A little coffee and a lot of talk


A handful of people sit around a table in a café in downtown Jerusalem – their espressos and lattes in front of them. They are chatting in Spanish – every few minutes laughter bubbles up from the table.

It looks like a group of friends meeting for coffee after work. But it is a meeting of Talk Café – a drop-in language learning program that aims to get people talking in whatever language they wish to speak more fluently – Hebrew, Arabic, English, French, Spanish and German are all offered in Jerusalem.

“Talk Café is a way we found to allow people who know a language, either because they’ve lived in a country to know it from home, to improve in an informal way in a social setting,” Moshe Beigel, the founder of Talk Café told The Media Line. “It gives people the ability to talk without making a fool of themselves.”

Students pay $13 per class to Café Talk, as well as order at least a cup of coffee in the restaurant. The drop-in idea is to accommodate busy schedules, Beigel says. The restaurants benefit as well from customers in the slow periods of the late morning or early evening.

Each class starts with a sheet of vocabulary words about a certain topic. A recent Arabic class, for example, offered driving words including intersection and roundabout. Missing were the curse words that most Israelis already know in Arabic.

The “moderator” S., who asked not to use his name because he works for other NGO’s, is a Palestinian who grew up in Jerusalem, and has a BA and an MA from US universities. He says he enjoys helping students achieve more fluency in Arabic.

“To be honest, it’s exciting,” he told The Media Line. “I’ve always been fond of languages and once you learn the language you learn the culture. I am lucky to have a job to be able to facilitate learning about language and culture.” 

In Israel, while all Jewish students are supposed to study at least one year of Arabic, most do not learn much more than the alphabet. Some Israelis also see Arabic as the “language of the enemy” and prefer not to study it. While the Arabic group at Talk Café is usually small, it brings together people who would not usually meet, says founder Beigel.

“We’ve had American Muslims who know Arabic from the Qur’an but don’t speak it, coming to the class with a full hijab (a scarf covering their hair),” he said. “And we had someone who worked in Israeli intelligence, and someone else who is a settler (lives in the West Bank). They all sat down, had a plate of soup, and spoke Arabic together.

In the Spanish group, one woman is brushing up her Spanish for a job interview. In the German class, one woman is on her way to visit her daughter who lives in Berlin, and wants to be able to speak to her grandchildren.

It is, however, Hebrew, that has the most demand, with at least seven classes a week – three in Jerusalem and four in the West Bank community of Efrat, heavily populated by English speakers. Many of the students are immigrants to Israel from North America, and while the Israeli government will fund and pay for an “ulpan” or intensive Hebrew language course, many student say they have trouble speaking, even if they understand Hebrew well.

“Talk Cafe is not intimidating and that is the key for me,” Renee Atlas-Cohen, a lawyer and tour guide who moved to Israel from Chicago 14 years ago told The Media Line. “No one calls on you, subjects are fluid and therefore usually interesting. For a few hours after Talk Café I feel more confident speaking Hebrew and that is huge for me.”

The teachers, who are called moderators, say their biggest challenge is how to involve students with different language levels. Talk Café is not for beginners, and not for someone already fluent, but there is a large gap between someone who can speak a few sentences in Hebrew, and someone who speaks well, and just needs a little confidence.

“I teach Hebrew in other places as well and most places they teach grammar but students don’t get a chance to talk,” Talia Huss, a graduate student who teaches both Hebrew and Spanish at Talk Café told The Media Line. “It is a challenge to keep conversation at a level that is not too easy, but that involves everyone in the conversation.”

Beigel says that Talk Café was born of his own experience.

“I moved to Israel from England 35 years ago,” he said. “In English I sounded quite intelligent, but in Hebrew I sounded like a fool. The idea of Talk Café is that people can stop sounding like fools.”

‘Dollar’ coffee shops a positive change for Israelis


For a modern happy meal, many Israelis these days are forsaking golden arches and looking to a chain of coffee shops where mere pocket change can buy a sandwich and a hafuch (Israeli cappuccino).

It turns out that the Israeli franchise Cofix offers more than the promise that every item — soups, juices, sandwiches, deserts and TV dinners — will be priced at 5 shekels each (currently about $1.30); it offers hope that Israelis don’t have to feel short-changed, literally.

Rising prices in Israel — from groceries to housing — made headlines in 2011 during the “cottage cheese protest,” spurred by a social media call to boycott the dairy product when it reached 8 sheckels per 8.5-ounce tub. People took to the streets to protest the high cost of living in the Jewish state; cover stories were written, government committees were created. 

But Avi Katz, who considers himself a social entrepreneur as much as a businessman, decided to take the matter into his own hands. He developed Cofix based on a concept of a “dollar” coffee shop that he conjured back in 2002 when he stopped at a convenience store at a major highway intersection.

“At that time, driving from Ashdod to Netanya, you couldn’t buy anything anywhere, just there,” Katz recalled. “I went out with my partner to the convenience store. We bought two coffees, cake, gum — we brought only 50 sheckels (about $13.25 today) with us; we didn’t carry our wallet. We had to go back to bring 12 sheckels ($3). An elevator technician was parked next to us. He said: ‘Crazy! You’re also bringing more cash?’ I said: ‘If I have a Mercedes and own 40 stores and this hurts — what does he feel?’ ”

It took 10 years for Katz’s idea to come to fruition — and it was long after this king of discounts brought the concept of a retail dollar store to Israel in the 1990s, catering to the influx of Russian immigrants who sought to make a home quickly and affordably. He sold toys, school supplies and knickknacks at competitive prices with the Kfar Sha’ashuyim toy store chain, which he subsequently sold. 

“My business philosophy was to identify a need — not to see an interesting business idea and do it, but to identify a need and apply that interesting idea to it,” Katz said, a knitted kippah topping his tall frame during an interview at his Petah Tikva office where he runs Keren Hagshamah, an investment firm catering to middle-class Israelis.

His daughter, Hagit Shinover, Cofix’s vice president of purchasing, left a career in cosmetics retail to work with him. Together, they convinced hesitant suppliers to package cafe items in such a way that they could still make a profit at 5 sheckels. 

“There’s the idea and there’s the execution,” Katz said. “The execution is accomplished first and foremost by presenting attractive, good, quality products at the right price. If you don’t have that, the idea won’t work.”

Today, several copycats exist across the country, forcing the cost of hafuch down even at major cafe chains. Cofix menus are constantly updated with seasonal items. Dim sum, Greek salad, quinoa and cranberry salad, and vegetarian shwarma (since Cofix is dairy kosher) recently joined the compact shelves filled with focaccias, tuna and cheese sandwiches, sodas and freshly squeezed orange juice. Cofix Bar is a “deluxe” version serving beer, wine and liquor shots in addition to everything else. 

Last year, following the success of Cofix, came Super Cofix, an everything-for-5-shekels supermarket, selling everything from brand-name cold cuts to produce to, of course, cottage cheese. It’s like a 99-cent store (or $1.30, depending on the exchange rate), but with carefully curated items, sold in an urban chic space that is meant to create a sophisticated consumer experience.

“There is a whole sector of the population — about 30 percent of the market — that can’t use the tools the market gives to lower prices,” Katz said, explaining the reasoning behind Super Cofix. “That’s singles, senior citizens and young couples. They don’t need buy-one-get-one-free. They don’t need to buy in bulk.”

Katz grew up knowing financial hardship. His father died when he was 7, leaving his mother to manage her ultra-Orthodox Bnei Brak household. After discovering secular novels, Katz left the Charedi fold, served in the Israel Defense Forces and went on to raise a family of seven in a religious Zionist household; love of the “common people” drives his work, and customers feel that.

“Cofix made Israel a much more livable country,” said Eliezer Simonovsky of Jerusalem, a 25-year-old immigrant and student from Queens, N.Y., and a Cofix regular, in response to a Facebook post soliciting opinions on Cofix. “First off, it makes a cheap option for a snack or a drink. Even better for me is the Cofix Bars. Alcohol in Israel is very expensive, and with Cofix my friends and I can take a few shots before going out to the pubs. This saves me tons of money.”

Chaya Tal, a student and educator who lives in Gush Etzion, also weighed in. “It has turned into my almost one-and-only alternative for fast food. I mean coffee, tea, baked goods. I’m very glad it opened the market for similar initiatives like [copycat] Cofizz, and I believe this woman, or whoever did it, did a big chessed [act of kindness] to the public.”

Coffee beyond the cup: Java desserts and marinades


Coffee actually started out as a food, not a drink. A thousand years ago in Africa, the birthplace of coffee, locals would mash the ripe “cherries'' from wild coffee trees to create a dried traveling food packed with protein and nutrients; sort of an early version of the breakfast bar.

While it is the outer “cherry'' fruit of the coffee bean that has protein, it's the inner roasted coffee bean that has the flavor. “All great chefs value the quality of their ingredients and the same applies to coffee,'' says Lynda Calimano, editor in chief of the popular monthly Coffee and Tea Newsletter. “So when using them in recipes, we at the Coffee and Tea Newsletter, can't emphasize enough the importance of organic Fair Trade, shade-grown coffee, seasonally harvested if you want the best flavor and to retain the nutritional elements.''

When asked why, she added, “Because organic coffee is grown without pesticides and harvested in season, which maintains quality, nutrients and protects your health and the environment. Fair Trade, which guarantees a fair wage and other benefits, makes farmers happy and happy farmers produce great harvests.''

I'll drink — and eat — to that!

Italian Mocha Cake (Torta Nera)

From “Dolci: Italy's Sweets” by Francine Segan (Stewart, Tabori & Chang)

Prep time: 5 minutes

Baking time: 30 minutes

Total time: 35 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

This flourless cake has a crisp, macaroon-like top layer and a dense, incredibly moist center. As the cake cools, it collapses just a little, creating a pretty webbing on the delicious crust.

Ingredients

7 tablespoons (3 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, plus more for the pan

7 ounces dark chocolate, 70% cacao or higher

1 ounce freshly brewed espresso or 1 teaspoon granulated instant espresso

1 cup granulated sugar

4 eggs, separated

2 tablespoons potato or cornstarch

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform cake pan.

2. Melt the butter and chocolate in a small bowl, either in the microwave or over a saucepan of gently boiling water. Stir in the espresso.

3. In a large bowl beat the sugar and egg yolks with an electric hand-held mixer until creamy and pale yellow. Add the chocolate-butter mixture and beat until creamy. Add the potato or cornstarch and mix until well combined.

4. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff. Slowly, using a spatula, fold the egg whites, a little at a time, into the chocolate mixture until combined.

5. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for about 30 minutes, until just set in the center.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Let us now praise Israeli coffee


In Israel, American stores dot shopping malls and McDonald’s branches proliferate. But one chain you won’t see is Starbucks.

Starbucks has franchises around the world, but its brief experiment with Israeli stores lasted just two years, from 2001 to 2003. Maybe, as some have suggested, Starbucks pulled out of Tel Aviv to appease an anti-Israel market in the Arab world. Or maybe Pumpkin Spice Lattes didn’t catch on in a country with no discernible fall season.

Or maybe Starbucks just couldn’t hold its own against Israel’s superior brew.

Israel beats the States when it comes to my favorite beverage. Plenty of visitors to Israel rightly extol its falafel and hummus; many also rave about its citrus and dairy products. But they should also praise its coffee.

Geographically and culturally, Israel sits at the nexus between east and west. Its immigrant populations hail from Yemen and Germany, Uzbekistan and the U.S., and its food is a mashup of these influences. In Tel Aviv, street food vendors sell shawarma — which originates in the Middle East — sandwiched in a French baguette.

In Israel, Italian cafe offerings like espresso and macchiato coexist with strong, flavorful Turkish coffee, made simply by brewing coffee grinds in hot water and letting them settle into “mud” at the bottom of the cup. It’s rare to see a standard American filter coffee — which, in my experience, tastes like weakly flavored hot water.

Rarer still is America’s culture of coffee to go. Rather than walk with their coffee in a paper cup, Israelis, especially Tel Aviv residents, are notorious for sitting down with their ceramic espresso cup and not budging for hours — taking the time to catch up, talk politics, grow their startup or, in my case, write an article. So prevalent is Tel Aviv’s cafe culture that Yediot Aharonot, a leading Israeli paper, investigated why so many of the city residents seem to laze at cafes instead of working.

But in certain ways, Israel’s coffee culture had a long way to go. According to an article in the Atlantic, the average Israeli drinks 0.4 cups of coffee per day. That’s a relatively low figure — it’s far below the Netherlands’ 2.4 cups a day, and less than half of the U.S.’s nearly one-cup-per-person average. And according to the Israeli website CoffeeShop.co.il, most of the coffee consumed in Israel is instant, dosed out in freeze-dried pebbles or powder.

But there’s hope for Israeli cafe enthusiasts. CoffeeShop.co.il wrote that the 18-to-30 age bracket is more likely to order espresso-based brews. And the past couple years have seen the rapid spread of discount coffee chains that sell everything on the menu — from cappuccino to croissants to sandwiches — for 5 shekels, or about $1.25.

At first, these chains opened hole-in-the-wall shops, where baristas behind a cramped counter served coffee to go in American-style paper cups. That’s changed, however. Now, at many of those cafes, customers get their espresso in paper cups — but, in another example of Israel’s east-meets-west culture, they go sit down at one of the cafe’s outdoor tables, chatting the day away. Just as a good Tel Avivi should.

$1 coffee chain taps into Israeli anger over high cost of living


With a $1 cup of coffee, Avi Katz is starting to do something Israelis have been demanding for years and politicians have failed to achieve – lower the cost of living.

In 2011, hundreds of thousands of Israelis took to the streets to protest against the high cost of essentials such as food and housing. That led to promises ahead of the 2013 election to cut prices, but progress has been slow, even if the government is now allowing more imports to spur competition.

Israeli food prices rose 39 percent more than the consumer price index between 2003-2014, according to the central bank.

“You brought new people into the Knesset (parliament) and people think they will change the country,” said Katz. “But the new government was a disappointment and then came Cofix.”

In late 2013, Katz launched Cofix, an increasingly popular coffee and snack chain modelled on dollar stores in the United States that has grown to 80 outlets across Israel, mainly on busy streets in urban centres.

The concept is simple: coffee and snacks such as sandwiches and quiche for five shekels ($1.30) each. Until Cofix came along, Israeli coffee shops routinely charged $3-$4 for a coffee and $5-$10 for a sandwich.

“Everyone knew you can buy coffee for five shekels. When you buy in large quantities, it's cheap,” said Katz, who heads private investment fund Hagshama.

Still, he wasn't sure the concept would work as it needed each store to sell at least 1,000 items a day to break even.

Katz said Cofix stores, which only provide take-away goods, sell around 2,000 a day, with customers buying on average two items each. Such instant success led to copy-cat shops, while more established chains were forced to slash prices.

“It's impossible to have a good idea without competition,” Katz told Reuters, saying the group would expand to 120 outlets this year.

In mid-June, Cofix went public by buying shell company Agri Invest and merging its operations into it. Revenue in 2015 is expected to near 200 million shekels. Katz said the company would have made a profit last year if it hadn't been for investment in a new low-cost supermarket concept.

Still, its shares have shed 7 percent since going public, suggesting some investors remain to be convinced, though the stock has risen 15 percent in the past two sessions.

In recent months, Katz has expanded into the supermarket business with Super Cofix, a mini-market that sells items for no more than 5 shekels. He plans three more stores this year.

Katz hopes to expand his low-cost coffee shops to London and Moscow but nothing is imminent. A copycat coffee shop, Caffix, recently opened in London where items sell for 1 pound ($1.56).

Looking good in those genes


Your day begins with a cup of joe, and to get through the afternoon, you’ll be gulping down a few more: There’s a gene for that. 

Caligenix, a genetics-based lifestyle company in Brentwood, can help people find out whether they have that caffeine-craving gene variation, along with many others that affect health and lifestyle. The company’s services are based on the science of nutritional genetics — how genes influence metabolism, diet, nutrition and response to exercise — and begin with a simple sample of saliva.

For some time now, scientists have been saying that the future of preventive health lies in knowing a person’s genetic makeup. After the Human Genome Project was completed in 2003, many predicted that genetic testing would soon provide people with an accessible and reliable way to improve their health and lifestyle. But the ability to do so was still a long way off. 

But in May of last year, dentist Tzur Gabi and entrepreneur Eliad Josephson co-founded Caligenix, providing genetic testing, interpretation and recommendations through their network of providers, which includes registered dietitians and nutritionists, a holistic coach and a lifestyle coach. 

After collecting a sample of a client’s saliva, Caligenix sends it to a CLIA- and CAP-accredited clinical laboratory in San Diego, where it is tested for 78 genetic markers that impact metabolism.  

Within two to three weeks, the results are returned to Caligenix, where a provider interprets them, gleaning information like whether the client would benefit more from endurance training — such as mid- or long-distance walking, jogging or bicycling — or strength training; whether she is susceptible to Achilles tendon injuries, so she’ll know when and how to stretch; why he doesn’t feel satiated after a meal and has difficulty resisting dessert; and whether she is prone to particular vitamin deficiencies. After interpreting the genetic test, providers give the client actionable plans focused on nutrition and exercise. The cost to clients is between $495 and $995, depending on insurance coverage.

Gabi, Caligenix’s chief medical officer, likens genetic testing to a road map to the body. 

“Let’s say I asked you to drive to Tulsa, Okla. Wouldn’t you ask for a map? Or would you make your way without a guide?” Gabi said. “Genetic testing is the map I give my patients to get to Oklahoma.” 

Gabi’s dental practice is what he calls “genetically guided” — all of his patients receive the genetic test. His office has an in-house registered dietitian nutritionist, who develops a preventive genetic-based meal plan for each patient.

The test reveals how the body processes sugars, fats, nutrients and vitamins — all of which, Gabi said, play a role in dental health. 

“Low levels of vitamin C have been shown to be associated with an increased risk of periodontal disease, increased permeability of the oral mucosa to bacterial toxins [and] impaired immune response,” Gabi said.  

Vitamin C deficiency can ultimately lead to scurvy. The vitamin is also vital in forming the amino acids needed to produce collagen for bone formation and calcification to support the teeth, as well as for wound healing. 

“Deficiencies of protein, vitamin D or calcium may lead to the [resorption] of bone around the teeth and destruction of the periodontal ligaments that anchor the teeth to the jawbones,” Gabi said. “Women with severe osteoporosis are three times more likely to experience tooth loss.” 

Because an individual’s genes are present at birth and remain the same for their entire life, anyone can take the test at any time. 

Mor Levy, a registered dietitian nutritionist who specializes in lactation, believes that “in the ideal world, the test should happen when you are born.” Levy is a Caligenix provider who has a practice in Calabasas. 

The earlier you understand what is optimal for your body, Levy said, the more preventive action you can take. This knowledge might help parents, for example, understand the eating habits of a picky child or their sensitivity to lactose.

Levy starts by asking patients about their diet and exercise regimens. She also asks for as much of their own and their family’s medical history as they can provide. But there are often holes in this narrative, and even with a complete history, one can’t know whether a parent’s gene might be recessive in the next generation. Rather than rely on this incomplete information, Levy encourages testing, which takes the guesswork out of one’s genetic makeup. 

“Even if you do know your ancestry, that doesn’t mean you will have the gene that causes a heart attack,” Levy said.

But back to the question of coffee addiction. The gene linked to this is CYP1A2; a liver enzyme that is encoded by this gene is responsible for metabolizing caffeine. Variation at a marker for this gene results in different levels of enzyme activity and, therefore, different rates of metabolizing caffeine. 

“The test shows how quickly you metabolize caffeine,” Levy said. “If you metabolize it faster, this means your body will eliminate it quicker, thus you won’t stay caffeinated as long.” 

Caligenix’s plans for 2015 include continuing to spread awareness of the benefits of nutritional genetics through the company’s integration into many types of practices, including gyms, wellness centers and health care providers. They also offer genetic tests for the breast cancer susceptibility gene BRCA and other genetic diseases, but the primary focus is on genetic testing to improve healthy lifestyles.

“Right now, this is one more tool for [health] providers,” Josephson said. Genetic testing, he added, is “one more scientific tool to help them understand how to deal with an issue.” 

A cup of joy at Aharon Coffee


Although Aharon Vaknin is relatively new to the business of coffee, he is long familiar with its rituals and traditions. “My first cup of coffee I ever made was when I was 8 years old,” he recalled. “One time, my cousin came to visit, and nobody was there except me, so Moroccan hospitality [means] asking if you want to drink something. My cousin wanted a coffee, so I just made it.”

Since opening Aharon Coffee & Roasting Co. on a side street just west of South Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills in September, Vaknin, with his wife, BatSheva, has professionalized this particular lifelong passion. 

Formerly a general contractor by trade, Vaknin’s gateway into the complex world of coffee came unexpectedly when he was shopping for what seemed like a simple household product: a grinder. Reading about the differences between blade (more widely accessible but bad) and burr (more expensive and yet essential to any hard-core coffee connoisseur), he went into deep research mode — watching endless hours of YouTube instructional videos, immersing himself in online discussion boards and experimenting with the product itself at home. These initial steps were “enticing me, and it was an amazing experience to educate myself.”

After about a year of patronizing a shop in Culver City that roasted its own beans, Vaknin began to try his own hand at the craft. Developing his knowledge and skills meant taking another leap, however, which led him to a intensive weeklong workshop in the coffee fincas (farms) of the Boquete district of Panama, with Willem Boot of Boot Coffee in Mill Valley. Prior to the course’s official start during coffee harvest season, Vaknin spent an additional two days with Boot, a pre-eminent figure in the field, visiting coffee farms and various facilities. 

After what BatSheva described as “that magical week” for her husband, he continued to travel weekly to Northern California to apprentice with Boot, where he also mastered working with the Dutch-made Giesen coffee roasters. One of this brand’s gleaming, imposing machines now stands in the back room at Aharon Coffee, where Vaknin roasts beans to brew and sell directly to customers in the bright, minimalist space and online. Further evidence of Vaknin’s continuing adherence to contemporary coffee culture is a selection of trade publications on display for customers to peruse, such as Barista and Fresh Cup magazines. 

The focus at Aharon is on all products coffee-related. They do, however, make a chai latte and offer a handful of options from the Art of Tea. But Vaknin and BatSheva decided to focus on the beverage that stokes their passion. 

“The outcome is amazing energy. It’s a vehicle for people to perform better, to be healthier, to have an experience of joy,” Vaknin said. “It’s awesome to be in an industry that makes people happy.”

The team offers specialty drinks seen at other top-notch, serious cafés, such as cold-brew coffee on tap and single-origin roasts prepared at a pour-over bar, along with brewed coffee and a range of espresso drinks using Vaknin’s roasts. All syrups, including dark chocolate, Madagascar bourbon vanilla and caramel, are made in-house. 

Baked goods come from Milo and Olive in Santa Monica, and thanks to an agreement with co-owner and lead baker Zoe Nathan, Aharon Coffee receives the first batch out of the ovens in the morning so that the croissants, cookies and other items are as kosher-style as possible, without coming from a kosher-certified bakery.  

BatSheva, a Washington, D.C., native and Yale graduate, and Aharon, who grew up in Tel Aviv in a family originally from Morocco, have four children. Operating a hospitality business comes naturally to Vaknin: His parents worked in some of Tel Aviv’s most distinguished hotel restaurants, including the Dan Panorama and the Hilton, before opening their own restaurant where Vaknin was the “shawarma barista,” BatSheva joked.  

Although Vaknin can discuss arcane coffee-related matters, ranging from the differences among various coffee growing regions to espresso extraction temperatures, what motivates this couple is a basic and essential human emotion. “The relationship we have to coffee is joy,” Vaknin said, “and what I care about is that the customers have the experience of joy. That’s the foundation of this business.”

 Aharon Coffee & Roasting Co., 9467 Charleville Blvd., Beverly Hills,

 

(424) 288-4048. aharoncoffee.com.

Jewish groups launch fair trade network


A new partnership has launched to enable the purchase of kosher “fair trade” coffee, tea and chocolate while supporting Jewish communal efforts on human trafficking and worker justice.

The Jewish Fair Trade Partnership allows individuals and Jewish institutions like synagogues to purchase fair trade products at wholesale prices while supporting Equal Exchange, Fair Trade Judaica and T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights.

Fair trade products are designed to help farmers, primarily in developing countries, stay on their land, support their families, plan for the future and care for the environment. A portion of the proceeds from sales will support T’ruah and Fair Trade Judaica’s work promoting the end of modern-day slavery and protecting workers’ rights.

“Jewish law goes to great length to protect low-wage workers, whom our tradition knows are vulnerable to exploitation,” said Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of T’ruah, in a news release issued jointly by the partner organizations. “Through this project, our sacred spaces will reflect the values of our tradition.”

A network of 1,800 rabbis and cantors, T’ruah (formerly Rabbis for Human Rights-North America) focuses on human rights issues globally and describes itself as the “leading Jewish organization working to end modern-day slavery.”

Founded in 2007, California-based Fair Trade Judaica works to create a “Jewish-based ethical consumer model” and sells a variety of Judaica products meeting specific standards assuring fair and livable wages, no child labor, and healthy and safe working conditions.

Since 1998, the Equal Exchange Interfaith Program has involved more than 10,000 religious institutions in purchasing fair trade products. Current partners include Lutheran World Relief, United Methodist Committee on Relief, Catholic Relief Services, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.

The Jewish Fair Trade Project includes Equal Exchange kosher-certified coffee, tea and chocolate products. Most of the products are listed as kosher for Passover.

Starbucks’ tea spin-off will be kosher, just waiting for ‘rabbi to bless it’


Having conquered coffee, Starbucks is now moving into tea. The coffee giant’s newest venture, Teavana, launched with a tea bar on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz says he doesn’t expect the new venture to be as big as the coffeehouse chain (“tea lacks the major caffeine count,” he explains). But he is hoping to draw in kashrut-keeping consumers.

“It will be [kosher]. It hasn’t been certified,” Schultz told Forbes. “No rabbi has come in to bless it yet!”

It looks like Schultz, who is Jewish, has fallen prey to the common misconception that kosher status is conveyed via a blessing. But if Teavana is to succeed by peddling its drinks at $4.95 a cup, it will need the blessing of luxury tea fans.

Slice of life: Perfect fall pumpkin recipes


Once upon a time in a land before Starbucks there existed this stuff we call coffee. Not half fat mocha late skinny with frappo organic raw sugar and a twist of Madagascar kumquat syrup or a Free range micro tannic free Sumatran upside down turbo tea. No we all drank COFFEE and were just glad it had enough caffeine in it to get us through the morning, finals and or keep us on deadline.

So it was with a great deal of amusement and a bit of OMG that I read an article in the Wall Street Journal that there is a nation crisis brewing (sorry couldn’t resist that one) because that aforementioned Starbucks was having black outs (oops, can’t seem to help myself) fulfilling the demand for their seasonal specialty drink, the Pumpkin Latte.

Excuse me, customers frothing at the mouth because they can’t spend over 4 dollars for a cup for pumpkin latte? Yes, I know this is a seasonal beverage of choice for millions but let’s get real here, if you can’t buy them you can make pumpkin lattes at home for a fraction of the cost and they’re just as tasty. Then, here’s a novel thought, TAKE IT WITH YOU TO WORK. Yes, it’s a bit more time consuming than driving 3 miles out of your way and through a drive through but once you make it yourself you’ll be hooked on the homemade variety AND you can save yourself bunches of money.

The WSJ article got me thinking about other pumpkin flavored drinks I’ve had over the years. Some with coffee, some with ice cream and some other very special ones for the adult’s only time made with pumpkin liqueur or rum. So it became a mission of love to dig up all the fun and funky pumpkin drink recipes (latte included) that I could so that everyone can indulge themselves and enjoy while pumpkins are in season.


ALMOST THE SAME PUMPKIN SPICED LATTE (dairy or pareve)

  • 1/2 cup milk (whole, or 2%) or soy or almond milke
  • 1 tablespoon canned pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 teaspoon packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup hot brewed, strong coffee
  • 2 tablespoons half & half cream or soy/almond “cream”
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar, or more to taste
  • sweetened whipped cream (from a can is fine)
  • ground nutmeg

In a glass measuring cup or microwave-safe bowl, whisk together milk, pumpkin, brown sugar, spice and vanilla. Microwave for 1 to 2 minutes- watch closely and remove it from the microwave when the milk is hot and frothy. Pour the pumpkin milk into a tall mug or glass. Add hot coffee. Pour in the cream. Add a teaspoon of sugar. Stir, and taste. Add more sugar, if desired. Top with sweetened whipped cream on top and a sprinkle of nutmeg. Serve immediately!

Modified from RecipeGirl.com


PUMPKIN PIE SMOOTHIE (dairy)

  • 1 15-ounce can pumpkin (chilled)
  • 1 12-ounce can evaporated milk (chilled)
  • 8 ounces vanilla yogurt
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • Sweetened whipped cream, to taste (optional)

Combine pumpkin, milk, yogurt, sugar and spice in a blender; cover. Blend until mixture is smooth. Pour into glasses; top with whipped cream (if desired) and an additional sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice.

Serves four


APPLE PUMPKIN-TINI (pareve)

  • Crushed ice
  • 1 1/2 ounce pumpkin purée
  • 1 1/2 ounce vanilla vodka
  • 2 ounces apple cider
  • 1 1/2 oz ginger ale

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine the pumpkin purée, vodka, and apple cider. Shake for 10-15 seconds. Strain into a Collins glass filled with ice and top with ginger ale.

Recipes modified from a recipe by Kelly Carámbula. She is the founder and publisher of Remedy Quarterly, an independent food magazine.


PUMPKIN SPICE MARTINI (dairy)

  • 1 (1.5 fluid ounce) jigger vanilla vodka
  • 1 (1.5 fluid ounce) jigger Irish cream liqueur (such as Bailey's®)
  • 1 (1.5 fluid ounce) jigger pumpkin flavored liqueur
  • 1 cup ice cubes
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg

In a cocktail shaker combine the ice, vodka, Irish cream liqueur, and pumpkin liqueur. Cover, and shake for at least 1 minute. Strain into a chilled martini glass, and garnish with a sprinkle of ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg to serve. Makes 1

Submitted by Richard Margonson NY, NY


ICE CREAM PUMPKIN COCKTAIL (dairy)

  • 2 scoops vanilla ice cream
  • 1/2 cup ice (crushed)
  • 1 tablespoon canned pumpkin
  • 1 oz half and half
  • 1 oz spiced rum
  • 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 tablespoons sweetened whipped cream or whipped topping
  • 1 pinch pumpkin pie spice

In a blender or food processor combine the ice cream, ice, pumpkin, half-and-half, rum, and 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice. Process until smooth Pour into a serving glass; top with whipped topping, sprinkle with pinch of pumpkin pie spice.

Serves 1. This recipe can be doubled or tripled.


© Eileen Goltz pumpkin drinks 12

Buzz-worthy espresso


There is nothing like an espresso in the afternoon: the swirl of caramel-colored coffee foam; the dark, robust burst of flavor; the infusion of energy. The latte and the cappuccino are delicious, too, fortifying in the morning, sweet later in the day. I’ve been ordering these drinks for years, but until I met Moti Menachem at his cool espresso bar in the Westfield Topanga mall, I had no idea why only a few of those cups were ever truly great.

It turns out there’s a lot I don’t know about my favorite drink. 

When I asked Menachem — dreadlocked coffee enthusiast, expert barista and owner of Café Café  — how he came to know so much about coffee, he looked at me like I was a little dense. 

“In Israel,” he said, “you have to know about coffee.” 

Of course, as soon as he said it, I remembered hearing about how imported espresso chains, such as Starbucks, couldn’t survive local competition in Israel. After all, coffee has its origins in that part of the world.

Pastries from Roladin Bakery.

At the center of Café Café’s lovely free-standing espresso and sandwich bar, there is a beautiful red La Marzocco espresso machine, and Menachem knows how to use it. If you ask, as you sip the deep, rich brew through the foam of your latte, he will happily talk about the essential facts, the right ways and wrong ways of making coffee. (The other baristas are equally enthusiastic, proud of their ability to judge milk temperature by the feel of the metal foaming cup, for example.) 

The process begins with the beans. They are organic, Café Café’s own blend, ground fresh for each shot of espresso — defined as a drink brewed by forcing hot water under pressure through finely ground coffee. Tamping the coffee into the basket with the silver tamping tool is the next step. This “pressing” — the essence of what makes the drink an espresso — needs to be just right. Coffee compressed too much will slow the travel of water and be bitter;  too loose and it will be weak.

Menachem snaps the portafilter into place on the La Marzocco, switches on the water (filtered, of course) and watches the dark liquid trickle out of the spout into the cup. A shot he deems improperly tamped and thus too light, is thrown out and he starts another.

A barista foams milk at the la marzocco espresso machine.

In the first espresso machines, made in Italy in the late 1800s, the water flow was controlled by moving a lever, which is the origin of the term “pulling” a shot. With the semi-automatic La Marzocco, a knowledgeable barista controls the timing of the shot with the on/off switch. Working the machine is interactive, and Menachem describes it as a little like being a DJ.

Next comes foaming the milk. This is an activity for which there are hundreds of Web sites, some of them devoted just to making the little rosettes and leaf patterns by which baristas measure their skills. The timing is essential, and then there is the craft of tapping — short knocks on the side of the milk pitcher that separate the heated milk from the foam. Pouring is a kind of contemplative act, requiring a sure hand, experience and focus to properly mix the milk with the espresso. The latte gets more milk, I learn, and the cappuccino more foam. Menachem drops a packet of sugar into his shot before adding the velvety milk, but for me, the heat seems to have sweetened the milk perfectly. 

The Café Café latte Menachem makes for me has a depth and flavor not found often enough. When I mention this, he says with the certainty of a passionate man that there might be five really good espresso bars in Los Angeles, maybe fewer in the Valley. In order to keep the lines moving, chain espresso places have turned to super-automatic machines, where the grinding, tamping and timing are all done in the machine. The result is average-tasting coffee drinks.

To complement my latte, Menachem brings me a tasty, perfect little oatmeal and currant triangle. All the beautiful pastries displayed in Café Café’s case are from Roladin Bakery, another Valley treasure.

Café Café is a stylish coffee spot at westfield topanga shopping center.

If you are looking for something more substantial, Café Café also offers dairy sandwiches — many Israeli inspired — all made with the same kind of passion and care as the coffee drinks. On other visits, I’ve enjoyed sliced hardboiled egg and hummus on French bread and a salmon and goat cheese sandwich. Falafel is cooked in the oven, not deep fried, and shakshouka is also on the menu. Organic teas, freshly poured drip coffee — also organic and in various strengths — an interesting selection of juices and unusual soft drinks complete the offerings. 

For a morning, afternoon or evening cup of indulgence, look for the cherry red La Marzocco machine and its emblematic lion, symbol of Florence, home of great espresso machines, or look for Jerusalem native Menachem —  in black scarf, T-shirt and jeans — who is happy to share both his espresso and his expertise.

Mourning the Morning Call — back in New Orleans


If you visit New Orleans, you will certainly go to the French Quarter to seek out the well-known open-air coffee stand near the Mississippi River named Café Du Monde.

You’ll partake of the rich culinary indulgences from its spare menu.

The first menu item you will find is a cup filled from two large steel kettles simultaneously pouring hot liquids — one black, the other white. The black is thick chicory-laced coffee, the white is an equal amount of hot milk. The second menu item is the beignet: The sweet, hot, fluffy square of fried dough that native New Orleanians simply call a doughnut. Sprinkled with powdered sugar, which will also cover the table and your clothes, and dipped into the coffee, you will taste one of the quintessential delights of a town that pleases all the senses, even when it also breaks your heart.

You will sit there, in a seemingly motionless moment of delight as you hear the passing hours chimed from the St. Louis Cathedral across Jackson Square, and your body will fully understand what your mind, in its yearning for the opaque and consistent, will want to deny:

Things change.

As you sip your coffee and your tongue detects its various layers of flavor, your skin and nose will also sift through the sensory impressions of the air around you, perceiving shifting smells, textures and levels of moisture in the atmosphere of this place where the city meets the river.

Meanwhile, your eyes will discern the fluctuations of the light as the sun glides in and out of the cover of clouds of varying thickness. The solid three dimensions of your moment, as you sit, drink coffee and eat doughnuts at a sidewalk cafe, slide open to transcend your concrete place in time.

And with the nearby sounds of the hoofs of horses drawing carriages, the cars passing to the east and the ships to the west, the boundaries of time dissolve and you are sitting in “days gone by” and in “the world to come.”

What you might not know, as a tourist in the French Quarter of the 21st century who is searching for an authentic experience of New Orleans, is that the coffee and doughnuts that you are enjoying are a shadow of another New Orleans. A few blocks up and four decades earlier there was another coffee stand named Morning Call.

New Orleanians drank their coffee and ate their doughnuts there beginning in 1870. Located at the edge of the French Quarter, its clientele sat on the red leather seats of high stools and stared into mahogany-framed mirrors while they drank their coffee at the marble counters to which large silver sugar bowls were chained.

Morning Call was frequented in the dawn’s breaking light by people of all ages in formal clothes ending a night of celebration, as well as by dock workers dressed to begin a day unloading crates at the port.

Its coffee was a little thicker; its doughnuts a little lighter than those served at the cleaner, more tourist-friendly cafe closer to the cathedral. And then, in 1971, when the city proposed widening the surrounding streets, limiting street access and parking, Morning Call relocated to a strip mall in suburban Metairie, a part of Jefferson Parish, which more closely resembles Anywhere, U.S.A.

Things change.

In 1971, I was outraged at the betrayal of the move. It symbolized New Orleans’ shift of identity from a multicultural city at the crossroads between the Americas, shaped by the traditions and rituals of its populations of various skin colors, languages and religion, to that of a 20th century North American city shaped by oil money, greed and the homogenization of culture. I never visited Morning Call again.

But in 2005, when I returned to New Orleans a month after Hurricane Katrina to lead Rosh Hashanah services, I suddenly found my car in front of its strip mall location. I decided that 34 years and the waters that had broken through the levees had washed away the validity of my boycott. Besides, it appeared to be the only cup of coffee in town. Things change.

Yearning for something of substance to connect me with the New Orleans that had not washed away, I parked my car and walked through broken branches and piles of debris, through the doors of a commercial establishment in an American strip mall. I crossed the threshold and while the face that looked back at me from the mahogany-framed mirrors was not the same, the marble counters, red leather-topped stools, chained silver sugar bowls and the coffee were the same. In the turmoil and transformation that followed Katrina, I was sustained by the continuity in a cup of coffee. Some things don’t change.

I am a New Orleans Jew. The values of those identities fuel me like the smooth-yet-caffeinated drink that is the trademark of my hometown. I embrace the changing communal calendars and the rituals for their observances of joy and tragedy. These have taught me what it means to be human and how to extract eternity from the changing seasons.

Through the ritual markers of the calendars of my communities, I have received tools that have instructed me as I have been challenged to embrace my personal calendar and its flow of heartbreak and delight.

It is through an appreciation of the possibility of the sacred eternal that is hidden in every changing moment — like the past and future that hide in a cup of coffee — that I have been able to find peace in the fact of change.

It is through ritual that change itself is transformed from destroyer to healer. It is through ritual that mourning, as we are told in Psalm 90, becomes dancing and that our mourning becomes our call.

Anne Brener is an L.A.-based psychotherapist. She is the author of “Mourning & Mitzvah: Walking the Mourner’s Path” (Jewish Lights, 1993 and 2001), a fourth-year rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and a faculty member of the Academy for Jewish Religion.

‘Nighthawks’ Scribe Brings Hopper Painting to Life


Based upon Edward Hopper’s famous painting of a late-night coffee shop on a desolate city street corner, Douglas Steinberg’s new play, “Nighthawks,” which is having its world premiere at the Kirk Douglas Theater, features a painter who says only one word in the entire first act. The word is “coffee,” an apposite line of dialogue for a silent character spending significant stage time sitting at a counter.

This painter, known as the Customer, rarely speaks, and the other characters do not speak to each other so much as interrupt, disregard and talk past one another, the kind of miscommunication virtually always suggested by the subjects in Hopper’s paintings. They rattle off dialogue like it’s coming out of a Gatling gun and speak in a streetwise idiom right out of the New York ghettos.

Steinberg knows he is treading familiar ground here, ground previously traversed by Warner Bros. screenwriters from the 1930s and ’40s, playwright Clifford Odets and novelist Daniel Fuchs in his Williamsburg trilogy. Steinberg knows that the reputations of Odets and Fuchs have suffered in recent years and that their dialogue, endlessly recycled, has become a cliche. To Steinberg’s credit, he makes his dialogue sing.

“It’s kind of poetic in its absurd, poor grammar, flowing in a vile, vulgar sort of way like ‘Deadwood,'” he says, referring to David Milch’s highly acclaimed HBO series.

Beyond the staccato lyricism of his language, Steinberg has also come up with a grand conceit in extrapolating a story line from Hopper’s painting, a famous study in urban anomie. About 20 years ago, Steinberg’s wife, the painter and actress Sarah Torgov, bought him a poster of “Nighthawks,” which he placed above his desk. Soon afterwards, “the characters started whispering to each other,” he says, and he began writing his play, which won an National Endowment for the Arts grant.

Despite being a playwright in residence at the South Coast Repertory Theater and a member of the Los Angeles Theatre Center Playwrights for more than 10 years, Steinberg could not get the play staged.

At the time he wrote “Nighthawks,” he says, the painting was just starting to become part of popular culture, whereas “now, it’s like a McDonald’s sign.”

Indeed, it has been co-opted by big business whose poster and tchotchke merchandisers have transformed it into Hollywood kitsch, changing the four unknown characters in the late-night diner into a roster of postwar entertainment icons, including Humphrey Bogart, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley.

Steinberg, however, imagines the four principals the way Hopper did, as anonymous city dwellers. Mae, a one-time looker, is the waitress/owner of the diner; Quig, her underfinanced husband and cook; Sam, a polio-ridden friend and bellhop at a nearby hotel; and the Customer, the man with no name, who secretly or not-so-secretly paints the three others.

Steinberg grew up in a Conservative Jewish household, although none of his characters are supposed to be Jewish. “It would be chauvinistic of me to take this man’s painting and apply my own interest,” he says in explaining his characters’ nondescript ethnicity. The exception is Jimmy Nickels, an Irish gangster. Still, they all have what Steinberg calls a Jewish “sensibility” in that they “rail against injustice.”

In bemoaning their fates, Mae, Quig and Sam question the Customer’s motivation. Like the character in the painting who keeps his back to the viewer, long thought to be a model for Hopper himself, the Customer is a painter, but he may have more in common with fiction writers in that he devotes much of his time to observing others while giving away little of himself.

The play deftly questions the nature of the relationship between painter and subject. The Customer grapples internally with whether or not he is responsible to people whose lives he has entered, perhaps even intruded upon.

Although the Customer rarely speaks, he influences everyone in the play, many of whom subconsciously emulate him. Nickels, the neighborhood wiseguy, keeps his back to us, just as the painter does. Clive, the young hustler, seems always to enter just as the Customer exits. Lucy, Mae’s niece and an aspiring dancer, echoes the painter in her one-word request, “Coffee.” And there is even the dead carcass, black-market meat that takes the Customer’s place on his favorite stool. Sam and Quig wrap it up, so that it will be mistaken for a drunk.

This doubling reminds us of the longstanding link between art and theater, which is particularly acute at a proscenium arch theater like the Kirk Douglas, where each scene can be framed like a painting. This is best illustrated in the so-called silent scene suggested in the script. Like a closed-window episode in an Ernst Lubitsch movie, the silent scene in the play freezes the principals in time as in a work of art. The silence is finally broken when, appropriately enough, the painter exclaims, “Coffee,” as if telling his models that they can take a break after hours of holding a pose.

The play concludes with what Steinberg calls “a Solomon story,” where one of the characters must choose which loved one to sacrifice. It is also a variation on an O. Henry ending, in that a good intention goes awry, but the result is far from benign.

Hopper, whose work inspired Hitchcock’s “Psycho” as well as the after-hours theme of Turner Classic Movies’ promotional spots, understood a life of compromise. As Quig says of Sam, who has endangered the group, but for whom he has a soft spot, “What other man but Sam knows the night like I do? Huh? What other man has cared to share a smoke, a laugh?”

“Nighthawks” has its world premiere on Sept. 6 and runs through Sept. 24 at the Kirk Douglas Theater, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City. For tickets and information, call (213) 628-2772.

Mommy, Me & Cheesecake Makes 3


OK, mom, so what part of eating that cheesecake is making you feel guilty?

If you fear that little bubbela is annoying the other customers in the bakery, your worries are over.

The Essential Chocolate Collection, a Culver City bakery, is for parents who want an alternative to dragging their babies to Starbucks for an afternoon pick-me-up amid unsympathetic non-parents. Here, moms can indulge while their babies can crawl and play — or make a fuss. It’s OK because Fridays from 1-3 p.m., in the bakery’s annex, are reserved for just this crowd.

“It’s nice to have a latte and not have someone glaring at you,” says event organizer Lara Sanders Fordis, who has an 11-month-old son. Her sister, shop owner Melissa Sanders, has added incentive to be welcoming: newcomers may get hooked on the goodies.

The free get-together (you do pay for drinks and dessert) is called Coffee, Mommy & Me, but it’s not really a Mommy & Me class. Still, the organizers do schedule “programs.” The recent schedule has included “Funtime with Nanny C,” a “Free Organic Baby Food Tasting” and “Mommy Chair Massages.” The Passover event on April 14 is pretty much all about food — featuring chocolate macaroons, chocolate-dipped fruit and other treats. (The ingredients are kosher, but not certified kosher for Passover.)

Participating moms said they appreciated a chance to get out of the house and relax. And it’s safe for baby: There are no sharp edges — especially on the chocolate.

The Essential Chocolate Collection, 10868 Washington Blvd., Culver City. For information on Coffee, Mommy & Me, call (310) 287-0699.

 

Don’t Get Plagued by Tricky Desserts


Many a great cook has been sent over the edge trying to produce some beautiful Passover baking. Any other time of the year their kitchens produce perfect pies, crunchy cookies and lovely cakes — but the Passover arrives and the kitchen becomes the enemy: cakes flop and the cookies crumble.
This year plan on easy desserts. After a huge meal (is there anybody out there that doesn’t have a huge seder meal?) why not serve coffee with some fresh fruit and an assortment of cookies.

Amoretti Cookies
2 egg whites
1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups ground almonds

Preheat oven to 300 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Using an electric mixer with a whip attachment beat the egg whites and salt until frothy. Add vanilla and continue beating on high.
As you beat the eggs, slowly add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time. Continue beating until the eggs are stiff and glossy.
With a spatula, fold in the almonds.
Use two spoons to drop heaping tablespoons of the mixture on the baking sheet.
Place in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, until lightly golden. Cool.

Makes 16-20 cookies.

Chocolate Macaroons
2 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa
2 cups coconut, shredded

Using an electric mixer, start beating the egg whites with the salt until frothy and very soft peaks form. Add the vanilla and continue beating on high.
Add the sugar one tablespoon at a time, continuing to beat until the eggs are glossy and stiff peaks form. Add the cocoa and beat until incorporated.
Add the coconut and fold in.
Use two spoons to drop batter on a parchment lined baking sheet (they should be heaping tablespoons). Leave the macaroons on the counter for at least 30 minutes before baking.
Place in a preheated 325 F oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until the macaroons are no longer glossy.
Remove from oven and cool.

Makes 18-20 cookies.

Pecan Cranberry Passover Biscotti
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups ground pecans
1 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder — (Passover)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon orange zest
1/4 cup potato starch
1 3/4 cups cake meal
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Use an electric mixer with a paddle attachment to combine the eggs, oil, vanilla, sugar, baking powder, salt and orange zest and mix on medium to combine well. (You can also use a wooden spoon and mix by hand.)
Turn the machine off and add the potato starch, cake meal and pecans. Turn the machine on low to combine and mix until all of the ingredients come together to form dough.
Add the cranberries and mix to evenly distribute throughout the dough.
Divide the dough in half and form into two logs, approximately 3 inches by 12 inches by 14 inches. If you find the dough too sticky, dust your hands with cake meal to work with the dough. Place the formed logs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and place into a preheated 350 F oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes. The biscotti will crack and loose the shine it had when it first went into the oven. Let cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 F.
Carefully slice the logs into pieces, about 3/4 inches each. Arrange on a cookie sheet so that there is space between each cookie and return to the oven.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until dry.
Makes 20-24 cookies.

 

Calendar


The Jewish Journal is no longer accepting mailed or

faxed event listing information. Please e-mail event listings at least three

weeks in advance to:
calendar@jewishjournal.com
.

By Keren Engelberg

Calendar

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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

68 Cent Crew and Theatre: 8 p.m. “The Knights of Mary Phagan” recounts the trial that tore Atlanta apart, caused a Ku Klux Klan resurgence and birthed the Anti-Defamation League. $20.

5419 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood. (323) 467-6688.

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LECTURES

Los Angeles Yiddish Culture Club: 2 p.m. Beba Leventhal on the life and work of Yiddish poet Mani Leib. $4. 8339 W. Third St., Los Angeles. (310) 454-3687.

Congregation Ner Tamid: 7:30 p.m. Marc Dollinger on “What do we owe Peter Stuyvesant?” for the founding of Jewish participation in American history from 1654 to the present. Free. 5721 Crestridge Road, Rancho Palos Verdes. (310) 328-1981.

University of Judaism Department of Continuing Education: 7:30 p.m. “Reforming Islam From Within: Two Passionate Muslim Thinkers Speak on Needed Changes.” $25. 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel Air. (310) 440-1246.

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

University of Judaism: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Opening of “Hued and Hewn” painting and sculpture exhibit, with artist reception from 3-5 p.m.15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel Air. (310) 476-9777, ext. 201.

Temple Menorah: 11 a.m. A tour of the Einstein exhibit at the Skirball with luxury bus transportation and lunch. $21-$31. 1101 Camino Real, Redondo Beach. (310) 316-8444.

Nimoy Concert Series: 3 p.m. Envision Chamber Consort honoring 350 years of Jews in America, Felix Mendelssohn, Andre Previn, David Lefkowitz and others. Temple Israel of Hollywood, 7300 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. (213) 805-4261.

Valley Beth Shalom: 7 p.m. “Tradition – Music From the Heart,” an evening of music with world renowned cantors. $30-$50. 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 530-4091.

Yuval Ron Music: 7 p.m. “Sacred Soul II – An Interfaith Sacred Music Concert Celebrating the Spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.” with musical traditions of Judaism, Sufism, the Christian Armenian Church and African American spirituals and gospel. $15. Wilshire Methodist Church, 4350 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (818) 505-1355.

Kosher Komedy: 7:30 p.m. Ayelet the Kosher Komic on shidduchim, airlines, Pesach and more, confined to the rules of Jewish halacha. $18. Irvine residence. (949) 551-3998. Also, Feb. 23, 8:30 p.m. for women only. $15, at AISH L.A., 9100 W. Pico Blvd. www.aishla.com.

West Valley Educational Association: Comedy night and benefit auction at the Madrid Theatre featuring Willie Tyler and Lester and Jim Lavoe of Three Dog Night. 21622 Sherman Way, Canoga Park. (818) 348-3000.

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CLASSES

West Valley JCC: 8-11 p.m. Israeli folk dancing with James Zimmer. $5-$7. 22622 Vanowen St., West Hills. (310) 284-3638.

CLASSES

West Valley JCC: 8-11 p.m. Israeli folk dancing with James Zimmer. $5-$7. 22622 Vanowen St., West Hills. (310) 284-3638.

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ARTS &
ENTERTAINMENT

Workmen’s Circle: 2-8 p.m. Have your portrait sketched by master artist Vadim Zang. Appointments are scheduled for every half-hour. $30. 1525 Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (310) 552-2007.

EVENTS

East Valley Multipurpose Senior Center: 1-2 p.m. Yiddish Club with conversation, music, storytelling and films. All levels and abilities welcome. $2 donation. 5000 Colfax Ave., North Hollywood. (818) 766-5165.

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LECTURES

Women’s League for Conservative Judaism: 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Torah Fund Study Day on “Women and the Rabbinate.” $25 (with a $36 contribution to the Torah Fund Campaign). University of Judaism, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel Air. (310) 476-5359.

SHABBAT

Temple Adat Elohim: 6 p.m. Buffet-style Shabbat dinner followed by services at 7:30 p.m. for the deaf community. $12 (must be mailed in advance to 2420 E. Hillcrest Drive, Thousand Oaks, CA 91362).
(805) 497-7101.

Upcoming:

FEBRUARY 26

EVENTS

Bnei Akiva: 4:15 p.m. Snif Shuchot at Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy. Walking groups from circle park at 3:45 p.m. Pick up from Beth Jacob on Motzei Shabbat. (310) 248-2450.

Singles

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Singles Helping Others: 9 a.m.-
1 p.m. or noon-4 p.m. or all day. Help with registration, raffle, set-up, etc. at Olive Crest Rock ‘N’ Bowl to benefit children in foster care. Pinz,
12655 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. (818) 345-8802.

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Harbor Jewish Singles (55+): “The Little Foxes,” about a ruthless beauty whose ambition spelled doom for three men. Dinner to follow at a local restaurant. Newport Theater, 2501 Cliff Drive, Newport Beach. (949) 631-0288.

Between Dates (35+): 6-8 p.m. Come out and shoot, play or hustle, however you do pool. No skill required. $12. Valley area. R.S.V.P. for more information, (818) 587-4643.

Singles Helping Others: 8 a.m.-noon. Volunteer for Project Chicken Soup. Help prepare meals in a commercial kitchen for those living with AIDS. 338 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles. (818) 343-4722.

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Coffee Talk (30s and 40s): 8:15 p.m. Weekly discussion group. $7. 9911 W. Pico Blvd., Suite 102, Los Angeles.
(310) 552-4595, ext. 27.

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Westwood Jewish Singles (45+):

7:30 p.m. “Emotional Differences Between Men and Women,” discussion with therapist Maxine Gellar. $10. West Los Angeles. (310) 444-8986.

Jewish Learning Exchange: 7:45 p.m. “Why Being Single Happens to Good People” with Dr. Lisa Aiken. 7223 Beverly Blvd., Suite 201, Los Angeles. (323) 857-0923.

L.A.’s Fabulous Best Connections: Chinese Food at Shanghai Diamond Garden. 9401 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (323) 782-0435.

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Wilshire Boulevard Temple: 7:30 p.m.-midnight. David Dassa’s weekly dance lessons, beginner at 7:30 p.m., regular class at 8 p.m. and open dancing from 9:15 p.m. on. $7. 2112 S. Barrington Ave., Los Angeles. ddassa@att.net.

Dinner With Friends (30-45): Gourmet cooking class at the Culinary Classroom in West Los Angeles. www.dinnerwithfriends.com.

Helkeinu (20-40): 9 p.m. Weekly lecture series on self-improvement. Free. (310) 785-0440. events@helkeinu.com.

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Sunshine Seniors Club: 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Weekly meeting. Valley Jewish Community Center, 13164 Burbank Blvd., Sherman Oaks. (818) 764-4532.

American Civil Liberties Union: 7:30 p.m. “Current Threats to the Separation of Church and State” with Harry Schwartzbart. Free. Westside Pavilion, third floor, 10800 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 392-7149.

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Adat Shalom: 7 p.m. Cafe Adat Shalom new program for young professionals, with erev Shabbat musical service, wine and cheese reception and musical accompaniment. 3030 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 475-4985.

Ethiopian American Culture Center: 9:30 p.m. Weekly klezmer night. $5. 5819 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 857-6661.

Chai Center (21-36): Dinner for 60 Strangers. www.chaicenter.org/ shabbat_dinner_rsvp.htm

Jewish Singles, Meet! (30s-40s): Reservation deadline for a Feb. 26 gathering at Little Rock in Tarzana. Pool, darts, drinks and live music in a casual atmosphere. No cover. (818) 750-0095.

Upcoming

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J-Ski (20s-40s): Taos ski trip. $689. Also, March 18-20, Mammoth ski trip. $185. (818) 342-9508. JskiLa@aol.com.

Jewish Movies Head South

‘Tis the season of film fests, and this week Orange County Jews do their part with the Pacific Jewish Film Festival. Sunday kicks it off with an afternoon screening of “Columbia: The Tragic Loss,” about the 2003 space shuttle disaster, followed by an evening showing of director Eytan Fox’s “Walk on Water.” Other documentaries, features and shorts from Israel and elsewhere will screen through Sat., Feb. 26, including the 2003 film “Nina’s Tragedies,” which won 11 Israeli Academy Awards, and “My 100 Children,” which won the Jerusalem International Film Festival Jewish Experience Award.

Isidore C. and Penny W. Myers Theater, One Federation Way, Irvine. (949) 435-3400.

Where the End Justifies the Beans


Businessman Allen Gochnour is a regular at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf on La Cienega Boulevard, and like many of the people who wait in the line that often stretches out the door, he’s not just there to grab a cup of java and run. Instead, the transplanted Pittsburgher hangs out to kibitz with the people behind the counter, who affectionately call him "customer of the year," answer the trivia question of the day and sip his Ultimate Ice Blended — a blended frozen slush of sweet milky coffee, before he continues with his day.

"This is what the world was intended for," said Gochnour, as he licks the whipped cream off his drink. "Kosher food, kosher coffee, a great place to sit down — Pittsburgh doesn’t have anything like this."

In fact, few cities do. In the battle of the bean, where chain stores like Starbucks and Peets compete to serve the strongest espressos and the frothiest cappuccinos to the hoards of caffeine addicts, Coffee Bean has distinguished itself — for the Jewish community at least — by its commitment to kashrut. Every drink, muffin, salad or sandwich is kosher.

Now, Coffee Bean is taking its relationship with the Jewish community one step further. In keeping with the company’s credo of opening community-friendly stores, the newest Coffee Bean store, in the heart of the Fairfax district, will be closed on Shabbat and will serve chalav yisrael milk (milk that has been supervised by a Jew) and pastries, to appeal to the ultra-Orthodox segment of the community.

Herbert Hyman opened the first Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in Brentwood in 1963, which sold — coffee beans and tea leaves. Later on, as customers became more interested in the products, Hyman set up a beverage-sampling bar, and later on started serving a full line of beverages.

Hyman started opening more stores, and in the 1980s there were about eight Coffee Bean stores in Los Angeles. But it wasn’t until one Coffee Bean employee threw some coffee and ice into a blender in the mid 1980s that the store really started to become popular.

"That drink was responsible for the worldwide frappe craze," said Melvin Elias, Coffee Bean’s COO. "That is when the growth machine started. The Ice Blendeds became very popular and it made the [store] units profitable. It was an innovative drink, and it took a long time for an established player like Starbucks to realize that we were onto something."

By the late 1990s, there were 60 Coffee Bean stores, and Hyman sold the business to Debbie and Sonny Sassoon — Los Angeles-based Orthodox Jews. The Sassoons decided to invest in the brand on a more macro scale to set it up for more accelerated expansion. Now there are 240 Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf stores in California, Arizona, Nevada and in 10 different Asian and Middle Eastern countries. About a year after buying the business, the Sassoons also decided to make the products kosher.

Many in the community speculate that the Sassoons went kosher because they didn’t want to be responsible for Jews going into the stores and eating non-kosher products, although the Sassoons would only say it’s good for business.

"The market for kosher is growing tremendously," said Debbie Sassoon, who researches and develops the new drinks for the company. "Less than 50 percent of consumers for kosher products are Orthodox Jews. It’s because the kosher stamp means more supervision — a good housekeeping seal of approval, and [people think] that kosher is cleaner and purer. Also being that Los Angeles is the second-largest Jewish community in America, we thought that there would be a benefit to having kosher certification for our products."

However, experts disagree that selling kosher products has wider business benefits.

"I don’t think non-Jews think that kosher means healthier. I don’t think anyone really has a clue what it means," said Hal Sieling of Hal Sieling and Associates, a marketing company for the restaurant business. "There are obviously people who really care about kosher — but they are not gentiles."

Sieling thinks that the coffee craze has yet to reach its peak — he estimates that designer coffee drinking will continue to be popular until about 2010, and that Starbucks, a business with $4 billion in revenues and 7,000 stores (250 in Los Angeles), will carry on dominating the coffee store market, providing Coffee Bean with the staunchest competition.

"Starbucks is the biggest player by a long shot," Sieling said. "Nobody else is close."

Coffee Bean currently makes more than $100 million in sales, and while they are expanding into new neighborhoods, they say they are not interested in giving Starbucks a run for their money nationally.

"We have no plans to be No. 2; no plans to expand to the East Coast, although it might be a possibility since we have hundreds of customers that want us to do that," Elias said. "We focus mostly on the Southern California core market, and will continue to do so. We are born and brewed in California — that is our home."

The Beverly and Alta Vista Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf will have its grand opening on Nov. 2, from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., at 7235 Beverly Blvd.

Sweet Memories of Broken Matzah


My great-grandmother, Gouda, escaped Germany by boat at
night when she was in her 60s. My grandfather, Opa, fled with her and his wife
and two small children when he was 42. Both lived long, energetic, brave lives
in their adopted country: she, chasing her great grandchildren around in a
playful hide-and-seek when she was 95 years old; he, establishing a synagogue
in the Bronx after abandoning one in Grebenaou, Germany. Both also had
elaborate Passover breakfast rituals involving broken pieces of matzah.

“Gouda lined her half-full coffee cup, with thin strips of
matzah,” my mother told me. Then, in the order they went in, she lifted each
piece out, sprinkled it with sugar and ate it.

“She had to work quickly, otherwise the matzah would become
too soft and drop off,” my mother said, “and when I was a young girl, I
watched, waiting to see if even one would break.”

When I was young, I watched Opa gather the small, leftover
pieces of matzah, and pour them in his half-full coffee cup.

“Nothing should go to waste,” he would say. Then he took one
big piece of matzah in his hands and crumbled it over the cup until it was
filled to the brim. When he was satisfied with the matzah-to-coffee ratio, he
pushed down with a big spoon, crunching the pieces closer and closer together,
allowing the warm coffee to soak through. Then he waited, for a minute or two,
before he carefully placed the saucer over the cup. Flipped. Jiggled. Lifted.
Voila! A matzah mountain.

With a small silver spoon, he sprinkled a layer of sugar,
like new snow, over his mountain and, working gently from the top down,Â
spoonful by spoonful in silence, he ate until the mountain was gone. According
to “The Jewish Holidays, A Guide and Commentary” by Michael Strassfeld
(HarperCollins Publishers, 1985), matzah symbolizes freedom. But broken matzah,
an integral part of the Passover seder, symbolizes the struggle for freedom and
the reality that no one is totally free.

So maybe it is no coincidence that my biggest moves to new
cities happened around Passover. And that the foods from those first seders
stand out for me, some dry and strange, some smooth and magically sweet.

When my daughter was 2, we left our home in Atlanta, Ga.,
for a fresh start in Portland, Ore. In Atlanta, we lived in a ranch house,
within easy driving distance of five brothers and sisters, their spouses and
children, my parents and a thick group of old and new friends. In Portland, I
rented an apartment about 20 minutes away from one college friend, and his dog.

The emptiness was palpable as was the excitement in
arranging our furniture in a new place that overlooked a park with an orange
climbing gym and a swimming pool surrounded by plump bushes and flowering
trees.

But when the holidays rolled around, I wondered who would
share our table. Our liberated family of two felt small. According to
Strassfeld, the core meaning of Passover is the liberation of the Israelites
from Egyptian slavery, but it is also referred to as the “Holiday of Spring.”

“The watchwords of both spring and Pesach are rebirth and
hope,” Strassfeld says.

And I clung to both ends of that spectrum.

Eventually, I found a cozy Jewish preschool for my daughter
to attend, and we met some new people and got invited to a big family seder.
The faces were new as was the relentless black rain filling the windows, but
the food was warm and plentiful; matzah ball soup, brisket, matzah kugels,
warmed fruits and more I can’t remember.

But what I can never forget is the dessert. A cousin of the
host bought a plastic sandwich bag full of broken matzah pieces half-covered in
a chunky chocolate coating. I was stuffed from the long meal, but with my last
sip of wine, I took a bite of the sweetened matzah. Magic! The chocolate
covered a buttery toffee layer in between, and it tasted like a gift. I got up
from the table and joined the group of woman at the kitchen counter eating
straight from the bag. We all agreed it was dangerously good. We laughed. We
ate more. After a while, I looked over my shoulder. My daughter was playing on
the floor with a new friend. I looked out the window; the rains no longer
seemed as dark. With each chocolate bite, my move far away from home lost some
of its bitterness. And I learned what Gouda and Opa surely understood, that
magic can be made from broken pieces, sweetened just right.

Chocolate Toffee Matzah

This is a very adaptable recipe. The quantity of the
ingredients depends on how much chocolate and butter you want covering the
matzah. My daughter and I make it every year, and she covers the pieces with
indulgent quantities of chocolate, both milk and semi-sweet. But we always
leave part of the matzah uncovered for ease of handling and visual variety.

1 cup butter

1 cup brown sugar

1 box matzah

3 cups chocolate (semisweet morsels, dark or milk chocolate
bars chopped with serrated knife, or any other chocolate you like)

Chopped nuts (optional)

Line two cookie sheets with foil. Arrange matzah, broken in
half, on lined cookie sheets (some overlapping is fine). Melt butter and sugar
in a saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. Pour over matzah parts and
spread with spatula. (It will not cover completely, which is fine, but you can
alter to taste.)

Sprinkle chocolate morsels, chocolate shavings over matzah.

Bake in oven at 300 F, approximately 5-10 minutes, or until
chocolate melts. (Hint, the morsels may not look melted but take out and spread
with spatula or knife to test. Bake a few more minutes if still solid.)

Remove from oven, spread chocolate over matzah while still
warm. Sprinkle with nuts (optional). Put trays, uncovered, in freezer until
hardened. About two hours. Break matzah in smaller, uneven pieces and store in
sealed bags in freezer until you are ready to eat.

Betty Goodfriend’s Matzah Kugel

This recipe is an adaptation of Betty Goodfriend’s wondrous
lokshen (noodle) kugel. If you ever tasted her noodle kugel, you wouldn’t
hesitate to create this Passover version.

6-8 tablespoons margarine (approximately 1 stick)Â Â Â Â Â Â

2¼3 cup dark brown sugar           Â

4 large eggs                  Â

1¼3 cup Sabra liqueur              Â

1¼2 cup pineapple juice(from can)           Â

8 Matzahs, broken in 1 1¼2 inch

 by 2 inch pieces   Â

1¼2 cup white sugar

1¼3 cup vegetable oil plus 2 tablespoons

1¼2 cup raisins

1 teaspoon cinnamon (to taste)

Topping (optional)

1 can pineapple slices or chunks

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Chopped walnuts or almond slivers (optional)

Margarine

Melt margarine and pour into 9 x 13 glass pan. Make sure all
sides are greased. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over bottom. Arrange pineapple
slices in a layer.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Put broken matzah pieces (not too small or they will become
mushy) in medium bowl and pour warm water over to soften. Soak approximately
3-4 minutes. Drain. Squeeze out liquid completely. Put raisins in small bowl
and pour hot water over to plump. Drain.

In large bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, oil, pineapple juice and
liqueur together. Add cinnamon. With wooden spoon mix in matzah and raisins
into egg mixture. (At this point, Mrs. Goodfriend said to taste for salt, and
add if needed).

Pour matzah mixture over pineapples in baking pan.

Topping

Mix sugar, cinnamon, and nuts together and sprinkle over
noodles. (Dot with extra margarine if desired.)

Bake for one hour. Test at 45 minutes to see if bottom is
dark. If so, move pan to higher rack in oven and bake 15 minutes longer.

Obst und Gloessien (Fruit and Dumplings)

This traditional German recipe belonged to my grandmother
(Oma) who passed it down to my mother. Both made it every year for Passover.
When it was my turn to break the hard matzah, forming something round and soft,
creating the steaming fragrance of warmed fruits, then, at last, tasting the
cinnamon sweet dumplings, my own kitchen filled with the richness of time.

4 matzahs crushed or 3 cups matzah farfel

2 tablespoons matzah meal (heaping)

3 eggs

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1¼2 lemon, juiced

12 ounce package mixed dried fruit

Pinch salt

Pinch cinnamon

In medium bowl, soak matzah in warm water until soft. Drain
and squeeze out liquid. (It is important to drain well, as dumplings will not
hold with too much moisture.)

In small bowl soak fruit in lemon juice.

In medium pan, sauté matzah in vegetable oil. Set aside.

Put fruit in large pot and add water to cover well above
fruit. Simmer covered for 30 minutes.

In large bowl, mix beaten eggs, matzah meal, sugar, salt,
cinnamon. Add matzah. Mix until moist enough hold together. Form into
matzah-ball size dumplings. Set aside.

Bring fruit to a slow boil and add dumplings. Add more water
if necessary. Simmer covered for 30 minutes. Test with knife, dumplings should
be cooked through and not soggy in the center. Serve warm. Â