Kosher Food and Wine Experience (KFWE 2013) In Review
As the Kosher Food and Wine Experience slips in to the culinary memories of Foodies across the East Coast, I have returned home, invigorated by the foods I tasted, wines I discovered, and food friends I had the chance to spend the day with. With each of the KFWE 2013 reviews and wrap-ups go live, I discover more flavors of the day that I was not fortunate enough to taste. My recommendation for next year – book early and don't hesitate about attending this event.
This may have been the seventh annual Kosher Food and Wine Experience that New Yorkers have seen but attending KFWE was a first for me. The event affords the Kosher dining community the opportunity to mingle with my foodie friends while tasting the wares of vendors and winemakers vying for the attention of the kosher consumer. Taking place at Pier 60, overlooking Manhattan's Hudson River, the Royal Wine Corporation successfully hosted more than 2000 attendees and other than the suggestions of name tags for the press event, and perhaps a few more meatless options, I can not fault the event.
While the food certainly got my attention, I was especially interested to see what was happening in the Kosher Wine scene. Back when I lived in Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Wine Festival was an annual event that introduced me to some of my favorite people and favorite wines. It was there that I discovered the Rimon Port and and the Ella Valley Ever Red, two wines missing from KFWE but on my top ten list.
Over the last decade there are a number of people that I have met wine makers, bloggers and distributors who have dedicated themselves to moving the perception of kosher wine from "sweet and sacramental" to "elegant and excellent" and the change is happening. An abundance of Israeli wineries are now shipping worldwide and many of them made the trip to New York to exhibit.
Domaine Netofa is located near Kerem ben Zimra, in the Galillee, in the North of Israel in the yishuv (village) of Mitzpeh Netofah — interestingly, I have had a number of teachers, youth leaders and even a former room mate that now live on the yishuv. The North is often said to be home to Israel's best climate for growing and harvesting grapes. With warm summers, and harsh winters, Domaine Netofa can replicate the Rhone Valley style of wine-making from the South of France. The 2010 Latour Netofah is a full bodied dry red wine that is the perfect compliment to grilled meats.
Flam Winery and Winemaker, Gilad Flam – Israel
Meeting and talking to winemaker, founder and owner of Flam Winery was one of the highlights of my day. Brothers, Gilad and Golan Flam were in NY for KFWE and I learned a little about their winemaking experience that started with an internship at the Carpineto Winery. Flam then moved on to the Tintara Winery in Australia where he could experience wine-making in a warmer climate. Returning to Israel in 1998, Flam partnered with his family and started making Israeli wines. In talking Flam, he described the decision to turn his wines kosher as the next logical step in their growth – a move that Eli Ben Zakan made for the Domaine Du Castel Winery in recent years.
I tasted three of Flam's offerings at KFWE. Instantly, I could recognize that the winery plays in the big leagues alongside some of the wines I admire. I almost always have something from the California Hagafen Cellars and the Israeli Domaine Du Castel in my wine fridge and I think Flam will be joining them . Wine makers like Mr. Flam are among the people making world-class wine and steering the revival of the Israeli wine scene.
Flam focuses on the quality of his product and not the quantity to deliver a boutique wine tasting experience in every sip. For me, the Unfiltered Flam Cabernet Sauvignon stole the show. Rather than trying to describe this in my own words, I simply must agree with the way Flam puts it on his own website:
The Flam Cabernet Sauvignon is the product of endless thought and careful planning, which represent the zenith of quality level attained at Flam. This wine displays a combination of intense aromas, ripe cherries, blackberry, plums, black currants and opaque purple color which are the hallmarks of a true Cabernet Sauvignon. Additionally, the oaky aromas present due to aging in new French oak barrels, such as vanilla, chocolate and spices blend into the wine seamlessly.
Between the Reserve Cab, Syrah and Merlot, there is something for everyone, these 2010 vintages are new to the market – my personal favorite from Flam, and from KFWE 2013 is the 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. The Flam family take pride in their work and you can taste it with the very first sip.
For the record, I am kicking myself that I don't have a better photo of the selection Flam showcased at KFWE. Between the lighting, networking and eating, it was hard to get all the shots I wanted.
The four hour press preview with a slimmed down tasting menu to allow us to focus on the wines, gave us food writers the chance to mingle while we tasted before 1800 members of the public arrived. There were some dishes that wowed, but for the most part, KFWE was about the selection of wines. If there is one company that embodied the essence of food and wine in one dish, it would have to be Gemstone Catering with their Herzog Oak Barrel Smoked Veal Belly. I don't eat veal, but Foods, Words & Photos described it as tender, flavorful, and delicious.
Heavenly Caterers certainly gained attention with their Sesame Crusted Seared Ahai Tuna, not only for the quality of the dish and balance of the soy and ginger – that complimented the perfectly cooked tuna without overpowering it – but for thinking out of the box with their edible spoon. Kudos to these guys for outstanding presentation of their heirloom carrots too, this was truly a way to stand out from the sea of white plates.
Le Marais may have been the first vendor of the night to run of out product – a testament to the quality of their hanger steak with chimichurri, and Hakadosh BBQ were serving the best sliders I have ever tasted – an apple hickory chicken slider – a dish that shined with, or without the bun, but my favorite dish of the night – to my surprise – was a chicken dish.
I can only describe the Tropical Chicken from Glatt a la Carte as vibrant. I have a feeling the chef's name is Mark (and if you're reading, please say hi!) This was a little taste of summer in every bite – the citrus flavors were sweet, not acidic, and this was an outstanding dish.
With Thanks to the Royal Wine Corporation
Royal Wine Corp did an excellent job of curating a fine evening of food and wine. My press invitation was received with tremendous thanks and I think the Kosher Food and Wine Experience has earned it's place in my culinary calendar as a must-attend event for those who appreciate fine wine and wish to connect with some our industries finest chefs, writers and wine makers. Here's to 2014.