Equinox owners to open Israeli street cafe at Bible Museum
Exterior rendering of the eight-story, 430,000 square foot Bible Museum. Rendered photo courtesy of Smith Group JJR.
In their cookbook The new Jewish table, owners of equinox Todd Gray and Ellen kassoff gray delve into and the culinary intersections of his Jewish education and his Episcopal. That, and the Grays’ experience operating a vegan cafe in the Corcoran Gallery of Art, caught the attention of an unexpected suitor: the future Museum of the Bible.
Now the couple are set to open an Israeli street cafe called Manna and a cafe named Milk & Honey inside the museum, which will replace the Washington Design Center at 409 3rd St., Southwest, when it opens in fall 2017. .
“One of the things that drew them to us was our love of cross-culture and doing it through the food and the table and the family that comes with it and the holidays and the traditions of the holidays,” says Kassoff- Gray.
Kassoff Gray expects their involvement to be not without controversy. The museum comes from the evangelical billionaire behind Hobby Lobby, who has become a political lightning rod for his Supreme Court case on contraception and Obamacare.
“When I saw the plans for the first time, I thought to myself, ‘? What? Truly? Are you serious ?’ Gray said. But after getting to know the museum better, he felt it suited him. “It’s not run by Christians. It is not of Jewish inspiration. It’s a historic journey. So these are things that have been very interesting for us.
Kassoff Gray adds, “There is a lot of history in the Bible, and we love the educational pursuit of it. This is the number one factor in doing this.
Grays learned a lot about historical dishes and foods related to the Bible by researching The new Jewish table. Kassoff Gray also spent a few years intermittently in her twenties in Israel, where she lived on a kibbutz, worked on a scuba diving boat, wrote about wine, and witnessed the first Intifada. It was also there that she learned about cooking.
Manna will be a cafeteria-style restaurant with different stations in an “Israeli-Mediterranean street market spirit,” says Gray. Of course, the cafe will serve falafels, which will be made with seasonally changing ingredients like green garlic, sweet peas or roasted kabocha squash. To go with it, Gray also offers a pistachio and golden lentil hummus recipe.
Manna will have flat breads, perhaps garnished with figs and nuts, as well as cereal bowls and stews. Gray also played with artichoke soup and a tomato cumin and cilantro bisque topped with mint lime yogurt. Although the menu is rich in vegetables, there will also be roast leg of lamb and probably fish.
The café will be accompanied by a 70-seat café-restaurant upstairs called Milk & Honey. In addition to cappuccinos, lattes and tea, the place will offer takeout sandwiches, salads, hummus with pita chips and soft yogurt.
Les Grays will also provide catering for events at the museum.
“Much like the Corcoran, during the four years we were there, we loved that food was juxtaposed with art. This [brings] just a lot more cerebral context to things, ”says Kassoff Gray. “We were making dishes that went with the exhibits… so it will be the same with the Bible museum.”