April 21, 2013

SUNDAY MORNING COFFEE: Housing Works Bookstore Cafe

Last Sunday, a warm, sunny spring day, Housing Works Bookstore Cafe & McNally Jackson Books hosted an all day Downtown Literary Festival at their Soho spaces. The list of events was pretty impressive, starting early in the morning at Housing Works, segueing between there and McNally Jackson, and ending in the evening with an After-Party at Pravda (a Russian speakeasy as they describe it). There were book and poetry readings, and talks on a range of topics to pick from. I was keen to get to a morning reading at HousingWorks of "Russ&Daughters, The House that Herring Built" by Mark Russ Federman, former proprietor of the famous Jewish 'appetizer'* store and foodie destination of the same name.

The reading started off with a breakfast spread of bagels and cream cheese compliments of Russ&Daughters (who knew!) and a coffee (iced Cappuccino) from the Cafe. Mark Russ Federman took the podium, 'spieled' a bit, and then read from his book—a lighthearted, but sometimes poignant, anecdote filled tale that takes you through the history of grandfather Russ's arrival in 1907 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, selling herring from a pushcart, to a successful business that is still going strong. It took a lot of hard work and more than a little 'chutzpah' but the story is one shared with scores of Jewish immigrants who arrived on the Lower East Side of New York during that period. And, it's my grandfather's story—a furrier—who arrived, in 1903, from Eastern Europe via a ship out of Hamburg, like the first Mr. Russ—and so my interest.

Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, Crosby Street.

Breakfast. Bagels and Cream Cheese, compliments of Russ & Daughters.
Lox Populi-Russ&Daughters

And... Coffee from the Café.

Mark Russ Federman takes the podium.
This reading was arranged by a newly formed group called Dish: Food, Drinks, Stories, that put on readings and talks by, "New York's hottest chefs, restauranteurs, mixologists, food authors, bloggers and critics." They have a FaceBook page at: DISHNewYork

Their debut event, takes place May 1, 7PM, at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, and features, along with others, Lucy Knisley, illustrator and author in conversation with Saveur online editor, Helen Rosner, to celebrate her new graphic novel, "RELISH, My Life in the Kitchen." 

*Appetizing: a Jewish food tradition that is most typical among American Jews, and it is particularly local to New York and New Yorkers. To keep the Kosher laws, stores selling cured and pickled meats became known as delicatessens, while shops that sold fish and dairy products became appetizing stores.