Saturday, March 19, 2016

How NYC’s Jewish Food Scene Got Hip 

Too heavy. Not enough spice. Gelatinous. Gourmets have loved knocking the cuisine of traditional Eastern European Jews for years.

But just as it began to get tough to eat a potato knish, a latke or a slice of kugel without raising eyebrows, nothing short of a minor culinary miracle occurred—bagels, lox, kasha varnishkes (buckwheat and bow-tie pasta) and egg creams are suddenly trendy again in the Big Apple.

Several new restaurants, with serious foodie credentials, are serving up dishes that your bubbe or zayde (grandma or grandpa) would approve.

“I don’t think that it’s a passing fad,” says Ted Merwin, associate professor of religion and Judaic studies at Dickinson College and author of Pastrami on Rye: An Overstuffed History of the Jewish Deli.

“Now that Jews are rapidly becoming assimilated into American society, along with their foods, there’s a desire to bring Jewish food up to date and make it relevant again.” It doesn’t hurt, he adds, that there is now a slew of fashionable Jewish celebrities, including Jon Stewart.

The current fascination with artisanal products and traditional cooking methods couldn’t be a better fit for the cuisine, since so many of its recipes (and the surviving establishments making them) have often existed for decades.

The old-world charm of Russ & Daughters, which has resided in the same neon-bedecked storefront on Houston Street for nearly a hundred years, now not only attracts a range of hungry shoppers from the five boroughs and the surrounding suburbs, but also way beyond.

In its infancy, the shop was one of hundreds of so-called appetizing stores in the city that sold a range of foods, including smoked, pickled and cured fish and cheese. Now it’s one of the city’s last.

But after falling apart and building up again (albeit with a completely different and trendier demographic), the Lower East Side is one of the Big Apple’s most desirable areas—and Russ & Daughters is finally being treated as a culinary treasure.

The store was even the subject of a charming 2014 documentary, The Sturgeon Queens, which explored the family behind the institution.

That same year Russ & Daughters also launched a café a few blocks away on Orchard Street serving such new creations as the ‘Super Heebster’ (bagel toast, whitefish, baked salmon salad, wasabi-infused roe and horseradish dill cream cheese) and the ‘Mensch’ (sturgeon, butter, tomato, onion and capers).

It’s been so successful that its owners (the family’s fourth generation), Josh Russ Tupper and Niki Russ Federman, just opened a kosher 70-seat restaurant inside the Jewish Museum on tony Fifth Avenue.

The new outpost will soon have an appetizing counter selling, you guessed it, knishes and smoked fish and some of its other signature items. “We’ve never been more busy,” says Russ Tepper. “We’ve started reaching people who aren’t Jews.”

Not far from Russ & Daughters, on a chic block of West Broad way in SoHo, is the trendy Sadelle’s.


Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Chaptzem! Blog