Dr. Jerry Parness stood in his Squirrel Hill kitchen fastidiously scraping and squeezing, trying to extract the last juices of the just-concluded festival of Sukkot.
He cracked open the sealed lid of his glass canning jar. As the citrusy smell escaped, Parness quickly deposited the freshly grated etrog rinds. The yellowish white peels sank, rose, and began to float alongside the other ingredients: coriander, cardamom, cloves, fresh ginger, cinnamon bark and vanilla.
Parness then closed the jar. Pointing to the clear liquid, he said, “The beginning ingredient is there, vodka.”
Parness first tasted etrog liquor on Simchat Torah in Fairlawn, N.J. He asked for the recipe, noted its simplicity and determined to make a better product.
“There was nothing unique about it,” he recalled, “and I wanted to make it unique.” Inspired by the rich flavors of Art in the Age Craft Spirits, Parness began experimenting. “I’ve never done anything like this before, but I’m a scientist, I’m used to concocting things, and I love to cook,” he said.
A bona fide connoisseur, Parness knew what he was after.
“I have a good imagination of what tastes good together,” he said.
After scouring numerous recipes, he reached out to friends. In days, he collected 17 etrogs. The other ingredients he already possessed, along with decades of culinary experience.
Since college, where he eschewed cafeteria food, Parness has been a regular in the kitchen. After graduating, he moved around the world and experienced different cuisines.
“In Birmingham, Ala., I learned about southern fried chicken,” he said, “and in Israel I was exposed to Moroccan, Yemenite and traditional Russian foods.”
But despite tasting diverse dishes, Parness claimed that all of them failed in comparison to one. “My mouth still waters at [my mother’s] cholent, and my coronary arteries are also still spasming.”
• • •
Growing up, cooking was key in the Parness home. Around the age of 10, he remembered not being able to bathe for three days before Pesach because the bathtub was filled with clear glassware, swimming whitefish and carp. In other areas of the house, his mother (now 90 and still cooking) ground her own meat for stuffed cabbage, while his father made herring and gefilte fish.
“My mother and mother’s mother were phenomenal cooks,” he recalled, “and my father learned to be resourceful while stuck in Shanghai during World War II.”
For Parness, Shanghai and Sukkot have a special pairing. On the second day of Sukkot, in 1939, Phillip Parness (then Pinkus Papierczyk) escaped from a German prisoner of war camp, while using a visa supplied by Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat. After escaping, the elder Parness journeyed across Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union to Japan and Shanghai.
“Even though [my father] died in Tamuz,” the younger Parness said, “I tell his story not on his death, but on the date of his rebirth.”
That date, the second day of Sukkot, has remained a special time in the son’s life. For 22 years — every year since his father’s passing — Parness has marked the day by telling the story of his father’s rebirth. In sukkas around the country, he has annually performed the practice.
“I’ve done it everywhere I’ve lived,” he said.
As such, the memory of Parness’ father has continued on for decades after his demise.
Several months from now, well after Sukkot has ended, Parness predicts his etrog liquor will be ready. He hasn’t decided what he’ll do; he might have a tasting in his home, he might include it in Purim baskets to friends.
However it ultimately gets dispersed, recipients will certainly appreciate Parness’ spirit.
(Adam Reinherz, who writes about life in Jewish Pittsburgh, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Read more: The Jewish Chronicle - Spirit of Sukkot can be tasted in Jerry Parness etrog liquor
This morning I shared a few fun cocktails and haunting wines on The Broadcast. Here are the recipes that Suzie and I mixed up:
2 oz. Midori
1 oz. SKYY or other vodka
1/2 oz. Cointreau or other triple sec
1/2 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
Directions: Muddle strawberries and lemon juice. Shake all ingredients except Midori. Pour Midori into a martini glass. Layer vodka mixture on top.
Pumpkin Spice Margarita
2 parts Cruz Reposado Tequila – new tequila owned by Trinchero (owners of Napa Cellars, Trinchero, Folie a Deux) just got into Tequila with Cruz – 100% blue agave created by 3 Arizona State Grads w/ deep roots in Mexico, each bottle hand signed and made from recycled glass…very clean, easy sipping and fresh
1 part Pumpkin Spice Liqueur
2 parts Half and Half
Directions: Combine Cruz Reposado, pumpkin spice liqueur and half and half in shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a glass over ice cinnamon sugar rim.
Pumpkin Harvest Moon
1 1/2 ounces SNAP Art in the Age Liqueur or SKYY Infusions Ginger Vodka
4 ounces Pumpkin Cider or apple cider
Splash club soda
Garnish with fresh apple slices
Directions: Add ingredients to an ice filled Collins glass, stir and enjoy.
Both wines available via the winery website -
Philadelphia: Why Have I Never Really Come Here?
I’ve been to Philly twice before this trip: once to visit colleges and once for the Cupcake Smash this summer. Both times I was on a schedule that didn’t permit much exploration. And now I’m pissed at those wasted opportunities – because this town is UH-mazing!
Granted, Lara and I didn’t get to explore *every* single nook and cranny but we got around. Staying with two different friends each night of our three-day journey gave us two extremely knowledgeable, interesting, varied views of Philadelphia. But of course it all started with Cheesesteak.
COSMI'S AND SOUTH PHILLY
Our first day was spent with the gorgeous, gregarious MB and her family in South Philly where there is only one place for cheesesteak: Cosmi’s. I know, I know – we got a lot of slack for not going to Geno’s or Pat’s (“Meat Vegas” to the locals). But if this hoagie is good enough for Questlove, it’s good enough for us. Oh, and it was good enough. It was great. And when you follow that with a trip to Termini Brothers bakery, it’s unclear if there is a better way to spend your lunch hour really.
When we asked MB where we should spend the afternoon exploring (ie., shopping), she put us in a cab to Old City. I’m not sure there is a way Old City could be more fantastic – unless it included the opening of a bakery by my favorite pastry genius (fingers crossed!). Walking down 3rd Street from Market, we spied so many amazing stores: vintage menswear, midcentury furniture, consignment meccas. Our favorite for women’s clothes and accessories is Sugarcube. They had an amazing selection of interesting fabrics, cuts and textures. I bought a gorgeous wide brimmed asymmetric black hat; Lara got me a delicate but funky bracelet for my birthday. And we were so busy trying on leather trimmed leggings and Princess Jasmine silk dresses that we didn’t take any photos.
For design, aesthetic and overall Wow, Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction has it all. Not only do they create and sell their own line of booze (which we tasted – think herbal and rooty like Sage, Root(beer) and (ginger)Snap, but the decor was a curatorial genius mountain. Exposed brick walls, sign language wall paper, their logo morphed into fabric on an upholstered chair … what’s not to love. And Thank You! Their boozy bottles are sold locally at such fine purveyors as Martignetti’s.
Anyone who knows me well, knows my obsession with candy. Gummies, licorice, chocolate covered anything, marshmallow, caramel (of course!) – yep. Want it all in my face. A must stop? Shane’s Confectionery. Either this place had been restored to its turn-of-the-century grandeur or it just never ended. The glass candy displays, calligraphy signage and substantial details like their good-luck-breaking-into-this gilded cash register completed the feel of the perfect Candy Shoppe. Purchases: nougat chocolate bar, ginger hard candies.
AND ALL THE REST WAS PRETTY MUCH JUST FOOD AND DRINK
Besides some well-spent time at the flagship Anthropologie store in Rittenhouse Square, bit of work-related activity and a Friday morning massage, the rest of our trip revolved around food and drink. Per usual.
BREAKFAST: GREEN EGGS CAFE
Not sure what I ordered to eat but I remember it being tasty. Everything was overshadowed by the order of what was supposed to be ONE red velvet pancake for the table. You know. Just to try it. A miscommunication provided us a full order – which was essentially a red velvet layer cake. Not sure what qualified this as breakfast but it was so intimidating, we pretty much only chewed off one corner. Needless to say, we were not hungry again until 8pm.
HAPPY HOUR: STATESIDE IN SOUTH PHILLY
Buck a shuck and half price wine? We’ll take it. This tiny place on an adorable square in South Philly was so unexpected and just perfect. Overlooking the mid-week farmer’s market in the neighborhood piazza, the giant sliding doors of Stateside open up the entire corner of the restaurant to reveal concrete counters facing outside AND stools that swivel out from underneath. Instant al fresco dining. I only stopped smiling long enough to throw another oyster down the gullet.
DINNER: FETTE SAU IN FISHTOWN
This place reminded me of one of the many great restaurants in Chicago with the semi-outdoor picnic table seating under strung twinkle lights and a great funk playlist. This Brooklyn outpost served barbeque cafeteria style. Meat, greens, bread to die for, whiskey drinks – you know we were rolling out happy. And literally, rolling out.
DINNER PLUS: NIGHT MARKET IN CHINATOWN
A few times a year, the food truck community – there is no more perfect word for it – of Philadelphia gets together in rotating neighborhoods for a night of food overload, music, dancing, drinks and general coming-together. What luck that we were in town for it!
A walk through the 6–8 blocks of food trucks and crowds of hungry people led us to a roving brass band, Nomad Pizza, pork taco burn-your-face-off-good, fried cheese curd heaven, possibly more tacos and, of course, the local brew special. Capping off the night was a DJ at the far end of the festivities, spinning everyone’s favorite pop hits and really getting the crowd insane. DANCING!
Our other favorite hosts Jamie and Mike created a memorable bon voyage with a bottle of sparkling wine enjoyed on their roof deck at sundown. It must be love. See you again soon, Philly – you have so much left for us to explore!
Last Friday, I was at Kembrel's Blogger event hosted by MSP Squared (my friend Anh of MAI STYLE PAGES and Sabir ofMEN'S STYLE PRO). And I finally tried SPODEE, a Depression era hooch, that has notes of chocolate and grape wine, mixed in with seasonal fruits and cider. It. Was. Delicious. On the sweeter side than I usually prefer but I can see myself mixing this into a bunch of cocktail recipes up my sleeve. But for to drown away todays double whammy blues, I'm drinking a classic and a bit of a beginners cocktail: the SPODEE SODEE. 1:1 ratio deliciousness to kick the Monday Blues.