I’m back from Kosherfest. After hearing about Kosherfest for so many years I had built it up so much in my mind that I was a little worried that it couldn’t possibly live up to my expectations. The thought of going to a kosher food convention where I could find new and innovative kosher products, and sample them made my heart race. I am truly a “foodie” at heart. The thought of getting up at 4 AM to catch the first flight into LaGuardia didn’t even phase me!
Arriving at the Kosherfest convention center, I pulled out my camera (ok, so I’m a Chicago tourist) and actually took a picture of the Kosherfest banner hanging over the entrance. I had pre-registered so I got my badge quickly, got scanned by the security people and entered the huge Kosherfest convention room. Harps played and angels sang as I entered the room! SO many booths!
My companions and I had a plan: Dairy samples in the morning…meat samples in the afternoon. It sounded like a great plan…until I was so full that I realized that meat samples weren’t going to happen on the first day!
I figured that the only way to get to all the booths was in a systematic way…start at the first row and make my way across the room. I started with the Luck Chen booth – soy Chinese products. When I got home my family pointed out the cleverness of the name – Luck Chen (lukshen – noodles). YUM! There was a bagel place right next to it with samples and cards that explained what a good bagel was. Did you know that a bagel should fit in the palm of your hand, should be crispy on the outside but soft and chewy on the inside, and if you press on the bagel it should return to its original position immediately? This was information I could get only at Kosherfest! I strategically washed and made hamotzi and continued over to the Gus pickles guy from the lower east side of NY. He had barrels of different pickles for people to sample. I asked which was the best one. “Where are you from?” he asked. “Chicago” I answered. “Then the sour ones will be too sour for you…take a half sour”, he recommended. The Chicagoan in me took that as a challenge! Too sour? We Chicagoans are just as tough as anyone else I thought as I sampled the really sour pickle! I have to admit – that was the sourest pickle I have ever had in my life! Sometimes you have to finish the pickle on principle!
My companions lost me around 3 booths into the show. There was so much to see and taste, and so many interesting people to talk to. I had come prepared with a binder with sheets for business cards and pockets for brochures. It was full by the time I left. There were vendors for sauces, gluten free products, cheese, meat, all different kinds of soy products, cakes, cookies, knishes – you name it. If you saw it in a kosher store…it was at Kosherfest!
Representatives from every kosher certification were there also. I was glad to see my “landsmen” from the Chicago CRC there.
There were people making hot fresh samples of different yummy foods. Susie Fishbein was there making pies using the new gelatin product she represents. The best way to sample a new kind of sauce or dressing is to taste it on a delicious stir fry or salad!
There were businesses that were launching their new products and companies at Kosherfest. Mishpacha magazine is launching a new kosher cooking magazine. There was the company from Belgium that had the best crepes I have ever had in my life! We kept coming back and asking for more samples of the brown sugarmelt in your mouth crepes. My careful diet was completely out the window! There was the Chasidic gluten free company where the owners wife had made the best lokshen kugel – and it was gluten free! There was the company that made a kosher for Pesach cake that was similar to a Yodel – they knew me by name by the end. I also met the nicest gentleman from Indiana that made outstanding Iced Tea (from the James Tea company). By the end of the second day he had given us gallon tea containers to take home!
One of the Kosherfest highlights was having the privilege of having the absolutely best spicy sausage I have ever had! It was from a new company that will be distributing in a few weeks. So sad…until I found out that they actually sell them at Ken’s in Skokie!!! Who want’s to come with me to lunch???
What was apparent at Kosherfest was that each vendor loved their products and believed in them. The new companies had incredible optimism. Even their descriptions tasted great!
I ended up spending two days at Kosherfest. It was a good thing that it wasn’t longer or I wouldn’t have fit into the clothes that I had brought with me. It really was everything I had hoped it would be. I left with a sense of excitement and motivation not only to try the new products I found but to create new ones as well.
360 days until next years Kosherfest….
In cities with smaller Jewish populations, kosher dining is often limited to just a single establishment. Some cities do not have any kosher dine-in facilities, but the small communities have other arrangements for Jewish residents to obtain ready-made kosher meals and other types of food that may be hard to obtain kosher otherwise.
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