Posted by Emily Kane
For my family (and likely for yours, too) Jewish food is a thing of lore, love, and, at times, struggle. When I realized that a recent trip to New York coincided with Tablet Magazine’s “Future of Jewish Food” event, I bought tickets and started counting down the days. If anyone was going to get excited about people getting excited about pastrami, it was going to be me.
Co-hosted with ABC Carpet & Home and Brooklyn based Mile End Delicatessen, the evening boasted not one, but two panels on a range of topics, including the death of the bialy, Jewish eating in 3,000 CE, and – of course –the Deli Renaissance now greeting foodies from coast to coast. The program finished quite ceremoniously with a sampling of smoked meat on rye brought fresh by each of the four nouveau deli proprietors who traveled to Manhattan for the occasion, namely: the aforementioned Mile End (http://www.mileenddeli.com/), Portland’s Kenny and Zuke’s, Berkeley’s Saul’s, and San Francisco’s Wise Sons – the newest member of the Deli Renaissance gang.
The event was packed – mostly by hip Jews and people who could be their parents. The discussion was serious, almost academic. As an Angeleno, I fantasized this to be a commonplace New York night.
As one would imagine with such a panel of Jews and epicureans, no consensus could be reached. Yet, it was well argued that the future of Jewish food will translate to meals that are thoughtfully sourced, impeccably prepared, and while perhaps not Kosher, likely Kosher style. No longer instructed solely by black and white images of big, meat-laden tables surrounded by Yiddish speakers, WE – this panel attested – crave a current (instagramed?) picture, replete with farm-to-table eating, sustainably sourced meat, and a clued-in clientele that pulls from Jewish and non-Jewish eaters alike. In other words, Jewish food – according to these modern Deli masters – is very much alive. I agreed.
And then, a cold realization. I was a lone Angeleno. This panel had a Brooklyner (obviously), two Bay Area natives (OK, sure), and a Portlander (really?), but nobody representing Los Angeles – our diverse, Jewishly strong, culinarily rich Los Angeles. We can shove our conspiracy theories aside because, frankly, there is no LA voice that would have fit. We have, no doubt, our share of great delicatessens, but nobody is spinning this new brand of thoughtful, innovative, farm-to-deli cooking that is taking off in other cities. Sure, a handful of food trucks are slinging pastrami on rye, and one guy is doing it smoking his own meats, but no brick and mortar establishments are serving what these panelists are cooking up.
So why does this matter to LA, and Jewish Angelenos, specifically?
For starters, you may not even realize that you are craving it, but I promise that you are hankering for the types of alt/nay dishes being served up: Kasha Varnishkes with locally sourced chanterelles, Tsimis avoiding an overdone blandness with roasted carrots taking charge, and house-made, hand-carved smoked meats and fish that call forth a deep nostalgia you didn’t even know you had. Trust me LA, you want this. With a side of pickles.
More importantly though, this Deli Renaissance represents something bigger than our bellies. Eating in a way that intertwines modern values and worn recipes speaks to a culture’s adaptability and vibrancy. The Deli Renaissance folds in tastes and flavors with a conversation about 21st Century eating that is right on pitch with how many Los Angeles restaurants are humming. On any given night in LA, I can get thoughtfully sourced Pho, cutting edge farm-to-table enchiladas, or sustainably sauced handmade pasta. This truth makes these restaurants – and their respective chefs and communities – relevant. This relevancy provides entry into all of the important conversations – political, sociological, logistical, etc. – that are happening in today’s Los Angeles. Jews should earn a seat at this table.
The New York Times recently ran a piece on how exciting it is to eat in Kosher Los Angeles today, highlighting our city’s Kosher Thai, Mexican, Persian, and Israeli fare. The Times was right on. LA Kosher food is stepping up, and stepping out, in all of the right ways.
That said, there is enough room for Jewish food in Los Angeles to step back, too. And it should. Deli Renaissance: LA is ready for you. Investors welcome.
Emily Kane is a Los Angeles based food lawyer and lay eater who hails from a long line of Jewish cooks.
10.22.12 at 10:36 am | For my family (and likely for yours, too) Jewish. . .
8.20.12 at 2:23 pm | An event marking Elvis Presley's 35th death. . .
8.14.12 at 3:54 pm | TV star, comedian, and presidential candidate. . .
6.29.12 at 12:11 pm | When a friend told me a kosher vegan Thai. . .
5.29.12 at 12:10 pm | Jews Schmooze is a collaborative blog that brings. . .
8.14.12 at 3:54 pm | TV star, comedian, and presidential candidate. . . (5)
8.20.12 at 2:23 pm | An event marking Elvis Presley's 35th death. . . (2)
6.29.12 at 12:11 pm | When a friend told me a kosher vegan Thai. . . (1)
August 20, 2012 | 2:23 pm
Posted by Jared Baker
An event marking Elvis Presley’s 35th death anniversary in the Elvis Presley Inn in Neve Ilan, near Jerusalem August 18, was headlined by Israeli Elvis Presley impersonator Eran. Check out these great pics from Reuters photographer Nir Elias!
[But don’t forget about Jelvis! - The Jewish Elvis]
August 14, 2012 | 3:54 pm
Posted by Jared Baker
TV star, comedian, and presidential candidate Roseanne Barr was recently roasted by Comedy Central. Reuters was on the scene and took some amazing pictures.
Roseanne’s roasters (mostly Jewish) included Jane Lynch (host), Katey Sagal, Carrie Fisher, Ellen Barkin, Seth Green, Wayne Brady, Anthony Jeselnik, Jeffrey Ross, Amy Schumer, Gilbert Gottfried and Roseanne’s ex-husband, Tom Arnold.
June 29, 2012 | 12:11 pm
Posted by Elan Rodman
When a friend told me a kosher vegan Thai restaurant was a hidden gem on Pico’s gastronomic stretch, I had my reservations. I wondered how “Vegan” and “Kosher Thai” could fit together. After all, the kosher dining experience I had grown accustom to involved shawarma, pastrami sandwiches and kung-pao chicken. Was there room for kosher Thai?
A flaming bowl of Tom Yum vegetable soup arrived and changed my mind. I was sitting and my order came out I was caught by surprise, not just by the flame, but what came next: A unique kosher dining experience that was similar to other ethnic restaurants that dot Los Angeles landscape.
Some of the lesser known Mexican restaurants that dot East Los Angeles and the Chinese restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley have been built into strip malls. Located between a laundry mat and a Chinese take out place, Bodhi Vegetarian and Vegan Kitchen maintains a similar relationship because of location.
But there’s more to the restaurant than just location. The neighborhood has played a significant role in shaping the style of food served at Bodhi. In an area with a large Orthodox population, Bodhi tries to straddle Jewish and Thai cultures.
“When I first opened, we weren’t kosher. We didn’t know this was a Jewish area,” said co-owner Nakarin Phornpituck.
“The first few months, the majority of our customers would ask, ‘Are you kosher?’ I would reply, ‘What’s Kosher?’” Said Phornpituck, who went through the kosher certification process with Kosher LA.
Besides the certification, co-owner Nakarin saw a natural connection between Thai and kosher.
“I studied the bible, and from what I can see Jews eat pure food. They use a lot of fresh and pure ingredients in making their food. Thais use a lot of fresh ingredients as well,” he said.
What other barriers could exist between Thai food and kosher cuisine? How about scorching heat associated with Thai cooking. In LA Thai restaurants In which I have dined, their menus featured voluminous menus, with pages full of asterisks and red dots warning about the dangers of Thai chilies.
As I found from dining at Bohdi, the menu is considerably cooled down for non-Thai palates. But that doesn’t mean the food isn’t authentic.
The Thai food business was nothing new to the Phornpituck family. Restaurant owner Nakarin is a Thai immigrant, who has been in the United States for the Past 17 years. His mother, Pasook, is a chef at the restaurant and has been cooking since her days as a street food vendor in an open market in Thailand. The owner is also a vegetarian.
So with that being said, I expected a healthy authentic Thai meal.
My meal began with a bowl of Tom Yum vegetable soup. This was probably the spiciest thing I ordered and the heat prepared my palate my for the rest of the meal.
The soup’s foundation is a lemongrass broth, which gives off a sour taste. Added were crunchy carrots and various other fresh vegetables. Not succumbing to sogginess, carrots and other vegetables maintained their texture in the broth. The soup also had elements of Thai spice. Homemade chili paste added a spicy flavor to the lemongrass broth.
Next came the entrees, which I was able to share with the two friends who came with me. The noodle dish, Pad See Ew, I eagerly slurped down. I enjoyed how the noodles were bathed in a “home special sauce”. The noodle dish came with a choice of seitan Chicken/Beef seitan (seitan is wheat/gluten product that acts as a substitute to meat) or tofu. I tried the chicken, which didn’t taste like chicken, but does it really matter? The noodles were a little burnt, but still this was my favorite dish.
A key ingredient of the dish was the boiled bok choy. When I was a kid, the green stuff was pushed off my plate, but not here. I tasted a subtle bitterness with each bite.
The red curry arrived next. Even though the menu says it uses Thai chilies, I couldn’t taste the added heat. Instead, the curry acted as a palate cleanser from the previous soup. The curry featured a thickened broth made from coconut milk, which gave off sweetness to the dish. The dish also came with brown rice, which added savoriness as I mixed in the curry with the rice.
Not every dish had its charms though one dish that I found a bit disorienting was the spicy pumpkin tofu eggplant. That just didn’t seem to mix together well and the eggplant was too burnt for my liking.
Overall, I left Bodhi feeling like I ate at a restaurant in Thai-Town in Hollywood. As a LA kosher diner, there really isn’t anything like this I have been able to find; where an immigrant family transforms its homeland recipes just enough to make Jews feel like they are a part of an authentic ethnic dining experience.