Thursday, August 25, 2011

Gastronomic Judaism

Apropos of really nothing, after celebrating my wife’s birthday at a very nice restaurant, I began to ponder all of the really great meals I have had over the recent few years. I think this has been inspired in part by all those shows on the Food Network and the Travel Channel where they visit interesting countries, cultures, and of course dine at some of the best … and sometimes the worst restaurants.

I am deliberately not including breakfast places or other nice meals, but instead this is a list of just some of the truly great dining opportunities I have been fortunate enough to have had. There is no scientific foundation to this list, just great food, great service, great company, and lots of fun.

#1 – Hands down – Tru in Chicago with my wife and our friends Renee and Mike. This was by far the best dining experience. It was five star all the way in terms of service, presentation, and taste. They even introduced me to Rieslings which have quickly become my favorite wine varietal.

#2 – NOLA in New Orleans. Say what you will about Emeril Lagasse, I have to say dinner with Joy, Dan and Melissa was fabulous. It truly embodied the taste, sights and sounds of New Orleans.

#3 – Janos in Tucson with Joy. I have had the chance to enjoy Janos’ fine cooking at several fundraisers, and his take on Southwestern Cuisine is simply divine.

#4 – Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore with Joy and my parents. Woodberry uses local ingredients in creative ways, and the service was about as good as we have had in recent memory. Plus it was fascinating to watch by the kitchen staff as they prepared and served dishes in almost a quiet ballet opposite of those kitchens run by such ‘celebrity chefs’ as Gordon Ramsay.

Some of our other favorite meals included a great steak dinner at the Precinct in Cincinnati with Dan and Melissa, and dining with friends at the Imperial Fez in Atlanta including Yair, Marissa, Dan and Melissa. Not only was the food great, but the belly dancing really adds to the all evening of fun dining experience.

Yes just about every culture and religion gather around for food, but there is also something inherently Jewish about eating as well. Even during our six fasts (Fast of Gedaliah, Yom Kippur, 17th of Tammuz, the Fast of Esther, the 10th of Tevet and the 9th of Av, (not counting the fast of the first born male which only applies to the first born male if they are the first born of the womb), we spend most of our time contemplating what we will eat after the fast. So even though eating Jewishly does not necessarily make one Jewish, it is a great way to celebrate one’s Jewishness.

What are some of your favorite dining experiences?


Daniel Plotkin said...

Best Experience ever: Picasso in the Bellagio Hotel Las Vegas with Rachel and her sister Amy along with Amy's husband David. An absolute gourmet meal in every essence of the term. I had the wine flight with it, and it happened to me my first real exposure to Riesling as well. Very, Very expensive, but worth the money for the experience.

Rabbi Sharff said...

Thanks for the comments. I have found most really good dining experiences are not inexpensive. I actually don't mind paying for a great experience. I just don't like paying a lot for mediocre ones. One day I hope to make it to Vegas, which ironically I never made it to when I lived in Tucson. Oh well.