June 19, 2024
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June 19, 2024
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Favorite Foodie Bites From Royal Wine’s KFWE

Royal Wine’s Kosher Food and Wine Experience (KFWE) returned to Chelsea Piers in Manhattan on Feb. 6 for the first time since 2020. In 2021, the KFWE was an all-digital event; last year a different format was presented at the Hilton Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey due to pandemic restrictions.

This year, everyone was thrilled to return to the much-loved gathering at Pier 60, replete with a full menu of tasting items to go with the new portfolio of wines being presented in advance of Pesach.

Several thousand people flocked to the beautiful event to taste some of the best items that the kosher food world has to offer. Tickets sold out days in advance and the night itself was one of celebration and camaraderie.

That said, braving KFWE is no small feat. The food is delicious, but the crowds are the real thing. So for all those who might want to know what it was like to be there without actually being present, I’m your man.

These are my top 10 food items from KFWE NY 2023. Let’s work our way to the top…

10. Caramel Hazelnut Chocolate Log—Elegant Desserts (Brooklyn)

If somebody told you that you really needed to visit the carving station at KFWE, you’d likely assume that they meant a meat carving station. And while your assumption might well be correct, one of this year’s participants is out to change that.

“We sell our chocolate logs mostly to caterers so that they can feature a kind of dessert carving station,” said Benjamin Weisz, founder of Elegant Desserts.

Each log has a dense chocolate base with different flavors woven throughout. The effect is kind of like a fudge, except that they are also chilled for structural integrity purposes.

I tried a few of these including a chocolate and peanut butter flavor. That said, the caramel and hazelnut elements complemented each other so well that it was hard to stick to just one slice.

9. Lula with Basmati and Tkemali—Marani (Rego Park, New York)

By now, most foodies are well aware of the incredible food at Marani, the famous Georgian restaurant in Queens, New York. But that doesn’t stop Marani from showing up at KFWE and reminding everyone why they are so unique in the kosher world.

Like so many things at Marani, its dish at KFWE started as something squarely in most people’s comfort zones, followed by the option to expand your horizons. A lula kebob isn’t foreign to many at this point and basmati rice is no special treat. But then there’s the sauce.

“Tkemali is a sour plum sauce that is common in Georgia,” said Ana Epremashvili, owner of Marani. “We adapted it to be made with cranberries because it’s hard to get the right plums here, especially year round.”

That mixture of lamb, beef and spices in the lula is great, but it likely reminds you of something you’ve tasted before. But the sour taste of the tkemali is the kind of thing that will remind you how great it is to have places as unique as Marani present on the kosher food scene.

8. Prime Ribeye with Truffle Mashed Potatoes—Marble & Grain (Pine Bush, New York)

Marble & Grain is a direct farm to consumer high quality meat company based in upstate New York. Their process takes place in their own USDA plant, which is supervised by the Star-K and Mishmeret Hakashrut. All the meats are then cryovaced, flash frozen, and shipped directly to customers’ homes.

“You won’t find a better quality piece of meat anywhere,” said Bosh Boshnack, the company’s brand ambassador.

Judging by the taste of the meat in their samples, he’s right. Without any sort of complicated preparation, the pure taste of the beef at their station was enough to keep people talking all night. The truffle mashed potatoes were a nice touch, but the meat was the focus. The mouthfeel of the perfect medium rare meat helped accentuate the hearty taste of the beef.

Though they are new on the scene, expect to be hearing their name more and more from those who want to buy something that’s a better product than the meat found in most area supermarkets.

7. Pastrami Pizza—Pizza Biza (Brooklyn)

Pizza Biza’s owner, Alex Medjuck, is really busy these days.

What started as a cool thing where you could have some guys come to your party and make pizza has really blown up. Pizza became full dairy catering. Then the pizzas were so good that somebody asked if they could make fleish ones. As they start their full fleish catering, they wanted to showcase their different meat pizza offerings.

“Our crust is based on a Naples style thin pizza,” Medjuck said proudly. “Whether it’s cheese, brisket or cereal, we can use that crust to make something great.”

Right he is. Not only were his meat pizzas a hit, several people were extolling the virtues of the Fruity Pebbles dessert pizza.

Now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.

6. Lotus Ice Cream Pie—Pint n’ Pies (Brooklyn)

While most people don’t necessarily show up to KFWE for the desserts, the sweet stuff is actually on premises. It may be in the back of the room, but the trip was worth it this year to get a slice of pie.

Not baked, but frozen pie that is. The cookie butter flavored ice cream offering proved that sometimes there is no such thing as too much of a good thing. The graham cracker crust was topped with lotus ice cream, lotus drizzle and lotus crumbs.

Based out of Brooklyn, the company has been around for six years and their products are carried in a bunch of kosher supermarkets.

“We’ve been told that we have the best non-dairy ice cream,” said Joey Esses, one of the owners. “We want people to be able to find our products in every grocery store someday soon.”

Pareve ice cream is one of the most scrutinized items in the kosher world, so go get some and decide for yourself if it lives up to its reputation!

5. Crispy Rice Bar with Spicy Tuna—Wall Street Grill (New York City)

Sometimes something looks so simple that everyone assumes that it must be fairly easy. Oftentimes the opposite is true and this dish is the perfect example.

Most people were just grabbing these delicious bites without giving them a second thought. But those perfect little bars went on quite the journey on the way to their plating.

“To make the crispy rice bars we first take our sushi rice and make balls out of it,” said Executive Chef Joseph Paulino about the meticulous process. “Then we weigh the balls to make sure they are the exact right amount and put them through a box press to make the bar shape. After that, we chill them for 24 hours before frying to get the right texture.”

The ball of spicy tuna and drizzle of sweet sauce on top of the bar made for a great combination of flavors and textures. Wall Street Grill was perhaps the most well-received of any table as their other offerings were big hits as well.

4. Sourdough Bread with Assorted Toppings—Crave Sourdough (Brooklyn)

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the event was Crave Sourdough. Owner Favi Rosenwasser was on hand to talk to guests about his passion for the hobby that became his business this year when he opened his shop in Williamsburg.

“After a while, my wife told me that I really have to try to make sourdough into my real job,” Rosenwasser said. “She knew I wouldn’t really be truly happy doing anything else every day. Now I’m working at something that I love and I want to bring great bread to everybody.”

If he was hoping that an appearance at KFWE was going to help him get his brand out there, he was right. His table was regularly swarmed by people trying to sample his bread with all the different toppings and spreads.

While the bread is in the name, the toppings and spreads are what gets Crave in the game. My slice featured their homemade mayo and was topped with artisanal roasted garlic and grape tomato. Rosenwasser worked on the recipe for his “well done” roasted garlic for a long time until he perfected the exact maximum time and temperature before the garlic would start to go downhill.

My guess is that it’s only a matter of time before Crave is in a kosher supermarket near you… if it isn’t already.

3. Ceviche Nikkei—Sen Sakana (New York City)

One of the great things about going to KFWE is the ability to taste some exotic foods that you might not have the opportunity to try on a regular basis. And while you can find ceviche on menus at kosher restaurants, the type that they were serving up at the Sen Sakana table was unique due to the ingredients that they use at the midtown Nikkei restaurant.

Nikkei cuisine is the fusion of Japanese and Peruvian food that began just over 100 years ago when Japanese immigrants imparted some of their techniques on some of the local cuisine in the Peruvian capital of Lima. Ceviche became a signature dish as the Japanese raw fish approach met the South American flavor profile.

“Our supervision allows us to import certain ingredients from the Chabad of Osaka,” said Executive Chef Mina Newman about Sen Sakana’s unique flavor profile. “Shiso, yuzu and bonito flakes are some of the things we use to craft the specific tastes of Sen Sakana.”

Using torched salmon marinated in a leche de tigre that features yuzu (a Japanese citrus fruit), the ceviche is topped with shiso (Japanese mint) and cancha (crispy peruvian corn). The result is a strong acidic punch that brings out the flavor of the salmon amid the many varying textures that live together on this small plate.

2. Chateaubriand—Reserve Cut (New York City)

As was the case in previous iterations of the event when it was held at Chelsea Piers, Reserve Cut was the sole provider for the VIP area. Located one pier over from the main action, the upscale Manhattan steakhouse was able to provide people with somewhat of an escape that included passed hors d’oeuvres, carving stations, a bar, and even some places to sit down and relax.

If you were lucky enough to be able to visit the VIP section, the main feature was the lack of a crowd. And while that was true for almost every offering present, there was one exception.

“We wanted to make our chateaubriand the same way that we serve it as Reserve Cut,” said Alessandro Giardiello, the restaurant’s director of operations and general manager. “That means bringing it out from the kitchen at temp and finishing it tableside.”

In this case, tableside was in front of people standing in line to watch the demonstration as the large cut of meat (usually feeds two people) was seared on all sides in a skillet with a mixture of margarine, sea salt, garlic, onion, peppercorns, and herbs. It was then topped with a bordelaise sauce (red wine, shallots, bone marrow) before some whiskey was added and the dish was set ablaze.

After showing everyone the process, Giardiello carved the meat and invited guests to dip their slice in the sauce before taking a bite. The result was an amazingly tender slice of meat with a classically high end flavor profile.

1. Fried Lamb Sticks—Weiss Brothers Catering (Linden, New Jersey)

Weiss Brothers Catering came to KFWE with a goal. And in order to accomplish that goal, they had to bring a lot of food. If I had to estimate, I’d say that they had around six times as much food as any of the other participants.

“We really wanted to show up here and showcase our ability to crossover from heimish food to new American style dishes,” said Menachem Weiss, one of the brothers. “I think we succeeded.”

Weiss had everything at their booth from cholent to Chinese food. But the star of the show was their fried lamb sticks.

Making this amazing appetizer starts with cutting lamb in pieces the size and shape of a large mozzarella stick. From there, they apply a rub and dry marinade for 24 hours before smoking the meat for eight hours. Then comes the Japanese panko coating to give them a nice crust before they are fried in sesame oil. They are served with a sundried tomato chutney dipping sauce.

Sounds delicious? Well, Weiss ran out of them halfway through the event…even though they brought 3,000 pieces. At two sticks per serving, that means they were devoured at a rate of roughly one serving every seven seconds.

Hard to argue with the numbers.

Nati Burnside is a freelance writer living in Fair Lawn and is a man of many interests. He can be reached at [email protected].

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