by Naomi Ross, GKC contributor
For the kosher lover of wine and all things gourmet, there was no better treat than the tastings available at the 9th annual Kosher Food & Wine Experience (KFWE), held this past week. An evening eagerly awaited by kosher foodies in the know, KFWE 2015 certainly lived up to expectations, hosting the sold-out event at the Metropolitan Pavilion in NYC, a larger venue than in previous years, to accommodate the more than 1800 guests in attendance.
With glasses in hand, guests were able to taste the newest and finest in kosher wines and spirits – over 340 wines from around the world, distributed by KFWE sponsor Royal Wine Corporation. Israel, Chile, California, France, Italy, Spain, Ukraine, Argentina, New Zealand, Australia, Washington, Oregon and New York were all represented, exhibiting a broad range of wine varieties and flavors to suit any budget.
That said, Israeli wines dominated the evening, showcasing an impressive array of wines from both small boutique wineries to large scale vineyards. “1848,” a family owned winery out of Maale Adumim had a well-balanced Special Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon with hints of cinnamon and oak. In high demand were Alexander wines. The Alexander the Great Grand Reserve is a special treat, an intensely bold, full-bodied and rich wine on par with Castel Grand Vin; Alexander the Great Amarolo is a unique blend of spicy and fruity contrasts worth savoring. The Psagot wines were excellent as well– specifically Psagot Single Vineyard (a favorite from last year!), deliciously full-bodied with no traces of bitterness. More moderately priced Psagot Cabernet Franc was refreshingly light, yet satisfying, with a smooth finish. Shiloh winery, newly founded in the Judean Desert in 2005, exhibited some fun blends with their earthy Legend and newly released Legend II, an unusually complex blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (70%), Sangiovese (5%) and Carignan (25%), aged for 16 months in French oak.
I happen to like Spanish wines for their punchy spiciness and aromatic bouquets – Capcanes Peraj Petita and Peraj Ha’Abib are very complimentary to meat meals. Elvi Wines’ Herenza Reserva Rioja is a fruity red table wine with hints of cherry and pepper, using Tempranillo grapes.
On the sweeter end, Morad Winery’s unique line of fruit wines was featured at a mixology bar showcasing Passion fruit and Red Grapefruit wines in super-intense mixed drinks – delightfully delicious…but these wines are great on their own, too! And if you really like sweet, Heavens Nougat Liqueur is nutty with coffee tones and well…pretty much a luxuriously drinkable dessert.
On the other side of the large ballroom were food samplings from the Tri-State area’s finest restaurants and caterers. Though KFWE is primarily about tasting new wines, pushing through throngs of hungry guests might suggest otherwise. A chance to taste and expose our palates to what’s new and innovative in kosher cooking is mutually beneficial to the consumers and establishments represented.
Crown Heights’ Basil presented Crudos – a ginger and beet cured Arctic char with kirby pickle, salmon roe caviar, avocado mousse and jalapeno. Beautiful contrasts to behold and taste.
Chagall Bistro out of Park Slope, Brooklyn is authentically French and Chef Jean-Claude Teulade delivers a mingling of subtle flavors elegantly – excellent Beef Tartare with crispy potato dentelle.
New to the restaurant scene, The Loft (Borough Park) featured a “Polenta Crouton” - a cube of polenta topped with tomato jam and duck cracklings. Simple, yet a perfect bite of textural contrasts brightened by the tartness of sweet tomato.
Smokey brisket, BBQ braised short ribs and charcuterie reigned on high at KFWE 2015. Highlights included Wandering Que’s Smoked BBQ Brisket (smoked for18 hours with wood from Herzog Wine Barrels & Cherry wood), Wolf & Lamb’s Cabernet Braised Spare Ribs with creamy polenta and braised raddichio, and a phenomenal spread of flavorful aged charcuterie from Prime Grill – I’m still dreaming about the pepperoni…oh my. Though understated in presentation, NJ’s Palisadium caterers offered a memorable Arancini : a fried risotto ball with braised short ribs and it’s jus added to the filling. Brilliant.
When the room was hot, cold desserts were welcome, and Mr. Penguin’s Peanut Butter Ice cream (parve) hit the spot, flecked with crunchy pralines among a sea of other refreshing sorbets.
For more homey options, Susan Sez “Say it with Cake” offered unpretentious baked goods with a homemade feel - chocolate chip biscotti and mini apricot-glazed fruit tarts were a nice way to end a satiating, enjoyable night out. As bottles emptied and the last plate cleared, it was time to head home…and time to move the belt buckle. All in a good night’s work!
Naomi Ross is a cooking instructor and food writer. She teaches classes throughout the tri-state area and writes articles connecting good cooking and Jewish inspiration. Visit her website – www.jewishcookingconcepts.com.