Robin’s Nest: coffee, Chabad and Hannukah
Robin Woods is a local girl-about-town, writing about activities, stores, restaurants, and interesting people that catch her eye. She’s written memoirs and personal essays as well as music and fashion columns for various New York City newspapers.
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As a writer, coffee is the elixir of life to me. From my first cup early in the morning, to my last decaf cuppa in early evening, it keeps me going. Legacy Coffee is my new favorite neighborhood place, opened Sept. 13 by Dewar MacLeod and his daughter Sinead. It's right across from the Bay Street train station and is the first specialty coffee shop in the area.
Dewar is a professor of history at William Paterson University, sings and plays guitar with Thee Volatiles, a local punk rock band, and author of books about punk rock and the history of music. “Making The Scene in the Garden State” will release in March 2020.
You can find him behind the counter or at a table at Legacy, always with a smile on his face, wearing a ”We Jam American” Legacy signature black T-shirt, with interesting tales to tell.
“This is a family legacy, influenced by our own creativity and the history of diversity in Montclair,” he says. Dewar or Sinead are there seven days a week, as early as 6 a.m. on weekdays. Dewar handles legal issues, banking and human resources. Sinead, a well-trained and gifted barista, came up with the concept of a family-owned coffee shop last April, and it took just five months for it to become a reality. She's 27 years old, but has more than 10 years of experience, starting at the original Cafe Eclectic location on Bloomfield Avenue as a barista and waitress. Sinead is an artist with an undergrad degree in Critical Theory and Feminist Punk, which she describes as “a feminized version of modern art.” She earned a Master’s in Fine Arts from William Paterson, and was an art coordinator in Passaic County, and for Montclair's Art In The Park. She prints her own fabric and creates mixed media quilt-like art, which hangs on the walls at Legacy. The vintage fabric is made from natural fiber and is colored with fiber reactive dyes. Her fabric tote bags with her designs are ready to purchase for the holidays.
Let's get to coffee and tea drinks served at Legacy: Sinead batch-brews drip coffee and makes rich and delicious cafe lattes, cappuccinos, cold brew, iced and cold brew coffee. Loose leaf tea is available in six-eight flavors daily. Ask for the fragrant Indian chai tea. It just might change your life.
I drink flavored coffee every now and then, and Sinead can add natural flavors of vanilla, mocha, caramel or pumpkin spice if you wish. You can use milk, half and half or “alt milk” such as almond or oat milk in your drinks, and there is real sugar, honey and simple syrup. Sprinkle cinnamon or turmeric into your coffee or tea.
There are a few pastry choices there available daily from Butter Life Bakery, and I've eaten the apple crumble bar when I'm ready to indulge in a tasty, but not-too-sweet treat. In deference to its location near the train station, commuters can pick up “grab and go” snack bars, organic instant oatmeal, pudding from Joyist and chocolates to pop in their briefcases as they run to catch the train.
Sinead plans to show classic and obscure holiday movies during the month of December at Legacy Coffee. She also will feature female artists and introduce them to our community in the near future. Order a Box of Joe to go for your holiday get togethers and try the iced Butterfly Pea Flower lemonade. I'm not in love with iced drinks, but it's colored purple, refreshing and tart. Somehow, this drink reminds me of both Dewar and Sinead, who are full of surprises and treat everyone like family.
FROM COFFEE TO CHABAD
A while back I visited with Rabbi Yaacov Leaf and his wife Ita at Chabad of Montclair on Valley Road. Over cups of coffee and delicious rugelach (filled pastries), I learned more about their family, their mission and their backgrounds. Rabbi Yaacov and Rebbetzin Ita are the children of rabbis, each with six siblings. Yaacov was born in Israel and lived in Michigan until coming to live in Montclair.
He explained Chabad as being “Unorthodox Orthodox Jews with an unconventional philosophy. It's like a buffet. You don't have to eat the whole meal, you take what you need and want.” Everyone is unequivocally welcome there, no matter their beliefs or affiliations. An affable and engaging man, Yaacov invited me to share Rosh Hashanah, Jewish New Year dinner with his family, after meeting me in person for the first time in Porter Park for the ceremonial blowing of the shofar ceremony in October. He and Ita are fans of Robin's Nest, and I'm now fans of theirs as well.
I grew up in an Orthodox Jewish home where women were not welcome to participate fully. I found Ita outspoken, frank, warm and welcoming. “Women have their own role in Judaism, keeping a Kosher home while merging the physical and spiritual into the world,” she says.
Yaacov sees himself as a street rabbi, loving the the social aspect of his job. He described Chabad Montclair as “a boutique-y kind of synagogue, casual and open to families.” I asked Yaacov and Ita whether their four children, ages 8 months to 10 years old, feel as if they are missing out while other children celebrate Halloween and Christmas.
Yes, we have Hanukkah, which starts on Dec. 22 and ends on Dec. 30, but the Yaacovs reminded me that “there are so many rich Jewish holidays, so they don't miss any of it while attending Chabad school in Morristown, N.J.” Ita's father owns a Judaica shop in West Orange, and will bring some of her father’s wares to sell at Chabad's Pop Up Hanukkah shop in December.
It was an honor and the thrill of my life to stand close enough to touch the Torah with a ceremonial yad (pointer) when Yaacov opened the ark for me. I never got that close to my roots and heritage, and it brought tears to my eyes. Chabad is here for the whole community, with religious services on the first and third Saturdays of the month, ongoing family, teen and women's events as well.
“You don't have to be Orthodox to experience Judaism,” Yaacov said.
In this column:
- Legacy Coffee
41 Glenridge Ave.
- Chabad of Montclair
25 Valley Road