There was an air of excitement, a feeling of pride and a hunger for innovation at the first day of Kosher Fest 2009, held Tuesday at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, N.J. The event showcased not only the biggest and best kosher products from around the world, but also the newest kosher products on the market.
Aside from the typical kosher fare of smoked meats and breads, there were kosher wines, liquors and something called Organic Batter Blaster -- which, to us, conjured thoughts of a culinary video game. Alas, it's but a pressurized batter -- packaged in what looks like a whipped-cream can -- for waffles and pancakes that is both organic and kosher.
We also glimpsed an enormous shopping cart filled with kosher food and yes, kosher energy-type drinks. One such beverage, Brain Toniq, is billed as a healthy, kosher alternative to Red Bull and won Best New Beverage in the competition phase of Kosher Fest, held two weeks ago.
The world's "first non-caffeinated think-drink specifically used to improve cognitive function and increase brain power" (or so promises Brain Toniq Director of Sales Mark Loebach) is just one of many examples of the innovation and expansion of kosher food products into the mainstream prominently displayed at Kosher Fest.
Not surprisingly, wines and spirits were main attractions. The best that we sampled, Yarden Inc., is the premier winery in Israel, is recognized by wine critic Robert Parker and produces a Cabernet that placed in Wine Spectator's top 100 last year. Their representative, Jose Vinas, describes himself as a "Jewban" (Cuban and Jewish) ex-chef. The logical step, for him, was to take his love of wine and spread the word about Yarden's quality kosher wines to the general public.
"We've been doing this for 4,000 years, on and off," explains Vinas. "We should be able to do it right. People are finally catching on that these wines should be poured."
The most grandiose display at Kosher Fest, by far, was the Kosher.com booth, featuring a 16-foot-tall shopping cart overflowing with samples of the array of products available at Kosher.com. "This is to drive home the point that we are the largest online kosher supermarket, and we have 15,000 products," describes Chief Marketing Officer and "Quick & Kosher" author Jamie Geller of the kosher version of a combination Fresh Direct and Rachael Ray-type cooking recipes. "We brought it to Kosher Fest to show everyone that this is the place to get anything and everything you want that is kosher."