Last Thursday, I was invited to experience Shabbat dinner hosted by Cucina Sorella in Kensington. What is Shabbat? Shabbat is the Jewish Sabbath, celebrated every Saturday, beginning at sundown on Friday evening, and finishing at sundown on Saturday. Shabbat dinner is time with family to celebrate and reflect, eat, and enjoy the simple pleasure of a meal with family.
From the Shabbat San Diego website:
Shabbat San Diego is an independent grassroots level community-wide, inclusive and egalitarian organization of volunteers dedicated to encouraging the entire San Diego Jewish community to participate in a unique, international Jewish identity event that inspires all Jews to experience Shabbat together on November 11/12, 2016. The International Unity Shabbat will take place in more than 900 cities and 95 countries around the globe.
There are three events coming up in November that are open to those who would like to attend. The Mega Challah bake, which occurs on November 10, and focuses on the kneading and braiding of the bread to enjoy in the days ahead. From the website: "Thousands will join together at Tifereth Israel Synagogue, the San Diego Jewish Academy and Beth Jacob (our Women's only location) on November 10th at 6:30 for the mega Challah Bakes in order to usher in Shabbat San Diego on Friday evening. The cost is only $5 per person, $18 per family."
The bigger event is the Shabbat services on Friday, which can be done in two ways: request materials to prepare and observe the Shabbat dinner in your home, or be matched with a family and be hosted for Shabbat. The information for this event is found at this link.
The final event is the Unity Havdalah Celebration the evening of November 12, at 7:30 PM, held at the San Diego Civic Theater. Information about this event can be found here. From the website, After enjoying a meaningful and inspirational Shabbat San Diego with family and friends, the best way to raise your spirits even higher is to be sure you attend our mega Havdalah celebration at the San Diego Civic Theater with the world-class, heart thumping, mainstream a cappella group, Six13.
Thursday was an incredible experience, and something that I was so grateful to share. I typically write about the food and the beautiful places that I visit on this page, and yes, the food was wonderful, and oh yes, Cucina Sorella is a stunner of a restaurant, but in this instance, the event itself was the centerpiece.
We began the evening by meeting some of the organizers for Shabbat San Diego, engaging in some wonderful conversation about kids, Baltimore,
The evening started with the braiding of the challah bread, a traditional braided bread eaten on Shabbat and Jewish holidays. It was quite a feat; watching the braiding of 6-thread loaf was something that I've never witnessed, nor something I'll probably ever do! The challah is prepared with enough material for two loaves -- one for Friday, and one for Saturday, which will be stored and eaten cold in honor of the manna that fell from the heavens in during the flight from Egypt. To honor no work on the Sabbath, two loaves fell on Friday.
Challah can be made with fillings of sorts: chocolate chips, dulce de leche, jalapenos, cinnamon and sugar, but the basic egg wash loaf is plenty tasty on its own. The challah must be prepared by a female, then the head of the household recites the blessing over the bread.
The dinner was served family style, which was nice. I feel that the passing of plates and the niceties of sharing a meal can be lost when everyone is simply served their own small plate. There was also the conversation -- "Did you try the oxtail? Fabulous." "This is a very traditional and rare dish."
And the food was fabulous. Three appetizer plates were set out in abundance for us to share: fried squash blossoms with harissa and cershi, chicory salad with apple and celery, and oxtail terrine. The squash blossom is pictured above, and was stupendous. It was spicy, crunchy, and just perfect. I love squash blossoms anyway, when I can get them, so this dish was a real treat.
The salad was something that I'd never tried, bitter chicory greens, with apple and celery, topped with anchovy dressing.
The third appetizer was oxtail terrine with frisee and pears. I love oxtail as well, but I'd never had it prepared quite this way. The chef did an amazing job creating traditional Italian Jewish dishes, in keeping with the Shabbat dinner, and the Italian ties of Cucina Sorella.
The meal was leisurely, with no rushed feeling of being on to the next course, and instead focusing on fellowship with new acquaintances and discussions of travel and tradition. Our dinner selections arrived family style as well, which was wonderful. Brisket is a very, very traditional dish for Shabbat dinner, and was served with artichokes. It's a dish that I've had many times, but nothing ever gets old about a deliciously prepared beef brisket.
The second selection was seabass hraimi with braised fennel and fregola. I've never had fish prepared in this manner, but it was very good. The rich, spicy red sauce was unexpected on a light fish, but it was wonderful, and the braised fennel's slight sweetness acted as a perfect accompaniment.
To round out the main courses (and make us extra full and happy!) was a pasta. Nothing's more Italian than pasta, and homemade tagliatelle is by far my favorite pasta. I love the texture of the ribbon shape, and well, fresh pasta is just splendor. The pasta was served with chicken polpetti meatballs and a white wine sauce. This dish might have been my favorite of the main courses, but then the others were so good....
Have you ever seen a more lovely dessert? This orange sorbet with edible flowers was half of our dessert, along with an apple and honey crostata. The honey and apple are traditionally Jewish dessert items for Yom Kippur, for a sweet new year. Like every other part of the meal, the dessert was stupendous, and just the right amount of sweetness to end the meal without feeling overindulgent.
The event was unmatched, and something that I will always treasure. Want to join in these glorious events? Sign up at www.shabbatsandiego.org, and join in the celebration!