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Happy New Year! Restaurants plan special dishes for Rosh Hashana

Updated September 18, 2020 - 9:20 am

Elizabeth Blau says her Grandma Rose’s apple cake is the perfect dessert for Rosh Hashana. The holiday, which marks the beginning of the Jewish new year, is traditionally a time for sweet foods in anticipation of a sweet year ahead, and this is prime apple season.

“I always bug my mom to see if she remembers it,” Blau said. And this year they arrived at a recipe for the apple kuchen that will be served at her Honey Salt restaurant, 1031 S. Rampart Blvd., beginning Friday.

“It’s a delicious, super-moist apple cake that’s drizzled with cinnamon and honey,” she said. “This is our celebration of the new year.”

Jewish people worldwide will gather to celebrate Rosh Hashana — the literal translation is “head of the year” — which begins before sundown Friday and ends after nightfall Sunday. And several Las Vegas restaurants are responding with special dishes that convey the symbolism of the holiday, the start of the High Holidays that culminate with Yom Kippur, which will begin before sundown Sept. 27.

At Burnt Offerings, 3909 W. Sahara Ave., owner and managing partner Alexandra Emtsova said traditional foods also include the pomegranate, a symbol of plenty.

“You hope to have more children next year, to have more money,” she said. “All the great things that come in life. All of that is incorporated in the food.”

Honey is another classic, with apple slices dipped in honey being sort of the quintessential Rosh Hashana treat. And while challah usually is braided, for Rosh Hashana the bread is circular, she said, to represent the circle of life. Emtsova is making sweeter versions this year, a black and white chocolate round and a honey-cranberry challah accompanied by a jar of local honey, with delivery included.

Other Burnt Offerings items, she said, include gefilte fish made in-house and curried salmon croquette, the fish being another Rosh Hashana symbol.

“You always want to be the head of the fish and not the tail,” she said.

She’ll also have brisket, ribs, chicken schnitzel fingers with truffle honey sauce, candied onion and lekvar (prune) kugel, carrot-currant-pear-apple-honey tzimmes and, for dessert, white chocolate apple strudel.

Rooster Boy Cafe at 2620 Regatta Drive also is planning Rosh Hashana dishes.

“Basically, I’m preparing everything for my clients — a one-stop shop,” chef/owner Sonia El-Nawal said. “I’m hoping that most people are going to order, but I’m preparing a lot of items so on Friday people can just show up. We’re going to have lots of matzo ball soup, desserts, extra challah bread.”

Plus brisket (which feeds eight to 10, but she’s also offering a smaller portion); rosemary-shallot kugel; pomegranate, avocado and frisee salad; honey and apple cake; a plum almond tart; and more.

“I have some people who are asking for salmon, so I’m going to do salmon for them,” El-Nawal said.

Blau said while these dishes are closely related to Rosh Hashana, there’s some flexibility.

“For the High Holiday menus, there’s certainly some room for interpretation,” she said. “Some of the classics are definitely matzo ball soup — our twist is root vegetables and dill with a really rich chicken stock — and potato latkes with fresh applesauce. And we love the Red Bird chicken, so that’s going to have a honey-lemon glaze.

“In Jewish cuisine, you use whatever vegetable is in season. We’ll have rosemary skillet potatoes with charred broccolini. Brisket comes out for all of the Jewish holidays, with sweet potato and prune tzimmes and roasted Brussels sprouts.” The dishes will be available until Sept. 28.

Blau said she has fond memories of the Rosh Hashanas of her childhood.

“My grandmother Rose, whether it was a Jewish holiday or frankly anytime, going to her house there were always these amazing smells coming from her kitchen,” she said. “She was part German, part Polish and part Hungarian, so there were so many kinds of recipes and traditions from those Eastern European countries. Always lots of spice and paprika.”

Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at hrinella@reviewjournal.com. Follow @HKRinella on Twitter.

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