Archive for the 'kashrus' Category

27
Dec
10

Last Week’s Broadcast and This Week’s Upcoming One


Last Thursday we had literally a last minute postponement by our scheduled guest. Rather than panic (mere minutes before taping!!) I had as guest the famed restaurateur (formerly of Lévana’s, in Manhattan; currently a partner at NoBo in Teaneck, NJ), kosher tour operator (partner at Presidential Tours),  Israel wine expert and all around nice guy, Sol Kirschenbaum. In spite of the fact I gave him no time to prepare, we had an interesting and fun show which you can listen to here.

Elizabeth Bland, Ph.D

This week we will be back to our to our regular spot on Wednesday at 8:00pm. Our guest will be Elizabeth Bland, who will discuss kosher cheeses from around the world. Who is Elizabeth Bland, whence her interest on cheese? As she explains on her own website:

 

My passion for cheese started in France where I first tasted raw millk. I continued my language studies and travels to Europe, and tried many cheeses along the way. I earned a Ph.D. in Romance Linguistics from the University of Texas at Austin and speak French, Italian, and German.

I abandoned academia and worked in the cheese department at Central Market in Austin, Texas, and taught cheese classes at UT Informal Classes. Along the way, I became enamored with wine as well, and incorporated the “fruit of the vine” into my tastings. For years I catered cheese/wine parties and led tastings for groups.

She has written extensively on the subject of cheese for such publications as Cheese Connoisseur, Deli BusinessMY FOODSERVICE NEWS, Metropolitan Restaurant Times and others.

Ms. Bland is informative, she presents her subject with passion and wit. Please, listen in on Wednesday at 8:00pm on Jewish Radio Network. Click on the red “here” under the white “Radio,” then wait about 90 to 180 seconds for the application to start streaming.

CS

11
Oct
10

Preserving or Policing the Dilemma?


Basil, a great little kosher neighborhood restaurant, sitting on the periphery of the Lubavitcher community finds itself caught in the middle of a socio-religious maelstrom, one that has even attracted the scrutinizing eye of the New York Times Magazine (provocative stories about religious Jews do sell papers!). Basil has an urban chic that  draws a diverse clientele.  Now it seems that this unlikely utopian gastronomic convergence is causing a bit of an uproar.

It’s ironic that one of the hallmarks of the Lubavitcher community is its uncanny ability to plant branches in even the most remote areas around the globe, offering friendly outreach services that attract affiliated and unaffiliated Jews. Often you’ll find Lubavitcher shluchim inviting Jews to connect and come closer to their spiritual heritage through the mitzvah of Sabbath candle lighting, or donning philacteries, shaking a lulav, or offering assistance to travelers by joining them for prayers, a meal or a farbrengen (a chassidic gathering where various aspects of chassidus are taught, stories the past are told, etc.). So, here we are in their homestead – the 770 heartland – and chillin’ Basil is getting more than it’s share of being chilled out by protesting neighbors and others seemingly concerned for the spiritual well being of their community.

Their kosher supervising organization has been called in to check up, not on their kashrut protocols which are being adhered to the letter, but on those entering the restaurant and whether the eatery is putting their Jewish clientele in some sort of spiritual jeopardy by allowing all manner of clients and get up to enter their premises. Tell me, gentle reader, are we so fragile that we need this kind of policing?  Do we really need to remove ourselves from our very environs in order to thrive and survive? Should we return to the ghettoes of yesteryear Europe? Shall we perhaps move into a 21st century American version of Rome’s 2000 year old Lungotevere Cenci – right next to the ruins of the Roman Forum and a few blocks from the Colisseum – where some Roman Jews still live, surrounded by fortress like walls with the Papal Arms at the gate? Where do we draw the line on what a supervisory organization can or cannot control in its granting of supervision? If they don’t like the music being played or who walks in off the street for a snack or a drink, can they pull their kosher certification?  Clearly, we have the tenets of kashrus which must be followed scrupulously, and we understand that Basil does so.

Photo by: brownstoner.com

When we interviewed Chef Adam, the first time we visited Basil, he mentioned – in passing – how time consuming it was to check the vegetables for bugs and how their culinary artistry is somewhat limited by the constraints of the high standards of kashrus they have to adhere to; yet, he was very proud of the fact that given the constraints they were still able to deliver the high quality and taste that brings customers back time and again.

We remember how Clara, the manager, discussed the attire and attitude of the staff as representing not just a place to eat, but also adhering and respecting the values of the Lubavitch community in whose midst they are located. When some felt the music had too much of a hip beat, Basil‘s management changed it to classical, which didn’t really detract at all (frankly, I thought it made it classier). But… the complaints continued; some protested the type of clientele, some objected to immodest modes of dress, others about speech and behavior, and talk swarmed around to whether kosher certification should be revoked if Basil allows such clients into their restaurant.

I suppose they could have a dress code – as some of the finer restaurants do – jacket and tie- no bare feet, no whatever… should they ban bare shoulders? short skirts? tattoos? foul language? touching? I mean, where do you draw the line? Should they start policing? Should they start handing out shawls, skirts and fig leaves to cover any uncovered areas?

Should the supervising organization threaten to remove their certification if they observe immodest clients eating or snuggling at the restaurant? Should such a dress and behavioral code be enforced throughout the NYC tri-state area? You can be sure that if such enforcement ever takes root, many a prestigious eatery will turn to less qualified, less careful kashrus organizations and the losers will be all of us – the kosher consumers. The fact remains that many of the higher end kosher establishments could not make it if their clientele consisted strictly of Orthodox Jews . I can just see our metropolis now – business men and women being thrown out of the finest kosher dining establishments because a dress is cut too low or a couple has been caught hugging or smooching between courses? Should we require horse blinders for humans and sell them at Basil‘s counter along with the frappé and cappuccino?

We live IN the world, not OUTSIDE of it. The true man of G-d knows how to walk among men and hold his own, gird his loins, look away when necessary, and mind his own counsel despite his surroundings. A true Jew knows how to be a beacon of light by living the Torah and not snuffing out all that glitters. We are the nation that since many a millenia has been turning sparks of ensoulment into huge flames of spiritual warmth and enlightenment. We hold our own in diversity and that is what makes us strong, that is what allowed us to endure after every mighty nation of yore is remembered mostly by its ever present ruins and tales of past glory.

Every upscale kosher restaurant and almost every other kind is constantly faced with the dilemma, but… guess what? A restaurant is not a shul, it is a public place and anyone might come in. Those who are bothered by the proximity of someone who does not meet their standards are under no obligation to patronize such an establishment.

What do you think, gentle reader? We’d love to hear your comments, pro or con.

SYR

08
Oct
10

I was looking for a Peking Duck recipe


Whenever I pass by a Chinese restaurant, my gaze invariably turns to those very shiny, brown colored, ducks that often are displayed so as to be seen from the outside. They look delectable but, alas, they are not kosher… I finally found what promises to be perfect directions for a delicious kosher Peking Duck on the Chef Kosher website.

Here is their recipe:

 

Peking Duck

Photo by: nhahangvannam.com

 

Peking Duck

Ingredients

  • 1 (4 pound) whole duck, dressed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 orange, sliced in rounds
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
  • 5 green onions
  • 1/2 cup plum jam
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped chutney

Directions

1. Rinse the duck inside and out, and pat dry. Cut off tail and discard.

2. Mix together the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, white pepper and cloves. Sprinkle one teaspoon of the mixture into the duck. Stir one tablespoon of the soy sauce into the remaining spice mixture and rub over the entire outside of the duck. Cut one of the green onions in half and place inside duck. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

3. Place duck breast side up on a rack in a big enough wok or pot and steam for an hour adding a little more water, if necessary, as it evaporates. Lift duck with two large spoons, and drain juices and green onion.

4. Mix the remaining 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and honey.

5. Preheat the oven to 375F. Place duck breast side up in a roasting pan and prick skin all over with a fork. Roast for 30 minutes.

6. Brush the honey mixture onto the duck and return it to the oven. Turn the heat up to 500F. Roast until skin is richly browned.

7. Prepare duck sauce by mixing plum jam with the sugar, vinegar and chutney in a small serving bowl. Chop remaining green onions and place them into a separate bowl. Place whole duck onto a serving platter and garnish with orange slices and fresh parsley. Use plum sauce and onions for dipping.

The more I reread the above recipe, the better it tastes in my mind… I think if I start preparing it now I could still enjoy for Shabbat, tonight. Hmnnn, that might make this Shabbat Rosh Chodesh, especially memorable!

CS

05
Jan
10

The Pasta Factory


One of the greatest joys of preparing entries for The Kosher Scene blog has been meeting the talented seasoned restaurateurs and chefs along the way.  Sol Kirschenbaum, owner of The Pasta Factory (1400 Palisade Avenue; Teaneck, NJ 07666, Telephone: 201.837.1000) and former partner of Levana’s has just an amazingly vast knowledge of the kosher restaurant business. Sol’s also an incredible wine connoisseur; he loves his reds especially those from the lesser known Israeli wineries; his many years in the fine kosher dining business and vast experience with what makes for fine food, were just the recipe for a great evening of food talk and tasting.

It was one of those freezing, weather is frightful, 20°, teeth chattering, winter nights. Chef Chase Sanders prepared a lovely Roasted Truffle Butternut Squash with Basil soup. This creamy soup had just the right blend of sweetness and the basil overtones were delicious; and it was hot.

Appetizers followed. We split the Grilled Chicken Quesadilla, tender bites of grilled breast with tricolor salad and balsamic dressing. The combined flavors and crispness of the quesadilla were flavorful and authentic. The second appetizer was a Lamb Merguez Pizza with arugula, olives, capers and shallots drizzled with Tahina.  This dish demonstrates Chef Sanders adaptive and creative talents in executing an authentic Mediterranean dish modified to meet the strict standards of the kosher cuisine. It looked great, the tahina resembled drizzled cheese, and the combination of flavors really worked!

Grilled Chicken Quesadilla

Lamb Merguez Pizza

At some point, someone brought us two great glasses of wine. I had a Dalton Safsufa Cabernet Sauvignon, very solid and flavorful, while CS had a Herzog Selection Merlot, also quite good. At this point my feet were thawed and I was ready for the main course.

The waiter brought out a Crispy Breast of Chicken with asparagus risotto, seasoned with preserved lemon. I’m still a little floored as to how he made simple chicken taste so good, (must be that special ingredient he adds to his dishes; (see our little piece on Chef Sanders that will follow next week, if you want to find out), but it was simple and savory. The risotto was cooked to perfection and I loved the asparagus accent; gave it great flavor. CS had a fabulous Skirt Steak marinated in molasses and shallots. He reluctantly gave me piece to taste, (South Americans are so possessive with their beef), and the blend of flavors was terrific. Presentation on all our dishes was simple and elegant

Skirt Steak

I’m really dating myself here, but does anyone out there remember “Felix the cat, the wonderful, wonderful cat. Whenever he gets in a fix he reaches into his bag of tricks.”  Well… let me tell you about Pasta Factory’s dessert chef, Felix. Forget tricks, this man is a magician. His desserts taste sinfully milchigdairy…oh…the creams….the chocolate…. the mousse…the taste….oh my! We were served a flourless Triple Chocolate Cake and a dish of Butterscotch Cream. I was gonna have to pay for this with an additional forty laps in the pool next day, but it was all well worth the calories. Pastry Chef Felix’ 14 years of experience at the 4 Seasons really showed in his presentation and mouth-watering desserts.

Tricolor Chocolate Cake

The Pasta Factory has a warm brick interior, a lovely quiet ambiance suitable for family and one on one dining. They are also the only kosher restaurant in Bergen County with a liquor license. They boast a diverse, exciting menu of delicious food, and beautifully served ample portions. Enjoy. We certainly did.

SYR

Pasta Factory on Urbanspoon

31
Dec
09

Ethnogastropolitics


Well, the New Year is finally upon us. Some of my favorite moments are those great end of the year stories. Here are a few food related ones that caught my eye. While we’re obsessed with e-coli and mad cow disease breakout, we have developed some new twists on ‘when pigs fly.’ Like the web designer who’s suing a NYC Scandinavian themed restaurant for the 150 pound decorative moose head with 3-foot-wide antlers that fell off the wall and hit her; got to love that one. Or, how about the rights of farshtoppte katchkas? We now have a politically correct foie gras being produced. Ducks and geese no longer have to suffer forced feeding and the resulting engorged livers sustained to indulge a connoisseur’s palate.

This year, on a more serious note, we were forced to take a look at our own production standards. Aside from the Madoff driven stock market fall, we had the tremendous fall from grace of one of our own primary meat processing plants. It’s kind of ironic that this year we have witnessed record numbers at food banks and soup kitchens around the nation, and that that same meat producer had fed thousands with his charitable food bank work.

On another note, Raymond Sokolov, of the Wall Street Journal, in a piece entitled Exceptional Food Moments of 2009, described “Mr. Obama continued his foray into ethnogastropolitics by engaging New York-based, Ethiopian-Swedish chef Marcus Samuelsson to cook the administration’s first state dinner, an Indian-fusion meal for the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.” A vegetarian dish, by the way, “which included roasted potato dumplings with tomato chutney, chickpeas and okra or green curry prawns, caramelized salsify with smoked collard greens and coconut-aged basmati rice.” Yum yum! Who would have ever thought that we would move from glasnost to ethnogastropolitics with Swedish Ethiopian chefs preparing dishes at the White House for a black president of the United States of America? Truly Moshiach is on his way! When you think about it, the ethnogastropolitics concept has been a bona-fide component of our Jewish history and our accompanying tales of persecution. From libels of blood mixed with matzo to kashrus on the run from one pogrom to another, our very make-up is a testament to surviving that particular political combination.

Wishing all our readers a happy, productive and successful secular New Year 2010! May the fiscal New Year be Madoff free, swine flu free, ethnogastropolically correct, and may no moose heads fall upon us.

Best Wishes,

SYR

29
Dec
09

Unusually Creative and Delicious


Seth Warshaw, is the owner and executive chef of etc steakhouse (1409 Palisade Avenue; Teaneck, NJ 07666; Telephone: 201.357.5677). The De Gustibus School at Macy’s featured him as one of the top chefs in their The Fine Art of Kosher Cooking series.

Last week, Wednesday, I found my way to his establishment. It was a very pleasant, delicious experience and more than amply confirmed Salvatore Rizzo‘s (De Gustibus owner) high assessment of Chef Seth.

The walls are painted red, otherwise the decor is rather spartan. The dishes I tasted showed tremendous creativity, a rare understanding of the riches of flavor and very nice presentation.

I started with their Pomegranate Rolled Rib Eye..

Pomegranate Rolled Rib Eye

It came accompanied with a pomegranate and Satsuma clementine salad in a grapefruit reduction. The aged rib eye was very tender and juicy. The flavors were a superb blend of meat and subtle fruit juices. Succulent!

I followed with Sweetbreads with Glazed Rutabaga.

Sweetbreads with Glazed Rutabaga

It consisted of superbly prepared sweetbreads with a delicate lima bean puree and glazed rutabaga with a balsamic reduction. I then moved on to the Pomegranate Hangar Steak.

Pomegranate Hangar Steak

Because of the rules of kashrus (where meats must be salted for an hour – to extract the blood – after soaking in water for 30 minutes), in spite of all the rinsing, the meat ultimately absorbs some salt. As a result hangar steaks are very salty. Chef Seth, however, has found a unique way of enhancing the steak’s flavor without one noticing the salt. The result is a very juicy, tender, steak; yet another tribute to the Chef’s creativity and knowledge of the blending of flavors. The steak came with a sweet potato mash, haricot verts, caramelized onion rings in a pomegranate reduction.

I topped off the meal with a House Made Zeppole Trio with vanilla ice cream. Each zeppole was covered with a different sprinkling. One had a combination of fine cinnamon and confectioner’s sugar, another a sprinkling of coconut and the third had cocoa powder. Fried Italian pastries, they were sweet and indescribably delicious. What a great way to crown a superb meal!

CS

Etc Steakhouse on Urbanspoon




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