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Thursday, December 24, 2015


A Word From the Weiss


At In-N-Out Burger with JP and Allegra.JPG

       After regaling you with my adventures at Kosherfest when last we met, about the last thing I should probably do now is post a photo of myself about to inhale a double cheeseburger (and wash it down with a milkshake, no less). But we spent last week in Los Angeles, and when in LA you must do as the LA-ans do – eat at In-N-Out Burger (a popular fast-food chain like McDonald’s, only better).

Shaking it up at In-N-Out Burger.JPG

      Please forgive me if that offends your own food choices or religious sensibilities. But sue me, sue me, what can you do me? I’ve never claimed to keep kosher.

       It was more than a little disconcerting, I must admit, to be away from home for more than half of Hanukkah (although I did manage to transport a rather sizable menorah in my suitcase, which may or may not have set off a host of metal detectors).

I stashed a menorah in my suitcase.jpg

       Then again, there was also a rather sizable upside to being away in December: In balmy LA, amid the palm trees in place of pine trees, it looks a helluva lot less like Christmas!

It's NOT beginning to look a lot like Christmas in LA.jpg

       Given that I was just gone for over a week and am still grappling with major-league jet-lag, I’m going to try to keep it short this week and just share a few highlights of our trip.

       Here are my LA stories. (Fa la la la la la la LA!)

       We went out to see our Cousin Stephanie get married. We were thrilled that she and her boyfriend Josh were getting hitched, and ecstatic to be a part of the festivities. My daughter, in fact, was slated to play an integral role, as one of the chosen people.

The happy couple.jpg

      A bridesmaid, that is.

     My husband and I were also honored to have been asked to take part by participating in the motzi, the prayer over the bread. Although I suggested that our daughter, Allegra, being a professional jazz vocalist, sing the blessing solo, Stephanie wanted the two of us to also come forward and gather around the challah, along with many other relatives, and then explain its meaning afterwards. Although this would be a traditional Jewish wedding, complete with a rabbi, chupahhora, and the works, the groom and his family were not Jewish. Cousin Stephanie wanted us to provide some insights into our age-old rituals for them.


       The meaning of the motzi, though? In all the years I had been reciting it, or hearing others do it – my whole life, that is – I had never once given any thought to its meaning. It was the prayer that we Jews say over the challah before we eat. Nuff said. Let’s eat!

       But far be it from me to deny any request from a bride, let alone Cousin Stephanie. I assured her that we would do as she’d asked.

       Then I got distracted with Thanksgiving, then Chanukah, then packing for the trip and never prepared any remarks.

      Allegra was distracted herself, given the hectic-ness of this time of year. So she never got around to getting her bridesmaid dress altered to fit. At Thanksgiving, just before she returned to the city after spending the holiday with us in Connecticut, she asked me to take her to see Krystynalocal tailor my husband swears by.

The bridesmaid dress was too long.JPG

       To our dismay, we discovered that Krystyna was taking the holiday weekend off. But a nearby boutique suggested another seamstress down the street.

       The moment I saw the words “European Tailoring” above the door, I knew that this would be no bargain. Yet I was still not prepared for what the officious proprietor, speaking in a thick-as-schlag but indeterminate European accent, would demand.

European tailor shop.jpg

       “To shorten zat dress, 125 dollars,” she said flatly, after keeping us waiting for 20 minutes. “Another 25 to shorten ze straps.”

       Why so much for mere hem? There were three layers of fabric, the woman said, the outermost of which featured accordion pleats. It wasn’t just a hem. It was a Himalaya-sized project.

       Between the price of the dress and rush shipping, Allegra had already shelled out nearly $250 for this garment – a garment, I might add, that she most likely would wear only once. I was reluctant to let her invest another penny, let alone $150 more.

       One solution would be to just wear spiky stilettos, but that was not an option. According to the wedding invitation, the venue had requested that guests eschew heels of any height.

       I may be no seamstress, but I could sew well enough to shorten the straps by hand, I said. As for the length, Allegra decided to buy a pair of wedge-style shoes. They would add height, but not puncture the grounds during the outdoor ceremony and cocktail hour.

       That is not to say her problems with the gown were over. The night before we left, Allegra phoned in a bit of a frenzy. “Are you bringing along a garment bag?” she asked. “This mother of a dress won’t fit into my suitcase.”

I was also going to wear a dress with pleats.jpg

       I realized at that moment that I was also planning to wear a mother of a dress, with voluminous pleats of its own. I instantly agreed to carry an extra bag in which I would transport both dresses, as well as my husband’s suit and that of Allegra’s boyfriend JP.

       When I went to check in for our flight online, however, I learned that the airline, Delta, charged $25 for each passenger’s first bag, but a hefty $35 for each additional bag. That meant wed be shelling out $70 to carry our dresses roundtrip, and $270 for our baggage in all.


      Scouting around on Delta’s website, I discovered one potential way around this. Delta offered three different credit cards that allowed you to carry your bags on for free.

       Unfortunately, these benefits did not come free.

       Their Platinum Delta Skymiles Business Card required an annual fee of $195.

       The Delta Reserve for Business Skymiles Card carried an annual fee of $450.

Delta Gold American Express Skymiles card.jpg

      However, the Gold Delta Skymiles card had an annual fee of only $95, and it was free for the first year. It would allow me to check the first bag free for up to eight people in my party in each directionThat would save me a whopping $200. And perhaps I could cancel it before the first year was up and never pay the $95 fee at all.

       To my delight, I was able to apply online and be instantly approved, allowing me to use the Gold card right away to check in our first bags free online.

       We got an additional bang for our buck by managing to attend not just one but two very special simchas while we were traveling out West.

Kristin invited us to her party.jpg

       A few weeks before we’d left, we had been delighted to receive a birthday party invitation from our dear friend Kristin, a lovely young woman and gifted photographer.

Kristin's dad, my husband's college friend.jpg

       Kristin is the daughter of one of my husband’s closest friends from college. We had been shocked to learn that her father, Chris, had suddenly died about four years ago. As tragic as this sad news was, it had prompted us to renew our acquaintance with Kristin, with whom we had continued corresponding ever since. But we hadn’t managed to actually see her in decades, since she was 13, because she lives out in LA.

       Her party turned out to be slated for the day between the rehearsal dinner and the wedding, so we would be able to attend.

       Even so, wondered if we would get to spend more than a few fleeting moments with her. She presumably had countless friends attending and would be busy with them. I also must confess that I wondered if she had expected in a million years that we might actually accept. (Oh, c’mon, don’t tell me I’m the only person on earth who sometimes invites people only because I feel obligated to and am all but certain they won’t accept.)        

      Yet never mind what I figured in this case. Because boy, did I figure this one wrong!

Kristin's birthday party table.JPG

      We really couldn’t wait to see Kristin after all these years, and it was evident from the moment that we arrived that the feeling was completely mutual. She embraced us exuberantly, as though we were long-lost family. And although I turned out to be right about the countless friends, when everyone was asked to find their place cards for the sit-down lunch, we learned that we’d been seated right beside the birthday girl herself!

       She proceeded to make welcoming remarks in which she introduced us to those assembled as the guests of honor, then explained how much our presence meant to her.

My husband was a Jewish John Lennon.JPG

       As she put it, her parents had been married at her grandparents country club in upstate New York – a rather stuffy and proper institution, by her account – and my husband, who had always been something of a hippie-dippie free spirit (once dubbed by friends "the Jewish John Lennon"), had chosen to flout the ultra-preppie dress code there by showing up in neon orange corduroy pants.

He wore orange pants to the wedding.jpg

      Of course Kristin had not been present for this event, which took place in the late 60s. But she had seen pictures of it and had grown up always believing that my husband was “too cool for school,” a form of praise which she still evidently assumed to be true.

       I could only hope that I qualified as similarly “too cool for school” by association.

       But if you really want to talk about cool, let me tell you what we did after lunch.

The Carpool de Ville.jpg

       Kristin’s boyfriend Phil and his friend Duncan, who met in 1997 as engineering students in Canada, had fashioned a 1969 vintage flamingo-pink Cadillac into a fully functioning hot tub. The Carpool de Ville, as this nifty tub is dubbed, was parked right on the premises, and after birthday cake had been served everyone was free to take a dip.

Kristin and Phil with her birthday cake.JPG

       Due to the unseasonably frigid weather that dominated our stay, many other guests had neglected to pack their swimsuits. But we had come fully prepared and didn’t hesitate for a second to jump on this rare and irresistible opportunity by jumping right in.

Livin' la vida Carpool de Ville.jpg

       Whether or not I was too cool for school, or merely lukewarm, the water was so mild and toasty at 105 degrees that I had to hoist myself up on the back of the vehicle periodically to cool off. 

With Kristin at her party.jpg

        Lolling in the tub for the rest of the afternoon, we managed to catch up with Kristin beyond anything we would have dreamed. But we still chose to rejoin her and Phil two nights later for even more fun, and so they could finally meet Allegra and JP.

       This led to what I can only assume was another prototypically LA experience.

JP and Allegra have the same birthday.JPG

       We were eager to make this a particularly special night because we would now be observing two additional birthdays. Allegra and JP happened to have been born on the same day in mid-December, and we wanted to celebrate with them early before they left the next day to spend the occasion with JP’s family in Sydney, Australia.

The legendary Chateau Marmont hotel.jpg

        So on Kristin’s expert recommendation, we visited two more quintessential LA hangoutsthe Chateau Marmont for drinks, followed by dinner at a trendy restaurant called Alma.

       If my husband is too cool for school, then the Chateau Marmont is by comparison the North Pole. This legendary hotel, where actor John Belushi met his tragic end, is Hollywood hot spot frequented by celebrities and others of the rich and famous persuasion. As we slid past the palm trees in its chic cocktail lounge, I felt as though we had wandered onto a post-modern version

Bar Marmont.jpg

 of the movie set for CasablancaWho cared that the cocktails cost $20 apiece? Just getting to be part of that scene was well worth the price of admission.

      The prices for dinner at Alma, though, gave me a little more pause, I must admit. The menu, which we had checked online, appeared to be within the realm of reasonable for a special meal. But when we arrived at this surprisingly spare and low-key eatery inside

Alma in The Standard, Hollywood.jpg

 The Standard, a sleek and artsy hotel, we learned that we had been mistaken.

       As the waitress hurried to explain, all of the items among its eclectic fare, whether listed as first coursesecond course, desserts, or “snacks,” were small dishes meant to be shared. And in order to have enough to eat, we’d each have to eat several of them.

At Alma with JP, Allegra, Kristin and Phil.jpg

      And never mind trying to fill up on bread. Even that came at a price ($7 per order, which turned out to consist of three modest slices with a pat of their “pro-biotic butter).

     One intriguing “snack” we chose to start off with was listed as “english muffins, uniburrata and caviar.” I knew from my love of sushi that uni are sea urchin eggs. What I did not know was that the three “English muffins” on each plate would barely have the diameter of a half-dollar. We savored two orders of these bite-sized hors d’oeuvres for $15 apiece.

A snack at the Alma -- not lox, uni!.jpg


      On the waitress’s impassioned recommendation, we also ordered two plates of the roasted carrots and maitake mushrooms with macadamia nut and dandelion salsa ($17 each), as well as a pair each of the little gem salads” with pear, malt and hazelnuts ($9), the marinated leeks with goat cheese, chicory, crispy shallots and persimmon ($11), and the grilled sea bass with exotic spices, satsuma oranges, and celery root ($29).

The sea bass entree at Alma.jpg

     We decided to make do with only one serving of the dry aged New York steak with sunchokes, pickled chanterellesand Béarnaise ($32), as well as only one frozen duck liver with smoked maple, coffee granola, and carrots ($16) because not everyone was willing to try this odd treat, which tasted like pellets of liver-flavored ice cream topped with just a bit of java crunch.

Frozen duck liver at Alma.jpg

      Each item that arrived at the table, however elegantly arranged, was so modest a portion that we could each have only a few meager forkfuls, if that. Sas lively and hilarious a time as we were having, I found myself secretly contemplating two things.

      One, this meal, however special and historic, was going to cost us a small fortune.

      And two, we might continue to order every darn item on the menu, but no matter how many plates we ordered, we would never reach the point of actually feeling full.

    But once again I had figured dead wrong. For suddenly two things happened to render both of the assumptions above obsolete.

Mel's Drive-in in Hollywood.JPG

     One, someone came up with the brilliant idea to give up our hopeless quest for satiety and go to yet a third quintessential LA hotspot, Mel’s Drive-in, for hot fudge sundaes.

      And two, after everyone had readily agreed upon No. 1 and I asked for the check, the waitress informed me that it had already been paid.


Mel's Drive-in sundae.JPG

       Apparently, when JP had excused himself moments earlier, it had not been to visit the restroombut to stealthily preempt us from treating everyone by paying the tab himself.

       He had pulled this trick once before, last year, when we had tried to take him and Allegra out to a posh Japanese restaurant in New York. So maybe I should have known.

       Known what a sneak he can be, I mean. As well as an absurdly generous mensch.

       Now I was even more upset about the astronomical price of the meal. But there was nothing I could do.

The birthday boy and girls at Mel's Drive-in.JPG

       Nothing but join everyone for giant sundaes at Mel’s Drive-in. Everyone who was celebrating a birthday got to blow out a candle on a sundae, piece of pie a la mode, or ice cream dessert of his or her choice.

      I don’t know what they wished for, but I am happy to report that I got my wish. That is to say, I am fairly confident that by the time we were done, everyone was finally full.

       Full la la la la la la la LA!

       But this all happened on Monday night, and so I am getting ahead of myself. Because this LA story would not be complete if I didn’t tell you about the wedding. 

       Next week: The wedding.    

7:01 pm 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015


A Word From the Weiss



Kosherfest Me with bag of meatballs.JPG

     As you may recall, I was away recently attending what I billed as two exciting and exclusive events. Last week – OK, thanks to Thanksgiving, it was actually two weeks ago – I told you about the first event. Now that all the turkey and resultant L-Tryptophan food buzz are gone at last, I’m finally getting around to spilling the beans about the second.

Pure Genius brownies are full of beans.jpg

       Actually, there were no beans involved, unless you are counting some phenomenal new brownies and blondies – without a doubt, the best vegan dessert I have ever tasted – from a company called Pure Genius, which were made from 40 percent chickpeasBut there was just about every other form of food known to man. Make that kosher food known to manI’ll get back to those brownies soon enough. First, allow me to set the scene.

Kosherfest 2015 in the Meadowlandsw Expo Center.jpg

       This second event that I attended was very exciting. Also exclusive. New, though? Not so much. Not to me, anyway. I had been to Kosherfest, the world’s largest kosher trade show, held at the Meadowlands in Secaucus, NJ, and lived to write about it before. Three times, in fact.

       My daughter, however, had not.

       I worried that their press office might find it a tad suspicious that the photographer I proposed to bring along was young enough to be my daughter mostly because she was my daughter. Hence, she had the same last name as mine. But I needn’t have worried. Her application was readily accepted, no if, ands or (excuse the expression) butts about it. And so our adventure in eating and drinking – much too much, I might add – began.

Kosherfest means samples of all things kosher.jpg

       I didn’t invite Allegra along to this illustrious event, which is only open to members of the trade and the press, just so she could join me in indulging in everything from rugelach, cheesecake, and chocolate babke to kosher wine, liqueurs, and Belgian beer. I invited her along because after three years I was tired of settling for taking selfies of myself tasting all of these delicacies and more.

      Never mind that she purported to be strictly on what we are affectionately calling The Wedding Diet (a rather restrictive nearly carb- and sugar-free food plan that we are all supposed to be following in preparation for my son Aidan’s wedding next summer). If she was going to allow herself a respite from that austere regimen, this was the place to go.

Allegra dressed

      If she was going to go to this place, however, I instructed her to make sure to dress in a conservative manner commonly referred to by Jews as “frum” (Yiddish for “pious”). Not that she doesn’t always look nice, but you know. And I would say that she obliged.

       As you may recall from my past write-ups, I don’t go to this event as an idle observer. For the past two years, I have made it my business to not only taste as many products on display as possible – many of which are given awards by the official judges at Kosherfest – but talso present an award of my own. I’m referring to the Nice Jewish Mom Spiel of Approval, a certificate which exuberantly declares, “I tried it! I liked it!”

The Nice Jewish Mom Spiel of Approval.jpg

       Within moments of arriving at the mammoth Meadowlands Expo Center, which was teeming with more than 6,000 attendees and boasted over 325 exhibitors, I began sampling countless items, and liking most of them a lot. Yet I soon realized that, rather than having my daughter capture my rapture, the far better photo ops involved snapping her doing her own trying and liking instead

      Wedding diet be damned.

      The first things that caught our fancy were the Classic Meatballs from Aaron’s Best and Shor Habor, based in Brooklyn. I couldn’t quite decide if these would remain in my memory as among the most delicious things I would taste that day because they were hot, juicy, and absolutely scrumptious, or simply because they were the first things I would taste that day, and by the time I sampled almost everything else I was full and bursting at the seams.

Allegra loved the mini hot dogs.JPG

       “Those are delicious!” concurred Allegra after downing one of these moist and meaty chicken and beef orbs, which are sold frozen and all ready to heat and eat. “I would definitely serve them.” Whereupon I forked over my very first Spiel of Approval of the day.

Berger of Aaron's Best with my Spiel.JPG

       Zev Berger, who is in charge of the firm’s national sales, winced, however, when Allegra proceeded to down one of their miniature hot dogs and declare that she would be inclined to make them into “pigs ‘n’ blankets” hors d’oeuvres for her Chanukah party. 

       “Pigs ‘n’ blankets?” he echoed, aghast. “We don’t like to use that terminology.” The term “franks and blankets” was far more kosher, and therefore far more palatable.

       The laws of kashrut strictly forbid eating meat and dairy together, or even in close succession. So it felt like an ethical dilemma when moments later we found ourselves unable to resist the wares at the Elegant Desserts booth, including a 15-inch chocolate log cake, a creamy praline crunch dessert, and silky gelato available in flavors including Napoleon (with pieces of napoleon pastries mixed in) and my all-time favorite, hazelnut.

Kosherfest Elegant Desserts parve gelato.JPG

       So it was a relief to be assured by Tova Weisz of Elegant Desserts that we had not committed any gustatory shonda (Yiddish for "something shameful").

Tova Weisz of Elegant Desserts with my Spiel.JPG

       “Everything is parve, only parve,” she assured us about their enticing array of truly elegant cakes, chocolates, pastries, petits fours, ice creams, and yes, gelatos.

Tasting pastries from Elegant Desserts NY.JPG

       Everything we tasted was also delicious. So they easily earned my second Spiel.

       (All of their products come frozen and are lactose-freeand are made in a facility that does not process soy, wheat, eggs, or tree nuts. To order, go to www.elegantdessertsny.com.)

Tasting pastries at Angel Bakeries.JPG

       Although by then we’d already had our fill of sweets, we easily rose to the occasion when we spied the chocolate, cinnamon, and poppy seed flavored rugelachbabka, and pinwheels from Angel Bakeries, which had journeyed there all the way from Jerusalem.

      Unable to possibly sample all of this merchandise, I opted to just ask for details. “Tell me about your products,” I said to the affable fellow behind the counter, Tomer Shohat, who described his role in the company as “office manager and Superman.”

Kosherfest Angel Bakeries won my Spiel.jpg       “Ask your daughter about our products,” this kippah-clad superhero countered.

       One look at her face and I didn’t need to. I just shut up, shoved something sugary into my mouth, and forked over another Spiel.

      Sugar-free, and therefore decidedly lower on the guilt barometer, were the SC diet cheesecakes from a company called Say Cheese. Each individual serving-size cake, which are also sold frozen, clocks in at a mere 95 calories.

Diet cheesecake from Say Cheese.JPG

       “OMG – that’s getting the Spiel!” exclaimed Allegra as she swooned at first bite. Available in three “Lite” flavors -- chocolate, marble, and cappuccino – these rich-tasting creamy confections, sweetened with Splenda, are not only low in carbs, fat, and sodium, but also gluten-free and environmentally correct. They’re sold in biodegradable cups, each packaged inside a small recycled paper box with a wooden spoon enclosed. They’re also free of preservatives, yet will keep in the fridge for up to six months.

       Maybe the Wedding Diet didn’t need to be damned after all.

Say Cheese owner with the Nice Jewish Mom Spiel of Approval.JPG

       “I ate it! I ate the whole thing!” confessed Allegra after about one blissfully kosher minute.

       And if you’d like to eat the whole thing, too, they’re available in Shoprite, Price Chopper, Hen House, Remke, Jewel in Chicago, and Shnucks in St. Louis, as well as online from Amazon or www.lindasdietdelites.com. (For more info, go to www.SayCheeseGourmet.com.)

       Also high on my list in the healthy snack category – and worthy of receiving my Spiel for the third year in a row – was Matzolah, otherwise known as “the Trail Mix of the Exodus.”

Kosherfest Silverman (left) of Matzolah won my spiel again!.JPG

      A year or two ago, the maple walnut variety was named Best New Kosher for Passover Product at Kosherfest, even though, as Wayne Silverman (pictured far left), head of its parent company Foodman's Original, readily attestsall of their matzo granolas are meant to be eaten all year round. And this year, they had managed to garner yet another award. Their newest version, Chocolate Almond, was named Best New Cereal and Breakfast.

       “It’s our elegant, decadent flavor,” said Silverman, hastening to note that “of all our varieties, this one has the highest content of fiber – 22 grams per serving – so it rivals any granola.” Given the normal result of eating copious amounts of matzo, it also is destined to come in fairly handy at Passover, whether or not you eat it all year round.

The mountain of Matzolah was not for the taking.jpg

       So I was a little disappointed to discover that the giant pyramid of Matzolah cans on display were clearly not intended for the taking. To discourage anyone tempted to help themselves anyway, they had attached a rather persuasive sign.

      “DISPLAY ONLY. Moses is watching you!” it read. Yikes! Guess I would have to buy some at Whole Foods or order directly from www.FoodmanNosh.com. 

      But when it came to finding a perfect blend of nutritious and delicious, there could be no contest. We were completely consumed by the tantalizing taste, texture, and total goodness of the brownies and blondies that we completely consumed at Booth #T1.

Pure Genius blondies are full of beans too.JPG

      One bite into one of these ooey, gooey, chewy morsels and I knew that I didn’t really need to ask why they had been dubbed Pure Genius. But I did, anyway.

      “Because they’re vegan, gluten-, soy-, and nut-freenot taste-free, and you’re mostly eating chickpeas,” explained their creator, Nancy Kalish of Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.

       Kalish, a certified health coach, confessed to having a terrible sweet tooth herself. “I wanted something that tasted like a real treat, but I didn’t feel horrible about eating, and that anyone with any dietary restrictions could eat.” (Including anyone on the Wedding Diet?) Unable to find one, she finally had resorted to creating one – make that two – herself.

Kalish of Pure Genius with my spiel.JPG

       The blondies are 40 percent chickpeas. The brownies are 43 percent black beans instead. Throw in some maple syrup, oats, vegan and gluten-free chocolate, etc. and they still clock in at under 200 calories per bar (190 per brownie, 185 per blondie). Not to mention packing 3 grams each of fiber and protein, yet no corn or cholesterol.

       These ingenious snacks will be available at select Whole Foods starting in January or can be ordered online for $23 per box of eight from www.puregeniusprovisions.com. (For free shipping on your first order, enter the promo code TRYPUREGENIUS.) 

       “Finally – a good-for-you treat that ACTUALLY TASTES GOOD!” proclaimed the handout. We couldn’t have agreed more, and Kalish couldn’t have been happier to accept my Spiel.

       Eager to continue in the healthy vein, we couldn’t resist when we were accosted by Caspi Carmeli of Pikante, who insisted we try their Lite hummus and babaganoush

Pikante Classic hummus -- let there be LITE!.jpg

      “It’s better than the regular, I’m telling you!” she urged. “Go on. Try a bite of each. Tell me if I’m wrong!

       Skeptical, I did as ordered – that is, I seized a pita triangle and dipped as ordered – and had to admit that she was right. Even with 60 percent less fat, the "lite" version of their traditional hummus was even tastier than the regular. Ditto for the babganoush.

Holzer of Thinables from FiberGourmet with my spiel.JPG

       We also were impressed when we each took a healthy bite (literally) of Thinables, from FiberGourmetHalf the calories, all the taste!” asserted its owner, Rona Holzer of Miami Beach, FL, indicating her crunchy snack crackers in flavors including cinnamon, sharp cheddar,and pizza, which pack only 60 to 70 calories per 1-ounce bag.

         We tried them all. Tasty enough to be Spiel worthy? Oh, yes. It was unanimous.

Allegra enjoyed Thinables from FiberGourmet.jpg

         Also available from the company is light, high-fiber pasta, including spaghetti, penne, rotini, and lasagna.

       “It fills you up, not out,” crowed Holzer. “The kids will never know the difference. Neither will the husbands. Seriously. Seriously! They can’t tell.”

       For more info, go to www.FiberGourmet.com.

Pretzels from A Pretty Pretzel.jpg

       The dazzling, multi-colored display from a Long Island company called A Pretty Pretzel may not have been good for the Wedding Diet. But it was potentially good for the wedding.

       My nice Jewish mother-of-the-groom mind began to spin in circles at the sight of the company’s glittery hand-dipped pretzels in every color and pattern imaginable, including pretzel rods decorated to looked like little brides and tuxedo-clad grooms.

A Pretty Pretzel's bride and groom rods.jpg

        “The ‘pretzelist’ just had a baby on Sunday, so she could not be with us,” I was told, “but she can create anything you wish.” Anything? Really? How about a chocolate-covered kosher pretzel with no calories, carbs, or gluten made out of lima beans? (Just kidding.)

       For more info on their custom-made creations, go to www.APrettyPretzel.com.

       Also with weddings and whatnot on the brain was Vanessa Miller of NYC. She had just tied the knot herself only four days earlier, but still managed to make it to Kosherfest to promote her line of healthy Get Dressed salad dressings and marinades.

Miller of Get Dressed dressings won my Spiel of Approval.JPG

      “It’s all natural, gluten-free, vegan, kosher, and parve,” exclaimed Miller, a former Solomon Schechter teacher. Best of all, it’s “the only salad dressing that’s sugar-free.”

        Her Get Dressed dressings, in Sesame Sensation, Perfect Pepper, and Ginger Gem flavors, were not only extremely delicious, but came with an inspirational message inside every cap, including “Get Dressed and be yourself” or “Get Dressed and get out.”

       Sadly, soon after we proudly presented Miller with my Spiel of Approval, it was time for Allegra to get out. Or get going, at least. She was scheduled to teach a music class late that afternoon.

       But my husband, who is also a journalist, happened to have come along for the ride in order to write Kosherfest story of his own, and I soon met up with him.

Tasting Chateau Meron wine with my husband.JPG

       Together, we sampled the wines from Meron Winery, including their 2009 Chateau Meron that sold for $120 a bottle. This cabernet and shiraz blend had evidently won the gold medal at the prestigious international Terravino awards. Was it worthy of my Spiel? For sure. But what did they need with me? They had already won the Terravino award.

       So I gave my Spiel instead to a well-deserving company that was right up my alley. I'm a self-described tea-aholic – there’s no tea that I can resist trying or buying. So the premium teas being brewed at the Bella Sabatina booth were tailor-made for me.

       Its Canadian proprietor, Raizy Sekula, a former principal of a girls’ school in Toronto, was not just a fellow nice Jewish mom, but the mother of 10 – five boys and five girls – all unique in their own way. “I like to say, ‘Same recipe, different cake every time,’” she quipped.

Bella Sabatina Tea owner Raizy Sekula.JPG

       The same might be said of her flavorful teas, which were not only exquisitely packaged, but endowed with posh monikers like Buckingham Breakfast, Blueberry Flan, and Cashmere Rouge (a blend of Saigon cinnamon, currants, hibiscus, and plum).

       All that and kosher too? But wait… is there really such a thing as non-kosher tea?

       “The actual tea leaf is fine,” she explained, “but when you start to add flavoring… Mine are all organic, natural, and kosher-certified.”

       Tasty too, I might add. To order her assorted teas and giftware, including an 8 Night Tea Delight assortment for Hanukkah ($53.99), go to www.BellaSabatinaTea.com.

       Also eminently notable in the low-test beverage department was a brand new product from Manischewitz.

Manischewitz and Welch's kosher grape juices.jpg

       When someone says, “Pass the Manischewitz!” they are generally looking for something sweet but slightly potent over which to say a blessing on Pesach or Shabbat. Well, from now on, they may have to be just a little more specific.

       The company that might be called the mother lode of all things kosher has elected to collaborate with Welch’s, the mother lode of all things grape.The result: a new line of sulfite-free kosher grape juices, including a sparkling version.

Kedem no longer has the market cornered on kosher grape juice.JPG

       Yes, it looks like good old Kedem, which has long had the market cornered on kosher grape juice, may have to make a little room at the seder table this year.

       Representatives from Welch’s were also on hand to introduce this brand new line. “The beauty of grape juice is that it’s not just for kids,” one said.

       Not that Jewish kids don’t get to guzzle or at least sip the real thing now and then. “When I was little, Grandpa accidentally kept pouring wine into my glass at Passover one year,” Allegra recalled.

       “It wasn’t an accident,” I told her.

       “I was 7!” she snorted.

Manischewitz has gluten-free matzo meal and new macaroons.jpg

       David Sugarman, the new president and CEO of Manischewitz, was on hand to help introduce the company’s other new offerings, most of which involved “expanding our gluten-free portfolio” to include gluten-free noodles (both fine and wide), matzo meal, cake meal, and matzo ball soup mix. There was also a new decorate-your-own cookie kit for Hanukkah.

      “Of course, it wouldn’t be Passover if we didn’t have a new flavor of macaroon,” he added. This year’s addition, Hazelnut Chocolate, wasn’t just new – it was novel and delectable enough to have been named Best New Bakery Item at Kosherfest.

       And, of course, to be awarded its own Nice Jewish Mom Spiel of Approval.

       At this point, having tasted more than I care to admit, I felt that both my work and calorie intake for the day were done. But then I spied something intriguing and I decided not so fat… er, fast.

       What was all the frenzy about at one particular booth?stampede of attendees were frantically snatching up small bags of what -- as far as I could see – were just potato chips.

Ten Acre's How Chick'n Soup Saved the Day crisps.jpg

       Wedding Diet or not, I have always been fastidious about what I eat, meaning I don’t eat chips. But these chips seemed to be something different.

       And not just because, coming from a British company, they were called “crisps.”

      These chips – I mean crisps – came in 10 different flavors, all endowed with extremely novel names, like When Bombay Got Spicy, When the Pepper Crack’d,” Pastrami on Rye,” and “How Chick’n Soup Saved the Day.”

       The pastrami ones, alas, were long gone. No matter. As a nice Jewish mom, I was most curious about the chicken soup version, which turned out to taste exactly like a bowl of chicken soup…only in a chip.

       A crisp, I mean.

       I may be no authority on chips, but boy, were they – crisp, I mean!

Ten Acre popcorn is named for a cast of odd characters.jpg

       The name of the brand was Ten Acre, which also offered seven kinds of popcorneach named for characters who reside in a place called Ten Acre Village, including Cousin Maisie’s Fennel & Lemon, Aunty Winifred’s Sweet & Salty, and Ambrose Popperley’s Wasabi.

       That prompted a question. Was there really such a place?

       People ask that all the time, said company CEO Tony Goodman, of Manchester, UK. He responds by simply giving them some simple directions“Put one of the chips in your mouth, close your eyes, and you’re instantly transported there, he told me.

Ten Acre's Tony Goodman with my Spiel of Approval.jpg

      As for which flavor might be the best or most popular, he firmly demurred. "You’re asking  me to choose between my children,” he said. How can you be so cruel?”

      But he did betray a hint of favoritism by insisting thatalong with the bag of chicken soup crisps, I also sample the ones labeled The Day Sweet and Sour Became Friends.

      And I must admit, the day that I tried them was the day I became a potato chip lover at last.

      I was all ready to give Ten Acre a ten out of ten. Better yet – my Spiel of Approval!

      For more information, email villagestore@tenacrevillage.com.

     But let the chips (or crisps) fall where they may. They may be kosher, vegan, and dairy- and gluten-free, not to mention crisp. Yet Kosherfest was now over for another year. And I’m back on the Wedding Diet.      

1:50 pm 

Monday, December 7, 2015


A Word From the Weiss


No latkes for poor Latke.jpg

        How can it be Hanukkah already? There are still leaves on some of the trees, it's nowhere near 32 degrees, and I’m still trying to figure out what to do with all of that leftover cranberry sauce. Put it on the latkes, perhaps? Whatever. Happy Hanukkah already -- yet again -- from NiceJewishMom.com!

       May your latkes be luscious, and all the candles on your menorah burn bright.

potato latkes with sour cream.jpg

       Speaking of latkes, if a recipe for homemade potato pancakes is what you crave, look no further than the easy-peasy one on my site. (See the navigation bar, top right.)

       Everyone loves them but our poor dog Latke. She may be named after this traditional holiday treat, but latkes happen to contain onions, which are poisonous to pooches. Ditto for that foil-wrapped chocolate gelt. (Don’t worry, though, she still gets plenty of presents and treats. She may not sing or howl along with the Hanukkah blessings, like our last dog, Zoe, but she starts to salivate every night at the mere sight of a menorah.)

Our Hanukkah video on YouTube.jpg

       Meanwhile, if you’re just in the market for a little Jewish holiday cheer, here’s a small touch of levity from the Levys and NiceJewishMom.com… my newest song parody, sung by yours truly and my daughter Allegra to the tune of Adele’s latest hit, “Hello.” (Needless to say, to fully enjoy my lyrics, it would help if you are familiar with her song, which seems to have had almost everyone at "Hello." At least it suddenly seems to be everywhere.)       

Adele has a new hit,

        The man you will see eating latkes is, of course, my husband, a.k.a. Nice Jewish Dad. And the woman you see lighting the menorah, and rocking out as though her life (and having the oil burn for eight whole nights) depended on it, is my dear friend Liz.


      Here’s the link to view it on YouTube. The music is by Adele, and my lyrics are printed below.

      By the way, only a few latkes were harmed in the making of this video… and the Christmas tree you may see in the background belongs to my daughter’s roommate Jamie, who shot the video. (I swear it's not mine!) 





Music by Adele

Lyrics by Pattie Weiss Levy

Shalom -- it's me!.jpg


Shalom, it’s me

Are you coming home for Hanukkah?

There’s presents, but no tree

I’ll make latkes – gluten-free

Yes, you schlepped here for Thanksgiving

But it’s time for dreidels.


Shalom, it's your mother!.jpg

Shalom, it’s your mother!

Someday, when you have some kids yourself,

You’ll have some sympathy.

Sorry for kvetching, but gee

This is just a minor holiday, but means a lot to me.

Come help us light all the candles

On the menorah!


Liz lighting the menorah.jpg

Hanukkah’s the feast of lights!

The oil burned for eight whole nights!

We have no hung stockings

Or any reindeer to ride

But we have foil-wrapped gelt

and our Jewish pride.


Hanukkah’s for Jews worldwide

Allegra -- home for Hanukkah!.jpg

And eating lots of food that fried

We have no spiked eggnog

Or snowballs to toss

But it don’t matter, please pass

The latkes

And applesauce. 

The point is seeing family on the holidays.jpg


Chanukah’s for me

We have eight full nights of presents

Thanks to Judah Macabbee.

Mostly tchotchkes or PJs

But the point is seeing family

Around the holidays

Come see Bubbe, Cousin Suzy,

And the candles ablaze!


Liz Rocking out (of Ages).jpg

Yes, Hanukkah’s the feast of lights!

The oil burned for eight whole nights

We have no hung stockings,

Or any reindeer to ride

But we have foil-wrapped gelt

And our Jewish pride.


Gimmel, nun, or hay, or shin,

Allegra -- gimmel means you win.jpg

If you get gimmel, means you win!

We have no bright tinsel,

Or snowballs to toss

But please pass the Manischewitz

Latkes and applesauce!

3:38 pm 

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That's me. The redhead on the right. But that is NOT my baby.

     No, sir, that's not my baby. How could any mother smile beatifically while her own child wailed? Never mind that neither of my offspring ever cried so plaintively, as far as I recall (not while I was there to nurture them through their every perceptible need... although my son still complains that I often dressed him in garish and girlish color schemes, scarring him FOR LIFE).
     Besides, I'm distinctly beyond prime delivery age ("Kitchen's closed!" as my mother might say), and my kids had departed the diaper stage by the dawn of the Clinton Administration. Now in their 20s, both are currently living on their own, in not-too-distant cities, although each manages to phone me daily. In fact, to be exact, several times a day, then sometimes text me, too. (That may sound excessive, and emotionally regressive, but I subscribe to the Jewish mother's creed when it comes to conversing with kinder: Too much is never enough.)
     Two demanding decades spent raising two kids who are kind, highly productive and multi-talented, who generally wear clean underwear (as far as I can tell), and who by all visible signs don't detest me are my main credentials for daring to dole out advice in the motherhood department.
     Presenting myself as an authority on all matters Jewish may be trickier to justify.
     Yes, I was raised Jewish and am biologically an unadulterated, undisputable, purebred Yiddisheh mama. I'm known for making a melt-in-your-mouth brisket, not to mention the world's airiest matzah balls this side of Brooklyn. My longtime avocation is writing lyrics for Purim shpiels based on popular Broadway productions, from "South Pers-cific" to "The Zion Queen." Then again, I'm no rabbi or Talmudic scholar. I can't even sing "Hatikvah" or recite the Birkat Hamazon. Raised resoundingly Reform, I don't keep kosher, can barely curse in Yiddish, and haven't set foot in Israel since I was a zaftig teen.
     Even so, as a longtime writer and ever-active mother, I think I have something to say about being Jewish and a mom in these manic and maternally challenging times. I hope something I say means something to you. Welcome to my nice Jewish world!   
In coming weeks, I will continue posting more personal observations, rants, and even recipes (Jewish and otherwise). So keep reading, come back often, and please tell all of your friends, Facebook buddies, and everyone else you know that NiceJewishMom.com is THE BOMB!
The family that eats together (and maybe even Tweets together): That's my son Aidan, me, my daughter Allegra, and Harlan, my husband for more than 26 years, all out for Sunday brunch on a nice summer weekend in New York.

Comments? Questions? Just want to kvetch? Please go to GUESTBOOK/COMMENTS.