Yonah Schimmel's Knishes
To celebrate, we tapped into Alex's heritage and had a little nosh from one of the most famous Jewish establishments in the Lower East Side, Yonah Schimmel's. We've passed by it a few times, and Alex has raved about their world-famous and centuries-old knishes and other noshy things. The storefront is decorated with peeling and fading newspaper clippings and printouts, celebrating its 101 years of existence (mazel tov!). There are even more newspaper articles and photographs inside, so much taped to the walls that they probably don't need wallpaper! This is one of those places with so much history etched in its foundation that even though I think the health department would be really turned off, it is a great place to grab a bite.
When we first got inside, it was empty except for the guy who works there and one customer, hunched over a dingy counter with mounds of knishes inside. They were having what I thought was a heated argument, but Alex assured me it was the decibel level and amount of attitude for a normal conversation over ordering knishes for the holiday or something.
We ordered a kasha knish and a cherry cheese knish. As we waited, I saw a photo on the wall: a screenshot from Curb Your Enthusiasm with Larry David holding a round golden brown knish in front of Yonah Schimmel's. Famous!
It blew my mind that not all knishes are made equally, and by this, I mean made of potatoes. I know right?!
They have a decent spread of potato-based knishes, but Alex wanted to introduce me to kasha, an Eastern European staple, otherwise known as buckwheat. My mind is still blown, and at the time I couldn't imagine how the fluffy potato insides of a knish could be replaced by buckwheat. When we sat down to our knishes, which were real big chunky things the size of a flattened baseball, the kasha one definitely appeared to have a fluffy inside made of grain: there were flecks of stuff that looked like the whole wheat version of bread. I was impressed that the inside was still fluffy and I didn't miss the potato! We had the savory knish with a yellow mustard (duh). It was really good and made me appreciate this traditional food that has been interwoven into mainstream culture, or at least that of New York City.
Then, we moved on to the cherry cheese knish, which looked really funny with saucy cherries oozing out of one end. This one was more curious to me: what would the fluffy insides be made of?! Turns out it's a lot of dense dough, then a smear of a sweet cheese almost like ricotta, and then a light touch of the saucy cherries. I think the whole cherries oozed their way out of our knish, though. I thought it was really funny how we managed a dessert course...with another knish.
Looks like I have seven more days for Jewish foodventures!
Yonah Schimmel's Knishes
137 East Houston Street