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Wednesday, December 11, 2019

New York City—Imagine a room the size of a football field and a triple-decker bateau mouche (yes, a boat tied to Pier 60) filled with literally thousands of alcoholic beverages and tons and tons of kosher “bites”—the kind we would see on ABC’s The Taste…or the bottles and bottles of mixologist competitions on cable TV—all of it overlooking the glittering Hudson River as it reflects the light from the cityscapes on both banks, and where at least 1,500 mostly Orthodox foodies mixed and mingled.

Dozens of caterers, restaurateurs, and purveyors (like Sabra salads, Abeles & Heymann) set up on the west side of the pier, facing the twinkling lights atop the Jersey Palisades. On white linen cloths and fancy plastic plates, they turned out tastes of their signature dishes.

The eastern side of the pier was filled with tables displaying hundreds of wines from 32 international vineyards and myriad liquors from around the world—from the finest unblended Scotches and a slew of icy vodkas, to the sweetest cordials, and all in between. (Spirit selections were only available to members of the press and folks in the biz.) All of them owned and/or distributed by Royal Wine Corporation, sponsor of the always sold-out event. (Tickets were $45 person.)

For desserts, guests had only to walk through a door and climb a gangway to be welcomed aboard the Hornblower Hybrid, a glass-encased bateau mouche, washed with pink-tinted spotlights highlighting the mixology bar, featuring Bartenura Moscato as its main cocktail ingredient. The bartender, a pro from the Burning Waters Cantina on MacDougal Street, offered dessert wines and trendy cocktails.

Fancy cakes produced by Teaneck’s own Cake & Co. on Queen Anne Road offered cake pops and a display of Cake Boss-worthy creations. And for those who preferred their calories with lots of sugar, there were sweets, cookies, and gelatos in abundance. The hottest sweet flavor of the night? Any chocolate/peanut butter combo. “Tea-totalers” found their niche at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf station, while others could sip some delicious fresh-brewed French roast before heading home.

This year’s attendees came from what seemed to be all walks of Contemporary Orthodoxy. Couples of all legal ages—from married couples in their 30s-40s dressed in upscale business attire to shidduch dates and college kids who wanted to socialize (gathering in droves around Got Cholent?’s table). In previous years, there had been a much larger haredi presence, and people more interested in eating than buying product and networking. While many guests came to enjoy, many others came to seek out products for their shops and services. And that is what the Wine and Food Experience is really about.

Gary Landsman, a former Royal marketing executive now involved in a new start-up business, said the fair was designed to showcase wine for the coming Purim and Passover holidays. “Royal has a beautiful, large portfolio of over 1,000 kosher wines. People are afraid to deviate so this is an opportunity to taste and perhaps find a new favorite.”  It’s also a place for parents to shop for caterers if they have a simcha in the offing.

Teaneck’s own Etc. Steakhouse was represented by owner and TABC alum Seth Warsaw. He served a delectable morsel of pink peppercorn crusted rib-eye steak with red amaranth salad, orange zest scallion and pomegranate molasses, followed by chocolate caramel peanut nougat, a highlight of the show.

Across the aisle, Chagall Bistro, a two-year-old French restaurant in Park Slope, Brooklyn, served a beautiful bite-sized stack of applewood smoked-salmon, a millefeuille with basil focaccia, bowfin caviar and celery root coulis, and another bite of cured duck pastrami with relish and balsamic ginger emulsion—truly a feast for the eye as well as the palate…and worth a trip to Brooklyn.

Pomegranate, Brooklyn’s mega source for fresh and prepared food, had the largest display with four different stations: prepared sausage; hot foods; dips and salads, and Shabbos classics.

Le Marais, the Manhattan steak house, offered grilled hanger steak with a ragu of winter vegetables, while JewMaican offered authentic Jamaican food that tasted as if it were just flown in from Negril or Montego Bay.

Silverleaf Caterers had a beautiful display with plates of what they call Moschata Duchesne Salad: roasted butternut squash, tahini, fresh pomegranate, and kale. Wolf and Lamb served a bite of pastrami-wrapped marinated apricots with ginger glaze and pineapple chutney. Abeles & Heymann offered a pepperoni product that any Italian would love.

Come Purim, some people may drink until they do not know Haman from Mordechai, but those who attended the Kosher Wine and Food Experience at least know the difference between cabernet and chardonnay, and have a new take on kosher tastes.

Bon Appetit!

By Bracha Schwartz and Jeanette Friedman