Winnipeg Free Press Newspaper Archives March 31, 2015 Page 16

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Acton Free Press

May 1, 1958, Page 6

Acton, Ontario, CA

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Winnipeg Free Press (Newspaper) - March 31, 2015, Winnipeg, Manitoba C M Y K PAGE C1 These loners are losers / C3 ARTS & LIFE ARTS@ FREEPRESS. MB. CA I WINNIPEGFREEPRESS. COM I HOROSCOPE C4 I MISS LONELYHEARTS C4 I DIVERSIONS C7 TUESDAY, MARCH 31, 2015 C 1 T HIS time last year, Winnipeg chef Jon Hochman was struggling to build a clientele at Fitzroy, a Sherbrook Street restaurant with a short menu of small plates. Casual walk- ins weren’t digging the room. The oldschool fine- dining crowd didn’t want to share meals. Regulars, meanwhile, were far less enthusiastic about Hochman’s higher- concept creations — an appetizer of pike- and- clam fritters, a main of barbecue pork with scallops and corn — than they were about the Jewish- inspired comfort food that started creeping on to the menu. At the end of its 16- month existence, Fitzroy was slinging salt beef with hot mustard, a cheeseburger topped with chicken- fat crackling and a thick slice of rye bread shmeared with goldeye and scrambled eggs. It had become a purveyor of high- concept nouveau- Jewish cuisine. Realizing which way the wind was blowing, Hochman shuttered the doors, took down the ambiguous Fitzroy sign and remade his rented West Broadway space into Sherbrook Street Delicatessen, the latest in a slew of Winnipeg restaurants to mine the shmaltz- infused flavours of Eastern European Jewish cuisine, either traditionally or with an ironic wink. “ In Winnipeg 10 or 12 years ago, we had a few French bistros opening. French bistros serve comfort food, and comfort food is essentially what people want,” said Hochman, 29. The notion Jewish deli food is comfort food may seem strange to non- Jews, given Ashkenazi cuisine’s liberal use of chicken fat, as well as its heavy reliance upon both offal and offcuts. But Ashkenazi cuisine does resemble French bistro fare in that both originated as peasant food — the stuff home cooks made out of necessity in the old country. Since its opening in early March, Sherbrook Street Delicatessen has been selling chopped liver, smoked brisket, beef tongue, pickled herring and fried salami, all made and cured in house. And yes, business is in fact much better. “ Traditional eastern European cooking, it’s not what’s in, in the moment. It’s a difficult cuisine and it’s a lot of work. There’s a lot of labour involved, unless you want to do a scoop and serve,” said Hochman, who uses an off- site commissary to cure his meats but makes almost every menu items — including the bagels — in house. The artisanal, ultra- traditional approach at Sherbrook Street Delicatessen is unusual, considering Hochman has the financial support of a de facto restaurant chain. He’s backed by Noel Bernier, whose stable of Winnipeg restaurant investments includes Carnaval, Barley Brothers and Prairie 360. Hence the kitschiness of Sherbrook Street’s menu, where some sandwiches are named after people, such as the late Izzy Asper. Bernier’s involvement also explains the presence behind the till of former Kelekis fixture Jim Pappas, who was working in another Bernier establishment after his own North End institution closed. Nonetheless, other purveyors of Jewish deli food are thrilled to see Hochman open. Only six years ago, Toronto food writer David Sax penned Save the Deli to document the continent- wide disappearance of traditional, house- made Ashkenazi food. “ A place like Hochman’s opening up is fantastic for the city. It gives people working downtown access to a deli lunch,” said Aaron Bernstein, 33, whose family has run Bernstein’s Deli in River Heights for decades. “ I think there’s enough business. I don’t think he’s poaching.” After a series of Winnipeg deli closures over the past two decades, Bernstein’s was the last sit- down restaurant in Winnipeg where deli purists could chow down on house- made Ashkenazi dishes such as pickled tongue, gefilte fish or kugel. After Aaron joined his mother Marla at the business in 2012, the menu was modernized to add Jewish- fusion nods such as potato- pancake stackers and a bison Reuben sandwich. There are now also some Middle Eastern touches, such as a pita- based fattoush salad and shakshouka, a breakfast dish of eggs poached in tomato sauce, onions and chili peppers. Bernstein’s was also the first Winnipeg restaurant to re- establish the tradition of making corned beef in house and serving it warm, stacked thick and glistening with tender, silky fat. Sherbrook Street Deli is now competing with its own smoked meat — as is Exchange District sandwich shop King + Bannatyne, whose “ River City brisket” approximates the smoked meat served at Montreal’s famous Schwartz’s Hebrew Delicatessen. Despite Hochman’s claim there’s nothing trendy about Jewish cuisine, brisket is definitely having its moment. So are other Jewish staples such as challah, the light and eggy white bread that’s turned into French toast at both Bernstein’s and West Broadway’s Tallest Poppy, Winnipeg’s cheekiest purveyor of nouveau Jewish cuisine. When Poppy proprietor Talia Syrie started serving pulled pork on challah, she knew most of her customers wouldn’t be in on the joke. “ People who aren’t Jewish don’t really get the atrocity of it, the pure sacrilegious nature of the combination,” said Syrie, 38, whose southern- Jewish mashup of a menu also includes a brisket- based chicken- fried steak and a traditional chicken soup with matzo balls. Syrie, like Hochman, didn’t originally intend to proselytize for the cuisine of her childhood. Over time, she too has come to see Jewish cuisine as comfort food. “ I think there is a real simplicity to it. I think people can easily wrap their heads around the idea of taking something that isn’t that valuable, like an offcut of meat, and making it into something quite delicious,” she said. “ It seems very honest and there is this nostalgia for a simpler time... people like the comfort of knowing all the things that are in your food.” bartley. kives@ freepress. mb. ca By Bartley Kives Newish Jewish noshes The old- world comfort food springing up around town is not just your Baba’s brisket Know your shmaltz A brief Jewish food primer: Ashkenazi cuisine : Jewish food from Eastern Europe. Heavily influenced by Slavic and German cuisine. Blintzes : Stuffed crepes, folded up and baked or fried. Brisket : A cut of beef cured and smoked into corned beef, smoked meat or pastrami. Traditionally steamed before serving and sliced thick. Chopped liver : Precisely what you think it is. Usually made from beef. Gefilte fish : A meatball or loaf made from ground freshwater fish such as pickerel, sauger, pike, sucker or carp. Usually served cold with beet horseradish. Knishes : Pockets of dough stuffed with cheese, potatoes or other fillings. Kugel : A noodle casserole. Matzo balls : Dumplings made of ground- up matzo, a dry flatbread. Mizrahi cuisine : Jewish food from the Middle East. Heavily influenced by Arabic cuisine. Schmaltz : Chicken fat, rendered into a cooking oil and condiment. Sephardic cuisine : Jewish food from North Africa. Heavily influenced by Spanish and Moroccan cuisine. — Bartley Kives ‘ Traditional Eastern European cooking, it’s not what’s in, in the moment. It’s a difficult cuisine and it’s a lot of work. There’s a lot of labour involved, unless you want to do a scoop and serve’ DAVID LIPNOWSKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Customers chow down on eastern European- inspired fare prepared by chef Jon Hochman, left, at Sherbrook Street Delicatessen; below, smoked meat ( top) and a bagel with lox. C_ 01_ Mar- 31- 15_ FP_ 01. indd C1 3/ 30/ 15 5: 16: 13 PM ;