And the Wein­ers Are...

Forward Magazine - - & - By Michael Kaminer

You came, you ate, you voted.

The For­ward’s se­cond an­nual Food Choice Awards en­com­passed a Jewish culi­nary land­scape that keeps get­ting more ex­cit­ing — and your choices re­flect that. This year, you saluted both tra­di­tion­al­ists and boundary-break­ers. An iconic, 130-year-old deli; a newish, Jewish-in­spired ve­gan hotspot; a decades-old bagel stal­wart, and a kosher-din­ing pi­o­neer were among those that shared the hon­ors.

Best Jew-ish Chef

Chanie Apfel­baum



Chanie Apfel­baum’s In­sta­gram ac­count de­scribes her as “rein­vent­ing tra­di­tional dishes from my Brook­lyn kitchen.” But with her aptly named Busy in Brook­lyn blog, her mil­len­nial kosher cook­book and her tire­less ex­per­i­men­ta­tion, she’s ac­tu­ally rein­vent­ing kosher cook­ing for a new gen­er­a­tion.

“We’ve been eat­ing the same tra­di­tional dishes for gen­er­a­tions, and while I think there will al­ways be a place for the com­fort foods of our youth, I also feel that the time has come to make food fun again,” Apfel­baum said. “With Shab­bos com­ing ev­ery week and so many hol­i­days around the year, putting a cre­ative spin on old-time cui­sine breathes new life into our food and makes cook­ing less of a chore.”

Best Kosher Restau­rant

Barnea Bistro



When Barnea Bistro opened this past Au­gust, chef Joshua Kessler re­vealed his am­bi­tion to the For­ward: to cre­ate “the most pro­gres­sive kosher fine­din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence any­where.”

Judg­ing from the re­sults of our 2018 For­ward Food Choice Awards poll, he’s de­liv­ered. “For the first few weeks, we got a lot of push­back. ‘Where are the french fries? Where’s the sushi?’” he told the For­ward. “Kosher fine din­ing’s been in­grained with the same cookie-cut­ter stamp you’d see 20 years ago. But I’ve flipped that over. I’ve brought in care­ful plating, high sea­son­al­ity, vari­able menus, strong fla­vor pro­files. And it’s res­onat­ing.”

Best Ve­gan Restau­rant

Mod­ern Love Brook­lyn



Mod­ern Love de­scribes its cui­sine as “swanky ve­gan com­fort food.” Chef Isa Chan­dra Moskowitz — a cook­book author and ve­gan-cook­ing am­bas­sador — has called it “food through the lens of a Brook­lyn Jew.” What­ever you call it, Mod­ern Love’s menu is never less than in­trigu­ing. The food is sur­pris­ingly haimish, and the dishes are re­lat­able whether or not you’re a full-time her­bi­vore.

“I had a vi­sion of what I wanted out of a restau­rant and tried to cre­ate that,” Moskowitz told the For­ward. “I def­i­nitely wanted the food to be from scratch, with big, fill­ing por­tions, bold fla­vors and beau­ti­ful plating. That’s how I cook, so it was fun to trans­late into a restau­rant set­ting.”

Best Cafe

Russ & Daugh­ters



De­spite the “cafe” moniker, Russ & Daugh­ters is a full-ser­vice restau­rant with a menu that en­cap­su­lates —and lov­ingly re­boots — Ashke­nazi food his­tory. It’s also a canny brand ex­ten­sion of a beloved Lower East Side in­sti­tu­tion. And it scores on all fronts.

“We are stew­ards of a beau­ti­ful,

105-year-old tra­di­tion that not only be­longs to our fam­ily, but to gen­er­a­tions of fam­i­lies,” said Niki Russ Fe­d­er­man, the fourth-gen­er­a­tion coowner of Russ & Daugh­ters with her cousin Josh Russ Tup­per. “Food is a ve­hi­cle to feel whole, to con­nect with who we are and where we come from. Pro­vid­ing that con­ti­nu­ity of taste and qual­ity is paramount. Peo­ple rely on us to make sure the bagel and lox they have at Russ & Daugh­ters to­day tastes the way they re­mem­ber it from 20 years ago.”

Best Bak­ery

Breads Bak­ery



For­ward read­ers are no strangers to Breads Bak­ery es­pe­cially since it swept last year’s Food Choice Awards. What’s the ap­peal, we asked founder Gadi Pe­leg. “I think it’s the fact that we’re com­pletely ob­sessed with cre­at­ing the best-qual­ity prod­uct ev­ery sin­gle day,” he said. “It starts with sourc­ing the best in­gre­di­ents we can pos­si­bly find. And then mak­ing recipes peo­ple have prob­a­bly tried — we didn’t in­vent babka or chal­lah, for ex­am­ple — but maybe haven’t tasted with the best in­gre­di­ents on the planet.”

Next up: Strudel, in fla­vors like ap­ple, poppy and pump­kin pie. “It’s our in­ter­pre­ta­tion,” Pe­leg said. “Fa­mil­iar, but a lit­tle dif­fer­ent.”

Best Mid­dle East­ern Restau­rant



Call it the blue-and-white wave— New York’s been blessed with a new gen­er­a­tion of ul­tra­cool mod­ern-Is­raeli spots that mix up trad in­gre­di­ents in thrilling, some­times as­tound­ing new ways.

At the fore­front of it all is Nur, where chef Meir Adoni “lets loose” on “high­end, mod­ern Mid­dle East­ern dishes.” Nearly 18 months after open­ing, Nur re­mains one of the city’s hottest ta­bles; un­der chef de cui­sine Ofir Horesh, tastes, tex­tures and col­ors con­tinue to blaze bril­liantly off the plate. “I feel that Nur’s food has res­onated so strongly with New York­ers be­cause we took no short­cuts and main­tained the bold fla­vors of the re­gion, al­most ex­actly as you would have them in the Mid­dle East, with­out mak­ing any ad­just­ments,” Horesh told the For­ward. “To peo­ple who have vis­ited or are from the Mid­dle East, it will re­ally feel fa­mil­iar and au­then­tic, and for those who haven’t, it will stand out as unique.”

Best Bagel



Big­ger isn’t al­ways bet­ter — un­less it’s at Ess-a-Bagel, where zeppelin-sized bagels still lure long lines of New York- ers and carb-cravers from all over.

Launched in 1976, Ess-a-Bagel is now run by Melanie Frost, a niece of the found­ing fam­ily. She’s wisely cho­sen to stay the course plot­ted by her fore­bears, mean­ing cin­na­mon raisin and nine grain are about as trendy as Ess-a-Bagel gets. The bagels are still hand-rolled, boiled, baked on wooden planks un­til they’re in­flated to near­burst­ing and served warm, if your tim­ing’s right. The chew’s in­cred­i­ble, the crust’s usu­ally crisp, and the weight will sat­isfy you for hours.

Best Deli

Katz’s Del­i­catessen



On the one hand, not much has changed at Katz’s since 1888: You still walk through a turn­stile, re­ceive a pa­per ticket, place your or­der at one of the deli counter’s sta­tions and sali­vate un­til your pas­trami, latkes or matzo ball soup emerges.

On the other hand, ev­ery­thing’s changed. There’s a Katz’s out­post in Brook­lyn; the deli of­fers a meat sub­scrip­tion ser­vice; a glitzy cof­fee-ta­ble book has chron­i­cled a day in the life of Katz’s, and Katz’s it­self has be­come a sym­bol of a van­ished Jewish Lower East Side.

En­er­getic young owner Jake Dell is savvy enough to strike a per­fect bal­ance be­tween past and fu­ture. Even as he rein­vents Katz’s for the 21st cen­tury, he hasn’t touched what makes it great: tow­er­ing sand­wiches, lus­cious house­cured meats, pun­gent pick­les, peni­cillin-power soups and artery-chal­leng­ing cheese­cake. The room’s still noisy, rau­cous and a lit­tle chaotic. The at­ti­tude’s in-your-face, New York quippy and a lit­tle brusque. It’s the essence of deli, and long may it reign.


Buf­falo cauliflower wingwith Avo­cado Ranch Dress­ing, Mod­ern LoveBrook­lyn

Niki Russ Fe­d­er­man & Josh Russ Tup­per ofRuss & Daugh­ters


Poppy Strudel from Breads Bak­ery

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