How Ashkenazi Food Became Trendy in Israel

The story begins with a plate of tongue, which may terrify people nowadays but its tenderness and delicate flavor were once favored by children and adults alike. We ate some at Cafe 48 in Tel Aviv after two or three other courses. One of them was a divine sweet cornbread with sour cream and red chili, perfect as a comfort food for a morning hangover. Yet the tongue managed to activate not only the taste buds and pleasure sensors but also the mind. The four slices of meat were thick, not like the thin ones Grandma used to serve, but the texture and flavor brought back childhood memories. Despite the modern look and the addition of green leaves, the course – served with fresh horseradish and cornichon pickles – excelled in delivering a familiar sweetish taste that caused a twinge of nostalgia.

“Two years ago I started to experiment with cooking and pickling tongue,” says Cafe 48 chef Jonathan Borowitz. “Not with the presumption of reviving the old Eastern European Jewish cuisine, but to experiment with cooking and preserving an unfamiliar ingredient. The experiments failed, and I abandoned them.

“A few months ago, Noah Bernamoff, the founder and owner of the Mile End Deli in Brooklyn, came to the restaurant, and at the bar we began a fascinating conversation that lasted for almost four hours. We spoke quite a lot about the pickled and smoked meats that have earned his delicatessens an international reputation. This is a man who never studied cooking formally, and I told myself that if he can devote years of trial and error to deciphering the code of perfect pickling, I can continue to experiment, too.

“The result, inspired actually by a traditional French technique, is tongue that is marinated in salt and spices for at least five days before you cook it – for at least five hours – then cool and peel it. I could have combined a million other flavors with the juicy meat, but for some reason, for me it connected with the classic horseradish, purple onion and mustard.”


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How Ashkenazi Food Became Trendy in Israel

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