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A rectangular latke takes shape at Edith’s Sandwich Counter in Brooklyn

(New York Jewish Week) — At Edith’s Sandwich Counter, a “Jew-ish” takeout place in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the most popular bagel sandwich is their bacon-egg-cheese-latke (BECL) combo. Each element of the sandwich’s filling is made to order: crispy bacon, an omelet cooked in an individually-sized tamagoyaki pan, topped with sharp cheddar and a freshly fried latke.

Since opening as a brick and mortar store in spring of 2021, the BECL has become Edith’s most popular bagel sandwich — and demand for the latke as a stand-alone side dish is high, too. This presented a challenge: As anyone who’s ever hosted a Hanukkah party knows, cranking out those fresh, crispy latkes, one at a time, had become challenging. They sell thousands of latkes a week.

“It was getting harder and harder for us to keep up,” owner and founder Elyssa Heller told the New York Jewish Week. “I wanted to find a way to improve the quality of our latke and use our growth as a vehicle for getting better.”

Enter Heller’s invention: the rectangular latke. While Edith’s does not serve traditional Jewish deli food (see crispy bacon, above), they do take historical elements of how Jews ate throughout the Diaspora and incorporate them into their menu. After doing some research, Heller determined that what makes a latke a latke is not its circular shape (which it assumes when the batter is dropped by the spoonful into oil), but that the potatoes are mixed in an egg batter and then fried.

Case in point: The name alone, “latke,” simply means “little oily,” according to Gil Marks’s “The Encyclopedia of Jewish Food.” In other words, a latke is about the oil, not the ingredients nor the shape. “Every food has a standard of identity, characteristics that define it,” said Heller. “Nothing was ever mentioned about a latke needing to be round. As opposed to round challah on Rosh Hashanah, which represents the cycle of life, the shape of the latke has no symbolic meaning.”

In other words, a latke is still a latke even if its shape fits in the box.

Here’s how they do it: The latke batter — which consists of Yukon Gold potatoes, onions, eggs, potato starch and matzah meal — is poured into a large sheet pan and par-baked so that it is 80% done and keeps its shape when cut. The giant latke is then cut into rectangles, the same size and shape as the omelet it sits atop in the bagel sandwich. Then, when an order comes in, the almost ready-to-eat latke is fried and served piping hot.

The resulting sandwich, in which egg and latke match in size, is Instagram-worthy —  an essential requirement in the food world of today. And, just as important, the diner gets a bite of latke with each bite of egg.

Diners are delighted by the results: Comments on Instagram range from “this is the innovation we need” to “I want those crispy corners.” At the same time, they don’t seem particularly surprised. “People know that, here at Edith’s, we do things our own way while honoring traditions,” Heller said.

(You may be thinking, “Aren’t the hash browns at McDonald’s essentially a rectangular fried latke?” True, the fast food giant has been selling rectangular-shaped portable potatoes for more than 40 years, but again: A latke is typically made with an egg batter; hash browns are not.)

Heller, who also owns Edith’s Eatery & Grocery, a sister establishment to the sandwich counter, founded both places to make good Jewish food accessible all year long — not just for the holidays. The latkes, based on Heller’s grandmother’s recipe, are on the menu 365 days of the year. Their BECL comes on Edith’s signature twisted bagel for $13.50; if you want just the latke, you can have that for $2.75 (add $1.25 if you want it topped with creme fraiche).

For Hanukkah — which starts this year on the evening of Sunday, Dec. 18 —  Edith’s Sandwich Counter and Edith’s Eatery & Grocery will be preparing their new rectangular latke, which will be accompanied by a choice of ketchup, hot sauce, apple sauce or creme fraiche. They will also serve braised brisket and jelly donuts, although the team at Edith’s has not yet determined the jelly flavors they will use.

In the spirit of “intellectually driven food” that Heller espouses, Edith’s also has a Russian cheese pancake, syrniki, on the menu. It is similar to the cheese pancakes that Jews in Eastern Europe prepared for Hanukkah before potato cultivation became widespread there starting in 1840. Made with farmer’s cheese and accompanied by smetana, a cross between sour cream and creme fraiche, and tart currant kissel, a thick fruit syrup, it is available for Hanukkah and all year round, too.

Interested in making rectangular latkes of your own? Our friends at our partner site, The Nosher, have Edith’s recipe here.

Edith’s Sandwich Counter is at 495 Lorimer Street in Brooklyn. 


The post A rectangular latke takes shape at Edith’s Sandwich Counter in Brooklyn appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Obituaries

Dr. NATHAN WISEMAN

Wiseman, Nathan Elliot
1944 – 2023
Nathan, our beloved husband, Dad, and Zaida, died unexpectedly on December 13, 2023. Nathan was born on December 16, 1944, in Winnipeg, MB, the eldest of Sam and Cissie Wiseman’s three children.
He is survived by his loving wife Eva; children Sam (Natalie) and Marni (Shane); grandchildren Jacob, Jonah, Molly, Isabel, Nicole, and Poppy; brother David (Sherrill); sister Barbara (Ron); sister-in-law Agi (Sam) and many cousins, nieces, and nephews.
Nathan grew up in the north end of Winnipeg surrounded by his loving family. He received his MD from the University of Manitoba in 1968, subsequently completed his General Surgery residency at the University of Manitoba and went on to complete a fellowship in Paediatric Surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital of Harvard University. His surgeon teachers and mentors were world renowned experts in the specialty, and even included a Nobel prize winner.
His practice of Paediatric Surgery at Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg spanned almost half a century. He loved his profession and helping patients, even decades later often recounting details about the many kiddies on whom he had operated. Patients and their family members would commonly approach him on the street and say, “Remember me Dr. Wiseman?”. And he did! His true joy was caring for his patients with compassion, patience, unwavering commitment, and excellence. He was a gifted surgeon and leaves a profound legacy. He had no intention of ever fully retiring and operated until his very last day. He felt privileged to have the opportunity to mentor, support and work with colleagues, trainees, nurses, and others health care workers that enriched his day-to-day life and brought him much happiness and fulfillment. He was recognized with many awards and honors throughout his career including serving as Chief of Surgery of Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg, President of the Canadian Association of Pediatric Surgeons, and as a Governor of the American College of Surgeons. Most importantly of all he helped and saved the lives of thousands and thousands of Manitoba children. His impact on the generations of children he cared for, and their families, is truly immeasurable.
Nathan’s passion for golf was ignited during his childhood summers spent at the Winnipeg Beach Golf Course. Southwood Golf and Country Club has been his second home since 1980. His game was excellent and even in his last year he shot under his age twice! He played an honest “play as it lies” game. His golf buddies were true friends and provided him much happiness both on and off the course for over forty years. However, his passion for golf extended well beyond the eighteenth hole. He immersed himself in all aspects of the golf including collecting golf books, antiques, and memorabilia. He was a true scholar of the game, reading golf literature, writing golf poetry, and even rebuilding and repairing antique golf clubs. Unquestionably, his knowledge and passion for the game was limitless.
Nathan approached his many woodworking and workshop projects with zeal and creativity, and he always had many on the go. During the winter he was an avid curler, and in recent years he also enjoyed the study of Yiddish. Nathan never wasted any time and lived his life to the fullest.
Above all, Nathan was a loving husband, father, grandfather, son, father-in-law, son-in-law, uncle, brother, brother-in-law, cousin, and granduncle. He loved his family and lived for them, and this love was reciprocated. He met his wife Eva when he was a 20-year-old medical student, and she was 18 years old. They were happily married for 56 years. They loved each other deeply and limitlessly and were proud of each other’s accomplishments. He loved the life and the family they created together. Nathan was truly the family patriarch, an inspiration and a mentor to his children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, and many others. He shared his passion for surgery and collecting with his son and was very proud to join his daughter’s medical practice (he loved Thursdays). His six grandchildren were his pride and joy and the centre of his world.
Throughout his life Nathan lived up to the credo “May his memory be a blessing.” His life was a blessing for the countless newborns, infants, toddlers, children, and teenagers who he cared for, for his colleagues, for his friends and especially for his family. We love him so much and there are no words to describe how much he will be missed.
A graveside funeral was held at the Shaarey Zedek cemetery on December 15, 2023. Pallbearers were his loving grandchildren. The family would like to extend their gratitude to Rabbi Yosef Benarroch of Adas Yeshurun Herzlia Congregation.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba, in the name of Dr. Nathan Wiseman.

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Ben Carr

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