Passover has its charms. The celebration of freedom is always an excellent thing. So are parts of the celebratory meal, the seder, particularly the four cups of wine, the part where everyone beats their neighbor with scallions, and the hunt for the afikomen, during which children prowl through the house in search of a napkin-wrapped piece of matzo, which they then hold ransom for cash or candy. Some can also consider the dietary restrictions, which for eight days, forbid the consumption of leavened bread and anything else that may contain leavening, charming, in the way that challenges can be charming. But what to do between meals? Here are half a dozen special Passover snacks around Chicago that provide a delicious — yes, really — alternative to macaroons and Tam Tam crackers.
Beetroot chocolate cake from Sam and Gertie’s
The Uptown deli is serving a twist on the ubiquitous chocolate cake: this one is vegan and it’s made with beetroot, which gives it a nice red color and, more importantly, a level of moistness that’s not often found in Passover baked goods. Presales are sold out, but extras are available first come, first served on Friday, April 15. Sam and Gertie’s, 1309 W. Wilson Avenue, Open 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, April 15.
Big Flat Cracker from Big Fat Cookie
Big Fat Cookie takes matzo toffee and makes it extra: each seven-inch square is covered with a layer of chocolate and then sprinkled with M&Ms, sprinkles, coconut, almond toffee, peanut butter, and puppy chow, among other things. It could be the best thing that ever happened to matzo. Big Fat Cookie, 1030 N. Hooker Street, order via website.
Date charoset and flourless cafe de olla cake from Masa Madre
Charoset is a paste made of fruit and nuts that’s meant to symbolize the mortar the Jews used to build the pyramids when they were slaves in Egypt. Jews from Eastern Europe make it with apples, walnuts, and wine (or grape juice), but Tamar Fasja Unikel, one of the owners of the Mexican-Jewish bakery Masa Madre makes hers with dates, topped with chopped pecans, from a recipe from her Syrian grandmother. Pecans also form the base of Masa Madre’s moist and dense flourless cafe de olla cake, which is then covered in a coffee- and cinnamon-tinged chocolate ganache. Masa Madre, order via website.
Edible Appetizer Seder from Steingold’s of Chicago
Steingold’s is best known for bagels, but the Lakeview deli also has a strong appetizer game. This Passover, the team has taken the traditional symbolic items on the seder plate and turned them into a crispy, crunchy hors d’oeuvres platter. The shank bone is now drumettes brined in pickle juice, breaded with matzo crumbs, and deep fried. The bitter herbs have been replaced by smoked whitefish salad on endive. The afikomen is matzo brei hush puppies. And so on. The seder plate is available the weekends of April 15 to 17 and April 22 to 24 only, and orders must be received at least 48 hours in advance. Steingold’s of Chicago, 3737 N. Southport Avenue, Open 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, order via website.
Matzo Ice Cream Pop from Pretty Cool Ice Cream
As is now tradition, Pretty Cool Ice Cream will be serving its matzo ice cream pop: vanilla ice cream in a chocolate shell covered with crushed matzo and toffee, a takeoff of the chocolate toffee matzo that has become a standard part of the holiday over the past few years. Pretty Cool Ice Cream, 2353 N. California Avenue, Open 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and noon to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Orange Raspberry Layer Cake at Zelda’s Catering
Flourless chocolate cakes abound at Passover. But for a change of pace, try the orange raspberry layer cake, made with gebrochts, or matzo that has been soaked in liquid, from Zelda’s Catering in Skokie, which is also certified kosher by the Chicago Rabbinical Council. And yes, there are also two kinds of chocolate cake. Zelda’s Catering, 4113 Main Street, Skokie, order via website.