Teaneck NJ…by Tova Ross…It’s been a long time since kosher food was synonymous with matzah balls, tzimmes, and stuffed cabbage. More and more in recent years, the trend in kosher food has been cuisine that can only be described as upscale, gourmet, and on par with the most sophisticated food trends in the mainstream culinary world. Whether it’s visiting one of the many fine kosher establishments like The Prime Grill or Abigael’s, or from kosher gourmet products like artisan cheese, kefir yogurt, oolong teas, and organic foods like whole-grain breads and nut butters. Kosher catering today has gone far beyond the traditional synagogue caterer or off-premises catering in a hotel. It is as much a function in the back yard of a luxurious home as it is in the Waldorf Astoria. RAVE! Catering and Event Planning, founded and headed by restaurateur Noam Sokolow, is making a name for itself with its exclusive brand of catering in almost any venue. Although based in Teaneck, RAVE! has been steadily gaining a national reputation, which is responsible for its recent move to national kosher certification agency Star-K from the Rabbinical Council of Bergen County. It has done its share of catering in such elegant venues as the Pierre, the New York Plaza, and the St. Regis, but it has also catered events for politicians including former President Bill Clinton and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
RAVE! is the caterer of choice by many of the rich and famous because of its innovative dishes as well as its supremely elegant presentation. Some of the innovative menu items include sweet potato chips with chipotle sauce; grilled beef, veal and turkey sliders served on miniature buns; wild mushroom risotto; and crispy vegetable pakoras. According to Sokolow, his exclusive clientele have no qualms about paying top dollar for the best in the most gourmet fare. Other caterers note that people with tighter budgets still demand the finest staging possible. David Pearlman, of Brooklyn’s Garden of Eat-In family business, who started his own Executive Caterers in 2006, acknowledged the recent economic downturn and said that many of his clients ask for the most elegant presentation rather than the most expensive or fancy foods. “We often practice the art of taking simple items and elevating them to gourmet status simply through an elegant presentation.” Since he first started his catering business, Pearlman has charted the shift among his clients towards a more refined and well-informed sense of food. “I see people becoming steadily more educated in fine wines and knowing about menu items like balsamic reduction, truffle oil and tuna tartare – all things the average kosher consumer might not have heard about several years ago,” he said. Pearlman attributes the increasing knowledge about elegant food primarily to the Food Network, which he calls “a huge phenomenon that’s like going to culinary school right from your couch.”
Marty Bodner, one of the owners of the in-demand and NJ and NY-based Main Event Caterers, confirms Pearlman’s feelings on the new age of kosher catering. “People definitely have a more sophisticated palette today as opposed to twenty years ago when Main Event first started catering events,” said Bodner. “Additionally, I think people are now much more willing look at lower end of the spectrum of the food, and how we can use our expertise to take that to the next level.” Bodner said that rather than take more expensive cuts of beef or veal, he uses inexpensive cuts and presents it just as elegantly as he would a grade-A prime rib. “By presenting less expensive items with a beautiful presentation, we are able to accommodate a lot more people,” said Bodner. Also different from twenty years ago? “There’s a lot more caterers in the market right now,” Bodner said. “It’s a hot business.”