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Brooklyn… by Menachem Lubinsky …It was nearly 25 years ago that the Kedem Wine Company realized that it was on the verge of major expansion. Its introduction of quality kosher wines beyond the traditional sweet wines used for sacramental purposes was beginning to pay off. The challenge was to develop a top notch sales force that could penetrate a growing demand for kosher food and wines. David Herzog of Kedem took a quick look around in the lobby of his Williamsburg, Brooklyn plant at the seasoned salesmen who applied for the sales position, but his eyes focused instead on a 23-year old yeshiva student, he recalled during a tearful eulogy at the funeral of Yossi Pressburger who died of a massive heart attack at the age of 48 during a sales trip to Detroit. Pressburger was remembered as a “model” husband and father of seven and as a community activist for whom “no task was too small or menial.” Recalling his penchant for detail that included tending to the needs of his shul and its members,” Rabbi Eliezer Ginsburg wailed: “Where are you Yossi?”
Nathan Herzog recalled how Yossi quickly became an important ingredient in the company’s growth. “He opened so may doors for us, not only in wines but in foods as well.” Herzog continued: “While he was our VP of Sales, there was not an area in the company that he did not play a major role in.” News of Pressburger’s untimely death shocked the entire industry. Yakov Yarmove of SuperValu who recalled taking many joint business trips with his friend Yossi, said: “My heart is torn and crying inside for this most untimely loss.” Sid Roth of Michigan Wine & Liquor, who was one of the last people to see Yossi, expressed “shock and disbelief” offering to do what he can “to help.” It was his integrity, strong character and perpetual smile that made Yossi such a popular figure in the kosher food industry. A friend said: “He had this unusual trait of making everyone feel comfortable. No wonder that he could sell almost everything.” This sentiment permeated throughout a packed funeral chapel where the tears for a salesman that many called a “prince” was filled with a grief seldom seen in the community. As the stunned crowd of over 500 people bid Yossi Pressburger a final farewell, the kosher food industry mourned the loss of “one of its best.”
My Sixth Sense…by Menachem Lubinsky
Lost in the aisles upon aisles of booths at Kosherfest was a group of exhibitors who you might say were the anchors of the show and icons of the kosher food industry. Despite mergers, acquisitions, and the demise of many brands over the last decades, there were the families that helped shape the kosher food industry. At the Kedem booth, there was David Herzog, his nephew Nathan Herzog and David’s son Mordy. Despite its meteoric rise, the family flavor has been very much retained. At the Streit’s booth, descendants Aaron Gross and Aaron Yegoda were showing off many of heir new products as they take the Lower East Side Matzoh manufacturer to a whole new level. Morris Setton still greets passersby with his fresh almonds, pistachios, and other nuts. Aba Klein of Klein’s Ice Cream had three generations of Kleins in his booth. Who would have believed that the kosher ice cream company would be producing 300 different products, some in conjunction with large food manufacturers. The Klein’s of Oh! Nuts were also represented by two generations of Kleins. There were many other families who we have come to love and respect over the years.
The newest family that is also hoping to build a legacy is Montreal businessman Hershy Friedman, who acquired the bankrupt Agriprocessor and has in recent weeks been applauded for the quality of his Aaron’s Best products. Mr. Friedman was an instant celebrity at the show, despite a long history of being a successful businessman and generous philanthropist. There were other kosher notables in the aisles like Rabbi Yehuda Perl, who has successfully taken Sabra hummus mainstream. One notable absence was speed-painter Morris Katz, who was a fixture at the show almost from its inception, and who is suffering from an undisclosed illness. Get well soon, Morris. We really missed you!
By Menachem Lubinsky
New York…With the two day holiday of Shavuos (Festival of Weeks) set to begin next week (eve of May 18-May 20), many Web sites are promoting recipes for the customary dairy meals. Supermarkets are also featuring many specials for fish, blintzes, cheeses, and vegetarian dishes. The Royal Wine Company (Kedem) is suggesting wines that can be paired with the Shavuos dairy fare. One suggestion that the wine company is promoting is “that when selecting a white or rosé this Shavuot, try to buy wine from recent vintages such as 2007 or younger. Also remember to serve these wines chilled, but not too cold – that can mask some of their aromas.” Amongst the wines listed for Shavuos and by extension the spring are Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Red Bordeaux, Chenin Blanc, and rosé (Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese and even Cabernet Sauvignon). Kedem offers these wines from California, France, New Zealand and Israel.
By Menachem Lubinsky
New York…Visitors to the recent Kosher Restaurant & Wine Experience (sponsored by the Kedem Group) on February 1st at Pier 60 (Chelsea Piers) were struck by the large presence of French kosher wineries as well as the unprecedented presence of Spain. The two countries have faced stiff competition from Israel wineries, including Barkan, Binyamina, Gamla and Psagot, many of whose wines have in recent years been receiving high grades at international competitions. It is no secret that export demand for French wine in general is at it is lowest since 2000, according to official figures for the 12 months to June 2009. The volume of exports to the EU is particularly low, at 2.8 million hl, and sales to the UK have fallen by a massive 27% to 0.8 million hl. France showcased some of its best, including wines from Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Loire Valley, Laguedoc-Roussilon, Rhone Valley, and the Southwest region of France. Also on display were Champagne and Cognac. Through a special booklet, the French sought to provide the Jewish links to the region and in some case cited popular folklore associated with the region. Spain too showcased some of its better wines in an attempt to compete with Israel, which has emerged from almost obscurity to become a world-class winemaker. Both France and Spain are trying to gain a foothold in the growing kosher wine and spirits market. According to Nathan Herzog of Kedem: “The reality of the emerging popularity of Israeli wines has put these countries on notice that they will need to aggressively reposition themselves in the kosher market.”
New York…by Zechariah Mehler…For the fourth year, the Kedem Group, based in Bayonne NJ, hosted a kosher food and wine event on February 1st that was designed to position the company as the leader in fine kosher foods and wines. Unlike in the past, this year, Kedem gathered 17 of the city’s better kosher restaurants as its food component. On display was an unprecedented array of wines from around the world, but for many of the press and VIP’s as well as several hundred people that paid as much as $100 for the experience (and a $30 parking fee at Pier 60 of Chelsea Piers), the amount of food on display was simply staggering. At Le Marais visitors smacked their lips to the taste of lamb chili with an avocado relish. At Colbeh, a Persian restaurant, it was grilled skewers of chicken and beef called Koobideh served with a lentil stew and rice. Dougie’s Bar-B-Q served dishes like sliders and popcorn chicken. Pomegranate Supermarket in Brooklyn had three tables set up with carving stations. At the back of the room Nesher Caterers had set up a smorgasbord of various foods that they specialized in making. Nesher’s food ran the gamut ranging from simple fruit platters to much more complex dishes like chicken marsala. Their fried cauliflower was a particular favorite of mine.
Amongst all these well known restaurants serving the very peak of their culinary abilities it would have been easy for smaller, newer restaurants to simply fade into the background but for Basil, a soon to open dairy restaurant in Crown Heights, it was their opportunity to shine. Basil served a tuna tartar with smoked paprika oil and green olive reduction as well as a chocolate truffle with coco nibs and sweet cream sauce that was meant to be squeezed as you ate it from the stem the desert was served on.” We took the idea from a French style meat ball. We call it the star burst experience,” said Ouri Ivry, the manager. Ouri went on to say that they had told the chefs preparing dishes for the event that “we want to go high end and quality. We don’t want to cut any corners with what we are presenting”. What was all the more impressive is the fact that these foods were made pareve by a restaurant specializing in dairy. Overall the Kosher Restaurant and Wine Experience was a marketing coup for Kedem which managed to position itself as the leader of a new generation of upscale foods and wines, a fact that was not lost on a large group of young middle class kosher consumers who sipped the excellent wines and filled plates of the upscale kosher foods.