During the High Holidays—that is, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur—I experience a sudden urge to quest for and cook authentic Jewish food, usually centered on three things: noodle kugel, brisket, and round challah. (Matzoh ball soup I’m okay with out of the box, to be honest.)
When we lived in Mexico City, I was pleasantly surprised to learn there was a large Jewish community and lots of kosher supermarkets and Jewish bakeries. I got all excited to make a brisket for Rosh Hashanah, and over the course of three days went to literally every kosher butcher in the city. Perhaps something was lost in translation, but no butcher knew or had the cut of meat I was looking for—brisket just wasn’t a thing! Disappointed but undefeated, I turned my attention to the noodle kugel, which proved another story in reinvention. The key kugel ingredient of “sour cream” also does not really exist in Mexico City. The closest thing is crema, which is delicious and irreplaceable on enchiladas but lacks the requisite tang to congeal a custard. After many trips to different supermarkets, I concocted the sweet egg noodle pudding using Greek yogurt, and it was passable.
In Atlanta, admittedly we don’t have a Katz’s or Zabar’s-type deli on every corner, and it can be an urban adventure to locate a box of Matzoh. Sure, you can hit up any Whole Foods in a pinch, but as you may have already sensed, these journeys for nuanced, authentic ingredients are as much about the dish as they are about the whole schleppy process, and craving an at-least-annual connection to Tradition, with a capital T.
But in the perfect timing to indulge my annual Jewish cooking renaissance, a buzzy new butcher/baker, Evergreen, recently opened near my neighborhood in Kirkwood after a somewhat mysterious, yearlong build-out. The owners are a husband and wife team, butcher Sean Schacke and pastry chef Emma Schacke, who met while working at chef Robert Phalen’s One Eared Stag.
Two days before Rosh Hashanah I remembered their shingle, which states very simply “Butcher and Baker,” and thought maybe I could kill two birds with one stone—brisket and challah dreams! The next morning, my husband suggested we grab a coffee there after dropping off our five kids at school. I strolled in full of expectation, having already scrolled through their Instagram and seen gorgeous pics of pain au chocolat, crusty breads, and a line down the block on opening day.
Inside, Evergreen was all open kitchen and classy details. There’s the namesake rich forest green accent wall, so perfectly-toned I immediately asked for the paint color. Succulents in adorable round pottery hung from the ceiling with tidy rope. Small hexagon mosaic tiling brightened up the whole space. Golden crinkly croissants and thick hearty breads beckoned from one side of the shop. Sean and Emma were behind the counters, carving and baking, something, respectively.
“Do you happen to have brisket?” I asked Sean. He considered it for a moment. “No,” he said. “But I can cut one for you?”
“You mean like, from the cow?” I asked.
“Yep, I have it in the back. I can have it ready tomorrow. How much do you need, say four pounds?”
My heart fluttered with delight. This was not just any brisket. It would be a bespoke brisket, cut and prepared only for me. This quest was going well already! As Sean wrote up the order, I asked Emma if she would be making any challah for the Jewish holidays. “I saw your post on Instagram about learning to make challah,” I explained.
“Oh!” Emma said. “I hadn’t planned to, but I will if I have time!”
The next morning I arrived and my brisket was cut, prepared, and vacuum-packed. “I saved you a challah,” Emma said, producing a cute square box. She had made them, and even set one aside, just for me. Suffice it to say, I was tickled pink and digging the friendly neighborhood vibe. Emma’s challah, by the way, was soft and fluffy but not too dense nor too sweet. My kids (and I) finished the petite loaf in one sitting. When we got around the cooking the brisket a couple days later, it was downright delicious. I couldn’t find my grandmother’s recipe cards, so I settled on an Ashkenazi style sweet-and-sour version from Tori Avey. We seared the meat, doused it with a pureed sauce of tomatoes, carrots, celery, sugar, vinegar, and lots of garlic—popped it in the oven as early as possible in the day, and waited. When the brisket was finally ready that evening, I ate too way much, telling myself it was comfort food, just once a year, declaring the High-Holidays-quest a success.
In search of a specialty version of the festive Jewish egg bread? Here are a few more options on our radar.
Alon’s Bakery and Market: The OG of Jewish food in Atlanta. Round challahs are wall-to-wall during the High Holidays, and feature classic, honey wheat, and honey wheat raisin varieties.
Challah Girl: A semi-secret boutique challah service by local mom Jaci Effron. Sign up on her email list for weekly flavor specialties, which include the Elvis (peanut butter and banana with crushed potato chips), Unicorn (topped with Beautiful Briney Sea’s salt blend), and the Everything, which is stuffed with onions and garlic. Available for pickup every Friday in Morningside.
Great Harvest Bread Co.: These buttery, plump, and exquisitely braided challahs that have a cult following. Rumor has it Door Dash will deliver for $5. Locations in Marietta, Alpharetta, Johns Creek, and Loganville.