Monday, August 25, 2014

Hadassah speaker to describe Jewish cooking around the world, from generation to generation

Greta Schiffman will be the guest speaker for the Greater Wake County Chapter of Hadassah at an event to celebrate its new community cookbook: l’dor v’dor: from biscuits to briskets. Greta will talk about Jewish food around the world at 7 p.m. Sept. 9 at Temple Beth Or, 5315 Creedmoor Road, Raleigh. The event is free and light refreshments from the cookbook will be provided. 
Copies of the cookbook, which features more than 300 recipes from members, will be sold for $20 each. Proceeds benefit Hadassah Hospitals and vital medical research underway in Israel.

Some people think cooking fresh food for their family is a drag. Not Greta Schiffman.

“Cooking has always been a joy and an adventure,” says Greta, a retired kosher caterer who has lived and cooked around the world. “Also, why go out when I can prepare meals better with better ingredients?”

It wasn’t always like that, however. Greta and her sister both didn’t start cooking until they left home as their mother was a bit territorial about her kitchen. “She had a hard time sharing,” Greta says. “She wasn’t a gourmet cook, but she was a phenomenal baker. I think she felt that if she taught us to bake we wouldn’t ask her to help us with our baking.”

Greta Schiffman
Her mother’s baked goods were well known in their hometown of Poughkeepsie, located in upstate New York near the Culinary Institute of America. In fact, when their synagogue would have bake sales, most of her contributions were sold before people ever got through the door.

“Her rugelach and especially her yeast cakes were very good,” she recalls. “She was an ethnic cook who learned from her mother, who was Russian. They used to put up yeast cakes for the Sabbath. I remember that, those yeast cakes would be sitting Thursday night on the radiator when I was a little girl.”

Greta, a former public school teacher, became avid about taking cooking classes, often from chefs at top restaurants.  She and her husband, Saul, enjoyed entertaining, which gave her a chance to show off new skills. People often begged for her recipes, saying her food was better than anything they could buy in area restaurants and shops.

As Greta’s skill and confidence grew, she chaired cooking committees for her synagogue and civic organizations. It became a constant in her life when, as her husband’s career advanced, they moved every few years.

In the 1980s, when the Schiffmans lived in Tampa, Fla., she quit teaching and started baking and cooking for friends at her new temple. Before long, she partnered with a woman to create Simply Delicious, a kosher catering business. The start-up was flourishing when Saul was transferred to Japan.

“I told him he’s ruining my life,” quips Greta, who soon found work teaching English to women through Western cooking classes. “I learned a lot about Japanese cooking and traditional ikebana floral arranging, but all they wanted to know was how we cook and entertain in the US.”

When they returned to the states, the Schiffmans moved to Raleigh. She worked part-time baking for a small catering business that grew into the Tuxedo Café at the old North Hills shopping center.  When the business was sold, she started baking at the Irregardless Café.

Raleigh remained their base while Saul’s career took them back to Japan and later to Australia. They are both retired now.

“I’ve always found cooking very therapeutic, especially baking,” she says. “But I’ve worn out my hands. I’ve had two hand operations. Also, my husband was tired of his car always smelling like food.”

Greta was always protective of her recipes while working as a caterer, but she has shared several of her best that are included in l’dor v’dor: from biscuits to briskets, the new community cookbook published by the Greater Wake County Chapter of Hadassah.

“I am happy to be part of it,” says Greta, whose three daughters are excellent cooks like their mother. “It’s a really wonderful thing to add l’dor v’dor to my collection of cookbooks. I have books from different Jewish organizations, including National Hadassah, and one from my temple in Poughkeepsie from many years ago that I still use all the time.

“Someone just asked me about getting a copy of l’dor v’dor, and they’re not even Jewish. They wanted to have a really good exposure to Jewish cooking,” she adds. “It’s good to have so many great Jewish recipes to treasure and share.”

If you are unable to attend the Sept. 9 event but would like to order copies of l'dor v'dor: from biscuits to briskets at $20 each, send a check made out to Greater Wake County Chapter of Hadassah to: Rita Kessler, 10504 Parsley Court, Raleigh 27614. For information about our Hadassah chapter, please visit our website or follow us on Facebook.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Weekend: Slingshot opens a morning hangout

This post first appeared in Indy Week.
Rain fell steadily the Friday night that Slingshot Coffee owner Jenny Bonchak welcomed fans and friends to her new Raleigh headquarters at 1420 N. Brookside Drive. She and husband Jonathan Bonchak couldn't show off the comfy sofa and chairs purchased for its new outdoor coffee shop, Weekend, but no one seemed to care.
Jenny Bonchak, the founder and CEO of Slingshot,
makes a pour over. (Indy Week photos by Jeremy M. Lange)
Supporters gladly crowded into the 1,000-square foot production room and gamely stood under a canopy of trees on the new patio to admire the sylvan view of a stretch of Crabtree Creek. They simply were too busy enjoying themselves, drinking coffee and beer, nibbling pork or vegan barbecue sandwiches, and listening to Stu McLamb of The Love Language perform a solo set.
The party is over, but the coffee continues to flow. The aptly named Weekend is open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Patrons appreciate the opportunity to have bean options and hot pour-over coffee made by Jonathan, who works for Counter Culture Coffee in Durham. Jenny pours cold Slinghot from a series of taps topped with actual slingshots.
"This is a chance for Jonathan and I to do something we've dreamed about for years—standing beside each other, making coffee in a coffee bar. Our coffee bar," she says.
In the coming weeks, Weekend will feature new menu items, such as herbal infusions and granita-like coffee slushies. They also serve baked goods from Yellow Dog Bakery, their North Person neighbor, including scones and Pop-Tart-inspired pastries.
Bonchak started brewing Slingshot two years ago in a now-closed restaurant during its off hours. A few months later, she moved to a 150-square-foot production room inside Oak City Cycling. The new location, which she thinks will also allow for future growth, was made possible by the company's first significant investor: John Replogle, president and CEO of Seventh Generation, a maker of environmentally friendly household products.
A customer enjoys a leisurely
sip on 
Weekend's patio.
"It's been amazing to have someone like that who not only is providing resources, but is providing a sounding board for me to talk through things," Bonchak says. "With his advice, I really feel like we're able to take a huge step forward."
When Bonchak launched Slingshot just two years ago, she would leave her day job and work through the night to bottle one batch and start brewing another. As a Valentine's Day gift to herself, she quit that job on Feb. 14. She now has three part-time employees, including one in Atlanta, and distributes Slingshot to retailers from Pennsylvania to Florida.
For this venture, Bonchak knows that her spouse is more than the average supportive husband. "You don't win the Brewer's Cup regionals twice in a row, and place at nationals, unless you really love making the very best coffee for people," she says with pride. "It's great to be able to do all this side by side."
The Bonchaks view Weekend's comfortable setting as an extension of their own nearby home. It's also pet friendly, with water bowls and a jar of dog biscuits next to the station with cream and simple syrup.
"Frank the beagle wouldn't have it any other way," Bonchak says of the couple's gregarious pup, who has his own Twitter account. "We love to be outside and entertain with friends, and we wanted the same feel for Weekend. We hope people will want to hang out here, enjoy some coffee, read the paper and just unwind."
Hannah Elmore stopped by with her husband, Jack, and their 2-month-old son, Roy, on their way to the State Farmer's Market. They got two coffees and a bottle of chilled Cascara Tea to go, along with a pair of Slingshot T-shirts. "We follow Slingshot on Instagram and were so excited when we heard Weekend was open," she says. "We love great coffee, so we'll definitely be back."

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Downtown Raleigh Restaurant Week returns

Raleigh restaurant lovers are counting the days until the start of Downtown Raleigh Restaurant Week, Aug. 18-24. That’s #DRRW, for those of you inclined to share your dining experiences online.

Forty eateries have signed on this year, including some of the Capital City’s best known and most upscale establishments and a few newcomers. Prix fixe menus offer flexible three-course dinners for $20 or $30, varying by location, and generally include vegetarian choices. Optional beer and wine pairings also are available.

Reservations are strongly recommended as these bargains tend to make busy restaurants even busier. Not all participants have their menus posted yet but visit the restaurant link of DRRW’s website for contact information.

Among the best deals for the $20 dinners can be found in the hopping Glenwood South neighborhood. At 518 West, Chef Serge Falcoz-Vigne will present shrimp polenta, eggplant parmesan or pasta saltimbocca. Around the corner, the globally inspired menu at Chef Steve Day’s Plates Neighborhood Kitchen also satisfies with choices like smoked duck breast carbonara and homey chicken and dumplings, as well as the irresistible sticky toffee pudding for dessert.

The Oakz, one of the newest eateries on the list, serves a changing a menu that features different US regional cuisines. The father-and-daughter duo of Ira Freedman and Jaclyn Sterritt offer both $20 and $30 options. The latter includes such temptations as fried duck and waffles or seared scallops with fried sweet corn polenta and mango relish.

Options abound in the $30 category. Always wanted to dine at Second Empire, one of Raleigh’s top special occasion locations? Here’s your chance to pull up a chair in the historic house located steps from the State Capitol, where you’ll experience Chef Daniel Shurr’s luxe approach with the “off the hook” daily catch or roasted Springer Farms chicken.

The hip hospitality and authentic Laotian food served at Bida Manda at Moore Square make it one of Raleigh’s most popular destination eateries. Chef Lon Bounsanga presents challenges for diners at every course: crispy pork belly soup or green papaya salad? Seafood pad Thai or fried North Carolina whole fish? Don’t fret. It’s all good.

ORO Restaurant in the PNC Building focuses on shareable tapas in a glitzy setting that transfix people passing by its tall windows. Start with smoky ribs or a cup of yellow tomato soup before building up to a New York strip doused with a bok choy peppercorn sauce or grilled salmon with jicama citrus salad and passion fruit sauce.

In addition to participating in the $20/$30 dinner deals, two restaurants are offering a $65 Elite Experience with five-course meals and wine pairings. Both feature Italian fare with four fourth-course options.

Jimmy V’s Osteria + Bar is located in the ground level of the Sheraton Hotel on Fayetteville Street, across from the Raleigh Convention Center. Chef Michael Kuilan’s modern Italian-American menu is meant to capture the spirit of its namesake, the late NC State University basketball coach Jim Valvano.  Choices include lobster mac & cheese and short rib ragout.

Tuscan Blu is a DRRW stalwart located in the Warehouse District. Chef Maurizio Privilegi’s house-made pastas star in a third-course trio of fiocchi (“purses” filled with goat cheese and pear) and oversized ravioli. Main course options include braised ossobuco over risotto and branzino (baked sea bass).