Holiday Entertaining

A Festive, California-Style Hanukkah, Celebrated Outdoors

Julia Sherman, the author of 'Arty Parties', invites us into her Pasadena home for a chill Hanukkah gathering with her pod.

November 27, 2021
Photo by Julia Sherman

Home for the Holidays is a special series featuring our favorite food and home experts and their diverse homes—and holidays—from around the world. From Los Angeles to Mumbai and Hong Kong, we get a peek at how each family approaches the most special of seasons—in a way that’s uniquely theirs.

Artist Julia Sherman writes cookbooks that are unlike others. For her first book, Salad for President, Sherman visited artists in their homes, interviewing and photographing them as they make her a salad. In her latest, Arty Parties: An Entertaining Cookbook, Sherman talks to artists about their favorite gatherings and pairs them with her own recipes for food that are “easy to scale, affordable, and designed to be prepped ahead and then served in the moment.” So it should come as no surprise that the artist’s touch is visible at her own low-key yet gorgeous Hanukkah gathering.

Setting the Scene

Sherman and her husband Adam Katz live in a mid-century home designed by architect Boyd Georgi in Pasadena, California. Two years ago, the couple finished a full renovation of the house with architect Emily Farnham and a major landscape overhaul by Terremoto that includes a vegetable garden in the front yard, a fruit orchard in the back, a babbling brook, and an A-frame studio perched above the orchard. The house’s expansive deck connects to the back garden via a bridge. It’s basically a California daydream.

Photo by Julia Sherman
Photo by Julia Sherman

Friends & Diners

For their Hanukkah celebration, Sherman and Katz, along with their children Red (2 ½) and Dov Bear (4 months), hosted their friends for an al fresco meal on the deck. They invited their regular Friday night Shabbat pod: artist Isaac Resnikoff and his wife Lizz Wasserman, their children Eli and Esphyr, and pals Mia Locks and Jason Vasillades and their daughter Vivian. “It felt very much like the west coast version of Hanukkah,” says Sherman of the outdoor event. “It was chaos because our kids just ran around and there was a big dance party in the middle. This was not your traditional Hanukkah.”

Table Dressing

Sherman took particular pleasure in dressing the table for the party, which usually doesn’t see much decor during Shabbat dinners because they’re winding down the week, So, to make this meal extra festive, Sherman headed to the backyard and clipped branches from her Meyer lemon and satsuma trees, which she paired with Mexican marigolds floating in bowls and bouquets of amaranth and rust-colored sunflowers. Sherman set the table with her own Heath Ceramics plates, hammered copper cups from Mexico, and heirloom linens. “I have these napkins that my grandmother gave me that I'd never used. They were still starched and pressed from her.”

Photo by Julia Sherman
Photo by Julia Sherman

Family Traditions

Sherman says her grandmother was on her mind because she usually spent the holiday at her Nana’s native New York, where Sherman also grew up. “My grandmother's house was very formal—fine china, silver, lace doilies, and things like that—it was very traditional,” she says. Sherman’s grandmother passed away two and a half years ago around the time Sherman’s daughter was born, so Sherman is just starting to form new traditions with her own young family.

Photo by Julia Sherman
Photo by Julia Sherman

Menus and Menorahs

Sherman’s menu, too, was part-family traditional, part-contemporary California. “One of the cool things about Hanukkah is that you're supposed to eat greasy food to celebrate how the oil magically lasted eight days,” says Sherman. To that end, Resnikoff made his family’s latke recipe that mixes mashed potatoes with whipped egg whites for super-crisp latkes that Sherman describes as “pristine and incredible.” They topped them with creme fraiche and salmon roe. Resnikoff also fried up cardoons from his garden, and when he ran out of bread crumbs, substituted in crumbled José Andrés potato chips (greasy in the best way possible!).

Photo by Julia Sherman

Sherman rounded out the meal with carrot and fennel pollen soup and a green salad with poppy seed dressing and homemade sumac cracker croutons. She also roasted a farmer’s market chicken in homage to her grandmother’s traditional meal, but added layers of flavor with a celery salt brine, lots of olive oil, smoked and sweet paprika, cumin, and stuffed it with a lemon before roasting in a hot cast iron pan with a whole garlic.

Resnikoff also contributed a braided loaf of challah, which he brings to their usual Friday night Shabbat. They stuck candles into the loaf as an impromptu menorah—a spin on the Loaf-a-Labra stale bread candle holder in Art Parties.

Chocolate for all

Photo by Julia Sherman

Sherman and her friends are all trying to raise adventurous eaters, so there was no separate kids’ menu. Sherman and Resnikoff also tried their hand at pressing their own Hanukkah gelt for the kids (complete with edible gold leafing!). Sherman laughs, “They really didn't look that good. I think we kind of failed at tempering the chocolate, but obviously the kids didn't care. They were just excited to eat gold and chocolate.” They also tweaked the tradition by carving the chocolates into a mini tableau with a person, a beloved pet rabbit, a dreidel, and amphoras (to represent the magical Hanukkah oil). “We were trying to think of things that we value besides money,” she says.

New Traditions

Reflecting on hosting her first Hanukkah celebration, Sherman says, “It feels like this moment of a big life transition where it's my turn to be the adult and organize these gatherings.” Sherman says it also makes her reflective about what that turning point means. “I try to bring my own energy to traditions for my daughter and son,” she says. “I want them to see that we don't just do things because other people do them. That's why we might make our own gelt—even if it's a failure. And we're not going to do the same thing every year. It's important for us to constantly be trying to express ourselves or find something new within tradition.”

What Hanukkah traditions are you most looking forward to? Tell us in the comments.

The All for Farmers Market

We’ve joined forces with Tillamook to support All For Farmers—a coalition benefiting farmers across the nation—with a special market that gives back. Featuring Shop all-stars and a limited-edition Five Two apron, a portion of proceeds from every purchase supports American Farmland Trust’s Brighter Future Fund.

The All for Farmers Market

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

Laura Fenton

Written by: Laura Fenton

Laura Fenton is the No Space Too Small columnist at Food52. The author of The Little Book of Living Small, she covers home, design, and sustainability. Laura lives in Jackson Heights, Queens in a 690-square foot apartment with her husband and son. You can follow her on Instagram @laura.alice.fenton.

1 Comment

Jackie November 27, 2021
Can do without the site's videos opening up unexpectedly and bursting with sound, especially those girls who shriek at the beginning. Don't need to be scared that way.