Would it make me sound like a dinosaur if I said I remember early Kosherfest shows taking place, ages ago, with flocks of young mothers pushing strollers and turning the show into a giant lunch break in an industrial playground? Then the show moved to Javitz Center sans strollers, then to its current location in Secaucus. Thanks to Menachem Lubinsky and his staff, the caliber and quality of the show have steadily grown over the years. Nobody ever asks anymore “what’s a Quee-chee?” It goes without saying that if you know sushi you know quiche! Duh!
It was such a pleasure sharing the panel with fellow cookbook authors Jeff Nathan, Susie Fishbein, Gil Marks, Jamie Geller, and hawking my cookbooks with Rivkah, Iris, Joe and Liz. Also, all our blogger friends were there: Chaim Szmidt, Alessandra Rovati, Esti Berkowitz, Shoshana Raff, Lois Held, Leah Shapira, Victoria Dwek and many more. Seeing Paula Shoyer, Norene Gilletz, Estee Gestetner: What a treat!
I was sorry to miss the three incredibly talented chefs facing off in a culinary competition, but I was glad I was able to read all about it in the Kosher Scene.
My own reflections on this year’s Kosherfest, in no particular order. I will not say the names of the brands I found forgettable, OK?
I visited a booth that sold chocolate bark, a relatively new product brand. You could easily use me as a Labrador sniffing dog when it comes to gauging the quality of chocolate products: I just KNOW good real chocolate when I taste it. So I taste the bark and, visibly underwhelmed, I ask the owner, Hmmmm, what brand chocolate did you use, and he said with inexplicable pride, we make our own. Like saying, we reinvent the wheel: Get real, right? So I ask him why he needs to make his own chocolate and he says, this way we can do much better quality control and get the best. Sorry buddy, don’t argue with success and get back to the time-honored brands, your bark will improve through the roof! Hope you are reading this! You know who you are: Good chocolate plus some spell-check on your labels, and you are there, OK?
I had the pleasure of sampling Petrini Gelato Shoppe on a recent trip to Florida: fabulous line of ice cream, gelato and sorbets, many of them pareve, all of them to die for. Let’s hope they get distributed in the New York Area: Can’t wait!
Chocolates by Michel Cluizel looked much too beautiful to eat, and tasted every bit as fabulous as they looked. They are located on 5th Avenue between 46th and 47th Street. I don’t know about you, but I’m going! A lot of it is Pareve, and the rest Chalav Israel, I think: Oyoyoy!
I confess I pigged out on a Seyman Cheese Display: The greatest Gruyere, Manchego, Tomme, Halumi ever. So where can we buy it? The million-dollar question!
This year I was a very good girl and didn’t even taste a smidgen of Jack’s Gourmet Sausages delicious line, not just because I was thoroughly milchik but because I remembered last year’s delicious excesses. They have new flavors: Check them out! Just recently Alan Broner, one of the co-owners, and I cooked up some fantastic dishes using their sausages: Paella;Pea soup; Frittata
Want good delicious junk, with real flavorings and colorings: Koppers! I hope you order their selection, not only for your own pleasure but for whole events: Good price good service nice people: I remember them quite fondly from my catering years.
Guys: Tribeca Oven Bread is wonderful, and Kof-K kosher. Why then is it NOT marked kosher in stores like Zabar’s and Fairway? Can we make a little noise about that, so we UWS residents can have our bread and eat it too?
I spotted a strange silicon mold that made me think of… you know, something used for enhancement in plastic surgery…. and gave it a bewildered look, until I was told it was a Challah mold: Throw in your dough as is, and the mold will shape a perfectly baked and perfectly beautiful braid for you: How ingenious is that? Royal Challah! Would you like to see an annoying review on it?
Bendicks makes the most fabulous chocolate mints and bitter orange: Simple as that! No one comes anywhere close! I wish they were not so expensive: I’m trying to order them in larger size boxes. Don’t bother with the ginger…..
Aaron glatt emporium recently delivered some fabulous meats to my house: I love that he carries lamb roast, duck, ground bison etc…. All of it delicious and well priced. Can he be persuaded to take the trouble to tell the customer who requests it which kosher supervision each product carries, instead of lumping everything under the huge Aaron’s Glatt umbrella (a few of my guests had to skip some fantastic goodies, because I couldn’t provide them with the accurate information)?
All Israeli brands of preserves and pickles: Fabulous: Kvutzat Yavneh, Osem etc…. Can’t remember the brand of some fantastic Israeli Granola I sampled, and some falafel balls that had great texture but had way too much salt and some objectionable garlic powder (2 problems that are quite easy to rectify!)
If I don’t mention more foods, it’s only because I have one stomach, and as it is it greatly expanded to make everything fit on those two days of delicious splurging!
My wish list for Kosherfest, if I may: I’ll name just a few of my wishes, but it will be plenty to work on, and I and everyone else will be delighted to see them acted upon:
- More good, real, chocolate products. Chips, bittersweet, semisweet, even a premium hot chocolate mix. Shmerling was there, but what good is it if we can find it mostly on Pessach and rarely any other time of year? How about Callebaut, and even price club brands? Likewise, real flavorings and extracts please!
- Are some old brands thinking of revamping their lines? Oh gosh I sure hope so! And I don’t mean coming out with more flavors snacks: I mean taking those stodgy mile-long product lists circa 1912 (OK I’m exaggerating, but honestly, not by much!) and purging them of their MSG and other nasty chemicals, and streamlining into a minimally processed line that makes sense, if only to show they have been rolling with the punches, and showing they care about the needs of the public? Not more snacks and more powders and more mixes and whatnot (Oy: Who needs it?), but more sensible flavors and more nutrition! Fun products? OK, but serious good-for-you ingredients please! Why say “That’s what people want!” ? Why not say “I have something delicious and nutritious to introduce to the public!”? The public is taking their cues from the merchants, and if the merchants have something really good and g00d-for-you to offer, the public will follow! I am absolutely certain of this: I come for that world!
- Believe it or not, many labels come riddled with spelling mistakes, syntax mistakes etc… Simply put, this is not acceptable!
- More human resources: I saw some new-product manufacturers literally praying for distributors: What good is a fantastic new product if the merchant, often foreign and not well acquainted with American ways, has no idea how to go about distributing his line? If you saw some fabulous cheeses or smoked fish or chocolates at the show and never again at any of your local stores, it may well be because they had no idea how to go about having it distributed. Dearest Kosherfest representatives, please help facilitate the merchant-distributors shidduchim! Thank you!
- Less people jumping on fad bandwagons: The low-fat fad left people confused and not an ounce thinner, and eating terrible food they never enjoyed. Same for the low-carb fad. So the latest is Gluten-Free! What are we trying to do, put the entire nation on a gluten-free diet? Even though only a small percentage of the public is gluten-intolerant? What on earth for? Although my new cookbook accommodates all our gluten-free friends and includes an enormous separate index for gluten-free and gluten-free-adaptable dishes, I deplore the tyranny of using gluten-free as a way to put out so many gluten-free new products, fast and furious, far from healthy and lousy-tasting: Who needs it? There’s a much more desirable scenario, but in this culture of extremes and hyperbole, it hasn’t been fully exposed and identified: Low gluten! Whole Grains: How about that? I hope to live long enough to see it become the rule: It’s a win-win scenario!
See you next year at Kosherfest, please G-D!
Photos taken by Meir Pliskin, www.meirpliskin.com