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The Jewish Food Festival

April 7, 2011

This past Sunday, I attended the Jewish Food Festival at Congregation Gates of Heaven in Schenectady. Many thanks to blogger and friend Daniel B. of FUSSYlittleBLOG for inviting me to attend – this a festival that I will never miss again.  It was an all-you-can-eat samplefest, and boy do Jewish folks know how to EAT! As a Catholic, I had never been exposed to Jewish cuisine – although my church strangely held a Seder service in our basement hall a few times.

As I discovered on Sunday, this Gentile has been missing out on a ton of tasty treats.  I would write about it, but I think photos tell a better story…

Daniel B.'s Better Butter Battle. I am forever ruined for normal grocery store butter. The unsalted Italian butter made me swoon. Schmeared over the amazing challah made by Leah the Nosher...heaven.

Daniel B. and Leah the Nosher themselves - it was awesome to meet them in person for the first time! I am extremely envious that Daniel has a t-shirt for his blog.

Chopped Chicken Livers. I was a bit hesitant, but I tried them. Pretty good! Brought me back to my childhood - my mom used to make liver every once in a while, and we would even eat liverwurst sandwiches from time to time.

The fudgiest, deepest, darkest brownies I've ever eaten. Sadly, they were not homemade or even made by a restaurant - they were from a Sara Lee institutional box mix that the Daughters of Sarah nursing home uses! Ridiculously good, though.

Hamentaschen. Hamen-awesome!

Coconut macaroons. I ate these so fast I forgot what they tasted like. So good. Washed down with a fantastic egg cream, another new taste for me!

Caramel Matzo Crunch. If I was promised these every Sabbath, I would convert. Gladly. Patti van Leeuwen could be my sponsor.

Pucker's Pickles. I'm not sure if they're Jewish, but boy were they tasty. They had a kick-ass kimchi that really surprised me.

And I just realized how lame my photo gallery from the event actually is. I guess I got so wrapped up in eating, I forgot to take pictures.  I’ll just have to tell you everything else I ate:

Tzimmes: an interesting root vegetable stew, with some meat thrown in (or so the guy at the table told me).  This was a dish that was new to me in every way – I had never seen it before. According to my sources, tzimmes is a traditional Ashkenazi Jewish dish, made from a variety of vegetables, cooked slowly over low heat and flavored with honey or sugar and sometimes cinnamon.  It’s often served as part of the Rosh Hashanah meal, when it is traditional to eat sweet and honey-flavored dishes. The carrot rounds in the dish symbolize gold coins, which bring the hope of prosperity in the year to come. Yum.

Blintzes – Basically, a Jewish crepe, filled with cheese or fruit and topped with sour cream or applesauce. Gershon’s Deli made them, and they also made this incredible blintz souffle, which was hands-down the best item at the event.

Ratatouille – again by Gershon’s. Stewed vegetables, with a touch of tomatoes. Loved it.

Egg Cream – a delightful little drink, made with Fox’s U-Bet chocolate syrup, milk, and seltzer.  Daniel B. has the scoop.

Potato Kugel – potato noodle casserole, a traditional side dish.

Latkes – traditional potato pancakes. Identical to the ones I make to go along with my sauerbraten. (mine are better…shhh).

Mandelbrodt/Mandelbread – similar to biscotti, but not as crunchy. I should have gone back for more.

Challah – homemade by none other than Leah the Nosher. Get her recipes over on her blog, Noshing Confessions.

Four different kinds of butter – at Daniel B.’s Better Butter Battle. My personal winner: the unsalted Delitia Parmigiano-Reggiano butter (made from the cream of the cows that produce Parmigiano-Reggiano). So creamy and incredible I wanted to rub it on myself. But I didn’t, something for which Daniel and Leah (and everyone at the festival) should be grateful.

The food was just so good – and I have to mention that the food prepared by the congregants absolutely BLEW AWAY the food made by the restaurants.  I was  disappointed in most of the restaurants, unfortunately – they either didn’t prepare Jewish food, or what they did make was pretty mediocre. One restaurant group served bland chickpea hummus with STALE crostini. Seriously – stale crostini. It was apparent they didn’t really want to be there.

I was only able to stick around for about 90 minutes, after which my stomach told me I could not eat another bite.  Plus, I get weirdly nervous and self-conscious when I’m by myself in a huge group of people. I should have brought an eating buddy. Next year!

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