Food preparation, in this era of a new kosher cookbook being published almost every month, has become an art form. Yuda Schlass’s newest endeavor is more proof of that notion. Yuda, of Hasid+Hipster fame, teamed up with the Kitchensurfing folks to bring the best chefs from some of the leading hotels and restaurants in New York into your home to prepare a creative and innovative meal for you and your family or friends right before your very eyes.
The Kitchensurfing idea has so many applications. Just use your imagination and you can turn an otherwise mundane dinner into a memorable event. With the involvement of Mr. Schlass and his team, it is now all glatt kosher.
I had read about the idea but did not give it too much additional thought until I met Yuda at his parents’ home in the Old City of Jerusalem on a Friday night this past July. Some of you might know his folks—Moshe and Leah Schlass, who have one of the most open homes in Jerusalem and perhaps the entire Jewish world. Over the last 25 years, since I first met Rabbi and Mrs. Schlass, Shabbos in Jerusalem in their home has always been something over the top. In all the times I have been there for a Friday night or Shabbos day meal over these last two and a half decades, I don’t think there were ever fewer than 30 people.
Their home in the Old City has been a thoroughfare for people from all around the world over the last 35 years. The meals and the ambiance are unparalleled. If you are fortunate enough to be there in the spring or summer, you will dine on the rooftop overlooking the majestic site of the Temple Mount. On late Friday nights, once the hustle and bustle of Jerusalem settles down, we frequently have had the opportunity to sit back with a cup of tea and simply take in the quietness of the Har HaBayit at midnight, when it seems to shine under a partial or full moon standing guard over the Jewish people wherever they may be around the world.
The Schlasses also have a special ability to cater some special parties, either in the shul near their home or at other venues around Jerusalem. It was only natural that as Yuda became an adult, he would find his way into the business of creating fascinating venues that have to do with good people and good food.
“We can bring a chef into your home to prepare Shabbos or yom tov meals,” Yuda said the other night as we met over his inaugural Five Towns event at the home of the Aussie Gourmet, Naomi Nachman, in Woodmere. The experience can be applied to whatever situation your mind can conjure. “It’s wonderful for anniversary or dinner parties,” he said, “and something that can make a sheva berachos celebration something even more special than it usually is.”
It certainly is a step up from the average dinner party. In these situations, the food and the chef that prepares the dinner become the main attraction at the event.
The chef at this event was Eric Bolyard, a personable and easygoing man who talked about each dish, what the ingredients were, where he bought them, what he was looking for, and why. He explained how his cooking experiences around the world influenced these dishes. Chef Bolyard said he purchased most of the greens from the farmers market in Union Square and the meat and fish at Gourmet Glatt in Cedarhurst.
Jay Buchsbaum, Kedem’s wine connoisseur, was present, serving a different wine with each dish. The chef and his assistants were at the home the day before and all day on the date of the dinner. “We discussed in some detail what type of wine would be appropriate for each dish before arriving at a decision about what to serve,” Buchsbaum said. As is customary, the white wines were served with the salad and the fish, and the red with the main meat course.
A brief glance at the Kosher by Kitchensurfing website tells you that it is not as expensive as all this sounds. The kosher dinner at home can range from $50 to $100 per person, depending on the menu you select. Bear in mind that you are not just buying a meal for that price, it is part education and part a show or performance.
We started our evening with champagne and three bite-size servings or canapés that included za’atar-spiced pita and charred eggplant purée with a marinated black fig. The second item was lime-marinated watermelon and salt-roasted beet with crushed Marcona almond. And then there was sun-dried tomato tapenade and fresh oregano on sourdough.
Once we were back inside and seated around the table—just about 20 of us—the show, or rather the meal, began. The word “soup” did not appear on the menu, but the next course was served in what looked like a soup bowl, in pedestrian terminology, and there was one of those large soup-compatible utensils as part of the table setting. So for our purpose here, we will call it soup, but this is what it really was: chilled pea velouté, greenmarket cucumbers, and pea shoots. It was all carefully blended and chilled and, I have to add, quite good.
Our next course was salad—but not just any garden-variety salad. As the menu describes it, it was “salad of white peach and shaved fennel, yellow peach vinaigrette, and greenmarket herbs.” This was quite refreshing, good, and enjoyable. Next was a fish course that featured “chamomile Long Island fluke, charred local corn, and toasted wheat berry radish.” This was a tasty combination, one that excited the palate and was a good introduction to our main course that followed.
It sounds like there was a lot to eat, but while it was an interesting menu, it was also fairly light and did not give one a feeling of overindulging or overdoing it. The main course, “Grilled rib eye, warm summer beans, shiso, smoked heirloom tomato vinaigrette,” was the perfect main attraction at a delectable meal that led beautifully up to the dessert.
If you’re thinking of a wedding or bar mitzvah type of food consumption, it is important to put that out of your mind. The best advice I can offer about one of these events is to expect the unexpected, and that goes for dessert too. In this instance, there were two desserts. I cannot speak to the psychology of that approach, and I’m not even sure that there is one. Maybe Naomi, the hostess, just wanted two desserts.
The first one was sweet melon gazpacho with basil ices. And the final item served was coconut rice pudding, blueberry compote, and pistachio and ginger granité. Both tasted great, leaving you with a sense that you’ve just experienced something special.
Yuda Schlass points out that this can be replicated at any type of venue, whether a dinner for two, a birthday or anniversary party, a sheva berachos, or anything that you can possibly imagine. “Have upscale chef, will travel”—if you will. Kitchensurfing.com is easy to use: click on “Looking for Kosher?” on the top right side of the page. This is definitely the next best thing for those who have a taste for the creative and innovative. Here’s your chance to be the first on your block for an event that will be the talk of the town, no matter where you live.
Comments for Larry Gordon are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.