Drew Himmelstein

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A Chat With Noah Alper, Schmear King


Recently I had the chance to speak with Noah Alper, founder of the eponymous Noah’s Bagels.  Noah, who sold Noah’s Bagels in 1999, has been in the food business since the 1970s, when he started Bread and Circus, the East Coast natural food chain (bought by Whole Foods in 1992).  He’s kept kosher since the early 1990s, and at one point Noah’s Bagels was the largest kosher retailer in the country.  (For those on the prowl, there’s still one kosher Noah’s Bagels, in Seattle.)  Nowadays, he’s committed to preaching the gospel of socially responsible business practices, and to that end he’s come out with a book called Business Mensch that aims to connect Jewish principles to good business practices and convince business leaders that community values are good for their bottom line.

Bare Bones

Throw me a bone!

My dad has strong memories of his mother’s chicken soup: the aroma, the flavor, and the chicken feet at the bottom of the bowl. He especially liked biting into the pads of the feet, which were nice and chewy.

Like many ethnic cuisines that evolve at least in part out of deprivation, Jewish food has long mined the more interesting parts of the animal (think tongue). But though the tip-to-tail movement has made offal, bone marrow and pork belly trendy, I don’t know any Jewish cooks these days that serve chicken feet in their soup. I set out to dip a toe into the world of off-cuts by buying a bag of beef bones at the Noe Valley Farmer’s Market in San Francisco.