This afternoon, Jewish cookbook author Joan Nathan is leading a Passover baking demonstration at the White House, and I am pretty excited I get to go. Nathan recently visited Arkansas to do some research on Southern Jewish culinary culture, and I hooked her up with some chefs there, including the pastry genius behind Hot Springs' Ambrosia Bakery, Millie Baron, and Neil Elenzweig, in whose kitchen I first tasted kreplach. Let's be clear —there's no Zabar's or Bagel City in Arkansas; I'm pretty sure that aisde from the Jewish Food Festival once a year, Millie's is one of, if not the only, places in the state where you can actually buy rugelach.
The White House will feature a live stream of Chosen Food - A Celebration of Jewish Food and Culture beginning at 3 p.m., in case you want to tune in. The White House blog entry on today's event includes a recipe for pear charoset from Little
Rock chef Mike Selig of the Clinton Presidential Center, result of Joan Nathan's recent factfinding mission to my
Though they are very few, it seems any association for me with the White House kitchen always takes me back to Arkansas. Former White House pastry chef Roland Mesnier visited Little Rock to recount stories experienced during 25 years at the White House as part of the Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton and Bush II administrations. This is the guy who lists such items as biscuit cutters and marzipan sculpting tools among the equipment in his kitchen, and while I'm still gearing up the courage to try most of his recipes, I am forever indebted to him for teaching me how to make the most delicious chocolate chip cookie (there's a secret ingredient).