SLIDE SHOW: At Delis, the Rosh Hashana Rush

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Photo by David Sax

Jim Holzmark, who owned the New York Bakery and Delicatessen, in Kansas City, MO, before it closed this spring, holds a freshly baked challah bread. Made dense with egg, sweet with honey, and twisted in knots, challah is a staple of the Ashkenazi holiday table, from Shabbat to the high holy days. On Rosh Hashanah, many families eat sweeter challahs with raisins and crystals of sugar. Some even feature white chocolate and cranberries.

David Sax surveys holiday dishes from Florida to San Francisco in
At Delis, the Rosh Hashana Rush .

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Photo by David Sax


Noodle Kugel at Jimmy and Drew's 28th St. Delicatessen in Boulder, CO. Also called Lokshen Kugel (Yiddish for Noodle Pudding), it involves baking boiled egg noodles in a sweet, eggy casserole, often flavored with raisins and cinnamon. Some families will serve it during the High Holy Days as a side dish (and make it savory), while others reserve it for dessert. Jimmy and Drew's is wonderfully dense and destructively sweet...like a cinnamon bun baked into pasta.


David Sax surveys holiday dishes from Florida to San Francisco in
At Delis, the Rosh Hashana Rush .

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Photo by David Sax


Chopped liver is a staple of the Ashkenazi repertoire, and commonly found as an appetizer on the Rosh Hashanah table. Delis make some of the best chopped liver around, because they still use schmaltz, or rendered chicken fat, which imparts a creamy texture and silken taste. David Apfelbaum, of David's Delicatessen in San Francisco, shows off his chopped liver, which contains reference to a twisted joke of his. On his menu, David claims his livers are "chopped 1179 times." When pressed about this, he'll roll up his sleeve to reveal the 1179 the SS tattooed into his arm at Auschwitz. Is a joke tasteless if it results in such tasty chopped liver?


David Sax surveys holiday dishes from Florida to San Francisco in
At Delis, the Rosh Hashana Rush .

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Photo by David Sax

If the prospect of chicken fat stuffed in cow guts isn't appealing, just close your eyes and taste the kishka from Brent's Delicatessen in Los Angeles, pictured here. Unlike commercial-made kishka (which substitutes collagen casing and vegetable oil for the real deal), Brent's comes alive with rich, golden, fatty flavor. Broiled until the skin crackles, it's like a bowl of chicken soup in sausage form.

David Sax surveys holiday dishes from Florida to San Francisco in
At Delis, the Rosh Hashana Rush .

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Photo by David Sax


Rugelach are the gem of delicatessen dessert. The little pastries are so dense, and varied in flavor and style, that they pack a serious punch and will sneak up on you if a box is left nearby. Those from Canter's Bakery in Los Angeles, seen here, are possibly the best anywhere. Bite sized, buttery, and filled with everything from chocolate to raspberry to apple cinnamon, they're guaranteed to ring in a sweet new year.


David Sax surveys holiday dishes from Florida to San Francisco in
At Delis, the Rosh Hashana Rush .

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Photo by David Sax


Kasha and Bowties and Egg Barley Mushrooms are two staple sides found at some delis and regularly eaten on the holidays. Essentially they all start with onions slowly carmelized in schmaltz. Then the starch is added in, either kasha (buckwheat groats) or egg barley (which doesn't contain eggs...it's just a name). They're sautéed together and tossed with either mushrooms or bowtie pasta, and sometimes gravy. Here's two prime examples from Kenny and Ziggy's Delicatessen in Houston, TX. Beware both dishes. They'll fill you up quicker than a NASCAR pit team.


David Sax surveys holiday dishes from Florida to San Francisco in
At Delis, the Rosh Hashana Rush .

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Photo by David Sax


There's innumerable theories about why Jews love Chinese food so much, but my favorite is the kreplach . It's basically a dumpling, filled most often with minced beef, onions, garlic, and spices, and served in either chicken soup, or pan fried. It's an easy leap from that to wonton soup, especially if you're not kosher. These beauties are from Ben's Kosher Delicatessen , in Boca Raton, FL. They've been fried and then smothered in translucent caramelized onions, which is the most delectable way to eat them.


David Sax surveys holiday dishes from Florida to San Francisco in
At Delis, the Rosh Hashana Rush .

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Photo by David Sax

Flatulence jokes aside, stuffed cabbage (aka cabbage rolls) are one of the foods that were adapted by Jews living in Poland and Hungary to be kosher, replacing ground pork with beef. They can too often be dense and dry, but in some cases, such as this gem from Gleiberman's Delicatessen in Charlotte, NC, the cabbage wrap serves as a delicate blanket that envelops loosely formed, tender minced beef in a sweet tomato broth. It's the perfect post-synagogue lunch food during Rosh Hashanah.

David Sax surveys holiday dishes from Florida to San Francisco in
At Delis, the Rosh Hashana Rush .

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Photo by David Sax


Gefilte fish is one of the few foods that have no known origins outside of Jewish culture. It has been made, in some way or another, since the exile, and is common to both the Ashkenazi and Sephardic communities. Hardly appealing to look at, the amorphous blobs of grey minced fish, matzo meal, and vegetables are nevertheless the anchor to many a family holiday dinner, acting as a bridge between the matzo ball soup and main course. The owners of NYC's 2nd Ave Deli nicknamed theirs G'fish, and it burst forth with a surge of flavor so moist, so sweet, so perfect, that you almost don't need horseradish.


David Sax surveys holiday dishes from Florida to San Francisco in
At Delis, the Rosh Hashana Rush .

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Photo by David Sax

Jeremy Lebewohl, nephew of Second Avenue Deli founder Abe Lebewohl.

David Sax surveys holiday dishes from Florida to San Francisco in
At Delis, the Rosh Hashana Rush .

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David Sax is an author, blogger, and works as a freelance journalist in New York. More

David Sax is the author of Save the Deli: In Search of Perfect Pastrami, Crusty Rye, and the Heart of Jewish Delicatessen (published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on October 19th). He also runs the blog savethedeli.com and works as a freelance journalist in New York.close

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