Emily Weisberg knows good coffee. Over the phone, I drooled as she described the rich, bold, bitter aromas that put my mug full of reheated office-coffee-pot coffee to shame. She said, “I’ve been a barista for more than 10 years. My background is in coffee.” That’s why she’s opening Moss Café in Riverdale, NY.
Growing up in a homogenous Wisconsin town, most of the schools didn’t offer foreign languages for children. Even so, Emily’s mom made sure her children learned Spanish- changing their lives and inadvertently shaping Emily’s future. Emily started working in coffee shops in high school where she quickly put this invaluable skill to use. Her conversations with her co-workers, mostly Mexican and Ecuadorian immigrants, gave her insight into their past lives on the coffee fields. Amongst the Spanish speakers, Emily found her passion, going on to study Latin American studies in college with a focus on coffee economies. I repeat: Emily Weisberg knows good coffee.
For Emily it’s not only about the flavors of coffee. It’s not even about the heavenly flakiness that is created by layers of buttered dough from a pastry. It’s about building community. It’s about creating memories over hot mugs of coffee and sharing stories until the last crumbs of a warm, fresh pastry disappear.
When Emily started keeping kosher in a more Halakhic (traditionally observant) way, she gave up this ritual she cherished. She simply could not find a place with good coffee and kosher pastries. It was impossible to savor the moment when she had to be in Washington Heights for a pastry and Williamsburg for a coffee. “It’s hard to be a foodie in a Kosher world,” she claims (and many would agree).
Emily moved to Israel where there are a number of cafés that have coffee and kosher pastries, but as most Americans can tell you – there is no good coffee in Israel. It’s hard enough to find good drip coffee there. Even more so, espresso – the machines required are a rare breed. Fair trade has never been heard of (for now). Even so, Emily found her favorites, recommending Cafe Bezalel in Nachlaot (where there are no shortage of coffee-drinking American transplants) and Mizrachi in the Shuk. Decent coffee is served, but for Emily this wasn’t cutting it.
So she found some Americans in Modiin who were roasting their own coffee. She then started brewing and roasting coffee outside her own Nachlaot door. In the desert-hot Israeli summers, she would cold brew coffee, and in the winter she crafted pour over to order. She started baking homemade pastries (gluten for her, and not for her husband) and created a small café outside her own front door. It was everything she had been missing since she started keeping kosher - excellent coffee, delicious pastries, and a community to share it with. “This experience was my happiest ever,” Emily shared.
Now finding herself, her husband, and daughter back in America there was only one logical move: start a café of her own. Moss Café will showcase that kosher food can also be healthy and innovative and creative. The menu will feature a full breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu – in additional the classic café fare. There will be no Splenda, and no skim milk, the menu items will change seasonally and all the ingredients are sourced from a few different local farms. Emily acknowledges, “If I wouldn’t serve it to my daughter, or at my Shabbos table, why would I serve it in my restaurant?”
As a progressive Orthodox community, Riverdale is ripe for Emily’s vision of a community building café. Amazingly, there isn’t already a place where everyone feels comfortable and also provides healthy, creative food. With a hechsher (kosher certification) from the Riverdale Vaad and Emily’s delectable menu items (like the recipe below) and coffee expertise, it won’t be long before Moss Café becomes a cornerstone of the community.
Seasonal July Dessert: Roasted Stonefruits with Mascarpone
About 2 cups of any stone fruits on hand (plums, nectarines, peaches, apricots, cherries)
2 sprigs of rosemary and 6 fresh sage leaves
3 Tablespoons raw cane sugar
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter (grass fed is best!)
1 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1) Preheat oven to 400 F.
2) Prick the skins of any plums, peaches etc. slice away fruit from pits, or in the case of cherries, just pit them. Try to create wedges with the larger fruits.
3) In a large bowl, toss fruit with sugar, chopped up pieces of butter, lemon juice and herbs.
4) Line a baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper and pour out the mixture onto the tray.
5) Roast for 15-20 minutes. Discard the rosemary and sage.
6) Scoop a dollop of mascarpone into a small bowl, spoon some fruit with the juices on top and drizzle with local honey. Garnish with rosemary or sage if desired.
7) Enjoy with friends. This part is key!
Liz Traison is a Program Associate at Hazon. She is a health coach and the founder of Eat the Change, dedicated to helping individuals change the world starting with the tip of their forks. She is also the founder of From Where I Stand, an online presence that captures the narratives of women working in the Jewish community. She is a graduate of The University of Michigan. She also studied at Midreshet Lindenbaum and Hebrew University. She likes being outside, particularly on Skeleton Lake. And also being inside, specifically doing creative workshops in prison.