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December 23, 2011

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JL=WlSH NEWS, DECEMBER 23, 2011 i Dough boy: Noah Wildman wants to make knishes popular again By Jeffrey Yoskowitz Tablet Magazine When I was 13 and my father deemed me ready for the kind of education only to be found within the bloated knishes of Brighton Beach, we drove from New Jersey to Brooklyn for the day so he could introduce me to his beloved Mrs. Stahl's, the crme de la crme of the knish world, nearly a decade before it closed its doors for good in the fall of 2005. The knishes there came hot, right off the warming block, and we took them to eat on the go. I savored my potato spinach knish, blowing on it before each bite rather than waiting for it to cool down, too eager to eat the dense, moist yet flaky-crusted dumpling as we wandered under the train tracks to the Coney Island freak shows nearby. Though Mrs. Stahl's demise didn't mean the end of the knish in New York City, it did mean, for many of the food's devotees, the end of a knish worth traveling for. But the arrival of a new knish maker in town might be cause to reconsider the lament that the golden days of the knish are over, This fall a quixotic 40-year-old Lower East Sider named Noah Wild- man launched Knishery NYC, with the hopes of restoring the food's glory. "The knish chose me," Wildman told me. He has begun delivering knishes to customers in New York City by bicycle, and his pushcart start-up will soon be vending at street fairs around the city this coming spring. (An early snowfall in late October scuttled Wildman's plans to debut seven types of his knishes at the annual Hester Street Fair.) The revisiting 0fso simple a food as the knish--a doughy shell usually stuffed with po- tato, kasha, or cheese--has been a long'time coming. Great knishes can be elusive, while adequate and some- times disappointing ones, like those available at Yonah Schimmel in Manhattan and Knish Nosh in Queens, gener- ally prevail. Wildman has no plans to remake the knish, a staple of the working class, into haute cuisine. "Part of Jewish character is to see through the silliness," he said. "To go for substance." And few Jew- ish foods are as packed with substance as the knish. The baked dumpling came to the United States at the end of the 19th century by way of East- ern Europe, wth competing accounts tracing the pastry's origin to either the Polish town of Knyszyn or to avillage in Slovakia. The knish fillings offered a terrific way to add variety to a monotonous diet heavy on potatoes, cabbage and buckwheat. There were also knish varieties tied to the Jewish holidays, according to Joan Nathan, such as kasha for Channukah and chicken liver for Rosh Hashanah. At the turn of the 20th century, Jewish immigrants in the United States would bring knishes--a portable and filling pocket food--to lunch with them at their fac- tory jobs. As the food writer Arthur Schwartz notes in "Jewish Home Cooking," knishesl which were cheap, were also popular fare, often paired With hotdogs, at the beaches around New York City. Back then, Manhattan's famous SecondAvenue, home to the Yiddish theater, was known as KnishAlley. In 1910, Yonah Schimmel opened a knish store on Houston Street on Manhattan's Lower East Side. Six years later, the New York Times reported on a "knish war," when rival bakeries on Rivington Street slashed prices and introduced cabaret sideshows to attract customers. Now a new generation of Jewish chefs and bakers around the country are making their claim on such classic dishes. Kenny and Zuke's, in Portland, Ore., offers a potato-and-onion variety with layers of flaky dough, topped with cara- melized onions. Wise Soil's Jewish Delicatessen, in San Francisco, has its own oc- casional potato-onion knish iteration, with the onions cooked down in schnfaltz; the deli also offers potato with :mushroom and kale, and potato with cubes of house-cured corned beef. "People go crazy for them," Leo Beckerman, one of Wise Sons' proprietors, said. And then there's Wildman. Raised in a Reform household on Staten Island, Wildman, who now lives just blocks .away from Rivington Street on the Lower East Side, grew up eating frozen knishes but never imagined that he would one day be baking them. He had studied sociology at SUNY Albany but ended up working in the recording industry as the manager of a record label, after which his efforts publish- ing the zine The People's Ska Annual led him to a job as a graphic designer for MTV. When he was laid off in 2008, Wildman enrolled in culinary New Yorkers producing film on Israel's Six-Day War victory By Tom Tugend Septimus, a fellow Columbia tion and attitudes of ordinary LOS ANGELES (JTA)--The Six-Day War in 1967 was a brilliant military victory, a turning point in Israel's history. Similar glory by Americans on the battlefield no doubt would have led to the production of a half-dozen films with John Wayne single- handedlywiping out the Arab armies. Yet the Israeli film industry has never made a feature on the '67 war. Now two Ameri- can producers are coming for- ward to remedy the omission. Their film, tentatively titled "Jerusalem '67," is based on the authoritative book "The Battle for Jerusalem, June 5-7" by veteran Jerusalem Post reporter Abraham Rabi- novich, who left the United States to cover the war. The New York lawyers driv- ing the project are Joseph Schick, an ardent history buff, and Jacob Septimus, who has produced and directed a number of TV shows and documentaries for national networks. Schick started the ball rolling a year-and-a-half ago after devouring Rabinovich's eyewitness account anchored in interviews with 300 par- ticipants. He then enlisted Law School graduate Together they flew to Israel, arrived at a deal to buy the film fights to the book and visited some of the main sites of the 1967 war. After interviewing a number of scriptwriters, they chose the English and Hebrew bilingual Lior Geller, 32, raised in New Jersey and a graduate of the TelAviv University film school. For his graduate project, Geller wrote and directed "Roads," set in a drug-infested Arab neighborhood of Lod. The short student film has won 24 international awards, includ- ing an Oscar nomination. On a visit to a reporter's home, Septimus and Geller talked about the "Jerusalem '67" movie, and Schick added his observations in a phone call from New York. Schick said that in a sense, thecity of Jerusalemwill be the protagonist, with the capital's mood chronicled from one month before the outbreak of fighting to its aftermath until the end of the gear. Although leading historical figures such as Israeli gener- als Moshe Dayan and Yitzhak Rabin, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollekwill be portrayed, the emphasis will on the ac- soldiers and citizens, Septimus said. "Our characters will be based on real people, includ- ing an attractive female am- bulance driver," added Geller, who recently completed a screenplay about Israeli spy Eli Cohen for the upcoming movie "Alone in Damascus," and also has finished the script for the thriller "Run from the Devil," to be produced by the Oasis Media Group. "Jerusalem '67," which will be in English and shot entirely in Israel, will feature an international cast, though no cast members have been selected; nor has a director. The anticipated budget is ap- proximately $5 million -- a hefty sum in Israel, though modest by Hollywood stan- dards. Schickand Septimus expect to raise one-thirdofthe money from Jewish individuals and organizations in the United States, one-third from Israeli sources and one-third from production companies. If all goes well, "Jerusalem '67" will be released in 2013 or possibly 2014. "Wewill notmake ahasbara, or propaganda, film," Schick emphasized, "but itwill be told from an Israeli perspective." PAGE 17A A collection of knishes from Noah Wildman. school. After a few years mak- ing pizza at the much-loved Franny's and Amorina in Brooklyn, and then working at Ignazio's also in Brooklyn, he left last summer to pursue a project of his own. A series of serendipitous encounters led him to the knish. Wildman visited Wil- liamsburg's weekly food festival, Smorgasburg, and was inspired by the new ap- proaches to classic ethnic fare that he found there. Danny Macaroon, for example, had breathed new life into the coconut pastry associated with Passover, and various k/mchi makers had success- fully re-branded the Korean fermented vegetable staple for the average New Yorker. At the same time, Wildman stumbled into a well-timed Knishery NYC lecture series on the knish taught by one of food's great- est contemporary champions, Laura Silver, a writer in New York City. Reawakened by Silver's enthusiasm, Wildman tried out four different recipes to vory pumpkin, apple-cheese, and chocolate hazelnut. In addition, he plans future fillings of curry sweet potato, the crispy chicken fat known as gribenes, and mushroom- quinoa. The Knishery NYC is in find a dough that balanced its infancy, but Wildman is crisp and elastic textures with chewy and crumbly consistencies. "The dough is a vehicle for filling, but you need the vehicle first," he said. He uses two kinds of dough--one for savory knishes and one for sweet ones, "a kind of Bubbe's pte sucre." Keeping the right propo'tion of dough to filling is one of the most critical elements of a perfect knish, Wildman said. His fillings range from high-quality ver- sions of the standards to sa- already producing knishes to reckon with, with a sensible dough-to-filling ratio, and in sizes more baseball than softball. Served with a Lime Rickey and deli mustard, Wildman's knishes could be a spiritual experience, or at least one that brings back the memory of Mrs. Stahl. Jeffrey Yoskowitz is a free- lance writer in New York and the editor of the website Pork Memoirs. 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