Ratner’s family-owned Brooklyn food shop teams up with Gefilteria.
My conversation with Theo Peck, owner of Peck’s, a specialty food shop on Clinton Hill’s Myrtle Avenue, started with onion rolls. Peck, the great-grandson of the owner of the legendary kosher dairy restaurant Ratner’s, and I were reminiscing about the soft, onion-and-poppy-seed-topped rolls the now-shuttered Lower East Side restaurant served: slathered with fresh butter and eaten with a bowl of soup or in advance of a plate of cheese blintzes, they were a dream.
“Oh man, those rolls,” Peck, a New York native who spent many hours in Ratner’s as a kid, recalled. “Let me tell you, if we expanded, the first thing we would do is add a full Jewish-style bakery,” he said.
Instead, Peck’s sources its onion rolls from Orwasher’s, the highly regarded Upper East Side bakery. Aside from the bread, everything else in the small, light-filled store—from the rotisserie chickens to the brisket to the matzoh ball soup to the tongue—is made in-house.
Well, almost everything. The nearly two-month-old shop has teamed up with the gang at The Gefilteria, the young foodie-run pop-up that creates contemporary spins on classic Ashkenazi foods such as gefilte fish, beet kvass and horseradish. The Gefilteria’s Jeffrey Yoskowitz, Elizabeth Alpern and Jackie Lilenshtein are fermenting the half- and full-sour cucumber pickles now sold in the Peck’s refrigerator case.
“I’ve got respect for the pour-over pickle,” Peck said, referring to the simpler type of pickle created by pouring hot brine over fresh vegetables. “But let me tell you: I grew up eating pickles before they were trendy, and fermented pickles are true pickles,” he said. Rather than vinegar, fermented pickles utilize only a saltwater brine.
Old-school pickles made by the younger foodie set perfectly encapsulate what Peck’s is all about: a mix of tried-and-true Jewish recipe traditions, enlivened by the wider world of food trends. Sure, there’s hummus here: but it’s served on a sandwich with eggplant caponata, smoked tofu and frisee; there’s brisket, but it’s served on French sourdough with kimchi, Japanese mayonnaise and cilantro. And on store shelves reserved for grocery items, egg noodles and matzo sit side by side with international groceries like Thai hot sauce.
“It’s a lot to live up to,” Peck says of the Ratner’s legacy. “But that’s not exactly what I want to do. I want to be myself. The store’s not called Ratner’s,” he said. “I’m looking back to the past, but I’m also looking forward, to the future.”
In the near future, Peck’s has a few exciting developments in the works. The first of these is Purim, for which the store is creating a line of near-classic hamantaschen available with apricot, poppy seed and prune-ginger fillings. For Passover, Peck’s will offer a catered spread of braised lamb shanks, brisket, chopped liver and more. And when the weather finally turns warm, Peck’s will unveil its expansive backyard, where it plans to host food events and serve growlers of craft beer.
“I hope that someday we can be a neighborhood hub like Ratner’s was,” Peck said.
455A Myrtle Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11205
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