I met Justin at the OneTable DC Hub launch party a few months ago. I was lucky enough to sit at his table and learn a bit about him and his past experience hosting Shabbat dinners. We recently connected again and got to talking about this awesome Shabbat dinner he had. Learn more about it in this week’s interview!
Shaina: I hear you hosted quite the eclectic Shabbat dinner recently! Tell me a little bit about your menu.
Justin: The menu featured appetizers and main course dishes from Zannchi, a tasty Korean restaurant, while dessert was catered by the bake shop Pie Sisters; both these restaurants are located in Georgetown. Appetizers included mandu dumplings (fried and steamed), japchae noodles, and patty jeon (think of it like a Korean-style latke). For the main meal, I brought in a series of different Bibimbap bowls for guests to choose from. To finish off the night, I picked up an assortment of different Pie Bites (hand-held mini pie cupcakes) from Pie Sisters, which included Apple Caramel Crunch, Bourbon Chocolate Pecan, and Jumble Berry (their unique mixture of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries). To wash everything down–and also
bridge the two styles of food featured in my dinner–I decided to make Peach Soju Sangria that included white wine, peach juice, Peach Soju (a Korean spirit similar to Japanese Sake), and fresh peaches.
Shaina: That sounds delicious! How did you decide to pair these cuisines?
Justin: Because Pie Sisters reminds me of traditional, southern-style comfort foods and Zannchi is the best Korean food I have ever had, I decided to call my dinner “Seoul-Soul Shabbat” (Get it–bridging Seoul, Korea and Soul food…I know, I am not as clever as I think).
Shaina: It can be hard to host meals. How were you able to pull together such a fantastic meal?
Justin: OneTable was super helpful; they encouraged me to do host the Shabbat dinner my own way, with awesome food. In addition, OneTable’s financial assistance enabled me to throw together a dinner at a fraction of what it would have cost me to do it otherwise. It helped me to realize that I could host OneTable Shabbat Dinners week-after-week in the future without having to worry about selling a kidney to pay for them.
Shaina: Where did you learn about all these great restaurants?
Justin: One of my side jobs is leading food tours through the DC area. The company I work for, DC Metro Food Tours, has several different routes; I specifically lead tours through the U Street and Georgetown neighborhoods. They usually last 3-4 hours, during which my groups of 10-12 people walk through the neighborhood stopping at various
spots to hear about the history, culture, and architecture. Interspersed along the way, we go to four different restaurants that speak to the spirit of each neighborhood. Zannchi and Pie Sisters have both been featured in the Georgetown tours recently. I wanted to bring a taste of my food tour experience to my friends in DC.
Shaina: There’s also rumblings of your mom being really excited for you to host. What happened there?
Justin: In classic Jewish mother fashion, my mother grew up idolizing and cherishing her mother, who was the queen of hosting and entertaining guests. My mother vicariously embodies her spirit––so much so that I have come to nickname her “Martha Jewart” each winter when she decorates our house in enough Chanukah ornaments/paraphernalia to make it look like something out of a Homes and Living magazine.
As a result, there was no way I was going to be able to keep concealed from my mother the fact that I was hosting a Shabbat dinner–she demanded pictures of the event before I had even sent out invites to my guests. I think she takes solace in knowing that some of the “hosting and entertaining” traits she got from her mother have been passed on to me.
Shaina: What’s your approach to decorating for a Shabbat meal?
Justin: I have way too many Shabbat accoutrements, all of them courtesy of my mom. For example, I do not merely have a Kiddush cup, challah cover, and candlesticks; I have a Shabbat wine bottle koozie that goes around any sized bottle and a Shabbat matchsticks holder that fits around your average-sized matchbox. Nevertheless, I have little space to openly display them in my apartment so I end up having to stuff them in a single hidden cabinet in my kitchen above my microwave. If you ever visit, open this slowly…
Shaina: Complete the sentence: When the Jews of DC Gather…
Justin: “The Best of Britney Spears” playlist on Spotify starts playing.