Ashkenaz Festival to celebrate Jewish food all over Toronto

Press Release

This year’s Ashkenaz Festival returns with a robust program spotlighting Jewish food and Jewish culinary culture. From herring, bagels and Montreal smoked meat sandwiches, to more exotic and unexpected fare from northern Italy and the Sephardic diaspora, Ashkenaz will offer a feast for both the mind and taste buds. Matching its diverse and eclectic programming in music, theatre, film, dance, visual arts and literature, Ashkenaz 2018’s food programming is an integral part of this world-renowned celebration of global Jewish performing arts and multiculturalism.

The 2018 festival’s overall thematic focus on women in Jewish music and culture is well-represented in its food offerings, with an impressive slate of female restaurateurs, food historians and food writers. Over the course of the Labour Day weekend, guests will be treated to a variety of free events all taking place at Miss Lou’s Room at Harbourfront Centre. Learn about the unique foodways of Soviet-Russian Jews with Lea Zeltserman, taste three different varieties of pickled herring with Miriam Borden, learn how to make Sephardic desserts with Kat Romanow, pick up culinary tips and wisdom from Judy Perly of the Free Times Café, or participate in a Bagel Battle pitting Toronto, Montreal and NY bagels against each other in a taste-off decided by both audience preference and a celebrity panel. Who will be crowned the Bagel Boss?

While much of the Ashkenaz Festival takes place at Harbourfront Centre, its food program extends across the GTA this year for the first time, with a new program spotlighting Toronto’s reputation as a global music city and cosmopolitan hub where tourists can sample the cultures and foods of diverse communities from around the world. Ashkenaz’s new tourist-oriented experience, Global Shtetl (Global Village), is a series of curated excursions in which participants will enjoy a special meal in one of Toronto’s many unique neighbourhoods, sampling the cuisine of a particular ethno-cultural community whose music or culture will be highlighted within the Festival’s programming. During the meal, participants will be immersed in the sounds, tastes and stories of places around the world through lectures, talks and performances. The five excursions will take place between August 29th and September 2nd and tickets are sold both as a package and individually.

Global Shtetlers will experience “A Taste of Poland in Little Portugal,” with an evening of Polish-Jewish music and food at Lula Lounge (August 29). The following night, Ashkenaz serves up Montreal smoked meat sandwiches alongside its all-Canadian concert tribute to Leonard Cohen at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts (August 30). Friday night of the Festival (August 31) brings a sumptuous and eclectic, multi-course Shabbat evening meal, paired with a jazz-inflected set of music from the virtuosic Sela-Rosenblatt Quartet, based on the traditional sabbath service, “Mizmor Shir.”

The likely favourite for top highlight of the Global Shtetl program will be a unique Italian-Jewish lunch event on Saturday, September 1, at Toronto’s newest European food hotspot, Drom Taberna in the Queen West neighbourhood. “Il Profumo Delle Case Buone (The Aroma of Things Good)” will feature a heartfelt performance by Italian singer, musician and playwright Enrico Fink, inspired by the flavours of old family recipes in the cookbook of Jenny Bassani, whose famous family features in Giorgio Bassani’s historical novel (and later feature film) “The Garden of the Finzi Continis.” Enrico Fink’s unique storytelling and music, painting a picture of Italian-Jewish life in the city of Ferrara before WWII, provides the perfect appetizer before this delicious, authentic meal from northern Italy. Be prepared to stimulate all your senses!

Global Shtetl wraps up September 2 with a Sunday morning walking tour of Kensington Market, (Toronto’s original Jewish neighbourhood), followed by the “Bella, Did Ya Eat?” Jewish brunch at Free Times Café. With live music by Russian klezmer superstars Dobranotch, and over 40 food items on the buffet (blintzes, latkes, gefilte fish, smoked fish, eggs & onions, chalah french toast, salads galore, and much more), this will be the perfect heymishe (downhome) wrap to the Global Shtetl series.

For Global Shtetl ticket information, and to book your excursion, please visit or contact Full Ashkenaz Festival food program listings are viewable here

About Ashkenaz Festival

The Ashkenaz Festival is one of the largest and most prestigious showcases of Jewish music and culture anywhere in the world. Since 1995, the festival has taken place biennially at Harbourfront Centre, Toronto’s premier venue for the presentation of world and folk culture and for the meeting of diverse communities through the arts. Originally founded as a showcase for Klezmer and Yiddish music and culture, the Ashkenaz Festival has evolved over the years into an eclectic showcase of global Jewish art and culture, encompassing not merely the traditions of Eastern Europe, but also Sephardic, Mizrachi, and Israeli culture, and all manner of cross-cultural fusion. The Festival is offered 90 per cent free to the public and attracts a multicultural audience of over 60,000 people to 80-plus events featuring 250-plus individual artists, from across Canada and around the world. For more information, visit, or follow the Ashkenaz Festival on Twitter and Facebook.

SOURCE Ashkenaz Festival

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