These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Ezrat Avot: the Gala Dinner Fundraiser

Posted on April 4, 2014 by Yisrael Ben Avraham

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579732_10151111560796185_1772282015_nIt was an offer I couldn’t refuse. In this case, the the offer was to fork over a sizable amount of cash to raise money for Ezrat Avot’s new building and in return get a 6 course meal prepared by a posse of Michelin star chefs.

Ezrat Avot was started by Rabbi Shlomo Gamliel z”l in 1976 when he was 106 years old. The organization is currently renting space in Mea Sheraim as it transitions from its first building that it sold to its new facility that will be a one stop shop for Jerusalem’s elderly. Every Thursday I and some other Pardes students (shout out to Ben Friedman and Hannah Joy) pack bags of dried foodstuffs for about 80 families in need of food. Some times we also help bake. Ezrat Avot also provides meals on wheels. The new building will provide even more hot meals for elderly folks and will be a one stop shop for Jerusalem seniors to go for a swim, stretch out in a yoga class, get a hot meal, and then grab some schedule II narcotics from the pharmacy. To quote my uncle from Long Island, “such a deal!”

Anyway, so what you’re all probably wondering is what I ate for $575 (expensive yes, all things considered a 6 course 3 star Michelin can start at $450 excluding drinks. This was a meal prepared by four chefs with Michelin stars). Before we sat down they had some “schmooze” food out, little appetizers we ate while standing and mingling. I got to meet Naomi Sha’arbi, Rabbi Shlomo Gamliel’s granddaughter, who currently runs Ezrat Avot. I was upset I didn’t do my, “I’m from Lakewood… Colorado, not Lakewood New Jersey” schtick when I found out one person I just met; his wife was from Lakewood, New Jersey! Oh yeah, the food… the appetizers included a wild mushroom soup in a “cream” of root vegetables; some funky mix of egg yolk, fish and other stuff that tasted amazing; a mini shwarama served in a steamed pita, The pita was juicy from being steamed, ingenious; a spicy Asian coleslaw, and another sushi salad. These were all rather small bite-sized snacks.

Now on to the sit down food.

m05h1k“Fricassee” with red tuna, potato ratte, “Baladi” eggplant, pickled lemon and cream of organic tehini.  Chef Moshik Roth.

The tuna was prepared in such a way that it looked like a diced tomato.  It was sushi grade tuna so this was a sort of Israeli and Japanese fusion.  Very clever given that Jews like Asian food, especially sushi, and combining that with Israeli soul food.

__0__1Variety of mushroom cream with an egg cooked at 63 centigrade wrapped in fresh aromatic herbs.  Chef Marc Haeberlin.

The egg was prepared sous-vide (method of cooking in a plastic bag submerged in water at a controlled temperature) I reckon.  Don’t be fooled by the “cream,” there was no dairy in this.  For $575 the meal better be basari.  Basically I reckon a variety of expensive wild mushrooms were braised and blended in an immersion blender making a creamy soup base.  The egg was cooked at this controlled temperature giving the both the egg white and egg yolk almost the same consistency throughout, the white was like an egg yolk cooked sunny side up.

beste-harald-wohlfahrt_38903Confit of fresh Norwegian salmon with pineapple-mango chutney and thai curry mousse.  Chef Harald Wohlfahrt.

What sets my curry several steps below Chef Wohlfahrt’s curry mousse is this his has the perfect ratio of flavors that compliments the chutney and natural taste of the salmon.  The mousse in particular had a concentration of flavor that, frankly, I could swim in.  I was rather embarrassed that someone sent the fish back for not being cooked enough.  You just had your fish cooked a cadre of 3 star Michelin chefs who know exactly how to properly cook a fish and you sent it back.  Shame on you!

phi11ip3Seared filet of lamb shallots and artichoke with black truffle sauce.  Chef Philippe Legendre.

The piece d’resistance.  The Hebrew word for lamb on the menu was טלה which means a young lamb.  The filet was cut perfectly.  There was a nice small chunk of fat I the middle that provided the seared meat plenty of that succulent lamb fat juice that gives the lamb its rich, savory and gamey flavor.  This was all the more amplified by the black truffle sauce.  I thought it would have been a little tacky to ask for an extra side of truffle sauce.  What is this, Applebees?  All I know is I want the recipe.

Late winter orange.  Chocolate mousse, orange Cream and blood orange jam lying on a bed of thick chocolate

An almond branch.  Branch of chocolate nougat on almonds Panna cotta, crunchy (sic) almond mousse and pieces of amaretto jelly.

Petits fours, coffee

I got lucky and got the almond branch, it was arbitrary if one got the orange or almond dessert.  It was surprisingly light and refreshing in spite of its rich ingredients.  After the initial desert petits fours were served.  At this point, going on 5 hours of eating what will probably the best meal I will ever have I was totally stuffed.  I managed to wolf down what was a sesame crusted marshmallow and a raspberry filled small chocolate.

k4d05hMuch of this was possible thanks to Chef Shalom Kadosh, chef of official receptions in Israel.  He is also a member of Chefs des Chefs which is basically The Oscars of the culinary world except even more exclusive (to enter, you must be the current personal chef of a head of state or chef of official state receptions).  The other Michelin star chefs he knows also donated their time to this fundraiser dinner.  Perhaps you have never heard of this Michelin star system before.  To quote Paul Bocuse (a big-time French chef), “Michelin is the only guide that counts.”  Any other restaurant guide, even Zagat, is like the MTV movie awards compared to Michelin.  I don’t know if it occurred to anyone there, but this may have been the most Michelin stars in one kitchen.  It sure tasted like it.

I was about 3 feet from Sarah Netanyahu when she walked passed me to get to her table. I was hoping to sit at her table to see if there was a job opening on the cabinet for Benny to hear my opinion. I’m a little biased of course, but I think I have very good opinions. My opinion of this meal is that was, to quote Larry David, “Pretty… pretty… pretty… pretty good.”

Who knew tzedekkah could be so tasty?