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Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

In A Pickle | Keeping Kosher in Northern Virginia

By Johnisha M. Levi | Northern Virginia Magazine

For Orthodox Jews in Northern Virginia, keeping kosher can be quite the pickle.

Just ask Gary Holzman. Holzman, who has lived in Ballston and Alexandria, and currently resides in Rosslyn, readily admits that it isn’t easy “to live a kosher lifestyle in NoVA. The hardest thing is the lack of kosher markets, butchers and bakeries. I tend to have to go to Rockville or Silver Spring to get my meat and other kosher specialty products.”

But Holzman is not alone. David Weinberg prefers NoVA for “quality of life” reasons, but admits that he has been forced to make the pretty big concession of “keeping a vegetarian house” in order to eliminate the inconvenience of shopping trips for kosher meats.

So what is a kosher-adherent local to do? My hunt for kosher options in NoVA led me pretty quickly to Michael Medina of The Kosher Kitchen Catering Co. He is the only Glatt kosher caterer in NoVA certified by the (Orthodox) Rabbinical Council of Greater Washington (Vaad) as “Capitol-K.”

Medina tries to bring something different to the table in a region where not only kosher, but kosher-style dining, is dominated by traditional Ashkenazic and deli food. His catering menus feature “Mediterranean spices and flavors” influenced by his Moroccan/Spanish background.

So why aren’t there more kosher options?

“I am not sure there is a demand in this area,” chef Barry Koslow, formerly of Arlington’s Tallula, suggests.

Likewise, Michael Vidikan, who works in NoVA but recently relocated to D.C. to be closer to his Modern Orthodox shul, aptly characterizes the scarcity of options as a “chicken and egg” dilemma. Orthodox Jews are not moving to NoVA, he says, because it lacks a modern Orthodox synagogue and eruvin. And without a greater population of observant Jews, the likelihood of cultural institutions cropping up remains slim.

NoVA’s Orthodox Go-Tos 

The Kosher Kitchen Catering Co.: Only Glatt kosher caterer in NoVA certified by the Rabbinical Council of Greater Washington as “Capitol-K.” 703-227-7142

Shoppers Food Warehouse: Well-stocked, Kosher-minded retailer within walking distance of the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia. 9622 Main St., Fairfax; 703-978-1256

Kosher Mart Online: Offers a kosher home delivery service (minimum order: $150) to select Northern Virginia neighborhoods.

KOL Foods: Web-based delivery service with locally sourced (Maryland, Pennsylvania), properly slaughtered (conducted under Orthodox Union or Star-K rabbinical supervision) meats. 888-366-3565;