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It's matzo, a.k.a. the bread of affliction a.k.a. the Passover staple spoken of between sighs and moans and talk of digestion issues.
The Matzo Project, founded by Brooklynite Ashley Albert and her camp friend from 30 years before, Kevin Rodriguez, aims to "to make something that people wouldn't compare to cardboard."
On April 15, they released a limited number of boxes of their "beta matzo"—which was rolled, cut, and toasted by hand ("there will never be another batch like it")—at four specialty stores in Brooklyn and Manhattan. The matzo itself comes in three flavors—salted, everything, and cinnamon sugar—and there's also buttercrunch matzo in white chocolate cinnamon pecan and milk chocolate pecan.
When we procured our own box of salted matzo, there were only two of the twenty-four initial boxes left—impressive considering each costs $9.50. The hype is real, if New York-centric: On April 6 Albert told AM New York that the response was already so big, "it's clear that we're gonna have to scale up really quickly"—and that was before Brooklyn blogger Cup of Jo called out the artistan matzo on her site.
"The box alone makes The Matzo Project worth seeking out," reported The Forward. It's a perfect mix of quirky design and good old-fashioned Jewish guilt: "Recycle this box, why wouldn't you?"
So how does it compare to the classic Manischewitz brand matzo?
The artisan matzo is much more flavorful (but to be fair, we tried the salted version, and there was no salt in our box of Manischewitz), as well as thinner and crispier, with an more organic air bubbles. They're a little richer—made with canola and extra-virgin olive oil—and were not so distinct from crackers I'd eat at any time of year.
The Manischewitz was... well, Manischewitz. A little pasty, a little chalky; chewy, not airy. Mouth-drying. It's stuff of my childhood—I love it!
In the end, I'd rather eat the aristan matzo, yes. But would I buy a plane ticket to New York City to buy it (you know, if I didn't live here already)? Probably not.
But there's good news! If you can't run to New York City before it's sold out, the website suggests that you'll be able to order it "soon." Whether that's before Passover starts—next Friday, April 22—we can't say.
But maybe your bubbie would know?