Home Food St. Clair Avenue West is becoming a Jewish hub again

St. Clair Avenue West is becoming a Jewish hub again

Marvin Gelkopf's Mandelbroit (Max Gelkopf photo)

Shabbat Shalom! A What a Bagel store just opened in St. Clair West Village in Toronto. It’s a sure sign that the area, which was once a thriving Jewish neighbourhood, is home to a growing Jewish community.

Millennial Spotlight this week is on Jackson Davis, head chef at Parallel, a very popular Mediterranean / Israeli restaurant at 217 Geary Street near Dufferin and Dupont. Davis actually grew up in the St. Clair West neighbourhood.

From the ’40s until about the late ’60s, St. Clair Ave. West was a busy Jewish hub. At that time the Shaarei Shomayim, an Orthodox Congregation, was located at 840 St. Clair Ave. W between Atlas and Winnona Avenues.

Its building, designed by the architectural firm, Kaplan & Sprachman, was completed in 1947. However, many of the congregants had already migrated north from downtown to the St. Clair Ave. West area about 10 years earlier, when the congregation had first purchased the lot and the building on it.

The late Al Waxman, of King-of-Kensington fame; painter Charles Pachter, novelist Anne Michaels, and composer R. Murray Schafer are some of the prominent Jews who grew up in the St Clair West area and attended Vaughan Road Collegiate Institute (today it’s Vaughan Road Academy), when the area was predominantly Jewish.

Hermes, which bills itself as Toronto’s “oldest strictly kosher and nut-free bakery,” initially opened on St Clair Ave. W, back in the ’50s. Today Hermes is located in the Bathurst and Glencairn area in close proximity to the current locale of Shaarei Shomayim.

When the congregation relocated in 1966, many Jewish people followed and the ethnicity of St. Clair Ave. West neighbourhood gradually changed.

About 10 years ago, before the current real estate boom, the affordability of the housing and the energy that emanated from the playground community and the Farmers Market at the Wychwood Barns began to attract young Jewish families to St. Clair West. The area even has a branch of Makkom Creative Downtown Judaism’s after-school Hebrew education program.

What A Bagel storefront (Barbara Silverstein photo)

The What a Bagel Bakery storefront (827 St. Clair Ave. W.) is almost directly across from the former site of the Shaarei Shomayim. Just west of Oakwood at 1030 St. Clair Ave. W. there’s another Jewish bagel shop, called Lox and Schmear.

A few lights east, the Israeli Mediterranean restaurant, Aviv, is scheduled to open very soon.

Leah Kalish has run Leah’s, her storefront bakery (621 St. Clair Ave. W.), for more than a decade. She brings in challah from Harbord Bakery on Fridays and Gryfe’s pizza bagels are a daily item.

Kalish is known for her biscotti, a fancy name for mandelbroit. Dr. Marvin Gelkopf, a family physician, is sharing his mandelbroit recipe, “the ‘Jewish’ version of biscotti,” he said. “I have worked on this recipe in the ‘lab’ for several years and hopefully it’s perfected.”

The recipe can be found at The Science of Baking website which Gelkopf runs with his son Max, a second year medical student.

The wholesale headquarters of Fress Fine Foods, which specializes in a chopped liver spread, is also in the vicinity. The product will be launching in September. Stay tuned!

NoshFest, the annual Jewish food festival will be held on Dec. 1 at the Wychwood Barns, which is in the heart of St. Clair West neighbourhood.

Andrea Segal, a co-founder of Noshfest, is sharing her recipe for Apple and Honey Tarte Tatin, her go-to dessert for Rosh Hashanah. “I bring this special dessert to my cousin’s house for Rosh Hashanah dinner,” Segal said. “It looks beautiful when it’s served.”

The recipe, which was created by Fabienne Viner-Luzzato, can be found at the JC News, a British Jewish website.



¾ cup olive/grape seed/coconut oil

1 cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs

½ tsp. pure almond extract

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1¼ cups each whole wheat flour and unbleached all-purpose flour

3 tsp. baking powder

2 cups Vector/Special K Protein/Fibre 1 cereal, coarsely crushed

1 cup toasted blanched slivered almonds

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 tsp. cinnamon + 4 tsp. granulated sugar, combined for sprinkling


Preheat the oven to 350°F and line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Beat the oil, sugar and eggs in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the almond extract and vanilla and beat again.

Combine the flours and baking powder in a separate bowl and slowly add them to mixture. Mix until just the dry ingredients are combined. Chill the batter in a bowl covered with plastic wrap for 2 to 24 hours.

Divide the mixture into 4 equal parts and shape them into logs approximately 7 by 2-inches in size and 1-inch thick.

Place the logs onto the prepared cookie sheets. Bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes.

Remove the sheets from the oven and allow the logs to cool for 10 minutes.

Slice the logs into ½-inch slices and sprinkle them with the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake the slices for another 10 minutes. Allow them to cool. They can be stored in a sealed container at room temperature for several weeks.

Makes 4 dozen mandelbroit.



Tart Pastry

2 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup butter or margarine, softened

6 tbsp icing sugar

1 tbsp of vanilla sugar

1 egg

A bit of milk or water if you need to work the dough


8 sweet apples

Juice of 1 lemon

¾ cup butter

¼ cup superfine sugar

3 tbsp honey

1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped out


For the pastry: combine the flour, margarine, icing sugar, vanilla sugar and egg in a large bowl until they come together in a ball. Flatten the ball into a dish and cover it in plastic food wrap. Let the pastry rest in the fridge while you prepare the apples.

Preheat oven to 350°F in a convection oven if you have that setting.

Peel the apples and cut them in half lengthways, then remove the core and squeeze the lemon onto the apple flesh to stop them from browning.

In a large pan, melt the butter, honey and sugar gently together with the vanilla and continue to cook until it turns brown and caramelizes. Be careful, it can burn quickly.

Line the base of a 9 or 10-inch ovenproof tart dish lined with with parchment paper.

Pour over the caramel and arrange the apples on the caramel with the cut face upwards.

Roll out a disc of pastry large enough to cover the pan and lay it over the apples.

Gently prick the pastry with a fork, then put the pie in the oven.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until the pastry is nicely browned.

To serve, place a large plate on top of the pan and invert the tart onto the plate carefully as the caramel, will be hot.

Serve the tart warm or at room temperature.



Jackson Davis, 24, is the chef de cuisine or kitchen manager at the popular Israeli restaurant, Parallel. “I oversee the daily operation of the kitchen. I manage the cooks and I make sure that everything is executed properly.”

Davis’ culinary career began when he was a history student at the University of Toronto. He needed to earn some extra money when he moved out of his parents’ home. He started out by washing dishes at a friend’s restaurant in Kensington Market.

He learned to do food prep and later he moved to a part-time job at a tapas restaurant on Queen Street West. Davis said keeping up with school was becoming an increasing challenge. “The cooking was getting serious and I was struggling to do both school and work.”

He ended up leaving U of T to pursue a culinary career. “I found something I was really passionate about.”

Davis went on to work at Piano Piano, a fine Italian restaurant on Harbord Street. “It got to the point where I wanted to learn more. Piano Piano was a larger restaurant. It was busy and intense and the standards were high.”

He also had a good mentor there.

After doing some travelling, Davis returned to Piano Piano but he only stayed for three months because his new schedule did not work out. He then took a job at Parallel.

“When I got there I was just cooking. I didn’t have much professional experience preparing Middle Eastern cuisine. I wanted to learn. I worked hard and I got more responsibility.”

“When the head chef left, the owners felt comfortable with me taking over…I want to do whatever I can to help their business thrive. I care a lot about their vision and their food.”

Davis submitted the following recipe, which he created with some input from some other staff at Parallel.

Parallel’s Grilled Peach Salad (Jackson Davis photo)


2 large ripe or soft Ontario peaches

8 oz halloumi cheese, sliced in 1/4 -inch wedges

3 cups spicy Ontario mixed spring greens

24 raw English shelling pea pods

12 roasted walnut halves, crushed

1/4 cup pure sesame butter, softened

½ cup canola oil

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

2 tsp honey or agave nectar

½ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided

Salt and pepper to taste


Slice the peaches into wedges and slice the halloumi cheese into square pieces.

Heat the canola oil in a cast iron skillet on medium high heat, and slowly place cheese into hot oil, allowing each side to fry for about 45 seconds or until a deep golden brown crust forms.

Remove the cheese from the pan and place on a paper towel lined tray to dry excess oil. After about 30 seconds of resting, the cheese may be cut/torn into bite size chunks ready for plating.

Toss the peach wedges in 1½ tbsp of olive oil along with a small pinch each of salt, pepper and sugar. Place seasoned peaches on hot bbq grill and let them cook for 60 seconds or until substantial grill marks form. Once grilled, set them aside for plating.

In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, lemon juice and a small pinch of salt and pepper, and slowly whisk in 2 oz of olive oil to create the dressing. Take 3 cups of spring greens and lightly them in the dressing to avoid wilting and bruising and place the greens on a large plate.

Gently top the greens with the grilled peaches, the fried cheese, and raw English peas, and sprinkle the crushed walnuts on the greens.

Lightly drizzle the salad with sesame butter.

Serve immediately.

Makes 2 servings

Daniella Silver will be launching Variations, her third cookbook, at The Warehouse (35 Carl Hall Rd. #2) 7:30 p. m. on Sept 18. The community is invited to her book-launch party.

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