Kosherfest, the largest (and only) kosher food industry trade show in the world, hosted its 24th annual expo in Secaucus, NJ, on November 13th and 14th. Thousands of players in the kosher food world show up each year, from giants like Manischewitz, Streit’s and Osem, to the godfathers of kosher certification, including the big four: the Orthodox Union, Circle K, Star-K and Kof-K.
But a multitude of small, niche entrepreneurs in the industry show up as well, reflecting not just the trajectory of kosher food over the years, but the way in which overarching American food trends filter into the Orthodox world. Kosherfest is a far cry from the artisan food world of Brooklyn, where we are from — and where our business, The Gefilteria, is located. So we went down to New Jersey to report as independent purveyors. Here’s our minute-by-minute view of this very kosher landscape.
The oldest bialys store in the country is still on a roll. The sweet smell of bread will continue to waft down Coney Island Avenue, as a landmark kosher bakery in Brooklyn gets a whole new lease on life.
Coney Island Bialys and Bagels, teetered and fell in September, after Steve Ross, whose grandfather began the company 91 years ago, called it quits. In a twist of history — and, one might say, a twist of bread as well — the store has been saved by two Muslim businessmen who leased the space and started a corporation under almost the identical name. They’ll keep the kosher shop’s offerings the same, preserving its history.
“It’s the same bialys…We are using the same recipe, too,” said Peerzada Shah, who now co-owns the business with Zafaryab Ali, who worked with Ross at the bialy shop for a decade. “We want to keep the place on track,” said Shah. And since re-opening in September, customers have regularly told the pair, “We appreciate that you’re keeping the store open,” according to Shah.
In our new series, Chosen Chefs, we will profile up-and-coming Jewish chefs making waves from L.A. to New York. And in case you can’t get there, we’ll include a recipe from each of the chefs that you can make at home.
These are members of the tribe who you’ll want to keep on your radar. If we were the betting type, we might see some James Beard Awards in their future. First up: Chef Moshe Wendel of Brooklyn’s Pardes.
Kosher restaurants are not usually known for taking culinary risks. In response to guests’ demands, kosher chefs tend to play it safe. But Moshe Wendel, chef and owner of Pardes restaurant, in Brooklyn’s hip Boerum Hill neighborhood, is no ordinary kosher chef. And he doesn’t run your typical kosher restaurant.
Pardes serves fresh, seasonal and nuanced dishes — like beef cheek pizza — which change almost daily, opening kosher diners up to new kinds of food. And it’s noticeably un-frum location has opened religious customers up to a new Brooklyn neighborhood.
David Fox has a problem with his rabbi. I sit across from David, at his office desk, in the family factory H. Fox and Company, deep in Brooklyn. David’s family founded the company and for the past century it has manufacturing a wide variety of flavored syrups. Today, however, I am only interested in one, Fox’s U-Bet chocolate syrup, which is widely regarded as the essential ingredient for the classic egg cream, once described by Mel Brooks as “the opposite of circumcision” as it “pleasurably reaffirms your Jewishness.”
It is only Hanukkah, but the time has come once again, as it has for more than a hundred years, to ready his plant to produce the Passover batch. Fox’s U-Bet is used all around the world, and year-long; Passover is no exception.
Kashering the syrup for Passover is no small task. First the ingredients need to change. Only real sugar will do for replacing the corn syrup, producing something a bit sweeter while maintaining the smooth, round taste that distinguishes the syrup from other brands. But sugar is expensive. “Yet we don’t charge more.” Why not? “We are the only chocolate syrup that I know of that’s kosher for Passover,” he explains. “We just don’t think it’s the right thing to do.”
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