Rosh Hashanah meals made easy in Bucks County
The Jewish New Year of 5783 begins on Sunday with Rosh Hashanah. It is a Hebrew holiday that calls for celebration with family and friends, as well as special foods to mark the festive occasion that begins the high holy days of the Jewish faith, culminating in Yom Kippur, the fast of Day of Atonement beginning October 4.
Alexis Miller, executive director of Congregation Kol Emet, a Jewish Reconstruction Synagogue in Lower Makefield, is eager to savor the foods associated with Rosh Hashanah, which lasts until Tuesday, but not their preparation. “If someone wants to cook the foods I love, I’m super happy,” she said.
So when Pita Chip, a new restaurant in Lower Makefield that serves Middle Eastern cuisine, offered to provide prepared dinners for the holidays and donate to the synagogue, she was thrilled.
Pita Chip co-owner Howard Klayman of New Hope, who is Jewish, said he suggested the restaurant prepare food for Jewish families for the holidays, with some of the proceeds going to the synagogue. The menu is called ‘Rosh Hashawarma’ because ‘shawarma’ is a Middle Eastern word for shaved meat meals prepared in a special way.
“They know how to cook food for a kosher style meal…I thought the name was so catchy and fun,” Miller said. She said Kol Emet is considered a Reform congregation that allows kosher-style foods but does not require the kitchens in which they are made to be kosher kitchens, which have special requirements, including the presence of a rabbi. .
Dinner is $57.83 (in honor of New Years) and pre-orders are on the way. “The family-style meal, which feeds four people, includes the customer’s choice of protein, hummus, rice, lettuce, toppings, sauces, pita bread and raspberry rugelach.
“We opened Pita Chip in Yardley last spring with a very successful benefit for Kol Emet and their entire congregation has been incredibly supportive ever since, so we decided to give back to them while facilitating their Jewish New Year celebration this year,” said said Omar Alsaadi, the Syrian-born co-founder of Pita Chip, who is Muslim. “We hope those observing Rosh Hashanah in and around Bucks County consider this option so they can relax and spend time with family without having to cook while on vacation.”
Miller, who has to be at the synagogue for services and other activities during Rosh Hashanah, said, “I think it’s really nice not having to think about what to cook…It was incredibly convenient for me. “
Pita Chip also has two restaurants in University City and near Temple University in Philadelphia. Klayman, who said he worked in the food business most of his adult life, met Alsaadi after trying Middle Eastern dishes he prepared at the Temple site and said to Alsaadi and his Muslim business partner Mouhanad Kabbani that if he could help them grow their restaurant he would.
He believes in bringing cultures together. “The fact that we can work together is really cool,” he said.
The three launched the second Pita Chip in University City in 2018, then decided to expand into Bucks County where they all reside, but the COVID pandemic delayed the opening until this year. Klayman scouted several sites before choosing the location in the Big Oak Road shopping center off Oxford Valley Road because of the stability of other shops and restaurants and good road access.
He then contacted the Kol Emet Synagogue to alert members of the new restaurant.
“They were so kind to us. Since then, several people have ordered catering from us,” he said. “We wanted to put a different spin on (Rosh Hashanah). We wanted to offer something a little different,” Klayman said.
Miller also orders other restaurant food for a picnic the congregation will have at a park during the holiday week. The restaurant’s fries, topped with a creamy garlic sauce, are a “fan favorite,” she said. And the restaurant’s tahini shakes ― vegan drinks made with sesame seeds ― are delicious, she says.
McCaffrey’s offers a traditional meal
McCaffrey Food Markets in Bucks County also offer kosher-style meals for Rosh Hashanah and estimate they will serve 200 people for the holiday.
Their offerings are more in line with traditional Jewish holiday offerings, including stewed beef brisket, four pounds of latkes (potato pancakes), two pounds of Parisian carrot tzimmes (braised or cinnamon-baked carrots) , two pounds of applesauce since apples are a traditional food on Rosh Hashanah, and two liters of matzo ball soup, as well as Belgian chocolate truffle cake. The meal for eight people costs $139.99 or $69.99 for four people.
Individual dinners can also feature beef brisket, “pink geranium” salmon, or sweet and sour chicken, other holiday favorites.
“Once people realize how easy it can be, they keep coming back,” said Nick Williamson, ready meals and catering manager for the supermarket.
Williamson said McCaffrey’s has been providing meal service for all types of holiday gatherings for years. For example, he cooks about 3,000 turkey dinners for Thanksgiving and orders his turkeys in February each year to ensure he has enough for both supermarket sales and catering. He reminded customers that he would start taking orders for Thanksgiving on October 14.
Pita chip and McCaffrey’s offers online ordering for Rosh Hashanah where customers can choose menu items for their holiday meals.
And Klayman invites everyone to try Pita Chip’s Middle Eastern cuisine adapted “to the American palette”.
The quick-service, order-as-you-like restaurant wants to “please everyone while offering really good food,” he said.