Seasons Next Season?

Seasons plans a late-spring opening. (Photo by Daniel Nozick)

Seasons plans a late-spring opening. (Photo by Daniel Nozick)

While contractors are working inside the future home of Seasons kosher market to install electrical and plumbing systems, officials remain tight-lipped on an opening date for the store, which has been in the works for about three years.

A series of delays combined with little public information from Seasons has left the community in the dark about a much-anticipated franchise that will provide the Reisterstown Road corridor’s many kosher residents with a second kosher market.

In a phone interview, general manager Zachary Richards said the store, at 1628 Reisterstown Road, most likely will open in late spring but declined to give a specific date.

“We are working on installing electrical systems and plumbing before we move to equipment installation,” he said.

When plans to open a Seasons in Baltimore were first made public, it was slated to be the first of the market’s stores outside New York. However, since the announcement of the Baltimore store, two Seasons markets have opened in New Jersey while progress in Maryland has been notoriously absent. There are four locations in New York.

Despite grumblings about parking, Richards, in a previous interview, said it “was a challenge but, thankfully, has been resolved.”

The Reisterstown Road location had been sitting empty for months before the recent restart of construction. The approximately 15,000-square-foot store will have produce, bakery, sushi, fish, meat, deli and grocery departments. There will also be shop-from-home and delivery options.

Baltimore County District 2 Councilwoman Vicki Almond and her office have been in contact with Seasons and issued the following statement: “One of the questions that I am frequently asked in the Pikesville community is the status of the Seasons market on Reisterstown Road. Work has resumed at the site. Seasons has not committed to a date for an opening. I will continue to monitor the progress on this project.”

dnozick@midatlanticmedia.com

Seasons Kosher Market Pursuing Baltimore Property

The Fields of Pikesville building won’t be getting a kosher market anytime soon, the realtor redeveloping the building said.

Seasons, a New York-based kosher market, is instead planning to open at 401 Reisterstown Road, which was once home to Danielle’s Bluecrest Caterers.

“We feel it’s a good growth neighborhood,” said Mayer Gold, Seasons’ owner. “It’s a nice, vibrant kosher community.”

He said his company, which has been looking for a Baltimore location for about a year and a half, is under contract to purchase the Reisterstown Road building.

Baltimore County held a public parking variance hearing on Wednesday, Dec. 11. The building’s parking lot is not properly zoned, Gold said. If all goes as planned, he hopes to open in Baltimore in one year.

Carl Verstandig, president and CEO of America’s Realty, LLC, said Seasons needed almost 5,000 more square feet than the Fields building could offer.

“Logistically, we couldn’t get the space to fit,” said Verstandig, whose company is redeveloping the Fields building.

Advanced Auto parts will be opening in its stead, Verstandig said.

Seasons, a gourmet kosher market, offers takeout food, deli meats, fish, produce, a butcher, a bakery and floral arrangements, according to its website. It has four locations in New York: Lawrence, Scarsdale, Queens and Manhattan. The company will also be opening a store in Lakewood, N.J., in about 18 months, Gold said.

He likened Seasons to a kosher Whole Foods, a family-friendly, clean and upscale store with fresh food, but not “upscale prices,” he said.

Although Verstandig couldn’t work things out with Seasons, he is optimistic about the future, having recently acquired the Wells Fargo building on the corner of Reisterstown and Old Court roads for $1.45 million.

At the Wells Fargo building, he hopes to have the 14,000 vacant square feet leased to a law firm and a real estate company within the next few weeks.

At the Fields building, he expects Advanced Auto Parts to open in March and self-defense and fitness studio Masada Tactical to open the month prior, in February.

When his company’s pending deals are wrapped up, it will own 227 centers in 31 states. With the recent Pikesville acquisition, his company now owns 10 buildings within three blocks of each other in Pikesville, he said.

“That’s gives us quite a bit of confidence in Pikesville,” Verstandig said.

Raising a Thanksgiving Toast this Chanukah

This Chanukah will offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make a Thanksgiving toast to the lights of the festive candles. With the table decked with rich and decadent fare, these wines will make the perfect accompaniment to the Thanksgiving turkey (and Chanukah latke).

Gilgal Pinot Noir 2011
The elegant and complex flavors in a Pinot Noir make it a great pairing for the Thanksgiving turkey. Pinot Noir is an example of a niche varietal, which suits those looking for a subtle yet sophisticated wine and for those who do not seek an overwhelming fruity flavor.

Newcomers to this varietal should try the Gilgal Pinot Noir, which is eminently drinkable and an ideal introduction to the distinctive pinot flavors. The 2011 Gilgal Pinot Noir displays aromatic strawberry, sour cherry and mulberry fruit characters, which are perfectly balanced by its floral and spicy notes.

111513_Raising-a-Thanksgiving-Toast-this-Chanukah1Galil Mountain Meron 2009
The Galil Mountain Meron is a lusciously rich blend of Syrah, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. The Syrah is the predominate grape in the Meron blend and has in recent years become Israel’s star varietal. Otherwise known as Shiraz, the Syrah’s distinctively rich flavors shine through, and the Meron showcases a beautiful blend of wild berries, blueberries and red cherries, complemented by a hint of oak. This strong and well-balanced wine exhibits a silky texture and a long velvety finish that fills the palate with its rich flavors.

The Galil Mountain Winery is situated in the ever-changing Northern Galilee region. Each
season brings new views, which are reflected in the winery’s unique labels. The Meron, likewise, evolves during the meal with new flavors expressed with every sip.

Yarden Merlot Odem 2007
This limited-edition Merlot comes from the Odem organic vineyard located in the Upper Golan Heights. Single vineyard wines are produced from the very best grapes grown in a single, and special, vineyard. The Odem vineyard uses unique methods to maintain its organic character, and winemakers have commented that since going organic, they have seen a significant improvement in the quality and color of the fruit.

111513_Raising-a-Thanksgiving-Toast-this-Chanukah2The Yarden Merlot Odem is aged in French oak barrels for 18 months, giving it a long finish and wonderful aging potential. Floral, spice and earthy notes enhance the distinctive Merlot characters of cherry and blackberry, which are especially identifiable in this single vineyard wine. While this is definitely a wine to wow your guests, it will also make a truly special Chanukah gift for someone who appreciates a fine wine.

And Don’t Forget the Shmaltz … Beer! >>

Anna Harwood writes for IMP Media.

Read also, Thanksgivukkah: Thanksgiving And Chanukah … Together! >>

Thanksgivukkah

It hasn’t happened since 1888, and it won’t happen again until 2070 and 2165. After that, it will be 70,000 years until it happens again. So grab your dreidels, latkes and gravy boats, because this year Thanksgiving and Chanukah collide.

Yes, the first day of Chanukah falls on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28. Time magazine calls this event “the best excuse for overeating since sliced potatoes.”

Most are calling the holiday “Thanksgivukkah” — a word coined and trademarked by Dana Gitell, a 37-year-old marketing specialist from Boston.

Gitell said she hit on the idea in 2011 after seeing a calendar that showed Jewish holidays over the next five years.

“I was driving and thinking about what you would call that day and rolling the words around in my mind, and I came up with … Thanksgivukkah,” she said.

Gitell started a Facebook page for Thanksgivukkah that has taken off.

Thanksgivukkah has inspired enterprising commercial interests and ordinary folks alike. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will feature a dreidel balloon. You still have time to order Thanksgivukkah shirts and gifts from ModernTribe.com. I found lots of fun ideas and things to see online. You can find several terrific Thanksgivukkah videos on YouTube. Click here to see Stephen Colbert’s hilarious tribute to Thanksgivukkah. I laughed out loud when he tried making a hand menorah instead of a hand turkey.

Gil and Margie Brodsky’s Thanksgivukkah version of the Chanukah song featuring lyrics such as “Come light the menurky” and “Let’s have a party with latkes and turkey” is also a riot.

Another entertaining YouTube video is “The Ballad of Thanksgivukkah,” a lively song performed by the entire staff and student body of the Kehillah Schechter Academy of Norwood, Mass. Creative lyrics include a transition from Plymouth Rock to “Rock of Ages.”

And check out PJlibrary.org: PJ Library is a fantastic “Jewish family engagement program” dedicated to providing free, high-quality Jewish children’s literature and music to families across the U.S. On its site are links for child-friendly Thanksgivukkah crafts such as a pumpkin menorah made with real miniature pumpkins, a Star of David napkin ring and ideas for toddlers.

For foodies, this day is a true fantasy feast. There are unlimited ways to combine Chanukah and Thanksgiving recipes. On past Thanksgiving days, many Shabbat-observant Jews didn’t pay too much attention to serving turkey on that Thursday. This is because the very next day was Shabbat, so they often saved the turkey for Friday night. But this special Thursday event deserves the full-on turkey treatment. You even have time to order the Star of David or dreidel mold for potato pancakes at theKosherCook.com.

You might consider Thanksgivukkah a fad because, let’s face it, it’s not going to happen again for a long, long, long time. But think of the many Jewish babies that will be born on this day. They surely will be celebrating the event for generations to come.

I asked Larry Levy, owner/chef of Biddle Street Catering, what he’s doing for Thanksgivukkah, as he is always on the cutting edge of food fads. Levy said his more adventurous clients are asking for more creativity for Thanksgivukkah, and he can deliver just that. I tasted his new menu additions and can attest: Levy has a great option for Thanksgivukkah gravy. His fabulous lighter Bordelaise sauce is made with wine, and he has another one that he braises the turkey in, with Manischewitz wine as an option. His yummy pumpkin cheesecake (pareve or dairy) has a delicious cranberry topping. And his homemade doughnuts are infused with jelly or pumpkin mousse. The uniquely roasted brussels sprouts have pieces of sautéed crisp pastrami. His apple/potato pancakes and homemade cranberry relish are other wonderful items that combine the holidays in delicious ways. And Biddle Street makes gorgeous garnishes of large turnip flowers, leek daisies and spaghetti shreds of carrots.

For an easy and unique turkey presentation, I use fresh kale, fresh sage, canned spiced apples and fresh cranberries or grapes to decorate my turkey platter. You can slice and prepare these herbs and fruits in advance. If you decide to plate each person’s dish, think about placing the sliced turkey on top of a large potato pancake and then drizzle with gravy.

Pumpkin pie and other pumpkin dishes can easily be made pareve by using non-dairy coffee creamer in place of the evaporated milk. Non-dairy cheese such as Tofutti can be used to make pumpkin cheesecake or dips.

I always love food mash-ups, so Thanksgivukkah suits me fine. I combine two different stuffing box mixes, such as cranberry and cornbread, and add some sautéed onions and dry sage for a homemade taste. For quick, good gravy, I mix turkey gravy with beef gravy (can, jar or powdered mix) and add some essence from the turkey. My mother always combined the gravy she bought from the deli: one pint of beef and one pint of turkey.


Created with flickr slideshow.

Carrot Dill Soup >>
Biddle Street’s Brussels Sprouts With Shallots And Pastrami Crisps >>
Biddle Street’s Apple-Potato Latkes >>
Cranberry Crumb Bars >>

Tips & Tricks
Here are a few recipes and tips to make Thanksgivukkah delicious and memorable. Gobble Tov to all!
• Try substituting Tofutti cream cheese and sour cream.
• Make a thin potato kugel and use your Jewish star cookie-cutter to shape potato kugel pancakes.
• Spice up some store-bought apple sauce with red cinnamon candies. Heat to dissolve the candies and create pink potato latke topping.
• Fill mini-cannoli shells with pumpkin mousse or the filling from pumpkin pies. Dip the cannoli ends in cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice.

Ilene Spector is a local freelance writer

Read also, Raising a Thanksgiving Toast this Chanukah >>

Wonder Bread Goes Kosher

Hostess Brands recently emerged from bankruptcy, which means Wonder Bread is back on the shelves.

Remember Wonder Bread? It’s hard to forget the fluffy American sandwich staple of the 20th century. But now, it’s going kosher.

The Orthodox Union recently announced that it’s certifying Wonder Bread products in regions of the U.S. If the product bears an OU symbol, it has been certified. It’s unclear in which cities one will find kosher Wonder Bread, as the Orthodox Union has stated it will not be everywhere.

The big question: What’s the next Hostess product to bear an OU? Twinkies, Ho Hos?

Study: Kosher Chicken May Have Higher E. Coli Risk

Kosher chicken might be less safe to consume than conventional poultry, a new study found.

Researchers with Northern Arizona State University examined the occurrence of antibiotic-resistant E. coli on four types of raw chicken: conventional, organic, kosher and those raised without antibiotics, all purchased throughout the New York area from April 2012 to June 2012. The study found kosher chicken, regardless of brand, had the highest frequency of antibiotic-resistant E. coli — nearly twice the amount in conventional products. It also found no difference in levels of antibiotic resistance between strains found on organic and conventional chicken.

The study screened for all types of E. coli strains, most of which are not harmful to humans, according to Food Safety News.

The findings go against widespread consumer perception that kosher food is healthier and cleaner.

The reasons for the greater levels in kosher poultry than non-kosher are not clear. The authors wrote that their research “suggests that use of antibiotics in the kosher production chain is common and that it may be more intensive than use of antibiotics among conventional, organic or RWA practices.”

The article suggested more studies are needed to test whether antibiotic resistance among kosher products is consistently higher than in other categories.

The study was published on the F1000 Research website, which calls itself the first “open science journal for life scientists.”

 

The Kosher Machine

An OU mashgiach offers kosher supervision to a local factory. The OU operates in 50 states and in 80 countries.(Courtesy of the OU)

An OU mashgiach offers kosher supervision to a local factory. The OU operates in 50 states and in 80 countries.(Courtesy of the OU)

Kosher products started finding their way into the American marketplace around 1918, according to kosherquest.org. In 1924, the Union of Orthodox  Jewish Congregations of America (OU), which had been established in 1892, entered the kashrut industry and appointed Abraham Goldstein (a chemist who had been instrumental in convincing American companies to become certified kosher) as its first kosher director, a role he held until 1935.

At that time, Goldstein, according to kosher quest.org, determined that diversity (as opposed to a monopoly) was better for the industry. So he launched the O/K­. Over the last 50 years of what industry experts call the “food revolution” — the preparation of more and more foodstuffs outside the home — the OU and the O/K have been instrumental in ensuring kosher products are on the shelves.

As the demand rose — and continues to rise — other organizations have come into the market, too, including the local Star-K, which, although founded in 1947, stepped up its game in the 1970s.

Keeping kosher is complicated. Which certifications (heksherim) can you trust? Does every product need a heksher? What is the difference between a local va’ad hakashrut and the symbols we see on products manufactured throughout the world?

A high-riser in the heart of Manhattan is a first stop for finding these answers. Three floors and hundreds of rabbis and other staff comprise the OU headquarters, located at 11 Broadway.

“We’re very much controlled from the headquarters,” said Rabbi Moshe Elefant, chief operating officer of the Kashrut Department, explaining that for a company to certify products in all 50 states and in more than 80 countries, it has to be consistent, “there has to be one OU for the whole world.”

The management philosophy, the hierarchy, works like this: Every account under the OU has a mashgiach, a person who inspects and supervises the kosher status of a kosher establishment. Each mashgiach reports to a rabbinic coordinator (RC). In the real world, explained Rabbi Elefant, RCs would be called account executives. The RCs are divided by industry and become experts in their niche — flavors, wines, meats, baked good, beverages, oil, etc.

Rabbi Moshe Heinemann Rabbinic Administrator, Star-K (Justin Tsucalas)

Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, Rabbinic Administrator, Star-K (Justin Tsucalas)

Each RC reports to a group leader. The purpose of the group leader is for the mashgichim to have someone to be available when the RC is not and to manage, guide and advise the RCs. The group leaders report to OU Chief Executive Officer Rabbi Menachem Genack and to Rabbi Elefant. Rabbis Yisroel Belsky and Herschel Schachter serve as the OU’s rabbinic advisers, meeting weekly to discuss and answer the dozens of questions that arrive to headquarters from the field.

The questions and answers are archived in an intricate computer system, able to be accessed if that question — or a similar one — is posed again.

“I am the recorder of policy,” said Rabbi Eli Gersten with pride.

Each week, Rabbi Gersten sits at the feet of these rabbinic leaders, posing complicated questions and taking notes on the answers. He then transcribes his notes into the computer system.

“If a question comes up, people come to me first,” he said, pulling out his handwritten note for a particular Thursday. A first dozen questions are in red — those are ones that must get answered. Farther down the page is a handful of black-inked notes. These are questions for which it would be nice to get the answers, but they could wait until the following week.

Dr. Avrom Pollak President, Star-K (Justin Tsucalas)

Dr. Avrom Pollak
President, Star-K (Justin Tsucalas)

“Part of [my job] is that we also sometimes get different answers from Rabbi Belsky and Rabbi Schachter. We have to make peace to know how to proceed. … Usually we can come to some sort of compromise,” said Rabbi Gersten. “It’s very rare that we need to go to Rabbi Genack. He’s the arbiter. He’s the office policy of how the OU runs when there’s a disagreement between Rabbi Belsky and Rabbi Schachter.”

The OU’s total enterprise is upward of 1,000 people.

The local va’ad, the Star-K, is not too dissimilar, just smaller. Dr. Avrom Pollak serves as president and handles the administrative sides of the business. Rabbi Moshe Heinemann acts as the rabbinic adm-inistrator. There are nine or 10 rabbinic advisers in the office, located on Slade Avenue, and then several dozen rabbinic coordinators in the field reporting back. The masgichim report to the coordinators.

B-a-a-a-con Up A Storm

062813_baaacon_up_a_storm1

(Photo by Dara Kamer)

Ever wondered what it’s like to savor a delicious piece of bacon but can’t because you keep kosher?

Well, members of the kosher community have reason to rejoice because kosher bacon has come to Pikesville.

Chaim Silverberg, founder and creator of Lamb B-a-a-a-con (pronounced as if sounded by a lamb), is a special-needs teacher at the Kennedy Krieger Institute. He and brother, Hillel, have hit the kosher jackpot. No technology, no chemicals, just age-old methods and an all-hands-on-deck mentality.

The idea of making and marketing kosher bacon came to Chaim, who has never eaten treif, three years ago. He began experimenting with lamb bacon for his family. Eight months ago, he and Hillel opened their company with the mission of bringing this new product to those who keep kosher — and also for the enjoyment of those who don’t.

Hillel, who was living in Minnesota, moved to Pikesville to take over the business’ daily operation. The brothers are currently “experimenting with farmers markets to raise capital and then go to the next stage,” Chaim said.

This summer, they are selling kosher lamb B-a-a-a-con and b-a-a-a-by back ribs at the Pomona Square and Govanstowne farmers’ markets.

The plan is not to eventually sell out but to keep it personal and local.

Chaim (left) and Hillel  Silverberg have brought kosher bacon to Pikesville. (photo by Dara Kramer)

Chaim (left) and Hillel Silverberg have brought kosher bacon to Pikesville.
(photo by Dara Kramer)

“We are the ones who make it, and for most products, you don’t get that direct connection,” said Hillel. He noted the hands-on preparation creates a sense of consumer control.

“I have the ability to match what the consumer wants. It works out for everyone,” Hillel said.

Chaim admitted that some people are skeptical and “a bit standoffish. But most are overjoyed after having the joy of actually experiencing, some for the first time, what bacon is like.”

Ayme Lederman, executive assistant at the Pikesville Chamber of Commerce, who helps organizes the growing weekly farmers’ market at Pomona Square, said that the Silverbergs have been exceedingly “successful and have helped create a growing kosher presence at Pomona. … They cater to everybody. Hopefully, this will bring more people to the market.”

Kim Clapp-Jones was drawn to the kosher B-a-a-a-con stand by the energetic brothers who treat each customer like a celebrity. A pork veteran herself, Jones was cautious before eating the kosher lamb bacon; after just one bite, Jones’ face lit up.

“It’s excellent,” she said. “Great seasoning with a great taste to the palate. … I [might even prefer] this bacon to turkey or regular bacon.”

This “ah-ha” moment doesn’t only happen while the Silverbergs are at farmers’ markets or at the Knish Shop, where their product is also sold. It has become a regular occurrence, said Chaim.

It’s no wonder. Each batch of bacon, around 40 pounds, takes a week to make.

Interested in getting your own? The brothers are at Pomona Square on Tuesdays from 2 to 6 p.m. and at Govanstowne on Wednesdays from 3 to 7 p.m. You can find kosher “lambbaaacon” on Facebook or email lambbaaacon@gmail.com.