What do Brooklyn’s poorest residents have in common with the guests at Bella and Edward’s wedding in the popular vampire movie The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1?
They could soon find themselves eating off the elegant dinnerware featured at the fictional wedding reception.
Masbia Soup Kitchen Network, a project to alleviate hunger among New York’s poor, has been seeking donations of money and kitchen equipment as it prepares to open at a new location in the heavily Orthodox Brooklyn neighborhood of Boro Park.
Enter: Tammy Carmona, a party planner and creative whirlwind, who owns a Brooklyn-based tabletop company called Carmona New York. Carmona responded to Masbia’s plea on Facebook for almost 200 items it was still lacking for the new facility.
“Talk to me about dishes,” Carmona messaged the group.
Alexander Rapaport, Masbia’s executive director and co-founder (with Mordechai Mandelbaum), quickly got in touch, and a week later acquired 250 place settings of a pattern called Twilight, which Carmona designed for the vampire movie. She values her donation at more than $15,000. (Oprah Winfrey named Carmona dinnerware one of her favorite things of 2013.)
Such dinnerware may seem out of place in an ordinary soup kitchen — but Masbia soup kitchens are far from ordinary. They are designed to preserve the dignity of the diners. “We try to give it a restaurant feel,” Rapaport said, “a feel of people being invited, being comfortable, feeling that they can come into a communal, middle-class place, so to speak, rather than feeling like a place where you’re getting a handout.”
Volunteer waiters serve the food. And in the new location, dishes will replace disposable plates — part of an effort to go green, Rapaport said.
The soup kitchen’s new, upcoming Boro Park location is just a block from Shomrei Shabbos, a 24-hour synagogue whose wee-hour availability for prayer minyans has been reported in The New York Times and other media outlets. Masbia’s other locations are in Rego Park, Queens, and the Flatbush section of Brooklyn.
So what made Carmona reach out and offer her donation?
An Orthodox single mother of five, she was born in Ramat Gan, in Israel, to a mother whom she described as mentally ill.
“I was not exactly homeless, because I did have a house if I wanted to be abused,” she said. “Often I went to sleep hungry.”
Carmona said she wished she’d had a place like Masbia when she was a child.
At 17, she married an American and moved to the United States. Making the donation to Masbia, she explained, gave her a sense of closure.
“To be able to give back to people who don’t have anything, not even food,” she said. “I was once one of those people, and I’m now on the other side. You don’t forget where you came from.”
Masbia’s chef, Ruben Diaz, accompanied Rapaport to Carmona’s showroom to pick up the new dinnerware, and said he found the experience moving.
“It was an emotional connection because she had a very hard time,” Diaz said. “If you have a hard time, you come to Masbia and you see that the food is great, the place is great, you’re going to be a little more happy that day. With her donation of such expensive and elegant plates, the new location at Boro Park is going to be totally beautiful, it’s going to be like a high-class restaurant.”
The story of how Carmona came from where she began, to making those elegant plates — and how they ended up in a major motion picture — is one of sheer determination.
“It all started just to prove my worth,” Carmona said. “I was told I was not worth anything. I came from a Hungarian family where everybody baked. I started baking just to prove that I could. And people liked my cakes, so that became a business.” Baking led to party planning — Carmona would buy flowers for an event and rearrange them because she didn’t like the way they were done.
Next came Tulips Pansies, a Manhattan-based fundraising competition for Village Care of NY, to raise money for people with HIV/AIDS. She competed against a number of top floral designers. “I was the only Jewish girl there, and I took first place three years in a row.”
Next, she became a wedding planner. And in the same way that she wasn’t satisfied with other people’s floral arrangements, she found herself unimpressed with the dinnerware she had to choose from when planning events. “I never found dishes I love, “ she said. “I decided somebody’s got to do it. So I created my own.” She designed Twilight for the movie, and now manufactures it for sale.
“I saw online that they were looking for donations for Masbia, and I said, let me see what I can do. I donated Twilight because it was very popular. For me it’s a closure of a circle. Coming from nothing, going all the way to Hollywood, and doing it all on my own.”
Liza Schoenfein is the food editor of the Forward. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @LifeDeathDinner
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One of Kyoto’s most famous landmarks has been recreated in Hasami-yaki porcelain.
Spotting a pagoda in Japan isn’t such a rare occurrence, as the towers are a pretty common feature of temple architecture. However, five-story-tall examples are few and far between, so much so that the five-floor pagodas in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Hiroshima Prefecture are regular stops on sightseeing tours.
Now you can bring a little of that prestige to your dinner table, with this five-story pagoda-shaped tableware set from Japanese manufacturer Koto.
Called Goju (from goju no to, the Japanese term for “five-story pagoda”), the set is made from Hasami-yaki porcelain. When disassembled, the overturned eaves function as trays, the walls of each floor as box-like bowls, and the uppermost roof as a tapered container. Even the ringed spire at the top of the structure has a purpose, as the walnut circles are also chopstick rests.
The set comes packaged in a paulownia wood box, with a bilingual Japanese/English explanatory leaflet printed on washi paper. Flip the leaflet over, and you’re presented with an aerial view of a Japanese garden on which to place the pagoda.
Ironically, despite the undeniable cachet of the five-story variety in Japan, one of the country’s most famous pagodas has a smaller floor-count. But what Kinkakuji (also known as the Golden Pavillion) lacks in height, it makes up for in historical significance and stately aesthetics, and so it too serves as the basis for one of Koto’s tableware packages.
The Kinkaku set is made from the same porcelain as Goju, but is slightly more varied in the size of its component pieces.
▼ There’s also only a single chopstick rest, but on the plus side, it’s shaped like the phoenix.
The 35,640-yen (US$349) Goju can be ordered here through Amazon Japan, while the 32,400-yen Kinkaku can be purchased here.
Source: Japaaan Top image: Amazon Japan (edited by RocketNews24) Insert images: Amazon Japan (1, 2) (edited by RocketNews24)
Follow Casey on Twitter, where he’s wondering if using pagoda-shaped tableware would make it more or less appropriate to build a fort out of your mashed potatoes.
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Location: Anchorage, Kentucky
Over in Anchorage, Kentucky, a small town about 16 miles east of Louisville, we’ve found suburban bliss in a 1930s home renovated in the style of a French farmhouse. Here, you’ll find an open living, dining, and kitchen area with updated KitchenAid appliances, a farmhouse sink, plus hardwood floors throughout.
A formal dining room features French doors to a Secret Garden-esque refuge with an abundance of hydrangeas, lilacs, and climbing vines all over the pergola. The home also offers both an open and enclosed porch, plus terraces and lawns across the one-acre lot.
Back inside, the second floor of the 3,590-square-foot home is lined with four bright bedrooms, including a master suite with an office space. There are three fireplaces in the home, each adding character to the living room, family room, and master suite office. Take a closer look, below.
A look at the latest in local food, dining and drinking news
Photos courtesy of purveyors
Clockwise from top left: New Dawn Bakery’s chocolate raspberry cake, the Irish tacos at Pitch and Fiddle, the lobster rolls at Station 16, and Silk Road Soda’s lineup of beverages
This week is chock-full of exciting food news. An Irish pub, a gluten-free bakery and a seafood restaurant have opened their doors. Plus, a popular midtown wine bar revamps its menu, a Roseville soda company launches online, a comic book/coffee shop combo sets its sights on the grid, and a new Japanese restaurant plans to open its doors in downtown Sacramento.
New Dawn Bakery
Owned by husband-wife team Ben Lanzorotto-Leek and Katy Davis, Auburn’s New Dawn Bakery opened its doors in May to serve customers five days a week. (The bakery had been open Saturdays only since February, and has had a regular presence at the Nevada City Farmers Market for two-and-a-half years.) Named after the owners’ daughter Leah Dawn, the shop has developed a cult following for its wheat-free (as well as its paleo, vegan and refined sugar-free) treats like cinnamon rolls and the Samoa bar (a crumbly shortbread cookie with a coconut filling and a rich chocolate ganache topping), as well as cakes, cupcakes and breads like the popular homestyle sandwich loaf. 1102 Lincoln Way. Auburn. 530-563-6039. newdawnbakery.com
Oblivion Comics Coffee
Oblivion Comics Coffee won the latest round of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership’s Calling All Dreamers competition on Monday, June 27. The brainchild of Sacramento graphic designers Laura Benson and Neil Estaris, the concept will fuse geek culture with a cafe atmosphere, selling new, vintage and special edition comic books from both independent producers and publishing powerhouses like Marvel and DC. The cafe side of the to-be-determined location (Estaris says they are eyeing K Street), will feature a small pastry menu and a full list of Chocolate Fish coffee drinks with comic-themed names like Captain Americano. oblivioncomics.com
Pitch and Fiddle
This Irish pub off of Watt Avenue, formerly the FireDance Lounge, has flown under the radar since it opened its doors last December. The relaxed bar atmosphere features sporting events on several 50-inch, high-def TVs, 16 rotating draft beer selections, and a solid menu of Irish pub fare, including classic items like Dublin fish and chips and a shepherd’s pie loaded with ground beef, lamb and mashed potatoes. You’ll also find nontraditional menu items like Irish Tacos with corned beef, cabbage slaw and a lemon mustard aioli, as well as a burger made with sustainably sourced beef and tortiglioni mac and cheese topped with bacon. 8704 La Riviera Dr. 573-4782. pitchandfiddle.com
Newly revamped with a renovated kitchen and updated menu, this midtown winery is hosting a grand reopening celebration at the end of July to coincide with the release of its new varietals. A family-style dinner and wine tasting event on Friday, July 22, will feature dishes prepared by executive chef Theodore Gibanov, including pelmeni (stuffed dumplings) and bacon-wrapped pork chops. Saturday’s festivities will involve live music, cellar tours, barrel tasting along with plates like lamb meatballs and fried green tomatoes in lemon-herb aioli. July 22 dinner: $65 for members ($75 for non-members). Seating at 6:30 p.m. July 23 event: $35 ($30 for members). 5-10 p.m.2831 S St. 444-7711. rev.wine
Silk Road Soda
This Roseville-based beverage company just made its line of low-calorie, organic Persian soda available nationwide on Amazon. In 2012, founders and Sacramento State graduates Payam Fardanesh and Srijun Srinuanchan set out to create a carbonated beverage based on a recipe from Fardanesh’s grandmother, and have since distributed their products to grocery stores in the Sacramento region and throughout the West Coast. Avid customers can now find Silk Road sodas—which come in flavors like pomegranate, pear and cucumber—on Amazon’s online marketplace in single or multi-soda packs. silkroadsoda.com
Station 16, a new midtown seafood joint, held a soft opening Wednesday, June 22, in the space on 16th Street formerly inhabited by Sapporo Grill. Chef-owner Minnie Nguyen (who also owns South Sacramento’s Firehouse Crawfish) hopes to officially open in mid-July, drawing in midtown crowds with an extensive menu of seafaring eats, including oysters (served baked, grilled, fried or raw), and signature skillets featuring shellfish (mussels, prawns, crab, etc.) cooked in a cast iron pan in either roasted garlic butter or a spicy, aromatic sauce called “The Works.” The roomy interior creates a modern-industrial ambiance with details like cushy red booths and an American flag painted on a sheet of metal. 1118 16th St. 228-4042. sacstation16.com
This new Japanese restaurant—on the bottom floor of the 800 J Lofts building in downtown Sacramento—will soft-open July 8 and host a grand opening July 16. Taking over the former site of Sushi Paradiso, Takumi Izakaya is the third restaurant from a team of owners that also runs Bonzai Sushi in the Pocket-Greenhaven neighborhood and Banzai Japanese Kitchen in Davis. Chefs will prepare dishes on Japanese oak-burning grills at the front of the restaurant, and the menu will include Asian-inspired tapas, ramen and traditional sushi plates, along with sake and whiskies from Japanese distilleries like Yamazaki and Nikka. 826 J St. facebook.com/TakumiSacramento