The Jewish holiday of Purim celebrates the deliverance of the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire from destruction in the wake of a plot by the infamous Haman. And, it's coming up soon on Sunday, February 24. As part of the holiday festivities, people dress up in masks and costumes, attend carnivals, give out baskets filled with sweet treats, and eat hamantaschen.
Hamantaschen are triangular-shaped cookies that take their shape from the three corners of Haman's hat. The cookies are typically filled with fruit jams, cheese and poppy seeds. But, I've definitely enjoyed a few chocolate ones in my day too.
For anyone looking to celebrate Purim with hamantaschen or other festive dessert items, you need not look any further than Zelda's Sweet Shoppe just outside the city limits in Skokie, IL. Zelda's bakes and sells delicious, kosher pastries all year long. And, the fun level goes up a notch when it comes to offering Purim sweets and treats.
I had the chance to speak with Linda Neiman, president of Zelda's, to find out more about her company and the gourmet goods they're offering for Purim this year - in Chicago and beyond.
Purim Treats Abound at Zelda's Sweet Shoppe
Zelda’s Sweet Shoppe in Skokie offers a wide selection of Purim-themed candies and desserts, as well as prepared gift boxes and baskets. But, when it comes to this holiday, you need to start with the all-important hamantaschen.
At Zelda's, you can find traditional hamantaschen, made from a recipe Linda created at home with her children, which are filled with apricot, raspberry and poppy seeds. For anyone looking for something a bit more novel, the bakery offers the equally popular chocolate-dipped hamantaschen.
The hamantaschen shape also is carried over into playful decorated cookies. At Zelda's, you can chose from hamantaschen-shaped cookies that bid recipients a "happy Purim" and also feature a smiley face - that's good enough to eat, of course.
Other festive and whimsical items include decorated cookies in the shape of Purim kings and queens, a jester, a crown and the megillah (a scroll which tells the story of Purim), and cupcakes brightly decorated with crowns. Anyone looking to combine the food and costume aspects of the holiday will especially enjoy one of Zelda's chocolate masks on a stick.
For Purim parties, Zelda's offers decorated cookie cakes, which are always a big hit with my family. And, you can literally find all the makings of a Purim party in one of its many gift boxes and baskets. The gift baskets and boxes, which come in all shapes, sizes and prices, are chock full of hamantachen, chocolates, caramel corn and other festive items.
Find Zelda's Sweets at their Skokie Bakery and Other Stores Across Chicago
The Zelda's location on Main Street in Skokie is the main retail outlet for the bakery. It is a warm and inviting store, with brightly striped awnings at the entry way that make it hard to pass the bakery without stopping in to take a look around and sample one of Zelda's many sweet treats.
During Purim you can find the company's cookies and cakes at Chicago-area Sunset Foods and Treasure Island stores, several Jewel-Osco locations, Kol Tuv in Chicago's West Rodgers Park neighborhood, and select local fruit markets.
Throughout the year, you also can find Zelda's products at Whole Foods stores in Chicago - and select locations across the East and West Coasts.
The Story Behind the Name - and the Sweet Shoppe
The name "Zelda" is actually Linda's own middle name. And, Linda credits her husband for suggesting it as the name for her bakery business that she launched it back in 2003. To Linda, the name, Zelda, conveys traditional values and good quality - all of what she wants to be associated with her growing company.
Zelda's started 10 years ago with the opening of their Skokie Main Street store. At the time, Linda wanted to bake and make her own chocolate, cookies and biscotti. And, in essence, be the kosher Harry & David. Shortly after its opening, the bakery-portion of her business blossomed and she started to get a very positive reception from local grocery stores about carrying Zelda's products in their stores.
The company now has a second location in Skokie where all of its cakes, cookies and other items are made and then distributed across the country. With Passover coming up at the end of March, the location is already busy preparing for the holiday, baking up popular treats like Zelda's marshmallow-filled, chocolate-covered frogs and locusts.
Today, Linda and her team are looking ahead at the future, and are focused on bringing Zelda's products to more and more markets across the country. But, even as the company continues to grow and expand, their logo, which features their Main Street store awning, will always serve as reminder of the spirit and emotional appeal of the original Main Street store, and way to convey the essence of Zelda's to new and old customers alike.
Have you tried Zelda's sweets? If so, what are your favorite ones? What are your favorite places to buy hamantaschen in Chicago? What is your favorite flavor of the holiday cookies? Share your suggestions in the comments below.
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