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Jan 2, 2008 10:01 AM

Ideas for catering a birthday for a Jewish friend?

Hi guys,

A friend of mine has volunteered to cater a birthday party for another of our friend's Birthdays and after some fruitless consultations with the internet - he has asked me if I knew anything about Jewish BDay food traditions - which of course I don't (I'm Buddhist), but I figured where else could i get better food info than from Chowhound - so here I am!


Are there any traditional foods or special requirements / must haves for such an event? I think the birthday person is "Orthodox" Jewish if that would make any difference. Any advice or recommendations on this would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks in advance!

- Chew :-D

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  1. Sorry I can't give you culinay advice, but I would suggest double-posting this on the separate Kosher board.

    1 Reply
    1. re: bordeauxfan

      Thanks for the advice, Bordeauxfax, I didn't even know there was a Kosher board! Maybe I should start looking at other folders than Washington, DC area :-)

    2. Whether a specific food ingredient or establishment is "kosher" to an individual's standards is a grey area, as even the most observant of Jews can have differences of opinion. Regardless of what you learn from this and the Kosher board, absolutely clear your specific plans with the guest of honor beforehand. Not only the planned menu and where you're getting the main proteins, but is it okay to use your own serving implements and tableware (you're usually safe using paper & plastic disposables), heat stuff up in your oven, store it in your refrigerator, etc.?

      If you've underestimated your friend's level of kashruth (Kosher observance) and don't cross all your T's and dot your I's, you may be embarrassed to find yourself with a guest of honor politely fibbing that (s)he's not hungry at his/her own party. I've BTDT as host before, and I'm Jewish (not Orthodox), so it can happen to anyone.

      Assuming your friend is fairly observant, planning on a vegetarian, dairy and/or (non-shell)fish menu--if that's something your friend will enjoy--will be a good starting point towards serving an appropriate meal and avoiding any major violations of generally accepted kosher principles.

      I don't mean to scare you--chances are that if your friend has eaten something at a "regular" restaurant with you before, your task will be a lot easier than what I'm describing above. See what you can find out and report back.

      If you find your friend's kashruth status is very strict, you might want to consider getting the guest of honor a platter from a kosher establishment (supermarkets like Shalom or Kosher Mart can put something together) while serving a more conventional, kosher-style meal for the others.

      You sound like a great friend--good luck!

      4 Replies
      1. re: tubman

        Wow - thanks for all the great input. Would you guys have any suggestions for good / birthday worthy Kosher establishments (deli or supermarkets) for possible outsourcing?

        VA preferable but Washington, DC area in general would be OK also. Thanks again!

        1. re: chew

          Here's a list of kosher establishments in the DC area--but note that most are in Maryland (which, not coincidentally, is where most of the Orthodox population is).

          In NOVA, Wegmans has a fairly large selection of kosher ingredients and prepared foods, and I think Harris Teeter does as well.

          But again, check with the guest of honor on his/her kosher requirements. This all may wind up being overkill.

        2. re: tubman

          You did a really great job of explaining this !!!

          1. re: MDicecreamguy

            Thanks--but just to set the record straight, I guess you could call me "casually" kosher and I don't purport to be an expert. I don't eat "trayfe"--pork or shellfish, but I don't insist that the beef or poultry I eat be kosher (which typically doubles or even triples the price). I don't have different sets of dishes for meat and dairy meals, and I'm not offended at the prospect of eating out at a table where trayfe is served. Being strictly kosher would obviously hamper my 'hounding big-time.

            I bring this up for the OP because we have had friends--both Jewish and otherwise--go a little overboard with preparations when inviting us to their homes or picking a restaurant, incorrectly thinking that we're more strict about kosher than we actually are. Sure, it's an error on the side of caution, but in our case it unnecessarily puts limits a lot of menu choices and creates a lot of extra work...all of which could be avoided with simple communication beforehand.

        3. Your question is impossible to answer. Some "glatt kosher" orthodox people will only dine out in glatt kosher certified restaurants or in peoples homes who they know are strickly kosher. Some will eat out in other restaurants and order only dairy, vegetarian food or fish. Most may not eat out from sundown friday till sundown Saturday since it is the Sabbath. I think you should discuss this with your friend. If you are a really good friend there are high end, fabulous, gourmet kosher restaurants in Manhattan. In addition there is a couple in Pikesville off Reisterstown Road (northwest baltimore). You could hire a certified Kosher Caterer and have a dinner party catered in which they would prep the foods in their kitchen, bring all the china, silverwear, crystal and table linens and you probably could get away with having at your house and would have flexability in the menu. Remember, Kosher is usually about 30-40% more expensive. good luck

          1. I know the Jewish deli Loeb's does catering they are downtown we use them for office parties. Also I believe Corcoran Caterers in Silver Spring does Kosher catering.

            3 Replies
            1. re: ktmoomau

              Loeb's is a good lunch choice, but remember that it's essentially a Jewish-style sandwich shop deli, definitely not kosher (which might be a dealbreaker right off the bat).

              But if choices from a Jewish-style deli will satisfy the guest of honor, in NoVa you'll get much more menu variety from Chutzpah in either McLean or Fairfax.

              Getting back to your original post: Chicken soup with matzo balls, brisket and potato pancakes are always a good traditional Jewish menu. Any good Jewish deli like Chutzpah can put that together if it's acceptable to the guest of honor, as well as the kosher sources I cited earlier if you need to go that route.

              If Corcoran does kosher catering, it's certainly a well-kept secret on their website, if you check out one of their menus:

              1. re: tubman

                We normally would call Corcoran with our requests we used them for about 20 years of Jewish holiday office parties, but maybe they changed maybe it was more profitable... But we used Loeb's this year since we moved offices and it is closer now and I thought it was Kosher? Or at least that is what is purported? Or at least mostly Kosher and they do Kosher catering?

                1. re: ktmoomau

                  It's important to know that the terms "kosher" and "Jewish" are definitely not synonymous. If I had to venture a guess, I'd say 90% of the Jewish population in the DC area isn't strictly kosher and would pretty much have no problem eating anywhere, some perhaps making some concessions like I described in an earlier post above.

                  Loeb's and other Jewish delis typically use certain packaged kosher meats (such as Hebrew National salami and hot dogs) and may use other ingredients certified kosher, but they also offer bacon on some of their sandwiches, which should tell you something. Ingredients alone do not make for a kosher meal once the package is opened. Very specific facility and food preparation standards and kosher supervision of the kitchen are also key (and also the source of overhead costs that typically drive the price way up).

                  What Corcoran gave you for 20 years was likely a traditional Jewish-style menu (perhaps even with kosher ingredients) designed to appeal to the majority of Jews who don't require kosher supervision. It's no more or less kosher than what any of us could put together in own kitchen. I'd have no problem eating any of it, but a strictly kosher person would if the caterer didn't have kosher certification.

            2. Well, I'd definitely recommend against making bacon-wrapped scallops for this one!