NoVa gets a taste of kosher pastry

Pastries by Randolph’s chocolate marble mousse cake is now certified kosher.
Photo courtesy of Pastries by Randolph.

For its 30th birthday, a Northern Virginia pastry shop is going kosher. Pastries by Randolph, which has been at its Arlington location since 1988, was certified as kosher on Nov. 16 under DC Kosher, a new supervising outfit run by Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld and Maharat Ruth Friedman of Ohev Sholom — The National Synagogue.

Penina Randolph, the bakery’s general manager, said the certification has been a long time coming. There was never anything inherently unkosher about the shop’s offerings, and as a kashrut observer herself, she said getting certification has been a personal mission since she joined the business a decade ago. Her husband, Justin, is the son of the bakery’s owners, Mark and Deborah Randolph.

For a long time, though, she found the process of becoming certified too cumbersome.

“There’s nothing in the pastry shop that has to be non-kosher. And as long as I’ve been in the pastry industry I’ve had my heart set on doing kosher,” she said. “But as anybody in the kosher world knows, there’s a lot more politics than just, ‘Is it kosher or not?’”

Herzfeld and Friedman’s operation provided the opportunity. The process took about a year, with changes needed for three components of the operation. Their mocha beans had a coating made with shellac, a resin that’s secreted from female bugs. They had to go. A Swiss cheese they used in quiches contained rennet, an enzyme that comes from the cow stomach. So they needed a new cheese. And finally, the shop had to start using kosher gelatin.

For Mark and Deborah Randolph, the store’s owners (who are not Jewish), it’s a natural progression. Since she married Justin, Penina has been educating the family about kashrut. Now that the couple’s son only eats kosher, his grandparents are near experts.

As for Northern Virginia, this may be brand new. Neither Herzfeld nor Randolph know of any other kosher restaurants in the area, and none of the certifying agencies operating in Greater Washington certify any Northern Virginia restaurants — this despite the fact that Northern Virginia has more Jewish residents than Washington or Montgomery County, according to the recent demographic study conducted by the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University in cooperation with the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and funded by The Morningstar Foundation.

Randolph, who lives in Annandale, said she regularly drives to Maryland for provisions. Of course, one kosher pastry shop won’t change that, but she’s hoping it’s just the first of many.

“Even with such a dynamic Jewish community here, it seems like it only gets kosher-heavy as you go north,” Randolph said. “I do think we need at least one option.”

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