Last week I told you about the first pop-up Shabbat, “Shabubbe” which I had the privilege to provide challah and dessert for. But everyone has been asking me this week: “what the heck is a pop-up Shabbat!?”
Pop-up Shabbat is the beautiful brainchild of Danya Cheskis-Gold, and to understand a bit about Danya is to understand how pop-up Shabbat was born. Danya is a natural community-builder and social connector with a warm smile a mile-wide. She’s been a national recruiter at Teach For America, a founding employee at Skillshare, a consultant for early stage startups, and is now the Director of Community at Spark Capital. In New York, she joined the boards of Jewish non-profits, tested out synagogues in Brooklyn and the Upper West Side, but above all the “Jewish stuff” she did, hosting potluck Shabbat dinners for friends was the most fun and meaningful. And so, this is how the idea for pop-up Shabbat came about.
Pop-up Shabbat will be taking place a few times throughout the year, each with its own name (this time – ShaBubbe) , theme and location. The Shabbat dinner-evening-experience is designed particularly for connecting and is “Jewishly sourced,” which Danya defines as “inspired by Jewish culture but can be enjoyed by all.”
When guests first arrived, they were greeted by the music offerings of the Jewbadours, as well as a kvass, gin and orange bitters cocktail made by the talented folks from Gefilteria. And then Danya officially kicked off the evening with words of welcome, a dvar torah and Kiddush.
The first part of the meal itself were some small bites also from the Gefilteria, including pickled watermelon rinds and pickled string beans, as well as their traditional beet borscht.
Chef Melanie Shurka served a variety of Persian flavor-inspired dishes, including two stand-outs: “kuku sabzi,” fritters of fresh parsley, cilantro, tarragon and celery served with labneh yogurt and onions stuffed with ground beef, lentils, rice, herbs, tomato and lime.
The evening took place in the Brooklyn space of Kitchen Surfing. I might have gotten lost once trying to get there, but thanks to my iPhone and a helpful cab driver, I made it in one piece, albeit a bit sweaty.
And of course, challah and dessert was provided by yours truly: rosemary and garlic challah rolls, “everything bagel” challah rolls, and a selection of macaroons. I would like to think they were enjoyed by all, at least from the generous compliments I received from those in attendance. Perhaps my biggest fan of all was the evening’s artful photographer Cait Oppermann who I noticed kept sneaking roll after roll. Thanks Cait!
This was first taste of what I hope will be many other Jewishly inspired Shabbat dinners with new flavors and new friends to meet. In the meantime, if you are interested in hearing more about pop-up Shabbat make sure to like the Facebook page for updates or learn more on the website.
I will share that the most exciting part about this first pop-up Shabbat wasn’t even the food – it was celebrating Shabbat in a new way with a group of Jews I had never met before. Somehow we were all connected, either through a shared love of quality Jewish food, or through a social connection. But we were all connected.
For me personally, it’s nice to be out and about with people and my baked goods, as opposed to my usual role here: behind the keyboard. So while I love to connect online, it also feels good to have the chance to meet people, taste delicious, new food and collaborate with other like-minded Jewish-food lovers.
My mom used to say that anyone who needs to tell you how wealthy or smart they are, probably isn’t. And that’s the best way I can describe Jezebel, the latest trendy Kosher restaurant to hit the NYC city scene. It is very trendy, and they’ll be happy to tell you so, but food and service seems to suffer at the hands of Soho hipness.
Grub Street categorizes Jezebel as part of the “Jewish-food trend,” but I would separate Jezebel very distinctly from the Jewish-food trending of Gefilteria, Kutschers Tribeca, Mile End Deli and Jack’s Wife Frida, where updated Jewish food takes center stage. Jezebel aims to be cooler-than-thou and kosher but its menu and décor doesn’t feature anything overtly Jewish (unless you count the superimposed faces of Barbara Streisand and Jon Stewart) which I assume is intentional. Kutschers, Gefilteria and others all celebrate traditional foods such as schmaltz (rendered chicken fat), sustainable gefilte fish, smoked meats and fish and the beloved matzo ball soup all while giving the foods a modern twist.
Ha’artez recently heralded that Gefilteria is “bringing sexy back” with their updated takes on the traditional Jewish dish and even Bartenura Moscato wine is garnering unexpected attention from rappers such as Drake and DJ Khaled as The Jew and the Carrot reported earlier this week.
You won’t find a Moscato “Bartini” on Jezebel’s drink menu, but you do have your choice of $18 cocktails and $20 appetizers. I am loving the Jewish food trend, but must admit, I may never be cool enough for overpriced Kosher food downtown. So pass me some Moscato.
Grub Street is calling it a “Jewish Food Revival,” while I happily named it one of the top Jewish food trends of 2011. Bottom line: Jewish food is “in,” and of course I’m schepping nachas for the traditional foods of my people which are being reclaimed and reinvented to the delights of foodies in New York and beyond.
Earlier this year I was thrilled to visit Kutschers Tribeca to sample their updated Castkills fare at the Tribeca restaurant. I was pretty excited by almost everything I tasted but I was totally blown away by the simple genius of the rainbow cookie ice cream sundae I devoured for dessert.
This past week, New York Magazine highlighted another new, Jewish-inspired eatery, Jack’s Wife Freda, whose menu features updated classics such as Matzo Ball Soup, Green Shakshuka and Freda’s Fried Fish Balls.
And this weekend, a new eatery is launching – Gefilteria! Besides loving the name itself, the “pushcart start-up” will specialize in “sustainable Jewish foods like gefilte fish made with pike, whitefish, and salmon; kvass, a fermented drink; borscht; horseradish; sauerkraut; black-and-white cookies; and matzo.”
I can’t begin to predict what’s in-store for updated Jewish fare, but I am excited to see what my fellow food enthusiasts dream up next. Any great Jewish food cropping up near you? Let us know!