Imagine serving a Shabbat meal of assorted knishes, Greek salad, brisket and lemon cake or gefilte fish with horseradish, toasted orzo salad, BBQ beef short ribs and chocolate ganache cake … without having to turn on your oven or don an apron? You can eat these delicious foods and many more, thanks to a new catering service, TA’AM TO GO, launched by The Phyllis Siperstein Tamarisk Assisted Living Residence (“Tamarisk”), under the direction of Executive Chef Deb Blazer. Its name is well-chosen: “’Ta’am’ is the Hebrew word for ‘taste,’” says Blazer, well-known among Rhode Islanders for her Kosher catering business, Accounting for Taste. “We felt there was a need …there’s really no place where you can go in Rhode Island for a Kosher meat meal.” TA’AM TO GO can prepare gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian meals, all Kosher. All the baked goods are pareve, so they can be eaten safely with either dairy or meat meals. A Shabbat dinner for four, with matzo ball soup, roasted chicken, potato kugel, vegetable and challah, costs $59.99; a meal, with an entrée, starch and vegetable, cost $15.
Anyone can order food from TA’AM TO GO; it is not limited to those associated with Tamarisk or Jewish Collaborative Services. “Appetizers, entrees and desserts are among the foods most commonly requested,” says Tamarisk’s Executive Director Roberta Ragge. “Tamarisk’s mission is to serve our seniors at Tamarisk, to celebrate life Jewishly, and provide opportunities for Jewish residents in the larger community; TA’AM TO GO helps us do that in a new way.”
Tiverton resident Susan Benesch has been using TA’AM TO GO since its inception. With an ill husband, Benesch finds TA’AM TO GO’s creative, caring and capable chefs incredibly helpful. They make many accommodations for individuals’ health-related dietary needs, yet all the food is Kosher, delicious, and individually packed, labeled, and ready to eat. When you are trying to fit everything into your overwhelming and hectic life, Benesch recommends TA’AM TO GO.
Since mid-February 2019, TA’AM TO GO has been making deliveries – for lunches only – within Greater Providence and Kent County; lunch orders can be placed between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. TA’AM TO GO’s full menu and ordering information is currently on the JCS website, jcsri.org.
How did it get started? Our board members and residents’ families as well as nursing homes with Jewish residents and hotels with Jewish guests began contacting us for Kosher meals, says Ragge. After Tamarisk began providing frozen “meals to go,” demand grew, so it applied for a catering license from the State of Rhode Island, which the agency received in April 2018. “This is a new revenue stream for us, and it’s doing very well,” Ragge says.
Now catering nearly 100 meals a month, many for repeat customers, TA’AM TO GO – Blazer and four-fulltime chefs whose primary culinary responsibilities are to Tamarisk residents – prepared latkes and sufganiyot (a Hanukkah treat of jelly-filled doughnuts) for the Rhode Island National Guard’s holiday party in December. With many staff and family members ordering latkes, hamantaschen, and challah for themselves, Ragge explains, “It’s been a win-win for extended family and staff members.”
“Deb and I inspire each other; we’re committed to using the best, most local and most organic products for our residents’ meals and for TA’AM TO GO,” says Ragge. “We’re cutting our teeth on this; when Deb is ready [to expand], she’ll tell me. She’s the expert.” While nearly all the food must be picked up at Tamarisk by TA’AM TO GO customers – with the very occasional delivery to a housebound client – Ragge would be delighted to have food delivered, if it proved fiscally reasonable. In fact, TA’AM plans to pilot a luncheon delivery service in the coming weeks.
Rabbi Ethan Adler, at Congregation Beth David in Narragansett, has been a regular TA’AM TO GO customer for congregational events. “People find the food delicious… we’ve had egg salad, tuna fish, bagels and lox at our monthly light luncheons after services and chicken for our [occasional] Shabbat dinners,” says Rabbi Adler. “I would recommend them to anyone.”
With a family history of heart disease, Blazer has taken on yet another project: She’s recipe-tasting and testing, with the goal of writing a cookbook with recipes that reflect her commitment to consuming egg whites and nonfat dairy products and excluding such added fats as nuts, seeds, oils, avocados and coconut. Learning how to prepare appetizing tofu; hummus made from cauliflower, lentils or beets; a raw red cabbage salad; and a harvest salad with roasted beets and zucchini, among other recipes, has been an adventure for Blazer, who started this lifestyle several months ago. “I feel so much better; it’s amazing – I have no pain in my back, my knees or my hips,” typical target areas of inflammation and pain for anyone – like Blazer – standing on her feet all day cooking.
Blazer has been serving some items to Tamarisk residents. While they don’t like tofu, the raw kale or red cabbage salad, many of them do like the quinoa. They’re not shy in telling me what they like and don’t like,” Blazer laughs. Generally, says Ragge, our residents love having healthy choices, and Deb’s new recipes reflects our commitment to our extensive wellness program.
To place an order from TA’AM TO GO, call 401-732-0037, ext. 143, Sunday through Thursday; 24-hour advance notice is required, meals for more than 25 people require 48-hour advance notice. To see the full menu, visit our Kosher Catering Page.