Tonight, the humble latke became the crispy blank canvas upon which a over a dozen New York City chefs let their imaginations play. It was Great Performances and Edible Brooklyn's third annual latke festival, so massive and crushingly well-attended it took up two floors of the cavernous opera house at BAM.
The winner was chef Jason Weiner's (Almond) super-crispy latke with house-smoked bluefish and yogurt sauce. The traditional Hanukkah food was at home with the smoked fish, and the yogurt accompaniment provided the perfect light touch to offset the oil and saltiness of the pancake and fish.
Weiner's entry didn't play it safe like Veselka's very traditional (satisfyingly so) sour cream and applesauce entry, nor did it go to the opposite extreme like this contender from Mae Mae Cafe: rye latke with cabbage flan, corned beef, Swiss cheese fondue and a dill pickle. Judge Michael Arad, the architect and designer of the 9/11 Memorial, dismissed it as "a Reuben not a latke." Another taster, though commented appreciatively, "It's so Jewish; it even comes with a dill pickle."
I took a shine to this picturesque gem from Julian Medina of Toloache, shredded potatoes fried very crispy and salty with a spicy jalapeno sauce. And also to this demure entry, People's Choice Award winner Bill Telepan's (Telepan) celery root and potato latke.
And finally, for dessert, Ron Ben-Israel (Ron Ben-Israel Cakes) served up a delicious potato and parsnip latke brulee with cranberry sauce. Eat your hearts out, latke lovers!