Dining With Denise Neil

Brisket, corned beef and matzo ball soup: Deli Day is on Sunday

Scott Redler, left, and Cyndie Ponder tend to the 82 briskets cooking in their temple kitchen that will be served at Sunday’s Jewish Deli Day.
Scott Redler, left, and Cyndie Ponder tend to the 82 briskets cooking in their temple kitchen that will be served at Sunday’s Jewish Deli Day. The Wichita Eagle

Wichita doesn’t have a proper Jewish deli.

But it does have a once-a-year Jewish Deli Day, during which members of Wichita’s Congregation Emanu-El serve traditional deli favorites that are regularly enjoyed by their big-city counterparts: corned beef, brisket, matzo ball soup, potato knishes, rugelach and more.

The annual dinner, which during a typical year serves between 800 and 1,000 people from across the community, returns on Sunday with a few changes. Here’s a list of five things you need to know to navigate the delicious day.

Diners have a choice of two meals: For $15, attendees can pick from a corned beef sandwich dinner or a brisket dinner, each served with a variety of traditional Jewish deli sides, including matzo ball soup, latkes (Jewish potato pancakes) and challah (a sweet egg bread).

Dine-in hours are shortened: One change this year: Those who want to eat at the temple and be served by congregation members must attend between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. This year, organizers have shortened dine-in hours. Only carry-out meals will be available from 3 to 6 p.m.

There’s also a to-go bakery/market: “Uncle Manny’s Deli” is a popular part of the annual dinner and offers baked goods to go. Right now, the temple’s walk-in freezer (which is turned on only during Deli Day preparation) is stuffed full of aluminum trays of potato knishes, apple strudel, cabbage roles, cheese blintzes, mandelbrot, matzoh toffee, noodle kugle and rugelach. The items will be sold in small batches for between $4 and $8 until it’s all sold out on Sunday.

Volunteers have been cooking for weeks: It takes about 50 of the temple’s most dedicated members to pull the dinner off each year, including member Scott Redler, the co-owner of the Freddy’s Frozen Custard chain. (His mother’s brisket recipe has been used at the dinner for years.) Several of the temple’s top bakers have been working weekends since August getting the baked items ready, and another crew has been back and forth to the kitchen all week preparing 82 briskets, the equivalent of 400 pounds of meat. On Monday, the briskets went in the oven early in the morning and came out late in the evening. Volunteers took them out of their pans to cool, then reserved the jus in large buckets. Redler said his wife, Betsy, taught him that reheating the brisket in the jus just before serving made it extra moist. “It’s the most moist brisket I’ve ever had,” he said.

It’s the temple’s biggest fundraiser of the year: Deli Day, which started years ago as an event called “Food-A-Rama,” brings in more money than any other fundraiser the temple does. But the money isn’t the only point, Redler said. “It really lets people enjoy deli food that they can’t experience in Wichita,” he said. “It’s been consistently successful for years, but even if it didn’t raise a dime, it would still be worth doing.”

If You Go

Jewish Deli Day

What: A Jewish deli-style dinner and bake sale

When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Dine-in and carryout from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Carryout only from 3 to 6 p.m.

Where: Congregation Emanu-El, 7011 E. Central

How much: Meals are $15 a person

Tickets: Can be purchased at the door or by calling 316-684-5148

Information: http://www.emanuelict.org/