BY AURÉLIE PTITO AND KIM MATURO
If you’ve read this blog before, you know there’s just one thing we would brave the cold for. If you said good food, you’d be half right. Good conversation about good food is also definitely worth risking frostbite. So the promise of a chat with Jeff Finkelstein of Hof Kelsten while enjoying one of his nonpareil sandwiches got us out even during the Polar Vortex. And he didn’t disappoint. While Kim got intimate with a deliciously gooey cinnamon bun, Aurélie made nice with a beef on rye sandwich topped with sliced apples, coleslaw and mustard.
As we sipped a cup of his excellent coffee (a blend of Dispatch Coffee’s expertise and Brooklyn’s own Parlor Coffee, exclusive to Hof Kelsten), he regaled us with lore of a foodie culture of days gone by. This is a man who made his bones in some of the most famous kitchens in the world, in the time of Kitchen Confidential: pre-Food Network, Youtube, Instagram food porn, and ubiquitous celebrity chef cookbooks.
Even richer than his pastry, Jeff’s unbelievable culinary journey takes us from Monkland Avenue to Columbus Circle to Maddox Street. We’ve decided to share it with you with this handy timeline that can double as your next dream foodie vacation itinerary.
Despite having lived and worked in more than one of the world’s foodie paradises, Jeff always knew he wanted to eventually hang his shingle in Montreal because of the wonderful people (of course). It’s lucky for us that when coming up with his lunch menu Jeff again decided to stay true to his roots, serving up classics inspired by the Jewish culinary tradition such as matzo ball soup, borscht, biyalis, and rugelach. Being a diehard potato addict, Aurélie is particularly partial to his melt-in-your-mouth latkes.
On the gluten side of things, Hof Kelsten boasts an amazing selection of baked goods, including a great sourdough and the bestselling rye and caraway loaf. Better get there early on Fridays, because the challah goes faster than the proverbial cronut. Jeff has even bigger plans for the bakery. We learned that the resounding success of his holiday line of packaged goods (like panettone and homemade marshmallows) has him toying with the idea of a sort of deli-takeout concept offering more take-home products. To torture us a bit, he waxes lyrical about such potential offerings as pickles, veal pancetta, salami and smoked salmon, as we discreetly try to lick our plates clean.
Of course we couldn’t leave without asking Jeff for some at home bread-making tips. With a wink and a smile, Jeff recommends we come to him for our bread needs, but generously offers us the following advice: invest in a pizza stone, follow a good bread recipe, and don’t cheat on proofing time.
4524 Blvd. St. Laurent