The traditional Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) dinner is the focal point of the domestic High Holiday season, but planning a large dinner for family and friends can be a stressful experience. A table featuring a few jars of gefilte fish, a rotisserie chicken, and the ever-present (tasteless) store-bought honey cake is no way to ring in the New Year. With a little bit of extra effort, these tips will help you host a fabulous Rosh Hashanah dinner.
As with all Jewish holidays, eating takes center stage, and specific foods play symbolic roles in the customs and traditions of the High Holiday. The Rosh Hashanah dinner is a time to encourage sweetness and optimism, and each family has its own set of particular food traditions. “There are lots of traditions relating to the "simanim," the symbolic foods that are used,” says Rabbi Elie Weinstock of New York’s Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun “The challah and apple dipped in honey are in the hopes of a sweet year. A fish head (or a ram's head in the Sephardic community) symbolizes our hopes to come out on top. Pomegranates have many seeds, representing our wish for a year of plenty.”
From delectable recipes to table decor ideas and even eco-friendly ways to stylishly enhance your foods, The Daily Meal has teamed up with some top chefs and event planners to bring you some clear-cut and original suggestions to ensure your Rosh Hashanah dinner is a sublime success.
(Credit: Breads Bakery)
On Rosh Hashanah, it is customary to eat round challah rather than the typical braided variety to symbolize the circle of life. Master baker Uri Scheft of Breads Bakery serves up a special “festive challah” that’s perfect for dipping in honey. Or, if you fancy something slightly sweeter, food writer and cookbook author Leah Koenig serves an apple butter challah that would work well before the meal or for breakfast the next day.
Greet your invitees with this apple and honey cocktail, concocted by Rick Bruner, General Manager of kosher steakhouse Reserve Cut. “This is perfect to serve up get guests on arrival,” says Rick. For the main meal, Rick recommends serving the 2013 Herzog, Late Harvest white Riesling from Monterey California. “This slightly sweet kosher wine has notes of apple, apricot, and honey and will be the perfect wine to accompany the sweetness of the meal.”
(Credit: Jennifer Abadi)
Food traditions are, of course, extremely important but there are plenty of ways to jazz up the holiday meal and add some contemporary twists to your favorite dishes. “I like to aim for a mix of traditional, time-tested dishes that everyone expects to see (brisket, chicken soup, tzimmes) with a few fresh, seasonal side dishes and salads that help enliven the table,” says food writer and cookbook author Leah Koenig. “For example, an apple and butternut squash soup, or a salad dressed up with pomegranate seeds.”
Brisket is a very popular dish to serve on Jewish holidays and Executive Chef David Kolotkin from New York City’s Prime Grill has shared a family recipe that is the ideal for the special meal. “This dish originated from my mother, Helene,” explains Kolotkin. “My grandmother, Bella, used to make a potted turkey dish with similar ingredients, which my mother later turned into a pot roast.”
Alternatively, if you’re looking for a poultry main, food writer Jennifer Abadi’s stewed chicken utilizes many of the traditional Rosh Hashanah foods. “Both savory and sweet, this is the perfect Rosh Hashanah main dish that combines apples with savory rosemary and carrots,” says Abadi. “Served over rice, you can also eat this dish throughout the fall!”
Rosh Hashanah dinner wouldn’t be complete without a sweet carrot side dish. Jamie Geller, best-selling kosher cookbook author and creative force behind Joy of Kosher, has a sophisticated take on the traditional accompaniments. There’s nothing sweeter than oven-roasted caramelized carrots. “The citrus brightens this dish and pairs well with thyme,” says Geller. “Use small, multi-colored baby carrots with the greens on top and add pearl onions to elevate this simple side to five-star status.”
Your guests will be pretty full from the dinner but there’s always a little room for an indulgent dessert. For a guaranteed hit dessert, try chef François Payard’s classic apple and honey tart, food writer and cookbook author Fernanda Capobianco’s Spicy Vegan Carrot Cake, or Jamie Geller’s Chocolate Cake with Pomegranate Swirl. “For dessert, I tapped the trusty pomegranate once more — finish your Rosh Hashanah meal with a super symbolic swirl!” says Geller.
Decorating your dining table will also really set the scene for your Rosh Hashanah dinner. A fall-theme dining table is just right for this holiday and there are so many different ways to decorate a dining table.
Showcase your delicious challah with Wayfair’s challah serving tray and bread knife. Can’t decide how to serve the food? Susty Party has created a line of stylish, eco-friendly, disposable party tableware with a purpose.
A striking floral arrangement can also make a world of difference to any family gathering. Beth Holloway, owner of Bloem.Flowers.Chocolates.Paperie and florist on BloomNation, created a centerpiece that combines both flowers and fruits. “The lush orchids paired with an assortment of crisp apples and pears are the perfect way to begin a refreshing new year,” states Holloway. “The hypericum and berzelia berries overflowing in abundance add a warm and welcoming touch to extend bountiful blessings and well wishes to all of your loved ones for the years to come.”
Start the New Year on the right note. Surround yourself with symbols of sweetness, and optimism, will, hopefully, propel you in the right direction for the New Year.