Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Food

Hanukkah’s A Perfect Excuse To Talk ‘Donuts’ With Star Chef

It was thoughtful of the James Beard-Award winning chef Michael Solomonov and his business partner, Steve Cook, to come out with the “Federal Donuts” cookbook close enough to Hanukkah that I could write about it within the context of the holiday.

The book, so says its cover, is “the (partially) true, spectacular story” of Philadelphia’s cult-favorite eatery Federal Donuts. The book is designed kind of like a comic book — if comics had photos of real people and situations instead of drawings of make-believe characters and situations. Within its vivid pages, there are recipes for the doughnuts and fried chicken that make up the Federal Donuts menu. There are also how-tos, fun facts (and fictions) and silly stories that take the form of dialogue among the partners. Said dialogue was recorded by editorial mastermind Dorothy Kalins, who produced the book. Kalins also worked on “Zahav,” Solomonov’s autobiographical first cookbook, named for his flagship restaurant. (Federal Donuts is to Zahav what Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack is to his Union Square Café.)

How does all this relate to Hanukkah?

The holiday is, after all, when it is incumbent upon us to eat fried foods to mark the miracle of the oil. And while latkes are the most common, there are also sufganiyot, which Israelis (and increasingly, Americans) consume over the course of the holiday.

And what are sufganiyot, I reasoned, but filled doughnuts? (The careful reader might note that we are using the Webster’s spelling of “doughnut” here, while respecting Federal Donuts’ right to use its own.) So having made the Hanukkah-to-sufganiyot-to-Federal Donuts connection, I enthusiastically asked Solomonov if he could talk about it with me — whether there was any link between those Israeli-style balls of fried dough and the cake doughnuts made fresh throughout the day at Federal Donuts.

“I wish I could,” he said, “but it would be such a stretch to include sufganiyot as the inspiration of a boardwalk-style doughnut.”

This wasn’t going so well.

“I did grow up eating sufganiyot, definitely,” he said. “In Israel everybody just buys a box of them and you have a greasy box from whenever — you don’t really know when they were made.” Okay, I see why one might want to distinguish between those things and the fragrant, fresh-from-the-fryer confections that are highlighted in the new book. So what would Solomonov be making for his kids this Hanukkah?

“I’m a potato pancake sort of guy. Latkes, they work for me,” he said. “And we fry challah dough and stuff it with jam.”

Now you’re talking.

Liza Schoenfein is the food editor of the Forward. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter, @LifeDeathDinner

Engage

  • SHARE YOUR FEEDBACK

  • UPCOMING EVENT

    SKY & SCULPTURE

    Hybrid: Online and at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan

    Oct 2, 2022

    6:30 pm ET · 

    A Sukkah, IMKHA, created by artist Tobi Kahn, for the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan is an installation consisting of 13 interrelated sculpted painted wooden panels, constituting a single work of art. Join for a panel discussion with Rabbi Joanna Samuels, Chief Executive Director of the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan, Talya Zax, Innovation Editor of the Forward, and Tobi Kahn, Artist. Moderated by Mattie Kahn.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.