Friday, September 25, 2009

Rosh Hashanah Part I

Shanah tovah.

About a month ago, I received an invitation from my good friend Nancy to join them in celebrating the Jewish holiday, Rosh Hashanah. Having attended the Passover Seder celebration at Nancy and Bob's house the last several years, I was both curious and anxious to see the similarities and differences between the two holidays. Like the Passover Seder, Rosh Hashanah is celebrated on two consecutive nights here in America. This year Nancy and Bob decided to pair up with another couple, Linda and Fred, to help distribute the work of creating these two amazing meals. As we got closer to the date, it turned out that Friday night's dinner would be for family and Saturday night's dinner would be for friends.

Besides being fortunate enough to attend such a marvelous celebration, I was also happy that I would be able to bring my aunt along as my guest. She had eagerly devoured my two posts on Nancy's Passover Seder earlier this year and was more than willing to drive in from out of town to experience this new holiday with me. She peppered me with questions at first, but having never been to a Rosh Hashanah dinner before, I was ill equipped to answer them. I assured her that the one thing she could expect was that whatever food was served would be at its best.

We arrived at around ten minutes until 7 PM and were warmly greeted by our hosts and the guests already present. Introductions were made and within mere moments, we were presented with a lovely glass of rose wine. I had asked Nancy ahead of time if it would be okay to blog about our dinner celebration and she graciously agreed to the request. I knew that she had been recovering from being sick earlier in the week as well as putting together a two night dinner extravaganza, so it only made sense to delegate picture taking to someone else to ease the burden a bit.

After processing all of the pre-dinner and dinner pictures, I decided that I had enough photographs to take a similar path to my Passover Seder entries and tell the story in two parts. This entry will describe the table before we all gathered and sat down for the meal. The next one will describe the ceremony involved as well as a better description of the foods we were served.

I set my wine glass down on the counter, pulled out my trusty G1 Google phone and began taking picture of Nancy's amazing table setting. Here was the view from the head of the table:

And a view from the opposite end:

Other than the two small candles at the head of the table, there weren't any additional ceremonial dishes or glasses on the table. I began walking around the table taking pictures of the dishes already present. First up was a wonderful bowl of chicken liver pate that Linda had brought:

This was garnished simply with some chopped parsley and smelled simply wonderful. Next up was a dish that was welcome at not just a holiday dinner, but any dinner, Nancy's amazing gefilte fish with carrots and flat-leaf parsley:

Just as Nancy and Bob are partners in life, they are also partners in food as well. As good as Nancy's gefilte fish is on it's own, with Bob's freshly grated and prepared horseradish, the pairing is almost magical:

We were all equally as blessed this year with the amazing bounty that came from Bob's garden. Here was a plate of garden fresh radishes and hot peppers:

The platter next to the radishes and peppers contained a myriad of garden fresh heirloom tomatoes dressed simply with some of the fresh basil picked right from the garden earlier that day:

From left to right, there were Early Pick, Black Krim, Costoluto Florentino, Azoychka, Sioux and Fireworks. Besides being a symphony of colors for the eyes, they were a symphony of flavors for the mouth, too.

In a bowl next to the tomato selection were some of Bob's garden cherry tomatoes, the Sugar Snaps:

I probably shouldn't have, but I couldn't resist popping one in my mouth after taking this photo. I bit into it and allowed the tomato liquor to coat my tongue. I was rewarded with an intensely sweet tomato flavor that one can only get from a locally grown tomato at this time of year. It certainly whetted my appetite for the meal to come.

This year, Linda decided to get two kinds of challah, a plain and a golden raisin, from a local establishment, On The Rise Bakery in Cleveland Heights. This was a shot of the golden raisin challah before it was sliced:

Challah is normally a braided bread, but during Rosh Hashanah, the challah is made into a round shape to symbolize both the unending circle of life as well as well as the crown of God's kingship over man.

Two plates of locally grown Honey Crisp apples had been cut up into wedges and placed at opposite ends of the table:

Apples and honey are traditionally served at the Rosh Hashanah meal to symbolize the hope for a sweet year. The honey we would be using came from a Northeast Ohio purveyor, OhioHoney (whose real name happens to be Lucy). She can be found every Saturday at the Shaker Square Farmer's Market and sells the most amazing variety of naturally produced honey and honey-related products.

During a Passover Seder meal, the Haggadah is sitting on the individual place settings. Tonight, the only item present on everyone's plate was a small ramekin of Lucy's wonderful elixir:

Having taken my fill of pictures, I discovered a piece of paper at the end of the table that detailed the vast number of courses to come. I thought I would share this menu with you, gentle reader, to whet your appetite for the meal that was about to begin shortly:

Truly a feast! If tonight's dinner was anything like Nancy's Passover Seder meal, I knew that it would be impossible to leave the table with anything less than a very full stomach and a completely sated palate. I returned to the kitchen both excited and satisfied, retrieved my glass of wine and rejoined the lively conversation while we waited for the remaining guest to arrive. Fortunately, I didn't have to wait long. And fortunately, neither will you.


Nancy Heller said...

Thank you, Tom, for taking care of the photodocumentation!

One gentle correction - Linda provided the challahs, which came from On the Rise Bakery.

Looking forward to Part II!

Tino said...

@Nancy Heller: It was totally my pleasure. Also, thanks for the correction, I will publish a correction to the original article.

BONNIE K said...

I love the way the food is presented. No one in our family is nearly that fancy.

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