Potomac became just a little more kosher last month after Rabbi Adam Raskin, of Congregation Har Shalom, certified Playa Bowls eatery in Cabin John Village shopping center.
Playa Bowls offers acai, pitaya and coconut bowls and smoothies in a tropical atmosphere. The Potomac Playa Bowls, on Tuckerman Lane, is one of seven franchises in the Washington area.
Raskin said he wanted to give their Jewish customers an extra measure of assurance by supervising the eatery’s facility and ingredients and issuing a certificate of kashrut. He approached the owner and manager and said he would do it as a community service.
“I said, I was a local synagogue rabbi seeking to provide a service to a small business in our neighborhood.,” Raskin said.
The manager and owner of Playa Bowls welcomed the rabbi’s offer.
“We’re excited to see how popular it will be for the population who does keep kosher,” said director of operations Alayna Jackson, who framed the certificate, or te’udah, and hung it on Nov. 21. “It’s a very generous contribution.”
“They were very interested and very motivated,” Raskin said. “They understand the demographics of the communities, that there is a high concentration of Jews.”
Raskin scheduled visits and inspected all their products and preparation areas. The process was straightforward, he said. “This is not a site where there’s a tremendous amount of complexity. Without meat or fish and very little dairy, there’s almost no cooking except for oatmeal.
“I was surprised to find out that almost all the products they serve have a hechsher from a national reputable organization, like the OU, Kof-K and Star-K,” Raskin said. “This was a place that I felt comfortable giving supervision.”
“We’re almost already a very easy restaurant to certify kosher,” Jackson said. “I would say that 95 percent of our ingredients are already kosher. It’s just two guidelines we had to change and follow to ensure that we could be certified.”
According to the guidelines, employees who bring their own lunch are allowed to eat only in a certain area. Now there is a separate microwave for their food.
Kosher certification usually falls to Orthodox institutions and Conservative rabbis like Raskin don’t usually supervise food businesses.
But for Raskin, “this wasn’t a matter of denominational politics. I’m not trying to make a point that Conservative rabbis can do this, too.”
He said this was a one-off for the community. “I approached this particular place as something that would be manageable for me. I’m not looking for a side hustle, not looking to moonlight. I knew I could reasonably incorporate this into my schedule.”
Raskin has an agreement with Playa Bowls that they will speak to him before introducing new products. For instance, crushed peppermint candies that are used as a topping on the holiday menu. “It was not from a kosher source,” he said. “So, again, they’re very interested in making certain product changes when necessary.”
He looks forward to working with Playa Bowls as a kashrut supervisor. “They can be assured that I did a lot of work to investigate every single element of this operation,” he said.