Shine your shofar, and get ready to blow. As summer draws to a close, so unfolds the High Holidays. We begin with Rosh Hashana, the celebration of the Jewish new year, which starts at sundown on Sunday, Sept. 25, and ends at nightfall on Tuesday, Sept. 27.
After the new year merriment ends, there’s Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and the holiest day of the Jewish year, beginning at sunset on Tuesday, Oct. 4 and ending the following evening. That’s a lot of time to celebrate, reflect, gather and eat — the last activity, of course, best enjoyed around the traditional fasting day of Yom Kippur.
To help you and your loved ones honor this time of year, Nosh rounded up the top spots for assorted challahs, braised chickens, tender briskets, schmaltz-saturated roasted potatoes, honey cakes and more. And now that in-person dining has returned to the restaurant scene, we’ve added a couple of options for those who prefer to celebrate outside the home.
Please note: This list doesn’t cover every single East Bay market, deli and restaurant offering holiday fare. Consider this a vetted guide to our favorites, or a jumping off point for your High Holidays shopping.
Chef/owner Mark Liberman welcomes back in-person revelers via an eight-course Rosh Hashana-inspired Latin American tasting menu for the week of Sept. 26. Look for grass-fed beef ropa vieja braised with fennel, salsa verde and french pears; challah with roasted summer chiles; and a ceviche of fall apples. The menu runs $85 per patron with an optional beverage pairing for $55 per person. “We will also be able to accommodate pescatarians, vegetarians and vegans,” Liberman told Nosh.
Mägo, 3762 Piedmont Ave. (at W MacArthur Boulevard), Oakland
The East Bay specialty market offers High Holiday meals at both Oakland and Berkeley locations. Rosh Hashana entrees (available Friday Sept. 23 – Sept. 27) include chicken thighs braised in a tomato and white wine sauce with honey, saffron and almonds ($18.95-$37.90 serves 2 to 5) and lemon-marinated salmon filet served with lemon and herb yogurt sauce ($17.95 serves one). For Yom Kippur, there’s their Silver Palate Cookbook-adapted Chicken Marbella ($18.95-$37.90 serves 2 to 5) braised with prunes, green olives and capers, as well as the formerly mentioned salmon dish.
Sweet treats, on offer for both holidays, include rugelach ($18.95 for 12, choose from apricot, chocolate or an assortment of both), spiced honey bundt cake with hints of cinnamon and coffee ($19.95) and what I personally consider to be the perfect dessert, an effortlessly elegant brown butter almond torte ($30). Dishes are currently available for pre-ordering for pickup Friday, Sept. 23 thru Tuesday, Sept. 27 (for Rosh Hashana) and Monday, Oct. 3 thru Wednesday, Oct. 5 (for Yom Kippur).
This is the only independent kosher butcher in the Bay Area, operating under the supervision of Vaad Hakashrus of Northern California, and it offers an expansive array of meats, breads, and other goods and ingredients for those who want to create the perfect home-cooked meal this season.
The kosher foods emporium will also have a decent sale on wines, including Herzog Lineage’s pinot noir, sauvignon blanc, malbecs (regularly $19.99 a bottle, now $12.99), as well as Bartenura Moscato (regularly $15.99, now $11.99). They also do catering; orders must be placed at least three days in advance for pickup or delivery.
Oakland Kosher Foods, 3419 Lakeshore Ave. (at Longridge Road), Oakland
Mica Talmor’s California-Israeli restaurant offers such High Holidays dishes as spicy Moroccan salmon ($24), beef short ribs and quince stew ($38), potato shallot kugel ($14), kabocha coconut soup ($11) and apple honey cake ($8). And, please, for the love of G-d, go to town on Pomella’s plum cake ($8) studded with plums, swirled with a ribbon of plum jello, and crowned with whipped cream. Pre-orders are open now for pickup on Saturday, Sept. 24 and Sunday, Sept. 25.
Pomella, 3770 Piedmont Ave. (near MacArthur Boulevard), Oakland
This Berkeley standby is transitioning its ownership, as chef and co-owner Peter Levitt (who honed his prowess inside the kitchens of Chez Panisse and Oliveto) steps back from day-to-day operations as Grand Bakery owner Sam Tobis and longtime worker Jesus “Chuy” Mendoza take over. Unchanged is the tone Levitt set at Saul’s, though, a blend of old-school preparation with a contemporary California bent, resulting in a secular Jewish menu using locally-grown, seasonal ingredients.
This year diners can either grab grub to-go or to dine inside the 100-plus-seat restaurant. Saul’s offers Rosh Hashana and break-the-fast meals featuring homemade gefilte fish ($7.95— no jars involved, thank you), vegetable succotash ($18, serves up to three), chicken dukkah with peach and figs ($29, serves up to two), and a brisket braised with apples, prunes and red wine. In-house diners can — and should — order the gefilte fish souffle ($9) and a housemade celery tonic soda to wash it down.
Saul’s Restaurant and Delicatessen, 1475 Shattuck Ave. (at Vine Street), Berkeley
These purveyors of traditional Jewish comfort foods with a California twist (that’s their menu in the photo at the top of this guide) offer pickup and delivery options like brisket with red wine gravy ($70 serves up to 6), apricot-glazed roast chicken ($38, serves up to four), shmaltz-roasted fingerling potatoes ($14, serves up to four), and raisin challah and noodle kugel. Don’t miss their break-the-fast staples like bagels, smoked salmon, and cream cheese shmears like plain, scallion, veggie, smoked salmon or spero vegan sunflower “cream cheese.”
If you want to eschew a la carte ordering, check out Wise Sons Deli’s complete Rosh Hashana dinner ($105, serves up to four) that gets you round raisin challah with honey, tzimmes, the aforementioned schmaltzy potatoes, apricot-glazed roast chicken and honey cake. While you’re at it, pair it with the break-the-fast feast ($140, serves up to six) featuring six latkes with sour cream and applesauce, smoked salmon platter, egg salad, and six assorted rugelach. Orders must be placed by 9 a.m. two days prior to pickup or delivery.
Additional Berkeley and Oakland places to find challah or honey cakes:
Afikomen Judaica 3042 Claremont Ave. (near Prince Street), Berkeley
Arizmendi 3265 Lakeshore Ave. (near Grand Avenue), Oakland
Fournee Bakery 2912 Domingo Ave. (at Russell Street), Berkeley
Grand Bakery 3033 MacArthur Blvd. (between Maple Avenue and Laurel Avenue), Oakland
Hamotzi Pickup at Kehilla Community Synagogue, 1300 Grand Ave. (near Fairview Avenue), Piedmont
La Farine 6323 College Ave. (at Alcatraz Avenue), Berkeley; 4094 Piedmont Ave. (at 41st Street), Oakland; and 3411 Fruitvale Ave. (at Bienati Way), Oakland
Mariposa Baking Company 5427 Telegraph Ave., D3 (at 55th Street), Oakland
Nabolom Bakery 2708 Russell St. (at College Avenue), Berkeley
Want to bake your own? Let the exceedingly talented Claire Saffitz show you how to make perfect challah and babka.
Featured image: A High Holidays spread from Wise Sons. Courtesy: Wise Sons