13 April 2006

Jay Dee, the Passover Palace

Necessity in the mother of discovery.

Recently, as Passover was approaching, my wife, who is Jewish, was crying out for Kosher for Passover grub to fill our fridge and cupboards. I work in the most non-Jewish part of Queens and dreaded the long trip into Manhattan to find the needed goods. So I boarded the V to blindly investigate Forest Hills, motivated by nothing more than the vague feeling that I’d heard somewhere sometime that there was Kosher food out there.

My instincts are good. There was Kosher food there, in spades. Restaurants, markets, pizzerias, sushi, butchers, a magnificent temple to eating called the Knish Nosh, and at least one bakery: the Jay Dee, as a circa-1950s sign about five feet high (and the biggest thing on the storefront) proclaimed proudly. Guess you’ve got to have a big sign to be seen across roomy Queens Boulevard.

Big sign, I thought. Old place, too. But Kosher? I ventured in. Shelves and racks and counters filled with pastries, cakes, cookies and bread. Nah, I decided, looks too tasty. None of these delicacies can be Kosher for Passover, a holiday renowned for engendering the worst excuses for dessert in the history of man. (The taste of sawdust comes to mind.) Nonetheless, I asked the somewhat fish-eyed young lady behind the counter if she had any treats suitable for holiday consumption. She wordlessly gestured to every single thing in the window.

An older man with whispy white hair came out from in back to tell me everything in the store was in fact Kosher for Passover. It was like some fantastical dream, like hearing that every course of the scrumptious meal you’ve just eaten was made from tofu. Meanwhile, through a small, square window in the back wall, an irascible old man barked out orders in Russian or Hungarian or something.

I chose a chocolate nut cake and something called a “cherry strip.” Really a strudel, but that’s a German term, and you can’t blame a Jewish bakery for preferring to say “strip.”

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