Ari Moffic Silver, contributing blogger
Born and raised in Chicago, Ari
Moffic Silver is a Jewish educator and foodie that has his finger on the pulse
of Chicago’s Jewish education experience, and also its dynamic, delectable,
dining destinations! Now residing in Glencoe with his wife Ashley and baby
daughter, Emma, Ari teaches third grade at Solomon Schechter Day School.
In his spare time, he likes to
watch food shows and vocal competitions on TV, volunteer his time at his
synagogue’s Men’s Club, chant from the Torah, tutor his Bar and Bat Mitzvah
students, and coach several youth sports programs. He remains a foodie at heart
and a certified Mixologist who enjoys frequenting the many restaurants and bars
Chicago has to offer.
ARTICLES BY THIS AUTHOR
Hello Oy!sters! It’s your friendly neighborhood Jewish bartender, back again with some exciting things to tell you. To me, Chicago summers mean wonderful weather and sizzling hot spots, overflowing with some of the best cocktails to cool you down or pick you up.
It’s a rare thing to be able to use your job skills to help people—especially when you’re a professional drink-slinger. So when I heard about an opportunity to participate in Taste of the Nation, the nation’s premier culinary benefit dedicated to ending childhood hunger in America, I could not resist. I was eager not only to showcase my mixology skills and rub shoulders with some of the top mixologists in the city, but also to be part of a great cause.
When someone asks what makes Chicago so great, several possible answers come to mind:
Many natives like to boast about Chicago’s wonderful and illustrious architectural history. Some can’t wait to point out our culinary fame, persuading tourists to go to deep-dish pizza joints and the summertime gorge we call the Taste of Chicago. Others mention the city’s natural beauty with its lush public parks and bike friendly avenues, despite the looming skyscrapers. But I am not like most natives.
As a bartender and a mixologist, I’m often asked by my patrons and even my colleagues some great questions about making drinks. So, I thought I would dedicate this blog post to answering some of those questions about the use – and abuse – of spirits. Then I’ll wrap things up with this issue’s Cheers Chicago Cocktail!
When was the last time you asked your waiter where the ingredients and dishes on the menu came from, or how the chef chose to cook them? Now, ask yourself the last time you asked a bartender where your recently poured cocktail recipe originated, or even how the clear, tasteless and odorless vodka in your drink was made? You might ask about the year or region of a particular wine on the list, but do you ever ask what month or time of day the grower decided to pluck the grapes, or what they feed the soil?
As I began packing for my Advanced Mixology Academy class field trip to Chef’s Garden in Milan, Ohio, I had no idea what to expect. Sure, I have been to my share of the city’s vast and vibrant neighborhood farmer’s markets. I've tasted some of the best food and sipped the highest quality cocktails around, but I was told that this wasn't anything like your typical farm and that these ingredients weren’t going to be found at the average farmer’s market.
Well, my friends, a new year is upon us. Celebrations are inevitable: reunions with old friends and familiar temple-going faces, parties to break the fast, and prospects of starting with a clean slate. But how much celebration is allowed? And what exactly constitutes a holy celebration? In this installment, I will be exploring the question of whether or not consuming alcohol is considered holy, or even allowed, in the eyes of the Jewish faith.
If there is one aspect to Judaism that I find to be truly unique and special, it’s our history. Our shared struggles and triumphs, our traditions and values, our way of life that has remained intact over centuries and endured several civilizations. But what’s more interesting is that not only do we spend time building a rich history, we also dedicate ourselves to study it and to learn from it.
Ah, the Festival of Lights—the eight days of oil burning brightly in the newly purified Temple, thanks to the Maccabees and the thousands of Jews that stood against its oppressors. While we do say blessings and light candles as a reminder to the sacrifices of those before us, I say it’s about time we raise our glasses and say a toast! Lucky for us, this year the first night of Chanukah coincides with a Friday night—drink up people!
As a kid, I remember sitting in the main dining hall for Shabbat lunch, a long-standing tradition at my elementary/middle school. Every Friday, the elementary school students sat in the long, close-quartered cafeteria tables, while the middle school students were privileged enough to sit at the large roundtables with white linens and bread baskets filled with warm, round challahs.
Since the dawn of civilization, man has harnessed the power of the process of fermentation and enjoyed the fruits of their labor – or lack of labor, I should say. After all, it was spoiled grapes and grape juice or grain mash they were drinking that had been left over or sitting around untouched or unused. And for as long as we’ve been boozing, we’ve been telling stories about where it came from, how it got discovered, what it’s used for, and what it does to you and to others.
We are approaching the time of year when families come together around the table to celebrate our freedom and the receiving of the Ten Commandments from Mount Sinai. To celebrate this milestone, we are instructed by our rabbis and sages of old to congregate, pray, recline and rejoice. We also set aside a cup of—you guessed it, what else?—wine for Elijah the prophet, to facilitate the coming of the Messiah.
Spring is here, and boy, it couldn’t come any sooner! I love the spring, especially in Chicago. It’s quite a spectacle watching this great city begin to awaken from its long and dreary hibernation, to emerge from behind those heavy grey clouds that seemed to hover and blanket everything in sight.
Well, can you? It’s a fair question, isn’t it? A bar seems like a practical place to meet someone, right? If we’re not there to blow off steam from the stresses of work or to hang out with friends, we’re probably there because we feel a little, well, lonely. And where better to have a beverage and socialize than the local pub?
All my life, I have been privileged to meet and interact with some amazing people. From a young age, I understood what it meant to have someone looking out for you, trying to do what’s best for you. Now that I find myself in the position of mentor, I thought I’d take a look back and raise a glass to the important role models and mentors in my life:
Shana Tova to you all! In the spirit of the New Year, and while munching on the irresistible flavor combination of apples and honey, I have compiled a list of my favorite bars and restaurants that opened their doors since September of last year.
Ah, the fall season—leaves changing to colors of the rainbow, the air getting brisk and windy—and, of course, Halloween! There is no other national holiday where adults and children can dress up for one day and just have fun.
As the weather outside changes from warm and sunny to brisk and cool, autumn also ushers in a feeling of warmth and coziness. Now, while some people cringe at the feeling of that cold Chicago wind whipping at you from all sides, I look forward to that feeling. The colder it is, the happier I seem to be.
With a resounding cheer and a turn of the clock, we say goodbye to another year. We drink the champagne (or in my case, pour all night long), hug or kiss our loved ones, and celebrate the year ahead. The plate is wiped clean, the table is reset, and the promise of a new beginning arrives.
Ah, the Hebrew month of Adar. Adar is quite the month, with its most notable celebration being the holiday of Purim, commemorating the deliverance of the Jewish people in ancient Persia from an annihilation plot by Haman, the Wicked One.
If you polled the average American, I bet you that 75% or more would be able to tell you what the YMCA is and what the acronym represents. The Young Men Christian’s Association, better known for its notorious headline for the Village People’s greatest hit, is probably the most visible nonprofit organization that has existed for almost 160 years.
After several months of tumultuous and unpredictable weather, from the unforgettable snowstorm in late January to the periodic flood watches and warnings that carried us through most of spring, we have finally reached summer’s doorsteps. You know what that means: beer gardens, retractable roofs and outdoor BBQs galore!
Every culture has its own version of it. As long as there have been alcoholic beverages, there have been toasts. To me, a toast is a sign of etiquette and respect, a display of goodwill. Sometimes, simply raising one’s glass can say more about a person than words.
You may not know this, but chances are you’ve had a kosher cocktail at one point or another. I’m serious. No, you did not have a rabbi for a bartender. No, it was not because it was served on Shabbat. And no, your drink was probably not blessed, either.
A healthy cockapoo was born December 22, 2011, from a lively poodle dad named Dino— who could smile on command— and a sweet mother named Ginger. We had no idea how we were going to choose him from the litter or if he was going to choose us.
This issue, I have something very special to toast! On March 24th, the first day of Nissan 5772, my sister Hayley married her longtime boyfriend and best friend, Brad Kessler. It was an enchanting weekend at the Four Seasons here in Chicago, and it began with a long, monotonous wedding rehearsal. Yay.
It’s the best feeling when spring gives way to the wonderful, fun filled Chicago summers. The warmth from the sun, the cool breeze off the lake, the faintest smell of lilacs and tulips peppered all across Chicago’s wonderful parks and public destinations.
Allow me to recall a conversation I struck up with a couple of ladies one night while tending bar:
“Excuse me, can I have a Margarita on the Rocks, with salt?”
“Absolutely, ma’am. Would you like Don Julio or Patron Tequila?”
“Um, Patron is fine.” (turns to her girlfriend, eyebrows furrowed) “I wonder which one is healthier....I wonder if I should order that or not.”
In case you have been living under a rock or not watching the news, schools have been closed amidst a debate between the Chicago Public School system and the Chicago Teacher’s Union, displacing thousands of students across the city and affecting all types of students, families—and teachers.
In case you were not part of the millions of viewers cracking up at these videos, earlier this year YouTube became flooded with vignettes depicting people's interpretations of "things people say," including those about Jewish attitude and behavior in everyday life. Everyone from Jewish girls to Jewish mothers to even things Christians say to Jews, "Do you like bagels? Do you speak Hebrew? Is Tiger Woods Jewish? You don't look Jewish."
As I was rushing up the stairs to religious school one Thursday afternoon to prepare my lessons for my fourth grade class, one of my friends and fellow religious school teachers, Miron, sticks out his hand and places a folded piece of paper in it remarking as he walked away, “Just read it.”
Ah, the holiday season is upon us once more! Some will imbibe on eggnog, others will be sipping fine wine. Whether it’s an office party or a prepaid bonanza, the drinks will definitely be a-flowing. But if you’re looking to try something other than the usual beer or sparkling wine, consider stepping outside the box and joining me on a trip to experience some of Chicago’s best cocktails!
Today, January 4th, is World Hypnotism Day! In honor of this wonderful occasion, I am going to share some wonderful news with you - hypnosis is real and it really does work for everyone! How do I know this? Well, besides being a certified hypnotist and having hypnotized dozens of people - skeptics and believers alike - I know from personal experience that everyone can be hypnotized and enjoy this deep, relaxing state of mind.
About a year ago, one of my brother’s friends who had recently become an educator shared a rather intriguing post on a social media website comparing the average teacher’s pay to that of a babysitter. The post went viral, of course, and caused quite a disturbance among myself and my graduate school cohorts.
Boy, do I love recess. No, not Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (I love those too), I’m talking about those glorious moments, suspended in time, when school, stress and life seem to fade away, replaced with pure joy, energy and happiness. Schoolchildren burst from every seam of the school’s daunting brick overlay, pouring out like a crashing tide, instantly filling the playground with screams of joy.
Remember those hilarious MADTv skits with the ‘STORM WATCH’ anchors? While the world was still adapting to the 24-hour news cycle, a comedy skit put news into perspective by interrupting their program with ‘updates’ on this massively scary storm, which was really just a loud booming voice proclaiming, “STORM WATCH!!” while the panicked anchors tried not to lose it.
I’m a married man! Boy that feels good to say. I am so happy, I cannot begin to describe how in words. Jewish weddings are indeed a wondrous occasion, filled with lots of joy, happiness, and really good food like everyone says. And for a fact, I would not have attended my own wedding if the food did not meet our collective standards; both my wife Ashley and I are well-known Chicago foodies.
For the fourth consecutive year, my father, along with the rest of the immediate family, has managed to host quite a special birthday party celebration. The reason I say it’s special is, well … why don’t you tell me if this sounds like a fun and happy birthday party.
I love laughter. I love laughing. I love making others laugh as well as watching others make others laugh. To me, there’s nothing better than a good, hearty guffaw when things seem blue, or a side-splitting howl, all doubled up on the floor, completely in stitches.
If you’re like me, you probably get a ton of emails and countless mailed letters asking you to donate or to give to an organization. Many of them come around this time of the year, when the holiday spirit and the spirit of giving seem to collide in a frenzy of toys, appliances, gadgets and monetary donations.
Summer Mitzvah Mania offers one-time volunteer opportunities during June, July, and August. Projects vary in scope with plenty of family-friendly and inter-generational options. Whether you come as a group or on your own, there is something for everyone! Join TOV to make a difference in your community. Space is limited.
To sign up for a project, call TOV at (312) 357-4762 or register online.
Stanton Park, 618 W. Scott St.
Tuesday evenings starting at 6:30 p.m.
Join YLD for a Co-Ed Softball League! This league is about playing a sport AND supporting a great cause, the Jewish United Fund. The season will include 6 regular season games and 2 weeks of playoffs. After the games, teams can walk over to the sponsor bar for drinks, socializing and fun!
Regular season games:
July 14, 21, 28
August 4, 11, 18
August 25, September 1