Baked, flaky golden pockets filled with potato, broccoli, kasha, meat, or anything savory. We couldn’t have a program entitled, “Knish History 101: The Life and Times of the Knish”, without a taste or two of this delectable pastry itself. In the days leading up to the talk on May 20th, with knish enthusiast, Laura Silver, we figured it would be a lot of fun to have a knish tasting. But where exactly would we find a suitable assortment of local knishes?
Finally, I received an insider tip in the form of a phone call from a loyal JMM patron. “You have to call Sion’s Bakery!” she told me. Sion’s knishes were apparently as big as baseballs, with a homemade dough and tasty potato filling. They could feed eight people!
I was a bit nervous to call and ask for a donation, but before I knew it, I had donations of knishes from Sion’s Bakery, The Knish Ship, Hoffman’s Catering, Attman’s and a lady named Anita Baum, who had owned The Knish Shop for many years. But the knishes would have to be picked up from each location – thus the Knish adventure came into being.
Fortunately for me, a chance encounter with a colleague interning at the Smithsonian provided me with a willing and able co-adventurer. Although Nadine was just visitingBaltimorefor the weekend and would not be able to attend the Knish program, she was eager to run all over town picking up knishes in return for a lift to the National Aquarium (almost as exciting a destination as the many Knish locations alongReisterstown Road).
Sunday morning at the crack of dawn (more like 10:30am, but it felt early), I arrived inHuntValleyto pick up Nadine. Then we headed toReisterstown Roadto begin our adventure. First stop: The Knish Shop at508 Reisterstown Road. It had the feeling of an old-fashioned deli counter with all sorts of salads and sandwiches in addition to the rows and rows of knishes in all sorts of flavors. We were handed a heaping catering tray filled with thirty huge knishes.
Then it was off to Sion’s Bakery. Everything looked tasty and sugar-coated in Sion’s, which is mostly a traditional bakery filled with rainbow cake and chocolate tops (picked up half a pound for my dad to sample – he reported them to be quite good). These knishes came in a bakery box. If I hadn’t know better, I would have thought there was a cake inside!
From there we hopped on the highway, as the next part of our adventure was a bit of a Knish Chase. Hoffman’s Catering was more than willing to provide knishes, if we didn’t mind picking them up from one of their catering jobs… at the Belvedere Hotel. Nadine and I sure weren’t dressed for the wedding we were about to nearly crash. Fortunately we were whisked into the back kitchen and given another huge tray of knishes.
From there I dropped off Nadine at the Aquarium and headed to Attman’s. Fortunately Attman’s is just across from the JMM, so it was easy enough to walk right over from work. Amid jars of pickles and metal meat slicers, I waited patiently for even more knishes.
Thanks to the handy JMM toaster oven and the full-size oven over at B’nai Israel, we were able to slice and heat the knishes as Laura Silver amused and entertained our audience of 75 knish-lovers and took them from Baltimore to New York to Israel to Poland in a search to understand Knish heritage, and to hear from Anita Baum about her experiences as former owner of the Knish Shop.
Once the talk was over, the audience descended upon a long table brimming with steaming knishes. It was a feast!