Hanukkah - A Latke-Vodka Party

At her whimsically updated Hanukkah bash, Brooklyn-raised chef Rachel Klein astounds her New England artist friends with wasabi cream–topped sweet-potato latkes and an array of terrific new vodkas.

Ever since she was a girl in Park Slope, Brooklyn, Rachel Klein looked forward to the latkes (fried potato pancakes) at a neighbor's Hanukkah party. But recently, Klein, 31, the executive chef at the new Om in Cambridge, Massachusetts, hosted her own Hanukkah latke-vodka bash for a collection of artist friends, some of whom had never been to a Hanukkah party before: "My boyfriend is Jewish—that's it," she says. So she told the story of Hanukkah and explained that Jews light candles for each of the eight nights of the holiday and fry foods in oil. Klein's own latkes were crisp and dainty, made with zucchini and with sweet potatoes as well as the usual white potato, and served with unexpected garnishes like crème fraîche, wasabi tobiko and red pepper jam. She borrowed a Sephardic recipe from her boyfriend's mother—fried doughnuts dunked in a sweet cardamom syrup and sprinkled with almonds. In an homage to the custom of pairing vodka with blinis, Klein offered jasmine-scented vodka cocktails with another kind of pancake, latkes. "The drinks made your face really warm," she says. "We all got a little bit silly." She also served a few of the countless new vodkas, including a boutique spirit from the backwoods of Vermont and one from a billionaire Russian financier. The Brooklyn crowd would've been amazed.

Om Restaurant, 57 JFK St., Harvard Sq., Cambridge, MA; omrestaurant.com.

PUBLISHED December 2005

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