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I heard you found kosher cheese at…

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw large bags of kosher and cholov yisroel cheese at Smart and Final last week, I myself am not a fan of shredded mozzarella or cheddar, but I knew plenty of people who would be happy to know there was another place to find kosher cheese in the Bay Area. It was also a pleasant surprise when my friend told me that Trader Joes now had kosher salami, I threw back at him and informed him that I found ricotta salata with a CRC on it, there was a moment of rejoicing that there were two other items available that one had to travel 400 miles to get prior to this. Every out of town community with a dearth of kosher options plays the same game, sometimes the rabbi will get up and announce it and sometimes it spreads through the community like wildfire, but when a new hard to find kosher product becomes available you can be sure that someone will mention it to you.

When I lived in Rochester and Albany, the exact same thing would happen. People would talk excitedly in shul about the fact that Wegmans started carrying some new kosher product that required one less thing to buy the next time they visited NY. Once in a while I’ll just step into the small kosher market here to see all those products of my youth.

One of the most popular and ignorant questions from frummy New Yorkers to their out of town brethren is when they wonder how anyone could keep kosher in a place that lacks a kosher pizza store on every corner. The out of town response is usually that they manage without those things, New Yorker transplants will share in their obvious agony at the thought of living in such a backwater place and those who grew up without Glatt Mart, Wesley Kosher and Brachs defend the fact that they don’t need it.

Besides for cheese and meat, I don’t buy any kosher specific products. Most of the stuff I buy like baking products, oils and produce is kosher anyway and I’ve noticed that good cheese isn’t so easy to find in larger Jewish communities. I buy my meat wholesale either way and the only thing we really miss is the wine selection from larger Jewish areas. Sure, I’d love to have more restaurants and a pizza place (in my view, once you have a kosher pizza place you can call yourself a real Jewish community – until then you’re a bunch of hicks).

In the grand scheme of kosher, the Bay Area is a failure. 7 million people and 5 and a half not very good kosher places to eat. It’s a shame, but at least you can get kosher meat and cheese without traveling too far.


{ 50 comments… add one }
  • Michael K. January 3, 2013, 1:25 PM

    Speaking of kosher cheese, I’m pissed that Cabot is no longer making their OU Kosher Sharp Cheddar. It was excellent and affordable.

    • Heshy Fried January 3, 2013, 1:28 PM

      I have some in my freezer, but yes it sucks. You can get tillamook here and there but it blows when compared.

      • Michael K. January 3, 2013, 1:49 PM

        I learned during Hurricane Sandy that it doesn’t freeze very well. In the NYC area, there are plenty of places that sell The Cheese Guy’s product, but it’s quite expensive. The good news is, he makes some decent cheeses, including a low-fat swiss and a paneer.

        • Anonybutt January 3, 2013, 1:54 PM

          Haven’t had the same experience with the cheese guy’s brand being expensive. It’s the same as the other kosher cheeses, sometimes less. An 8oz block is ~$3.99 depending on which kind. Terrible millers shredded 8oz is also $3.99 here. (NYC area)

          And the cheese guy’s is awesome, therefore worth the cost!

          There’s also sugar river co cheese, which I’ve had experience finding in really small towns far away from jewish communities. They sell it in costco in the non-kosher cheese section even, but it’s under the OU.

          • Jon January 8, 2013, 5:52 AM

            Where in NYC can I find sugar river? (Or, better yet, where in Albany, but I’m not getting my hopes up for that)

        • The Mrs. January 3, 2013, 6:17 PM

          You’re right, it definitely does not freeze well.

      • A. Nuran January 3, 2013, 7:31 PM

        The secret to turning Tillamook from an OK cheddar into really good cheddar is time. Buy a brick. Leave it unopened in the bottom of your fridge. Turn it onto a different side every couple moths. After xis months or so it is sharp, crumbly and mature.

        • The Mrs. January 3, 2013, 8:21 PM

          Yo momma’s sharp, crumbly and mature!

        • Heshy Fried January 4, 2013, 11:32 AM

          So is good cheddar crumbly, because the wife complains about our cabot being crumbly, but it’s so good.

          • A. Nuran January 4, 2013, 12:05 PM

            The change in texture is a sometimes-side-effect of the chemical changes that come with maturing., It doesn’t always happen. Is it better? That’s a matter of taste

            • Should be working January 4, 2013, 12:28 PM

              But won’t it get moldy? What are expiration dates about anyway?

              • A. Nuran January 4, 2013, 7:33 PM

                As long as you don’t open it it won’t get mold. We currently have a couple bricks which have been in the fridge for over a year. Not a speck of anything growing on them

    • Telz Angel January 4, 2013, 2:16 AM

      Next time you are in Vermont, visit the Cabot plant (they do a public tour) and ask the production manager what the difference is between the OU run and the Tablet K run. She will explain how they “pour in the kosher” referring to the rennet. Ask what exactly is different between the two. I find it is helpful to do your own research on site with the people who actually make the food you eat.

      To be perfectly honest, I did not visit the factory myself. But a friend of mine who is in the business of producing commercially available food with a hechser did just this. There is a very subtle difference in the process, but I can’t say the difference really makes a difference. Visit yourself, ask, and decide what you think.

      • Dan January 4, 2013, 8:07 AM

        FTR: there is a din of gevinas akum, which is different from our normal concerns for non-kosher ingredients. You cannot buy uncertified hard cheese even if there is absolutely no concern for non-kosher ingredients.

        As I’m aware.

        • Curiouser January 4, 2013, 8:48 AM

          Many poskim (including the Chazon Ish and R. Soloveitchik,) were meikel about gevinas akum for vegetarian rennet cheeses. That is why some hechsherim don’t require it. But all of the major hechshers in America do require it.

          • Lex Luthor January 4, 2013, 11:24 AM

            This is an opinion which is extremely difficult to justify within the texts themselves. It’s not stam a chumra that the OU picked up (although there is no shortage of those). As a matter of halacha I would have to agree with Dan.

            I also have never seen a source which explicitly states this opinion. If one does exist, I would like to see it.

        • Heshy Fried January 4, 2013, 11:34 AM

          What about soft cheese like fresh mozzarella? There is loads of good looking twisted and fresh mozzarella with just a tablet k

          • Dan January 4, 2013, 1:26 PM

            I think lex luthor would be ok with that, but I shouldn’t put words in his mouth. The mainstream hashgachos would not be ok with it though, but more because the don’t trust the ingredients and processes though.

            Lex is probably correct, but I’d rather just toe the party line and be a normal member of my community than eat those cheeses. Anyway, I assume you’ve seen the one in Trader Joes with hashgacha?

          • Jonathan January 6, 2013, 6:33 PM
    • Israelit January 6, 2013, 12:29 PM

      Oh no? Are you serious? That was the only kosher cheese we could find in this backwater Jewish community we’re in now! I had been holding out to go get more until my paycheck came, but now you say there will be no more kosher Cabot. Tragic.

      • Nechama January 8, 2013, 9:47 PM

        If you are by any chance anywhere on the West Coast/Pacific Northwest, Tillamook also makes a kosher cheddar. It’s not available at every grocery that sells their products, but it’s pretty easy to find in any city (even in my area, where there’s one kosher restaurant in the entire state). Apologies if you already knew about that or aren’t in that area, but just figured I would mention it, since it was a while after I moved here until I first heard about this cheese.

    • Denise June 23, 2013, 5:45 PM

      Me too, we used to order it by the case to have at home.

  • Steven January 3, 2013, 2:00 PM

    Any word on kraft cheese going kosher? Heard some rumors about it a while ago.

  • zach January 3, 2013, 2:16 PM

    I’ll buy any cheese with microbial rennet even without a hechsher. I refuse to give Bais Shammai a posthumous victory!

  • Daniel January 3, 2013, 2:44 PM

    You know, if you move to Israel, it becomes difficult to find things in the supermarket that AREN’T kosher.

    • Huh January 4, 2013, 9:05 AM

      well that’s because the rabbanut has a monopoly on food

      but many will not rely on their certification anyway

  • AC January 3, 2013, 4:00 PM

    Heshy, Do you know of any Authentic Balsamic?

    • Dan January 3, 2013, 5:16 PM

      make your own. It’ll be ready in 12 years. But even after 5 it’s pretty good.

    • Heshy Fried January 3, 2013, 7:29 PM

      I’ve never seen or heard of any, Bartenura makes some special reserve stuff, but I have no idea if it’s real. I doubt frum Jews are interested in shelling out the cash for something they end up mixing with sugar anyway.

      • FS Fan January 3, 2013, 9:44 PM

        I almost bought the balsamic on my last trip to Tierra Sur-the Kedem wine place in Oxnard. But I changed my mind when I took a better look at the bottle and it looked like something I could find in any Kosher supermarket. The wine tasting folks told me they believed it was East Coast (Royal) caliber.

      • Dan January 3, 2013, 11:03 PM

        They say to take the mediocre stuff, add a bit of sugar and a bit of port, and then simmer it down to about half the volume, and it’s a good substitute.

  • A. Nuran January 3, 2013, 7:33 PM

    Get a copy of Ricki Carroll’s Home Cheesemaking. It’s easy. It’s cheap.

  • FS Fan January 3, 2013, 9:46 PM

    I enjoyed Jerusalem the last time I was in town. Curious to know what you thought of Kitchen Table. I fell in love with it back in the early days, but the last couple of visits were disappointing.

    • Heshy Fried January 4, 2013, 11:35 AM

      It’s too political for me to say anything as I was a cook there for two years.

    • Ex bochur January 5, 2013, 11:23 AM

      KT was good enough to take a chiloni coworker the one time I was there.

      Too bad that KT and also the old Embarcadero place closed.

  • Anonymous January 3, 2013, 10:37 PM

    “Once you have a kosher pizza place you can call yourself a real Jewish community until then youre a bunch of hicks”

    • Micah T January 4, 2013, 5:38 PM

      In that we have Cafe Fino (kosher pizzeria) here in Dallas, I guess we aren’t a “bunch of hicks,” after all – all appearances to the contrary!

      • Micah T January 4, 2013, 5:55 PM

        Just kidding! I love Dallas – wouldn’t live anywhere else.

  • Huh January 4, 2013, 9:06 AM

    so where do you get your meat wholesale?

    • Heshy Fried January 4, 2013, 11:36 AM

      You get involved in the industry and you learn how to get your stuff at cost, produce is also the same. Fortunately I have enough meat to last a long time due to some work for barter I did

  • DK January 4, 2013, 9:19 AM

    what is the “1/2” restaurant that you are referring to?

  • Anonymous January 4, 2013, 9:55 AM
  • Z January 4, 2013, 10:32 AM

    RIP Kitchen Table.

  • shanamaidel January 4, 2013, 10:46 AM

    The kosher wine thing I don’t get at all.
    A) you are right in wine country
    b) the internet sells kosher wine.

    • Heshy Fried January 4, 2013, 11:45 AM

      We have access to the best kosher wine in America, there are 3 kosher wineries in the hood and a few indie wine makers making very high end wine. But you have to be in the know, regular folks can’t really find this stuff in the store and by the time you hear about it’s all gone. Also, most folks can’t afford the local wine, cheapest you can pull is 30 a bottle.

  • bratschegirl January 6, 2013, 9:13 AM

    Point Reyes blue.

  • BZ January 6, 2013, 10:29 AM

    I was extatic when I found kosher cheese in an Indian-owned farmer’s market in Edison, NJ (east Edison, the Indian place where I used to live, not Highland Park and adjacent “Jewish” Edison). Too bad I live in Morristown now (also not the Jewish part, but it’s so much smaller that finding kosher cheese anywhere in Morristown would be good).

  • Rachel Stern January 7, 2013, 5:33 AM

    I am enjoying reading your blog. About the kosher in the “smaller” communities. I lived in Teaneck, NJ for 12 years. When I left (spring 2010) there were just over 30 kosher restaurants. I moved to Baltimore, MD where they claim the fame of having the largest kosher supermarket in the US (Seven Mile Market). But, there is a dearth of kosher restaurants there. I can count the number of Kosher restaurants there on less than two hands. I lived there for 14 months. I did NOT miss all the kosher restaurants in Teaneck. I am a New Yorker, born and bred. I was FINE. I have since made aliyah. Interestingly enough the ONLY thing I miss in the States with regard to Kosher restaurants, is good pizza. That just does NOT exist here. At least not to my knowledge.

  • Elissa January 9, 2013, 3:56 PM

    I do find Baltimore is seriously lacking in amount/quality of kosher restaurants… 🙁 maybe I just haven’t found the good ones while being here for only a few months. Umami Bistro is decent, but the other clientele can be quite rude (maybe I’ve just been there on 3 bad days?). Goldberg’s Bagels are good, but I don’t eat bagels often. If you/anyone can suggest a good place in Baltimore/DC it would be greatly appreciated!

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