Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Garlic festival & gefilte fish – recent peregrinations ...

The Pocono Garlic Festival – now in its 18th year! – took place over Labor Day weekend, a two-day tribute to garlic in all of its manifestations.  The Garlic Festival, now residing at the Shawnee Mountain Ski Area (in the East Stroudsburg/Delaware River vicinity), has become, according to the official festival web site, “a Labor Day weekend must for thousands & thousands of people [who] know a good thing when they smell it.”  And thousands of people of all ages did, indeed, show up for this iteration of the Festival. Gates opened at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday Sept. 1st and Sunday, the 2nd (tickets @ $10. at the gate, $7.50 in advance) and all activities – cooking demonstrations, health & food presentations, crafts booths, garlic & assorted food & specialty vendors, music performances – would continue throughout each day until 6:00 p.m. 

We sampled a good deal of garlic-based food (dips, spreads, noodles, sausages, sliced/shredded pork, cheeses), attended a cooking demonstration where freshly made pasta would be infused with various garlic-based sauces (cream, tomato), and heard Bluegrass bands and Zydeco, too.  Local wines & beers & lemon-based cold drinks were available, as well, to both complement and wash away the garlic tastes that had accumulated. 
In all, the Garlic Festival is a very intense, large, bustling (but extremely well-organized) outdoor event that tends to lure locals, weekend guests/tourists & others to the area for a worthwhile weekend, or day, of fun, foods & informed discussion.  If you have a penchant for garlic, in all its forms, shapes, sizes … bite-sized and otherwise, you owe it to yourself and your friends to attend this event at least once; so, mark this Pocono festival on your calendar for Labor Day weekend, 2013!  By the way, there are a variety of “things” going on at this festival to attract and entertain your kids, too … so be sure to bring them along.

And, once again, as the online festival program continues to proclaim:  “… Food is abundant and in keeping with the reason for the Festival, very much garlic-oriented [italics mine].  About 25 restaurants, ‘maverick’ cooks and chefs would dazzle Festival-goers all day with their creations.”

Just for the record, we based ourselves at the comfortably elegant Academy Street B & B (528 Academy St., tel. 570.226.3430, & owned by Michele & Manuel Rojas), about 45 minutes from the Garlic Festival grounds in Hawley, PA, a quaint small town, replete with all kinds of eateries, antique shops & idiosyncratic stores (at least three of which sell high quality, homemade ice cream) in the Northeast Poconos region bordering Lake Wallenpaupack, the largest lake in the Poconos region.  We did, in fact, schedule a late afternoon (near-sunset) “patio-boat” cruise around this huge lake and were very fortunate to have had a great young local guide to share with us his knowledge of the immediate area and all aspects of this man-made lake. A very relaxing & leisurely ride in and around the nooks and crannies, inlets & outlets, of the “Big Lake.” 

Following our rustic lake cruise, we (four of us, that is) dined on the outdoor terrace of The Settler’s Inn, a chef-owned, “farm-to-table” restaurant featuring “regional” cuisine. We began with the local peach & blueberry salad (@ $10.50), with warm goat cheese, a mint vinaigrette dressing & toasted almonds, followed by four interesting mains:  a plate of seared shrimp & diver scallops, with citron saffron vanilla sauce, preserved cherries & black “forbidden” rice (@ $34.); a crispy herb-stuffed chicken leg roulade, finished with fresh figs & fig chutney, along with corn & green-bean salad amidst a small gathering of bok choi (@ $24.); a Hudson Valley Farms duck breast in blueberry ginger sauce, fennel pecan rice & Napa cabbage salad (@ $34.);  and, finally, an order of farm-raised, lavender-crusted salmon, with buerre rouge, coconut rice & heirloom tomato (@ $26.).  Along with the salads and mains, and to aid us in our digestion processes (of course!), we chose a couple of glasses of wine, one Riesling (a Fritz Windisch, 2005, Rheinhessen, from Germany, @ $9.) and another a mix of Zinfandel, Merlot & Cabernet (Folie a Deux, Ménage a Trois, 2007, from California, @ $8.75), a Lindemans Lambic Framboise (Belgian ale with raspberries added, @ $11.), and a Duchess de Bourgogne (traditional Flemish red, fruity ale with a cherry finish, @ $9.50).  And, finally, for dessert, we selected a dish of English toffee “pudding” cake, with warm caramel sauce & whipped cream (@ $6.50), a small assortment of fresh fruit sorbet (local blueberry, if I recall, dominant among them), coupled with cups of robust, flavorful French-press coffee, and a cappuccino. 

After our filling culinary adventure on the terrace, and after a brief discussion of our visit that afternoon to the Dorflinger Glass Museum (full of glass art objects & artifacts of the famed local glassmaker & housed within a wildlife sanctuary and hiking trails just outside Hawley), we lingered in the commodious “arts & craft” lodge-type lobby of the inn over a not-very-contentious game of Scrabble and a glass or two of port; my wife beat us all, but not by much!

Upon returning from our Pocono Garlic Festival diversion to the New York Metro area, we (four of us) rested up a bit in anticipation of Thursday evening’s (Sept. 6th) Center forJewish History (CJH) “Gefilte Talk,” a panel discussion and tasting of “gefilte [fish] variations, both classic and new,” part of a series entitled “Deconstruc- ting Jewish Culinary Mythology, One Dish at a Time.”  The moderator, Mitchell Davis, an executive VP of the James Beard Foundation, cookbook author (The Mensch Chef, Kitchen Sense), and food journalist (contributor to Gastronomica and The Art of Eating), posed a variety of questions (& problems) to the members of the Gefilte panel – e.g., why gefilte fish still remains a popular Jewish food; how best are we to prepare it; and how best should we present it?  What is it you prefer to serve with it … say, spicy horseradish, or, maybe, mild? – and solicited questions and reminiscences from the panel and members of the audience, as well.

DoverD - "Gefilte Talk" logo
The event was organized by the newly appointed CJH culinary curator, Naama Shefi, and the panel was composed of Liz Alpern & Jeffrey Yoskowitz, co-founders of Brooklyn-based The Gefilteria (specializing in preparing & serving “the robust, colorful, fresh flavors of Ashkenazi cusine”); Zach Kutsher, grandson of the founder of Kutsher’s Country Club in the Catskill Mountains and now the creative force behind the relatively new restaurant with the eponymous (family) name, Kutsher’s Tribeca; Jack Lebewohl, sometime lawyer, co-owner & counterman at the celebrated 2nd Ave. Deli; and Omer Miller, young owner of at least two well-known restaurants in Tel Aviv serving Israeli cuisine, the highly successful Hadar Haochel (The Dining Hall, an “interpretation of a kibbutz communal dining hall”) & the newer but equally well-known Shulchan (Table), located in a trendy area of central Tel Aviv. 

Following the panel discussion, event attendees participated in a tasting session in the space just outside the CJH auditorium where three varieties of gefilte fish – one traditional (the 2nd Ave. Deli) and two nouvelle (The Gefilteria & Kutsher’s Tribeca) – were represented, with wine and a beet & gin punch served up by Recanati (an Israeli artisanal winery).  In my humble opinion the winner was clearly that gefilte provided by Kutsher’s Tribeca, though my wife and one of our companions liked the traditional flavor and consistency of the fish served at the 2nd Ave. Deli.

Tra-La-La Juice Bar & Bakery (120 Essex St., the Essex Market; tel. 212.982.8585) – creators of unique cakes & artisan muffins – supplied cookies in the shape of a piece of gefilte with carrot slice atop, along with dark, beet-red coconut shreds mirroring the red horseradish that frequently accompanies traditional pieces of gefilte … These cookies were absolutely delicious morsels of faux gefilte fish that tasted, well, like freshly made cookies … and I couldn’t help eating several of these little gefilte-shaped gems!

According to the CJH event handout, “the winning recipe will be documented in … [their] newly created video archive of  Jewish food.” Just check out their web site within the next couple of weeks to see which rendition of gefilte and which chef-creator won this important socio-cultural contest!


  1. Like your comments on the Pocono Garlic Festival; will plan to attend this event next year.

  2. Lover of gifilte fishSeptember 12, 2012 at 10:37 AM

    How unusual an event ... terrific. I wish I had been there to partici[ate in the tasting!

  3. Been to the Poconos on many occasions over the past decade and you have shown me some new things to see and do - and places to stay - each time you discuss your trips to that area of PA.

  4. LOVE your take on the Gefilte Talk. I was there and you nailed the experience perfectly!

    1. Thanks so much for having a good look at my comments!

  5. For the record, regarding the Gefilte tasting event at the CJH:

    According to Lisa Roth, a CJH representative, "The votes have been tallied and the winner is ... The Gefilteria!" Wow ...