeaters.mobi) is 18 months into his venture — and he hasn’t looked back. After several unfulfilling years in various business-related positions, Schainbaum experienced an “a-ha moment”
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Josh Schainbaum tends to pizza dough next to his wood-fired oven inside the trailer of Fire Eaters Pizza, his kosher food truck.
that led to his current vocation. “I wasn’t happy, and I wasn’t making people happy,” he recalled. “Someone asked me, ‘what is your secret purpose in life?’ and I immediately responded with a gut reaction: ‘artisan food.’ Until that moment I really didn’t know myself.” Soon after this conversation, Schainbaum began to develop the idea of a kosher pizza truck. His entrepreneurial side kicked in and he saw an opportunity to create something unique. “Jewish food is fine,” Schainbaum explains, “but real, artisanal food is what drew me to this. It had to be kosher, because this is the world I’m in, so we are certified by the Orthodox Vaad HaKashrus of Philadelphia. But my goal is to create world-class pizza, for my food to be so good that everyone seeks it out. Rome is one of the earliest Diaspora communities, so there is a historical connection between Italian and Jewish food.” In addition to traditional selections like Margherita, white and marinara pizzas, Fire Eaters also features a local harvest menu showcasing seasonal specialties like smoked butternut squash with roasted garlic, and baby spinach with roasted portobello mushrooms.
COURTE S Y FIRE E A TE RS P IZZA
CATERING FOR ALL OCCASIONS FOR OVER 50 YEARS AFFAIRS FOR ANY BUDGET CERTIFIED KOSHER
Also on the Fire Eaters menu: Seasonal focaccia
It is not terribly surprising that Schainbaum landed here when he describes his passions. â€œIâ€™ve always loved bread,â€? he says. â€œMy parents were Eastern European, and my mother baked amazing bread, I remember as a child when I had commercially produced bread I was like, â€˜this isnâ€™t bread!â€™ As an adult, I built a wood-burning bread oven in my backyard and one day decided to try making pizza in it. It was a bit of a revelation.â€? Schainbaum speaks with zeal about his production method: â€œEvery step of the process risks the outcome of the product. How hot the fire is, when to turn it â€” it is not automated. There is an immediacy and an authenticity that I value highly.â€? Factors like the weather affect the dough and, despite owning an 80-quart commercial mixer the size of a bathtub, Josh mixes it by hand every day. â€œI need to feel it to make sure itâ€™s going to come out right. I have a formula but I have to vary it based on a variety of things like the temperature of the air or the humidity on a given day.â€? Kneading dough is serious physical work, he says. â€œIâ€™m in better shape than Iâ€™ve been in for years.â€?
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Keri White is a local freelance journalist and contributor to the Philacatessen blog on jewishexponent.com.
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The weather doesnâ€™t just affect the dough â€” it has a profound influence on the business itself. â€œWe really are a six-month enterprise,â€? Schainbaum explains. For this reason, he has sought different outlets for his product. This includes community deliveries in the winter, where people can preorder and the truck will come to a designated spot for customers to come en masse and pick up large orders. In addition, Schainbaum has recently placed frozen pizzas in ShopRite and Whole Foods Markets. But doing tastings and demos in markets and at events remains his favorite part of the business: â€œIn the day-to-day, I rarely get to see people actually eat the food. When they buy off the truck it is a whole pie so they take it away in a box. When I see people enjoy my pizzas, it feeds my soul. It makes me so happy.â€?
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a special advertising section
CAMP GUIDE 2015 Day Camps
Ramah Day Camp
B’nai B’rith Perlman Camp
Elkins Park, PA 215-885-8556 ramahdaycamp.org Ramah Day Camp located in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania offers four, six and eight week options for children in grades PreK to seven (ages four to 13), a leadership training program for sixth and seventh graders and a CIT program for eighth to tenth graders. The exceptional staff offers Jewish programs, Red Cross swim program, sports, nature, arts, music, drama, outdoor adventure, trips, overnights and a special needs inclusion program.
202-857-6663 email@example.com www.perlmancamp.org Nestled in the Pocono Mountains on 350 magnificent acres, B’nai B’rith Perlman Camp is committed to providing children with a safe, fun and enriching summer camp experience in a Jewish environment.
Stroudsburg, PA 215-487-2267 firstname.lastname@example.org www.pinemere.com This dynamic, unique Jewish overnight camp in the Poconos features a fun and welcoming environment, innovative programs, rustic setting and a great staff. Co-ed, grades two to 11. Ask about their introductory programs and special incentives for new campers.
Camp Ramah in the Poconos
URJ Camp Harlam
Lakewood, PA 215-885-8556 www.ramahpoconos.org Camp Ramah in the Poconos is an overnight summer camp located in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains for kids and teens grades 2-10. Activities include- sports, waterfront, visual & performing arts, outdoor adventure, high ropes course and more. Ramah’s mission is to create lifelong Jewish connections, one happy camper at a time.
610-668-0423 CampHarlam@URJ.org URJCampHarlam.org Camp Harlam, a Union for Reform Judaism residential summer camp, offers programs for children grades 2-12 in sessions of 10 days, 3½ weeks and 7 weeks. Over 56 summers, Harlam has earned its reputation as one of the finest Jewish camps in North America.
URJ Harlam Day Camp Bryn Mawr, PA 610-668-0423 HarlamDayCamp@URJ.org URJHarlamDayCamp.org Through a program that is exciting, meaningful, fun and challenging amidst a Jewish setting, URJ Harlam Day Camp creates experiences that foster Jewish identity, build community and inspire personal growth.
ong Jewish ing lifel ne happy c connections o amper a Creat t a tim e! RAMAH DAY CAMP
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OVERNIGHT CAMP 2nd-10th grade
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Publishing January 15 and February 12, 2015. For more information, contact Norma Kramer, 215.832.0702.
BLOGS Sure to
Parents Mother Words Miriam’s Advice Well Philacatessen Look for them at
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HIGH PLAINS GIFTERS We’ve scoured the globe for this year’s ideal presents. By Greg Salisbury great present is a great present, regardless of its provenance. This year, we hopscotched from Israel to Switzerland to Brazil for your to-give/get list.
Cooking in a Vacuum The professionalization of the home kitchen continues apace with the new Anova sous vide immersion circulator. French for “under vacuum,” sous vide cooks ingredients sealed in plastic at low temperatures to produce restaurantquality food. With features like an LCD touchscreen display, automatic shutoff and silent running, Anova has created a must-have for anyone interested in broadening their approach to cooking. $199; available at anova.com
You Call That a Knife? Actually, we do: Kyocera’s ceramic knives, like the 8-inch Revolution Series 8-inch chef’s knife pictured here, are a revelation. Lightweight, well balanced and with an edge that lasts 10 times longer than more traditional carbon steel blades, this will become the go-to knife for the lucky recipient. Just remember to get a penny back for good luck when you give it to them! $80; available wherever fine knives are sold; kyoceraadvancedceramics.com
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It’s the Yeast You Could Do This isn’t a half-baked idea: giving someone the same tool that has helped artisan bakers produce airy, crusty loaves for centuries will ensure you not just appreciation, but plenty of complex carbs to work off throughout the year. Freiling Brotform molds improve the texture of bread, give it better rise, a uniform shape — and an ideal crust. prices vary; available at kitchenware stores and online; direct.freiling.com
Run for These Roses How good is Four Roses bourbon? They were just named the 2015 Whisky Distiller of the Year — America for the fourth time in five years. One dram of their Small Batch, with its tobacco and vanilla nose and lingering smoke finish is all you’ll need to know why. $24.99. Available at Wine and Spirits stores.
Once you lace up a pair of On’s Cloudrunners, you’ll immediately know why the Swiss company with the tiny name has been making an outsized splash in running circles. Their combination of cushioned landing with barefoot takeoff makes for a powerfully effective run. Cloudrunner: $139; available at City Sports and REI; on-running.com
This year’s idea that made us laugh out loud and say “great idea!” at the same time: The Beardski. Part neoprene balaclava, part amazingly hirsute neckwarmer, this is the best conversationstarter you will ever wear over your face. $34.95-39.95; beardski.com
A Perfect Circle Novica is one of our favorite places to send people. The site helps individual artisans from around the world like Eveli Przepiorka, a Brazilian Jewish jeweler who hand-crafts works like the amethyst-and-silver ring at left. You get a one-of-a-kind work, Novica sells the items and then sends the artisan the proceeds. Everybody wins! $255; available at novica.com
All Good in This Hood You already know Brooks makes some of the best running shoes on the planet, but their clothing is nothing to sneeze at, either. Avoid the cold — and catching one — in the Nightlife LS pullover, which features four-way stretch fabric, multiple reflectivity and a speed hood with headphone cord exit. $80; available at sporting goods stores; brooksrunning.com
Pram-time Warmth From the Why Didn’t We Think of This? department: 7 A.M. Enfant’s WarMMuffs are handwarmers that attach to your stroller — you can slide your hands out to effortlessly get to your darling without tugging off and then putting away your gloves. Bonus: the company offers matching accessories for baby as well. $38-44; 7amenfant.com
To Protect and Deserve We love a good dual-purpose item, which is why we were drawn to Linda Blatchford’s handmade hamsa jewelry. The lead- and nickel-free braceletand-earrings set allows you to wear the hand of God in a beautiful way. $80; available at linorstore.com
Good in Clutch Situations One of the best parts about the holidays: the parties. One of the best parts of going to the parties: getting dressed to impress. With the Essex wristlet clutch from Ann Taylor, you can appear in all your tortoiseshell splendor and have a place to put your stuff. $68; available at Ann Taylor stores and at anntaylor.com
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presenting Bluetooth and Consequences The SYNC by 50 On-Ear Wireless Headphones Sport Collection delivers something every workout fanatic has been clamoring for: premium sound, durability and full Bluetooth capability. With sweat-proof chambers and perforated leather memory foam ear pads, this is the nicest present you’ve ever heard. $229.95; available at amazon.com
Got You Covered You don’t just want protection; you want super protection for your phone, iPod and iPad. Skinit’s new inkFusion cases provide that — along with a staggering array of customizable design options, from superheroes to Hello Kitty, pro teams — even your own photos. prices vary; available at skinit.com
Land of Milk and Cosmetics
Power Trips The portable charger market has really taken off in the past year, and as a result, there are numerous options for people who want to make sure their devices don’t run out of juice. One of our current faves: the tiny myCharge Energy Shot, which delivers up to 10 hours of talk time in a lipstick-sized case. $20; available at major brick-and-mortar and online retailers.
Genome Sweet Home Granted, it would be tough to give this gift as a surprise, unless you’re adept at swabbing for DNA samples. Family Tree DNA’s Family Finder can trace your family history — both geographically and chronologically. Using its massive database, it can tell you where your ancestors lived and who they were going back five generations. $99; familytreedna.com
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We are always looking for great Israeli companies and products to call to your attention, and we have a twofer this year. Cosmetica is an Israeli company dedicated to offering goods from Israel’s top cosmetics companies, like Moraz. Their gift pack combines the Israeli healing herb polygonuym with jojoba oil to create a natural replenishment system for your skin. $45. cosmetica-israel.com
Utility Players We know what you’re thinking: “A vacuum? A heater? Really?! Do you want me in the doghouse?” Trust us, though — when the raves start coming in about how much easier cleaning is thanks to Dyson’s new DC59 Motorhead’s (the hardest-rocking name in vacuuming, by the way) lightweight multifunctionality, and about how quickly and quietly the AM05 will heat up the room in winter and cool it off in summer — you’ll be thanking us for the recommendation. DC59: $549; AM05: $399. Available at major brick-andmortar and online retailers; dyson.com
Eyes Wide Shut Everything for babies is just so darn cute that it makes us that much happier when a product has a purpose beyond inducing “awwww...” The Zoë B Organic Sleepy Hat, made from organic cotton, is designed to fit over the eyes of babies three months and older in a comforting way to help them sleep. For clueless adults, there is the handy graphic as well. $17.99; available at baby stores and websites
Win One for the Slippers When Moccis blow up here, you can say that you had them first. These handsewn sock-slipper hybrids feature washable leather soles, irritation-free elastic ankles and whimsical designs that will make you happy from your head to your toes. prices vary; moccis.co.uk
A-Maze-ing There’s a reason we feature ThinkFun games in every gift guide: they make games we wish we had as kids and that we want to play even as adults. Case in point: the deceptively difficult Gravity Maze, a logic test for both visual perception and reasoning. Just tell the kids you got it because it’s so cool, though. $29.99; Available at major brick-and-mortar and online retailers; thinkfun.com
Make Your Marquee For anyone who has ever wanted to see their name up in lights, we can suggest the next best thing. Vintage Marquee Lights creates letters and symbols that are inspired by, yes, vintage marquee signs from the 20th century — right down to the antiqued finish. starting at $159; Would vintagemarqueelights.com
A Slam-Dunk Gift OK, wrong sports terminology, but you get the point. The New Eagles Encyclopedia should definitely be on deck (sorry — did it again) as one night’s gift for Eagles fans. $35; available at local bookstores and at amazon.com
It Kill You to Try Some Empathy?
A Shell of a Game If you’ve been looking for a game that combines turtles and computer programming, look no further. Robot Turtles, the most-backed board game in Kickstarter history, uses an engaging board game format to teach kids (and adults — hopefully!) how to code. $24.99. Available at major brick-and-mortar and online retailers; thinkfun.com
For truth in advertising, it’s hard to beat The Empathy Toy. Originally designed as a way to bridge the gap between visually impaired students and their sighted classmates, Ilana Ben-Ari, the game’s creator, soon discovered that it fosters empathic learning for people of all ages and abilities. $90; available at 21toys.com
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OFF THE EATEN PATH There is more to cuisine in Israel than the usual suspects â€” if you know where to look for it. By Ilan Ben-Zion
verything about La Casa is horribly wrong. Its name suggests Spanish or Latin cuisine, its decor is a garish purple-and-white rendition of a Parisian street, and its menu is an attempt at kosher, Americanized Chinese food. But I came for something else entirely: its off-menu cholent.
There is no end to the varieties of cholent available in Jerusalem.
S TI O P A
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It was my first stop in a hunt for the more unfamiliar foods offered in Israel’s capital. Downtown Jerusalem is hardly the first place that comes to mind when discussing exotic world cuisine, dominated as it is by the hummus, shawarma and falafel joints, greasy pizza parlors and cafés. More adventurous epicures, however, can suss out a great variety of delicacies from far-flung lands — kubbeh from Iraq and Syria, borekas from Turkey, curries from India, cured meats from central Europe — thanks to Israel’s abundance of disparate immigrant populations. I’d heard from a friend that underground cholent was a hot item north of Jaffa Street, in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods of Mea Shearim and Geula. Cholent, a traditional Eastern European Jewish stew consisting mainly of beans, barley, potatoes and a variable type of meat, is cooked at length until thick enough to spackle a wall. The late-night cholent scene in Jerusalem’s Orthodox neighborhoods, however, is a striking departure from the Saturday morning slow cookers of my childhood.
A 10-minute walk across the neighborhood is Eli’s, a Haredi fast-food joint that, even long after midnight, was packed with yeshiva students in black slacks and white button-down shirts. By the entrance is a separate menu just for Thursday nights, when customers stream in to buy cholent by the liter to go. The frenetic staff slaps slabs of steaming kishka on heaping bowls of chunky stew, served with a side of hot challah. This stew had stringier beef, more barley than beans and more potatoes than La Casa’s version. It also tasted faintly of mustard and was garnished with at least one stray beard hair. The main cook, Berel, boasted that Eli’s sells more cholent than anywhere else in the world. To prove his point, he ushered me into the kitchen to back up his boast: a full dozen 9-gallon pots used to prepare that day’s batch. Not all cholent places are such conventional establishments. Down the street from Eli’s is Taimeh, a real locals-only joint with a burly, bearded man sporting a scowl and a cigarette who slops
Cholent, a traditional Eastern European Jewish stew consisting mainly of beans, barley, potatoes and a variable type of meat, is cooked at length until thick enough to spackle a wall. Beyond its core ingredients, the dish is open to near-infinite variations. While its heart-stopping levels of fat, cholesterol and carbohydrates have made it passé among most health-conscious diners, it remains a Shabbat staple among traditionalists. And on Thursday nights, restaurants of all persuasions fix gargantuan batches of it. “There’s a lot of people who make it with chicken, there’s a lot of people who make it with beef,” Joel Lefkowitz, proprietor of La Casa, said. “There’s no specific way how to do it. They say that the longer it cooks, the better it is.” “You’re gonna laugh at me, but there’s people that put in coffee, there’s people that put in ketchup, there’s people that put in honey, mustard … ” Lefkowitz trailed off in a thick Brooklyn accent peppered with Yiddish, cataloguing the long list of possible ingredients, digressing to mention one adventurous chef’s inclusion of hashish as a special ingredient. “People who ate that were flying high.” The steaming bowl of brown stew Lefkowitz served included authentic kishka — stuffed beef intestine — a delicacy that’s hard to come by in the United States. La Casa’s cholent was savory with a touch of sweetness (Lefkowitz’s partner copped to its secret ingredients being ketchup and fried onions), and a hint of garlic and paprika. He attributed Its smooth and rich consistency to the inclusion of beef fat — at only 15 shekels ($4) per bowl, an economical way to clog the arteries.
meatless cholent into a bowl that you hope he hasn’t been using as an ashtray. At a mere nine shekels ($2.50) per dish, it’s hard to expect anything more than the runny slop that looks and tastes like an old sponge left to soak in a can of Heinz beans — and that’s exactly what I got.
Having sampled the Eastern European fare that cut short my ancestors’ lives, I sought something more exotic. The back alleys of downtown Jerusalem are host to a smattering of Ethiopian restaurants opened by immigrants who made their way to Israel from the heart of Africa in the past few decades. They’re uncorrupted by waves of tourists and unfrequented by most Israelis. The clientele are usually local working-class Ethiopian Jews enjoying a beer or a plate of injera topped with stewed meat. The staple for any Ethiopian dish is injera, a sourdough flatbread made of teff, a protein-packed grain the size of a poppy seed that has been touted as the new superfood. Teff is left to ferment for days before being baked into a slightly spongy, oversized pancake. Utensils are customarily eschewed for using torn bits of the injera to scoop up the food. Just feet from the intersection of Jaffa and King George streets, on the second floor of a nondescript building, is Queen of Ethiopia, a restaurant-bar with a colorful but ambitious name. While Queen INSIDE WINTER 2014
Israel of Ethiopia’s name suggests a more regal selection, the waiter informed us that there were two options to choose from — meat or vegetarian. We chose the meat. The injera was laid out on a platter and the tibs — chunks of beef or lamb sautéed with green chiles and onion — served atop it. The meat was tough and slightly overcooked. Thankfully there was a great variety of beer, including a light Ethiopian lager, dubbed St. George, that washed away the taste. Disappointed but undeterred, I ventured a few blocks over to Shager, a family-run joint whose red, yellow and green-painted doors immediately distinguished it as an Ethiopian eatery. It’s a hole-inthe-wall in an alleyway just off Agrippas Street, a main food thoroughfare, where two elderly Ethiopian men in trilbies sat sipping Goldstar beer at a table beneath an olive tree’s boughs, chatting in the distinctive Amharic cadence. Proving the maxim about choosing an ethnic restaurant by the proportion of its countrymen eating there, the food at Shager was the real deal. The savory chunks of beef, fiery green chiles and sweet fried onions, all seasoned with the ubiquitous berbere spice
mix, were perfectly accompanied by the sour injera, and together produced a gustatory harmony unfamiliar to most Western palates. A bowl of fierce-looking mitmita spice mix, burning with African birdseye chiles, was thoughtfully placed alongside for additional garnish, in case a handful of tibs wasn’t enough to sear the tongue. The tingling heat of the tibs quickly subsided, but warmed my stomach from within for hours to come. Spiced red lentils, split pea puree, garlic paste, stewed potatoes, diced tomatoes and slightly pickled cabbage graced a second platter with injera. The tomatoes were spiked with sliced hot green peppers, a rudimentary salsa and fragrant potatoes that offered momentary relief from the abundant heat of the aromatic lentils. The substantial portions dished out at Shager cost a mere 30 shekels ($8) for the vegetarian and 35 ($9.50) for the tibs. Elem, the laconic 30-something woman who runs the kitchen while her son waits tables, said that most of the customers are Ethiopian, but that a few dozen tourists come in each week to try out the tibs and wat, a curried chicken-vegetable stew. She prepares the
Ethiopian cuisine depends on spongy injera to be both accompaniment and utensil.
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Khachapuri is an egg-and-cheese stuffed bread from Georgia.
injera herself, painstakingly fermenting the teff flour and baking it into the traditional spongy, circular discs.
Up the hill, alongside Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market, amid the near-constant hubbub of hawking and shopping, a discerning visitor may stumble across Khachapuri, a Georgian bakery specializing in the breads favored by former residents of the Caucasus region. Khacha and puri, explained Mani, one of the owners of the buzzing establishment that opened in 2008, are the Georgian words for cheese and bread. It’s a staple in the former Soviet republic, one he learned to make from his mother and grandmother. He said there are four main types of the stuffed breads, indigenous to different regions of Georgia, that they serve at the bakery. The harsh-sounding quartet of magrouli, imrouli, acharouli and panovani are the order of the day at Khachapuri, and at the constantly crowded bakery they sell like, well, hotcakes. “A stressed Georgian isn’t a good thing!” Mani playfully shouts to a customer as he checks whether any panovani will be ready in the next half-hour, flashing a smile from the kitchen. Panovani is a filo dough pastry filled with spinach and/or cheese akin to Turkish börek, traditionally made by Jewish Gruzini (Georgian) women. “My mother makes it every Rosh Chodesh,” he said,
referring to the new Jewish month, adding that the time-consuming pastry is also eaten year-round. Imrouli resembles a pita with a crispy exterior and soft interior filled with salty cheese that’s filling — a substantial snack for kick-starting a day’s shopping at the hectic market. At 20 shekels apiece ($5), it’s not the cheapest bite in Mahane Yehuda, but it’s worth the experience. The most popular by far is acharouli, Mani said, and it’s no surprise why. “It comes from the area of Georgia near the Black Sea, so they make it in the shape of a boat.” Onboard: a generous dose of butter, a salty cheese akin to feta, and eggs cracked atop the bread as it finishes baking so they cook sunny-side up. The result is an almost calzone-like dish brimming with a creamy, savory filling capable of curing the most savage of hangovers. Toss back a glass of tarhun, a tarragon-flavored soda unique to Georgia and you’ve got a lunch to tide you over until the next morning’s breakfast. Khachapuri’s popularity — opening a second branch near the Mamila mall didn’t relieve demand at is original location — means patience isn’t just a virtue but is mandatory, since orders might take up to 20 minutes to be filled. Try ordering, walking around the market, then coming back for your food, unless your idea of a good time is getting steamed in a hot, crowded Georgian bakery. ❏ Ilan Ben-Zion is Inside’s chief Israeli affairs correspondent.
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POUR MANâ€™S ADVICE COLUMN
In which our chief beverage correspondent dispenses libation information. By Richard Pawlak
J A K E MP
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e get lots of requests for advice on the how’s and why’s of different quaffs that have been discussed (and decanted) in the Chief Beverage Correspondent cellar here at Inside, so we sifted through some of our recent mail and selected some of the crazi—um, most urgent requests to share with you here:
Dear Drink Mensch: We are lucky to be invited to quite a few dinner parties every year, but we’re a little tired of bringing a bottle of bubbly or merlot as a gift. Any suggestions for a new or more interesting bottle to bring? — Bored in Burholme Bored in Burholme: Think bourbon. Or beer. Nothing new per se, but they’ve never been hotter or more interesting. Nothing against the thoughtful gift of wine when you’re invited to hang for a nosh or more at my house (Oregon pinot noir, if you’re making a mental note), but those who think outside the bottle, so to speak, put a big smile on my face when they arrive with something decidedly different. Of late, guests have shown up bearing bourbon and big bottles of craft beer. I mentioned your missive to another real mensch, Lew Bryson, managing editor of Whisky Advocate magazine and author of the new book, Tasting Whiskey (Storey Books), and he threw me some wisdom: “Some whiskies lend themselves to making a big impression, like a special edition bourbon. Wild Turkey Diamond Anniversary might fit the bill: a limited-release bottling for master distiller Jimmy Russell’s 60th anniversary with the company, 13-year-old to 16-yearold whiskeys, more wood than I’ve ever tasted in a Wild Turkey whiskey, but sweet, a bit smoky and smooth, and priced at around $100. “You might have more luck finding a bottle of Elmer T. Lee, a delicious bourbon that is only now getting the attention it deserves, selected from a favorite warehouse of longtime master distiller Elmer T. Lee at Buffalo Trace distillery in Kentucky — and it’s in the $30 range, too! “Now, bourbons are best enjoyed ‘later,’ as in after dinner or after the crush of a party quiets down. If you want your bottle to get some immediate attention, go local with one of the special releases from distiller Dad’s Hat in Bristol, Pa., like their vermouth barrel-finished rye whiskey. It’s a perfect pre-dinner cocktail whiskey and it makes a massively excellent Manhattan.” Yo D.M.! There is so much craft beer out there, I don’t know where to start! I’ve been to a few beer festivals, but they can be overwhelming. And standing in long lines for a small sip of beer just isn’t my style. I’m not much of a barfly either, but I like finding new beers on tap whenever I do go out for drinks or dinner. Isn’t there a more civilized way to try new beers beyond beer festivals and bar-hopping? —Perplexed in Penn Valley P.I.P., old boy: Beer fests have their place, and they can be fun,
but you’re living in one of the best beer-drinking regions in the world. All of our local brewpubs, most of the good beer bars and many restaurants with a decent tap selection offer a sampler of their drafts. That means you can try a bunch of brews with your dinner, for about the same price as a glass of wine or a cocktail — and it’s more civilized and safer than a crowded tent of tippling 20-somethings. But here’s my best advice, bubbie: Go big if you want to try some really interesting beers — as in big bottles of beer. You’ll find them in any decent liquor store in New Jersey, such as Roger Wilco in
Just as you’re not likely to drink an entire bottle of wine by yourself, you’re not likely to down a higher-octane big beer alone, either. Pennsauken or Total Wine in Cherry Hill, and all of the newer “bottle shops” that have opened in and around Philly, The Beer Store in Southampton, The Foodery stores in Center City, Northern Liberties and Roxborough, and (a real find) the deceptively named Trenton Road Take Out in Fallsington, among them. “You find the more creative styles and more experimental beers in the large formats,” says Stephen Lyford, a software engineer, beer geek and amateur photographer whose photos cover beer events around town for Philly.com and on Facebook. “Not too many oakaged wild ales in six-packs, you know? Although there is a greater variety of craft beer in 12-ounce bottles and cans than ever, you will still find the most creativity and experimentation in the largerformat bottles. Plus, it’s just cooler to pour out of a big bottle than a little one.” Most big bottles of brew range in size from 22 ounces to the 750-milliliter wine-bottle size, with occasional special commemorative beers sized as large as a jeroboam (4 bottles’ worth) of Champagne. Prices vary by style and brewery. But just as you’re not likely to drink an entire bottle of wine by yourself, you’re not likely to down a higher-octane big beer alone, either. So bring a few big bottles to a bottle-share party. Lyford has been attending and chronicling bottle-share parties for almost eight years. “The most well-known is the annual ‘Stone Soup,’ ” he says, “held every year on a Saturday, a week before the Super Bowl. That’s the one that got me going.”
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Quaff Attendees bring a couple of big bottles to share, like a beer potluck. “All kinds of beers are shared,” Lyford says, “more styles now than ever. They used to be dominated by bigger beers, impressive beers, ones that can be aged, because, let’s face it, beer geeks like to impress fellow beer geeks. But now, with craft beer exploding, you see every style imaginable. Most often, they set up different tables for different categories of beers, like IPAs, porters and stouts, wild ales and so forth.” The original “Stone Soup” event was a small affair. “It grew every year after that,” adds Lyford. “In the last couple of years, PhillyTapFinder.com has been offering two or three bottle-shares a year, organized by them with attendance limited to a certain number of people.” But Lyford says the events are not intimidatingly geeky. “You don’t have people with their faces buried in scoring sheets or notebooks,” he assures me. “Mostly it’s ‘Hey, I’ve never had that one before!’ and then you talk to people around you about what each of you has in your glass.” Dearest Drink Mensch: I just love good Champagne, and so do my friends, but if I’m entertaining any sizable group, serving the good stuff can get pretty pricey. Also, some of my besties don’t care for alcohol at all. Any suggestions for them and for bubbly that impresses and gets me a better bang for my buck? —Chickie in Cherry Hill Chickie Baby: I’ve got two words for you: chardonnay and cava. I’ve been grabbing up bottles of Trader Joe’s Sparkling White Chardonnay Grape Juice for a couple of years now, and it’s a smashing substitute for sparkling wine at any gathering that features the
Like he said, Richard Pawlak is the chief beverage correspondent for Inside.
Beer lovers are some of the friendliest people you will ever meet, and few are friendlier or more helpful than the folks at PhillyTapFinder.com, whose founder, Jared Littman, is a big force behind the bottle-share parties in the Philadelphia area. He has some tips for joining or hosting your own bottle share party: THE SOCIAL NETWORK “Bottle shares are a great away to bring a group with similar interests together. It’s about catching up with old friends and meeting new friends. Oh, and the beer — you get a chance to taste some of the best beers in the world without having to track down your own bottle or spending good money on something without having to taste it first. Within a several-hour period, you can taste dozens of different beers!” ALL ARE WELCOME “Everyone is welcome; this is not just for uber beer geeks. Don’t feel like you need to have an obscure bottle found in
fizzy stuff. Made from Spanish chardonnay grapes, it has a slightly dry, toasty finish like its high-octane counterparts, and isn’t treaclysweet like the usual apple cider bubbles most hosts feel obligated to serve their non-imbibing friends. And at $2.99, it’s a steal for such an elegant quaff. Cava, the sparkling wine from the Catalonia region of Spain, will tickle your nose with generous effervescence and refresh your tongue with crisp citrus notes. This Iberian bubbly has been made in the same manner as French Champagne for over 150 years and is a little less sweet than Champagne and its Italian cousin prosecco, at half to one third of the price. “I love cava because it has more of a punch, a rich mouthfeel and lots of bubbles,” says Alexandra Cherniavsky, who was beverage manager and sommelier at the recently shuttered Avance in Center City. “It’s a more substantial, heavier wine — in a good way — and very food-friendly. I really like two particular labels: Raventos i Blanc, who make six to seven different cuvees, and Juve y Camps, who make six different cuvees. Raventos i Blanc make a rosé cava I really love — tart and dry, just fantastic with sushi and spicier foods, too. The Juve y Camps cavas are all solid. They also make an occasional vintage from just chardonnay grapes instead of the traditional Spanish grapes, so very delicious and, like all cavas, so very well-made!” So keep those emails, cards and letters coming, and we’ll try our best to answer them! L’chaim! ❏
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some hidden ruin from the other side of the world or a bottle from a very limited series. Just stop at a local bottle shop. Bring a bottle or two of something that you think others will enjoy. If you have the super-rare bottle and want to share it, then please bring it. Most people bring one or two large-format bottles.” TRY, TRY, TRY “My advice to a newcomer would be to try as many different beers as possible, even if it’s a style that you’re not familiar with. Also, talk to as many people as you can. There’s generally tons of beer knowledge in the room. Everyone was a novice at one time and the ‘beer geeks’ are happy to tell you about their experiences.” NOT JUST BEER “I generally organize my bottle-shares as a way for fans of PhillyTapFinder.com to get together, but this can work with wine tasting and whiskey tasting too! I’d be happy to help others get things going.”
HEARTH OF THE CITY
Petruce et al. is warming palates with its 1,000˚ oven-cooked meals. By Greg Salisbury
f one of your dining companions at Petruce et al. is a woman who has enjoyed shopping at some point in the past 20 years or so at Suzanne Roberts — the boutique that previously occupied this prime Walnut Street location — then she may get a look on her face that is equal parts cognitive dissonance and nostalgia. But don’t worry. After the first hunks of the new tenant’s sourdough bread are torn apart and
slathered with a cheekily Gallic-inspired butter studded with strands of watermelon radish, thoughts of dresses past are sure to be consumed by anticipation of courses to come. That is as it should be, because Petruce et al., which opened in March, will command your full attention in the time it takes to walk through the handsomely appointed, light-filled front bar area — where those former dress display windows now filter Center City daylight and, in the case of our visit, rain-slicked reflections of headlights — and into the dining room arranged around the open kitchen. Jonathan Petruce checks on what’s cooking in the custom-built oven at Petruce et al.
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In a city suddenly replete with them, Petruce et al.’s open workspace sets itself apart by its oven, a 7-foot-wide wood-burning behemoth, and the accompanying hand-welded Argentine-style grill from the Tesla of grill manufacturers, Michigan-based Grillworks. Watching the kitchen staff — helmed by brothers Jonathan and Justin Petruce — gliding around the oven and each other, working the grill’s flywheel, tending to plates and ingredients both seen and obscured, lent an immediacy we didn’t know was missing from meals brought out from behind traditional kitchen doors. The brothers, veterans of late, lamented destinations like Daniel Stern’s Rae and David Katz’s MéMé, put both their culinary and art school back- The well-appointed bar has unobstructed views of the daily Walnut Street parade. grounds to effective use in their menus. The plural is necessary: Even though the Petruces’ offerings feet, weighing somewhere around 2,700 pounds, give or take a few only fill one side of an 8½ x 11-inch piece of paper, a quick scroll trees. A week. though their Facebook page and Instagram posts reveals that the This greener form of combustion — according to The Green Trust, date stamped at the top of each menu is there for a reason. Accord“ … the combustion of wood for energy production is essentially ing to Tim Kweeder, the restaurant’s general manager and wine dicarbon dioxide neutral when the normal forest regeneration period rector — and the brothers’ “et al.” partner — the menu does change is considered. When wood combustion replaces the consumption of somewhat on a daily basis based on what their purveyors bring over. fossil fuels, however, the net reduction in carbon dioxide release is That said, there are a few items that seem to have become stanalmost immediate” — unlocked a new depth of flavor in the sweetdard offerings, including a chicken liver appetizer. How good was breads. Cloaked by a heat-wilted leaf of Brussels sprout plant (not this little crock of offal, roasted and then whipped into mousseline to be confused with the much smaller leaves of the actual sprout airiness with Madeira and glossed with an apple aspic? Evidently so — that would make for a very small portion of sweetbreads) and good that my dining companion asked if I could stop making mufflanked by caramelized sunchokes and honey cap mushrooms, the fled grunts of pleasure after each bite. When spread on that same 1,000˚-plus oven coaxed out an extra layer from the dish. If umami just-charred sourdough with some pickled mustard seeds to offset is the fifth flavor — after sweet, sour, salty and bitter — then maybe the richness, this could hold its own against any goose or duck liver this is the sixth. Every plate that comes out of Petruce et al.’s oven mousse in the region. seems to be kissed by the smoke, not overcome by it. For anyone The bread was also useful for scraping up the residue left inside who has only known the classic, pan-roasted rendition of crispythe miniature terracotta casserole that held cauliflower roasted to edged sweetbreads, both the creamily dense texture and added flacrisp-tender in the oven before being strewn with almonds and slivvor of this version will be a revelation. ers of brick-red Calabrian chiles and a drizzle of grapes and brown As will the mackerel entrée, if it is available. The brothers favor butter. The nuttiness of the cauliflower playing with the almonds fish with higher oil content like mackerel and bluefish, and they put and enhanced by the nod to beurre noisette, the French term for it on the menu whenever they can get ones that meet their stanbrown butter that literally means “hazelnut butter,” showcased a dards. The brilliant white fillet we enjoyed came with sweetly firm kitchen that not only knows the classics, but how to have fun with baby beets and more of that chicken liver, which soon dissolved them as well. into an earthy sauce that amplified the clean, saline meatiness of the fish. If more people could taste what a skilled hand can do with Like everything else we had at Petruce et al., the sweet- mackerel, it wouldn’t be held in such disregard. While I longed to see what that grill could do to one of the resbreads came out of the hearth. Justin Petruce, who was responsive taurant’s dry-aged strip loins, we went for another rarely seen dish to questions from diners on the evening we were there, said that on instead. Thick slices of veal breast came out of the oven bubbling any given week, the hearth will burn through half a cord of wood. and crackling from the thin, fatty layer that self-basted the meat. For those unfamiliar with wood-burning ovens, that translates to The cut, which is the same as a brisket on a fully grown cow, can 64 cubic feet of primarily oak logs stacked 8 feet by 4 feet by 4
Above: Don’t even think about bypassing the chicken liver appetizer. Right: The oven worked smoky alchemy on sweetbreads and honeycap mushrooms.
be unforgiving in the wrong hands — it needs to cook low and slow in order to break down the cartilage and fat that become so pronounced in brisket. Here, the juicily yielding meat was brightened by generous dollops of Romesco, the Catalan purée of peppers, nuts and garlic. Musky tendrils of maitake mushrooms and grill-softened leeks served as exemplary sauce-mopping aides. With so many flavors competing for the palate’s attention, it would be a daunting challenge to find a beverage that could not only stand up to the food but also complement it. Kweeder, a veteran of Moore Brothers Wines in New Jersey and the man who assembled a.kitchen’s acclaimed wine list, is more than up to the task. He has chosen a rotating list of authentic ciders from Spain, Germany, France and the United States as well as a range of natural-production varietals from organic and biodynamic vintners, and is constantly talking to tables to find out what they ordered to eat and what they like to drink so he can make recommendations from the fairly priced lists. In addition to a flight of three lingeringly dry French ciders, we enjoyed an Ol’ Yeller from the cocktail list, which featured genever, orgeat and smoked lemon bitters among its seven ingredients. It tasted like what a pisco sour wants to be when it grows up. Our favorite recommendation of Kweeder’s was the one we never would have chosen: a lambrusco from Baldini in Emilia-Romagna. Having only experienced the overly sweet and carbonated versions of lambrusco mass-produced by Cella and Riunite, this sparklingly robust wine that fizzed gently on the tongue and went together so well with both entrees was a pleasant surprise — a reaction Kweeder says he gets from many who try it. Kweeder’s knowledgeable hand shows in one of the deepest selections of digestifs — 17 on a recent dessert menu — in the region. Safe driving protocol took precedence, so we consoled ourselves instead with an excellent cup of Rival Brothers Revolver coffee to accompany dessert. It is possible to make an incredibly Jewish meal out of dinner here: a chopped liver variation for the appetizer, a veal breast for
the entrée and apple cake for dessert. Of course, the version served at Petruce et al. has a few more accouterments than what you get at home. A dollop of vanilla ice cream and shards of cinnamon streusel formed islands surrounded by a caramel sauce that clung to each forkful of moist cake. The chocolate torta was another impressive piece of engineering, with dark chocolate ganache sandwiched between two thin layers of genoise then given a comfort-food tweak with a confetti of housemade caramel corn and streaks of marshmallow to help everything stick together. I would return to Petruce et al. simply because their menu is larded with so many things I didn’t get to try the first time around — roasted carrots with bagna cauda, a sweet potato appetizer that is reputed to be among the best starters in the city, those strips, and the “unusual suspects portion” of Kweeder’s after-dinner drink list that includes a Pine Barrens single malt whiskey. But winter is coming, and I will go back sooner rather than later. There are few places I would rather be on a cold, windy night than sitting at the counter across from that oak-fueled hearth, enjoying its primal glow as my food gets imparted with that sixth flavor. 1121 Walnut St., Philadelphia; petrucephilly.com; 267-225-8232. Dinner for two, around $120 with drinks.
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INSIDE WINTER 2014
Just a minute
SAFE FROM TREIF Meet the man who’s reinventing kosher dining. By Greg Salisbury
How did you wind up in something as risky as the restaurant business? What I’m doing here is what I was doing
at Renaissance — I’m system-building. The work I did at Renaissance was building systems for trading in markets; what I’m doing here is looking at the system of the Jewish community at large and saying, “OK, this is a system that isn’t working so well. What’s missing, what’s not working properly, what’s broken, what can I do to help?” When I spoke to people five years ago about what they needed in the community, they said that the big things are schools, synagogues, jobs and food. And that last one intrigued me. They listed their priorities in that order? No — in fact, it turns out that food is by far the most important one. People who have benefitted enormously from the work I have done in their kids’ schools tell me that they’re so much happier with the work I’ve done in the restaurants. When you ask people why they aren’t moving here, one of the big issues was that there was no place to eat. What I realized was, if I was going to work on the schools, you need people to go to the schools. There is a sense that people who only eat kosher can’t eat a civilized meal — they want to be able to go out to eat like everyone else gets to. C&R Kitchen is that place. What else are you planning for kosher diners? All along, Citron and Rose was intended to be the beachhead for the bigger vision of creating a kosher food system in the Greater Philadelphia community, where you could get quality catering, where you could get a casual meal. It wasn’t from a business perspective. I wanted to prove — which I haven’t yet, although I’m working on it — that you could make money doing that once you grow the community to the size it needs
J A KEM P
avid Magerman is a disruptive force. Not in the way that a kindergartener’s temper tantrum can negatively affect the classroom, but in the way that Clayton Christenson, the man who coined the phrase “disruptive innovation” intended: as a change agent bringing improvements to products and services in ways that disrupt the existing marketplace. It’s a designation especially suited to Magerman, who was a partner at Renaissance Technologies, one of the world’s most successful hedge fund companies. The 46-year-old Florida native has been making waves in the Philadelphia Jewish community since launching the Kohelet Foundation, a nonprofit organization that has spent millions to remake the Jewish day school model in the area, in 2008. Implementing his plan to improve Jewish educational opportunities is only one part of Magerman’s initiative to make Philadelphia a destination as welcoming and attractive to observant Jews as communities in New York, New Jersey and Los Angeles. Two years ago, he opened Citron and Rose, the Merion restaurant that can safely be said to have changed the way that people look at kosher dining in the region. Since then, he has remade the space into the more casual C&R Kitchen, has bankrolled two more kosher ventures — a catering operation and a bakery — and he plans to have The Dairy, a kosher all-day operation, open by the beginning of 2015. At a cozy, Ikea-furnished table in the back of his Six Points Bakery, Magerman talked about keeping things kosher.
to be, to make it something that someone else would eventually want to own. I don’t have a personal desire to be a restaurateur — it’s just what I needed to do to fulfill my whole vision of building the system. What is the future of kosher dining in the Philadelphia area? I’m hoping the future is competition. Once I can demonstrate how to do this in a way that is not just affordable but actually profitable, I’m hoping there will be some breadth of options. I think that once people get over the hump that kosher food is good food, I think it will open the door for other kinds of restaurants. This is hopefully the start of growing the concept of mainstream kosher food, as opposed to apologizing for the state of kosher food. If you could change one perception about kosher food, what would it be? There is really no difference except for constraints on certain ingredients. I want people who choose to eat kosher to have an experience as rich and filled with quality service and comfort as anyone who chooses not to. I want to show that it is a right that people who keep kosher should have.
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INSIDE WINTER 2014
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