Sure, there's fun to be had cooking your own deep fried holiday foods. But sustaining this ritual for a celebration that spans eight nights? Not so appealing. Most households tend to max out at one, maybe two, latke frying sessions, since ventilation methods can only be so effective. And besides, no matter how much a Joan Nathan video demo might make you swoon or a clip that might utterly baffle your grandmother, best to not go overboard on the fried potatoes pancakes anyway.
If you must indulge regularly, or even have just one latke meal, do so wisely. Here are a few places to eat latkes in Los Angeles over the few remaining days and nights of Hanukkah, which concludes Saturday night, Dec.15th. Oddly enough, whether or not a traditional Jewish deli proves to be a good potato pancake source can be a matter of dreidel spinner's luck.
Susan Feniger stays true to her Ashkenazic roots and makes a damn fine latke when she takes the old school, classic route. Sticking to the tried and true, however, has never been Feniger's way, so this holiday at Street means constant change. Different night of Hanukkah, different latke, folks. If your jam happens to be Indian spiced potato pancake, get on that tonight. The rest of the week will bring purple sweet potato served with pink peppercorn and scallion cream, tobiko caviar; zucchini and potato with spicy dill cream and eggplant pepper sauce; scalloped potato with aged white cheddar and chives; and finally on Sunday night, a red potato latke with smoked salmon, shaved red onion, and horseradish caper cream. 742 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood; (323) 203-0500.
Parent-taught potato latke making often emerges as a theme. That's definitely the case with Jeff Wedner of the Reuben Truck, who follows his father's method on the recently launched "Jewish deli on wheels." Fortunately for Wedner, his dad owns two delis in Pittsburgh, PA, so this family knows how to please a crowd. For Wedner's Hanukkah foods, unfortunately this means going old school and using a box grater. He then cooks the pancakes on the truck's flat top grill before finishing off each one in the deep fryer. Follow on Twitter (@reubentruck) for location and menu updates. And jump on the latke thing, because Wedner has been selling out.
Mention of Chef Giselle Wellman's interpretation of a potato pancake should be strictly avoided if you have any hardcore, fighting-the-good-fight lefty relatives in the mix. You know, the types who ran in the same circles as Emma Goldman back in the day and are eager to discuss the latest issue of Dissent. Because caviar heaped on top of a tarte aux pommes de terre, AKA a very fancy and delicious looking latke-esque potato pancake, isn't safe for family conversation. This item will not be the foodstuff of the people's revolution. So instead furtively enjoy the bourgeois splendor of Wellman's impressive Chanukah-inspired dish with your own caviar loving comrades. 321 N. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood; (310) 271-6300.
While not served in the lovely dining room and rear atrium, the Larder at Tavern has Hanukkah packages to go and no shortage of latkes. A multi-course dinner that serves eight is available for $329, or order potato latkes with applesauce and crème fraîche for $12 a dozen. Other side dishes on the take-out menu to make a slightly more balanced meal include house-smoked fish platter with redwood hill goat cheese and rye toasts, chicken liver mousse with persimmon jam and crostini, and goat cheese and leek tartlettes. (Note: 48 hours advance notice usually required.) 11648 San Vicente Blvd., Brentwood; (310) 806-6460.
5. The Kosher Palate:
The Kosher Palate's frying apparatuses will be working overtime at the Sunset Strip Farmers' Market on Thursday evening and at the Sunday Mar Vista Farmers' Market, where last week's latke party will see a reprise this coming weekend. But if you want to branch out past straight forward latkes, then chef/owner Michele Grant offers a menu that includes winter squash with Halegh spice mix and red onions, sweet potato and yam latkes with shallots, coriander and lemon, and celery root and leek latkes. The playing with convention doesn't end there. The first fully supervised kosher pareve (meaning meat and dairy free, so also veg and vegan-friendly) market stand in the state also has a full slate of sauce choices, with Honey Crisp applesauce, sweet and spicy tomato jam, persimmon chutney, Tofutti-based sour cream and sweet cream, and a harissa and zhug topping. Add a quail egg on top for a dollar extra. The Kosher Palate makes sufganiyot (jelly donuts) to further stay on-theme. And Grant will continue to offer latke selections at the Mar Vista market through December. Sunset Strip Farmers' Market, 8755 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood; Mar Vista Farmers' Market, Grand View at Venice Boulevard, Mar Vista.
Hanukkah at Suzanne Tracht's Jar most certainly means latkes. As she does every season, Tracht pays homage to her father Sam by serving his recipe throughout the holiday. Each serving is $10 and comes with Tracht's preferred condiments of clove and ginger-spiked savory applesauce and crème fraîche. Tracht has also been known to dabble in parsnip variations. 8225 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 655-6566.
3. Got Kosher?:
It's a given that plenty of restaurants along Pico's Kosher Corridor are working their way through a startling number of potatoes this month. Got Kosher? is no exception, and as the special Lotsa Latke logo indicates, the restaurant is adding an extra touch of local pride with the tip of its (baseball) cap. Anyway, if it's classic latkes you want, it's classic you'll get. But since Alain Cohen excels at upending expectations of kosher cooking, there's a roster of fried vegetable pancakes that involves just about every hearty solid root vegetable you've seen at the market within the last month or so, along with interpretations involving cauliflower, zucchini, and lighter green touches. Nab the Twelve for Twelve special on 12/12/12 -- that's tomorrow, people -- and get a dozen potato for $12 instead of the usual $2 each. 8914 W. Pico Blvd., West L.A.; (310) 858-1920.
2. The Gorbals:
Ilan Hall's Scottish-Jewish mashup at the Gorbals isn't here to please the gastronomically or culturally doctrinaire. Quite the contrary. Which isn't to suggest its signature bacon-wrapped matzo balls exclusively exist to start heated arguments either. But Hall's wispy latkes -- a menu staple -- served with smoked applesauce? Most will agree that those are downright dynamite, anytime of year, shared with any company. 501 S. Spring St., Downtown; (213) 488-3408.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
At the recent "Who's Your Bubbie?" panel discussion held at the Skirball Cultural Center to launch the Beyond Bubbie website, Akasha Richmond shared with the audience how she ensures her best latke maker's vacation plans don't ever coincide with Hanukkah. That's because Richmond rolls out a Vodka and Latkes tradition that her customers have come to expect every year, featuring seasonal cocktails with the aforementioned rhyming spirit. Want chopped liver, pickled herring, braised brisket, and apple fritters to go with those Yukon Gold latkes, overseen by head prep cook and chief latke master Jose Hernandez? Akasha's got you covered. Brussels sprouts have found their way into potato pancakes this year, too. 9543 Culver Blvd., Culver City; (310) 845-1700.
Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook. Follow the author on Twitter at @TasterTotsLA.