An exodus from boring.

Passover has never been known as the most delicious of holidays. Not when its signature foods are gelatin-encased gefilte fish and mass-produced matzo. Yes, it’s a holiday about struggle—but come on, haven’t we suffered enough? Thankfully, celebrating Pesach in today’s San Francisco can be a tasty exodus from those stodgy flavors of old, especially with some of the Bay Area’s most talented chefs reinventing the holiday staples they grew up eating. From arak cocktails to a one-of-a-kind Chinese seder feast, this is as good a year as any to start a brand-new Passover tradition.

1. Have a cocktail.
Mixed drinks aren’t a traditional Passover tonic, but Calvin Young, the beverage director at Cold Drinks Bar—the sleek lounge on the second floor of George Chen’s China Live food emporium—is looking to change that with his Golden Calf cocktail ($16). Young pairs the anise-heavy (and kosher) Masada Jabalna arak from Western Galilee with a subtle single-malt scotch and looks to the Pesachdik seder plate for the rest: Cannelia Cinnamon Cordial and honey are odes to his mother-in-law’s haroseth (a cinnamony apple salad), ginger replaces the maror spice, and Scrappy’s Celery Bitters are a nod to the karpas (bitter herbs) traditionally dipped in salt water. The drink is savory, sweet, tart, bitter, and spicy, with the lingering flavor of anise.

2. Pretend it’s Jewish Christmas.
Jews travel in throngs to eat Chinese food on Christmas, so why not for Pesach? If your seder routine needs a refresh, the downstairs Market Restaurant at China Live has you covered with a Passover-themed à la carte menu available from March 30 to April 7. Chef George Chen credits his appreciation for traditional Jewish foods to his Los Angeles upbringing, meaning his influences include not just Peking duck but also kreplach and knish. The Passover menu spans both traditions with dishes like Shaoxing rice wine–cured salmon gravlax with goji berries ($16) and a “lion’s head” clay pot ($18), wherein the meatball traditional to the dish is made with matzo meal and chicken—a riff on matzo ball soup. – San Francisco Magazine (03.19.18)