Thank you, Umami! Awesome Restaurant!

Posted on January 4th, 2012 by

A blog post by Curator Karen Falk.

We recently shot some photographs for our Chosen Food exhibition during dinner hour at Umami Bistro on Reisterstown Road. It was a Monday night, a day selected because the manager told us it would be the slowest night of the week. Sure enough, when we arrived, only half the tables were filled. Our wonderful photographer, Will Kirk, did a color test while I spoke to patrons at nearby tables and warned them we might be a little disruptive and asked if they had any objection to finding themselves in the background of our photos (no one minded in the least). Our “models” ordered their food and we started taking pictures.

The food came, and so did more customers. It wasn’t long until every seat in the restaurant was filled. It was a festive crowd, including tables filled with coworkers celebrating the season and guests at a baby shower, complete with piles of gifts. Soon, there was no room between the tables for a photographer and his equipment, a photo “director” (me), along with the busy wait staff trying to do their jobs.

Through it all, the owner and staff at Umami was friendly, helpful and thoroughly professional. The food was up to their always delicious standards, and our photos came out beautiful. Check out the exhibit in a couple of weeks for some new photos! And check out Umami for an awesome meal!

John Luen, owner of Umami, was a genial host. Not every restaurant owner would allow a photography session to take place during dinner hour!

Umami’s kosher ID is on its front door, not in its name. The symbol is easy to miss, but kosher customers can rest easy. You don’t have to keep kosher to love Umami, however!

The lit restaurant is very inviting at night.

 

 

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Girl Scout cookies!

Posted on October 28th, 2011 by

A blog post by Assistant Director Deborah Cardin.

With the recent opening of Chosen Food: Cuisine, Culture, and American Jewish Identity, everyone here at the JMM has food on the brain. (Admittedly, it does not take much for our conversations to turn to food, but at least now we have an excuse!) The exhibition opening coincided with a major food-related event in my household, the arrival of Girl Scout cookies! This inspired me to think about whether or not there was a connection between the two events.

When my daughter decided to join a Brownie troop this year, we quickly learned about the importance of the cookie sales as an invaluable source of support for the organization. Already at our first troop meeting, the girls had opportunity to sample cookies and to discuss strategies for selling. And then the order forms arrived, and the selling began in earnest. Finally, we got the email that the cookies had arrived and were housed in a church nearby. A friend of mine had graciously volunteered to help pick up the cookies so my kids and I rushed to help her not realizing exactly how challenging it would be to fit 108 cases of cookies in our van, not to mention out of the van and up a flight of stairs into her living room.

How many boxes of Girl Scout cookies does it take to fill a mini-van?

Thanks to our intrepid helpers, the boxes were all loaded and unloaded, and organized into neat piles and ready for pick up!

Madeline, Maura, and Julia help load cookies

The history of Girl Scout sales goes back to 1917 when a troop in Muskogee, Oklahomaundertook a cookie sale to raise funds to support their activities. In 1933, a troop in Philadelphia organized the first official cookie drive, and by 1936, Girl Scouts of America began contracting with commercial cookie companies to bake the cookies that we have all come to know and love (the first recipe was for a sugar cookie!) The kinds of cookies currently available for sale vary regionally and are sold under different names in different places. From year to year, certain types of cookies are dropped due to lack of popularity while new flavors are launched.

A few of the mainstays include perennial favorites Thin Mints, Do-si-dos (peanut butter filling), and Samoas(vanilla cookies covered in caramel, coconut, and chocolate). (For more details about specific cookie varieties, check out http:///littlebrowniebakers.com/) As of 2007, sales were estimated at about 200 million boxes per year! (For more information about the history of Girl Scout cookies, check out http:///en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Girl_Scout_cookie.)

What exactly is the connection between an exhibition about Jewish food traditions and Girl Scout cookies? Imagine my surprise and delight when I looked over the order form and saw a hechsher (special certification marking found on packages of food that are certified kosher) proudly stamped on the order form next to the description of each cookie.

OU hechscher is found on Girl Scout cookie boxes

Like many other food companies with national distribution, the Girl Scouts have caught onto the benefit of offering a product that is certified as kosher as a way of making the cookies accessible to all (and believe me, many of my colleagues are doing their part to ensure that they meet their sale goals of 200 million boxes of cookies this year!) A section of the Chosen Food exhibit is dedicated to explaining and exploring the mysteries of kashrut (Jewish dietary laws derived from the Bible and rabbinic extensions)

Now that your appetite for Girl Scout cookies has surely been whetted and you’re probably feeling sad that no adorable children in green or brown vests came knocking on your door with a sales pitch, don’t fret. You can still order cookies directly from their website: http:///www.gscm.org/programs/productsales/cookies.html. Please order me another box of Thin Mints!

Posted in jewish museum of maryland