Saturday, March 22, 2008

Fun Playing With Jewish Soul Food, Part 2

The Jewish holiday of Purim began on Thursday evening. Last night, someone asked me to explain this holiday - the shortest explanation I can come up with is that it falls into that catagory of Jewish Holidays easily summarized as:

"They tried to kill us. We won. Let's eat."

It is traditional to drink to the point of intoxication on Purim, and to attend services where the story of Purim, or Megillah is read (not in this order, or at least not consecutively); each time the name of the villian Haman is read, the congregation drowns it out with various types of party noisemakers. Children dress in costumes of characters from the story. It is a true party holiday.

The traditional Purim food is the dessert cookie known as the "Hamantaschen," which translates from the Yiddish as "Haman's Hat." Persians of the day often wore three-cornered hats, and so the perennial treat is named for them (the hats, not the Persians!). These mostly fruit-filled delicacies are labor intensive to make (there are no shortcuts!) and though some bakeries have them year round, they are usually at their best on Purim. I enjoy making them, but there was no way this year. So, I asked the Cleveland Food & Wine Forum where I should look for the best Hamantaschen in Cleveland. I was directed to two Jewish bakeries in Beachwood - Lax & Mandel Kosher Bakery and Pincus Bakery. When Linda Griffith posted that Lax & Mandel had Cherry Hamantaschen, I knew that this would be my first stop.

Lax & Mandel had several varieties of the large cookies, and 8 varieties of small ones. Pictured above are the large chocolate variety. I opted for one large Cherry, and one each of the small ones.

I had planned to eat lunch at one of the eateries in the plaza where the bakery was located, then return to the office. But since the restaurants all were closed for Purim (except Issy's, which was take-out only), I decided to go across the street and see what Pincus Bakery had. (And it gave me a perfect excuse to enjoy a bowl of noodles at Happy Buddha Restaurant - but that will be another post!) As usual, I got carried away, and bought way too many Hamantaschen. But hey, Purim comes but once a year!

In addition to the cookie type on the second shelf, they had a selection of the "yeast" type on the top shelf of the case, which are like a small triangular cake and filled. They also had a nice selection of sugar free Hamantaschen, for those in need of them. I was raised on the cookie type, but the cake type also has it's supporters. So, I got three yeast type and 2 cookie type.






Although we can fress with the best of them - we played with our food before we ate it, cutting each pastry in half, then in half again for our tasting. We still have a box of leftovers to work through!

Overall - these were not the best Hamantaschen I ever had. The cookie ones were good, but the yeast ones were a little dry - almost stale, and the fillings lacked profundity.

For our second round, we opened the box from Lax & Mandel:

Large Cherry - YUM!

Eight Small Hamantaschen

Open Views of the Large and Small Cherry








We liked the Cherry and Apple the best - but they were all pretty darn good. I even liked the poppyseed, which is usually too strong for me (and the seeds get stuck in my teeth!).

So here you have it - an informal, unscientific, probably biased review of two of Cleveland's prime Hamantaschens. But I think it's just a Bubbe Meintze (Old Wive's Tale) that the calories fall out when you cut them up as we did. Oh well - at least we had fun playing with our Hamantaschen!


  1. Looks like a nice fruit to cookie ration. I hate too little filling. I just came back from Ft. Lauderdale where I had black and whites, hamantashen, NY style pizza and bagels. I wish I would have known about that bakery when I was in Cleveland. I brought back 3 pizza's( individually wrapped and frozen), various breads and cookies and bagels. Stuff I can't get here. I think I need to make a trip to Cleveland in a few months when my stash runs out.

  2. You can also get some great pizza here in Cleveland, although only Vincenza's is true NY style - Lolita and Bar Cento are making authentic Italian style pizzas and Marotta's is darn close to NY style.

    Let us know if you come our way; we'd be happy to join you in a pizza tasting!