Low-carb challah

Could finding a low-carb matzah ball be as easy as tracking down a bun-less burger?

While low-carb has become ’00s equivalent to low-fat in the ’90s and exercise in the ’80s, the Bay Area kosher dining community has responded to the latest diet trend with a variety of tactics.

Those range from adjusting the menu to waiting for the hype to fade.

Wendy Kleckner of Too Caterers in Menlo Park, the kosher division of Continental Caterers, has noticed “sizable changes” in her customers’ requests in the last 14 months.

“We can’t do pasta and grains. Where before people shied away from red meat and tended toward interesting things with fish or chicken, we are now forced to get creative with meat, because of course, we can’t have meat and milk.”

Kleckner gives the example of wrapping carpaccio in greens or rice paper, or experimenting with strawberries, the first fruit introduced in the Atkins diet, the ringleader of carbohydrate-restricted living. “I like change,” she notes. “I like shaking things up.”

Bob Jaffe, who has owned Grand Bakery in Oakland for six years, has also seen a change, and he’s responded with low-carb and carb-free sweets.

“Volume is down. People used to buy multiple challahs, and they’re not doing that now. My wife doesn’t even eat bread anymore,” he says with a laugh. “But I do — I need my pasta and bread.”

Other establishments have avoided making major changes, claiming low-carb diets as merely a fad that will pass in time.

Sabra Grill in San Francisco gives extra salad instead of fries or a rice side dish. Holy Land Kosher Restaurant in Oakland will accommodate customers’ low-carb requests but hasn’t gone to drastic measures.

A recent report from the research firm Insight Express found participation in low-carb diets may have reached a plateau, with less than 10 percent of the U.S. population currently on a low-carb diet.

Whether or not this particular fad is waning, professionals in the kosher food community warn against any quick-fix diets. Deborah Kelman of Milk and Honey Catering LLC in Foster City views the trend as misleading.

“I don’t believe the kind of things I was offering — whole grains, for instance — are the real culprit. The real problem is our tendency to go to extremes. Good diet is all about balance, portion control and exercise, which is much harder to achieve.”

Domenico Testa, co-owner of Bar Ristorante Raphael in Berkeley, a kosher restaurant catering to a 60-percent Jewish clientele, agrees.

“I don’t believe in one-way eating,” he explains. “You must rotate your diet. If you have an active lifestyle it is no problem to eat pasta and burn it off with a big smile on your face. Eat with your head. Watch the portions.”

Finally, Israel Rind of Izzy’s Bagels blows off the low-carb frenzy. “There

are emotional health risks with idiotic deprivation,” he says seriously. “If you want a piece of cheesecake, eat it. Just eat a small piece. The real issue is size and portions.”

As for the proposition of a low-carb bagel, he simply laughs. “Cut a bagel in half, and then take the inside out. There’s a low-carb bagel!”