Archive for the 'The Kosher Scene' Category



01
Jun
11

Internet Radio Show Tonight


Thanks to Sidney and Tammy Cohen  we did an incredible one hour show last week, live from 18 Restaurant (240 E 81st St, New York NY10065; Tel: 212.517.2400). Our guests lineup included: Gil Marks – author of Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, Chef Lévana Kirschenbaum – who spoke of her brand new cook book. Kim Amzallag from Kosher Inspired Magazine, Esti Berkowitz from the Prime Time Parenting blog and, of course, the incomparable Tammy Cohen . The food was great, the atmosphere just perfect and the place was packed.  We all loved it!

This evening, at 7:30 pm (Eastern Time), we will broadcasting again. You can listen to our show at BlogTalkRadio/kosherscene. We will start with a reading of a very short piece I wrote a few years back (which was reprinted on The Jerusalem Post and on Ynet.com) it’s about the first Yom Yerushalayim – Jerusalem Day, commemorating the reunification of Jerusalem. I was there when the Old City – Ir Hatika became ours again…

Then we’ll turn the conversation to Shavuos and dairy food with Brigitte Mizrahi and Moshe Vogel from Anderson International Foods (who manufacture the cholov Yisroel line of cheeses Natural & Kosher, and the non-cholov Yisroel brands Les Petites Fermieres and Organic and Kosher. We will follow with Kim Amzallag (whom I prerecorded yesterday afternoon), who will talk to us about the new Shavuos issue of Kosher Inspired and much more.

A tiny selection of Anderson International Foods' cheese offerings

Please tune us in this evening from 7:30pm t0 8:30pm, at: BlogTalkRadio/kosherscene. We have a very interesting program, geared to Shavuos (which is next week, starting Tuesday eve and continuing through Thursday night, the evening of the 7th through the 9th of June). We’ll be waiting for you!

CS

25
May
11

Live! From 18…


This evening’s broadcast will be live from Manhattan’s 18 Restaurant (240 E 81st St, New York NY10065; Tel: 212.517.2400), starting at 7:30 – Eastern Time – we will be on the air until 8:30. Our guests include: Tammy Cohen from 18, Gil Marks – author of the Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, cooking guru and cookbook author extraordinaire Chef Levana Kirschenbaum, Kim Amzallag from Kosher Inspired Magazine and blogger Esti Berkowitz from Prime Time Parenting.

Whenever I go to 18 Restaurant, whatever else I may eat, I gotta have the Yemenite Meat Soup. Tasty and just spicy enough!

They have all been on our show before, except for Mrs. Berkowitz (who is a fascinating individual in her own right), but are back per listeners’ requests. What better venue than to have all of them together in one place, having a nice conversation, enjoying a meal and delighting you with their knowledge, humor and passion for all things food?

Won’t you join us, this evening at 7:30pm, at 18 Restaurant (240 E 81st St, New York NY10065; Tel: 212.517.2400) where you can meet our guests in person and partake of the restaurants delicious, yet reasonably priced fare?

Last Wednesday, we had the pleasure of hosting master photographer Irving Schild. He spoke to us about a fascinating new book project, he’s currently working on, about Jewish communities coming back to life in Eastern Europe, as well as some others prospering in more exotic parts of the globe. If you missed that show you can hear the archive here at: Talking with Irving Schild.

Even if you can’t come to the restaurant you can still hear us this evening from 7:30 to 8:30 pm on http://www.blogtalkradio.com/kosherscene. We’ll be wait’n for ya!

CS

18
May
11

Hillula d’Rabbi Meir Ba’al Haness


Last evening, SYR and I had the privilege to be at Sidney and Tammy Cohen‘s (partners at 18 Restaurant) apartment in Manhattan. We were there to commemorate the Hilula (yohrtzeit, as we ashkenazim call it) of Rabbi Meir Ba’al Haness. I had never heard of this custom until I got Tammy’s email last week… How I wish I had known of it earlier in my life!

Among walls covered with portraits of a very young Baba Sali (whose haunting eyes seemed to pierce right through me) and Chagall like paintings, the crowd, the tfilot, the candles, the food, made it all very special…

Dips galore, mashed potatoes, fish, couscous, chicken, beef and more...

Who was Rabbi Meir Ba’al Haness? The Babylonian Talmud, in Tractate Gittin 56a relates:

As he [Nero] came close, he shot an arrow towards the east and it fell in Jerusalem. He then shot an arrow to the west and it fell in Jerusalem. [He shot] towards the four points of the compass and it fell in Jerusalem. He then asked a [passing] boy, “Tell me the verse [from Scripture] you learned [today].” He [the boy] said, “I will place my vengeance upon Edom by the hand of my people Israel [Ezekiel 25:14].” He [Nero] said, “The Holy One, blessed be He, wishes to destroy His House and lay the blame on me.” He [Nero] ran away and became a proselyte. From him came Rabbi Meir.”

Rabbi Meir, the descendant of a former Roman emperor, eventually became a staunch supporter of Bar Kochba‘s rebellion against the Romans. Why was he called Meir, when tradition says that his name was either Nahori or Misha? “Meir” means “Illuminator,” as someone who illuminated the mind’s eye of students and scholars alike to give them an understanding of both the Written and the Oral Laws, he came to be known as Meir.

“Ba’al Haness” means “Master of Miracles,” why was that name added to him? It is related that on a certain occasion when a pack of wild dogs ran over to tear him apart, Rabbi Meir cried out: “Eloka d’Meir aneini – God of Meir answer me,” the dogs retreated. The Roman guard of a brothel was about to be hanged for having taken a bribe. He was bribed so as to allow Rabbi Meir‘s wife (Bruriah‘s) sister to escape (while still untouched) from the brothel where the Romans had condemned her to live her life in shame (after they killed her parents, the saintly R. Chananya ben Teradyon – one of the 10 martyrs we mention in the kinot of Tisha B’Av – and his wife). As the noose was tightened around the guard’s neck he cried out, “God of Meir answer me,” the rope tore – to everyone’s amazement – and the guard was saved!

Harav Raphael Benchimol, rabbi of the Manhattan Sephardic Congregation, very eloquently told the evening’s participants that the specific date 14th of Nissan (Pessach Sheini). was a very propitious time for asking Rabbi Meir Baal Haness to intercede in one’s behalf. As I walked around the room, I heard touching, gripping stories of people’s prayers being answered. Even over this last weekend in Providence, RI, I heard one such story…

Rabbi Benchimol: "If you need anything, or if you have lost your way, Rabbi Meir Ba'al Haness will help you find it..."

After Ma’ariv, people lit candles – on a specially set up table – while saying twice, “Eloka d’Meir aneini,” as each silently concentrated on his/her requests…

The emotions, the fervor, were contagious...

Meeting friends and friendly strangers, praying with them mincha and later ma’ariv, listening to the Rabbi’s divrey Torah, pouring out my heart as I concentrated on my personal requests – while lighting my candle – the delicious food, the drinks, made this a very inspiring and enchanted evening. Thank you Sidney, thank you Tammy.

Eloka d’Meir aneinU! God of Meir, answer US all!

CS

08
Apr
11

Puah’s 20th Anniversary Dinner


This past Tuesday, April 5th of 2011, Puah celebrated its 20th Anniversary with a festive dinner attended by close to 200 persons at Manhattan’s 5th Avenue Synagogue.

Prior to the dinner’s start, Shlomo Blashka from the Royal Wine Corporation gave a wine tasting, featuring wines and spirits from among the company’s many imports.

The honorees were Mr. Mrs. Barry Akrongold, of Fortune Financial and Investment Corporation, received the “Gift of Life Award” on the very eve of their first son’s brit milah . Dr. Lawrence Grunfeld, OB/GYN from Reproductive Medicine of New York, received the “Physician of the Year” award. Mr. Brian Andreoli, Esq., partner at Squire Sanders, received the “Partners in Creation Award.” Mr. Sam and Mrs. Peggy Nitka, from Crown Equities received the “Pioneers of Hope” award.

Rabbi Gideon Weitzman, Director of the Puah Institute addressing the dinner attendees.

The speeches were very moving but brief. Rabbi Yaakov Kermaier, spiritual leader of the Fifth Avenue Synagogue more than ably MC’d the dinner. Rabbi Gideon Weitzman, Puah Institute‘s Director and Visiting Associate Professor at Einstein University, handed the awards to the honorees and shared Puah’s successes and future plans as global leaders in rabbinic halachic counseling, hashgocho and continuing education for both the professional and the layman.  The attendees were deeply moved by keynote speaker Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, spiritual leader at Congregation Bnai Jeshurun of Teaneck, NJ, whose family just endured the tragic loss of a little granddaughter.

The Kosher Scene is grateful to those of our friends who made the effort to join us for this inspiring, heart-warming evening.  The work of Puah, the hundreds of families they help to build each and every year, the amazing support and counseling they provide to couples struggling through the maze of information and disinformation regarding fertility issues is second to none. We support their extraordinary efforts and wish them tremendous success. Some of our friends and fellow foodies in attendance included incomparable Chef Lévana Kirschenbaum, her husband Maurice, their son Yaakov and his wife, Kim AmzallagDirector of Sales and Marketing at Kosher Inspired magazine – among others.

During the dinner we managed to talk about Puah’s work with Kim Amzallag (here), who shared a personal story; Dr Lawrence Grunfeld told us how Puah’s work extended to these shores and how he’s involved (here); with his obvious caring and genuine humanity Brian Andreoli, Esq., singlehandedly – in less than five minutes – managed to dispel all my misconceptions about lawyers (here)

All in all, it was an evening well spent.

If you’d like to find out more about  PUAH’s mission services and partnering opportunities, visit: them at: www.puahonline.org

CS

10
Jan
11

And Our Upcoming Wednesday’s Internet Radio Show Guest Will Be…


Gil Marks

We had a great show this past Wednesday with Gil Marks whose knowledge of all things food is truly encyclopedic. If you missed the show you can hear it here. It was fascinating to delve into the traditions of food, what’s behind a name, it was/it is well worth a listen.

This upcoming Wednesday’s show will feature another fascinating guest, Nina Shapir, a Brooklyn restaurateur with a difference. Who is Nina Shapir? I’ve spoken to her when The Kosher scene reviewed her Natural Village Cafe and this were my impressions:

Nina Shapir, who presides over this eatery is truly a fascinating personality, the personal journey that changed her life and motivated her to open this establishment is full of commitment and dedication.

Fourteen years ago, Mrs. Shapir – a very young mother of three – found herself sick and unable to move, unable to cope. It was not a question of being financially overwhelmed, any such concerns were well taken care of. Medical tests and treatments produced no positive results, on the contrary things inexplicably kept getting worse. She met Harav Chay Azoulay, from Herzliya, who told her the real malady was not physical but rather one that affected her neshama. After some thought, trying to make sense of Rav Azulay’s words, she went on a detox diet with the help of healthfood stores, intent on ridding herself of all negative energies. This decision was followed by six very hard weeks before she saw any measurable improvements but soon after she was her old active, curious, intelligent, enterprising self again.

At this stage, Nina decided to help others who, though similarly afflicted, may not be aware of the real source of their health troubles. She went on to study Healing Arts at The School of Natural Healing in Utah from which she graduated. Seven years ago her first organic restaurant opened its doors. Her partner, however, was not frum and it proved frustrating, eventually Nina bought her out. In 2008 she moved to the present location which combines her personal philosophy, her exquisite sense of aesthetics and the true love of a foodie for superb fare. She also has an an office adjacent to the restaurant where she treats the many in search of natural healing.

Please listen in on our show 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

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

18
May
10

What Gives a Food Critic the Right to Critique?


Granted, CS and I have a combined prandial gastronomic, collectivistic consumption spanning nearly a century (we make no admission of time exceeding that!). Coincidentally, we were both blessed with superbly critical, highly skilled, culinary genius in the kitchen – parents of Polish and Hungarian descent respectively. They tolerated nothing but brilliance and excellence from their gifted, savant, miraculous offspring of the Diaspora and post Nazi oblation – instilling in us not only superior minds and egos endowed by birth, as well as a natural hunger for all things good. Our generation was brought up with the assumption that somehow we were born with inalienable rights to judge and critique the handiwork of our peers but never our parents. Both of us share the uncanny experience of every patriarchal inquisition into our lives and all critical moments predicated with the always relevant questions: “What did they serve?”, or “What did you eat? Was it good?”

The locus of kosher restaurants we’ve marked collectively through the various stages of our lives is equally impressive. From family style restaurants, to fancy upscale dating restaurants, from cafés for momentary pondering or perusal to married dating eateries, circling back to family restaurants and some of us back to dating restaurants again… we’ve done them all! The Shabbos tables we’ve set and served along with the tables we’ve guested at – often with suffered grimaced smiles of approval conceding to our napkins the putrid memorial – or being imparadised by occasional sensational dishes provided by our hosts! The trials and tribulations of experimental dishes imposed on our loving families without dis-ownership or dis-membership is legendary.

...eating our words

CS has an impressive curriculum vitae – having written many a fine food and/or wine review for well known global publications. I, on the other hand, am more the ‘everyman’, learning through doing, acquiring new skill sets, cultivating and advancing my palate and knowledge as I go along. And now we both sit here… judging others with culinary degrees and years of mastery in the art of Kosher cooking. Yeah, maybe we’ve cultivated our palates enough to judge… certainly as well as the consumers whose attendance make or break a restaurant. Mostly, we are grateful, grateful for the abundance of excellent restaurant choices and fine cuisine that we have been privileged to find and sample. It’s competitive out there and to keep the edge, a fine dining restaurant has to be good. We want a great dining experience and customers want to feel that the money spent was well worth the investment. The mediocre don’t survive for long. There are some food reviews that we’ll never publish, nameless here forever more…

There are many great kosher restaurants yet to review and savor. We love sharing our experiences with you and hope you enjoy sharing with us here at The Kosher Scene. With z’man matan Torah upon us, we would like to wish all our readers a Chag Shavuot sameach! May this time of Torah and harvest bring cornucopian blessings of plenty into your homes and lives.

We’ve collected some great Yom Tov recipes here and here. Enjoy!

SYR




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