Hey Bubbelehs! The New Matzo Project Will Drive You Meshugga

matzo project
Courtesy of The Matzo Project.

It’s almost that time of year — sundown on April 22, to be exact. Passover will begin, as does the eating of unleavened bread for eight days.

The first and second day, well, the ritual is pretty exciting. But as the days go on, let’s be honest, matzo can become a bit, well, dry as the desert in Egypt.

Enter, The Matzo Project, a new business partnership by two friends who have known each other for 30 years — co-owner of Royal Palms Shuffleboard Ashley Albert and Kevin Rodriguez, her friend from Jewish summer camp of yesteryear.

“I come up with all sorts of ideas,” says Albert, who is also our neighbor in Gowanus. “When Kevin said to me, ‘I can’t do this without you,’ well, I accidentally got involved.”

As per the box and jar label, the partnership was created in the year 5775, which is last year on the Jewish calendar.

The Matzo Project
Courtesy of The Matzo Project

Now the first thing you should know is that the current batches come in glass jars. You have three flavor options of the Matzo Buttercrunch: Milk Chocolate Pecan, Dark Chocolate Almond, and Pecan Cinnamon Bun.

The treats are available in only five stores, so you’ll have to jump the subway to get some. Head to Shelsky’s in nearby Cobble Hill or Peck’s or Greene Grape (both in Fort Greene) for Brooklyn locations. In Manhattan, get to Stinky BKLYN (Chelsea), and online at Farmigo.

However on April 15, they’ll be releasing a special batch: 120 numbered boxes of, as Albert calls it, “our regular ol’ Salted matzo.”

Are you sitting down for this one? The following week, Ample Hills will debut their Milk and Honey Matzo Ice Cream collaboration.

“Then we’ll head back to the lair to figure out a better, more sustainable way to make more and develop our Matzo Ball Soup Kit in time for The Fancy Food Show in June!” adds Albert.

The Matzo Project
Ashley Albert, partner in The Matzo Project and co-owner of Royal Palms Shuffleboard. (Courtesy of The Matzo Project)

Now keep this in mind about switching out your traditional Passover matzo for The Matzo Project: their Matzo is kosher, but not Kosher for Passover (the difference between the two … well that’s another article).

Albert refers to herself as “a cultural Jew.” “Eating matzo is nostalgic, it’s a heritage food,” she says. When speaking with Albert, you quickly learn she is sharp-witted and very funny. And that humor finds its way into the core of The Matzo Project.

Frankly, when I first got in touch with her, Albert invited me over to Royal Palms for a chat over a coconut cocktail. When I told her I had to nix the idea because I was taking my wife out for our anniversary, she suggests another option. “Are you sure I can’t just tag along with you guys, Donny? I’m a sparkling conversationalist!”

And she is. And boy is she busy. She was in Chicago this past weekend, as Royal Palms is considering opening a Second City location.

I asked if she plans to rise from the ranks as 68th best in the world shuffleboard player (the number listed on the Royal Palms website).

“I’ll have you know that as of the 2015 World Championships, I am now the 42nd best female shuffleboard player in the world, thankyouverymuch” she tells me. “Now that I’ve hit the top 50, I don’t plan to get any better, I just want to hold steady…who has time to practice when you’re making matzo?!?”

I stand corrected. But knowing Albert’s energy, I bet she’ll be back chomping at #1.

The Matzo Project
No Sleep Till Unleavened Brooklyn. (L-R, Brian Luna, Kevin Rodriguez, partner in The Matzo Project, and Colby Black)

So what’s next up for the Matzo Project? “Our next challenge is to find a permanent solution: a kosher commercial bakery with a direct-fire oven that will still let us use our crazy contraption!” says Albert.

Rodriguez started out by making the matzo at home with a pasta roller and they built a “crazy contraption out of dowels and pizza cutters and hole-pokers and moved the whole operation to a commissary kitchen,” explains Albert. “The sheets of matzo were so big that we could only fit TWO on a sheet and at that rate, we were making one box an hour!”

The team ended up at Food Innovation Lab in Pennsylvania — a location that would let them use the crazy contraption. That’s where the boxes of soon-to-be-released matzo were made.

The Matzo Project
Your bubbe may enjoy this matzo as much as you. (Courtesy of The Matzo Project.)

Now this all sounds like it could really please the kids as well. I asked Albert if she thought the jarred goodies would work as the afikomen during the Passover seder. (That’s the piece of matzo broken off during the Seder which is then eaten at the end of the meal. The tradition involves hiding it and having the kids try to find it.)

“I LOVE the idea of using it for the afikomen,” says Albert, “but I’m a little afraid that we’re gonna get chocolate on the couch. Come on, you KNOW it’s always in the couch.”

Albert did provide me with a more significant warning when I told her that the matzo butter crunch I sampled was perversely good.

“Pace yourself on that Buttercrunch, young man,” she advises. “It’s easy to get carried away and before you know it, you’ll find yourself in a Homer Simpson-style stupor, laying on the floor covered in matzo crumbs and toffee. Consider yourself warned.”

Sage advice.

The Matzo Project Rundown
Where: Jars of the buttercrunch are available at Shelsky’s in nearby Cobble Hill, Peck’s, and Greene Grape (both in Fort Greene) for Brooklyn. For Manhattan, head to Stinky BKLYN (Chelsea), and online at Farmigo.
What’s Next: On April 15, 120 salted boxes of their matzo will be available in the same five stores. The week after, Ample Hills will debut their Milk and Honey Matzo Ice Cream collaboration.
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