It is 2:00 pm on the first day of the Kosherfest food show, and I am starving.
There are hundreds of food vendors handing out samples of kosher sausages, multiple preparations of quinoa, anything you can stuff into puff pastry or fry on an electric pan, plus hot chocolate, flavored waters and wine.
Yet I am sitting in my booth selling cookbooks along with Rockville native and fellow JFE blogger Amy Ziltelman of Soom Tahina, nibbling on the chocolate tahini cookies we are handing out and wondering: when do I get to eat?
I finally did get a chance to explore the many aisles of the Kosherfest food show that convenes in Secaucus, New Jersey every fall. If you haven’t been, it is worth a trip once in your life just to experience it. You just have to be tough at lunchtime to get through the crowds to the tables— there are a lot of New Yorkers there who are really good at this.
Every year I schlepp up with my friend and another JFE blogger, Leah Hadad of Tribes-A-Dozen Voila Hallah Mixes. We are veterans, but it was fun to see the show through Amy’s “first timer” eyes. Amy unveiled her wonderful tahina from Israel to the kosher world and got an enthusiastic reception. Amy enjoyed being at the show, saying, “It’s great to have kosher food be more artisanal, high quality and healthy, and see that the kosher community has so many great options.”
When my thirst approached desert status, Amy brought me a bottle of peach and mango-flavored Frava’s Caffeinated Juice, a new tasty product that seems a healthier choice than Red Bull if you need a boost.
This year, during my escape from the booth, I tasted delicious pareve cappuccino ice cream from Gelato Petrini. The nice ladies of Palm Beach Foods offered me a crunchy Almondra almond cookie. Empire Chicken unveiled the one thing we all need: the world’s largest chicken nugget that weighed in over 51 pounds.
I found the booth offering a snack I discovered at Kosherfest a year ago that should be a staple in your home: Solomon’s Sippets from Australia. It is a crunchy soup crouton that is too good to wait for soup.
I also enjoyed a taste of my childhood with a Maccabee vegetable pizza bagel. I grew up eating their frozen pizzas when my mother worked late.
Every year there are more and more healthy and gluten-free products. This year I found Galilee Tisanes, teas targeted for specific health needs. There were several kosher organic chicken and meat companies in attendance, including local Kol Foods.
Maneschewitz gave out little cups of a nicely spiced roasted garlic and olive oil couscous from a mix that made a satisfying lunch. I enjoyed schmoozing with cookbook author friends Gil Marks, Noreen Gilletz, Levana Kirschenbaum, Estee Kafra, Jamie Geller and Reyna Simnegar.
Attending Kosherfest are Jews from every corner of the US and the world, wearing everything imaginable from the modest to couture, with every type of kippah, hat and head covering. Koshefest is where there are no barriers between Jewish communities, where it doesn’t matter how you dress, whether you are from Iowa or Borough Park, your parents from Syria or Poland or what kind of synagogue you belong to.
People make connections because we all manufacture, distribute, package, market, teach, serve, cater, write about or simply enjoy kosher food. Over the years of attending, I have developed friendships with people I might never have met otherwise. Like the Jewish Food Experience, it fosters connections between diverse Jews through food.
Main photo caption: Empire Kosher set a new Guiness World Record for the biggest chicken nugget, presented at Kosherfest. The giant nugget weighed 51.1 pounds.