Tuesday, September 2, 2014 Elul 7, 5774

It's Not Your Grandmother's Potato Pancake!

December 15, 2005 By:
Jared Shelly, JE Feature
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Chef David Cunningham
Staring down a long line of customers, chef David Glazer hustled to fry up his version of the latke - with olives, dill and scallions almost bursting out of a crispy potato shell.

"The friendly ingredients - the spinach and the feta cheese - gets them every time," said Glazer, a chef from the Center City Greek restaurant Estia, pointing to the creation's two other ingredients.

He then topped the dish with a creamy, white tzatziki sauce, a traditional Greek concoction made from yogurt.

At a table to Glazer's left, chef David Cunningham from Old Original Bookbinder's faced a crowd of his own, who were eager to taste his salmon-stuffed latke topped with smoked salmon, sour cream and salmon roe.

"It's definitely a little bit more complex than a normal one," acknowledged Glazer, who along with other local chefs prepared gourmet comestibles at the Gershman Y in Center City as part of the third annual latkepalooza! on Dec. 11.

While many of the close to 350 people at the event relished the chance to chow down on the gourmet cuisine, others browsed the merchandise at the gift bazaar in the lobby - shopping for dolls, scarves and jewelry - just in time for Chanukah.

A female clown draped in pink walked around making balloon animals for kids, while a magician attempted to wow the young ones with a slew of card tricks and slight-of-hand illusions with foam balls. Children also entertained themselves in an arts-and-crafts room; others had their faces painted.

"Everyone has a balloon animal, everyone's getting their face painted, they're all doing their arts-and-crafts - they're just having a good time," said Donna Katz, director of public relations and marketing at the Gershman Y.

Edward Schulman strolled through the room playing old favorites like "Hava Nagilah" on his accordion.

"I feel like I'm really striking a chord with the kids here," he said. "They're coming up and they're dancing."

In preparation for the event, local chef Joseph Poon showed off what he believes to be the world's largest latke at his Chef Kitchen in Chinatown on Dec 7. (The Guinness Book of Records does not currently have a listing for such a category).

Spanning several tables long, the latke was made from more than 200 pounds of potatoes, and was cooked with a little twist.

"I look at the recipe, mostly pan-fried or deep-fried.

"Hmm … I say why don't we change it to Asian?" yelled the animated Poon, who added spices like ginger and cilantro, and chose to bake his latke rather than fry it. (The chef also spelled out "latke" in potato batter on top of the giant treat.)

"The bottom line is helping the community," said the chef. "To help Jewish children is the best."

Dessert's on Him!

Back at LATKEPALOOZA!, many hungry gatherers tried not to miss the cabbage latke from chef Fritz Blank of Deux Cheminées. According to Blank, the dish has quickly become a favorite.

Blake Joffe from Continental in Old City differed from the others by making his latke more of a dessert than a side dish. He served a sweet latke with basil and mint, topped with roasted-apple purée and sour-cream ice-cream.

"We just wanted to help the community and help the Y - and obviously promote the Continental as well," acknowledged Joffe.

Debbie Fleischman, programming chair for the Gershman, loved the little things the chefs do to make the latkes uniquely theirs.

"What's great is that they're all so different," she said. "You think of a latke and just think of a fried potato, but each one of these latkes is completely different, and that's what's really fun about the event."

Perhaps the most animated people in attendance were Mina Smith-Siegel and Morris Klein, a couple in their late 50s, who wore large buttons proclaiming, "I met my bashert at LATKEPALOOZA! 2003."

"I was standing in line for one of Fritz's cabbage latkes, talking with a friend of mine, then Mina came over to see him," recalled Klein.

"He introduced us, and history was made."

The two, who live on opposite sides of Broad Street, have been together ever since - and plan to never miss the latke food fest.

"It's our annual tradition now," stated Klein with conviction. "It has a lot of emotional meaning for us."

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