Detroiters Bernie and Cookie Gonik marked the end of their year-long sojourn in the Georgetown Jewish community by coordinating a highly-anticipated farewell treat at Congregation Kesher Israel — revolving around kosher cheeseburgers.
Over 100 people showed up at Kesher on Sunday, Aug. 12, to enjoy Impossible Burger meat substitute hamburgers and cheeseburgers. The crowd included locals, visitors from the suburbs, and one non-Jewish couple who jointly decided this was the perfect venue for their first date. Kesher members attended for free and non-members paid a nominal fee, thanks to raw “meat” supplied at no cost by Impossible Foods and a large contingent of Kesher volunteers who worked the grills to serve the crowd with all the burgers they could eat. After the meal, everyone enjoyed a dessert of dairy sheet cakes (and fruit, for the more health conscious).
Impossible Burgers, certified kosher by the Orthodox Union (OU), contain plant-based heme, an iron-containing compound that provides the meaty taste in meat, along with coconut oil and soy to provide the sizzle. Some people preferred them with cheese while others went bun-less, but everyone had a great time. The burgers elicited a wide range of reactions, from “Delicious!” to “Underwhelming.”
“If you just see the Impossible Burger ‘naked,’ it looks like a veggie burger. Properly dressed, however, the Impossible Burger has the look and mouth-feel of a dried-out hamburger with the taste of a mediocre-to-poor soy burger,” said Elliot Lowenstein, a Kesher congregant. He did salute the company for an “amazing” advertising campaign, however. (According to Kosher.com’s Rivi Landesman, who recently gave the Impossible Burger a positive review, the burger “really takes on the taste of what it’s served with” and the taste and mouth-feel is highly impacted by overcooking, so going for a medium-rare burger heavy on toppings and condiments might be the key to a more satisfying experience.)
Marla Benedek, Kesher’s coordinator of volunteers, thanked the crowd and the Kesher crew before introducing Rabbi Hyim Shafner, who shared a few words about the Torah prohibition against eating milk with meat. A number of attendees said that they are eagerly awaiting the availability of Impossible Burgers at local kosher establishments.
Michael Chelst, owner of Char Bar in DC and Nut House Pizza in Wheaton, Maryland, said he plans to introduce the Impossible Burger to the menu at the latter restaurant, supply- and cost-permitting. At Char Bar, with its primarily meat menu, the Impossible Burger wouldn’t hold up for a carnivorous clientele compared to the real thing, he said; but at the dairy restaurant, where it could be served with real cheese alongside pizzeria staples, the culinary novelty will have a better chance to shine.
By Kol HaBirah Staff