The 2009 Kosher Food and Wine Experience

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On Monday I was in attendance at the 3rd  annual Royal Wines gala event, “The Kosher Food & Wine Experience”. This year’s event was in the NY Metropolitan Pavilion, located on 125 West 18th Street between 6th and 7th Ave in Manhattan.

The event attracts people from all walks of life and all branches of Judaism are represented. The cost of entry is $100.00, but many industry people get complimentary tickets, including me. There were kosher wines from all over the world. I was especially struck by the quality of the wines from Spain.

Mr. Daniel Rogov, Israel’s renowned wine critic was on hand to sign books and have warm and inviting conversations. Mr. Rogov was signing his 2009 edition of Rogov’s Guide to Israeli Wines. The quantity of food at the event was worth mentioning. As a caterer I am always walking the line between showing abundance (that people like to see) and making only enough (being responsible). The left over food from this event could have fed hundreds more people. I hope the New York City Food Bank brought a truck in afterward. They didn’t run short on anything.

Many people in conversations mentioned concerns over sustainability (one lecturer used the word 4 times in a half hour presentation on Wines of Israel). Interestingly, it was not a priority of the show organizer or caterer. We can be confident that at least people are thinking about it. The problem is that people think positively about sustainability and the politically correctness of eating local, in season foods, but continue to get their water shipped from England or Fiji and eat things like hearts of palm or “millionaire’s salad”.

hearts-of-palm

Some people don’t realize that in order to harvest the “heart” of a palm you must kill the entire tree and this practice wiped out the population of palm trees in Brazil. Brazil is the former lead exporter of hearts of palm.

The event overall was a great success for Royal Wines and a wonderful & educational night out. My choice for the best wine of the show was one from Elvi Wines called Adar.

This fantastic tasting wine uses local grapes indigenous to the region. Many, if not most of the wine at this show was made with imported grapes. There are many complex issues in terms of sustainability when using non indigenous grapes that struggle to grow well, and importing grapes from other regions to make up for it.

My tasting notes on Adar from Elvi Wines:

The Nose reminds me of the same kind of earthiness as an unripened goat cheese. The color is a deep ruby-red, and the legs promise a mouthful of full bodied complexity. The taste is strikingly pure with an airy sweetness like that of a ripe black mission fig. The wine has a refreshing mineral snap very similar to the high altitude Israeli wines. What is most alluring is the purity of fruit and the earthiness that carries through the finish. This is a great wine.

I tasted a multitude of great wines, I even located some great Mevushal wines that I can use in catering. The Food was catered by Michael Schick whose website remains under construction.

The advertising for the event said, “Enjoy new wines from around the world in a venue offering 80% more space, an improved layout, and exciting new cuisine.”

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I felt let down by this advertisement. What you see in this picture is chicken schnitzel, basmati rice, parve tortellini with plain tomato sauce, boneless chicken thighs in gravy, brisket in the same gravy and franks in blankets; not my idea of new or exciting (even when sprinkled with sesame seeds). You can also see in the bottom right that they offered both condiments; mustard and ketchup. The hot food, though neither new nor exciting, was edible and my friends liked it. I ate the sushi.

The sushi was excellent quality, but also not new or exciting, unless you have never seen sushi before. For fish they had yellow fin tuna, salmon and surimi (imitation crab). All the required accompaniments were there; avocado, cucumber, wasabi and pickled ginger.

There was also a cold salad station with boiled potatoes, roasted peppers, grilled tomatoes, red cabbage slaw, millionaire’s salad, Cesar salad, grilled white asparagus, steamed beets braised leeks and crackers. With very little garnish and low marks in regards to variety of colors and textures. Local and/or sustainably grown food would have been much more exciting. White asparagus is most certainly either from China or Peru.

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Truthfully I have never seen boiled red potatoes shingled on a plate with no dressing or other vegetables so that was new.  The desserts looked like every Brooklyn bakery window, but I had used all of my available storage, after all that wine & sushi, I wasn’t hungry.  Events like this demonstrate that the interest in kosher food and wine is growing. Jay Buchsbaum of Royal Wine Corp. said,

“You know kosher food is booming, not only has it changed for the kosher consumer but now people who aren’t kosher are going for kosher products. People who aren’t kosher buy quite a but of our products because it is precieved to be healthier, cleaner and so a lot of our items now are sold across the isle to the non kosher consumer. People pay a premium on products sometimes because it has a higher certicication. The truth is that people prefer it so I think in the next ten to twenty years there is going to be an even more growing market for kosher products in general.”

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This picture is Jay Buchsbaum with me

The 2007 event had over two hundred people and was catered by Jeffrey Nathan from Abigail’s. According to all reports it was great, but I was not there. The 2008 event featured New York’s finest kosher restaurants and with seven hundred attendees they ran out of food, (running out of food is not good for a New Yorker who paid $100.00 to get in!) With as many as one thousand people coming this year, Michael Schick made sure of one thing. There would be no running out in 2009!

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4 Responses to “The 2009 Kosher Food and Wine Experience”

  1. Delilah Says:

    Interesting comment about how local food would be more exciting. I was at a conference for work recently – in Napa, CA. The breakfast buffet at the hotel featured the usual cantaloupe, honeydew melon, strawberries and grapes. This is at a time when oranges, mandarins, apples, kiwis and even pomelo are plentiful within 50 miles or less of the area. And pomegranates just recently disappeared from the local farmers market. It sure got me dreaming about bringing the local food revolution to the hotel dining industry!

  2. Lili Says:

    Daren, Thank you for the thoughtful and intelligent review of this event. I hope to read more posts from you soon on JCarrot. -Lili

  3. Moshe Handler Says:

    I love the food review but I have a comment about food banks. Kosher food caterers should really go out of the way to donate quality left over kosher food to kosher food pantries.

    This way you are helping Jewish families who will not be forced to eat non kosher.

    The biggest Kosher food pantry in NYC is The Chesed Store. http://www.lower-utility-costs.....store.html

    They support 1500 Families every week, give food to every needy Jew and are a great organization.

  4. Daren Bulley Says:

    Mr. Handler,

    I agree with you 100%. A New York caterer or any Kosher caterer in a city that has Kosher food pantrys really should make a priority of getting the Kosher food to them first.

    What I do when I cater an event is take along “to go” containers and I know of a few families in Providence, Rhode Island that I fill the containers for. After that, I have a relationship with the local food bank, travelers aid and a battered womens shelter where the remaining food goes. As far as I know there is no Kosher food pantry in my area.

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