The New York Kosher Food and Wine Experience 2015:
A Culinary Delight for all Senses
by Israel Preker and Alexander Shalom Preker
February 15, 2015
This year’s New York Kosher Food and Wine Experience (http://www.kfwe2015.com), which took place on February 9 at the grand Metropolitain Pavillion in Manhattan, was the 9th in a series. The event was organized by organized by The Royal Wine Corporation, the largest producer, distributor and importer of Kosher wine and spirits in the world based in Bayonne, NJ.
More than 700 people attended the daytime trade show and 1,700 consumers attended the evening reception. The event featured 28 of Israel’s top Kosher wine makers among the total of 62 wineries presenting from all over the world, including France, Italy, Spain, the United States and elsewhere. One of the was the unbelievable spread of taste-enhancing foods displayed for sampling through 34 restaurants, caterers and gourmet food companies. Some of the world’s top Kosher Chefs outdid themselves in preparing an amazing culinary experience with food from every corner of the world – all Kosher. This greatly enhanced the experience of meeting new people and enjoying the ambience of this incredible event while sipping old familiar and new exciting wines.
As you have read in past features by Wines Israel (http://www.wines-israel.com or http://www.winesisrael.com), over the past decade many wine makers, bloggers and distributors have dedicated themselves to moving the perception of Kosher wine from “sweet and sacramental” to “elegant and excellent.” The 9th New York Kosher Food and Wine Exhibition was a living testimonial of this transition.
Not surprisingly, New York, the city with the second largest Jewish population in the world after metropolitan Tel Aviv, is the destination of an abundance of Israeli wineries, many of which are Kosher.
Why both food and wine – and not just wine by itself?
While the wine certainly got my attention, it was interesting to see how the Kosher food scene has also changed dramatically in recent years. But beware, not all foods are equal at enhancing the experience of tasting a good wine.
You can’t choose just anything that excites the taste buds or the palate? So what foods are good for wine tasting?
Let us start by considering which of the five taste bud receptors you may want to stimulate – sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami (metalic).
Taste is the sensation produced when a substance interacts chemically with receptor cells located on the taste buds in your mouth. Taste, along with smell (olfaction) and touch, through stimulation of the trigeminal nerve (which registers texture, pain, and temperature), are the main determinants of how we perceive the flavor of a wine, food or other substances.
And don’t forget the other senses!
Vision can also greatly enhance (or distract from) from the appreciation of a good wine. You have heard the expression of “a sparkling wine.” It gives the image of something fresh and bubbly. The image of a “cloudy or murky” wine is much less inviting. Be it in a restaurant, a bar or a wine cellar, the way the table or bar is set, and the size, shape and ambience of the room, can make or break a good wine-tasting experience. Finally, a classical sonata may be better accompaniment for some wines, smooth jazz better for others.
So consider all – the five different senses of taste, smell, touch, vision, and sound when you are lining up your next wine experience.
Certain foods will enhance or inhibit the ability to taste. Among them roquefort. It is both very salty and aromatic. While it’s good with many wines, it’s a disaster with others. That means you’d have to restrict the tasting to only those wines with which it partners well.
The culinary experience of any of the seven biblical foods from the Tahah are excellent accompaniments for a good wine tasting: wheat, barley, grapes (wine), figs, pomegranates, olives (oil) and dates (honey) – Deut 8:8).
Your safest choices are breads and crackers with some fresh figs, dates, pomegranates and olives) accompanied by very mild cheeses like cheddars, edam, gouda, chèvre, mildly herbed, mild Swiss (like Jarlsberg) and so forth.
Bland seafoods like poached shrimp; mild meats (ham, roastbeef) and sausages, that are popular in non-Kosher wine bars are DEFINITELY OUT when time to taste Kosher wine.
There were plenty of Kosher alternatives available at the food displays during the New York Kosher Food and Wine Experience 2015. I particularly liked the Sephardic eggplant mixed with garlic, lemon, tahini, and spices. The Israeli Baba Ganouj made with mayonnaise instead of tahini – sometimes called salat hatzilim (eggplant salad) – was particulalry tasty. For those with a more traditional Ashkenazi East European background, there was no shortage of bagels, brisket, meats spiced with parsley and/or dill, and served with kneidlach, krplach and boiled vegetables.
Unless you have a very “sweet tooth,” you have to watch out for foods that will make sweet wines taste sweeter or dry wines taste drier. For example, artichokes are notorious for making wines taste sweeter – so avoid artichoke spinach dip unless you are one of those people that cannot resist sweets. During the upcoming Pesach holidays, Mazos, gefilte fish, horseradish and charoset will be a special treat for tasting your Pesach Kosher wines.
As a general rule, however, your wine tasting is best accompanied by foods that are bland, bland, bland. And only mildly salty.
We returned home, invigorated by the new Kosher wines that we discovered, excellent sampling of Kosher foods and new friends we had met during the evening.
Finally, remember that taste, smell and touch fade with age. On average, people lose half their taste receptors by the time they turn 20. So hurry. Don’t miss the next The New York Kosher Food and Wine Experience 2016 while your senses are still intact.
Israel and Shalom
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