Jewish food is a lot of things. Comforting. Steeped in tradition. A no-fail fattening agent for concerned grandmas all over the world.
What is it not, one would think, is stylish. Until now. Some of Brooklyn’s coolest — and youngest — members of the tribe are spinning Bubby’s old recipes into gastronomic gold (though not necessarily kosher!), taking schmaltz-laden war horses like latkes, matzoh balls, chopped liver, and even gefilte fish to new culinary heights. So whether you choose to dine out at one of these Jewish nouveau destinations, or take their goodies to go for an at-home holiday spread, it’s guaranteed that your Passover Seder will be the hottest, hippest ticket in town this year.
It’s odd to think that young guns like Rae Cohen and Noah Bernamoff could ever be considered the forefathers of anything, but can you remember corned beef and kasha varnishkes being chic before the pair opened their Boerum Hill delicatessen in 2010? Like it or not, these Montrealites have shaped the cuisine of the New Brooklyn Jew, with house smoked, sustainably sourced meat; homemade pickles; and jazzed-up specials like “The Whole Mishpucha” — matzoh ball soup with chicken stuffed wontons, ramen-style noodles, and chicken galantine.
Mile End [97 Hoyt St. between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street in Boerum Hill, (718) 852-7510].
Although chef/owner Jason Marcus takes plenty of pride in his Jewish roots, he joyfully flouts kosher living at his cozy Williamsburg eatery, Traif. Some dishes make the grade for Passover — a salad of roasted carrots, apples, raisins, feta, greens and sunflower seeds — others decidedly did not, such as his signature foie gras with ham chips and chopped chicken livers with bacon/balsamic toasts, making for a menu both sinful and virtuous, and delicious in equal measure.
Traif [229 South Fourth St. between Havemeyer and Roebling streets in Williamsburg, (347) 844-9578].
Shelsky’s Smoked Fish
“No more schlepping,” is the motto at Shelsky’s — a promise that Brooklynites will no longer have to travel to the Lower East Side in search of Jewish appetizing stores of yore. But as much as the Cobble Hill shop pays homage to the classics — like belly lox, whitefish salad, borscht and kippered herring —owner and professional chef Peter Shelsky puts his training to work with Manischewitz braised short ribs, clementine/ginger rugelach, and celeriac and sweet potato kugel.
Shelsky’s Smoked Fish [251 Smith St. between Douglass and Degraw streets in Cobble Hill, (718) 855-8817].
Gold Coast Delicatessen
An old-timey deli from the owners behind hipster havens Cubana Social, Matchless, Public Assembly and Bar 4? No way these latkes are intended solely for the geriatric set. Just wait until after Pesach to pair your fresh (not canned) tuna salad, hand-cut deli sandwich, or parsley sauce and house mustard-slathered potato-horseradish knish with a Verrazano cocktail (aperol, clementine vodka, and st. germain), or a Breukelen Gin-fueled Narrows Negroni.
Gold Coast Delicatessen [8530 Third Ave. between 85th and 86th streets Bay Ridge, (718) 238-8020].
Even while riding high on a new wave of Eastern-European love, gourmetizing gefilte fish — one of the most oft reviled foods in the Jewish culinary canon (this writer has long refused to touch the stuff), seems like a tall order. The Gefilteria’s Great Lakes-caught salmon, pike and whitefish layered loaves are a far cry from the grey, unidentifiable lozenges submerged in suspicious, quivery gel most of us remember, and Passover-friendly black-and-white cookies (made with matzoh, of course), only sweeten the deal.
The Gefilteria [For info, visit gefilteria.com]
Jewish pastries may be a much easier sell than pickled cabbage and gefilte fish, but that doesn’t mean they’re all created equal. Danny Macaroons —available online, or at Smorgasburg, in season — are neither gummy or dry, and come in categorically non-traditional flavors such as red velvet, roasted almond, German chocolate, and sea salt caramel.
Danny Macaroons [For info, visit www.dannymacaroons.com or call (260) 622-8463].