Every NYC summer street fair looks exactly the same. Lemonade stands, gyros, Italian sausage, and Oriental rug booths repeat one after the other for blocks on end. But two weekends ago, the Workmen’s Circle took up one block of a Madison Avenue street fair and turned it into “A Taste of Jewish Culture.” A klezmer band played, the host educated us on Yiddush, and there were about ten booths that were a great reprieve from the regular vendors.
One of my favorite booths was Shelsky’s, which served latke boats. Mine was fried in tons of fat and topped with chopped liver and apple horseradish. (They also had a sweet potato version topped with whitefish and sriracha.) It was a bit too much horseradish for me (though I liked that you really could taste the apple) so I scraped some off but that was mostly because I didn’t want anything to come between me and the chopped liver. It was legit. I told the chef and owner (Shelsky himself) how similar it was to my grandmother’s and he said that was the best compliment he could receive. He’s a young guy who seems to really appreciate how things used to be done in old school Jewish kitchens but wants to incorporate a few new twists to get the new generation interested, as evidenced by the hashtag he posted on his chalkboard menu: #JewishFoodRenaissance. He’s not the first Jewish chef to have a butcher-style tattoo of a pig, but given the type of food he’s cooking, his may be more than just the ironic hipster Brooklyn tat; it is a nice commentary on new and old worlds colliding.