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EST. 2011 BY LIZ RUEVEN
Moss Cafe Fuses Farm to Table with Kosher

Moss Cafe Fuses Farm to Table with Kosher

By the time owner Emily Weisberg launched her kickstarter campaign, Moss Cafe was already blinking wildly on our radar. Their mission is so clearly stated, so authentic, so pure, that we took notice many months before they opened.  We waited patiently and then gave them a few months to settle into their natural rhythm. Finally, we headed to Riverdale, NY to have our first taste of Moss, along with a great conversation with owner, Emily Weisberg.

Moss’s menus says it all: “we serve real food grown by real families on real farms not far from here.”

And Moss just happens to be kosher. And organic. And farm-to-table.  And if I didn’t know that Moss was kosher, I wouldn’t have guessed it. 

What does that mean?

Weisberg and I discussed that and we are in synch about wanting to see more kosher restaurants using the highest quality, seasonal and organic ingredients in creative and sustainable ways.

She and her team understand that their purchasing choices are an economic statement that impacts the welfare of farmers they buy from and in turn, the health of their community. Emily’s husband, Alex Weisman, is her trusted but sometimes reluctant financial advisor  who “has gotten roped into being my business partner. But he’s very good at it and has amazing insight into the agricultural, halachic (Jewish law), and environmental implications of what we’re doing.”

Together they are expressing their vision of excellence at Moss.

Kale Salad with pickled vegetables, potatoes, toasted pepitas, pecorino and ramp citronette
Kale Salad with pickled vegetables, potatoes, toasted pepitas, pecorino and ramp citronette

The cafe was filled with a steady flow of locals, many of whom were plugged in and working at laptops. The cafe has a friendly vibe, and diners often share tables if they spot an open seat. With 4 seats outside on the busy neighborhood sidewalk, 4 at the counter (the better to inhale the rich Stumptown coffee) and tables that seat 24, there was a friendly buzz and constant flow of customers while I was there.

As I placed my order at the counter, I asked Weisberg to confirm that I would be getting a good overview of their menu with the choices I had made. “Oh! Don’t miss our housemade yogurt and granola,” she insisted.  So my journey at Moss began with a dish that I certainly would have overlooked.

yogurt and granola bowl

This was my introduction to Moss’s commitment to preparing almost everything in -house (ok, not the cheese or wine, but more on that later). They source their dairy from an organic co-op in the Hudson valley and Moss makes their own yogurt, peach sauce, and granola. They bruise their own lavender to release essential oils and combine with sugar to sweeten the yogurt just the right amount.

By purchasing overripe peaches that some may call “seconds” Moss’ Chef Jonathan Mendez elicits a fruitier, sweeter reduction from the season’s just past ripe fruit. And more to the point of purchasing power as economic statement, this purchase does the farm a favor by helping them to reduce waste. Simply put by this passionate and comitted locavore owner, “We don’t want pesticide perfect food.”

AMEN!

Pickling and preserving is another way for this kosher, farm-to-table cafe to express their mission. When we see “fermentation of the week” proudly posted, we know that we’re talking beyond basic pickles.

I heard some other surprising “firsts” here.

I’ve never heard anyone anyone say that their restaurant has “amazing” storage space. So what’s a locavore like Weisberg to do? Moss buys what’s in abundance in the growing season and “puts up” what they don’t use. They’ve got a load of pickled veggies and preserved fruit neatly lined up waiting to cure the winter blahs.  If you’re lucky, you’ll find preserved items for sale in their “pantry” like I did. My family ate the pickled green beans I brought home in one sitting and we spooned their cherry preserves over ice cream until sadly, it was gone.

 About the menu:

With it’s commitment to local and seasonal, you’ll find 4-6 items listed in each section, broken down by times of day. Moss is open from 7 AM- 7 PM and Weisberg wisely serves breakfast until 2:30. The menu has a helpful key denoting gluten-free, dairy-free and cholov yisroel. Many of the items can be veganized.

rye and dark chocolate

All baked goods (other than bread) are baked in-house by baker extraordinaire Angela Fletcher.  I tried a selection of breakfast sweets and was taken by the rye cookies with dark chocolate and pistachios. The crunchy, filling, satisfying (and large) bite makes this a healthy breakfast treat.

blueberry scones

The Scottish Drop Scones, made with mostly whole wheat flour, butter and buttermilk are crispy on the outside and soft and moist with plenty of berries inside.

baked eggs with ricotta custard

Baked Eggs were creamy with house made ricotta custard baked in single portion ramekins. Diced squash, kale and fresh herbs sweetened the pot.

gravlax toast

Still in the breakfast menu, I was taken with the house cured gravlax, a vibrant orange, perfectly cured Alaskan Sock-eye salmon, procureed through the trustworthy Wild Edible. Fresh chevre, from a small kosher goat dairy farm in PA. provides the smear and Chef’s pickled mustard seeds add unexpected crunch and bite. Crisp, paper-thin radishes and microgreens are so delicious that I almost believe that I’m eating a salad.

Check out Moss Cafe’s recipe for curing gravlax at home here!

mackeral

Fish and tofu were only recently added to the menu and you can be sure the fish is organic and sustainably caught. We were especially interested in the Pan-Seared Mackerel, one of those “healthy” fish that don’t have wide appeal. But this quick cured and pan seared fillet had a delicate crisp skin, and served in a bowl with heirloom tomatoes, bright fuschia dragon beans and mustard greens picked that morning, had us re-thinking mackerel.

tofu bowl

The Tofu Bowl, slow baked marinated tofu, spicy micro greens and lemon cukes over brown rice was moistened with a delicious tamari dressing. You guessed right! The tofu is obtained through a co-op in PA. and is made fresh there.

savory bowl

Finally, I was curious about the Savory Bowl, a vegetarian classic of mixed grains, French lentils, dragon beans, tomatoes and kale, all seasoned with za’atar and topped by a creamy, bright fried egg.  Of all the dishes I tasted, this was my least favorite. Whole grains, lentils and an egg felt overly heavy to me. I preferred the more inventive salads and especially loved the gravlax and the fresh, bright yogurt that surprised me with its tang and perfectly contrasting peach reduction.

Expect the menu to change frequently with the seasons and watch for Moss’ Supper Club four times a year.

Take a look at their seasonal catering menu and holiday menu  for inventive seasonal salads, house cured fish, and plenty of other exciting fare.

Moss Cafe

3260 Johnson Ave.

Bronx, NY

phone: 347-275-5000

Click here for hours.

Moss Cafe is a kosher dairy cafe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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