Jewish Cuisine

Enchanting Pflaumen-Tzimmes

Enchanting Pflaumen-Tzimmes

Bagel Shop Café cooks have been sharing some of the secrets of Litvak cooking this summer with the managers of a small restaurant in Merkinė, Lithuania, called Šilo kopa. They’ve been making bagels, herring and pflaumen-tzimmes together.

Pflaumen-tzimmes is a stew made of plums and beef often made for the Sabbath table and Rosh Hashanah.

Bagel Shop Café cook Riva remembers this dish well and still makes it according to a simple recipe: about 1.5 kilograms of beef (from the forequarter), bone, about 15 to 20 plums, about 1.5 kg of potatoes and 1 onion, which is later removed. Laurel leaves aren’t required, only salt. The flavor is enhanced by several tablespoons of caramelized sugar added at the end.

The beef is boiled with the onion for about 2 hours, the onion is removed, the plums are added for about an hour and later the potatoes. When everything has been boiled sufficiently, add 3 to 4 tablespoons of liquefied caramelized sugar.

Milk and Cheese Treats on Shavuot

Milk and Cheese Treats on Shavuot

We celebrate the holiday of Shavuot on June 9 and 10. June 8 is the eve before the holiday, and the entire night is dedicated to studying the Oral and Written Torah. The Torah is read out on this night.

Shavuot is an old holiday of pilgrimage and its rituals add cohesion to the community. During the holiday, a series of milk and cheese dishes are prepared and sampled. The king among them is the classic cheese pie. In Lithuania as in other European Jewish communities pancakes with cheese are popular. During the holiday in Israel, smaller cheese makers open their doors to visitors. Shavuot tourists are also invited to attend the Northern Cheese Pie Festival held now for its third year and children are taught how to milk cows and how to make butter from fresh milk.

This Sunday the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius will celebrate with treats made by Shoshana, a mashgiach who came especially from Israel to cook for the Bagel Shop Café this year.

The Bagel Shop Café recommends making Shavuot breakfast from the best challa with cream cheese and berries.

Shavuot on Sunday

Shavuot on Sunday

Shavuot or Shavuos is the holiday marking the giving of the Torah. The Vilnius Jewish Religious Community and Chabad Lithuania invite you to come celebrate together at 11:30 A.M. on Sunday, June 9, at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius. We will read the Ten Commandments and everyone will have the opportunity to sample delicious traditional Shavuot milk-product dishes. Children will receive small gifts. Because Shavuot is a time when studying the Torah is especially apt, traditional and successful, you are invited to an extended Sabbath dinner at Bokšto street no. 9 in Vilnius at 8:30 on June 8 where we will learn more about the Shavuot holiday.

Eurovision Viewing Party

Eurovision Viewing Party

For the first time ever the Lithuanian Jewish Community hosted a party to watch the Eurovision song contest on beanbags in the auditorium on the third floor. Attendees included LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, Goodwill Foundation director Indrė Rutkauskaitė, Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Amir Maimon, veteran Lithuanian gay-rights activist Vladimiras Simonko, LJC projects director Dovilė Rūkaitė, Bagel Shop Café top chef Riva Portnaya and others.

Ambassador Maimon spoke, recalling earlier Eurovision events, and lamented he wouldn’t be able to vote for Israel or Lithuania this time. He relayed he had just spoken by telephone with Lithuanian contestant Jurijus Veklenko in Tel Aviv and said the Lithuanian singer was very positive about his upcoming performance.

Faina Kukliansky said it would be a sad world if we were all the same and praised the mixed crowd at the viewing party, which included senior citizens, young Lithuanians and guests from abroad.

Bagel Shop Café Celebrates Purim with Hamentashen

Bagel Shop Café Celebrates Purim with Hamentashen

The Bagel Shop Café has made a tradition out of offering Litvak-style hamentashen pastries on Purim and this year is no different. Purim, the 14th and 15th days of the month of Adar on the Jewish calendar, falls on March 20 and 21 this year. The Bagel Shop Café is located at Pylimo street no. 4 in Vilnius inside the Lithuanian Jewish Community but with its own street-level entrance.

Success Story: Bakery Making Forgotten Treats Has Special Aura

Success Story: Bakery Making Forgotten Treats Has Special Aura

by S.Viltrakytė-Varkalienė, Lietuvos rytas

“The cult of food is very useful for us, but that doesn’t mean that when we opened everyone came to buy bagels,” Bagel Shop projects director Dovilė Rūkaitė said at the café’s third birthday party.

Although the café depends on support from the Lithuanian Jewish Community, Rūkaitė said she has no doubts that the kosher food outlet is very much a success story. Interest in traditional Jewish cuisine has raised the idea of a restaurant as well. Although no opening date has been announced, preparations are taking place behind the scenes.

For now you can try kosher find in the humble café inside the Lithuanian Jewish Community. You won’t find a filling lunch here, the kitchen is too small for the five-person collective to make such things. But you can sample shakshuka, soup, salads, bagels and cakes.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Launch of Book about Jews of Švėkšna

Launch of Book about Jews of Švėkšna

Monika Žąsytienė, a Bagel Shop project volunteer and museum specialist, has written a book called “Švėkšnos žydų bendruomenė XVII–XX a.” [The Jewish Community of Švėkšna from the 17th to the 20th Century].

The Bagel Shop Café will host the launch of the new book at 6:00 P.M. on February 19. Register here.

According to the author, the book makes no pretense of being an historical work. Instead, Monika Žąsytienė sought to bring together local lore and regional history for future work on the subject. She made use of material from Lithuanian archives, Yad Vashem and the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D. C. Some of the information–testimonies, memoirs, correspondence in Yiddish, Hebrew, German and English–appears for the first time in Lithuanian in her book.

Bagel Shop Celebrates Third Birthday

Bagel Shop Celebrates Third Birthday

The Bagel Shop Café is the café the Lithuanian Jewish Community opened three years ago on the first floor. Celebrating Litvak culinary heritage and traditions, the Bagel Shop makes bagels according to a family recipe and makes Sabbath challa every Friday, as well as many other items, and special foods on holidays. It began as an idea in 2014, as part of a tolerance campaign of the same name sponsored in part by a grant from Norway and aimed at fighting discrimination and anti-Semitism. Eventually the Bagel Shop became a real bagel shop.

Three years later, we’ve decided to surprise our customers and visitors with a presentation of Israeli street food and culture. Throughout February we’ll be baking pita, making falafel and talking about food.

Everyone’s invited at 10:00 A.M. on Sunday, February 17, to an educational celebration at the LJC where you’ll have the opportunity to sample falafel and sabih made the Israeli way, with musical accompaniment. Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Amir Maimon will talk about Israeli street food and Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinsky will teach on the topic of kosher food. Vilnius Jewish Religious Community chairman Simas Levinas is to take part in the event and synagogue cantor Shmuel Yatom will perform. Visitors will also have the chance to speak personally with Bagel Shop chef Riva Portnaja and others about Jewish cuisine.

Falafel, Cabbage, Gentrification and a Sense of Community

Falafel, Cabbage, Gentrification and a Sense of Community

You might have noticed recent items about the Bagel Shop Café and Israeli street food during the snowy month of February. We asked Community members and friends about the joy of life and sense of community to be discovered in eating and food.

Our chef Riva makes the best shakshuka in Vilnius although she prefers burek. We recommend you visit the site of the shakshuka cult in Tel Aviv. Our version comes from there, so what is burek? These are flaky layered pastry with all sorts of filling, including spinach, mushrooms and potatoes. We make it with scrambled egg as well. Riva buys these at bakeries on the street in Israel which overflow with baked goods Friday mornings and where it is difficult to even take it all in. Riva’s discovery this culinary season is cabbage from Jaffa. Expect a surprise!

Israeli Street Food at the Bagel Shop

Have you noticed street food is replacing fast food? Or maybe fast food is going to the streets? Groups of friends meet and sample incredible tastes at picnic tables with chairs tossed around chaotically in undefined spaces. Vilnius has a number of such street-food outlets now, open to the air even in winter or hiding between booths in a covered market serving simple meals. The ferment and throng of humanity are almost more important than the food itself, jostling in line to be served. Come experience the balagan (chaos) at the Bagel Shop Café’s third birthday in the first two-and-a-half weeks of February. We’ll be serving Israeli street food with a special menu including falafel, sabih and other pita sandwiches and dishes. You can vote for your favorite and the winner will become an item on our permanent menu. The main birthday party will be all day on February 17, starting at 10:00 A.M. and culminating in a concert in the early afternoon.

Complete balagan program available in Lithuanian here.

Bagel Shop Café Turns 3

Bagel Shop Café Turns 3

Three years ago Jewish bagels reappeared in Vilnius. For three years the Bagel Shop Café has been providing a Litvak bagel which customers enjoy with lox, cheese and other spreads. Thank you to all our customers who have helped bring back culture back on our tables and into our hearts.

Best Jewish Woman Contest Israelit de Lita 2018/5779

Best Jewish Woman Contest Israelit de Lita 2018/5779

Fourteen participants from ages 18 to over 55 competed Sunday in the best Jewish woman contest Israelit de Lita in Vilnius. Categories included cooking, talents and knowledge.

Contest organizer Larisa Vyšniauskienė explained feminine beauty fades over time, but spiritual beauty remains, and that was the basis for this competition.

The participants earlier attended lessons for several months on Jewish history, cuisine, cosmetics, fashion and the woman’s role in the Jewish family.

The Fayerlakh group provided music and dance for the event. Arkadijus Vinokuras and Božena Sokolinska were the MCs.

And the winners were:

Hanukkah Celebration for Children

Around 70 children attended the Hanukkah celebration the Lithuanian Jewish Community held at the Future Live hall in Vilnius. The candles were lit and songs were performed in Hebrew and Yiddish. Children spun the dreidl and took part in quizzes and competitions. Traditional doughnuts were eaten and Hanukkah gelt was passed out. Children also received dreidls to take home.

Thirtieth Birthday Hanukkah Celebration

Thirtieth Birthday Hanukkah Celebration

Our 30th birthday Hanukkah celebration was just as fun as it was 30 years ago, and almost the same number of people attended, around 400. Although times have changed, there’s a new generation and we have lost many of those who attended in 1988, we remember them, say a good word about them and take joy in the present, in the fact that Community members of all ages came to celebrate, including children and young families from the regional communities.

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky welcomed celebrants. Social programs department director Žana Skudovičienė spoke about the first post-war communal Hanukkah celebration on December 4, 1988, held at the Dainava restaurant in central Vilnius. Then as now, Yiddish was spoken and sung, and the Fayerlakh ensemble performed, while 30 years ago the event was organized by the Lithuanian Jewish Cultural Association.

This year we celebrated at the Radisson Blu Lietuva hotel in Vilnius. The Israeli klezmer band Gefilte Drive and saxophonist Juozas Kuraitis performed and delighted the audience with their concerts.

Šiauliai Regional and Panevėžys Jewish Communities Celebrate Hanukkah Together

Šiauliai Regional and Panevėžys Jewish Communities Celebrate Hanukkah Together

The Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community and the Panevėžys Jewish Community gathered December 8 to celebrate Hanukkah together. Chairmen Naum Gleizer and Gennady Kofman welcomed their communities to the holiday celebration and wished everyone happiness, health and familial warmth. Frida Šteinienė read the prayer, lit the candles and retold the history of the holiday.

The holiday table featured traditional dishes such as latkes, doughnuts, gefilte fish, chopped hearing and chicken liver.

Children received the traditional gift of chocolates wrapped in gold foil in the shape of coins, Hanukkah geld. Different members performed songs and delivered musical greetings and there was much dancing.

Condolences

The Lithuanian Jewish Community notes with deep sadness the death of Anatolij Krivulin after a protracted battle with illness on Friday, November 30, 2018. He was born August 4, 1959, and is survived by his wife Maria, daughter Aleksandra and son Konstantin. Krivulin was the manager of the Pitarija Fire Place Israeli restaurant located near the Jewish cemetery in Šnipiškės, a neighborhood of Vilnius. Our deepest condolences to his many friends and family members. He was buried at the Jewish cemetery on Sudervės road in Vilnius on Saturday evening.

Panevėžys Celebrates Hanukkah

Panevėžys Celebrates Hanukkah

Sunday evening the Panevėžys Jewish Community celebrated the first day of Hanukkah. Members of the Community, guests and representatives of the city municipality gathered on Freedom Square where the celebration began with Jewish song and dance.

Rabbi Sholom Bar Krinsky and his family arrived to celebrate Hanukkah with the Panevėžys Jewish Community. This is a family holiday and it was delightful to see so many people in such a festive spirit on the square that cold winter evening. It truly was a wonderful mood and it was created by Rabbi Krinsky.

Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman told a correspondent from the newspaper Sekundė about the holiday and its significance for the Jewish people, adding this holiday is popular around the world wherever Jews live. Others celebrate it as well, people who are tolerant and respect Jewish tradition, he noted.

Latkes: Traditional Hanukkah Food

Latkes: Traditional Hanukkah Food

Latkes are potato pancakes which Jews consider a national dish, as do Lithuanians, Russians, Belarusians, Ukrainians, Germans, Czechs and the Swiss. The first mention of the potato dish seems to come from 1830 and seems to have been German cuisine. although the word itself comes into Yiddish probably from Russian. Whatever the case, Jews made latkes global and it is a required part of the Hanukkah table now.

Some sources say latkes were originally made of buckwheat. Others put their origins in Italy where pancakes were served with ricotta cheese. Rabbi Kalonymus ben Kalonymus (1286-1328) seems to be the first person to associate pancakes with Hanukkah, in a poem about the holiday.

When Spain expelled the Jews of Sicily in 1492, they took their ricotta cheese pancakes with them and introduced them to the Jews in the northern Italian lands. These pancakes reportedly were called cassola in Rome.