Sunday, November 22, 2015

Kosherfest 2015

The following is the unedited article that I wrote for the Mid- Atlantic Media Syndication. Unfortunately, due to space limitations a lot of the article was cut (I had SO much to write about!!!). Also, please note that the order that the products are listed in do not indicate a preference order - they were all fabulous.  Enjoy!!

Kosherfest is the yearly international Kosher food convention hosted at the Meadowlands Convention in New Jersey.  Easily the largest Kosher food exposition, tens of thousands of people walk up and down aisles tasting and exploring new, innovative Kosher products from startup companies and classic favorites from more established companies.  I walked through the doors Tuesday morning with an eager sense of anticipation, excited to see what new and creative products were being shown this year.  I wasn’t disappointed.  There were also cooking demonstrations and competitions featuring icons like Levana Kirschenbaum and my local favorite Bryan Gryka (of Milt’s Kosher Restaurant) in the Kosherfest version of Iron Chef, judged by Kosher Cooking Queen (and my friend) Joy of Kosher’s Jamie Geller.  Being all about food, there was even a Kosher Cookbook showcase featuring the new and exciting Kosher Cookbooks with signings by veteran Norene Gilletz, Elizabeth Kurtz, Miriam Pascal, Leah Schapira & Victoria Dwek.  There was so much food that I had to designate one day “Dairy Day” and the next “Meat Day”. I was sad and incredibly full when the show was over.  I’m excited about the new friends and associates that I made at the show and am already looking forward, G-d willing, to Kosherfest 2016!

There were groundbreaking announcements at Kosherfest this year from two family owned giants in the Kosher food industry. 

1.    Manischewitz and Welch's grape juice announce an ongoing partnership, merging America’s #1 best tasting grape juice brand with America’s #1 Kosher brand.   I had a special opportunity to talk one on one with the President and Ceo of Manischewitz and the Welch’s representative.  Both companies are incredibly excited about the seemingly natural partnership. Speaking to the dedication for quality of both brands, there are no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives in the juice.  The packaging is BPA free, Kosher for Passover and year round, mevushal certified, and most important - it tastes great!  The juice is also available in a delicious 100% grape juice sparkling version as well.

2.    Empire Kosher has really upped its product line.  The company is dedicated to bringing the consumer a healthy, delicious product, and is also committed to reducing its global footprint.  To that end, the entire Empire product line is now all natural.  No nitrates, nitrites, or phosphates, and soon to be GMO free.  Each product now has minimal, healthier ingredients.   I can tell you from personally tasting all the samples (multiple times!) they are even better tasting than before! The Uncured Chicken Franks are improved over the old version, though the spicy Gourmet Hot Italian Chicken Sausages were my favorite (I did leave a few samples for others).  Empire also has improved packaging, no more large tubs with lots of packaging waste.  Products are packaged with a high pressure, bacteria killing pasteurization process, in minimal, cleaner looking packaging.  Due to the reduction in packaging there really shouldn’t be a price differentiation in the new products, just a fresh, new, healthier, better tasting product.  Way to go Empire!

Best of Beef/Chicken/Fish Products:
1.  Jack’s Gourmet came out with the most amazing, unbelievable, melt-in-your-mouth, flavorful, and just plain delicious BBQ Pulled Beef Brisket.  I simply could not get enough.  I wasn’t the only one to love it - the BBQ Pulled Beef Brisket was named Kosherfest 2015 Best New Product and Best in Show!  Made without artificial ingredients, msg, or nitrites, it’s gluten-free and comes in a heat & eat box in the refrigerated section. Jack’s also had it’s usual lineup of awesome sausages and beef bacon “Facon” which are also great.

2.    Aufschnitt Meats is my go to for dried beef/chicken products.  Their shelf stable beef jerky products that are low in fat, high in protein (8g per serving), and bursting with flavor.  The jerky comes in four flavors, and the beef sticks in five (the spicy is of course the best).  Shortly the beef sticks will bare the all-natural statement, unlike any other beef stick brand on the the US market.  I love to throw a bag of Jerky in my tote when out and about - it’s the perfect meal/snack!

 3.    Joburg Boerewors - this originally Australian company has been making one of my favorite sausages for years!  Great straight off the grill.

4.    Pelleh - Duck!  For the first time ever there were duck products at Kosherfest.  The Pelleh company brought samples of Cherry Duck Sausages, Fried Duck, and Squab.  I have never had squab.  I was a little scared.  It was really, really good.  I’m looking forward to finding the Pelleh products in my local store. Just don’t tell my family it’s duck ;-).

5.    Meal Mart - I was intrigued by Meal Mart’s cleaner and fresher looking packaging.   Pinny Roth the sales rep said that Meal Mart’s products now look as good inside as they do outside.  I love their Buffalo Wings and make them as a “carry over” for the kids (and me!) before Shabbat every week.

6.    Heimishe Fisherman boil in package gefilte fish.  Super convenient, just take it out of the box (it looks like a wrapped kishke) and boil.  Tasted like gefilte fish (shocking!).

Best of Snacks/Treats/Desserts:
1.    California Gourmet semi-sweet chocolate chips- A competitively priced great pareve, gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free, vegan chocolate chip, made with excellent quality chocolate.   They will be coming out shortly with packaged chocolate chunks, and are hoping to have a passover line as well. The chips are so good they were a New Product Winner at the show. Bonus: The owner Chana Shusterman is one of the nicest people I have ever met.

2.    Paskez Chanukah line - Everything you need for Chanukah from one of our favorite Kosher manufacturers.  Candy, treats, oil wicks for your menorah.  It’s all good.

3.    Hint Mint - You wouldn’t expect so much flavor in a little, tiny mint!  My favorite: Citrus Ginger Sour.

4.    Shay’s Caramels & Caramel Corn - Rich, yummy, dairy.  The Caramel Corn was a New Product Winner at the Show.

5.    Jelly Belly Jelly Beans - Can’t. Stop. Eating. Them.
6.    Excellence Chocolates - Praline filled Belgian chocolates that come Dairy or Pareve.  Rich indulgent excellence.


7.    SC Cheesecakes - Guilt Free indulgence.  Really.  95 calories for a rich, creamy individually sized (not tiny) cheesecake.  I didn’t feel one bit guilty when I ate mine, not one bit.  And...I licked the container. ‘Nuff said.
8.    Matt’s Munchies Premium Fruit Snacks - Zippy dried fruit squares in flavors like Island Mango, Apple-Licious, and Mango Ginger.  Gluten free, certified vegan and pareve.

Best of Sauces/Dressings/Spreads/Condiments:
1.    Briana Dressing - Family owned, New Product Winner Sauces Dressings and Marinades.  These dressings are tangy, flavorful and delicious.  My favorite not-low-calorie dressing was the Blush Wine Vinaigrette, and the lower cal  Lively Lemon Tarragon Dressing.  There are 9 fabulous flavors to choose from.

2.    Mediterranean Chef Hummus - Went to the display/sample table and tried the Hummus Masabzha.  YUM!  I asked about the hummus and declared it was outstanding, then asked how to actually spell Masabzha (I mean really, how was I supposed to know that?).  The Chef turned to me and handed me two full size containers to take home!!!  Now I know how to spell Masabzha.  They also had 13 other great flavors like Pesto Hummus and Roasted Pepper Strips with Feta Cheese.  All Gluten-Free, no msg, 0g Trans Fat.

3.    Oxygyen Spicy Mexican Marinade - my favorite this year.  Spicy, and will be great on chicken, beef, or vegetable stir-fry.

4.    Mikee Sriracha/Sriracha Mayo Sauce & Sriracha Techina - I am a Techina fanatic.  I will even put it on pizza (salad’s a given).  Put techina together with spicy and I’m rendered nearly speechless. This brainstorm of President and cake pop lover Peter Kaufman, had me close to tears in gratitude.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

5.    Health Garden Sugar Free Ketchup - Every year at Kosherfest I find one or two smaller companies that I take a special interest in.  This year one of those companies was Health Garden.  They make a line of sugar free sweeteners, some for baking, and sugar free products that are really good, and good for you.  Every single product is 100% all-natural and low-glycemic.  I feel good using and giving these sweeteners to my family.  I have some samples to try for baking - I’ll keep you posted.  If they are as good as I expect them to be then this company is a real winner!

6.    Specialita Tartufi Black and White Truffle Spreads and oils - Crazy, crazy, crazy indulgence.  A tiny amount has a huge burst of flavor. 
7.    Mina Shakshuka Sauce - what a great idea!  Ready made Moroccan Spiced Tomato Shakshuka sauce in a jar!  Made with all natural ingredients it makes making your own Shakshuka super simple and tasty too.

Best of Cheese/Dairy:
1.  Ludwig Farmstand Creamery - My second project company this year was Ludwig Farmstand Creamery.  I was sold as soon as I tasted their Havarti-Style Cheese and found out they are based in Central Illinois - virtually neighbors.  Look for their cheese soon in your local stores or order it directly

2.    Cheese Guy Cheese - Outstanding cheese.  I am usually not a blue cheese fan but Brent “The Cheese Guy” makes a great one, and if you are a spicy fan (me!!!) then you must try the USA hand-crafted artisan Chipotle Cheddar all natural, vegetarian, gluten-free cheese.  Then again, all of Brent’s cheeses are terrific so you could pick any one and be supremely satisfied.
3.    Normans Yogurts - Another surprising product at the show.  I expected these Cholov Yisroel yogurts to taste...well…  I was pleasantly surprised by the creamy, tangy, delicious, 100 calorie blended yogurts that I tried.  They were better than some of the more well known brands that I’ve had.  When I asked about the carb content of the yogurt (12g) I was told with a smile “we only use real fruit in our yogurt, no artificial flavors - and fruit adds carbs”.  Norman has a full line of healthy yogurts for the family.  It’s my new brand.

4.    Oneg/Shtark - This Chicago based company makes wonderful cheddar, part-skim mozzarella and other cheese.  The Shtark brand is Cholov Yisroel. 
5.    Natural and Kosher Cheese - Great quality all natural Cholov Yisroel cheese.  They were actually making fresh mozzarella at the show that was to die for.

6.    Isaac’s Kosher Cheese - Awesome Italian parmesan, romano and asiago cheese...coming soon to your stores.
Best of Beverages/Wine/Alcohol:
1.    Aromaville - My last year’s project company.  The best iced cappuccino mix.  They make a sugar free version as well.  I was thrilled to see that Aromaville has expanded to other beverages as well as beverage dispensers.  I greatly reduced the quantity of frozen mango juice in their dispenser this year.  Their products are Cholov Yisroel.
2.    Lavie Dulce De Leche Dairy Liqueur  - My second stop every year after Gus’ pickles.  Rich, creamy, sweet liqueur.  Sigh.

3.    Hevron Heights Winery Eden Quintessence 2007 - Gorgeous bottle, delicious sweet wine.
4.  Welner Wines - maker of Sarah Bee (found at Trader Joe’s) - It was fun to meet the winemaker of one of our favorite table wines.  He even had a super cool map of where all the Welner Wines are made.

5.    Bella Sabatina Premium Tea - Winner of my personal award for prettiest and best tasting tea at the show.  Flavors like Buckingham Breakfast, Ginger Spice, and Blueberry Flan.
6.  Wissotsky Tea - New Nana Tea flavors this year: Black, Lemon, Ginger & Citrus, Chamomile, and Spiced Nana Mint.  Great for a morning or bedtime cup of tea.

7.    Pallini Limoncello - In general, I’m not a drinker, but the Limoncello looked so pretty and inviting I had to take a sample.  Woa!  It was delicious and very lemony.  I spoke to the rep for a while and he told me about how the Limoncello was made in Italy with Amalfi lemons.  Then he showed me a picture of him holding a lemon that was larger than his hand!  If you are looking for a lemon liqueur this is a fantastic one. GMO Free, Gluten Free, Organic Lemons & Kosher.

Best Gluten Free:
1.    Manishewitz Gluten Free Products -  It’s a natural progression, the leader in kosher certified products has come out with a great line of gluten-free products.  You can find them at
2.    David’s Gourmet Pareve Collection Gluten Free cookies - The great cookie and cake manufacturer David’s now has a kosher, pareve, gluten free, dairy free, nut free (but not calorie free!) line of cookies and brownies.  Super exciting for the GFE (gluten free eater). 

3.    Matzola - Now has a gluten-free Kosher for Passover version of their delicious mazto based granola - Gluten Free Cranberry Orange.  It’s the “Trail Mix of the Exodus”.

4. Simply 7 Kale Chips - Tasty, healthy, GFE chips made out of kale.

5.    Ten Acre “Crisps” & Popcorn: Awarded with my “Funnest Product at the Show” award.  This British company (and everything is better with a British accent) makes awesome chips and popcorn with fantastic names like “The Story of when Mr. Cheesey Met the Onion”, “The Day Sweet and Sour Became Friends”, “How Chick’n Soup Saved the Day”, and “Captain Theodore’s Lime and Sea Salt”, just to name a few.  Their products are gluten free, dairy free, vegan, msg free, and pareve.  It’s worth it to go to their web site to see the explanations of all their wacky product names.

6.  Froozer - Fresh frozen blended fruit in an easier to eat tube.  Refreshing delicousness.  

7.    Pure Genius Blondies & Brownies - Brownies made from black beans, Blondies made from chick peas.  Cool right?  Nut free, non-gmo, gluten free, vegan, “made only with the good stuff”.

8.    Orly’s Blends - Orly is back with her terrific one for one baking blends.  You can find them in your local store or online.  Say hi for me when you talk to her!
9.    RC Fine Foods soup mixes & new Demi-Glace brown sauce mix - These mixes don’t contain msg, or any of the bad stuff you don’t want to serve your family.  I use them when I need a boost of flavor.  Now the company has come out with a brown sauce mix that tastes like gravy should, rich, creamy and flavorful.  I was really pleasantly surprised when I tasted it.  You can order their products on (I do). 

Best Misc.
1.    Mana frozen sweet plantain slices - Never had a plantain in my life...until now.  Mana has come out with frozen green and yellow plantains.  Delicious!  I can’t wait to try them here at home.

2.    Guss’ Pickles -  The legend from the Lower East Side of NY and the first booth I always go to at Kosherfest.  A super sour pickle please!

3.    Blue Bonnet Veggi Protein Mix - I am a protein shake user and was happy to see that Blue Bonnet has come out with a protein powder derived exclusively from sustainable, organic and non-GMO, dairy/lactose-free vegetable sources that do not contain soy or gluten.  I didn’t taste it but if you are looking for a protein powder with all those attributes it’s worth a try.

4.    Mendel’s Kansas City BBQ rub - Mendel, a fellow Midwesterner has come out with an award winning super BBQ rub for your chicken or beef. “A Taste of Kansas City BBQ”.

5.    Devik brand Delila medjool dates - Best. Dates. Ever!  Grown in Israel, super plump, fresh, sweet and awesome!  I actually had some in my pantry before I went to the show.  I have never had dates better than these (except those with my dear husband!).

For recipes using these products please go to the company's web sites listed. Bitayavon!

All my Kosherfest loot!
 Huge.  Just Huge.
Me and my dear friend Jamie Geller
 Bryan Gryka at the Kosher Chef competition 
(Go Milt's of Chicago!!)
 The competitors:
Me, Esti Berkowitz (LOVE!), and Stacey (PR Maneschewitz)
 Me and the famous Levana Kirschenbaum!
  Want "Something Sweet"?  Ask Miriam Pascal!
 Dear Norene Gilletz & me!
 Me and the wonderful Elizabeth Kurtz!
Super fun!  Gelt and dreidles all in one package!
 That is a HUGE parmesan cheese!  Wait 6 hrs. before meat please!
The Hungarian Kosher gang (Chicago): 
Ira, Caryn & Me
 Sweet home Chicago!

Kosher Everyday is dedicated to the memory of my father
Dr. Theodore Saltzberg - Tuvia Ben Nachum Z”L
May his memory be for a blessing - Yihi zichro baruch.

Look for additional information about Edible Experience Kosher Everyday at,,, Mishpacha Magazine’s Kosher Inspired Magazine,
The Chicago Tribune Syndication,
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These recipes are for sole, personal use of visitors to Sharon Matten -Edible Experience Kosher Everyday. Edible Experience Kosher Everyday recipes are for your enjoyment but are not to be posted or reprinted without express permission from Sharon Matten. Thank you!!