Get Ready For Winter Presents

Wait a minute—are you people still celebrating nominally monotheistic holidays? WHAT DID I TELL YOU ABOUT THAT, knock it off! There’s no such thing as Hanukkah, Christmas or…well I guess Ramadan was in August this year. Regardless, no such thing as that, either. There is only the secular, mutually beneficial, materialist gift exchange known as Winter Presents. This year it falls on December 20, so get shopping.

Traditionally, Winter Presents occurs on a day that has no affiliation with earlier pagan or modern religious celebrations. Ideally, it takes place in an apartment that nobody has bothered to decorate for the occasion, with a quite small group of people that mostly just feel stress and embarrassment when it comes to the receipt and bestowal of presents. Music is permitted, but it can’t be about snow, reindeer, or things made out of clay. By and large, the gifts themselves should not be surprising—rather, they should be exactly what one expects.

Once every Winter Present (maximum: 4) has been opened, it’s time to go back to living your life as if nothing happened. All in all, the ceremony shouldn’t take more than five minutes. Fold up the gift bags you used instead of wrapping paper and put them back in the closet for next year. Polite expressions of gratitude are in order, but don’t go overboard. You’ll want to save some conversational energy for December 31, when you celebrate Don’t Leave The House Night.

Behold “Santa Is Your UPS Man,” The Anti-Christmas Carol

Children, cover your ears.

In a viral video that’s too adorable to have been a UPS commercial, an Arkansas UPS delivery guy named Ken Jones has a funny little ditty called Santa Is Your UPS man, sung to the tune of Walking In A Winter Wonderland

And because corporations are assholes, he makes sure to say at the very end that he filmed this tune during a scheduled break. (You know he had to say that or else they’d fire his ass.) 

Contact the author of this post at Jessica.Wakeman@Gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter.

THIS WEEKEND: Your Wacky & Delicious NYC Hanukkah Itinerary

Step aside, Christmas and New Year’s. Starting tomorrow and for the next eight days, there’s a big kid in town who’s ready to revel in his blue-colored spotlight. And based upon the crazy, sexy, and delicious Hanukkah events we’ve gathered for this weekly column, the “Festival of Lights” might as well be called the “Festival of Bites,” or the “Festival of Half-Naked Jewish Women” – depending on how you look at it. So go, eat latkes and jelly doughnuts, listen to a comedian kvetch, and oogle at some Hanukkah hotties. That’s the spirit.

FRIDAY THE 7TH:

  • Alright, so Hanukkah doesn’t officially start today, but why not start celebrating early?  Go out with like-minded folk somewhere (Murray Hill) and swap holiday stories over a rosemary cocktail at the ‘hood’s only non-beer hall, non-sportsbar: The Archive. Then head over to nearby Jewish legend 2nd Ave. Deli before midnight for a nightcap pastrami sandwich.

SATURDAY THE 8TH:

  • Usher in the holiday with some good-hearted kvetchy comedian monologues and Jewish identity crisis brought to you by Jackie Hoffman, comedian and Broadway star who most recently started in the macabre musical The Addams Family. In her second-annual off-Broadway show A Chanukah Carol, Hoffman is forced to reexamine her own life when she is visited by the Ghosts of Chanukah Past, Present, and Future, and oh crap this sounds familiar…Show is at New World Stages (340 W. 50th St.), 8pm, $39.50. Running every Fri. and Sat. until Dec. 29th. All the details here.
  • After the show, head to recently-opened UWS location of The Smith for some comfort food, where you can discuss the renewed significance of Tiny Tim over the American brasserie’s baked pretzel and famously decadent and sensational mac ‘n’ cheese. All the inside-info on The Smith here.

SUNDAY THE 9TH:

  • Start your second day of Hanukkah off right with a mouthful of jelly doughnuts and a two-and-a-half hour Hanukkah walk through the Lower  East Side. Led by the Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy, the tour will visit the LES’ historic synagogues and include free jelly doughnuts, coffee, and Jewish history you can proudly share with family at the dinner table later.
  • As mentioned in our weekly HUMP DAY article,Hanukkah hotness hits Highline Ballroom,when Jewish international burlesque duo The Schlep Sisters hold a pageant-style show where eight Hanukkah hopefuls vie for a spot in the very-exclusive Menorah Horah Royalty. Retro swimsuits and dreidel and latke songs included. Who will compete? Who will win the crown? I’m schvitzing just thinking about it. Bring your JDateShow is at Highline Ballroom, 6pm, $25. All the details here. All the inside-info on Highline Ballroom here.
  • Conclude your celebratory Hanukkah weekend at the city’s only modern Jewish-American bistro: Kutsher’s Tribeca.  Their popular “Eight Nights of Latkes” menu offers a different latke every night, such as their pastrami smoked duck with sour cherry, chili-cured belly lox and cream cheese, and peking duck. Oy vey. See the Hanukkah menu here. All the inside-info on Kutsher’s here.

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For the Love of Latkes

Latkes are to Hanukkah, as pumpkin pie is to Thanksgiving—you have to have it. Nowadays chefs and home cooks have spruced up the classic potato pancake, and you can find versions of them with horseradish, caviar, and jalapenos. And for the ultimate latke showdown, head to the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Monday, December 10 for the Fourth Annual Latke Festival at 6:30pm.

There, over a dozen restaurants including A Voce, Balaboosta, Blue Ribbon, The Vanderbilt, and more, will compete for the title of latke master or mistress (yes, I made that title up). Naturally, the Sussman brothers will also be vying for the championship, which, based on the few times I have tried Eli Sussman’s version, I think they have a good chance. For $55 you can experience the fun, as well as nibble on the classic pancakes, mini bialys from Hot Bread Kitchen, sufganiyot, otherwise known as jelly doughnuts, from Dough, and drink He’Brew beer and coffee from Brooklyn Roasting company. The latke magic lasts until 9pm, and a part of the proceeds go to The Sylvia Center.

Also, on Thursday, December 13 at 7pm, the 92Y is celebrating their Fifth Annual Beer + Latkes Hanukkah Celebration. For $22, sample the festive pancakes, sip beer, and spin a dreidel or two. If you want to go judge latkes on your own, try Kutsher’s Tribeca, which tops theirs with caviar On their Hanukkah menu (December 8 though 16), Toloache offers a Mexican version with jalapeno and tomatillo-apple salsa, and the Jewish-Canadian deli Mile End makes them now, and all year round.

The Festival of Bites: New York Hanukkah Special Menus

Step aside, Christmas and New Year’s. There’s a big kid in town who’s ready to revel in his blue-colored spotlight. Starting today, and for the next eight days, it’s all about Hanukkah special menus. At restaurants across Manhattan and Brooklyn, gobble up free latkes, latkes in every variation never-before known to man, and lots and lots of donuts. Jelly and cream-filled donuts. So say your prayer, light your candle, and commemorate the rededication of the Holy Temple over a heaping platter of pastrami potato pancakes, Mexican-inspired brisket tacos, and homemade apple sauce.

Lansky’s:  When you’re seeking authentic, “Grandma-made-it” cuisine, this Old World deli is just the place.  Sidle into the classic dining room, with its 1930s stained glass ceiling and black and white-tiled floor, and mentally prepare yourself for a four-course, $32.95 feast.  Choose a soup (matzo, cabbage, or barley), a starter (stuffed cabbage, sweet/potato kugel, chopped liver, or gefilte fish), and an entrée (brisket of beef, half-roast chicken, and fresh roasted turkey). All entrées are served with a side of green beans and potato latkes, and concluded with a batch of jelly donuts and sweet, sweet satisfaction. L’chaim!
 
Toloache and Yerba Buena: Mexican food on Hanukkah? I know, it’s not exactly kosher, but when holiday obligations conflict with your after-work drinks with friends, why not have it all! At these two YB & Co. spots, start with the Mexican chocolate and strawberry-infused Hanukkah margarita and smoked whitefish guacamole. Share (or don’t) a latkes trio (potato jalapeno, zucchini, and Mexican ricotta potato pancakes), and brisket tacos with tomatillo salsa. And when you’re done with the roasted chicken-dried figs and apricots entrée, take a bite of the dulce de leche-filled donuts, and watch the “drunk-on-Hanukkah” guilt – and donuts – quickly disappear.
 
Mile End: This Montreal-inspired Jewish deli set in Boerum Hill gives you a taste of several oceanic delights with their special Surf & Turf latkes: the salmon roe, lox, and whitefish potato pancake, as well as their liver schmear, lamb bacon, and quail egg iteration. For an assortment of tamer latkes, savor the latkes plate, featuring potato, sweet potato-butternut squash, and celery root-parsnip latkes with tart applesauce and lemon sour cream. Still not enough? Then order their signature smoked meat and Canadian poutine: fries doused with fresh cheese curds and gravy. And if you’re still not satisfied, then you really have something wrong with you.
 
Kutsher’s Tribeca: This upscale Jewish American bistro brings class, modernity, and a different latke to your plate everyday of Hanukkah. Settle into the plush booths and get ready for a surprise. Is today sour cream and pear butter day? Wild mushroom and herbed ricotta? What about smoked sturgeon and caviar? Just like Christmas, you don’t know what you’re going to get (unless you call the restaurant), so come hungry and revel in the simple surprise that lies in these fried little morsels.
 
Brooklyn Diner: Free latkes! They’re free! Even if you order an $11 Greek salad or a $10 cheesecake, you’re still a patron at this swanky diner, and thereby eligible for their surprisingly complimentary plate of potato pancakes. Choose between sour cream or applesauce, and be thankful that Hanukkah is a whole eight days.