Have you heard about The Hester? Operating out of the Ditmas Park, Brooklyn home of Itta Werdiger Roth and her husband, the writer Matthue Roth, The Hester is part speakeasy, part pop-up locavore restaurant, part music club and 100% kosher. Crain’s called it a “Secret Schmooze club” back in December.
But what is it exactly? How does one go? Where did it come from? And what is in store for its future?
This week I had the chance to chat with Itta and learn more about how The Hester was born and what lies ahead for the one-of-a-kind kosher food venture.
Melbourne-born Itta comes from a large, Lubavitch family for whom “community entertaining” was just part of her upbringing. Itta is one of seven children and credits her love of entertaining to her large family who was always opening up their home for celebrations, including a large Purim party they held for their community each year.
“I feel like I was just born into it,” she shared. “The act of opening up your home. A lot of people grow up that your home is a private place, but that’s just not how I grew up.”
But what makes The Hester unique isn’t just about the space it’s operating in: it’s also very much about the food, which focuses on local, seasonal items. “It’s a celebration of really good vegetables” says Itta. The menu features dishes that are dairy but also items catering to those with special diets. At one of their last events they featured a seasonal rhubarb cocktail, and Itta herself has been churning out homemade ice cream in flavors such as lavender vanilla. Drinks and music are an integral part of The Hester experience, but Itta herself focuses on ensuring the quality of the food that is served.
Like her love of entertaining and opening her home, Itta credits her love of cooking and fresh ingredients to her family, especially her mother and grandmother.
“I always had an interest in food, especially eating it. Everyone in my family was a good cook. My mom is a great cook and grows fresh herbs in her garden. Freshness is one of the biggest things I learned from my mom, in fact, I cannot even remember a dish that she used dried herbs for.”