Food Series with Chefs of Citron & Rose and Rabbi Meir Soloveichik!

In anticipation of the new restaurant, please join us for an exciting Food Series featuring the engaging, creative and funny wisdom of Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik and the culinary talent and skill of the chefs of Citron and Rose, Michael Solomonov and Yehuda Sichel.

First part of the series for Rosh Hashanah follows the jump.

Honey: How to Truly Bee Jewish
Honey has been associated with Jewish celebrations for over one thousand years.  What is it about the miraculous beehive that is so significant? And how can understanding honey’s symbolism guarantee that our new year will be sweeter?

  • When: Sunday, September 9, 2012 at 7:30 pm
  • Where: Chabad of the Main Line, 625 Montgomery Ave, Merion Station, PA 19066. Future installments will take place at the new Citron and Rose!
  • Cost: Suggested $18 donation will support local Jewish Day Schools.
  • RSVP: Space is limited, so you must reserve a spot. Please RSVP to office@koheletfoundation.org by Friday, September 7, 2012
  • Who:
    • Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik is the Director of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University and Associate Rabbi at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in Manhattan.
    • Michael Solomonov is the executive chef and co-owner of Zahav, and the executive chef at Citron and Rose.
    • Yehuda Sichel is a sous chef at Zahav and chef de cuisine at Citron and Rose.

 

Local Film Shown in Israel & Across US for Yom Hazikaron

A Green Kippah, a film directed and produced by Philadelphia’s Sally Mitlas, was aired numerous times throughout Yom HaZikron on Israel’s Channel 10.

This moving documentary, originally created for Philadelphia’s 2011 Yom HaZikron ceremony, chronicles the lives and tragic death of three Pennsylvania Jews: David Solomonov (z”l), Rita Levine (z”l) and Michael Levin (z”l).

All three heroes died in the prime of their lives — through an act of terror, a sniper’s bullet and defending Israel’s border — reminding us that when Israel loses a son or daughter, it is felt by every Jew around the world.

Following the Channel 10 screenings, Sally received a flood of emails from Israelis who were moved by the documentary. One said

I have just finished watching the movie Green Kippah on Israeli television. I would like to thank you for sharing these stories with us. It is because of families like you, who have a deep love for Israel, that all of us can have quiet peaceful lives. My heart and love is with you…

A Green Kippah was screened at many memorial ceremonies and educational programs across our region (and in the U.S.) including locally at Drexel University, Kohelet Yeshiva High School, and Politz Hebrew Academy.  

Citron and Rose: The World’s Best Glatt Kosher Restaurant!

— by Ronit Treatman

What happens when philanthropist David Magerman and James Beard Award-winning Chef Michael Solomonov put their heads together?  An incredibly ambitious project is born: to create the world’s best glatt kosher European-Jewish restaurant!  It will be poetically named Citron and Rose.

More after the jump.
“It will not be a kosher Zahav,” David Magerman tells me, referring to Michael Solomonov’s renown Center City Nouveau Israeli masterpiece.  “Citron and Rose will reimagine Eastern Europe.  This will be a unique place!” he promises me.  Citron and Rose will also provide glatt kosher catering.

David Magerman is not in the restaurant business, and never wanted to be.  “I started looking for a way to provide the Jewish community with a glatt kosher restaurant with the highest standards of excellence.  My philosophy is that observant Jews should not have to compromise on quality,” he explained.  

Citron & Rose will have a sleek, modern, and elegant look.  There will be seating for sixty.  Diners will be able to enjoy viewing the chefs at work in the open kitchen.  The wood and marble bar will offer an extensive selection of kosher wines, beer, and spirits.  It will be glatt kosher, which means that it will adhere to the strictest standards of kashrut.  Kosher supervision will be conducted by the Philadelphia Vaad Hashgacha.

To prepare for the summer opening, Michael Solomonov will be travelling in Eastern Europe.  He will absorb the culture and learn about the food and culinary traditions.  He will then share with us the forgotten tastes and textures of our pre-War ancestors.  There will be marinated meats cooked over a charcoal rotisserie grill and charcuterie made in-house.  Pickles will be made using traditional recipes.  Salads and vegetable dishes not generally offered will be reincarnated.  Citron And Rose will also offer freshly baked breads and desserts.  

This planned menu brings back childhood memories for me.  I grew up in a secular Israeli family.  When I was a girl, my father and I would make a pilgrimage to the Orthodox city of Bnei Brak in Israel.  We went there especially to buy cured turkey meat from one of the small, artisanal purveyors.  “No one spices it like the Romanians!” my dad would exclaim.  I have a feeling that this restaurant will be a crucible in which such memories will be conjured up for the post-war generations by Michael Solomonov’s alchemy.

Those of us who live in the Greater Delaware Valley are very fortunate.  Two of Philadelphia’s biggest dreamers have joined forces to create an amazing new reality.  I believe that David Magerman and Michael Solomonov can turn Citron and Rose into the best kosher restaurant in the world. I am salivating already!


368-370 Montgomery Avenue
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004

Open Sunday – Thursday for dinner

Catering contact information:  
events@citronandrose.com

Farming the Biblical Way

– by Hannah Lee

Touted as a “squash rock star” by Laura Matthews on her blog, Punk Rock Gardens, Tom Culton, 30, has not only appeared on the David Letterman show but he has participated in Sotheby’s The Art of Farming auction along with the gracious-living guru Martha Stewart.  He has been featured in The Philadelphia Inquirer and Bon Appetit magazine.  He supplies his heirloom and other weird-looking vegetables to local upscale restaurants such as  Vetri, Zahav, and The Farm and Fisherman in Philadelphia (the latter recently garnered a three-bell rating from the Inquirer’s food critic, Craig LaBan) and to celebrity chefs such as Thomas Keller and Daniel Boulud in New York City.

What the other media interviews do not mention is that Tom is a devoted member of the River Brethen Church, one of only two remaining Old-Order Mennonite communities in Lancaster and in New Paltz in upstate New York.  Members of his family have been living in Lancaster County since 1740, but several generations back they were dissatisfied by the leadership and dropped out.

More after the jump.
Tom is the first one in his family to return to his ancestral faith.  According to the Wikipedia, the River Brethren oppose war, alcohol, tobacco, and worldly pleasures.  They also observe the Sabbath — on Saturdays, like the Jews —  in which they do not work.  Tom scatters extra grain for his chickens before the Sabbath, just as manna fell in double portion for the Jews in the desert.

Tom grew up farming but it was in his teens that he understood “it’s one of the most important roles” he could have in the world.  After his mother’s death in 2001, he found solace in farming– nurturing something while Nature nurtures him in return.  “Growing food is one of the beautiful things in the world, even when it can be a dark place,” said Tom.  His  mother bequeathed to him the ancestral home (his father had left them when Tom was only three days old), and Tom ventured to turn his family farm– previous crops had been tobacco and carrots– to a more sustainable future.  His grandfather, now 81, has come to see the folly of his post-war generation relying on chemicals without  regard for the environmental impact.

Faith is a very important factor in Tom’s life.  It gives focus, strength, and understanding.  He “doesn’t look for answers in man-made solutions, but in God’s solutions.”  The farming life is so insecure, affected by unpredictable weather conditions and capricious market prices.  Farmers can easily lose faith in the face of difficulties but Tom turns to prayer during the sad times (deaths and relationship woes), crops failures, and husbandry diseases.

It is in church on the Sabbath that Tom feels embraced as a farmer.  In fact, his fellow church  members are all farmers, but he is the only organic one — and the one with the highest yield from his land.  Once a contractor for a  fellow church member ventured to drive his truck through Tom’s land — with its access road that “would have saved him $5 in gasoline” costs — but Tom saw the guy in time and ran to block access, standing him off “like the student protestors in Tiananmen Square (China).”  He was cursed roundly for his unneighborly action, but the unheeded drips from the guy’s pesticide-laden truck (and the wheels) could have cost Tom his organic certification or at least incur a hefty fine.

Tom has tremendous respect for the elderly and the ways of old.  His grandfather lives with him.  The senior Culton is not enamored of speaking to outsiders but he enjoys puttering on the farm.  He also cultivates his own saffron plot– for his favorite rice dishes– a therapeutic crop requiring a labor-intensive harvesting of the stamens.  Respect for the elderly was also demonstrated by his church when their Bishop suffered a stroke.  To maintain his dignity, he and his wife were sent to a remote farm (away from bustling Lancaster) owned by a church member to live out his days in pastoral peace.  Ancestral ties are maintained through family burial plots on his property, a right protected by his church. In another affirmation of tradition, Tom is refurbishing his family’s buggy, which he plans to use on his wedding day when he meets the lucky gal who cherishes a farming life.  The River Brethren were among the last of the Mennonites to give up their buggies.

Organic farming can give comparable or better yields than conventional agriculture but it does demand much more labor.  Tom grows alfalfa, which is dicey to grow without pesticides, as feed for his dairy goats and as a cash commodity as well as a cover crop for fixing nitrogen (a natural alternative to petroleum-based fertilizers).  Every five years (in contrast to the seven years between Shmittah (Hebrew for “release”) years in the Jewish tradition), he takes out his alfalfa and rotates his crops in the fields.  He has located a French company that uses certified non-GMO (genetically modified organism) corn to produce biodegradable plastic for agricultural purposes.  It’s much more expensive, priced at $400 for 5,000 square feet versus $89 for the conventionally produced plastic.  Tom has seen farmers take the lazy way and simply plow the regular plastic under their land, where it doesn’t ever completely degrade but which does chip off and get into our food and water supply.

How did he learn to farm the organic way?  When he began farming seriously, it was already in his DNA.  So, he did not read much, because it was really just common sense.  “You go with your heart” and do what is only sustainable for your land.  It has become a “very religious experience” to come to realize that modern research has confirmed his wholehearted experience on the farm.  Tom recently got his first computer and was able to search on the Internet for the correct spelling of the Red Piriform tomato (with ribbed shoulders) that was previously thought to only grow in the Ligura region of Italy but which Tom has succeeded in cultivating and supplying to his chef friends. On Tom’s kitchen table is a bobble-head figure of Mark McGwire, the discredited baseball player who admitted to steroid use last year, to remind himself that people still prize natural talent — and by extension,  natural food — without chemical enhancements.

Tom has one high-top (plastic-covered tent) greenhouse without any heating source and one that is heated by waste oil, processed by him (centrifuged to remove impurities) on his land.  He collects the oil from the area restaurants, which pay him to take the waste oil off their hands.

This year, Tom has the assistance of Matthew Yoder, recently returned from a stint in Maine and newly adopted into the River Brethren faith, and Ian Osborne, an “English” young man not of the faith– just as Jews might distinguish between themselves and the goyim (Gentiles).  Matthew brought his knowledge of crops that thrive in New England and the two of them have planted heavily on the 53 acres of the Culton Organics farm.  What are his favorite crops?  Fava beans– or just about any bean– and artichokes with its purply, thistly flowers.

Tom’s plans for next year comprise of a reduced reliance on produce and the introduction of ducks and geese (for the eggs and meat).  His farm now supports 15 chickens (only two of which are now mature enough to lay eggs daily), a small flock of goats, and one turkey.  Most of the goats are milk-producing animals, but one lone billy goat was allowed to retain his horns and escape castration (which adversely affects the taste of the meat).  Why was this one chosen for the sacrifice (his eventual slaughter)?  He was the mean one of the flock.

Tom and his friend, Michael Solomonov, the chef at Zahav and a recent winner of the prestigious James Beard award, plan to tour Israel together.  Does he wish to see the Christian religious sites?  No, he is willing to follow Michael’s lead; besides he is more interested in seeing the Jewish historical sites.

You could taste the delicious dishes made from the heirloom vegetables from Culton Organics at area restaurants and you may meet Tom and Matt on Sundays at the Headhouse Square Farmers’ Market (open from 10 am to 2 pm at Second and Pine Streets).  Be sure to bring your smile or he’ll charge you double.

Michael Solomonov and A Sustainable Lag B’Omer on the “Beach”

By Hannah Lee

Medford, New Jersey is the home of the largest Jewish day camp in North America (according to the Wikipedia) and that was the venue for Hazon‘s “Beach, Beer and BBQ” celebration of the holiday of Lag B’Omer on Sunday, May 22nd.  Lag B’Omer is the 33rd day — lag being the gematria for (numeric equivalent) of 33 — of the counting of the barley offerings (the quantity being an omer, about two quarts)  in the ancient Temple, commencing with the second day of Pesach (Passover) and culminating with the giving of the Torah on Shavuot.  Traditionally, it is celebrated in Israel with bonfires.  As observed by the Chassidim, the bonfires commemorate

“the immense light that Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai introduced into the world via his mystical teachings. This was especially true on the day of his passing, Lag B’Omer, when he revealed to his disciples secrets of the Torah whose profundity and intensity the world had yet to experience. The Zohar relates that the house was filled with fire and intense light, to the point that the assembled could not approach or even look at Rabbi Shimon.”

For everyone else, it is a joy simply to be outdoors.  For Hazon, it was an opportunity to link a ancient holiday to a celebration of the trendy– and important!-goals of a sustainable future.
I was eager to attend because Michael Solomonov, the chef and owner of the Philly restaurant Zahav was scheduled to serve as chef for the event.  Earlier this month, he’d won the prestigious James Beard Award as Best Chef of the Mid-Atlantic region (and one of three Jewish chefs to be so honored this year).  Last Wednesday, the Inquirer food critic Craig LaBan invited Michael to his Live Chat feature.

LaBan chatted with Michael Solomonov  and I got to post my comments to him: “I’m looking forward to the Hazon event that you’ll be “cheffing” for this Sunday.  One reason is that your restaurant, Zahav, is not kosher!  I want to be able to eat your food too!  Was your nuclear family (parents, siblings) ever kosher?”  Michael wrote back: “I grew up in a kosher-esque household so we didn’t eat pork or shellfish in the house.  We did, however, turn into bacon zombies the moment we stepped OUT of the house.  Seriously, if “kashruting” our restaurant wasn’t such a “balagan” in the States, we might have considered it more.  But my mission is to expose and celebrate Israeli food, in its entirety, and we would seriously limit our reach if we were kosher.  We don’t serve shellfish or pork or mix dairy and meat on any plate, so we call it “kosher style”.”  My 22-year-old daughter who is usually critical of “kosher-style” catering later commended Michael for his response.  Upon meeting the Chef that evening and identifying myself, he said that I was much nicer than some of the other posters who did not pass censure or decency for their comments.  So, I was all agog to go and I’d signed up my husband as driver and our teen daughter.

The JCC Camp in Medford has plenty of sand for the “Beach” as advertised.  It occupies 120 acres in Burlington County in southern New Jersey and it boasts of a lake too.  A small fair of vendors offering organic and sustainably sourced products kept us engaged until supper time.  I greeted Toni Price, whom I’d seen earlier in the day at Headhouse Square, the largest farmers’ market in Philadelphia.  Toni is a retired English teacher whose husband, Steve, is the chief beekeeper for their Busy Bee Farm located in the nearby Pine Barrens in Tabernacle, N.J.  Last year, their farm was awarded a Pollinator Habitat Grant from the New Jersey National Resource Conservation Service and the USDA.  As a Master Gardener of Burlington County, Toni handles the care and use of the farm’s lavender and other herbs, as well as her flock of free-range pet chickens.   She invited my family to visit on lavender harvesting days.

Negev Nectars was also on hand to offer taste tests of their gourmet products from small-scale Israeli farmers.   Their olive oil comes from trees nourished from an underground aquifer of brackish (salty) water- sparing the scarce “sweet” water from Lake Kinneret for human consumption.  I bought several jars of their kosher confitures, spreads, and honey for use as hostess gifts, in particular the items from Kibbutz Neot Smadar, since my husband’s sister is named Smadar.

Jack Treatman, Coffee Buyer and Vice President of Old City Coffee was on hand to explain how their coffee was harvested and culled by hand, with colorful photographs to illustrate his point.  The coffee beans, really the seeds of the plants’ “cherries”, are then raked into fields that resemble sand for drying.  The kosher certification comes at the point of roasting and Jack says that the only reason Old City Coffee is not certified is that its store in the Reading Terminal Market is open on Saturdays.

So, the BBQ dinner!  Michael’s food was a celebration of the flavors of Israel, executed with a modern flair and a gourmet spin.  I loved everything, especially the roasted cauliflower (even my non-crucifer-loving hubby enjoyed it!) and the grilled eggplant.  I cannot report on the meat– chicken shislik and chicken cooked al ha’esh from Grow and Behold Foods — which I didn’t eat because I’m a vegan-wannabe.   Dessert was s’mores made with marshmallows toasted on sticks over a real honest-to-goodness bonfire and chocolate from Holy Cacao,  which is made in small batches by observant Jews on the hills of Hebron “at the edge of the Judean Desert” in Israel.  Electric Simcha’s http://www.facebook.com/Electr… Hasidic rock music and Israeli dancing added to the ruach (lively atmosphere).  I was so inspired by the whole celebration that I volunteered to work on the next Hazon event in Philly, especially if it involved Michael Solomonov.  And I’m happily married!

Zahav: A Golden Culinary Adventure!

Zahav Restaurant– Ronit Treatman

How can I pay a five star price to eat some hummus?” I asked myself when friends invited me to join them at Zahav, a posh new Israeli restaurant in Society Hill. After all, I can eat Israeli food for free every time I have dinner at my parents’ home! One of our companions had never tried Israeli food, however, so I decided to join them.

Entering the large, airy restaurant was like stepping into the Levant.

 

There were posters of Israeli markets on the wall and intricately designed metal Moroccan lamps. The expertly trained bilingual (Hebrew and English) wait staff greeted us warmly. An attractive crowd of people was enjoying drinks and conversation while sitting at the well stocked bar, which contained some very interesting wines from Israel, Lebanon and Morocco.

Our table was right in front of the tabun, or wood-fired brick oven. Chef Solomonov was baking Lafah, an Iraqi flatbread. On the menu are two choices of prix fixe dinners. The first one is called Ta’yim (delicious in Hebrew) and the second is Mesibah (which means party). For the uninitiated, this is the best way to sample an Israeli menu. We ordered the Mesibah. Our meal began with an assortment of eight different Israeli salads. Everything was fresh and meticulously prepared. These were crunchy, colorful vegetable combinations, each seasoned differently. Especially good were the Moroccan carrot salad and the Israeli vegetable salad. Perfectly seasoned, creamy hummus and finger-singeing lafah, straight out of the tabun, arrived at our table as well. A plate of Israeli pickles and olives was also brought out.

Mezze, or appetizers, were served next. This was an opportunity to explore the diversity of cultures that make up modern Israel. We began in Cyprus, with grilled Haloumi cheese. This sheep’s milk cheese was grilled over hardwood charcoal on a grill next to the tabun. Haloumi does not melt when grilled; it arrived in crispy cubes served with dates and pine nuts. Next, we went to Turkey, and tried the feta, ricotta, and olive borekas, or turnovers. From the Mediterranean, we sampled fried cauliflower with a labaneh (sheep’s milk yogurt) and chive dip. Egypt brought us kibbeh, a deep fried bulgur wheat and lamb croquette, and stuffed grape leaves.

Chef Solomonov pays homage to his Bukharian heritage when cooking the whole roasted lamb shoulder, our main course. Bukhara is a city on the Silk Road, in modern day Uzbekistan. It is famous for its pomegranates and black walnuts, which traditionally were used for both dyeing silk and cooking. Zahav’s lamb is cooked in a pomegranate sauce with chickpeas. It melted in our mouths, and the flavor was deliciously unique. I highly recommend reserving this dish in advance, as it sells out early.

For a glorious ending, Zahav brought out a sampling of all its desserts. From Italy, we tried a chocolate-almond semifreddo (half cold) ice cream cake. Cashew baklava brought us the flavors of the Ottoman Empire as this phyllo dough, nut, and honey concoction was perfected in the Topkapi Palace, the home of the Ottoman sultans for four hundred years. Basboosa, a semolina cake soaked in orange water and honey syrup, represented the Eastern Mediterranean; it was served with peanuts and labaneh. A pistachio cake was served with one of the most exotic ingredients in the restaurant, frozen salep, made from the ground tubers of an orchid. A new twist on a Persian favorite is the halvah mousse, made with sesame seeds and honey. In order to be able to heave ourselves off our chairs, we needed to drink some of Zahav’s deliciously sweet fresh mint tea.

Zahav provides a fair value for the excellence of the food, the ambience, and the quality of the service. Israelis – whether Ashkenazi, Sephardi, or a combination – will find that the food at Zahav is definitely not your mother’s cooking! For those who have never sampled Israeli food before, this is a polite, civilized sort of introduction, where you delicately put your hummus on some lafah with a knife. It is not a wiping the hummus off the plate with your pita kind of place! I need to go back soon!