Forty-eight hours before the Kosher Food and Wine Experience (KFWE) began, disaster struck. I fell victim to a horrific stomach virus that I feared would keep me from attending. Determined not to miss the crowning event of the kosher culinary year, I healed myself through positive thoughts and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals.
I arrived promptly as I tend to do for these sorts of things so that that I am able to take in the unadulterated scene before the various attendees have enough time to fall upon the vendors and decimate the immaculate presentation. What I saw at Chelsea Piers is best described as a gourmand’s greatest dream.
Present were some of the best restaurants and wineries in kosherdom showing off their top creations. Because I have been to many of the restaurants in attendance and previously sampled a number of the available wines, the KFWE seemed like a gathering of old friends telling stories in the form of food and wine.
There was Prime KO with their crispy rice with spicy tuna and sweet jalapeño aioli, an excellent appetizer and probably the best fish offering of the night. Jack’s Gourmet had bratwurst sliders with sauerkraut and brown mustard. Elvi Wines brought their amazing EL26 and a really wonderful Classico as well as their 2007 Makor that is intensely ripe and fruity. Noi Due was in the corner brewing their fabulous coffee.
I ran into an old friend named Ari White who was at KFWE showing off his catering company Got Cholent? Inc. During my time as a student at Yeshiva University, I remember Ari for his hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop. His fresh deli food and homemade chipotle made the shop a regular stop for me. Every Thursday Ari would make cholent that was always out of this world. Now Ari caters kiddush and other events all over New York featuring the same amazing cholent from my college days.
Normally, I am not a huge fan of the famed Le Marais restaurant but I sampled its smoked duck breast served on a french lentil salad with a mustard vinaigrette which was perfectly cooked and fork tender. The duck itself was smokey with a mild gamy flavor. Paired with the lentils in the vinaigrette, the overall effect was a smokey zing that really tasted unique. Knowing that Le Marais is able to make offerings like that I will certainly go back to their restaurant with an open mind for another try. I also found Pardis’ lamb meatball with fig puree and olive to be the best food item of the event. The combination of the sweet fig, fatty lamb and salty olive paired brilliantly with each other and really stood out in a room of outstanding dishes.
The wine side of KFWE also produced surprises. There was an excellent Grand Cru made by French producer Corton Charlemagne. It was strong with vanilla and spice but left a beautiful smokey taste and texture in the mouth once it was swallowed. I also thoroughly enjoyed the offerings from Alexander, an Israeli winery founded in 1996. In particular I liked their Alexander the Great Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is deep red to almost black and has a hearty richness to it that is balanced well by just a mild touch of acidity.
As the night came to an end, the crowd began to make its way out and I looked out at the ruins left in the wake of hundreds of attendees. Each booth began to pack up and as they did I felt a slight pang as I realized it would be a whole year before I get to go to the KFWE again. Immediately I felt better realizing that in just a year’s time I will be able to come back and see even more old friends and hopefully make lots of new ones.
Zechariah Mehler is a widely published food writer and expert in social marketing. Follow him on Twitter @thekoshercritic