Jason Marcus and Heather Heuser have chosen playful names for their restaurants in Williamsburg. Their first, Traif, means non-kosher, a reference to Marcus's love of pork (he's Jewish). The couple recently opened a follow-up, Xixa, pronounced "shiksa" (Heuser is not Jewish). Xixa features creative Mexican dishes with Asian influences and shows its feminine side with the wine list. Categories are headlined by iconic women -- and one man -- whose characteristics serve as a user-friendly guide. For instance, the Dolly Parton section offers fun, light and fruity wines along with the quote, "It's a good thing I was born a girl, otherwise I'd be a drag queen." Melissa and Joan Rivers are the foil for young and old, fortified and enhanced sherries, Joan's quotation being, "I wish I had a twin so I could know what I'd look like without plastic surgery." The friendly Heuser was happy to explain.
So you're the shiksa of Xixa.
We came up with the name before we even opened Traif in 2010. Jason and I were in Barcelona having cocktails at a bar called Xix, pronounced "chick." We said, 'wouldn't it be great to have another restaurant down the street called Xixa?'
It's great you found a space so close by Traif.
It had been a café for thirty years and the owners were reluctant to give up the space, but they saw us as a modern mom and pop following in their footsteps and finally let us have it. We live above Traif and I walk back and forth twenty or thirty times a day.
How did you come up with the female categories for your wine list?
To me, wines are characters. They tell stories and are about passion. We wanted to take away the pretentiousness of wine, make it less intimidating. Instead of talking about terroir, it's helpful to think of Marilyn Monroe and her great curves to describe a wine. For the sherries it's Joan Rivers since she's the most fortified woman I can think of. The list starts a conversation, makes people put down their phones for a minute.
Why the Courtney Love ["I'm driven, I am....I just don't know where I'm going."] section?
Those are our organic, natural wines and they're a little schizophrenic. Courtney Love can be amazing but she's unpredictable. One minute she's lovely and the next she's giving you the finger.
Elizabeth Taylor ["I think I'm finally growing up -- and about time."] for vintage reds?
A very small portion of wines can age well. She stood the test of time. She went through so many stages of life and stayed classy and beautiful.
Liberace ["I didn't get dressed like this to go unnoticed."] is the only man to be honored. Why does he get to define your bubbly section?
Because he sparkles. He's the biggest diva on the list.
Scarlett O'Hara ["If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill, as God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again."] for Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir?
She's one of our favorites. Her character was sexy and she could be very intense and surprising as well.
What are people saying about your choices?
I like it when people disagree. Either way they're talking about wine and that's what we want.
Does the orthodox community in Williamsburg give you any trouble about all the pork at Traif?
No. When we first opened we had some people giving opinions on the web, but that community isn't coming to our restaurant anyway. They don't even necessarily know we're here. We don't have a big, obnoxious sign. Initially, we weren't aware we were near an orthodox neighborhood and chose the space for the back garden. Once we signed the lease we heard all this talk and thought 'this is going to be interesting.'
And was it?
Jason went to school for philosophy so it was nice for people to come in and start having a dialogue about what it meant to be kosher. You won't eat pork or shellfish but you're covered in tattoos.
Do you think the time will come when you'll convert to Judaism, and no longer be a shiksa?
I definitely don't get that question from Jason. I'm really comfortable being who I am right now, being the shiksa.
241 S. 4th St.
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