Passover is over on the night of April 16, though for secular Jews like me, the holiday has already passed (I don't avoid bread or restrict myself to kosher-for-Passover foods). I'd like to give a shout out, however, to New York City chef Tom Valenti and his awesome chef de cuisine, Derrick Styczek. Last week, due to apartment renovations and other obstacles, my family was left without a place to have a seder. So Tom allowed 20 of us to have our seder on the balcony at his restaurant Ouest. Tom and Derrick were all set with the main-course choices (short ribs, lamb shanks, roasted chicken), but they were having some trouble with the starters. So I sent them a matzo-ball soup recipe from Arthur Schwartz's latest book, Jewish Home Cooking (Schwartz got the recipe from New York City's famous Second Avenue Deli). The matzo balls were awesome! Derrick told me he and his staff did some hardcore matzo-ball tasting around the city to get them right, and his slightly misshapen balls were a perfect balance of dense and fluffy. My kids were thrilled because no dill, carrots or other "things" mucked up the really pure chicken consommé. I think Ouest should have that soup on its menu even after Passover is officially over.

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