Archive for December, 2014


CANCELLED!!! A Night of Jazz, Comedy, Truffles and Wine

A Night of Jazz Comedy Truffles & Wine –December 29th, 2014
(at Zanger Hall, 347 West 34th Street in Manhattan)



The Story of a Wooden Menorah…

Yesterday, Shabbos Chanukkah – Parshas Mikeitz – my shull‘s Rabbi, Rav Chaim Aryeh Stamm ended his drosho with a story, as he always does. There was something about it that made me want to repeat here; it is a true story that happened not too long ago in upstate New York, only the names have been changed.

Harry Jones, the local town’s mechanic, had achieved the American dream through had work and dedication. He had a beautiful wife and two sons, a nice house, a dog, a successful business and two late model cars. Life was good, his neighbors liked him; his two boys were studious and had many friends. But… Harry… had a secret that no one in town suspected. Harry was born in Warsaw and named Hershl Miller or Heshy, as his parents and siblings called him. Harry Jones was really a Holocaust survivor, a Jew!

Heshy was the youngest of five brothers and three sisters. His siblings were always teaching him games, walking him to cheder or just happened to be there whenever he’d get in trouble. all that idyllic life ended abruptly when the Nazi hordes marched into Warsaw. Rav Yerucham Miller and the whole family were crammed into a small apartment with three other families. There was never enough food; daily “selections” soon became the norm and families were torn from each other to be sent to different labor camps. Through all these tribulations, the Millers managed to maintain a semblance of normalcy; Shabbos was still a fairly joyful day, and whatever food was available somehow tasted better.

Three days before Channkkah the Nazis barged into the apartment and took Heshy and three of his brothers with them. A few hours later the boy found himself in the Auschwitz death camp. Thirteen year old Heshy grew up very quickly during the next three year of horror, surrounded by sickness, death and the stench from the crematoria. He couldn’t understand why Hashem did not deliver his people as he’d done many a time before. How could the Almighty ignore the voices, the cries, the prayers of thousands of Jews? Somehow, he managed to survive and as soon as the war ended he set out to find his family. Once again, he told himself, the Millers would sit together on Shabbos amidst song and delicious foods as the candlelight and its warmth surrounded them. All too soon he realized that no one but him was left, his life, his dreams had all been destroyed.

Whatever faith he still had, now crumbled. If Hashem had so utterly abandoned him, he would abandon Hashem. On reaching America, his connection to anything Jewish was discarded. Harry Jones as he now called himself soon learned the trade of mechanic earning enough to pay for college and room and board. After a while he met a girl with a very similar life story, and married her. They moved to upstate New York and kept the secret of their origins deep within their hearts, never revealing it to anyone. Being hard working, honest, and dependable, Harry built a reputable and successful business. For the next 15 years, all went well and the memories in his heart started to become blurred, but then something happened…

As Jason – Harry’s oldest – was about to turn 13, his father told him that on his birthday he would take him to the mall to choose whatever young Jason might like – price would not be a consideration. Of couse the young boy was excited with the idea and couldn’t wait for the day.They had barely entered the mall when Harry realized Jason was not at his side. He found him a short distance away, his face glued to the window of an antiques store.

Dad, this is amazing! Come see this!

Come, Jason, why would I care about some old junk? Besides, the toy store is nearby.

But Dad, look at it, this is soo cool! What is it?

Harry gave a quick glance and saw his son looking at a handcrafted wood menorah. Some long buried memories painfully emerged in his mind, but he wasn’t ready to face the past…

I’m gonna check it out,” Jason hurried into the shop and headed straight for the wooden menorah.

Harry followed his son hoping to dissuade him. “Dad I want this for my birthday,” said Jason, as he held the menorah in his hand and looked at it in fascination. Nothing his father said, could dissuade the boy. “You said I could have anything, this is what I want!” Harry couldn’t understand what could possibly draw the boy to an object he could not even play with and which he had no idea how to use? But he’d made a promise to his son, and however distasteful it might prove, he would keep his word. As he approached the counter, the man behind said, “That item is not for sale, sir. You see, it’s actually a ritual Jewish lamp, a menorah. Jews light it on the holiday of Chanukkah. This one was handcrafted from woodchips during WWII, and will likely be worth a great deal of money for its historical value someday.

Harry did not want the menorah, but his son pressed on, “Dad, you said I could have anything no matter the price. This is what I want!” Harry had no choice, he had given his word and was not about to break it. He haggled with the man until he reached $1400, at which point the storekeeper realized that he couldn’t ask for much more, or he would risk getting nothing.

Jason was all smiles as, together with his father, he left for home. Jason went to his room with his new toy and tried to figure how to play with it, while Harry sat down in the kitchen to talk to to his wife. Suddenly a loud crush from the upstairs room was heard, Harry fearing the worst run up. His fears realized, the menorah had fallen and shattered into many pieces. He was about to berate his son, but saw on the boy’s face that he was already punishing himself. “Let me help you clean this up,” muttered Harry. As he was picking up the pieces, he found a rolled up piece of paper in one of the hollowed arms of the menorah. Curious, he fished it out and found a note in Yiddish. He read it as he became gradually pale and paler. Harry screamed and fainted. It took a while before he could recover enough to stay conscious without fainting again.

What did the note say?” asked his wife; Harry read it to her: I made this menorah with the hope that I will light it on the first day of Chanukkah. I don’t know if I will make it through the next seven, or to the next Chanukkah. I have concealed this note in the hope that whoever finds it will say Mishnayos for my soul, and try to perform as many mitzvos as possible for me. it is the only hope I have left.
– Rabbi Yerucham Miller, son of Rabbi Hershel Miller.

My father’s name was Yerucham Miller,” Harry said, though his tears, “and I was named Hershel, after my grandfather. My own father made this menorah!

Does that mean we are Jewish?” asked Jason

Yes,” said Harry, “and today is a special day for you. It was your Bar Mitzvah, something I never thought you’d have, but things are going to change now. The Almighty sent me this note and the message burned itself directly into my heart.

Harry Jones, once again became Heshy Miller; he moved his family to a Jewish community where they slowly began to practice what Harry and his wife had once discarded from their lives. Heshy Miller is today a talmid chochom…

Gentle reader, is there such a thing as a coincidence?!? Is not Hashem‘s hand guiding us every minute of our lives, even if we don’t see it?


[When I asked Rabbi Chaim Aryeh Stamm where this powerful story came from, he told me he found it in Stories That Warm the Heart by Rabbi Binyomin Pruzansky.]


Gil Marks’ Zvingous or Sephardic Beignets

In keeping with the Hanukkah season, and in paying homage to my friend Gill Marks‘ memory, I perused his Encyclopedia of Jewish Food where I found the following recipe for Zvingous: 

Detail from photo at:

Detail from photo by:

From pages 634-635:

[..]In the middle Eastern manner, the fried balls are dipped into a a honey or sugar syrup, while the French serve then with a warm jam or filled with pastry cream. Cooks add a little more flour to zvingous dough than is typical for cream puff dough, producing a sturdier pastry that will not dissolve in syrup. The dough is not made with much sugar, as too much sugar results in overbrowning.

These pastries are a traditional Hanukkah treat, also known in in Ladino as Zvingous de Januca (of Hanukkah), and, in honey syrup, popular for Rosh Hashana. A Passover version is made by substituting matza cake meal for the flour. After a baked version of zvingous was mentioned in a 1999 New York Times Hanukkah article, the pastry suddenly earned attention among Americans.

Sephardic Beignets (Zvingous)


cup water
tablespoons olive oil or unsalted butter
teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt or 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups (7.5 ounces) high gluten flour, sifted or 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour and 1/4 cup fine semolina; or 1/2 cups matza cake meal
1 teaspoon grated orange and/or lemon zest (optional)
4 large eggs, at room temperature (3/4 cup)
Vegetable, sunflower, or peanut oil for deep-frying
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar , cinnamon sugar (2/3 cup sugar mixed with 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon), or cup atar*

1. In a medium saucepan, bring the water, oil, sugar, and salt to a rapid boil over medium heat. Remove from the heat, add the flour all at once , and stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan and forms a ball, about 1 minute. Return to the heat and cook on low heat, stirring, until the dough dries slightly, about 1 minute. Let cool completely, about 10 minutes. If using, add the zest.

2. Beat the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition . The batter should be soft yet stiff enough to retain its shape. It is ready when it drops with difficulty from a spoon. Let cool completely, at least 30 minutes.

3. In a large pot, heat at least 1 1/2 inches oil over medium heat to 375 F.

4. Dip a tablespoon or teaspoon into the hot oil. In batches, drop the batter by spoonfools from the oiled spoon into the oil, using a second spoon to scrape it off, and fry, turning, until puffed and golden, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove with a wire-mesh skimmer or tongs and drain on a wire rack.

5. Sprinkle the beignets with confectioners’ sugar or dip hot ones into the cooled syrup or cooled puffs into hot syrup. Serve warm.

From page 27

* Atar


2 cups (14 ounces) sugar, or 1 cup sugar and 1 cup honey
1 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice, rose water or orange water

In a medium, heavy saucepan, stir the sugar, water, and lemon juice over low heat until the sugar disolves, about 5 minutes. Stop stirring. Increase the the heat to medium, bring to a boil, and cook until mixture is slightly syrupy and reaches the thread stage or 225 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 10 minutes. If using rose water, stir it in now. The syrup keeps in the refrigerator for several weeks.

Enjoy, gentle reader, enjoy!



Gill Marks – Ponchkes, Bolas, Bumuelos, Buñuelos, Sufganyot, Doughnuts – A History

I arrived in Richmond, VA, (from Uruguay) in 1962 as a teenager. Every Shabbos and yom tov we would davven at the same shul as the Marks family. One of their kids was a very serious young man by the name of Gil, yes, that same Gil who left us on Friday, December 5 (Yud Gimmel Kislev) past. I interviewed Gil Marks (alav haShalom) a few times over the years, and it wasn’t until the second time I had him on my show that we recognized each other. Gil was an incredible researcher, historian, a good friend and a best selling author of 5 books including James Beard Award Winner Olive Trees and Honey (A Treasury of Vegetarian Recipes from Jewish Communities Around the World) and his much praised, much applauded, Encyclopedia of Jewish Food. Shortly before Gil Marks‘ untimely demise, at 62, he corrected the galleys of his 6th book. I hope we will see it published soon.

Following is a video in which I interviewed Gil at the Kosher Food and Wine Extravaganza 2012:


As we are now in the third day of Chanukkah, I felt it appropriate to check out his Encyclopedia of Jewish Food on the subject of sufganyot. Why? Because no one else has ever been so thorough in describing our traditional foods and their origins as Gil Marks.

From pages 256-257

[..]Fried foods became a Hanukkah tradition in recognition of the miracle of oil. Sephardim and Mizrachim typically prepare various fried pastries or doughnouts (bimuelos or lokmas). In many Sephardic communities, members of wealthier families bring trays of sweets to less fortunate ones. In Morocco and Egypt these trays include zangula, deep fried batter poured into hot oil in a thin spiral, similar to Amish funnel cakes, and coated with a combination of either cinnamon and sugar or honey. [..]Turkish families serve a dessert similar to a doughnut called burmuelos. [..]Italians make fritelle, deep-fried diamond shaped pieces of dough that are dipped in honey.

[..]Ashkenazim fry latkes (“pancakes,” levivot in modern Hebrew), blintzes and doughnuts.  [..]In the twentieth century, the Polish jelly doughnut ponchik made its way to Israel, taking on the name sufganyot, and subsequently emerged as the most popular Israeli Hanukah food, sold throughout the eight-day festival at almost every bakery and market.


As a kid, growing up in Uruguay, we had two types of sufganyotBolas and Buñuelos. Gil wrote, as follows, in his Encyclopedia [page 58]:

[..] The original medieval bola consisted of croquettes of yeast dough or mashed soaked bread deep-fried in oil, the round shape its Ladino name [bola=ball]. Over the centuries the simple fritters developed into an assortment of both fried and baked cakes and pastries.

Bolas, in my days, were fried balls of sweet dough sprinkled with powdered sugar which – occasionally – came with a thin layer of chocolate or dulce de leche, on top.

Buñuelos (again, during my childhood and teenage days in Uruguay) or Bimuelos (or Bumuelos, or Birmuelos), as Sephardim refer to them – Ponchkes, my Galitzianer Poilische mother (ob”m) would call them – as Chanukkah came around – would be filled with jelly, custard or (my favorite!) dulce de leche. As kids we couldn’t wait until the next year to enjoy the filled buñuelos! 

On page 51, he writes:

Bimuelos emerged as a Sephardic cultural icon. A very popular song from Israel is the Ladino “Vayehi Miketz  Burmuelos con Miel,” a parody from a woman’s point of view of the biblical tale of Joseph interpreting the dreams of Paraoh, which is read in the synagogue on the Sabbath of Hanukah: ” ‘And it at the end”; Burmuelos with honey; Pharaoh made them, and Joseph ate them, Pharaoh fell into the river and Joseph went to the bath, Pharaoh went to the cemetery, and Joseph went to the wedding.”

In Israel, I’ve enjoyed sufganyot filled with jelly. Hardly anything is more delicious than a sufganyah that is still warm…


As Gill Marks writes, the sufganyah has been around since the late 15th century [page 565]:

In 1485 the cookbook Kuchenmeisterei (Mastery in the Kitchen) was published in Nuremberg, Germany, and in 1532 was translated into Polish as Kichmistrzostwo. Besides serving as a resource fot postmedieval central Europeean cooking and being one of the first cookbooks to be run off Johannes Gutenberg;s revolutionary printing press, this tome contained what was then a revolutionary recipe, the first record of a jelly doughnut, “Gefülte Krapfen.” This early version consisted of a bit of jam sandwiched between two rounds of yeast bread and deep-fried… [..]Whether the anonymous author actually invented the idea or recounted a new practice, the concelpt of filling a doughnut spread around the globe.

[..]At that time, sugar was still very expensive and rare in Germany, so savory dishes were much more practical, even for the middle class. In the sixteenth century the price of sugar fell with the introduction of Caribbean sugar plantations. Soon sugar and, in turn, fruit preserves proliferated in Europe, all the more so with the introduction of sugar beet factories in the nineteenth century. Within a century of the jelly doughnut \’s initial appearance in Germany, every northern European country from Denmark to Russia had adopted the pastry, although it was still a rare treat generally associated with specific holidays. Much later, someone in Germany invented a metal syringe with which to inject jelly into already fried doughnuts , making the treat that much easier, neater and diverse. In the twentieth century, machines were developed to inject doughnuts two at a time or in mass production. [..]

Personally, I find food history and traditions fascinating, I can easily understand why Gill Marks loved that field so much. His friendliness, his encyclopedic knowledge and readiness to answer any questions, are sorely missed already…



A Night of Jazz, Comedy, Truffles and Wine


On the evening of December 29th, The Kosher Scene will present A Night of Jazz, Comedy, Truffles and Wine, with proceeds to benefit the Puah Institute. The evening will feature the Sol Yaged Band, Broadway’s David Serero as Master of Ceremonies. David has made his mark as a singer and as a comedian throughout Europe and now in the US. Chef Sara Black will serve us a delightful menu featuring the queen of mushrooms… black truffles!


The Puah Institute, experts in the world of Jewish fertility, is devoted to helping people with fertility, intimacy and genetic challenges fulfill their dreams of building a family. Puah supports thousands through counselling, education and lab supervision to prevent potential human error during fertility treatments. Puah provides couples personal counselling, free of charge, in a sensitive, caring environment al pi halacha.


Please come Monday evening, December the 29th. Doors open at 6:00pm, the show starts at 7:00pm. Come and enjoy great music, great singing, great comedy, great food and great wines, while you help the Puah Institute in its mission to help those who wish to build a family but find themselves unable to. Make your reservations today!

Hope to see you all there,

CS and SYR


The Loft Steakhouse

Back in August, Costas Mouzuoras, my good friend and walking wine encyclopedia at Gotham Wines and Liquors, told me he “tasted the best kosher steak ever and one of the best in all of New York.” “Where?” I asked. “Some place in Brooklyn called The Loft,” he answered. This past week, I finally got around to visiting The Loft Steakhouse (1306 40th. Street, Brooklyn; NY 11218 – between 13th and 14th Avenues in Borough Park – Tel: 718.475.5600). kosher-scene-copyright-copy22

The couple at the table next to mine were true oenophiles, but the fact that the restaurant could accommodate their tastes speaks volumes.

The couple at the table next to mine were true oenophiles, but the fact that the restaurant could accommodate their tastes speaks volumes.

I started my repast with the Crispy Beef appetizer…

Crispy Beef - Looks good and tastes better

Crispy Beef – Looks good and tastes better

It consisted of slow braised beef, crisped and smothered in a fantastic, tangy ginger galze, with a vegetable saute of crimini mushrooms and sugar snap peas. It was a very worthy introduction to the dish to follow.

I continued with a medium well Delmonico Steak…

Just the way I like it!

Delmonico Steak – Just the way I like it!

A delicately seasoned, beautifully marbled steak, cooked to perfection, tender and juicy, served over superbly seasoned mashed potatoes, and topped with thin strips of caramelized onion.

I ended the meal with a Napoleon, though beautifully presented, it was not a worthy crown for this meal. It was quite good – and more than acceptable at a lesser eatery – having been completely spoiled by the two dishes that preceded it I expected a richer taste…

Beautiful and unusual

Beautiful and unusual

I washed it all down with a Rum Punch


It was made with tropical fruit juices, nutmeg, bitters, rum and strawberry syrup perfectly complementing a superb dinner.

Temur, my waiter, was very knowledgeable and made great suggestions. Service was impeccable. Prices were not cheap, but well worth it. I’ll just have to go back again and again, to taste the rest of their menu.


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

Join 2,770 other followers

Calendar of Posts

December 2014


Visit our friends at the Kosher Wine Society

Category Cloud

18 Restaurant Abigael's baking 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 Internet Radio Irving Schild Jack's Gourmet Jeff Nathan Jewish history Kim Amzallag 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 Italian cuisine kosher lamb recipes 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 recipes Susie Fishbein The Kosher Scene The Kosher Scene Radio Show Uncategorized Wine

%d bloggers like this: