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The Jewish festival of Passover begins at sundown Monday with a feast that’s as universal as it is unique to every family and community that sets out matzah and horseradish. We explore modern and traditional approaches to the Passover seder, whether you’re cooking at home or getting some help from a local restaurant or delicatessen.
- Susan Barocas Project Director, Jewish Food Experience; Jewish Federation of Greater Washington
- Esther Safran Foer Executive Director and CEO, Sixth and I Historic Synagogue
- Barry Koslow Chef, DGS Delicatessen (Washington, D.C.)
Grandma/Bubbe Ethel’s Matzoh Balls Recipe
Recipe courtesy Esther Safran Foer, executive director and CEO at Sixth and I Historic Synagogue
My mother makes the matzoh balls for our seders. She even made matzoh balls in a demo on Martha Stewart’s TV Show in 2012. When her grandson Jonathan created and edited the New American Hagaddah last year and was invited on the show to talk and cook, he said he wanted to bring his grandmother. Everyone had a great time.
Special foods connect us to tradition and to the people we love. They create a sense of home and family that transcends time and place. Even though we no longer do chicken soup –- we’re vegetarians –- we’ve found new creative soups and always have Grandma Ethel’s matzoh balls.
1 cup matzoh meal (or more as needed)
1/4 cup oil
4 large eggs
1/2 cup plain seltzer water
1 tsp salt
Beat eggs, oil, salt and pepper.
Add water, matzoh meal.
Refrigerate for at least one hour.
Form into balls (put water on your hands to help form balls).
Drop into salted boiling water.
Cover and cook for about 20 minutes.
These can be frozen and made ahead. Put foil or wax paper on cookie sheet. After matzo balls are made put them on sheet and put them in freezer. After they’re frozen, put them in plastic bags. They will keep for up to a month.
MR. KOJO NNAMDI...matzo ball recipe passed down through generations to a modern chef's personal twist on a traditional dish like haroset. Joining us to explore traditional and modern approaches to the Passover Seder and why the feast is as universal as it is unique to all who participate is Barry Koslow. He is the chef at DGS Delicatessen in Washington, D.C. Barry, thank you for joining us.
MR. BARRY KOSLOWGreat to be back, Kojo.
NNAMDIAlso with us in studio is Susan Barocas. She is the project leader of the Jewish Food Experience. That's a program of the United Jewish Endowment Fund of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington that curates food stories, histories, recipes and personal experiences from people throughout the region. Susan Barocas, thank you for joining us.
MS. SUSAN BAROCASThank you, it's a pleasure.
NNAMDIAlso in studio with us is Esther Safran Foer. She is executive director and CEO of the historic Sixth and I Synagogue in Washington, D.C. Esther Safran Foer, thank you for joining us.
MS. ESTHER SAFRAN FOERThank you.
NNAMDIYou too can join the conversation. Give us a call at 800-433-8850. Are you and your family preparing to observe Passover next week? What are the unique traditions you bring to it, if any, 800-433-8850. Families around the world will sit down together for feasts next week that mark one of the most important events in the entire Jewish calendar. But as universal as Passover is among Jewish people, the ways people spend it in their own homes are anything but. Starting with you, Barry, how would you describe the approach your family took growing up and how does that shape what you do now?
KOSLOWI always said that, you know, Passover was one of my favorite times of year, that and Thanksgiving. And that was because, you know, both holidays are centered around the dinner table. And, you know, the family comes together. It's very festive and Passover is always very festive.
NNAMDIExcept that your family wasn't entirely traditional in your home. You guys, it is my understanding, ate as much Chinese as you did anything else.
KOSLOWWell, I think I grew up eating probably more Chinese than I did -- you know, Jewish food is hard to get around Washington, D.C. That's one of the reasons why we opened the restaurant. But we certainly had our share and certainly around the winter holidays, particularly if you ever go on Christmas to a Chinese restaurant, you know that it's very hard to get in and it is filled with Jews.
KOSLOWBut Passover was probably more traditional, particularly when my grandfather was alive, because he liked to head it off. And then, you know, some of the first Passovers that I started cooking for my family was when I started to modernize our meal and look around the world a little more to Sephardic influences. And tried to make it fun and exciting and bring some new things in. And, you know, drop the manischewitz and...
NNAMDIWhat are your first memories of trying to bring your own cooking skills to a Passover meal?
KOSLOWThe first one I ever cooked actually I wanted to do lamb because my mom always did lamb. And I made a big batch of lamb stock, because I was going to make a sauce with it. And then I set it off to the side to cool and we're all sitting around laughing and talking. And all of a sudden we heard like this big slurping sound and we had about a 100 pound Weimaraner at the time. And we looked over in the corner and the dog had his head in the pot of stock and was just lapping away, ruining our dinner.
NNAMDII guess you learned something from that.
NNAMDISusan, you grew up in Denver with a family of Eastern European heritage. How intense did that make your Passover experience?
BAROCASWell, actually I was kind of schizophrenic growing up. My mother's side of the family is Russian or Eastern European and my father's side is Sephardic from Ottoman Empire. So our Passovers were always schizophrenic. We'd have matzo ball soup and some sort of meat, lamb or something grilled or made in a Sephardic way. And now I really do that even more now that I do my own Passovers. But it was always a lot of fun.
BAROCASThere was usually some battles about which tradition are we going to follow, especially in the past. The foods that you're allowed to eat for Passover, there are some restrictions on foods like no grains, that kind of thing. The Sephardim, because they always lived in countries where things like rice and beans were so often a staple of the diet, that was okay for me growing up to eat. It wasn't okay in an Ashkenazic or Eastern European Jewish family.
NNAMDIHence the schizophrenic approach.
BAROCASVery much so. And also battles with friends. Yes, I can eat rice. No, you can't.
NNAMDIEsther, it's my understanding that the tradition of Passover is something that resonates very strongly in your family. You were born in Europe and you come from a family of Holocaust survivors. But you also feel that creativity is at the core of how your family observes it. How so?
FOEROh, absolutely. I know we're here to talk about food, and in our family food is certainly important. But it's telling the Passover story, reinventing how we celebrate the Holiday, and how we tell the story is critical to what we do. I mean, we're passing on certainly food traditions. And some of our food traditions like my mother matzo balls will always be part of our family's Seder. And it's -- you know, it's not such a special recipe. It's on the box, but it's the one that my mother makes.
FOERBut even more important was engaging our children, engaging them intellectually. My husband's a secular Jew but he loves Passover. He loves -- Passover's based on a symposium. It's a conversation. It's a conversation about issues that matter. And you can translate those issues into issues we're facing today. You can talk about slavery and you can talk about leadership. You can talk about all of social justice. And we did that at our table and it...
NNAMDIYou're a family of writers, writers who feel obligated to tell the Passover story to one another in your own way. At what point did you feel the need to bring this to your table?
FOEROh, almost immediately. Almost immediately. As my children were -- when they were three and four they would do plays at Passover. The plays were really simple in the beginning and then they became more and more sophisticated. And there were things like interviews or pretending it was the Academy Awards with the burning bush winning the Academy Award for special effects.
FOERBut this was critical. I mean, the meal is certainly important but it was a backdrop. It was a setting. And when we bought the house that we currently live in, as we looked at houses one of the key criteria for me was a place big enough for a meaningful large family Seder, which for us is 25 to 35 people. And my husband kept saying, you can't buy a house for one night. But you know what? We have a house and we did.
NNAMDIYou did. You had children.
FOERAnd we are so graceful.
NNAMDIYou had children. The novelist Jonathan Safran Foer, the journalist Frank Foer and the writer and memory champion Joshua Foer, they say that the root of their creativity is the family's approach to Passover.
FOERRight. I mean, it was...
NNAMDIThat's where they nurtured all of the creative skills.
FOERAt three or four or five they were writing the scripts. They were making it happen. And I actually heard an interview with Jonathan who said, you know, his first major acts of creativity were the Passover Seder. And just last night I sent my grandchildren a copy of the casting call that their brothers wrote, you know, 20 years ago to their cousins. And I sent it actually two days ago and yesterday I was calling one of their houses. And they said, oh the kids are reading the casting call now and they're trying to figure out whether their five-month-old cousin can be baby Moses and who's going to be one of the plagues. It is central.
NNAMDIThe Passover table is a major creative production, is what we're talking about here.
NNAMDI800-433-8850. Susan, you're part of a project dedicated to studying where food fits into the broader Jewish experience. Why did you feel this was a necessary endeavor?
BAROCASFood really cuts across everything. It cuts across background, ages, what your religious observance level might be, what your family traditions are. Every bit of Jewish life touches on food. Religiously, in the home, when you go out with your friends to look for a good delicatessen, and now, thank goodness, we have one in DGS. Food cuts across all of that and is such a great way to bring people together. There is nothing better than getting together with your family and friends over a meal. And it's even better when you guys all cook it together too. And so we're trying to help people do that.
NNAMDIOn to the telephones. We will start with Mark in Silver Spring, Md. Mark, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MARKYeah, hi, good afternoon. I grew up in a Jewish household and my aunts and uncles were really Orthodox Jews. And I remember the Seders were just -- they felt like they went on for a millennium when I was a kid, they were so long. And the neighbor down the street invited me to a Seder next week and they're Orthodox. And I told them that I'd come but I'm suffering from PTPD, Post Traumatic Passover Disorder.
NNAMDIWas the neighbor's just as long as the ones you experienced at home?
MARKNo. The ones with my aunts and uncles, they were a long time and I just couldn't wait for them to be over.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Mark. Esther, Susan, how did Maxwell House, as in the coffee company, come to be the people behind the most widely used haggadah for American Jews? More than 50 million copies of the Maxwell House version have been distributed.
FOERAnd about 50 of those live at my house.
NNAMDIHow did that evolve?
FOERMy understanding is it was a way to sell product.
FOERYou know, it really was a freebie given away. And my family, I'm proud to say, growing up we used the Maxwell House Haggadah. And the fun part was we'd have one -- different ones from different years because they were given out in grocery stores every year.
FOERSo you'd collect a few each year. It was a wonderful selling tool.
BAROCASAnd in our house of course growing up in an immigrant family, we did use that. And I think that was the impetus for deciding we needed to do something different in our family. And as -- even before my son Jonathan published last year the New American Haggadah, we wrote our own haggadahs at home. And the section with the four children, we would paste the faces of the children that were part of our family onto that page so they could actually see themselves as the four children asking the questions.
NNAMDIBut the Maxwell House Haggadah is still used very widely. But, Barry, while we are on the topic of something like Maxwell House, it's my understanding that one of the things that concerns you most about the state of Jewish cooking as a craft is how much it's being taken over by industrialization. Why is that?
KOSLOWI think it was convenient at the time that it came over. The heyday of delicatessens was actually in the '30s. And, you know, I think as the country industrialized, so did delicatessens. And they started overstuffing sandwiches and they started turning the delicatessen into a diner that served breakfast all day and, you know, BLTs and pork chops or whatever. It wasn't the mom and pop delicatessen from immigrants that had it originally set out to be.
KOSLOWSo that's -- at DGS, that was the first thing that we wanted to do was to take the deli back and make everything from scratch, like the way that it started out. And, you know, it starts with, you know, our pastrami and our corned beef that we make from scratch. We smoke our own salmon, we make our own mustard. You know, we make our own harissa. And we'll make just about anything that we can get our hands on.
NNAMDIWe'll talk more about that in a second, but for the time being back to the telephone. We move on to Heather in Vienna, Va. Heather, your turn.
HEATHERHi. We also have a pretty schizophrenic Seder tradition in our family. It seems to be a theme. My husband's family is all Ashkenazi Jewish from Ukraine and Hungary. And I'm Christian so we're raising our children Christian, but we wanted to preserve their heritage and to pass on some of the traditions. So for years we would do a traditional Seder for Passover and then a big Easter dinner. And we loved our Seder and we love the rituals and the symbolism of the food and the interaction with the children.
HEATHERAnd I thought, you know, why don't we have something like this for Easter? This would be great. So now we do a combination. We call it an Easter Seder and like some of your guests, you know, we wrote our own script. We chose some -- we added extra food that's symbolic from the New Testament. And, I mean, we still had to have our haroset and horseradish, but it's an entire program that combines both of our traditions. And it's been an amazing success. The kids love it and the adults love it just as much.
NNAMDIHeather, enjoying the best of both worlds. Heather, thank you very much for your call. You too can call us at 800-433-8850. How do you think yearly events like Passover and Thanksgiving and the foods we associate with them define the families who participate, 800-433-8850? You can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or you can send us a Tweet at kojoshow. Barry, let's dive more into the food for a minute because the special Passover menu you're offering at DGS next week takes a lot of creativity with traditional dishes.
NNAMDIAllow me to be specific. What kind of historical research did you have to do? Is bone marrow an obvious ingredient to bring to something like matzo?
KOSLOWYou know, flavor comes first with us and, you know, what we're trying to do is to take a modern approach to Jewish cooking. And we feel that, you know, every major cuisine has really had a renaissance except for Jewish cuisine. And Jewish cuisine has been stagnant for a very long time.
KOSLOWSo, you know, we're trying to make this dinner fun, which we think that it should be because it's a celebration. And we try to add modern techniques and modern approach and elevate the entire meal and elevate the cuisine as we can. Just like Italian cuisine has come around and French cuisine and, you know, all of these major -- you know, Spanish cuisine, they've call really transcended over decades while Jewish food just kind of sat still.
NNAMDIWhen you began work on your menu, where did you start?
KOSLOWMemory, definitely. You know, I started with the traditional meal that we had in my family. And, you know, the matzo ball soup- was always the first thing we had, you know. And probably the last 12 years I've made it. And the first year my mom yelled at me that I wasn't doing it right. And then by the end we couldn't eat any other matzo balls. And, you know, some of the things were traditional.
KOSLOWAnd then things, you know, like the bitter herb crusted fish that we'll be doing was more a play on, you know, instead of dipping parsley into salted water, you know, we're incorporating bitter herbs from parsley and from horseradish into one dish but making it a composed plate so that, you know, through the course of this meal, you know, it's mostly about the food. You know, we're having a secular Passover at the restaurant so we're inviting anybody that wants to come down and experience some of these elements...
NNAMDIAt DGS Delicatessen in Washington, D.C. Susan, what would you say are the signature dishes that are a part of your family's meal and how do you put your special twist on them?
BAROCASWell, it's really interesting also to hear Barry talk, because I think that that is what is so wonderful about what he's doing, what we're trying to do at the Jewish Food Experience. For so long it was like you have this tradition and you couldn't change anything about it. But the truth is, that we can, and we can take some of the old and mix it with the new. And so what I'm doing, this year I will be having a charoset bar, which will have six or eight different kinds of charoset from all over the world for my guests to sample, and I'm even thinking of having a rating sheet to see how people feel about each one, and we always do -- we have whitefish and we have matzo ball soup.
BAROCASBut my matzo balls have some different flavors in them. They always have a lot of onions, and they have a lot -- sometimes I put cumin and some, you know, I will mix in some flavors into them, and turmeric in my chicken soup is another favorite now that my mother never did. And I make a lemon, either chicken or fish. It's preserved lemons with green olives. It's a Moroccan--influenced dish which is really a lot of fun, and then there's a Sephardic dish called cuajado, and cuajados are vegetable pies basically.
BAROCASThey're very much from Turkey, and mine is with some mashed potatoes to give it body, and lots and lots and lots of leeks and some carrots, and it's really yummy.
NNAMDIYou're making me hungry. Esther, talk a little bit about your grandmother's approach to matzo.
FOEROh, this would be my mother. I called her grandmother because she's the grandmother to my children, obviously.
FOERAnd now, fortunately she's Bubbi. She's got four generations. To us, her story is so central to everything we do, because our family is really -- it's -- our story is a story of freedom coming from eastern Europe surviving the Holocaust, and grandma is revered in our family. One year we cooked with her. I set up a session where her grandchildren came together and we cooked with her. It's not just the matzo ball recipe, it's the love that goes into it, and it's the passing on of that tradition. And before this Passover, my grandchildren are going to come and cook with me.
NNAMDIAny special twist you bring to your...
FOERWell, you know, we do different kinds of charosets as you mentioned. I grew up in an Ashkenazi family, so our charoset had nuts and apples and one of my grandchildren is allergic to nuts. So we're -- we tried different kinds of charoset. I talked to her the other day, and she said, we're not going to do one with nuts. I said, of course not. So we try different kinds of -- and yes, there will be twists. Our matzo balls are not going to go in chicken soup.
FOERWe are now a family -- a blended family of vegetarians, of different food styles. So it will be the traditional matzo ball, but in a modern vegetable soup. And I wanted to say something about the Jewish cooking. Jewish cooking -- when we talk about Jewish cooking, it really reflected the communities that the Jews lived in, whether it was Turkey or Syria or eastern Europe. So we really have a global food tradition that we are modernizing, and that we can blend.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back, if you have a call, stay on the line. We'll try to get to your calls? If the lines are busy as they seem to be, you might want to go to our website, kojoshow.org, join the conversation there. Send us a tweet @kojoshow or email to email@example.com. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIIt's a food Wednesday conversation about the Passover table with Esther Safran Foer, executive director and CEO of the historic Sixth and I Synagogue in Washington D.C. Barry Koslow is the chef at DGS Delicatessen here in Washington, and Susan Barocas is the project leader of the Jewish Food Experience, which is a program of the United Jewish Endowment Fund of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. It curates food stories, histories, recipes, and personal experiences from people throughout the region.
NNAMDIBarry, where do you see the stands you're talking against industrialization most clearly at DGS? It's my understanding that you make your corned beef and pastrami on the premises, for example.
KOSLOWWe do. You know, we want full control, so before we opened, one of my partners and I went out to Kansas to visit Creekstone Farms where we get all our beef from, and we visited their feed lots, we visited their processing facility to make sure that we are happy with the way that the animals were treated and to make sure, you know, we approved of their process, and that was very important to us. And it was very important to us to sell premium beef, and part of, you know, what happened with processing and industrialization is that cheaper beef was always used.
KOSLOWAnd so, you know, the quality of the ingredients is very, very, important to us, and we've gone through great lengths to make sure that everything we're buying is of the utmost quality.
NNAMDIA few years ago, the deli, Stax, tried to make a go out of importing smoked meats from Canada. They struggled, eventually closed. Why do you think filling this gap in D.C's culinary spectrum has been such a difficult undertaking?
KOSLOWIt's expensive to do for one, and it's -- to do it ourselves, the way we do it, it's very labor intensive. It takes a great big staff to pull this off, trying to make everything, and trying to execute everything, and, you know, it's challenging to fill the space because it's not like New York where you have a very high concentration of Jews that are all right there that are going to come into your delicatessen. The Jews in D.C. are more scattered, and there's a lot of, you know, D.C. is a very eclectic mix of cultures and people, so, I mean, I think you have to -- what we've tried to do is sort of pitch a wide tent and hope that we can get everybody to come in as a community and enjoy our restaurant.
NNAMDISusan, first, industrialization is one end of the spectrum, but being able to use modern cooking tools in your own kitchen is another. It's any understanding you feel that the food processor is Passover's best friend, and that you have memories of watching your brother's cry as they tried to grate horseradish when he were growing up.
BAROCASAbsolutely. Growing up the horseradish was taken out in the backyard, because nobody else wanted the fumes from it, and grated, this big root on a hand grater, and they would put kerchiefs over their faces. They would do whatever they could. Now, my son and I -- I have a 16-year-old son, Sam, he throws it in the food processor quite honestly, and as long as you don't open it too quickly and take a deep smell, you're okay. You're safe. And I also grew up to make the Ashkenazic charoset with the apples and nuts.
BAROCASI had a big wooden bowl that was my little Russian grandmother's bowl, and a big red handled chopper that you would hang onto, and you would first do the nuts for about, I don't know, 45 minutes to get them fine enough. It would always seem like it was all day. And then you'd empty it and take it and do the apples in there, and now, I can make so much more food. I can't imagine making some of the dishes I make without the food processor. I make Moroccan charoset balls that grind up dates and raisins and apricots. If I had to do that by hand...
NNAMDIIt's amazing how these childhood experiences everybody seems to think everything took so long.
FOERRight. It did.
KOSLOWI'll second that notion for the food processor.
NNAMDIWell, speaking of cookware, Esther.
NNAMDII've heard your family dishes are particularly important to you, that you have painted dozens of Passover plates.
FOERWell, this is -- you know, every year has a new insanity in my house. It's what am I going to come up with this year, whether it's tenting the basement so the kids would feel that they're out in the desert, and one of my particularly insanities was to paint dishes. And so I undertook -- and because we have 35 people, I did 36 dishes. I did this with a friend of mine. We would sit and do this together, and they're painted with some Hebrew on it with the word Passover Pesach, and in our case, we put cherry blossoms on them, because when you go on archeological dig, you're going to find something that relates to the area that you find these things in, so they have cherry blossoms.
FOERAnd then one year I did soup bowls, and this is not something I recommend to anybody else by the way.
NNAMDIWhen you have to paint your Passover plates, apparently you have to think about posterity too.
FOERExactly. Well, that's part of the Passover story.
NNAMDIIndeed it is. Onto the telephones again. Here is Rachel in Silver Spring, Md. Rachel, your turn.
RACHELHi. First a shout out to Susan Barocas. This is Rachel from the early days of the Jewish Film Festival.
RACHELSorry about all that dog barking, hi.
RACHELOh, who's barking? I have my dog, Jackie, and a visiting dog (unintelligible) .
NNAMDIHi Jackie and visitor. Go ahead, please, Rachel. Go ahead.
RACHELI grew up very traditional, four generation Seders food wise and the most interesting Seder, however, that I ever had food wise was in Jerusalem in the '80s. Many friends of mine were studying there, and somebody, as a surprise, went and ordered Chinese food containers from the United States, a huge stack of them, and then created a Sephardic menu with rice, of course, and every other Sephardic dish you can imagine that we growing up Askhenazic would never have had on our plate.
RACHELBut each person, there were about 25 of us from all over the United States, brought one -- was allowed to bring one tradition from their family, and one guy gave the "I have a dream" speech when we got to coming out of Egypt, which, I mean, it's so obvious, but it was so moving and, you know, even coming from a family background where we marched in '63, had never done that, and that was the most fantastic addition to a Seder I'd ever had.
NNAMDIRachel, thank you very much for your call. We got an email from Rachel, presumably another Rachel, who says, "I recently moved to the D.C. area, and am looking for ways to get involved in the Jewish community. I really love cooking, and was hoping Susan could share ways I could get involved. Thank you."
BAROCASWell, there are lots of events. Thank you and welcome, by the way, Rachel. D.C. Actually is a great food community now. It didn't used to be when I moved here in 1993, but it is now. A couple of things to suggest. One is Sixth and I. Look at their calendar. There are tons and tons of events around food, some of which we're looking forward to co-sponsoring also. Last night, for instance, there was "Russ & Daughters," a book signing with Joe Nathan and the author of "Russ & Daughters" book.
BAROCASThe other thing is that if you go onto the jewishfoodexperience.com website, we try to pull together food-related events from all over the city. Wine tastings and cooking classes, demonstrations, book signings, just parties, networking, anything around food, and we use that loosely. We also, by the way are starting to sponsor some events that you'll be hearing about going forward in the future exactly to bring people together over food.
NNAMDIAnything else you can add to that, Esther?
FOERYes. I mean, oh, my gosh, we've had a host of wonderful Jewish chefs actually. Mark Bittman is coming in the fall, we've had Ina Garten. I can't even remember all of them, and I have to say...
NNAMDIWell, mention Joan Nathan again, otherwise she'll call me.
FOEROkay. Well, she's already been mentioned. Okay. Spike Mendelsohn and his mother from (word?) made latkes, and that's really what Sixth and I is about, is taking tradition and reinventing it in a way, not just the food but the tradition, and making it modern and appealing. And we have a Seder actually. We have several Seders at Sixth and I to appeal to different audiences and they filled up instantly, and these are a Seder meal, but also meaningful Seder discussions and celebrations, one of which will focus on modern-day slavery.
NNAMDIRachel, thank you very much for that email. Here is Jamie in Washington D.C. Jamie, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JAMIEThank you, Kojo. My question is for Barry. Barry, it seems like you have researched the food for your restaurant very thoroughly, and Jewish restaurants -- Jewish delicatessens in New York always had tongue -- tongue sandwiches, and many non-Jewish people like these very much, like my family. And I was wondering, did you research tongue, and if so, do you know did they corn the tongue they used and do you ever have tongue, and I'll hang up so I can hear your response.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Jamie. Barry, your turn.
KOSLOWYes, yes, and yes. We have tongue. We corn our tongue, but I actually learned -- my cooking background is French, so I actually learned to cook tongue in French restaurants. But, of course, you know, during our research trip, probably the most magnificent sandwich we had was at Katz's and it was their tongue sandwich which is just an impressive pile of shaved tongue and it was delicious. So we have it on our lunch menu. We do -- we call it the Wally B., and it's a tribute to one of my partner's grandfathers who was a big connoisseur of tongue, and it's with fresh horseradish and pickled apples and arugula.
KOSLOWAnd then I have a lot of guests that come in that just want a traditional tongue with mustard on rye and I'm happy to do it any time. And at night we have a nice salad with beets and tongue with a little bit of fennel, and we do with blood oranges.
NNAMDIWhat's the story behind the DGS name? It's my understanding it pays homage to the old collective District Grocery Stores?
KOSLOWThat's correct. So they were the original mom and pop stores of Washington D.C., and when the immigrants came into D.C. and tried to open their stores they were having a hard time, you know, getting any buying power. So they -- I believe that was around 1922, 12 stores banded together in a co-op and formed the first and there were over 300 stores. We met an actual DGS owner about a month ago named Saul Allesco (sp?) , and he came in and was telling us about his store.
KOSLOWAnd my family on my mother's side had a store right near here, and also my partners, Nick and David Wiseman, their family also had a DGS store. So we wanted to pay homage to it, and it's something that's completely forgotten, and of course, they all disappeared in the '60s, so if anybody what the last numbered DGS store was, we would love to know because we want to be store number 358 or whichever store it is.
NNAMDIThe DGS name is back. Barry Koslow is the chef at DGS Delicatessen in Washington D.C. Barry, thank you for joining us.
KOSLOWThanks for having me.
NNAMDIEsther Safran Foer is executive director and CEO of the historic Sixth and I Synagogue in Washington D.C. Esther, thank you for joining us.
NNAMDIAnd Susan Barocas is the project leader of the Jewish Food Experience, a program of the United Jewish Endowment Fund of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. It curates food stories, histories, recipes, and personal experiences from people throughout the region. Susan, thank you for joining us.
NNAMDIAnd thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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One cost-saving strategy would shut down low-performing Metro stations during off-peak hours.
Kojo explores Michelin’s newly starred restaurants and finds out how these fine eateries have changed “Steakhouse D.C.”