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Secaucus, NJ - Back And Better Than Ever: Kosherfest 2014

Published on: November 12, 2014 02:00 PM
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(R-L) Bill Springer Excutive VP of Diversified Communications and Menachem Lubinsky of Lubicom Marketing and Consulting cutting the ribbon at the opening of the KosherFest 2014 in Secacus NJ on Nov.11, 2014 ( Shimon GIfter/VINnews.com)(R-L) Bill Springer Excutive VP of Diversified Communications and Menachem Lubinsky of Lubicom Marketing and Consulting cutting the ribbon at the opening of the KosherFest 2014 in Secacus NJ on Nov.11, 2014 ( Shimon GIfter/VINnews.com)

Secaucus, NJ - Once again kosher food products and services took center stage at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus as thousands came yesterday to check out the latest and greatest in kosher on the first day of the two-day Kosherfest food festival.

Kosherfest, billed as the world’s largest kosher trade show, is produced by Diversified Communications and Lubicom Marketing and Consulting, and has become a Mecca for foodies, food bloggers, caterers, stores, kosher food suppliers and countless others who flock to the Meadowlands every year to see the newest trends and innovations in kosher food.  Exhibitors at the annual event come from far and wide, with many hailing from locales as diverse as Australia, Argentina, Italy, the Philippines, Portugal, Spain, England, Costa Rica, Canada and, of course, the United States and Israel.


“I think that the interest in kosher is just growing from year to year,” Menachem Lubinsky, President and CEO of Lubicom and founder and co-producer of Kosherfest, told VIN News.

Below video: VIN news reporter Sandy Eller is filing this report from the exhibit. Filmed by Shimon Gifter.

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Jews from all across the religious spectrum were represented at Kosherfest.

“From the day I started Kosherfest 26 years ago, the idea was that the Jewish community unites about food and to recognize how far kosher food has come,” said Lubinsky. “I think about how the kosher show looked 26 years ago with only 69 exhibitors and 500 people, but today we have close to 400 booths and 7,000 visitors from almost 21 countries all around the world. It is a tremendous tribute to the kosher community. We hear so much about what is wrong with the kosher community, the Jewish community, but this is what is right with the Jewish community.”

L-R Chef Katsuji Tanabe, of Los Angeles’ Mexikosher restaurant speaking to VIN news reporter Sandy Eller, at Kosherfest 2014 on Nov. 11, 2014. (Shimon Gifter/VINnews.com)L-R Chef Katsuji Tanabe, of Los Angeles’ Mexikosher restaurant speaking to VIN news reporter Sandy Eller, at Kosherfest 2014 on Nov. 11, 2014. (Shimon Gifter/VINnews.com)

19 new items won awards as best new products in their class, chosen from among hundreds of products.  DeeBee’s Organic TeaPops, a frozen ice tea flavored pop from British Columbia available in five flavors took the coveted Best Overall New Product award.  Other award winners included a gluten free matza ball mix from Manischewitz, a spicy apple flavored chicken sausage from Empire, a pair of dreidel-shaped tongs from Shulsinger Judaica and apricot Riesling wine and fruit preserves from Tisbhi.

“I am excited about some of the product winners this year,” said Lubinsky “I think that they really went out of their way to create new and different products and when you come to the show, the buzz, the excitement, the culture and the feeling of what kosher is all about, that is a tribute to the kosher food industry and that we have gotten to this point.”

In addition to the many exhibits from vendors, Kosherfest is replete with other attractions.  Two culinary demonstrations were held yesterday, one by Chef Katsuji Tanabe, of Los Angeles’ Mexikosher restaurant and the other by Chef Avi Roth of Gotham Burger, who demonstrated how to prepare a budget-friendly but elegant Shabbos meals.  Several kosher cookbook authors were on hand yesterday to autograph their latest cookbooks including Estee Kafra, Ronnie Fein, Victoria Dwek, Leah Shapira, Paula Shoyer and Lynn Kirsche Shapiro.  A highly anticipated reality style culinary face off will be taking place today with Chefs Itta Werdiger-Roth of Mason & Mug in Brooklyn, David Blum of Hartmans Fine Kosher Food in Toronto and Katsuji Tanabe vying for bragging rights in a live cooking competition.

While Kosherfest may be all about the food, there are plenty of other items on the menu as well.

Vendors included many non-food items including those hawking cleaning supplies, bar code labels, gift and novelty items, packaging supplies, walk in coolers, party supplies, toys and services such as banking, kashrus supervision, paper products and trucking.  Those wishing to take a load off their feet were able to do so with free shoe shines at Fidelity Payment Services and a reading area complete with massage chairs at Zman Magazine.

Jesse Blonder, managing director and founder Center for Kosher Culinary Arts, the only kosher culinary school located outside of Israel, noted that interest in kosher cooking continues to grow.  The school continues to offer a wide range of cooking classes including a Chanukah class, a mother-daughter class and a very popular date night class where couples compete against each other in a cooking competition.  With the number of kosher chefs continually on the rise, the CKCA has begun offering a new service that will benefit both chefs and those in need of their services.

“We recently started a jobs board listing jobs in the kosher food business called koshercareers.com,” explained Blonder.  “If you are looking for a job or you are offering a job, you could be a restaurant, a caterer or a food manufacturer, go to the site because you can find out how to get a job or how to hire somebody.”

Still, there is no doubt that Kosherfest is all about the food and visitors happily ate their way through the day, nibbling on cookies, cakes, nuts, chocolate, knishes, pastas, salads, cheeses and yogurts and helping themselves to the contents of fully stocked ice cream freezers.  Naturally, visitors had to plan their way through the exhibition floor carefully so that they could also partake of the many meat based items on the floor including cold cuts, beef jerky, spring rolls, meatballs and more.

Gluten free continues to be a strong market at Kosherfest with numerous vendors offering items ranging from freeze dried fruit chips to vegan seafood touting their gluten-free status.  Blends by Orly, a quintet of gluten-free flours blends took the award for best new mix.

“There are five different flours that are different mixes of different gluten-free grains, each one a one to one replacement for wheat flour,” said Orly Gottesman.  “Right now there are gluten-free baking mixes on the market that have sugar and baking powder and you add the wet ingredients and bake the recipe on the back of the bag.  Then you have gluten-free all purpose flours and they might work well in brownies but they don’t work in pizza crusts. Each of our five blends works in a specific category and has specific grains.”

Mrs. Gottesman, who has a food science background, began baking when she moved to Paris from New York. 

“I didn’t have a working visa or speak any French so while my husband was working I would take some baking classes,” explained Mrs. Gottesman. “I fell in love with French baking and started apprenticing for a French pastry chef until we moved to Sydney.”

Mrs. Gottesman attended the Cordon Bleu cooking school in Sydney and headed up an independent study on French gluten free baking.

“My husband has celiac and is a huge foodie,” said Mrs. Gottesman.  “Being gluten free while living in Paris was a nightmare so it became an inspired mission to create something gluten-free for people so that they could use their own recipes and have it taste amazing.”

Healthy foods were also on the menu at Dr. Praeger’s which introduced a Kale Veggie Burger this past summer.

“It has kale and like ten other vegetables, brown rice, quinoa and millet,” said Alli Meyer of Dr. Praeger’s Sensible Foods. “It is very clean and great tasting.”

Since being introduced this summer, the Kale Veggie Burger has become Dr. Praeger’s number two seller, following behind the California Veggie Burger, the company’s most popular item for 20 years.

At Taft Foodmasters, it is seitan, a wheat gluten based meat alternative that is the star of the show.

“Most meat alternatives are soy based but ours use wheat,” said Jessica Taft. “We are taking wheat and mixing it with our special spices that actually come from Israel and we mix it with agave and lemon juice and all of our different spices to make shawarma slices.”

Greek yogurt continues to dominate in the dairy market and new products continue to populate store shelves at a dizzying rate.

“Greek yogurt has twice the amount of protein as regular yogurt, is lower in calories and is very, very filling,” explained Bracha Kimme of Norman’s Dairy Delight.  “When you eat Greek yogurt, you are not grabbing at the chips because you are full and when people go out for ice cream you can get frozen Greek yogurt and you don’t feel like you are missing anything. Sales are soaring because people want more and more.”

Norman’s offers several varieties of Greek yogurt including its regular line, 100 calorie light yogurts and two percent creamy blends with enticing names like blissful blueberry and caramel cafe macchiato.  Debuting soon will be 80 calorie pro-biotic yogurts and smaller sized Greek yogurts for children in kid-friendly flavors like vanilla with chocolate bits, strawberry, orange cream and banana and honey.

“They are three and a half ounces which means you can take them on a plane,” said Mrs. Kimmel. “Also kids don’t always eat a whole yogurt and since Greek yogurt is more expensive because the product is denser, you don’t want to give them a full sized yogurt that they won’t finish.”

Nugen, a new product from Australia is positioning itself as the world’s first nutritional drink for adults in the Jewish community.

“It is made similar to the Ensure product but this is a cholov yisorel version,” said Solly Spiegel of Cholov Dairy.  “Before rabbonim had to give heterim for people to use Ensure but now you don’t need a heter because you have our product which is cholov yisroel.”

Currently available in chocolate and vanilla caramel, Spiegel said that he hopes to add mixed berry and coffee flavors by next year.

While nutritious choices abounded at Kosherfest, there were plenty of options to satisfy your sweet tooth. Passersby lingered in front of Marzipan, which will be bringing the popular Israeli rugelach from the Machane Yehuda bakery of the same name to American supermarket freezers, with many visitors sneaking back for doubles and triples of the addictive baked goods.

Elegant Desserts was one of several exhibitors to offer a stunning display of decadent treats ranging from cake pops to mousse cups to petit fours to frozen treats to fruit tarts.

“Our new item is mason jars,” said Shmilu Weiss.  “You see them in all the high end restaurants with different types of mousses inside:  red velvet cheesecake, lemon meringue, tiramisu and opera.  They could be put out individually or as part of a Viennese table.”

Elegant Desserts’ 15 inch chocolate logs came in several flavors, including coffee, praline hazelnut, peanut butter and jelly and half and half.

“We have a French chocolatier who works by us on the premises and he makes all our chocolates,” said Weiss. “By simchos they serve them with dessert at carving stations.”

Chicago based Veruca Chocolate first began undergoing kosher certification in 2012, with its adult styled Chanukah gelt getting the CRC’s stamp of approval.

“They are modeled after fourth century BCE coins,” said Heather Johnson, owner and chocolatier at Veruca. “We got rid of the foil and use premium chocolate, adding some adult-loving ingredients like sea salt and cocoa nibs.”

Veruca, whose sea salt caramels earned the company best chocolate in the United States honors from Food and Wine Magazine in 2013, had its entire line certified by the CRC six months ago.  Among their many artistic offerings are champagne truffles decorated in gold and silver glitter and hand painted pumpkin caramel turtles.

“It is a caramel made with real pumpkin then poured over roasted pumpkin seeds,” explained Johnston.  “The whole thing is dipped in melted chocolate and then we hand paint them orange and gold.”

At Koshergourmetmart, the chocolate ran more to the whimsical side.

“We have truffle pigs,” explained Alissa Kaplan.  “It is a chocolate shaped like a pig, with different fillings, either solid milk chocolate, solid dark chocolate or hazelnut.  We shaped them like pigs because they use pigs to sniff out truffles and since truffles are also a kind of chocolate, we went with pigs.  So we actually have kosher pigs.”

Chocla-Taschen, a new product launched at Kosherfest, was the brainchild of a Colorado woman who created two inch hamantasch-shaped chocolates, filled with caramel.

“We live in Denver and it is hard to get good hamantaschen unless you bake and who has time to bake?” said Nina Rosenfeld.  “I thought, ‘everyone puts chocolate in mishloach manot, why don’t we have a hamantasch chocolate?’”

After doing thorough research, Mrs. Rosenfeld found that the product she envisioned didn’t exist.

“I designed a mold and had it made and contracted with a very high end chocolatier in Colorado and he makes it for me,” said Mrs. Rosenfeld. “I tested the market, contacting major grocers and gift basket companies and everyone loved the idea.”

Visuals are just as important as taste when it comes to cakes, according to David Stricker of Pfeil and Holing which carries 9,500 items for the bakery industry.

“We have almost 450 different flowers in a rainbow of colors for every season and occasion,” noted Striker.  “We have a lot of wedding based flowers that would be great on wedding cakes, that are very sophisticated and very elegant looking flowers, down to simple, small, three quarter inch decorations for petit fours and cupcakes.”

Pfeil and Holing has been making their cake decorations for 87 years.

“Every piece is made by hand in our factory in Queens,” observed Stricker. “Not made by machines, they are made by people in the good old U.S. of A. and every piece is both kosher and pareve.”

Despite all the novelty and all the innovation, the market for traditional Jewish foods is still strong, albeit with a modern twist. While A&B Fish continues to make its best selling gefilte fish, its salmon gefilte fish is a popular item and the continued demand for gluten free items has the company producing its kosher l’Pesach gefilte fish, which is completely gluten free, all year round.

“Our focus is on quality and of course we have highly recognized name for our stringent kashrus policies also has a lot to do with our quality,” observed Shalom Halpern of A&B Fish.  “The fact that we are not willing to compromise in any which way as far as all the old fashioned old Chasidishe stringent kashrus requirements, whether it is checking for fish worms or checking the eggs individually and using only high quality ingredients - people still recognize and appreciate that very much.”

Chris and Joanne Tilgner of Tilgner’s Specialized Smoked Seafood Products in Ninilchik, Alaska put a little bit of a spin on a perennial favorite, lox.

“What makes our lox different from all other lox on the market is that it is very, very low sodium,” said Chris Tilgner.  “It is very smooth and not as salty as most lox.”

The Tilgners uses an unusual ingredient in the making of their lox:  Jamaican rum.

“We use it as a final cure for the fish and it adds a wonderful flavor,” said Tilgner. 

“When you see a two year eating your lox and smiling, you know you have a great product,” added Mrs. Tilgner.

Kosherfest, which is open only to members of the food trade, continues through 4 PM this afternoon at the Meadowlands Exposition Center.

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Read Comments (2)  —  Post Yours »


 Nov 12, 2014 at 03:35 PM allmark Says:

I'm hungry!


 Nov 13, 2014 at 07:23 AM Longwave Says:

We all have our favorites at the show. We all look for something new. Bakeries all have the same products, meat companies all give out meat.

What my wife loved was the parve hot chocolate, Cuppa J. Their booth had.a regular and a mint hot chocolate like last year. My wife had the reduced sugar caramel hot chocolate and there were other flavors that were low sugar. We couldn't believe that it was parve, and that it was really better than a good hot chocolate. Now, that was something that should have won a prize.


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