NOSH BERLIN: A Week of Wonderful Jewish Food

Picture this: Late 1989, at a kitchen table in Sharon, MA. After an afternoon drippily defrosting back to life, a reused deli potato salad container of Helen Fine’s stuffed cabbage was heated and served to a little girl. A pampered child, the cabbage roll sliced for her. One sweet and sour bite in, the little girl, having greedily swallowed well before full mastication was complete, found herself suddenly unable to breathe. Fear not: the child lived to grow up and have many cabbage-themed complexes. Her mother, an ever-watchful and competent practitioner of the Heimlich maneuver, launched the cabbage out of the girl’s throat and saved her life. That day began the girl’s transition from passive acceptance to profound interest in the dangerous foods of the Jewish world.

That story culminates thusly:nosh_berlin_poster_final


The Winners of the Fine Bagels September Bagel Challenge

After a tolling voting process that involved us learning how to do a “screenshot,” we present you with the winners:

Third place and winner of TWO FLEUR de SEL CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES AND TWO COFFEES of their choosing is…Chris and Annika from OoohBerlin.


Second place winner and recipient of a breakfast for two (two fresh juices, two bagels of their choosing, and two coffees of their choosing) goes to @berlinandcoconuts for this gem:


Finally, first place goes to the Salmaniak. Well done, Kleo! You have won a bagel brunch to take home and share with 12 of your closest friends. We’ll pack up a dozen bagels, cream cheeses, lox, and assorted toppings. Contact us by email and we’ll work out the details.


Until next September folks…

Eat In My Kitchen meets our rugelach

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Meike Peters writes one of our favorite food blogs, Eat in My Kitchen. On it, she shares her own recipes as well as her wonderfully personal interviews with other chefs, bakers, and people-of-the-kitchen. When Meike asked us to talk rugelach with her, we were over the moon. If you’ve ever wondered what goes into those little suckers, well, we’re pretty sure that butter was recently classified a super food. Check it out:

Rugelach on Eat in My Kitchen

Meanwhile, a few weeks ago Prestel released Meike’s brand new and beautiful cookbook, Eat In My Kitchen. We even went to the Berlin launch and stuffed a bunch of her genius little savory fennel cookies (recipe in the book) into our purse because this is what we were raised to do at classy events. But really, this book is a gem of functionality and originality. Why do we think it’s so good?

1. The recipes are richly varied, colored, and textured, and yet the ingredients are accessible and not a pain to track down.

2. We would actually cook and serve this stuff.

3. Meike is meticulous about getting her recipes right and having her voice come through. What we’ve tried has really worked and we are excited about cooking more from this book.

4. In an era where we’ve all got The Food Thesaurus as our coffee table book, we sometimes get a little blase about creative flavor combinations. Like, at this point hasn’t every Midwestern housewife blended a bar of lavender soap, a touch of paprika, and a dollop of freshly bailed hay to make the trendiest new semifreddo? But what Meike puts together is the kind of intelligent and complimentary flavor-work that we actually want to put in our mouths, not just on an instagramable plate (but we really want to do that too).

5. Meike’s recipes recently taught us that endives and kumquats are (1) food items, (2) have functions other than slowly spoiling and quietly reminding us that we made yet another cute but ambiguously useful impulse purchase, and (3) sooooo delicious if made well. Well done, Meike. We had no idea.

You can find Meike’s new book on our cookbook shelf at Fine Bagels/Shakespeare and Sons.



The Fine Bagels September Bagel Challenge

Once a year we throw down the gauntlet and ask our customers (nag our friends) to doll up a bagel, take a picture, and indulge our social media approval-addiction cycle. Last year’s winner was one Ms. Alice Connew who charmed the judges (Helen K. Fine) with this savory treasure.


Ms. Connew was the recipient of The Grand Prize of 2015, a bagel brunch for twelve. Had we been the winners of our own prize we’d probably have to go feed half of it to the ducks at Weissensee but fortunately Ms. Connew is a popular girl with human friends. This is what she did with her prize:


2016’s participants ran the gamut from dull and half-hearted to thrilling and seductive. We present to you the finalists for the 2016 Fine Bagels September Bagel Challenge. Winners to be announced next week.

First up is by @berlinandcoconuts. The concept is a shakshuka bagel. Since it’s common knowlege that Israelis don’t know from good bagels, perhaps this is a disguise to encourage bagel-eating across the diaspora. A bagel in shakshuka clothing, if you will. Or maybe it’s just tasty fusion. Either way, clever, very clever.


Next up is a second submission from @berlinandcoconuts. What is she trying to do to us here? She wants we should get all pervy about a bagel? This one is topped with fresh figs, goat cheese, chives, fig jam, lavender honey, and mâche. Damn right we’ve got the circumflex in there. This is a sweet-salty dream.


Next up is Lizzie Dieckermann’s big pile-o-Berlin on a bagel. If that sounds indelicate, it’s not. We love it. She’s calling this The Kreuzberg Breakfast (Anti-AFD Bagel). For those of you unfamiliar with the AFD, take a minute to acquaint yourself via this New Yorker profile. 

Lizzie describes it: Eggs softly scrambled with onions, peppers, tomatoes , parsley and sucuk (garlic sausage) Looks nothing like the intended dish (Menemen) but tasted great on a sesame bagel toasted nice and crunchy to resemble its cousin, the simit. Thank goodness Berlin isn’t just pork and potatoes.

For such a sweet next entry, Megan Archer surprised us all and used a curse word in her bagel description. She says, “This decadent delight is comprised of a honey oat bagel made into French toast with free-range eggs and coconut milk. It is then topped with creme-fraiche (too lazy to insert appropriate French accents twice in one post), caramelized banana, toasted walnuts, and a honey drizzle. It was fucking delicious.”
Megan, we believe you. It looks fucking delicious. But do you know who judges this competition? Our grandmother. You’re clearly forgotten what happened the last time we used that kind of language in a blog post. Be ready to be lectured on the vastness of the English language. The infinite ways to express emphasis without vulgarity.
“What has happened to the millions of wonderful nouns and verbs that remain unused in  our vocabulary  They are dying of neglect…..” -Helen Fine after we quoted John Waters to her. Good luck, Ms. Archer. May she not judge you too harshly.
The cutest couple in Berlin, Chris and Annika from OoohBerlin, are also in the running with their Bagel Challenge submissions. Going for a new technique, they gave us two breakfasts on one bagel. They explain:
Aussie Brunch vs. English Breakfast. Featuring on the Aussie side: homecured bacon, avocado smash, beetroot, goat’s cheese and a poached egg! For the Brits: homecured bacon, bourbon infused baked beans, scrambled egg, fried mushroom, and tomato.
Bourbon infused baked beans?! What lengths they’ve gone to. Nana, you enjoy a tipple. Take note.


So this one time, we were travelling in Latvia and our companion told us he wanted to find “the ice cream with the bread.” Since only hours earlier he’d asked us, “How you call that magnificent animal?” (duck), perhaps you get a sense for the level of English proficiency we were dealing with. So we assumed “the ice cream with the bread” was just his way of saying he wanted a cone. Or something.


No. In Latvia, they have “the ice cream with the bread.” Where in more decadent places you might have ice cream crammed with brownies or candies or rippled with fudgy things, in Latvia, you can get shreads of an honest peasant loaf bouldering through your vanilla.

What are we getting at? Well, that bread and ice cream is a thing. At least somewhere. And segue:

Chris and Annika’s second Bagel Challenge entry is:

“The Triple C Delight. A creamy cherry coconut dream! The bagel has been dipped in Belgian milk chocolate and is holding three generous scoops of creamy coconut ice cream and fruity delicious cherry Gruetze and sprinkled with coconut shavings to top it off!”

The ice cream with the bread:



We are so charmed by the next one. Really. Our snark completely fails us here. We have no room for sarcasm. It’s just lovely. Kleo Krietz created these next two. Her gentle water color design work pleased us so much we almost didn’t notice how tasty her bagels look.

Here’s Kleo’s description:

“First of all the Bageldict Cumberbatch, a super fancy fig and cucumber-spaghetti topped bagel topped with honey and sparkles of feta cheese. It is super tasty and easy to make and impresses everyone who takes a bite.
The next one is the Salmaniac, a salmon bagel you can get addicted to. The selfmade honey- mustard sauce fits perfectly to the rich taste of the grilled salmon which has a pepper crust, to add a little more spice.”








Last up is Georgia Daley, sweet young thing who took a Fine Bagel places no Fine Bagel had gone before. Where that is exactly, we can’t say for sure, but we doubt it was consensual. Georgia, what have you done? Without further ado, the last of our finalists, “Ich bin ein Berliner.”

From the maker of last year’s “Heart throb” bagel comes the sequel, the “Ich bin ein Berliner.” Ever wondered what happens when the younger cousin of the Heart-throb comes to visit? This take on the classic Berliner Pfannkuchen pretty much sums it up. This deep-fried cinnamon sugar bagel covered in a thick layer of white icing sugar seems sweet and innocent to the naked eye. However its true colours are revealed with the first bite as the bagel explodes with strawberry marmalade and all bets are off…You know what they say: Good girls go to Heaven, bad girls go to Berlin!”


Last year’s submission from Ms. Daley, “The Heart Throb.” See below:



Emily’s Apple Macaroon

“Rosh Hashanah is at our throats again.”

Saul Bellow said that.



So then something for the season. Something that we bake for ourselves at home and don’t share with the customers. Something that we were raised to think of as a breakfast food. Something our mother told us was apple pie.

To be clear, this is not apple pie. That was a lie. We’ve found similar (though never its equal) in Russian cake shops, Polish Cukiernias, and Austrian coffee  houses. As European as Mom’s apple pie?

The idea is a light, gently sweet batter that gets poured over a pie pan full of thickly chopped apples. Result being a kind of apple cake that is more apple than cake. Divine.


For ours, we picked our apples somewhere in deep dark Brandenburg. Have we mentioned we’re from New England? Yes? Of course we have. We’re from New England. This gives us a kind of inborn authority to say definitively that this apple orchard lacked more than a certain je ne sais quoi. Je sais quoi. Still, what it came up short on in cider doughnuts and autumnal cheer it more than made up for in sour-faced Chesterfield-smoking German apple guards. Ok, here’s the recipe:



About 12 scrawny Brandenburg apples, peeled and dewormed or about 3 bloated American Cortlands cut into medium-sized chunks. Enough to fill a pie dish.

4 eggs

2 cups sugar

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp softened butter or shortening

2 cups flour

1 tbsp vanilla

Preheat your oven to 200C. Grease and flour a pie pan or a springform pan. Fill with your apple chunks. In a mixing bowl, mix on high until fluffy butter/shortening and sugar. When fully incorporated, add eggs, one at a time, mixing on high. Add vanilla and salt and beat on high for a full 2 minutes. Finally, add the sugar and mix until smooth. Pour over apple chunks and smooth over top with a spatula. Give it a few minutes to settle down in between all the apple chunks. Once settled, sprinkle the top with cinnamon sugar and set in your over. Bake on the high temperature for 10 minutes. This will form a crispy, caramelized top crust. After 10 minutes, turn down the temperature to 175 and continue to bake for 35 minutes. Remove and let cool before cutting and serving.






Rhapsody in Schmalz

So yesterday, we’re talking to a friend and he says he doesn’t listen to music anymore. He just reads. We said, in the way that we say things when we don’t know if we approve or not but don’t really have anything to add, “That’s nice.” The gentleman in question said something we’re misquoting now as, “No, I’m not sure about that.” He elaborated, then ended it by saying that it’s a niche interest. What is? Reading. Reading? Really?

Now, at Fine Bagels, we’ve been suspicious of this for some time but, for our own miserable sake, not in need to anything more to add to our repertoire of “modern complaints which incite us to curse a world of ‘digital natives,'” we ignored this. Still, a conversation like that, be it true or not, we figured we ought to read a book this weekend, lest we be complicit. John Waters will tell you, “If you go home with someone and they don’t have books, don’t fuck them.”

Michael Wex, of Born to Kvetch fame, recently released a book whose title somehow, somehow, speaks to us as much as Born to Kvetch. We’re going to keep both of these on our bookshelf if only for the cover photos.

Should we be so rich to eat kreplach every day and so lucky to have a new Michael Wex book.


From Michael Wex’s website:

Bagels, deli sandwiches, and kosher dills are only a few of the Jewish foods to have crossed into American culture and onto non-Jewish plates. From the Bible and Talmud to the delis of North America, Rhapsody in Schmaltz traces the history and impact of the cuisine that Yiddish-speaking Jews from Central Eastern Europe brought across the Atlantic and that their North American descendants have developed and refined.

Alright. If reading really is such a niche hobby these days, at least a book for our niche interests.