September 20, 2010

New Kosher Food Choices Around the Country Focus on Innovation

New York…Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn is probably not the typical site for a new kosher upscale themed restaurant but that is exactly what will happen when Pardes opens. Located just two blocks from the large Atlantic Avenue subway station, the Asian-inspired bistro, will also provide off premises catering. A menu preview by Chef Moishe Wendel on the restaurant’s official Facebook page includes creative dishes such as popcorn with rosemary, garlic, and smoked paprika; baby Indian eggplant with apple and lemon; and meat and fish entrees like sweetbread kebobs with garlic and lavender and Nile perch with green pea Sardinian couscous. Desserts include strawberry crepes with lavender ice cream and blueberry cobbler with a polenta-pistachio crumble. Chef Wendel, who was the opening chef at Basil in Crown Heights, told Kosher Today that he chose the location specifically because it’s a nice little getaway for people in Brooklyn without having to schlep to Manhattan.” He also pointed to its proximity to Park Slope and Crown Heights, areas without many quality kosher restaurants; to the Atlantic Terminal Mall, a prime shopping mecca for people from all over the borough; and to the nearby courthouses and business offices, where many frum Jews work and desire a great kosher place to pick up a quick lunch. “The feel will be very much a Brooklyn neighborhood restaurant, with a casual vibe, but with an extremely high level of quality and service,” said Chef Wendel, who before he became a ba’al teshuva (a practicing Jew) worked in some of the best gourmet restaurants in Philadelphia. Pardes will host regular art showing featuring the work of Brooklyn’s young Jewish artists, who typically live in nearby neighborhoods such as Park Slope, Cobble Hill and Brooklyn Heights. “Every month, we will host fine food and wine coordinated dinners that will showcase the work of young Jewish artists from the area, as well as other cultural events that combine the talent of our young people and a frum and completely kosher atmosphere,” explained Chef Wendel, who likened the experience to a hip Chabad house where creative talent and culture flourish in a religious atmosphere where all are welcome and Jewish values lead.

The bug that seems to catching on all over the country for new interesting and exciting restaurants took hold recently in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, with the opening of Sababa, a new Middle Eastern restaurant offering traditional dishes such as shakshuka, baba ghannouj, hummus, and baklava. In Twin Cities MN is the new Seven Stars Coffee House, co-owned by Kathy Rendleman and Kimberly Barrett. Rendleman and Barrett wake up before dawn every morning to bake a fresh batch of authentic bagels – in poppy seed, sesame, cinnamon sugar, and other flavors – scones, muffins, cinnamon rolls, and breakfast breads. The bakery café also serves soups, sandwiches, and salads, and freshly-brewed coffee. Seven Stars, which also offers catering for parties like bar/bat mitzvahs, is certified kosher by a local agency, MSP Kosher, whose website states that it “aims to serve the greater Twin Cities community by providing free kosher supervision to local establishments.”

Now, Orthodox Jews and other kosher consumers will finally be able to “taste the rainbow,” if the rumors of the OU certifying Skittles candies are true. Gelatin had long been one of the ingredients in the candies, preventing it from ever attaining kosher or halal certification, but recent packages of the popular candy have that former key element gone from their ingredient listing, leading some candyholics to speculate the kosher certification is not too far off in the future.