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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sweet Jo's Updates Seder Classics for Passover

Posted By on Wed, Mar 24, 2010 at 3:31 PM

click to enlarge Sweet Jo's latke-like potato kugel. - C. ALBURGER
  • C. Alburger
  • Sweet Jo's latke-like potato kugel.
Joanna Karlinsky likes to set the record straight regarding modern Passover food. "Here's the thing," she says. "It tastes good."

Karlinsky, who earned fame at the long-shuttered Meetinghouse for her crack-like biscuits and Cal-American menu, now heads up Sweet Jo's, the café in the S.F. Jewish Community Center. She's offering two holiday plates leading up to Passover, which begins Monday at sundown. Both are available for pickup starting Saturday.

The first, a decorative plate not intended to get your taste buds in a bunch, includes the usual suspects of seder symbolism: fresh ground horseradish, Italian parsley, hard boiled egg, bitter herbs, charoset, three pieces of matzo, and, of course, a lamb bone for everyone to point at.

But Jews and Gentiles alike might want to take note of Karlinsky's seder dinner: braised Kobe brisket, mashed potatoes, rosemary broccoli, and asparagus with hazelnuts ($9.50 per person). Hardly an exercise in asceticism. She's also added new à la carte items to the mix this year, giving local Jews (both legit and honorary), modern ― read: tasty ― renditions of standbys like gefilte fish and potato kugel.

Her gefilte ($2.75 each) resurrects a recipe from a Meetinghouse seder dinner of 10 years ago. Karlinsky substitutes salmon, flounder, and tilapia for the knee-jerk carp-pike-whitefish blend to yield largish poached quenelles. A touch of smoked salmon is a sophisticated play on the strong gefilte flavor of tradition. Horseradish cream and bittersweet apple-walnut charoset add to the nuanced Passover bite. Anything but un-tasty, potato kugel alla Karlinsky ($7.50 for a 9-inch pie) is, in her words, basically a bigger, better latke: crisp and crunchy outside, moist and fluffy within. Keep in mind that only the gefilte is fit for nondairy Kosher noshers.

Sweet Jo's at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco 3200 California (at Presidio), 345-0090; à la carte items available for pickup starting March 27, and served at Sweet Jo's salad bar throughout Passover week

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Carolyn Alburger

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