Bob Wilhelmy writes the Dining Out column for The American Israelite.

The outdoor signage at Café Alma

“Anything and everything,” is what Café Alma is willing to cater for Jewish families, planners, and businesses wanting help with events that include food for those in attendance. This, according to Lainey Richler, owner/operator of the café, along with husband Yair.

“We offer to-go platters, special heavy hors d’oeuvres and appetizers, and complete Shabbat dinners, either pescatarian or vegetarian dinners for Shabbat. And we offer free shipping for orders that are $150 or more,” she said, wanting to assure that the Jewish community knows about the Shabbat dinner catering option.

A setup in a residential kitchen featuring salads, dips and hot appetizers

In addition to orders to be picked up or delivered to the doorstep, Richler emphasized that full-service catering is available as well. “We come in and take care of everything so that the host does not have to worry about any of it—the food is taken care of from start to finish. We have a lot of nice items like the cutting boards (on which food items are displayed) and other touches that add to the experience.” By full service, Richler added that if called for, Café Alma will bring in the tables and risers needed for setup of a buffet or other approach, provide all the plates, cups, flatware, and napkins, and oversee the serving trays throughout the event. Then afterward, they cart it all away.

People planning fully catered events envision different levels of involvement, according to Richler. Some provide the day, time, location, and expected number of attendees, want to pick items from a menu of options, and that’s it. Others may wish to become more deeply involved, brainstorming ideas in developing a custom menu and decor. Either approach or modifications to them are accommodated by Café Alma’s catering kitchen.   

A coffee/tea station with assorted muffins and cupcakes

All the foods offered are kosher, and as photos show, there is a good deal of kitchen creativity in putting the spreads together—they look great! “We do a lot of heavy appetizers and mini-sandwiches (or bites) and things such as bourekas, with either potato or mushroom filling,” she said.

Without straying too far from the path of Café Alma’s catering theme, we tried a potato version of bourekas, this widely popular savory pastry treat, and it was delightful. For the uninitiated such as me, bourekas feature puff pastry as a wrapper or shell, and the stuffing is inside. Biting into bourekas is something of a Eurasian experience in that these pastries are found all over Mediterranean Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. Bourekas are a mainstay of the Israeli café scene as well, and Richler claims the Café Alma version of this treat is just like that found in those far away cafes of Israel.

A buffet spread of mini-bites, including a raised display of bourekas

In any event, bourekas are part of a Sephardic Jewish heritage and tradition dating back before they were expelled from Spain in 1478. For centuries before the expulsion, Sephardic kitchens were turning out empanadas, which are similar to bourekas in that they are stuffed hand pies. The bourekas grew out of that tradition and were carried to the Ottoman Empire by the Jews who migrated there after the expulsion from Spain. From what is now Turkey, the bourekas spread outward in the Middle East and along the rim of the Mediterranean Sea.

Okay, back to the future of catering through Café Alma. At least 48 hours into the future is the time needed for ordering simple food trays and the like, to be picked up or delivered to your door. For catered events, at least seven days’ notice is required, though most catered events are planned weeks and even months in advance of the date. But if you or your organization is caught in the bind of short notice, it never hurts to see what Café Alma may be able to pull together for your event.

A double-side buffet with smoked salmon, veggies and salads

Also, remember that Café Alma features indoor space for gatherings at the eatery. Many celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and other special events there.

See you at Café Alma!