Edible Manhattan's Rachel Wharton went to a festival for latkes at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, to see the chefs' creative takes on the traditional Jewish food.
The Brooklyn Academy of Music recently held the third annual Latke Festival and Cookoff, to celebrate the pan-fried potato pancake from Eastern Europe that is traditionally served during the eight days of Hanukkah.
Co-hosted by Edible Brooklyn, the latke fest was designed to take the humble dish to the next level. Latkes have long been left alone, fried up only with a little onion and served simply with a side of applesauce or maybe sour cream.
At the festival, restaurants serving cuisines from around the world offered up a global mashup, topping latkes with cured meats and mustard, figs and goat cheese, caviar and quail eggs, pickled vegetables and chiles and even chocolate sprinkles.
"What blew my mind was how much stuff people could get on a latke," says BAM President Karen Brooks Hopkins and Latke Festival judge.
One of the most creative concoctions was actually from amateur chef Dori Fern, who won an Edible Brooklyn contest last month to serve her latke alongside those from 16 professional chefs.
"When I saw it this year it just seemed like good timing. I'd been to culinary school this year and I'd become more adventurous with my toppings," Fern says.
Fern's latkes were spiked with five-spice powder and topped with duck confit, and they quickly disappeared at the festival.
Still, traditionalists might argue that the reason latkes have stayed so simple for so long is because they maybe taste better that way.
"Sour cream, applesauce and very crisp. Those I believe are the best," says Hopkins.
For lots more about latkes, including a few internationlly inspired recipes, visit www.ediblemanhattan.com. Happy Hanukkah!