Watch & Nosh paired TV with food for a delicious experience. (Photo/Andrew Esensten)
Watch & Nosh paired TV with food for a delicious experience. (Photo/Andrew Esensten)

Event pairs Israeli TV with food; New Lehrhaus new culture series; etc.

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

Some 80 people in the Bay Area were willing guinea pigs last week at the pilot program of Watch & Nosh,” a collaboration between J. television columnist Esther Kustanowitz and Israeli-born chef Aliza Grayevsky Somekh of the catering and event company Bishulim SF.

The event, held one night at the San Francisco gallery BaBoo and the next at Covenant Winery in Berkeley (both were event sponsors along with J.), paired Israeli TV clips with samples of the foods featured in the shows. Attendees at both locations were treated to Covenant wine pairings.

Selected by both women, the shows ranged from the hit Israeli TV series “Shtisel” and “The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem,” available on Netflix (though Netflix announced it will soon drop “Shtisel”), to series lesser known to American audiences, such as “Haverot,” “HaTabach” and “Srugim.”

Kustanowitz, an expert on Jewish representation in television and co-host of the J.-produced podcast The Bagel Report, also interspersed clips from Israeli shows with bits of Jewish content from such popular American shows as “Frasier” — where Frasier and his family pretend to be Jewish — and “Seinfeld,” where Kramer, who isn’t Jewish, cooks for a Jewish singles event. (Spoiler alert: It does not go well.) Only the Israeli shows, however, inspired food pairings.

During the Berkeley event, Somekh occasionally emerged from the kitchen to offer commentary, including: “If I can introduce Israeli food through television, that’s my dream. You’re helping me live my dream right now.”

Israelis who attended said Somekh nailed her Jerusalem kugel, shown on “Shtisel.” Somekh, who’s from Jerusalem, said she’s passionate about the dish but acknowledges that it’s an acquired taste, and people from Jerusalem are pretty much required to like it.

The dish was more of a curiosity to the non-Israelis in the audience. In Jerusalem kugel, the noodles are very thin compared with the wider egg noodles familiar to American Jews. Cooked on high heat, the thin noodles caramelize, sweetening the dish, even with its generous amount of black pepper.

The event was “a perfect way to be part of the secular zeitgeist,” said Mimi Kravetz of Berkeley, adding, “My mind was blown.”

Kravetz especially loved that the shows represented the diversity of the Jewish and Israeli experience, featuring characters with both religious and secular backgrounds, Ashkenazi and Sephardic, as well as the Israeli-Palestinian population as seen in “Arab Labor.”

Grape leaves stuffed with rice cooked in pomegranate molasses accompanied “Arab Labor.” A potato boreka, served with haminados, a slow-cooked hard-boiled egg to stuff inside the boreka, was paired with “The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem,” about a Sephardic family.

Nancy Shaw of Berkeley commented that the event made her realize “there’s a thriving subculture of Israeli chefs in the Bay Area, and I should take advantage of that more, as well as a bunch of great Israeli TV shows that really should be easier to stream in the U.S.”

The event  was dreamed up by the two women after they were randomly teamed up on a Zoom chat for Collaboratory 2022, sponsored by the Bay Area-based organization UpStart.

Kustanowitz and Somekh subsequently applied for and received an UpStart “Grow the Good Together” grant to provide the seed money for developing the program.

“It was wonderful to see this collaboration come together — it was what we had hoped conversations and connections might ignite at the Collaboratory,” said Molly Cram, director of Network Programs at UpStart. “I’m so glad that UpStart was able to support this initiative, and we can’t wait to see where else these fantastic ventures and individuals go next.” The pair have already received inquiries about bringing the program elsewhere.

Somekh is one of the instructors tapped for the new series “Soil to Soul: Agriculture and Jewish Culture,” offered by New Lehrhaus and co-sponsored by Urban Adamah and the Jewish Food Society. She will teach a “Breads of the Jews” workshop on May 21 at Urban Adamah, also available via Zoom.

Boichik Bagels announced plans to open a location in Santa Clara at 2050 Wyatt Drive, according to Eater. Joyride Pizza, which we wrote about in December 2021, added two more San Francisco outlets last year, Eater reports, and is now available at Gilman Brewing’s Berkeley flagship and a Daly City satellite. Kitava Kitchen, a healthy fast-casual restaurant catering to the special-diet crowd that we wrote about in December 2021, has opened in Oakland’s Temescal District. n

Joyride Pizza menu is available in Berkeley at 912 Gilman St. and in Daly City at 2001 Junipero Serra Blvd. (near Century 20 Theaters); Kitava Kitchen opened at 375 40th St., Oakland.

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."