Though the Jewish High Holidays are behind us, Hanukkah beckons and many people are trying to maintain their resolutions to eat better while also looking for good ideas for holiday treats for themselves and those they love.
Fortunately, our region is blessed with many ways to fulfill these goals in a Jewish way. While New York may be the deli capital of the world, the Boston area is no slouch when it comes to both traditional Jewish and Israeli foods and also foods made by Jews.
Speaking of deli, it makes sense to start with the King of Corned Beef, Michael’s Deli. Having been created in Marblehead by the eponymous Michael, the hot spot is now in Brookline’s Coolidge Corner and helmed by Steve Peljovich, who brings his Cuban roots to traditional deli favorites like corned beef, brisket, and his famous Krazy Knishes.
“I have always had a love of food,” said Peljovich, “but more specifically a love of the gatherings around food – the family all getting together to cook, create, and celebrate being together.”
In addition to serving his customers, Peljovich also serves the larger community by donating his food and much of his sparse spare time to the Relay for Life, the Brookline Food Pantry, and No Kid Hungry, among many others.
“I hope that the food and the history of deli food live on in my work,” Peljovich said.
Once you have enjoyed one of Steve’s sandwiches or other tasty treats, it may be time for dessert. And what better way to recall your own family memories than with a delicious cake from My Grandma’s of New England?
Started in Newton in 1990 with a recipe that dates back to the Old Country and was originally baked by a real bubbe, My Grandma’s award-winning handmade cakes are now available worldwide, thanks to the tireless work of owner Bob Katz.
Katz recalled starting out in business by creating an environmentally friendly brand of ice melt and trash bags that were made from oil refuse. This plucky entrepreneurial spirit combined with Katz’s apparent desire to help the world led him to work with another sole proprietor who was making his own brand of coffee cakes but who was also facing a problem.
“[He] couldn’t make enough cakes for me to bring to my customers,” Katz said.
Katz volunteered to join the baking line and eventually ended up buying the company.
From one tiny shop in Newton, Katz has expanded Grandma’s to an international phenomenon that regularly sells out in local delis (like Barry’s), national chains (including Starbucks), and even on QVC. Despite its growth, however, Katz has held tightly to the Jewish values that got him started.
“My Grandma’s coffee cake is a kosher product and Jewish owned,” said Katz noting proudly how he gives a great deal to Hebrew day schools and other organizations around the country.
“Actually,” said Katz, “we set records with fundraisers for synagogues who are looking to add to their building fund, as well as to Hebrew schools that are raising funds for a special trip or … to make a large donation to Israel.”
Another sweet supplier is Israeli-born Liron Pergament-Gal of ChocAllure in Needham. After stepping away from her corporate job at the start of the pandemic, Gal decided to stay away and to focus her creative efforts elsewhere. As she had been trained in the prestigious Ecole Lenôtre Culinary Institute in Paris, as well as the Barry Callebaut Chocolate Academy in Chicago, Gal partnered with others to create a new set of kosher candies that are perfect for the Jewish holidays or any other occasion.
For Passover, Gal created a chametz-free collection with six new flavors. More recently, she incorporated apples, honey, and pomegranates into a new Rosh Hashanah set.
After some of Grandma’s cake and/or Liron’s chocolates, you will surely need something just as delicious to wash it all down. Try Joe Laur’s Samara – previously known as Maple Mama Beverages – based out of the small town of Wendell north of Springfield.
Laur first wanted to offer his own family a lower-sugar soft drink option. His maple-sweetened, electrolyte-packed creation proved so popular, it is now distributed nationwide and available at Shaw’s and Whole Foods.
Laur’s kosher and organic beverages do not just serve as guardians to your health with their 54 antioxidants and seven vitamins and minerals, they also help protect the planet with their progressive ecokosher standards.
“It’s not enough in this era to just be halachically kosher,” said Laur, who is a certified kashrut mashgiach. “We need to take into account environmental and social impacts as well.”