If you’re into apples and honey to celebrate the Jewish New Year, one cool thing to do is head up to Apple Hill, off Highway 50 near Placerville. About 50 apple and fruit farms, all within easy driving distance of one another, are open to the public; some have honey, there are free apple samples everywhere and the area is abuzz with activity.
And as long as I’m off in that direction in a Rosh Hashanah frame of mind, I think I’ll make a full Jewish daytrip of it by doing lunch at Bubbie’s Love Deli in Citrus Heights, a suburb of Sacramento. The Jewish deli is a bit closer to Highway 80, but it’s not too far off Highway 50, about a 15-minute drive.
Bubbie’s Love was started by Stacie Shoob-Allen in August 2013, following a couple of years during which she ran a catering/farmers market operation called Bubbie’s Love Blintzes and Things. I like the restaurant because it’s old-school, the kind of worn-around-the-edges place with a big, classic Jewish deli menu that you might stumble upon in a strip mall in New Jersey or Los Angeles.
When Shoob-Allen first opened, in a space that used to be another restaurant, “It just wasn’t fitting what I wanted it to be, so I downsized, remodeled and turned it into a joint, because that’s what I really wanted,” she said. “The best places are ‘Hey, I know this little hole-in-the-wall’ or ‘I know this little joint in Brooklyn.’ That’s what I was going for.”
An image of Bubbie Mary, Shoob-Allen’s Jewish grandmother, is on the sign out front, and her likeness is on a wall inside as well. The website’s home page talks a lot about her family’s Jewish heritage — her ancestors emigrated from places near Kiev and Minsk, Shoob-Allen told me later — and ends with “Ess gezunterhait! (Eat in good health!)”
The menu is a deli-lover’s dream, with knishes and chopped liver, corned beef and pastrami sandwiches (and tongue, on occasion), matzah ball soup and latkes, cheesecake and blintzes, and egg creams and chocolate phosphates. Shoob-Allen, 46, says in a typical week she puts in 75 or 80 hours, sometimes working 16 or 18 hours a day, making most of the baked goods — including bagels, bialys and rye bread — and filling most of the orders from behind the counter.
She also makes her own schmaltz, brines her own corned beef and makes her soups from scratch, although, of course, some things are from the outside, such as the black pastrami that comes from Albany, New York.
Since Sam’s Kosher Style Deli in Fair Oaks (another Sacramento suburb) closed in March 2014, Bubbie’s Love is the only Jewish deli in the Sacramento Valley.
“It’s one of those things I fell into, and it’s been a blast,” said Shoob-Allen, who split her childhood between Milwaukee, where Bubbie Mary and Poppa Sol ran a restaurant, and Berkeley. “I know my regular customers by name. And there’s a lot of shmoozing going on — people come in, have a cup of coffee, talk to the people sitting next to them. ‘Hey, what you’re eating looks good. What is that?’ That’s what I was going for. It’s about the food, but also about the ambience.”
One of the menu favorites is the Pastromelet, a Reuben in omelet form, with eggs, pastrami, red onions, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, pickle slices and Russian dressing. Blintzes, cabbage rolls and lox also get ordered a lot, and Shoob-Allen says her brisket is “out of this world,” though it takes her about five hours to prepare.
What I tried was good — not as good as my favorite deli in L.A., and not as gourmet as some of the new Jewish delis — but I really enjoyed the feel of the place and the experience: “old” dill pickles on the table, smoky whitefish salad, a decent corned beef sandwich. And I loved the big menu and seeing some surprises on there, too, such as the Triple Treif omelet made with bacon, ham and sausage (funny, right?).
Shoob-Allen says most of her customers are locals, although some are travelers on their way to Reno, Tahoe or Truckee. She also is doing more and more catering, although some local synagogues won’t use her for on-site events because her deli is not kosher — to which the Triple Treif omelet would attest.
Bubbie’s Love Deli and Catering
7800 Sunrise Blvd., Citrus Heights
8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily
The first Great Bagel Taste Test has been scheduled for 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 11 at Temple Sinai in Oakland.
According to organizer Laurie Leiber, bagels from six East Bay commercial entities will be available for people to sample and rate in a blind taste test: Authentic Bagel Company, Beauty’s Bagel Shop and Grand Bakery (all in Oakland); Baron Baking (which supplies Saul’s Deli in Berkeley); Levy’s Bagel & Co. (Alameda) and Noah’s (multiple locations). With several shmears and salads available, people can make a light lunch of it, Leiber says.
There also will be bagel trivia led by a quizmaster-comedian, kids’ activities, shnapps tasting for adults and a raffle for bagel-oriented prizes (such as homemade bagels and bagel-making classes taught by Leiber). Oh, and storyteller Joel ben Izzy has promised a bagel story.
Ben Izzy also is part of a panel of celebrity tasters that includes yours truly, Rabbi Steven Chester and Elizabeth Weil, author of this summer’s New York Times Magazine piece “Why is it so hard to get a great bagel in California?”
Donations of $10 for adults and $5 for kids under 13 are requested, as the event is a fundraiser for the Alameda County Community Food Bank. For more information, visit www.tinyurl.com/bagel-taste-test or contact Leiber at (510) 547-8080 or email@example.com.
Congregation Beth Sholom in San Francisco held an Israeli food fair on Aug. 30 that featured dishes beyond the basics. About 150 people paid $10 each, or $18 per family, to sample shakshuka, Yemenite haroset, date truffles, rugelach, sabich and a broccoli-and-cauliflower dish (in a cheesy sauce, so the kids would like it) prepared by chef Jacky Malul, formerly of Amba Grill.
Malul and the other cooks — Beth Sholom’s chef, two caterers, an Israeli foodie and J. cooking columnist Josie A.G. Shapiro — showed how they prepared each dish, and the recipe for each was included in a booklet that was given away. “Israeli cuisine is a fusion of the cuisines that immigrants bring into Israel from all over the world, and my dish is one we got from the people of France,” said Malul, a native Israeli.
The food fair served as the kickoff event for Achshav Yisrael, a new group that is reintroducing Israel-related programming at Beth Sholom. Like other congregations, Beth Sholom has had some rifts over Israel and Israel-related programming in recent years, but the seven-member committee and others at the Conservative synagogue want to put that behind them.
“Everything was delicious, and everybody raved,” said Eva-Lynne Leibman, part of the Achshav Yisrael (Israel Now) committee. “We handed out postcards that said what our mission is, which is to make Beth Sholom a safe place to discuss Israel and Israeli culture.” A safe place … and, in this instance, a tasty place.
Evan Bloom, co-owner of Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen, knows that people are practically salivating for the debut of Wise Sons Bagel, but it could be a bit of a wait. He said the hope is for Wise Sons’ new bakery in the Fillmore District to open in early October, but will it? The permit process was still in progress as of last week, and aren’t there always installation and construction delays?
Moreover, the bakery will start off by making staples for the deli — rye bread, challah, babka, etc. — “and from there it’ll be a couple of weeks until we get the bagels going,” Bloom said. Also, people won’t be able to buy bagels at the new bakery (1520 Fillmore St.) for a while, as the focus is on getting the bakery up and running, rather than setting up the commercial part of the space.
Once bagel production starts, the early varieties (plain, everything, sesame seed and salt) will be available at Wise Sons locations (24th Street, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, Ferry Plaza farmers market), at some smallish grocery stores and at a few companies that have accounts with Wise Sons. Which grocery stores? Bloom wouldn’t say, except “not any in Oakland or Berkeley, out of respect for Beauty’s” Bagel Shop, which has been supplying Wise Sons with bagels for a few years.
Ousted from its off-site bakery-kitchen by a fire earlier this year, Wise Sons has been baking and doing prep work in Bi-Rite Market’s kitchen space. “Bi-Rite has been great to us,” Bloom said, “but we are 100 percent out at the end of September. We don’t even have an office right now.” That’s why the focus is on getting the new bakery up and running, with bagels on the back burner, so to speak.
Also on the back burner — but an idea that’s still alive and kicking — is Wise Sons’ plan to have a few small kiosks and/or storefronts around San Francisco to sell coffee, bagels and other items. “The fire put us nine months behind all of our plans,” Bloom said. “Luckily, only nine months.” And luckily, the bagel recipe is ready to go, having already undergone months of testing and tweaking.
Omnivore Books in San Francisco is hosting a free book talk from 3-4 p.m. Sept. 27 by “The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen” author Amelia Saltsman (see “Cook” column on page 49). The talk will feature bagels and shmears, with the bagels made by Juliet Orbach of Bom Dia Market, a 10-month-old store in Noe Valley. Orbach recently has started making 12-15 bagels per day for the market, and Bom Dia’s plan is to soon sell them (and other baked goods) out of a window in the Mission District space Bom Dia uses for baking. In the meantime, Bom Dia has scheduled a bagel pop-up from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12 at Fig & Thistle in Hayes Valley, with bagels, lox and cream cheese (and beverages). For details, visit Bom Dia Market on Facebook or call (415) 801-5519 …
Celebrity chef Michael Mina recently announced the lineup of chefs who will be joining him for the second season of his lavish, ballyhooed tailgate parties before 49ers home games at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara — and Jewish deli ace Adam Mesnick, owner of Deli Board and Rye Project in San Francisco, is on the list for the Oct. 4 game (along with Traci Des Jardins, owner of Jardiniere). Michael Mina Tailgate memberships cost $5,000 and are available only to 49ers season ticket holders … Meanwhile, Mesnick’s Jewish-style deli Rye Project has busted out a whole new lineup of sandwiches. When the weekday lunch spot opened in July 2014, it went the traditional route with corned beef on rye, pastrami on an onion roll, etc. But now, following the lead of other popular sandwich spots, Mesnick has rejiggered with creatively named combo sandwiches. A few of the new offerings: Bill Martin (Romanian pastrami, kosher salami, turkey breast, Muenster cheese, coleslaw and Mesnick’s tysyacha sauce on rye), Hollywood Herm (corned beef, Romanian pastrami, kosher salami, Muenster cheese and tysyacha sauce on an onion roll), and Suzy G. (smoked trout, cream cheese, avocado, hard-boiled egg, pickled onion, sprouts, dilled ranch on an onion roll) …
With Labor Day this week and the High Holy Days coming up, it might take some time until we hear whether Amba Grill in Oakland has been sold, if and when it will reopen, and whether or not it will remain kosher. In case you missed it, here’s my article from last week: www.jweekly.com/article/full/75579 … Jacky Malul, the chef at Amba before it shut down in late August, has confirmed what the sign taped to the front door said: that he and owner Jonathan Wornick are “considering a new food venture.” Said Malul: “Amba didn’t work out, not because of the product, but because of a lot of reasons. Since we believe in the product, we are playing with the idea of coming back in a different format.” That won’t be for a while, however, especially since Malul just had major shoulder surgery … This year’s Hazon Jewish food festival in Palo Alto has been branded Farm to Table Food Fest. Scheduled for Oct. 18 at the Oshman Family JCC, the three-hour festival will include such vendors as Falafel Stop, Marlo’s Bake Shop, Straus Organic creamery and L’Chaim Sushi, a presentation by well-known San Francisco chef Charlie Ayers (Calafia restaurant), and a load of interactive cooking demos and workshops led by local chefs and food experts. Admission is free. For more information, visit www.hazon.org/calendar/farm-to-table-food-fest or call the OFJCC’s Luba Palant at (650) 223-8656 … Wise Sons Jewish Deli on 24th Street in San Francisco is now open for dinner Monday through Saturday, and reservations for after 4 p.m. can be made on Open Table … The list of establishments offering catering and special items for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur break-fasts was too extensive for me to get into, so please contact your favorites; however, for many places, the deadline to order for Rosh Hashanah has passed.
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