Local Food Merchants Revamp for Changing Times

By Susie Davidson

Advocate Correspondent

It's no longer your father's Rubin's Deli.

"I am now preparing things for our Rosh Hashanah menu that we've never had before," says owner Allen Gellerman. "Things have evolved. We are in the process of bringing Rubin's into the 21st century, where old meets new."

Where one might think of Rubin's as a haven for carnivores, such is actually not the case. "We are now offering quite an array of vegetarian entrees," Gellerman explains, "such as vegetarian lasagna made with tofu, which is a very big seller. We also make poached salmon with lemon zest and mustard dill sauce, lots of sides like green beans with onions and mushrooms, carrot salad with cranberries and mint, sweet potato ginger pudding, rice pilaf with asparagus and tricolor peppers, a new variety of kugels such as zucchini and potato, spinach and potato, sweet potato and of course, the traditional potato."

"We actually use canola oil in most of our dishes," he adds. The Sharon native's wife Erica, his "right hand", is instrumental in this evolution (their children, ages 6 and 8, aren't quite ready for KP).

Other changes? How 'bout a Jack Daniels brisket? Mediterranean fare is well represented as well, with baba gannoush, hummus, tabouli, different types of eggplant dips made from Rubin's own roasted eggplants. In fact, they now have a brand new case of all vegetarian and fish items.

Meet for breakfast? Rubin's offers egg white and Egg Beater omelettes now as well as a variety of French toasts and fruit items. He is looking into whole-grain Kosher breads.

"We haven't stopped since Day One," he proclaims, citing his new full catering menu, full Shabbas menu and website (www.rubinskosher.com).

In addition to retooling the cuisine, the décor is undergoing a lift. Gellerman, who took over five years ago, is keeping the old pictures of Boston up, but adding innovations such as all new, modern kitchen equipment, new wallpaper and display cases.

"I've noticed that the Orthodox crowd is getting younger," he notes, "and they are demanding healthier fare."

Although these innovations will carry on far beyond Rosh Hashanah, it's clear that Rubin's is adapting and leading in a very positive way, and Gellerman is fine with it.

"We're going on a low-fat diet here."

Down the street, the Butcherie is also undergoing an attitude change. "We seem to be selling more white meat and turkey breasts," says co-owner Walter Gelerman. "We do a lot more vegetarian substitutes now, such as a chopped liver that's all vegetable and bean-based, and the soy products.

"Sabra of New York makes a lot of these vegetarian products," he continues. "Hummus, baba gannoush - they sell extremely well."

Rosh Hashanah foods? "It's pretty much the traditional stuff," he explains. "Unlike Passover, where products are made specifically and it's very easy to see changes happen, we can't track such trends now.

"If they decide to lighten up, it's sort of individualized choices. It's not like suppliers are coming up with new items."

However, there is no denying that veggie, low fat and healthier fare are now a solid and crucial part of the Butcherie's stock. "We've always done our own vegetarian dishes," Gelerman says with pride. "Our stuffed cabbage with rice and vegetables, for example. We've replaced ground turkey for beef in many foods such as knishes and kreplach.

"There is definitely a trend toward switching white meat for red, vegetables for meat. We have no cholesterol versions of potato pancakes and kugels. We have spinach kugel, vegetable kugel. They're a little less sweet and a little lighter. There are kishkes now which use vegetables and vegetable oil rather than beef fat and flour.

"They are actually very similar in taste," he affirms.