After so many years eating and shmoozing at (the now defunct) Grill 212, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, I had come to think of it as a home away from home. Kind of like a walk-in closet brimming with comforting nostalgia food prepared by preternatural hands. Good Sephardi mother that I am, each time I gingerly walked down the narrow steps that led to her hole-in-the-wall place, I secretly and fervently mumbled our customary native blessing: May the Almighty Widen His Road for you, and May He Bring closer to you all that has previously been beyond your reach! (Amen. Prayer answered, and then some. More on that later. Wait till you hear!)
Riki: Girl Can Cook
I always watched with undiminished thrill and wonder as Riki turned out dozens of dishes, seeming to work magic, at once grilling, frying, roasting, wrapping, flipping, smearing, tossing. Pretty soon your dinner would land right in front of you, steaming and fragrant, like a rabbit flying out of a wizard’s hat. A pure force of nature, Riki dwarfed her own tiny dominion even further by her prodigious presence, full figure towering, voice booming, green eyes flashing, dazzling white teeth bared in a radiant smile. Honest to goodness food with all personality and no attitude. When I once asked her, as a brand new customer, if she used the dreadful bouillons which, Heaven Help me, I cannot abide, she just burst out laughing. That’s when I knew she was a cook after my own heart!
No special request is ever too quirky or eccentric for Riki. She would invariably answer, unflappable, “you got it!” Like the time our friend Jerry challenged her to make Marak Regel, the funky and unnervingly literally-named gelatinous foot soup not intended for the faint of heart, made upon special request for those intrepid diners among us, the soup he would (and did) drive miles and miles to enjoy, dunking hearty hunks of hot and pillowy Kubaneh into it. Huh? Someone say soup made with …..feet? You got it! A dozen of us met for a gargantuan expat feast that night, starring the deliciously outlandish Marak Regel, salatim, kebabs, schnitzels, pargiot, laffa and other Yemenite and Moroccan delicacies (hey how did sushi crash this resolutely all-Sephardi menu? Weird, I know, but it works, and It is a fixture on their menu).
My friend Larisa , who often drove from New Jersey for a lunch date, never wanted to meet anywhere else. And I could swear she once displayed anguished withdrawal signs on a day the Sushi Chef wasn’t there to make us our poke bowls and dinosaur eggs.
Fast forward about six months: Grill 212 went up in smoke in the Great Corona and other Debacles.
So how did Hashem fulfill my prayers for a larger space for Riki? Take a look!
Riki has transitioned to Sova Catering with her longtime friends and neighbors, the lovely Owners Yehuda Avital and Itay Azoulay. Now the space she commands is beyond everything she dreamed of. In just a few short weeks, if all goes well PG, Sova will relocate from their current quarters in Riverdale to their sprawling new location at Hunts Point, the colossal nerve center of New York’s Food Market. Location Location Location: This is the dream spot! 35.000 square feet: is that sprawling enough for you?
I hope this picture furnishes the whole answer:Grill 212 would fit comfortably in the new Sova’s humongous walk-in freezer. It took nothing less than this magisterial turn of events to vindicate Riki overnight for all the years she had to endure the indignities of cramped quarters and working with her hands tied behind her back. No wonder she looks like Cinderella in the frosted haze of the formidable subzero!
Although the team at Sova has distinguished themselves in numerous catering events (including the magnificent Passover Program in Morocco on 2017),
Riki’s coming on board brings in several enviable assets: her immense talents as a baker and an artisan (please take good note: her challah is the greatest, and will ruin it for all store-bought challah, and maybe even for yours, oy; her donuts: ditto), her amiable upbeat manner with customers; her endless creativity and resourcefulness; the integrity and originality of her philosophy of cooking. There’s nothing this Grill 212 Boot Camp Veteran cannot do in the rugged and embattled field of Catering and Food Service. They are lucky to have her, just as she is delighted to be part of their team.
I, ever the caterer, now let myself be the occasional cateree. After receiving a Passover Meal to die for (Moroccan Fish, Yemenite soup, lamb shanks with dried fruit sauce and no less than a dozen delightful salatim) I decided to order the exact same meal for each of my children as a Mother’s Day present that doubled prematurely as a Shabbos Dinner.
Sova Caterers and Corona
These past harrowing Corona weeks Sova Caterers have garnered well deserved big-star recognition and applause: Funded by generous and grateful angel sponsors eager to participate, they prepare and deliver hundreds of meals each week all over the city, to Doctors, Health Care Workers, Maintenance Workers and First Responders of all walks of life, Kosher or not, Jewish or not.
Among the hungry recipients, this month of Ramadan the Moroccan Community of Brooklyn and Queens was thrilled to receive delicious hot Breakfast Dinners, and wrote them a beautiful thank-you note.
Heartwarming to see the time-honored tradition of Jewish Community Members offering Ramadan Dinners to our Moroccan Neighbors being carried on, as is being done in Morocco every year.
It was an honor to meet the man of the moment, Yaakov Shereshevsky, and delivering Sova Delicious food, which we scooted through town piping hot! A grim but holy assignment he took upon himself at NYU Langone where he works grueling days fraught with anxiety and uncertainty, made him famous. Dinner was on Sova the next day, as a token of appreciation and tribute for all his beautiful inspiring work.
May the next time Nurse Yaakov gets written up in The New York Times be for Simcha and Refua, very soon BH! And to parody his lovely wife Leah, I say, I love you, be safe!
Sova Caterers’ gorgeous new location will be up and running in just a couple weeks, after the organized chaos prevailing on their construction site finally falls into place.
Super cool feature: The new place is going eco friendly!
They are changing their disposables to Bagasse compostable cutlery; and most importantly, they will have a Composting Machine from Ecodigester: Less waste every month by composting in house !
The crew has big exciting plans for every nook and cranny of the cavernous space: not just the cooking and catering proper (well-defined meat, dairy and pareve sections), but office space, meeting space, and space for cooking demonstrations and other presentations and events.
Hatzlacha to all of you, in everything you do!