a bald man in a blue t-shirt standing in a field of green stalks that reach over his head
Hagafen Cellars owner Ernie Weir in the winery's food garden. During the pandemic, he has begun donating the produce to food banks.

Donations from the wine garden; Saul’s new bagel window; kosher delivery; etc.

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Food coverage is supported by a generous donation from Susan and Moses Libitzky.

One might assume Sacramento’s 43rd annual Jewish Food Faire would be another victim of Covid-19, but the event showcasing traditional Jewish delicacies and baked goods is still taking place — as a drive-through. Hungry customers can choose from over 40 delicious, freshly prepared and homemade items. The menu includes deli selections (such as corned beef and pastrami sandwiches, a new Israeli salad medley, stuffed cabbage rolls, matzah ball soup, chopped liver, herring, lox and bagels, and gourmet kosher pickles) and lots of sweet treats, specialty breads and baked goods (including noodle kugel, blintzes, rugelach, apple strudel and menenas, or date pastries).

Orders must be placed online at cbshalom.org by Aug. 20 for the Aug. 30 pickup at Congregation Beth Shalom in Carmichael. The event has been designed to comply with all health requirements for the Covid-19 pandemic. Volunteers will be wearing masks and gloves as they bring food to customers’ cars, and customers should wear masks as well.

Hagafen Cellars, Napa Valley’s kosher winery, often keeps a garden on its property to grow vegetables for employees and friends. Given the hard times we’re in, the winery decided to grow more than usual and donate the surplus to the Napa Valley Food Bank, which offers free food to clients at seven sites. Outdoor wine-tasting resumed on June 19. Since then, produce has been available for sale to tasting customers, with all proceeds going toward the garden, so “you’re buying fresh vegetables to support the donation of fresh vegetables to those in need during the pandemic,” said Hagafen owner and founder Ernie Weir.

Saul’s Delicatessen and Restaurant in Berkeley has reopened with a new takeout window, with bagels baked on the premises for the first time. Saul’s still sells Baron Bagels made by Dan Graf, but they are now boiled and baked there, which takes them to another level of freshness. Right now, Saul’s “bagel window” is open from 8 to 11:30 a.m. (with a six-bagel limit on weekends); for sandwiches, salads and lunch from 11:30 a.m. on; and for dinner, including fresh fish and steak entrées, anytime after 2:30 p.m.

Chabad SF–SoMa Shul has teamed up with Frena Bakery and some donors, including the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, to distribute “Shabboxes” of meals to the elderly, those in need and Covid patients. To donate, visit chabadsf.com.

a man in chef's whites looks over a spread of baked goods
Isaac Yosef is one of the co-owners of Frena, a kosher Israeli bakery in S.F. (Photo/Cathleen Maclearie)

Epic Bites, the kosher caterer, has been doing occasional Shabbat meals for pickup and delivery in the East Bay, and sometimes in Sunnyvale and Palo Alto. Smoked brisket and pastrami have been featured on recent menus. Owner Heshy Fried also has done a modern Israeli menu, with lamb with harissa and figs, sumac chicken with apricots and cauliflower with capers and pine nuts. Epic Bites is certified by the Vaad of Northern California. The best way to find out what the caterer is up to next is to check the website on Sunday for new menus (except maybe some summer weekends, when Fried might be out camping or mountain biking).

PizzaHacker, owned by chef Jeff Krupman, is opening a new outpost with some partners in Mill Valley. The beer garden is called The Junction, and even though it was in the works before Covid, according to Eater SF, with 5,000 square feet of space it’s perfect for these times. The kitchen has an oven for making bagels, which Krupman hopes to do in the future. He did make bagels for a time in 2018 at his PizzaHacker space in the city’s Bernal Heights, calling the business BagelMacher.

As hard as this period has been for fine-dining restaurants, it has been just as devastating for the small purveyors who supply them. One is Bohemian Creamery in Sebastopol, whose owner-cheesemaker is Lisa Gottreich. Gottreich is selling her artisanal cheese directly to consumers now, through online platforms like Four Star Seafood. While her cheese doesn’t come cheap, it’s widely known as some of the Bay Area’s best. We first wrote about Gottreich in 2013, reporting that she cried of happiness when she learned that her cheese was served at a fundraiser with President Obama.

Irving’s Challah, which has switched to home delivery during the pandemic, is now offering a few extra items that can be delivered along with its kosher challah, including apple strudel from Dina’s Kosher Catering and a jar of honey from Z Specialty Foods. Everything from Irving’s is certified kosher.

Pomella, the Israeli restaurant on Oakland’s Piedmont Avenue, has started making its own pitas and laffa flatbread for its wraps. Three- and five-packs of fresh pita are now available for purchase.

Mica Talmor in front of the Piedmont Ave. location of her forthcoming venture, Pomella (Photo/Alix Wall)
Mica Talmor in front of the Piedmont Ave. location of Pomella (Photo/Alix Wall)

The city’s carnival-themed restaurant Straw, owned by chef Ari Feingold and his wife, Maura Feingold, ended its 10-year run in December when its lease on Octavia Street in San Francisco ended. Feingold decided to retain the concept for catering only, but a few months later the scaled-down business took a hit when numerous booked catering events had to be canceled due to Covid.

Straw appeared on numerous food television shows and became famous for, among other offerings, a burger called “The Ringmaster,” which was a cheeseburger sandwiched between two glazed doughnuts. Feingold hopes to keep the Straw concept intact once events come back. The couple also co-own Proposition Chicken’s two locations, one in the city and one in Oakland.

The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York has a free online course about the history of Ashkenazi cuisine. Called “A Seat at the Table: A Journey into Jewish Food,” the seven-week course features such personalities as Joan Nathan, Michael Twitty, Adeena Sussman and many more. The course already has been enjoyed by over 10,000 people, and it’s free.

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."