New York Pop-Ups Deliver the Country's Most Exciting Jewish Fare

For One Evening, Restaurants Offer a Jewish Connection

L’Chaim! Diners sip cocktails and dig into rich creamy bowls of hummus and crunch salads at a pop-up hosted by EatWith.
Elion Paz
L’Chaim! Diners sip cocktails and dig into rich creamy bowls of hummus and crunch salads at a pop-up hosted by EatWith.

By Devra Ferst

Published September 03, 2013, issue of September 06, 2013.
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While Shefi’s newest project won’t focus exclusively on Israeli or Jewish food, EatWith has already hosted several Israeli meals and two challah-baking workshops. This fall, in a project separate from EatWith, Shefi will partner with Lebanese chef Sara Jenkins at the Manhattan restaurant Porsena to create a series of pop-up Middle Eastern dinners.

Not Another Borscht: The Kubbeh Project presented New York diners with authentic interpretations of the Iraqi soup kubbeh.
Katherine Needles
Not Another Borscht: The Kubbeh Project presented New York diners with authentic interpretations of the Iraqi soup kubbeh.

Perhaps the most exciting element of these pop-ups — other than the extraordinary food — is the diversity of diners. At each meal, guests arrived either as small groups of friends, as couples or alone. These meals, like the pop-up Shabbat, which was served at three long tables, and The Kubbeh Project, where all 15 diners crowded around one long table in a tiny converted coffee shop, are largely served in a communal setting.

The setup generates dialogue among the guests — a rarity in the New York dining scene — about the food, and personal culinary recollections of Shabbat dinners and hummus lunches in Israel.

These meals don’t come without their challenges. Most restaurants stay in business by expertly preparing dishes identical to ones they served the last time a diner tasted them. With pop-ups, that pressure doesn’t exist, but another arises in its place: A dining experience that exists only temporarily must find the right balance of food, theme and atmosphere with no chance for a practice run.

But, when these events succeed, there is a sense that the experience is unique. The location, menu, music and company will never be re-created, making the meal memorable, long after the host packs up shop and moves on.

Devra Ferst is the food editor of the Forward. Contact her at ferst@forward.com or on Twitter, @devraferst.


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