Sunday, Sept. 9, marks the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, kicking off the Jewish New Year. If your bubbe has a tendency to overcook the brisket, you might want to take your holiday meal to go. Alternatively, you can dine at one of the many Los Angeles restaurants that will do all the culinary work for you.
L.A. Weekly talked to restaurant owners and bread makers about their favorite Rosh Hashanah food memories and what the holiday means to them.
Jar, 8225 Beverly Blvd., Beverly Grove
One of chef Suzanne Tracht’s favorite traditions for the holiday is bringing in a sweet new year with apples. “My mom always made brisket for our Rosh Hashanah dinners. We always incorporated apples into the salad, and tried to bring honey into whatever desserts, usually pastries, my mother made.”
Tracht shared with L.A. Weekly what makes a good matzo ball soup: “Lots of love! Honestly, the broth is incredibly important. It needs to be nice and clear, and be simmered nice and slow to give it a better flavor. It’s hard to have a good matzo ball soup when the broth is no good. I also prefer my matzo balls on the lighter side, nothing too dense, so I can really enjoy them with the broth.”
Rosh Hashanah at Jar begins with fall apple celery salad with arugula, Marcona almonds and Reggiano and Suzanne’s signature matzo ball soup with lemongrass broth.
ChallahHub.com (order online)
Rosh Hashanah dinners are celebrations — parties to welcome the new year, says co-founder Sarah Klegman. “A party isn't a party without carbs! And as most Jews already know, with Rosh Hashanah in particular, we're encouraged to think about the sweetness of the coming year. So, one option you have is to rip off a mouthwatering piece of apple cinnamon challah and put it in your face!”
On its website, the company is offering apple cinnamon challah for home delivery all over L.A. “Round, filled with chunks of apple and sprinkled with cinnamon, this is the tradition of Rosh Hashanah with double the flavor,” Klegman says.
Greenblatt’s Deli & Fine Wines, 8017 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood Hills West
Many people attending the Laugh Factory for free High Holiday services head to Greenblatt’s Deli after, for the special Rosh Hashanah menu.
“We do a lot of takeout orders during Rosh Hashanah, with matzo ball soup, chopped liver, slow-cooked brisket and potato pancakes. These are great dishes to share with your family and friends,” says co-owner Jeffrey Kavin, who has owned the deli with his family for decades.
Greenblatt’s is one of L.A.’s oldest restaurants, established in 1926. “We employ chefs who have been here since the 1980s and have numerous longtime clientele who come in for the holiday. Several of our recipes are over 40 years old.”
The restaurant also has a wine cellar, with several kosher wines to accompany your holiday dinner.
Fun fact: The last thing that F. Scott Fitzgerald had to eat was a chocolate bar from Greenblatt’s!
Got Kosher?, 8914 Pico Blvd., Pico-Robertson
Got Kosher? has been a trendsetter, bringing multicultural Jewish cuisines from the whole world to Los Angeles (which may be why it's changing its name, but not owners, to Harissa Restaurant). “We also started the tradition of eating the hand of destiny challah — shaped like a hand — which begs God for being written in the book of life,” says owner Alain Cohen.
“Rosh Hashanah is the time where you review your life and beg God for mercy,” Cohen notes. “The challah is shaped like a round spiral and is full of sesame seeds, apple, raisins and honey, which symbolize the return of the earth cycles, the harvest of the first fruits, the sweetness we wish to ourselves and the multitude and multiplication of our good deeds.”
As a boy living in Tunisia, Cohen says, Rosh Hashanah was a big deal.
“Almost as elaborate as a Passover seder, we create a long and beautiful table full of the bounties of the season,” he says. “We invite a lot of people and sing and eat and drink and throw curses and blessings. Curses to those who [wish] us evil and blessings to ourselves and families. The table is usually presided by the head of a fish, to symbolize that it is the head of the year, but sometimes I have seen it being done with the head of a sheep.”
The salt is replaced with sugar or honey for the blessing of the bread and the apples. “The table is full of the foods we do blessings on: pomegranate, apple, dates, sesame seeds, but also garlic cloves fried in oil, spinach leaves egged and fried, slivers of pumpkin and every new and exotic fruit my father could find at the market.”
Gelson’s Markets (several locations throughout Los Angeles)
Gelson’s offers Rosh Hashanah meals from the service deli to make holiday entertaining convenient, stress-free and delicious. “Whether you’re looking to pick up a complete dinner or add side dishes to a main dish that you cook yourself, Gelson’s is happy to spend the time in the kitchen so you can enjoy the holiday,” says Jessica Siegel, Gelson’s registered dietitian.
“We have both certified kosher and kosher-style meals; my favorite is the kosher-style chicken meal. I love that the prepared meal includes matzo balls and noodle kugel,” she enthuses.
“This frees up my time to make some of my family’s favorite holiday dishes, such as Nana’s chicken noodle soup, carrot coins and sugar snap peas, and pomegranate salad.”
Thinking back to the childhood memories of cooking for the Jewish holidays with mom and Nana, Siegel says, “I look forward to teaching my own kids how to make some of these special foods.”
Akasha, 9543 Culver Blvd., Culver City
In addition to an impressive Rosh Hashanah takeout menu for those who want to celebrate at home, Akasha Richmond, chef-owner of Akasha, is once again serving a lovely holiday dinner.
One of the highlights on the menu is braised chicken with harissa spices, citrus, olives and date syrup. “Sephardic food is a passion of mine — I love Mediterranean Jewish food, including Moroccan, Italian and Tunisian,” she says.
Richmond also chose dishes like branzino with chermoula, smoky eggplant, tahini purée and green beans with shallots, based on some “family recipes, taste memories and other Jewish food I love.”
It’s no wonder the veteran restaurateur has old-school chopped chicken liver with olive oil challah and crostini on the menu. “My Russian grandmother made the best chopped liver. She did not use recipes. Mine is based on the memory of what hers tasted like. Same with her challah.”
For vegetarians, Richmond created a green bean and walnut “chopped liver."
Clementine, 1751 Ensley Ave., Century City; 9346 Civic Center Drive, Beverly Hills
Annie Miler, chef/owner of Clementine, serves many dishes that fit with the tradition of Rosh Hashanah. One of her specialties is the classic honey cake.
“When it comes out of the oven, we brush it with a delicious honey syrup that has cinnamon, cloves and just a touch of orange flower water,” she says.
Clementine’s kugel is one of Miler’s favorite items among those the restaurant makes for the holiday. “It has noodles, of course, and a custard that is sweet but not too sweet, flame raisins and — the best part — a Graham cracker crumble on top.”
The Apple-Dapple cake, something Miler grew up eating and loving, fits right in with the Rosh Hashanah holiday. “It's a rich, moist loaf filled with pieces of apple, and then we top it with a brown sugary-caramel glaze. While I can't promise it will make your whole year sweet, it will definitely be a delicious part of your holiday celebration!”
Freedman’s, 2619 Sunset Blvd., Echo Park
If you want brisket for the High Holidays, Freedman’s is taking orders on a take-away brisket package, which will feed four to six people.
“Every night feels like Rosh Hashanah, minus the apples and honey and obligatory niceties with second cousins of second cousins,” quips Jonah Freedman.
“Like at any worthy holiday feast, our food is best served family-style. Come with a group and pile on glazed brisket, latkes, matzo ball soup and black-and-white cookies. Add a tiki punch for the table to really celebrate the new year in style.”
Pop’s Bagels (limited delivery, pop-up, also at Smorgasburg L.A.)
Bagels are always welcome for any Jewish holiday. Owner Zachary Liporace also makes cream cheeses and butter from scratch using organic milks and creams, and he creates a vegan cashew spread and gluten-free bagels on request.
Liporace’s childhood memories of food and Rosh Hashanah go hand in hand. “I began to look forward to those holidays just for the food. My grandma was always a great cook but as she got older, I started learning how she did everything and eventually took over her duties,” he reminisced.
“It’s so important to me to keep these traditions alive, as a way of preserving our Jewish heritage and culture — every family’s recipes differ slightly, so there can be an intense sense of identity within each one. I believe Pop’s is helping to proliferate and preserve bagel culture here in L.A. in a very similar way.”
Lucques, the flagship restaurant owned by Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne, is commemorating Rosh Hashanah with a dinner co-hosted by author Amelia Saltsman celebrating recipes from her cookbook, The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen.
The restaurant is serving braised beef brisket with roasted carrot-sweet potato tzimmes and horseradish gremolata. “If there is one dish that really brings back memories of this holiday for me, it’s beef brisket,” Styne says.
“The minute I taste that rich, intensely meaty dish, I’m immediately transported to my mother’s kitchen and the smell of that pan coming out of the oven. I always used to reach in and peel off the slightly crunchy end bit and sneak a bite while also burning my fingers!”
Styne is very involved in Saturday's charity chef fundraiser, L.A. Loves Alex's Lemonade.
“It’s a happy coincidence that Rosh Hashanah falls the day after the event. We devote a great deal of energy and time and it is very dear to our hearts. The charity does so much for so many, raising money for childhood cancer research and funding over 800 cancer studies and trials, donating equipment to children’s hospitals and backing cutting-edge research in order to find treatments and cures.”
Tavern, Goin and Styne’s restaurant in Brentwood, will have a Rosh Hashanah dinner prepared by chef Joel Walsh. Takeaway holiday dinners are available as well at the Larder at Burton Way as well as the Larder at Tavern.
Winston Pies, 11678 San Vicente Blvd., Brentwood; 8366 W. Third St., Beverly Grove
It is tradition for many Jewish families to dip apples in honey to celebrate the start of a new year. This year, Winston is featuring its classic apple pie as well as a milk-and-honey pie for the High Holidays.
“After I perfected my classic apple pie recipe, i wanted to take it up a notch, playing with apples and honey,” explains Brianna Abrams, founder and CEO of Winston Pies. “We really hope our pies can help make it a sweet new year!”
Almost all of Abrams’ holiday memories are tied to food, “gathering around” at a table and eating with her family.
Pico Union Project, 1153 Valencia St., Pico-Union
While the Rosh Hashanah dining table is filled with food that showcases one’s commitment to joyful days in the future, another facet of the Jewish holidays is to reflect on your life and implement good deeds (mitzvahs).
To that end, as part of its High Holidays celebration, the nonprofit multifaith center Pico Union Project is holding a Healthy Kitchen Community Drive to help people in the neighborhood.
“We asked people who attend our free weekly farmers market, Vida Sana, how we could best support them, and they told us proper kitchen items would be the most helpful,” PUP founder/creative director Craig Taubman says.
The organization is located in the oldest synagogue in Los Angeles.
Items can be dropped off at the Pico Union Project between now and Yom Kippur or purchased online at picounionproject.org/amazon to be delivered directly to the Pico Union Project.
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Bar Garcia, 820 S. Spring St., downtown
For an unusual take on the holiday, Bar Garcia is offering brisket spring rolls fried in extra virgin olive oil, stuffed with brisket, caramelized onions and mushrooms and served with a chili citrus dip.
Spartina, 7505 Melrose Ave., Fairfax District
For Rosh Hashanah, the restaurant will serve chef Stephen Kalt’s mother's sweet and sour stuffed cabbage with beef, golden raisins and rice; potato kugel; roasted carrots with Medjool dates, Moroccan preserved lemon and parsley; and apple and wild honey crostata.