Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Kosher Delis in the District



A belated Shana Tova! from my half-Jewish heart. Some genius coined the term cashew (half Catholic + half-Jew) and I'm proud to call myself one. The Jewish High Holy Days are in full swing--they began sundown on Rosh Hashanah (Monday, October 4th) and will end ten days later on Yom Kippur (Friday, October 15th).

So where do Washingtonians schlepp to find geschmak kugel and brisket? Sure Bethesda and Potomac have their fair share of Kosher delis and bakeries, they've got more Jews than the Wonkette has look-alikes for Harriet Miers. But finding the challah can be a tricky task if limited to the District itself.

Does this mean that Washington is a town full of goyims? Why does finding a Jewish delicatessen have to be so difficult?

The closest thing we have is K's New York Deli (formerly known as Krupin's). Even the name says it all-- Washington is not pretending to be a deli town (because it ain't). Their creamy chicken soup, matzo balls and Nova platters are shipped to Tenleytown from Brooklyn. Although a little fatty, the chopped chicken liver and corned beef on rye are classic examples of Kosher comfort food (don't forget the dill pickle, they're served on every table). Customers complain that the matzo ball soup is too salty, but if you're watching cals or sodium levels, then go next door to Whole Foods. Others rave that the soup is better than Robitussen, highliting Jewish penicillin at its best.

The especially hungry are encouraged to order the beef-in-the-pot, a hefty casserole with two bowls of chicken broth, two matzo balls and a meaty slab of tender boiled beef. Sweet tooths beware, the dessert display greets you upon entering. Did someone say Black and White cookie? hmmm..

It doesn't claim to be Manhattan's best, but it sure does ok for Washington's standards. Rumors have it that K's has been mentioned on episodes of the West Wing. Plain and simple, K's is the only real Jewish deli in Washington, but if you're willing to make the trek, try Celebrity Delly in Potomac ("plenty kitschy," according to Washingtonian Mag, but they think it beats K's on most accounts) or Bethesda's kosher steakhouse, Red Heifer.

Back in June, DCist did a story on the lack of bagelries, and encouraged entrepreneurs or bored Washingtonians to jump on the bazillion-dollar chance to score in the bagel biz. Still no takers?? More recently, our friends at DCist celebrated "The Days of Awe" in their Mishigas Edition. (Mishigas = just another Yiddish term with the "sh" sound--this one means "craziness.")

Here's a meager list of the area's "Kosher Restaurants," and a little tutorial on "The Meaning of Traditional Rosh HaShana Food" can be found below, compliments of the fine people at about.com: (Don't worry District gentiles, half of me is with ya on this one)

Round Challah: The round shape symbolizes a perfect year to come. Sometimes raisins or honey are added to make it extra sweet.

Apples and Honey: We dip the apples in honey to symbolize our wish for a sweet year to come.

Head of Fish or Gefilte ("filled") Fish: Fish is an ancient symbol of fertility and abundance. The head of fish symbolizes the head of the New Year. The head also symbolizes our hope that the Jewish people will lead other nations through their righteous acts.

Head of Lamb, Sweet Chicken or Meat Dish: Head of lamb symbolizes our hope that the Jewish people will lead other nations through their righteousness. The sweet entree symbolizes our wish for a sweet year.

Tzimmes: Tzimmes is an eastern European recipe for honey baked carrots. The Yiddish word "meren" means carrots and to increase. Carrots symbolize our hope that we increase our good deeds in the coming year. Some tzimmes recipes add prunes, sweet potatoes or even meat to the sweet carrots.

Spinach: Spinach symbolizes a green year with plenty of produce.

Honey Cake (the k-nette's personal fav): "This day is holy to God, your God; do not mourn and do not weep...for the joy of God is your strength." (Nechemiah 8:9-10). It is said that the Prophet Nechemiah introduced to the ancient Israelites the Persian custom of eating sweet foods to celebrate the New Year.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are the most important of all Jewish Holidays and the only that are purely religious, unrelated to any historical or natural event. Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the most solemn day of the Jewish year. It is a day of fasting, reflection and prayers, so fill up on the honey cake while you can.

Today, my boss at the Smithsonian brought in a home-made honeycake and I cannot tell you how many fake "Xeroxing" trips I made to sneak slices from the copy room. Each time I justified it by pretending it was my job to make sure each corner was at a perfect right angle. A little bit here, a little hunk there..Oy, I can feel it in my hips. If only my Jewish grandma was reading this right now, she would be so proud. No Shikseh here (scroll down).

K's Deli is located at 4620 Wisconsin Ave NW; Washington, DC, near the red line's Tenleytown metro station.


Celebrity Delly is located at 7913 Tuckerman Lane; Potomac, MD. They can be reached at: 301-299-1740.

Red Heifer is located at 4844 Cordell Ave; Bethesda, MD. Order your kosher filet mignon at: 301-951-5115.

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