Honey, pomegranates, apples are staples of Rosh Hashanah table

(Getty Images)

Have a sweet new year.

Confused? Yes, we’re months away from offering each other well wishes on the dawn of 2019, but Rosh Hashanah begins Sunday evening and with it, Hebrew year 5779.

Rabbi Shea Harlig of Chabad of Southern Nevada said Rosh Hashanah means “the head of the year.”

“Traditionally, it’s the day that Adam was created,” he said. “On Rosh Hashanah we proclaim God the king of the universe. The sounding of the shofar” — a bugle-like instrument made from a ram’s horn — “signals, ‘Here comes the king.’ ”

Harlig said that in contrast to the raucous, often drunken atmosphere that surrounds the secular new year, Rosh Hashanah precedes a period of contemplation, especially introspection. It culminates on Yom Kippur, which this year begins on the evening of Sept. 18 and is the day of atonement, and also forgiveness. He said the two days of Rosh Hashanah and the one of Yom Kippur are the only three holy days of the year; other observances are holidays.

“Our prayer says Rosh Hashanah is the day it was inscribed and Yom Kippur is the day it was sealed, for what will happen in the new year,” he said. “We ask God to give us a good year.”

And so honey is eaten on Rosh Hashanah, to signal a sweet or good year.

“We also eat pomegranates because they have a lot of seeds,” Harlig said. “Our good deeds should multiply like the seeds of the pomegranate.”

While the soft, sweet bread challah is eaten on most holidays, for Rosh Hashanah it’s traditionally round, as a symbol of the crown, he said. Rosh Hashanah also is a time for eating part of the head of a fish or ram.

“The head is symbolic of the head of the year and that we want to be heads — leaders — not tails,” he said.

But particularly pungent foods, such as pickles or horseradish, are to be avoided.

“We don’t want anything sharp; we don’t want anything bitter,” he said. “We want to have positive energy. It’s all symbolic, but it’s in order to remind us.”

A few Southern Nevada restaurants are planning special dishes to commemorate Rosh Hashanah. The Rampart Buffet at the Rampart Casino at the Resort at Summerlin will add a number of dishes at dinner Sunday and Monday.

“It’s because we’re a locals casino and Summerlin has a high Jewish population and they’re our loyal customers,” said Lloyd Wentzell, director of food and beverage. They dress up the place with white tablecloths and blue napkins and candles. For parties of 10 or more, they’ll even take reservations.

Honey and apples are popular, Wentzell said, as are the tzimmes, a sweet, braised dish.

“Everyone loves the brisket,” he said. “My favorite is the pickled herring. The chicken livers with mushrooms and onions go well. Everything’s made from scratch; even our knishes are homemade.”

From dinner on Sunday through dinner Tuesday, Station Casino buffets will expand their offerings, including a fresh apple-honey salad.

“It’s just a nice fresh, crisp salad,” said Anthony Santori, room chef for the Feast Buffet at

Apricot-glazed chicken also is in the plan, he said, adding that they tried a pomegranate-glazed chicken last year but decided it wasn’t sweet enough.

Also on the buffet will be tzimmes, which they also serve at Hanukkah. That’s made primarily of raisins and carrots.

“And then we just kind of mix them with a little honey,” Santori said. “Orange juice, brown sugar, a little cinnamon. Another nice, traditional sweet dish.”

Both brisket and matzoh-ball soup are immensely popular, he said. There also will be challah rolls, a spinach-pomegranate salad, glazed salmon, noodle kugel, honey cake and more.

Bouchon Bakery’s Honey Bundt Cake was so popular last year that they decided to offer it again this year, said Las Vegas pastry chef Scott Wheatfill. He said offering the cake came about mostly because of demand at Bouchon Bakery in New York.

“Typically when we roll out an item, we want to be cohesive,” Wheatfill said. “It’s fun for our staff to learn new things, learn about different cultures. As chefs, we always want to be learning.”

“We added brown sugar, orange, coffee and whiskey,” he said, “flavor profiles to enhance the honey. It’s super honey-forward and it’s really moist.” They sell slices at the three Bouchon Bakeries at for $3.50 each. Whole cakes, at $28.50, are available for pre-order at lvcakes or.

Wheatfill shared Bouchon’s recipe, which is above.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Las Vegas Sands operates

Heidi Knapp Rinella at Hrinella or . Follow on Twitter.