164 BCE: The Maccabees have taken Jerusalem from the Seleucids and begun cleaning up the mess the occupiers left in the Second Temple. They’ve lit up the menorah, but there’s only enough sacred oil to last one day. Yet, on day two it keeps burning. And so it goes on days three, four, five, six, seven, and eight, until some fresh green EVOO is pressed, blessed, and resupplied.
They didn’t use that miraculous oil to fry up latkes and jelly donuts. Those came centuries later when the modern celebration of Hanukkah began to commemorate the world’s first successful armed rebellion with—sure, luminous menorahs, dreidels, and chocolate coins—but also foods fried crispy in hot, sizzling fat.
December 19, 2022 CE: Zeitlin’s Delicatessen and Schneider Provisions have taken the kitchen at the Kedzie Inn on the second night of Hanukkah and lit up the fryer for Monday Night Foodball, the Reader’s weekly chef pop-up.
Sam Zeitlin arrived in Chicago in 2018 looking for a proper bagel. He’d cooked in high-end Michelin-starred restaurants in D.C. after culinary school, and he landed at Galit when he got here. But he pined for the great Jewish American deli food he grew up with, and yet . . . bupkis.
That’s when Zeitlin, aka @bagelboy312, started making his own bagels, and during the pandemic began selling them out of his apartment to support melanoma research. “I missed the food I grew up eating as a kid,” he says. “I didn’t understand that it had such a profound effect on the way I see food and interact with food and culture. I dove into my Jewish identity and wanted to learn more about it because it was something that I didn’t even really know a whole lot about.”
Nearly three years later, Zeitlin’s Delicatessen is a powerhouse in Chicago’s deli renaissance, a farmers’ market and pop-up mainstay with a broad repertoire of traditional and innovative Jewish baked and preserved comestibles, from bagel dogs to bialys to babkas.
Sam Zeitlin’s reckoning with the Jewish American deli legacy aligned with a similar trajectory to that of Jake Schneider of Schneider Provisions, who packed the Kedzie at his own sandwich-oriented Foodball in October. That’s why they’re the ideal collaborators for Monday’s Hanukkah-inspired, family-style dinner that features latkes (with applesauce, of course); and sugar-dusted jelly donuts, aka sufganiyot, with a fruity molten core cooked down from Oriana “The Pear Angel” Kruszewski’s Asian pears.
There will be other not-necessarily-Hanukkah-tied, Askenazi-style dishes on the table, such as an update on the 80s Silver Palate Cookbook’s classic chicken Marbella, braised with prunes, capers, and olives; a roasted veggie goulash ladled over egg noodles; a bitter green salad with maple sherry vinaigrette; Zeitlin’s bronzed, braided challah; and a pickle plate from Schneider.
It’s also a bittersweet night for myself and Kedzie owner Jon Pokorny, as Monday Night Foodball will leave its birthplace and relocate to a new kitchen-barroom stadium starting in January 2023. Details coming soon. Here’s a hint at our opener.