This time of year, I love thinking back on the highlights of what I ate, what I made and what I want to create in the coming year. I focused a lot this year on my cakes, which I will be sharing on the blog in 2014 (stay tuned!), and I expanded my vegetarian repertoire significantly. And meanwhile, the Jewish food scene was busy with its own 2013 agenda, some of which I found exciting, and some that I would be happy to see not make a re-appearance in 2014.
Gluten-Free Everyone and Everything
If one more person tells me they are going gluten-free or their doctor has told them they have a gluten allergy, I am going shove a loaf of challah right into their mouth. Ok, I know that might sound harsh. But it seems like everyone around me has gone gluten-free this year, no!?
If you ask me, Jews have always been the kings and queens of gluten-free cooking and baking, since it’s pretty close to a Passover diet! For example, my Passover Sweet Potato Pie with Macaroon Crust is also…gluten-free. A happy side effect.
But aside from my snarky attitude about the gluten-free fad, there are great resources out there including Rella Kaplowitz’s kosher gluten-free blog and even an entire Jewish cookbook dedicated to classic Jewish baked goods called Nosh on This. And don’t forget to check out our very own recipe for the Ultimate Gluten-Free Challah.
Pop-Ups Popping Up
Pop-up restaurants have been, literally, popping up all over the country for the past couple of years. In fact the first time I experienced a pop-up was in New Orleans about 3 years ago. The general concept of a pop-up is for a chef or group of chefs who want to try something different, or who don’t have their own space, will use a traditional restaurant space or other space and open a restaurant for a short amount of time. And in 2013 pop-ups have taken on a distinctively Jewish flavor. Devra Ferst wrote in The Forward that “New York Pop-Ups Deliver the Country’s Most Exciting Jewish Fare.”
Earlier this year The Kubbeh Project from Naami Shefi made the biggest headlines, opening for three weeks in the East Village of New York City.
And Danya Cheskis-Gold has run a Shabbat dinner series called Pop-Up Shabbat since July 2013, an intimate Shabbat dinner with innovative food, music, drinks and new friends. When Danya created Pop-Up Shabbat it wasn’t just about the food, it was also about creating a different kind of Jewish experience. She explained,
“I’ve got 15 years of Jewish education, summer camp, and USY under my belt, and my grandparents met at a Zionist meeting, so you might say I’m pretty identified with my religious and cultural background. I’ve tried out synagogues all over the Manhattan and hippie minyans in Brooklyn, but nothing’s been quite the right fit. So, I started Pop-Up Shabbat. It’s my DIY Judaism – it makes me feel connected to the community and traditions that I most love about being Jewish, but in a way that’s relevant for me, others like me and fits in with my lifestyle.”
A Return to Meat
I am not anti-meat by any means, although I do eat a mainly vegetarian diet these days for health and environmental reasons. So when I do eat meat I want to know that it is quality which is why it was great to find out that in 2013 the Prime Hospitality Group started serving certified Angus Beef at most of their NYC restaurants, a trend I expect to see spreading in 2014 as people become increasingly concerned about the quality and origins of the meat they consume.
But there were several other exciting meat-centric trends this year including a focus on BBQ and upscale steakhouses, which Dani Klein from YeahThatsKosher.com was kind enough to share some of his thoughts about:
Smoking meat isn’t something commonly found in kosher restaurants until recently. Smokey Joe’s in Teaneck, NJ has been pleasing Bergen County residents with their flavors for a few years now, but BBQ has truly exploded in 2013. What was formerly known as “Hakadosh BBQ” (currently “Wandering Cue”), originally a pop-up BBQ event in Westchester County hosted by caterer Ari White, turned into a year of appearances throughout NYC and beyond, especially at street fairs and events. One of those events was the 2nd annual Long Island Kosher BBQ Championship, where professional and amateur BBQ-ers battled it out. Outside of the NYC area, Milt’s Barbecue for the Perplexed opened in Chicago to rave reviews.
Lots of NY kosher steakhouses in the news this year. The Prime Grill moved to a new, larger location further north in midtown east, in addition to giving “Prime at the Bentley” a permanent home at the Bentley Hotel (which was originally a pop up restaurant in late 2012). Mike’s Bistro announced that it is leaving the Upper West Side and moving to Midtown East. In addition to the opening of Chagall Bistro in Brooklyn, two new high end kosher steakhouses opened their doors in the second half of 2013: La Brochette, a French steakhouse on Lexington Ave, replacing a previous kosher restaurant; and Reserve Cut, a beautiful, modern steakhouse opened up in the Setai downtown by Wall Street. This year also saw the close of J SOHO (formerly “Jezebel”) which was open for barely more than a year.
The Croissant Craze
If you haven’t heard of the Cronut, a donut-croissant hybrid that took over NYC this year, you might have been living under a rock in 2013. The cronut even hit Israel, with multiple varieties sweeping the country. And just recently in NYC, a new croissant hybrid came onto the scene at Bubby’s: the crnish, a croissant-knish combination.
I predict there are many more Jewish food mash-ups in store for 2014, and I can’t wait to see what crazy combos are born.
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!