Fear and loathing in hechsher land!
By Heshy Fried of Frum Satire
I set foot into kosherfest and immediately I was overwhelmed, it kind of felt like my first time in Las Vegas, only here, I was actually into what was being delivered to my senses whereas in Vegas I had no interest in gambling â€“ it was just sensory overload. Kosherfest is the worlds largest Kiddush, itâ€™s a building full of free food in Kiddush size portions that the manufacturers and distributors are almost forcing you to try, itâ€™s a food lovers dream, and many of them get to come while on the clock.
The 21st annual Kosherfest was held in the Meadowlands Expo center this year and when I got to the event I realized that parking wasnâ€™t going to be easy, it reminded me of Boro Park on Friday afternoon, cars were double parked everywhere, while the inhabitants of those vehicles were schmoozing with someone they saw walking whom they think they knew, it was so bad I sucked it up and parked across the street at Wal Mart, I figured I was safe because I saw many black hat and wig wearing individuals piling out of minivans in the same parking lot, making it look like some sort of Wal Mart parking lot Exodus.
I retrieved my press pass, was sent right through the underpaid security guards with those wands that always seem to go off when they hover over your crotch and I was in. I had a strategy based on last years Kosherfest and I stuck to it, I would only eat fleishigs (meat products) after I was sure I had covered all my dairy bases. One of the problems with Kosherfest is keeping away from meat until the time is right, I had overheard enough conversations that started â€œOh darn, I just ate one of those baby franksâ€¦â€ and I didnâ€™t want to deny myself of any of the goodness that was to come. Of course my friend just gave me this evil smile as he plucked cheese samples and beef jerky into his mouth at the same time.
This years Kosherfest was much more crowded than last year’s, it also appeared that there were many more civilians, regular folks that werenâ€™t in the food industry but wanted some free food and booze. It seemed that all of Boro Park had cleared out for some free food samplings and I made a mental note of how this was one of the only times I saw Charedim and regular folks in non-riot mode.
As expected the wine sampling tables were crowded with smiling folks readily accepting free Dixie cups of wine and asking for seconds, Galil Mountain was the only wine company that had real wine glasses. Royal Wine Corp had this pyramid of wines and liquors, but only a few to taste.
No matter how many times I walked around sampling and asking questions of the different vendors, I would still hit vendors that I didnâ€™t see before; one of the reasons for this is that hardly anyone just walks down an aisle. When you find something that you want to taste again you make a mental note of it and keep making your way down to that item, but that throws you off balance and makes for one zigzagging kind of event. For instance I found that the Macabee booth had these wonderful mozzarella sticks that were being given away in little plates that worked perfectly with different sauce vendors. So I would go pick up some cheese sticks and then find different sauces I wanted to try with the sticks rather than the crackers so many of them provide. I found this one particular booth with a plethora of Italian sauces like pesto, putanesca and bruchetta, although after my third visit he got a little teed off at me.
After a few times around and several pounds of samples I noticed that everyone was being rather cheap with their samples and giveaways. There really werenâ€™t many giveaways, in fact many vendors felt the need to wrap their displays so people couldnâ€™t just grab â€œsamplesâ€ that were clearly marked display only. It was sad, but several folks I spoke to told me it was necessary in this economy. For instance, last year, upon entering the main hall of Kosherfest, one was to find baskets of free Jerky samples, they were rather large and I took an entire bag full. This year, one Jerky company was offering single strips about the size of your thumb as samples. The Holy Cow Beef Jerky folks were offering some sizeable samples in a napkin and their Sweet and Spicy Jerky was phenomenal and going quick, I also really liked their Teriyaki Jerky.
I expected to see more organic and trendy products than there were, I figured that Jewish companies must have got on the â€œgreenâ€ bandwagon, but to my dismay they hadnâ€™t. There was a company called Natures Select which had just come out with these cookies that were made with some crazy vegetables, like the chocolate chip that was made with corn, squash and sweet potato, or the cookies made with beets, spinach and other items you would never expect to find in cookies. The cookies were soft chewy and very tasty, which led me to ask myself, how on earth do we know if these things are actually in the cookies? The two ladies who invented the products (wasnâ€™t there a recent lawsuit over this same thing involving Jerry Seinfeld’s wife?) ?
Brain Toniq, which is the worlds first organic, kosher, botanical-based, non-caffeinated think drink specifically designed for those who need more mental focus and clarity, was getting a lot of traffic to their booth, I was there because, frankly I was having a little brain fog as they call it, from eating too much. Not only is Brain Toniq non-caffeinated it also contains no sugar, using agave nectar instead â€“ but I couldnâ€™t help but notice my head fog wasnâ€™t cleared up and that I still had no idea what head fog was. Maybe that was their way of saying fatigue. I was impressed with the taste, and had a good talk since the company is from Boulder, Colorado where my brother lives and I frequently visit.
Judging by the amount of junk food vendors, one may think that the kosher consumer doesnâ€™t care much about healthy foods. Baked goods reigned king with dozens of booths featuring donuts, rugalech, rainbow cakes and black and white cookies for the politically correct baked goods eaters. There was a girl dressed up in some sort of green Irish outfit giving out these amazing vanilla rugalech, before I moved to Rockland county, I didnâ€™t know rugalech could be vanilla, it just seemed too modern and rugalech to me were such a frum food, but they come in more flavors than just chocolate and cinnamon.
Angels bakery from Israel was giving out samples by the boatload, either they werenâ€™t hit by the economy, or they just really liked giving away baked goods, as well as borekas and knishâ€™s which are only classified as baked goods in Israel.
As with any trade show there were many non-food vendors, I really liked the guy marketing the tefillin shirt, which is a generic white button down shirt that has a zipper on each arm so the wearer can roll up the sleeves easily to make room for his tefillin. I suggested that he invent something that could prevent my tzitzis from falling in the toilet or getting stuck in my fly, he said heâ€™ll think about it.
Then there were these people who had come up with the simple idea of making reusable plastic containers that had dairy, meat or parve on them, Kosherkeepers.com even had color coded lids which I found to be nice, they were also nice about giving me samples.
One of my biggest issues with the Kosherfest setup was the lack of non-alcoholic beverages in easy to reach areas. There were several juice people, but all of them were located at the ends of the hall, which made it a trip to get to every time. Elite Natural Juices had the best juices and were the only juice not filled with additives or sugar. I tried their Honeydew Melon Juice 100% juice no water added and fell in love with it, too bad itâ€™s $9 a bottle retail, it was so good.