Thursday, October 14, 2010

Health conscious consumers Nosh on Kosher…

Yes, there are traditional Jewish principles that call for a strict observance of Kashrut laws and restrictions, but for the health conscious food critics out there, eating Kosher has become a desirable fix.

Did you know that Kosher means “fit” or “proper” in Hebrew? Kosher is not a style of cooking but rather an ancient set of rules that prescribe how food must be prepared and cooked.

More often, people are realizing that following Kosher rules enable the consumer to eat foods that are not only better for your digestive system, but also employ a slaughtering process that is much more humane. Many people, regardless of religion, believe that “kosher” is synonymous with “healthy”, leading to a growing demand that has manufacturers producing increasing numbers of products for the multibillion dollar kosher food market. Animals that are slaughtered and found to have disease or punctured in any way are considered non-kosher. The reason why so many people are choosing kosher foods is because they know there is a second set of eyes supervising each manufacturing process. For example, in the milk industry, there is someone ensuring proper conduct from the time that a cow is milked, to the milk being pasteurized, and finally to the shelves in your local grocery store. In many instances, non-kosher milk can be mixed with goat’s milk, cow’s milk, and pig’s milk along with various other ingredients that you are unaware of. It is safe to say that when choosing a kosher brand of milk, the quality of the product is ensured.

Americans across the country are snapping up kosher food products knowing that they are under strict Jewish dietary laws. They believe that it is a safer choice amid fears of mad cow disease and bacterial contamination. Kosher laws are stricter than the U.S. Department of Agriculture standards when it comes to the health of animals that can be eaten. They closely monitor what each animal is fed, how they are killed, and how they are processed. This adds another element of “safety” to the food that you eat. The market for kosher food has received an extra boost from several food scares in recent times.

About 60% of the foods you buy in your local grocery store already have the “kosher” stamp of approval with the Kashrut symbol “U” on items like Oreos and Coca-Cola. Over $150 Billion of Kosher certified products are consumed annually. More companies are realizing that having the “U” symbol may lead to an increase in the company’s private label business. Companies like Heinz, Fuze, Hebrew National, Tuscan Dairy Farms, General Mills Cereals, Kashi, and Kellogg’s are stamped kosher.

There is clear evidence that a kosher symbol boosts market share and that a kosher product can win more favorable shelf space, and that when positioned next to a competing non-kosher brand, the kosher product will typically have 20% better sales. This data has remained constant even in the smaller cities, far from heavier concentrations of kosher Jews. (Source: Integrated Marketing Communications.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How Much Does it Cost?

Mazel Tov! You’re planning a simcha – a celebration for your family and friends – such a happy occasion. It seems a pity to have to ask “How much does it cost” but realistically it’s pretty important!

You’re not alone – it’s one of the most frequently asked questions and one of the most difficult to answer. It’s not that your caterer is trying to evade the question, but simply that many factors go into determining the price.

Key factors –
1) Venue
2) Number of guests
3) Style of service

Let’s focus on this last point – many people believe that buffet-style is less expensive than a plated meal and are frequently surprised to learn that pricing is comparable – why?

While buffet certainly creates a less formal atmosphere, from a food-cost perspective, it’s often more expensive. Why? Portion control!

Your caterer must bring an abundance of food. For example, if your buffet has three options with a beef, a fish and a vegetarian entrée, your guests move through the buffet taking a little bit of everything or a lot of one thing. The caterer needs to make sure that if the beef dish runs out before everybody has gone through the line that he can replenish it. With buffets, people always go back for seconds it’s inevitable. Someone gets up to dance or to get a drink from the bar the plate is left unattended and is cleared by a waiter doing their job. The guest comes back to no food and goes right back to the buffet for more. Portion control is lost.

A plated meal creates a more formal atmosphere and can also be a better choice when there is a speaker or many of the guests are older. A plated meal ensures the caterer portion control and so that offers a savings – everyone receives a pre-prepared portion and rarely does a guest request a second serving.

The other factor to consider is the staffing.
A buffet typically requires a lower waiter to guest ratio (1:20 or 1:25) versus a plated meal which requires a 1:10 or 1:15 waiter/guest ratio.

So, back to your question - How Much Does it Cost?

Based on the venue, the number of guests and the day of the week, ball park costs are as follows –
• Cocktail hour prior to the dinner – 18.00 to 25.00 per guest
• Plated or buffet meal – 45.00 to 60.00 per guest
• Additional items – wine/beer/liquor, staffing and rentals

We always recommend that our clients decide first what atmosphere they’re trying to create for their guests and then work with the caterer to develop a menu to match their budget.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Demystifying kosher lingo

With all the jargon thrown around in the kitchen, catering talk can get a little confusing. Now throw in those essential need-to-know kosher catering terms and you might as well get yourself a Hebrew-English pocket dictionary! To make planning your event just a little bit easier we have provided some definitions to those important kosher catering terms that are often just on the tip of your tongue…

Glatt Kosher- Glatt is the Yiddish word meaning smooth, and refers to beef from kosher slaughtered animals whose lungs are free of adhesions. Kosher consumers, who are very stringent in accepting only high standards of kosher, demand that all meat products be "glatt." The term is often mistakenly used to differentiate food items which have higher standards of kashruth from those which have a more relaxed level of kosher certification.

Hechsher- comes from the same Hebrew root as the word kosher. This is a symbol that identifies the Rabbi or organization that certified approval of the ingredients used to make the food and the preparation process. This is the seal of the agency that periodically inspects the processing facilities to ensure kosher standards are maintained. Here at Esprit Events we are supervised by the OU (Orthodox Union) which is the world’s most widely recognized kosher certification agency.

Mashgiach- A person who supervises the kashrut status of a kosher establishment. The Mashgiach usually works as the on-site supervisor and inspector and enforces the policy decisions for what is or is not acceptably kosher. Common duties of a Mashgiach include checking lettuce and vegetables for bugs, and in general supervising the facility to make sure everything stays kosher! Our Mashgiach is on site from open to close to ensure all kashrut standards are met. The Esprit Events kitchen even has several cameras which monitor kashrut production standards.

Cholov Yisroel- refers to all dairy productions, including cheese and non-fat dry milk powder, which have been under constant Rabbinical supervision. Under Jewish law, milk is kosher only if it comes from a kosher species of animal (such as cows and sheep) and milk from a non-kosher species (such as horses, and camels) is forbidden.In the past, it was not uncommon for farmers to mix the milk of their various animals together, without their customers knowing. Cholov Yisrael milk is monitored by a Rabbi to make sure that milk’s from different animals are not being mixed together and sold as cow’s milk.

Pas Yisrael- This term defines bread or baked goods that have been baked by a Jewish person(or assisted in baking). Even the simple task of lighting the oven is considered as assisting.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Kosher Catering? Five things to keep in mind

Did you Know?
The top 5 things to keep in mind when catering a kosher event!

Hurrah for all those who enjoy food and keep kosher – these days, amazing cuisine that just also happens to be prepared kosher is easily available.

There are, however, a few things to keep in mind when catering a kosher event –

Rabbis or other religious officials do not need to "bless" food to make it kosher.
Food can be kosher without a rabbi ever becoming involved with it: the vegetables from your garden and fruit from your trees are kosher (as long as they don't have any bugs, which are not kosher!). However, with so many processed foods now available, it is difficult to know what ingredients are in your food and how they were processed, so a reliable kosher caterer will have a Mashgiach on the premises to examine the food and its processing and assure kosher consumers that the food is kosher. In many cases, for a more formal catered affair, a Mashgiach will also need to be present at the venue where you are catering to ensure that observance of kashrut continues as the food is being served.

Fish & Meat at the Same Meal
Many kashrut-observers will change to a new plate and utensils after eating fish and before eating meat. So, on a buffet line, guests may first enjoy a variety of salads and fish and then return for the meat selections. Your caterer should keep this in mind when planning a plated meal and, for example, not serve a chicken appetizer before a fish main course.

Kosher Wine!
There are two types of kosher wine--non-mevushal, your basic kosher wine, and mevushal, fit for the most orthodox wine lover. Non-mevushal wines must be produced, handled and even served by Sabbath Observant Jews in order to be kosher. Mevushal wines go through an additional step, flash pasteurization, in which the wines are subjected to heat during the winemaking process but are not boiled, contrary to popular belief. This process originated from ancient times when wine was once used by pagans for idolatrous worship. By pasteurizing the wines, they were considered unfit for pagan worship and should satisfy the most orthodox Jew. As a result, mevushal wines may be handled by non-Jews and remain kosher. (Thank you to our supplier, Royal Wines for this explanation).

Equipment Rentals
If you’re renting china and flatware for your event, it is easier to work with a vendor whose equipment is certified kosher. China cannot be kashered – i.e. china previously used for a non-kosher meal, cannot ever become kosher. Silverware and steelware (utensils) previously used for a non-kosher meal can be kashered through boiling.

A Kosher Caterer Cannot Serve Certain Fruits & Vegetables!
What a shock to find out that your kosher caterer cannot serve raspberries or asparagus or other delectable fruits and vegetables. Raspberries can be heavily infested with small mites and thrips. These insects can be nestled on the surface of the berry as well as inside the open cavity of the raspberry. Occasionally, small worms may be found in the cavity of the berry. Likewise, the asparagus spears can harbor insects and are difficult to clean. White asparagus does not have tips and so can simply be washed and then prepared.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Bye Bye May

May was a delicious month - for our guests and clients. And one of the busiest Mays that we've had in several years. Thank you for that!

Our Sushi Live Station (complete with swimming fish) went live seven times - that's many rolls rolled! Sushi still maintains its status as a favorite station at any event. Clients frequently ask whether they should include sushi on a menu or whether it's become passé. I shrug. Whether or not fashion dictates that sushi has had its day and should move over and make way for the next "it" item, our palates are still going wild for the little rolled rounds!

But there is new - we debuted our Trekking thru Thailand Station - and the feedback was great. Different flavors and tantalizing aromas envoking Thailand waft from the wok as chefs prepare-to-order chicken, beef, duck or tofu with toss-ins including lemon grass, water chestnuts, baby bok choy, crispy snap peas, bean sprouts, straw mushrooms, bamboo shoots and fresh ginger with a basil garlic chili, Thai ginger or black bean sauce. I'm crazy about the spicy green papaya salad with a creamy peanut sauce!

And yes, all of this is of course kosher. We're receiving an increasing number of inquiries from clients who aren't specifically seeking a kosher caterer, but there's a feeling of food safety with kosher and that's important to everyone. Honestly, most people don't even notice that "tref" isn't on the menu - there are too many good things being served!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Let Them Eat Cheese Cake

One week countdown to Shavuot - holiday begins the evening of May 18th. Proper nourishment is important before AND after a night of learning.

We've been testing multiple cheese cake recipes and our cheese bill is through the roof - but it's so nice to have a reason to HAVE to use dairy as opposed to trying to come up with delicious pareve desserts!

A couple of tips we'd like to share - to avoid dry, cracked and lumpy cheese cakes!
1) You need to let the cream cheese soften and then use a lot of patience to incorporate all the ingredients into the cream cheese
2) After you have removed your delicious creation from the oven, while it's cooling, run a paring knife around the rim of the cake by the pan every so often to loosen the cake. That way it won't crack as it cools

Our favorite this year? A marble cheesecake with bitter chocolate - such an elegant presentation with those swirls (and so fun to make!)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Kosher Catering Demystified - How to talk with a caterer

Selecting a kosher caterer in NYC should be fun, not stressful. The more you know about how a caterer works, the easier it will be to interview caterers. With that in mind, we're providing this "cheat sheet" for your reference.


From a caterer's perspective every event is slightly different based on the venue, the guest count, the service style and the client's special requests. Therefore, there are certain questions that any good caterer is going to ask you - and if you've already had a chance to think about these issues, it will save both of you time -

"What type of event are you envisioning? A formal plated meal, family-style or buffet? For a reception - do you want a combination of passed hors d'oeuvres and stationary items. Do you want live stations where a chef prepares guests' selections to order?

"Have you already selected a venue?

"What kind of bar do you want - wine & beer, a full open bar, champagne?

"Are there are specific themes you want to incorporate into your event - whether they be ethnic cuisines, colors, flavors, or another special theme that you have

"Approximately how many guests do you expect? If children are in attendance, do you want a separate menu for them? Will they be seated intermingled with the adults or in their own section?


* How many years have you been in the catering business?
* Do you have sample menus with pricing that I can see?
* Do you offer a kid's menu for the younger children?
* What's included in the catering price, and what do you price separately? (food, beverages, service, centerpieces, linens, china, chair covers, other rentals, etc.)
* How do you charge for liquor; straight per person, or per the bottle?
* What is the ratio of staff to guests?
* How do you price your staffing and gratuities?
* Can we make an appointment for a bar mitzvah food tasting? Is there a change for this?
* Will you provide us with a complete and signed catering price list that also includes your payment/cancellation policy?
* When do you require the final bar mitzvah head-count?
* Do you have liability insurance?
* May we speak to one of your recent Bar Mitzvah catering client?

Typical Kosher catering services offered in NYC

Kosher Menu Planning
This is the really fun part – creating a menu that captures the spirit of your event – from the welcome reception to the light or lavish dessert, together we’ll select the items that you and your guests will enjoy.

Kosher Open Bar

Sometimes a simple red and white fits the occasion while other times a signature cocktail is called for. As long as it complements the mood and the food, we’re together on this one.

Kosher Event Staffing

In order to provide the level of service that your guests deserve, our professional staff are empowered to attend to and anticipate their every need.

China, Linen, Etc Rentals
All part of setting the scene and ensuring a seamless flow between food preparation, presentation and the comfort of your guests.

Kosher Venue Rentals
Once we have a sense of the mood you want to create, we will recommend a variety of locations for your event, including museums, museums, art galleries, clubs and synagogues.