Archive for July, 2010

23
Jul
10

Not Quite the Waldorf Astoria


As your dauntless adventurous reporter I visit many an establishment, some which are on my personal list of must-go-to places, others bold new journeys into the unknown. And why do I take these daring plunges? Because I’ve taken it upon myself to both laud the good and damn the bad, thereby sparing The Kosher Scene‘s readers the experience of wasting good money on a bad meal, recommending with eclat the good, noteworthy spots. This past Shabbat, I found myself  in a turn of events I could never have anticipated… Imagine a beautiful, tastefully decorated hotel-like lobby complete with gift shop and concierge.service, well sort of.  Neither hotel, nor restaurant, this was one place I would never have wanted to stay at… let alone eat at. But, that’s where I reluctantly spent last Friday through Monday. And… it saved my life!

As a result of an acute allergic reaction SYR rushed me to Brooklyn’s New York Methodist Hospital, shortly before 9:00am last Friday, looking like a not so distant relative of the bubonic plague survivor or a Brobdingnagian Monster who escaped from the volcanic vortex of Mount Vesuvius.. . By mid afternoon I was admitted to the hospital while I was gawked at and prodded like a curious museum exhibit, by a whole parade of doctors, wanna- be doctors and other curious onlookers and tourists who came to admire  my unique and unsightly skin condition , tssk, shake their heads and walk away in deep contemplation… Frankly, I was scared… doctors were not quite sure what had happened or why! Their speculative diagnoses was somewhere between a geriatric version of killer chicken pox or a horrible allergic reaction, but… to what?!?!?  Theories were rampant!  Was it the cheeses I had been eating non-stop for the past three weeks, was it the detergents, had I come into contact with some contaminant or been bitten by some rabid tick or worse.?  Had I come into contact with any strange woodland creatures,  had I come into contact with any cute domestic creatures that weren’t quite kosher or clean?  Don’t ask, it was humiliating if it weren’t so darn itchy and uncomfortable.

There were the blood tests, the IV’s, the poking ad prodding till I resembled the Swiss cheese I thought I might be alllergic to. SYR, goodness personified that she is, would not leave me alone for Shabbat. She went to the well stocked Bikur Cholim room to drum up some food and she returned with all types of goodies including a very good, very moist sponge cake (I’m not normally a sponge cake fan!). The kosher food at dinner came from Palace Caterers, under the Volover Rav’s hasgacha. The next day, the Bikur Cholim‘s little pot of tchulent proved surprisingly tasty even if the color and consistency did not seem very promising. Day by day, thanks to the dedicated care of the hospital staff and the various visitors (family and friends!) my condition kept on improving until they finally discharged me on Monday afternoon. Today they gave me the results of the biopsy they run on Sunday and I’m happy to say that the allergy is not food related, at all!!  So The Kosher Scene‘s important quest for the best will continue, Baruch Hashem!!

I wish I had known that I was destined to taste Palace Caterers food and report on it… I would gladly have gone to their premises, there really was no need for the mountain to come to me as far as I’m concerned…

CS

18
Jul
10

Survival of the nicest? – The strange case of George R. Price.


As we abjure from physical pleasures for 25 hours this Tisha B’Av, fasting, mourning, deep in contemplative prayer, reading the Kinot and the Book of Lamentations (Eicha), commemorating the destruction of the First and Second Temples and other calamities that befell the Jews, I give you the strange case of George R. Price.

Several weeks ago, I caught the tail end of an NPR (820 am on the radio dial) segment. The piece described George R. Price- physical chemist, population geneticist, science journalist, mathematical and theoretical biologist, a quirky eccentric genius.  He worked on the Manhattan Project, acted as consultant on graphic data processing for IBM, and even worked as a cancer research assistant.

George R. Price

George Price was also a man obsessed with the apparent altruism found in nature (a term coined by August Comte) and its negation drawn from the Darwinian Theory of natural selection and the survival of the fittest. (Don’t leave just yet, there is a point drawn from the reference.) Unlike reciprocal symbiotic relationships typified by the primate behavior of ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’, biological altruism refers to cases in nature where life forms as divergent as bacteria and dolphins exhibit behaviors analogous to kindness and sacrifice for the greater good. The honey bee, for example, may perform 100 times or more a ‘waggle dance’ -a pin-pointing signal for beehive members to spot food and new nesting sites. Essential for the colony’s survival, it does not directly benefit the waggle dancer worker bee. There are cooperative behaviors found in social insects like bees, wasps and ants; for example, sterile females in the colonies assist reproducing females with their offspring.  The loud squawk of the ‘watchman’ bird alerts other birds to the approach of predators like hawks, giving the flock time to fly off, while drawing the attention of the prey to itself. Wolves, lions and other animals risk their lives hunting prey, bringing back food for other members of their pack. The pelican will provide fish for blind pelicans within their flock. “The Arabian babblers (small birds) dance and take baths together, offer themselves gifts, clean themselves, and sometimes enter into conflict with each other for the privilege of helping another babbler. They may also feed their counterparts” (wiki) Dogs and other ‘sympathetic’ creatures often adopt strays or orphaned animals outside their species. Dolphins support sick or injured animals, swimming under them for hours at a time, pushing them to the surface so they can breathe. Darwin knew of these altruistic behaviors and it is said to have vexed him. Others came up with game theories (see John von Neumann, Oskar Morgenstern, John Maynard Smith) that mathematically tried to quantify, rationalize and find equilibrium (see Nash equilibrium) to behaviors in humans and in animals in which one individual benefits at another’s expense.

George Price, expanded on game theory, and spent years trying to come up with a mathematical equation to express altruistic behavior in nature and how such traits are genetically passed on. Eventually he did, and it became known as the Price Equation. The ability to quantify such an equation actually depressed George Price, for it meant that altruism was now a quantifiable, pre-determined, not chance or willed action, but rather inevitable. He abandoned his deep-seated atheism, coming to believe that it was beyond coincidence, but rather an act of Divine intervention, that led him to such a highly improbable equation.  He obsessively spent his remaining days trying to prove that the human spirit was greater than any random probability or equation; helping the poor, giving all his possessions to street beggars and drunks.  The depletion of his funds to aid the needy, the cruel actions of others, along with his physical/emotional deterioration, resulted in the tragic taking of his own life in 1975.

What struck me so strongly in all of this, was how a heretofore atheist came to see the ‘spirit’ of man to have the powers to dominate above all scientific reason or postulate. That in spite of the pre-programmed altruism in nature, such a brilliant mind could come to cherish the notion of a human spirit capable of willful good and selfless kindness toward others as such a strong driver that man can free himself from his animalistic, limited, determined nature and spirit the cause of something higher than himself.

The Jewish concept of sympathetic altruism whether reciprocal in nature or not is one of the cornerstones of the Jewish people.  The reward system and reciprocal benefits of the world to come is secondary to the obligation of each Jew to act for the well-being of his fellow Jew.  “Kol Yisroel arevim ze laze”.  We are intertwined, arms and legs of the same tree trunk rooted to His will and divine Torah. What affects one affects us all. We are responsible for one another and are obligated in demonstrating kindness and sympathy toward our fellow man, even at the expense of ourselves or possessions.  If altruism is evident in animal behaviors, what can the collective conscious collaboration of man accomplish if his actions and goals are acclimatized for the greater good?

Absorbed in the minutia of our lives and practices, we may become misdirected; missing emotional, physical, spiritual cues of others in our midst or beyond our normal perimeters. The jig of quantifiable causes, ‘meaningful’ actions, or pursuit of golden idols and placards often distracts us. Our ‘on loan’ possessions, tools and talents are by our choosing capable of manifesting sweet harmonics of creation of the highest human endeavors. May we never lose sight of our altruistic capabilities and may we collectively rebuild a binyan adei ad bimhera biyamenu.

SYR

14
Jul
10

Cheese! Cheese! Cheese! – Part 2


[Eran Elhalal is a chef/Entrepreneur working in Manhattan. An Honors Graduate of the  Culinary Institute of America,  Eran was Executive Chef of two Manhattan restaurants in the past few years and consulted several others. He began educating customers about food and wine pairing and cheese in 2007 while working as the Chef at UES’s BarVespa.

These days, Eran talks about food and wine pairing as the chef for the panel of Meetup, a wine club, dedicated to introduce and educate the American public about Israeli wines. Photos: courtesy of Eran Elhalal. CS]

“Well, and what’s Cheese? Corpse of Milk!” (James Joyce)

The Cheese Series- Second Chapter


How cheeses are made

There are countless nuances to Cheese making, hence, Different countries produce different cheeses , which reflect the country’s Terroir , traditions and even mentality. Each one of the steps in the process is crucial to the end result ,the way the curds are cut will determine the texture of the cheese, the method and quantities of salting will affect aging or ripening.

The first Two steps of cheese making  however , are common to all cheeses. Essentially, cheese is made by extracting the water and whey from milk and allowing the remaining milk solids ( Curds ) to spoil in a controlled environment, monitoring bacterial growth, expansion of molds throughout the cheese and so on…

First step: Collecting and Preparing the milk

Artisanal cheese makers collect the raw milk from their own farm or nearby farms. That is the traditional way and the best one. Travel time , agitation , temperature and cleanliness of the transport vats are highly important factors to the resulting cheese. Much like wine proximity is crucial. The shortest the time between milking the animal and starting the cheese making process, the better.

A word on : Pasteurization

Not all cheeses are made from pasteurized milk, but for the majority of modern cheeses, this is when the process is applied. The milk is typically heated to a temperature of 160o F for 15 seconds or to a temperature of 114oF and held for 30 minutes. Un-pasteurized cheeses are more flavorful because the heat inactivates natural enzymes in the milk that help develop the final flavor of the cheese . Pasteurization also slows down the action of the Rennet , thus prolonging the ripening/aging step in achieving full texture and flavor. On the other hand, pasteurizing makes the flavor of milk homogenous, which large volume producers seek to maintain consistency of flavor from different batches of milk.

I say, that in the sense of depth of flavor and uniqueness, the difference between cheeses from un-pasteurized milk to those from pasteurized milk is the same as the difference between wines which are non-kosher or kosher to wines that are Mevushal (Hebrew for: cooked).

http://aftercheese.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/swiss-cheesemaking1.jpg?w=539&h=405

Second step: Curdling

Raw milk will actually sour and curdle on its own , but this natural method is inconsistent. Pasteurized milk does not sour this way ,so nowadays all cheeses are made by introducing an acid like lemon juice (Citric acid) , or vinegar, but in most cases a starter culture of special Bacteria is used to change milk sugars (lactose ) into lactic acid. The increased acidity denatures the milk protein (Casein), so it separates from the milk water into solid curds when a coagulating agent  (Rennet) is introduced. The protein molecules then lump together to a soft gel. The curds are allowed to settle at a temperature of 70oF-95oF for 30 minutes-120 minutes, depending on the type of cheese being made. Low tempo yield soft curds for soft cheeses and high tempo yields hard rubbery curds used to produce semi hard and hard cheeses.

Third step: Concentrating and processing the curds

First the curds are cut to release the whey . The method applied here will determine the texture and moisture content of the cheese. Softer cheeses are made by minimal cutting of curds and piling them up to drain naturally . Harder cheeses are cut horizontally and vertically to very fine pieces , thus releasing much more moisture that results in a drier, harder cheese.

Some hard cheeses are then heated to temperatures in the range of 100 °F–130 °F. This forces more whey from the cut curd. It also changes the taste of the finished cheese, affecting both the bacterial culture and the milk chemistry. Cheeses that are heated to the higher temperatures are usually made with thermophilic starter bacteria which survive this step—either lactobacilli or streptococci.

Salt has a number of roles in cheese besides adding a salty flavor. It preserves cheese from spoiling, draws moisture from the curd, and firms up a cheese’s texture in reaction to contact with the denatured proteins. Some cheeses are salted from the outside with dry salt or brine washes. Most cheeses have the salt mixed directly into the curds. Salting also slows down the starter bacteria culture, thus contolling the rate of ripening/Aging.

Processing methods:

Cheddaring: The cut curd is repeatedly piled up, pushing more moisture away. The curd is also milled for a long period of time, taking the sharp edges off the cut curd pieces and influencing the final product’s texture. (Hence- Cheddar)

Stretching: The curd is stretched and kneaded in hot water, developing a stringy, fibrous body.(For example: Mozzarella , Provolone , Kashkaval).

Washing: The curd is washed in warm water, lowering its acidity and making for a milder-tasting cheese. ( Examples: Gouda,Edam)

Whey based cheeses: Once the whey has been drained,it can be used to make some cheeses ,without the use of curds.(Ricotta,Urda).

Fourth step : Molding

Most cheeses achieve their final shape when the curds are pressed into a mold or form. The harder the cheese, the more pressure is applied. The pressure drives out moisture ,the molds are designed to allow water to escape , and unifies the curds into a single solid body.

http://lh3.ggpht.com/_YJWbOrG-e-E/S0pxGl9ultI/AAAAAAAABDA/baMEKCzbi0k/Cheese%20Aging,%20Molise%202.jpg

Final step :Ripening/ Aging

Ripening/ Aging is the stage where enzymes and microbes change the chemical composition of the cheese from complex organic molecules to simple ones and transform the cheese’s  texture and intensity of flavor. Temperature and humidity are monitored carefully. Some traditional cheese are aged only in near caves which contain unique molds and yeast which result in a one of a kind cheese. More often, cultures are used, giving more consistent results and putting fewer constraints on the environment where the cheese ages. These cheeses include soft ripened cheeses such as Brie and Camembert, blue cheeses such as Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Cabrales, Stilton, and washed rind cheeses such as Taleggio, Grayson.Soft Cheeses- like Brie, Camembert, ripen quickly and at a lower tempo than hard cheeses. Soft cheeses ripen from the outside in. It is all about controlled spoilage here. Bacteria multiplying too quickly results in uneven maturation of the cheese. High humidity ( usually 80%-95%)is crucial to a moist surface in cheese. The ripening/aging period (called Affinage in French) can last from days to several years. This transformation is largely a result of the breakdown of casein proteins and milkfat into a complex mix of amino acids,amines and fatty acids.

http://www.thomaswalshphotographer.com/_images/Cuisine%20Web%20Photos/Comte-Cheese-Aging.jpg

Eran Elhalal

RELATED POSTS

Cheese! Cheese! Cheese!

13
Jul
10

Getting Hooked on Fish


Look, I’m not a big fish lover, though I’ve got to tell you some of the fine fish dishes we’ve been served up have radically changed my gut reaction to those scaly creatures. We’ve had great sushi, fish that didn’t taste like fish, fish that didn’t look nor taste like fish and fish that tasted like fish but was so well prepared, we didn’t seem to mind; in fact we kept being surprised. Would I go out and buy them, during the Nine Days? Maybe, but otherwise, not so much; even if the stats on fish being a heart healthy, stroke and Alzheimer’s  preventative food, are definitely very convincing.

So, in keeping with with the season (and in lieu of meat), I thought I’d share a few tips learned along the way about preparing a good fish entrée.

Buying Fish

When you’re at the store pick a fish that’s firm doesn’t smell fishy, but fresh like it just came out of the sea; not that I’ve had first encounters with what that smells like. If you’re buying a whole fish, the color should still be vibrant, the eyes not dulled nor opaqued. Cook it right away or freeze it, but don’t fridge it for more than a day. When preparing a milchige meal, my mother always soaked the fish in milk for a while; she claimed it  got rid of any fishy taste.

From: Exile Kiss blog

Preparing Fish

  • Marinades are wonderful; just don’t leave the fish in an acidic based marinades for more than 30-60 minutes.  Simple marinades work great!
  • Try olive oil mixed with fresh lemon juice, add a little pepper, some fresh parsley or dill, thyme or basil and voilà, fantastic!
  • Add a teriyaki sauce or mix a small finely chopped  onion, 1 minced garlic clove, 1/2 cup light soy sauce, 1/4 cup water, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, 1 tbsp fresh ginger, zest of a lemon or lime, add some Tabasco or crushed hot pepper if you like it hot, (works great on salmon, but then practically everything does!).
  • If you like a cooler taste, try poached salmon with cucumber dill sauce.  1 c. chopped or shredded peeled and seeded cucumber, 1/2 c. yogurt or sour cream,1/2 c. mayonnaise (low fat mayo works), 1 tbsp vinegar or lemon juice,1 tbsp. minced parsley,1 tbsp. dill, salt and pepper to taste. (covers 4-5 medium fish filets).
  • For easy mayonnaise based sauces guaranteed to make you fatter- here are three favorites:
    1. ½ c. mayo, 2 tbsp. Dijon or honey mustard, 1 tbsp. honey, pinch of salt, pepper and garlic powder, ¼ tsp apple cider vinegar
    2. Mayo-ketchup – 1 part ketchup to two parts mayo, garlic powder to taste.
    3. Tartar mayo – 1/2 cup Mayonnaise,2 tbsp sweet pickle relish, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon chopped parsley, 1 tbsp chopped chives.

Personally, I like my fish baked or pan seared with a few drops of olive oil, a clove of garlic, and a couple good squeezes of fresh lemon.

Fish is versatile and porous so it doesn’t take much for it to absorb surrounding flavors. Poached, baked or fried, don’t overcook your fish. Take it off the flame or remove from the oven when it’s mostly done; it will continue to cook till it cools. What makes a fish kosher? Check it out here, or you can find a listing of kosher fish here. For those who suffer on these strictly milchig or pareve days… remember that is the point of the whole thing. Pray for Shabbos, join a siyum, but  mostly daven for a true yeshuah when we will be zocheh to flip me’evel l’yomtov, bimhera biyamenu, amen! .

SYR

12
Jul
10

Nine Days’ Specials – Part 1


Considering we do not eat meat during the Nine Day (which started last evening and runs through the 20th, the day of Tisha B’Av  – 9th of Av, when the Romans burned down the Second Temple. It continued smoldering until noon the next day.) meat restaurants either close down during this period or readjust to a special menu.

Though at very opposite ends of the price spectrum, these two restaurants – among others – offer special menus for the Nine Days. While one is a high end eatery, outstanding in its delicious and very imaginative gourmet dishes, Mike’s Bistro, the other is a more down to earth establishment with superb sushi, great appetizers and tasty, wholesome, fish dishes 18 Restaurant, very moderately priced.

Mike’s Bistro: Nine Days’ Menu

Cold Appetizers

  • Baby Spinach Salad red wine vinaigrette, boiled egg, tomatoes, red onions, chives
  • Garden Vegetable Salad tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, peppers, avocado, snow pea shoots, parsley & lemon vinaigrette
  • Portobello Mushroom and Arugula Salad balsamic reduction, red onions, enoki mushroom, crushed croutons, caesars style mushroom dressing
  • Fresh Legume Salad mixed legumes, marinated tomato, sprouts, white wine vinaigrette
  • *Roasted & Marinated Beet Salad candied walnuts, fresh citrus segments, orange beet vinaigrette, shaved endive, haricot vert

Roasted and Marinated Beet Salad

Hot Appetizers

  • Hand Shucked Corn Chowder cajun mirepoix, diced fish, chili oil, fresh herbs
  • Chipotle Spiced Bean Soup black rice, avocado, crispy corn tortilla, cilantro
  • *Porcini & Wild Mushroom Consomme acini di pepe, shitake mushrooms, sliced portobello, fresh herbs
  • Braised Royal Trumpet Mushrooms english pea puree, white asparagus, marinated tomato, mushroom glace, fresh herbs
  • Fresh Cod Fritters frisee, house-made remoulade sauce

Main Courses

  • Wild Striped Bass acini di pepe, fresh summer succotash, smoked vidalia onion vinaigrette
  • Mushroom Scented Rice Noodles edamame, sprouts, carrot puree, exotic mushrooms, toasted sunflower seeds
  • *Handmade Gnocchi “Ala Vodka” smoked salmon, fresh peas, fresh herbs
  • Chinese Style Steamed Market Fish pan charred napa cabbage,  ginger, scallions, garlic, sesame oil
  • Summer Squash Cannelloni spicy marinara sauce, breaded zucchini, fresh mint, extra virgin olive oil
  • Grilled Hawaiian “Walu” Fish marinated artichokes, peppers, beans, capers, lemon vinaigrette, olive tapenade

*denotes signature item

18 restaurant: Nine Days’ Menu

Sushi

Eighteen Fresh Crisp Salads

  • Eighteen Salad cucumbers, carrots, avocado, cherry tomatoes on top of mesclun, romaine lettuce
  • Salad Nicoise white tuna salad, capers, olives, avocado, egg, cherry tomatoes on top of mesclun, romaine lettuce
  • Grilled Fresh Salmon Salad grilled salmon steak on top of mesclun, romaine lettuce with assorted vegetables
  • Tuna Salad Platter

All salads come dressed with a choice of balsamic vinaigrette, red wine vinaigrette, Thousand Island dressing or dill dressing

  • Eighteen Tricolor Pasta Primavera

Eighteen Fresh Fish Selection

  • Fish N Chips
  • Pan Fried Filet of Sole
  • Broiled Filet of Sole
  • Salmon
  • Chilean Sea Bass

All fish served with grilled vegetables and choice of French Fries, mashed potatoes or basmati rice

Eighteen Tasty Side Dishes

  • Grilled Vegetables
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Basmati Rice
  • Homemade French Fries
  • Potato Salad
  • Coleslaw
  • Sweet Red Pepper

Just because we can’t eat meat doesn’t we can’t eat well!

CS

08
Jul
10

Jew-ish


As we are in the midst of the Three Weeks, it is a perfect time to open our hearts and minds to reflect upon what we are commemorating and the lessons to be learned. One of the main reasons the Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed was the unwarranted enmity among the Jews of the times. The uncalled for dissension, the fights, the hatred among them, utterly weakened a people which as long as they were one – as long as they were of one mind, one heart – remained invincible.

Not everyone identifying as a Jew is observant, often one might think that the reasons these non-observant ones may give for being Jewish are not strong enough, just not good enough, too tenuous perhaps. Should one think that way, he or she would be boorishly elitist and has learned little in spite of all the years spent in yeshiva, or in Beis Yaakov. Such a person absorbed almost nothing regardless of all the Tosefos, all the Rashi he can repeat, all the brilliant pilpullim he can come up with, or all the tremendous, selfless chassodim she performs… for her own kind.

Knowledge is far more than just a bookish thing. What made our Sages so great, above all, was their understanding of human nature; only when that understanding was coupled with their devotion to Hakodosh Boruch Hu AND His commandments, when it was coupled with their teaching – the loving spreading of their message – did they rise to a level where we can look back at them and their writings while standing in awe with humbled hearts.

To many the message and teachings of the Sages are mostly unknown and will remain woefully unexplored, a great number regard religion as an outmoded superstitious, too strict discipline that would interfere with their lifestyle… Ah, yes, the reasons for division, distrust and enmity among us Jews are seemingly many and no doubt you, gentle reader, can come up with quite a few more I never thought of.

But are we right? Religious Jew, secular Jew… we are really one and the same. You don’t believe me? Ask any antisemite!!!! Why would one who sees no need to adhere to the tenets of our faith, insist on identifying as a Jew? It’s got to be more than just his/her Jewish nose or the obvious Jewish looks, or love of chopped liver. What is it then? It’s that tiny pintele yid that is still lit in every Jewish heart, in spite of all the tragedies that befell us – as a people – in the last two thousand years. No amount of might could crush it, no amount of killing could extinguish it. I am a devoutly religious Jew, but I recognize not everyone else is, yet I am humbled by the Jew-ishness, by the pintele yid within each of my brothers and sisters no matter how far they may have removed themselves from our most basic beliefs.

Judaism is more than gefilte fish and matzoh balls, it is more than davening three times a day and eating strictly kosher. For anyone whose pintele yid is still burning, being Jewish is life itself! But… how do different people show their Jew-ishness? There are many ways and, ultimately, whether the journey is long or short, whether there are many treacherous curves, or the road is straight, eventually they all lead us to the same destination. Not everyone can tell why he or she is a Jew, often it is merely an unexplained feeling, something stemming from within. Does that mean there are fundamental differences between one kind of Jew and another? The rituals may be different, the food habits may be different, the daily routine may be different, the mode of dress may be different, the interaction with others may be different… yet… we are Jews, ALL! The world at large sees little difference between us. Whether we like to be lumped together, or not, the fact is… we are!

The Jewish Federations of North America (JNFA) is currently running a campaign called “What’s Your #ish?” their #ish is to build a strong community. Isn’t the lesson of the Three Weeks precisely that, that we have to build a strong community that allows every Jew to reach his or her full JEWISH potential?

At the beginning of Pirkey Avot – Ehtics of the Fathers, right before the First Chapter begins, we are told: “Kol Israel yesh lahem chelek le’olam haba – All Jews have a portion in the world to come.” The first Gerer Rebbe, the Sfas Emes, emphasized KOL ISRAEL – ALL JEWS” Does that mean that the meticulous follower of every commandment may actually get the same reward as the Jew who doesn’t care?!?!? I will posit here that… yes… and even less!!!! How is that possible? How could I even think, let alone say, something so heretical, if not plainly illogical?!?!? Our Sages teach us that we are, every single one of us, responsible for one another; the world at large certainly thinks that… even if not all of us feel it. Unless we reach out, unless we talk, unless we help out, unless we teach and learn, our portions in the world to come may not be as full…

CS

05
Jul
10

Saddle-up for Some Fine Fixins’ at Smokey Joe’s!


You don’t have to be a Texas long-horn to enjoy this round-up of superbly smoked and southern rustic Tex Mex cuisine at Smokey Joe’s (494 Cedar Lane; Teaneck, NJ. 07666; Telephone: 201.836.7427).  Décor is sun-burnt orange against ranch-rawhide woodsy panels; Marlboro manly man and stallion photos adorning the walls. Brown butcher block paper covers tables set with colorful southwestern china (don’t forget to ask Joe for doodling crayons).

A partial view of the dining area

Joe, the owner, looked for a unique niche in the market and not only found one, but honed it like an art form till it yielded a product that fills the house on a regular basis. Joe, or Yossi to his chevra, told us “Food is life; food is kodesh.” “It’s about craft and high quality. You’ve got to give it the time and attention it takes to develop.” And indeed Joe has done so. His 74” smoker (which he lovingly dubbed Dimona-2) is the nucleus of his operation, but just as important is his approach to food and business. “You’re not producing a widget or stereo; my personal commitment to making great food is a life-time journey!” “It’s also about having a good sense of hospitality when Jews come calling at your restaurant. It’s a little different than the hachnassas orchim (welcoming guests) we do at home.” Joe certainly shared that hospitality with us.

...it was hard to keep myself from reaching into that smoker... I confess...

Joe served up vittles Stephen J. Austin or Sam Houston would raise armies to fight for! The table started to fill up with outstanding home made cornbread with onion jam spread (you got to taste ‘em together to understand how awesome those flavors are together), refreshing iced tea and fresh squeezed lemon-ade and home made. Still warm tortilla chip (seriously, dangerously, addictive!) with freshly made guacamole for starters.

We were then treated to an assortment of Smokey Joe’s favorites. The Joe Dawg, the lamb merguez sausages, were marvelous; superbly smoked and flavored.

Lamb Merguez Joe Dawg

They’ve got six types to choose from, it wasn’t easy deciding which to try…

We then demolished their Beef Brisket (well… really… CS did, he kindly let me have one forkful before it was gone!) – smoked for up to 14 hours. The smoked taste did not overpower the brisket taste which was rich, marvelous. In a very uncharacteristic (well you saw the pictures of those ribs, how can you blame me?) uninhibited Flinstonian way, I dug into their long ribs which had been basted in a secret BBQ rub and smoked for around 5 hours in Dimona-2. (Surely, not first date action, unless you want to provide an instant inhibitions dissolver, right from the get-go) They were meaty, packed with flavor and delicious. I literally felt the spices coming through my pores. Quite unexpectedly, my favorite smoked entrée was the chicken.

Brisket, Grilled Chicken and Sweet Potato... mmm, mmm!

I just loved the way the subtle smokey flavor worked its way into the soft flesh of the chicken resulting in a fabulous taste. We had no room for their burgers and chocolate mole sauce, which we heard are outstanding. We’ll have to come back and try those as well as some of their other popular dishes.

A great homey place to come with family and friends to chill an’ enjoy southern smokin’ Jewish hospitality.

SYR

Smokey Joe's on Urbanspoon

02
Jul
10

Royal Persian Grill


Efraim Azari, owner of Royal Persian Grill (192 West Englewood Avenue; Teaneck, NJ 07666; Telephone: 201-833-1555) has an inspiring personal story which explains his evolution into the kosher restaurant business.

Originally from Teheran, Efraim emigrated to Israel with his family, when he was just a child of 4. He grew up in a Tel Hashomer kibbutz. as left wing as it gets. Raised on  ideology which stipulates that religious people were untrustworthy,  superstitious and downright foolish, he focused his energies on an enlightened worldly consciousness, athletic healthy body, excelling in karate and other martial arts.

Thirteen years ago, Efraim emigrated to Miami, with his wife and youngest son, where he built a large successful business. One day, his son informed his parents of his decision to become a ba’al tshuvah. Efraim and his wife were devastated, wondering where they had failed their child; no amount of dissuasion sufficed, he couldn’t be talked out of this folly! Shortly thereafter, another stroke of bad luck befell the Azaris; Efraim severely injured his right shoulder blade. The tear required complicated surgery, the pain was unbearable, and the operation failed. A wounded, tired, exasperated Efraim traveled the world in search of a top surgeon that specialized in his injury… He found one, and scheduled a second  operation, with the hoped that this time it would be successful. His nights were sleepless, excruciatingly painful, filled with channel surfing, Arak and other potables to numb the unceasing pain.

A few short weeks prior to the operation, Efraim’s son – now married and an avreich in a Monsey kollel – invited his parents for a visit. Though his core beliefs and lifestyle hadn’t changed one iota, Efraim couldn’t help but be impressed by the size and scope of the bet knesset and Yeshivat Or Yisrael. Before leaving, his son told Efraim that the Rosh Kollel wanted to give him a bracha (blessing). Little did he know his life was about to change… for ever…

“I hear you tore your shoulder blade,” the Rabbi said. “Yes,” Efraim answered. “And your first operation was a disaster.” “Yes,” Efraim answered. “And you’ve already scheduled a second operation.” “Yes,” Efraim answered. “I have the perfect doctor for you!” said the Rabbi. “With all due respect to the Rabbi I already have a top doctor,” Efraim answered. “You don’t understand, I can recommend THE top doctor to you.” “Please Rabbi, I already scheduled my operation!” “You don’t understand, I can recommend the best specialist for you,” repeated the Rosh Kollel. Again, at the urging of his wife, Efraim acquiesced and let the Rabbi continue. “Give me two hours a day of deep study, learn and thoroughly follow this book – which I’ll give you – on the Laws of Shabbat. Follow it thoroughly, do not pick and choose what’s convenient, or sensible, just follow it thoroughly or don’t waste your time warming a chair here. If you follow everything, the Doctor will cure you.” Reluctantly and again at his wife’s urging, Efraim committed himself to this. That very night, for the first time in almost a year, Efraim slept right, soundly; no pain, no needles, no shocks!

Refreshed, the next morning, he showed up at the Yeshiva, fascinated with the new teachings – revealing a heretofore unknown, undreamed of, world and a new purpose in life. Again that night he slept well, the pain had inexplicably eased up. After a week of refreshing sleep and productive learning, Efraim began to achieve some mobility in his injured arm and shoulder; soon all pain disappeared, full mobility and the use of his arm and shoulder returned. All without surgery… Believe it or not! The Doctor had done his job!!! “I’m a stubborn man,” Efraim says, “I don’t like change, but who can argue with obvious miracles when I experienced the healing in my own flesh?” I truly understood the meaning of Ani Hashem rofecha! – I am the Lord, your Doctor!” And so, the enlightened athlete who stumbled upon the courtyard of the Royal Palace in Monsey, stayed and learned. Four years ago, still dedicating several hours a day to his learning, he opened the Royal Persian Grill.

Royal Persian Grill

What makes the Persian cuisine different from Middle Eastern cooking? At the Royal Persian Grill they use a twenty five herb combo mix, a lot of parsley, cilantro, mind lemon and garlic, not hot spicy like some Israeli dishes, rather more sweet and sour. Rice accompanies many of the selections and is cooked differently than the usual western way. It’s cooked half way, then it gets washed in cold water, finally, it’s steamed. Thus, the kernels stay separated and retain their shape gleam and taste. We sampled one of their very popular Persian dishes. Ghorme Sabzi- a thick beef stew- a Persian cholent – if you will – with rice, red beans and meat. It was earthy and filling. The second Persian favorite was Beef Bamya, a sweet and sour beef stew with okra. It wasn’t ready when we were there and we hope to sample it next time.

We started the meal with their Appetizer Salad Combo.

Appetizer Salad Combo with matbucha, hummus, Romanian eggplant, babaganoush and pikanti eggplant.

We enjoyed this dish with toasted pita covered with oil and zaatar (hyssop). All the salads, like the rest of the of the fare, are freshly made at the restaurant. This salad combo plate tasted very good!

Next, we ordered a very adequate Yemenite Meat Soup. We continued with a delicately seasoned Grilled Chicken Breast

Grilled Chicken Breast w/fries and roasted Yukon Gold potatoes

Cooked just right, it was tender and juicy, as we sipped a refreshing iced lemon/mint tea.

We finished the meal with a superb Halva Ice Cream

Halva Ice Cream. Amaaazing!

…and an excellent Baklavah. Yehudis, our waitress, made our meal an absolute delight with her friendly solicitousness. We know we’ll be back!

CS

Royal on Urbanspoon




Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 7,653 other followers

Calendar of Posts

July 2010
S M T W T F S
« Jun   Aug »
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031

Archives

Visit our friends at the Kosher Wine Society

Noach: Stranded and Branded

Buy the book…

Category Cloud

18 Restaurant baking baking recipe baking recipes BlogTalkRadio cheese Chef David Kolotkin Chef Jeff Nathan Chef Lévana Chef Lévana Kirschenbaum chicken chicken recipes cookbook authors cookbooks dairy cuisine dairy recipes Esti Berkowitz fine dining fine kosher dining fine kosher dining in Manhattan fine kosher restaurants fine restaurants fish fish recipes Geila Hocherman Gotham Wines & Liquors Internet Radio Irving Schild Jack's Gourmet Jewish history kosher kosher baking kosher baking recipe kosher baking recipes kosher beef kosher beef recipes kosher cheese kosher chefs kosher chicken dishes kosher chicken recipes kosher cookbook authors kosher cookbooks kosher cookery Kosher cooking kosher cooking classes kosher cooking demos kosher cuisine kosher dairy kosher dairy cuisine kosher dairy recipes kosher desserts kosher dining kosher dining in Brooklyn kosher dining in Manhattan kosher dining in NY kosher fine dining kosher fine wines kosher fish kosher fish recipes Kosher food kosher Israeli wine kosher Italian cuisine kosher meat dishes kosher meat recipes kosher meat restaurants kosher meat restaurants in Manhattan kosher Mediterranean cuisine kosher parve recipes kosher poultry dishes kosher poultry recipes kosher recipes kosher restaurant review Kosher restaurants kosher restaurants in Brooklyn kosher restaurants in Manhattan kosher restaurants in New York City kosher restaurants in NY Kosher Revolution Kosher Scene kosher soup recipes kosher wine kosher wines Lévana Lévana Kirschenbaum meat recipes parve recipes Passover Pomegranate Supermarket poultry poultry recipes Prime Grill Royal Wine Corporation Shavuos Shavuos recipes Susie Fishbein The Kosher Scene The Kosher Scene Radio Show Uncategorized Wine

BlogTopSites


<a href="//www.blogtopsites.com/food-drink/" title="Food & Drink Blogs" target="_blank"><img style="border:none" src="//www.blogtopsites.com/v_158881.gif" alt="Food & Drink Blogs" />
<a target="_blank" href="//www.blogtopsites.com" style="font-size:10px;">blog sites


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,653 other followers

%d bloggers like this: