San Francisco Food Show…Mmm Good!

From Sherry Jonas, Challah Connection Director of Customer Service

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, CA. There is a summer show, held here in New York which, from our global headquarters in Westport, CT, is an easy day trip. But San Francisco is a commitment. People might wonder why we bother going to the West coast when we see so many wonderful vendors in our own backyard here in NYC. We go because we are constantly seeking out new and exciting kosher products that meet our high standards – delicious, the best in their class, and certified kosher by an appropriate Vaad.

San Francisco was typically wintery – gray and damp. But inside the Moscone Center was a completely different story! Produced by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT) since 1955, the Fancy Food Shows are North America’s largest specialty food and beverage marketplace. The shows draw 1,300 – 2,500 exhibitors showcasing 250,000 products including confections, cheese, coffee, snacks, spices, ethnic, natural, organic, kosher and more. Eighty-one countries are represented by both the presenters and the 16,000 – 24,000 attendees who make their way (and their stomachs!) to these shows. I was thrilled to be one of them.

I went representing Challah Connection with some very specific goals in mind:
– Find Purim’s “Next Big Thing”!
– Find us delicious, exciting, ethnic AND kosher-certified foods.
Was I successful? Yes and no.

Our Purim gift baskets (shalach manot) will include some new and exciting confections and edibles – check out our website now for current offerings and in the coming weeks to see our new products. We are also working hard to bring you new and exciting reasons to celebrate – kosher breakfast baskets, healthy care packages, and new holiday goods. But one thing we are very excited about is new ethnic-centric baskets. We are pursuing kosher goods to offer you Indian, Italian, and Mediterranean gift baskets (to name but a few). Other items were harder to come by – not a lot of rabbis working in Japan & China, so not a lot of kosher Asian food products to choose from! But we’re working on it, so keep checking back!

Some of my new favorite finds? Creamy salmon pate from the Pacific Northwest, scrumptious stuffed grape leaves from the Mediterranean, soothing masala chai teas from northern California, succulent figs and dates from southern California, fluffy pancake mixes and right-from-the-tree maple syrup from New England, and delectable scones from the Midwest USA. My mouth is watering just thinking about all of the wonderful things we are currently sourcing for you!

Stick around! It pays to be a member of the Challah Connection family, where you’ll always eat well and send the best of the best – because we won’t settle for anything less!

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Challah Against Hunger

Last week I went to a friend’s essay reading. My friend wrote about her hardscrabble childhood in Idaho. One of the images I couldn’t get out of my head (and written here with her permission):
“Hunger was always with my sister and me. We snuck into the neighbor’s shed and stole canned fruit. We carried it into the sagebrush and ate the sweet peaches and drank the juice. When we were very hungry, we stole dog food, too, and ate it.”

Now, I don’t about you, but my childhood was a little different than that. I always had plenty to eat. And here at Challah Connection I am surrounded by food. I’m constantly sampling new products, as well as sampling my own holiday cooking.

My friend’s essay reminded me that other people are not as fortunate as I am, and my company has made a big commitment to donating unused food to our local food pantry, as well as monetary donations to Jewish charities.

And my friend’s experience is not unusual. I was shocked to open up Tuesday’s New York Times and read the headline, “49 Million Americans Report a Lack of Food.” From the article: “The number of Americans who lived in households that lacked consistent access to adequate food soared last year to 49 million, the highest since the government began tracking what it calls “food insecurity” 14 years ago,” the Department of Agriculture reported Monday.

49 mIllion!? I was shocked to see that number. It’s outrageous in a country as wealthy as ours, where 10-year-olds carry cell phones and 18-year-olds drive BMWs.

I know what you’re thinking. It’s a terrible problem, so huge that nothing can possibly be done about it. But I’ve decided to act, to make a difference, and I’m inviting you to join me.

challah  med
For every challah you order, we’ll match it. We will send it to our homeless shelter. Or, if you prefer, we will include it in your shipment, for you to deliver to a food shelter of your choice.  To participate in this offer, be sure to add the code HUNGER at checkout.  Our pledge will continue until December 4.

I know we can make a difference, one loaf at a time.

Best,

Jane

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The Year of the Pickle

It’s a famous Jewish tradition: Chinese food and a movie on Christmas. Who knows how it all got started? Years ago, some enterprising Jewish family must have ventured out into the empty streets–with all the stores shuttered- on Christmas Day and discovered a light glowing in the distance. Hurrying closer, that Jewish family stood under the light and saw that it said “Sakura.” After stuffing their faces, the family headed out into the empty street and saw another light. “Cineplex” it said.

Thus a tradition was born (reversing the order is optional) and my family has certainly partaken of that tradition. But my love of Chinese food isn’t limited to Christmas alone. During any season, but especially during cooler weather, my family has been known to happily decamp to our favorite Chinese restaurants in Connecticut and New York and enjoy all of the savory delights. While shoveling in all this delicious food, I’ve noticed and been fascinated by the Chinese Zodiac imprinted on the placemat. You know–Year of the Dragon, Year of The Rat, etc. I’ve thought: Why not a Jewish tradition like it?

Imagine, then, my excitement, when I came across some wonderful new products that playfully combine Jewish food and Chinese culture–Seth Front’s The Jewish Zodiac.

Of course it’s not “The Year of the Ox” but “The Year of The Lox” I’m talking about! I love anyone who can make me laugh–and Seth’s products are just hilarious.

Here at Challah Connection, we’re proud to offer these fun, new products like The Year of the Pickle t-shirts and Year of The Black & White t-shirt. (My husband is sporting one now, but has yet to fess up to whether he is on the black side of the cookie or the white). I chatted with Seth at the recent Kosherfest where I asked him which of the amazingly creative shirts is the most popular. It’s the Year of the Pickle–that must be a new way to refer to our current economic problem. (Maybe I’ll send a shirt to President Obama and his speechwriters.)

While I love the shirts, since I am really kitchen person, I also love the Jewish Zodiac Placemats. Jewish Zodiac Placements

Last night, we set the table with these fun placemats and I could have sworn that my salad pizza had a distinct taste of broccolli with garlic sauce.

Instead of being born in the Year of the Rat or Year of the Sheep, find your Jewish zodiac sign. Were you born under the Year of the Egg Cream, Year of Pastrami, or Year of the Schmear?

Happy Shopping!

Best,

Jane

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Our Fabulous Challah Connection “Kids”

Each day I look forward to the close of the school day. That’s when “the kids,” our after-school workers, come through our doors, enthusiastic and ready for work.

These high school students are a sheer joy to work with. Although they spend the day in a very competitive environment, they come through our doors eager to help. They answer the phones, assist customers in their gift-giving decisions and –most important– they pack orders and prepare all of our daily shipments for our 6 p.m. pick up by UPS and FedEx.

These are fabulous, hard-working kids who are a joy to have around. It’s refreshing to me that these kids — many of whom are not Jewish — have such tremendous passion for learning about the Jewish holidays and traditions, as well the workings of a small business. They are our future entrepreneurs! We teach them how to work hard, be part of a team and have fun.

During holiday time, when we are truly bursting at the seams with orders that need to be packed and shipped, teamwork is truly defined. On these days, we have close to 20 people working together, like a well-oiled machine. There are no bad attitudes and no job that is beneath anyone. Whether it’s taking out the garbage or cutting 100 sheets of cello wrap, whoever has two free hands takes on the task at hand. I am proud of what these kids are learning here at “Challah Central,” (my own kids, included).

From left to right, Bailey, Sara, Sherry, Jane, Kate

From left to right, Bailey, Sara, Sherry, Jane, Kate


When Bailey, who is a 17-year-old high school senior, began working here about a year ago, she knew very little about the Jewish holidays. But with her thirst for knowledge and interest in helping customers she quickly rose to the challenge and has emerged as one of our best Challah Connection “kids.” She is now applying to colleges and I was so pleased to be asked to write her a recommendation (glowing, of course).

“It’s important to learn new and different things, and I’ve learned so much in the last year,” Bailey tells me. “I’ve learned about the traditions of the Jewish holidays and the restrictions on what people can and cannot eat during specific holidays. I really enjoyed learning about Purim … it reminds me of Mardi Gras! Plus, the customers are so nice. I enjoy meeting new people and I like that I can help them when they call.”

She’s also has learned to appreciate the kosher foods that we carry. “The food is delicious. My whole family really likes the food that I bring home from work,” she said.

Avery, came to us familiar with Jewish customers and with Challah Connection. His older sister, Samantha, was one of our first after-schoolers (Sam graduated from high school in ’08 and now attends Cornell University). “I’ve learned a few things since I started working here, but I’ve also been able to share my knowledge with the people I work with,” he tells me.

“I work with very nice people here, which makes the job a lot of fun,” he adds. “Plus, I have come to have way more respect for people who run small businesses, now that I see the day-to-day operation. And, the food that we put in the kosher gift baskets is great. The apple cake is definitely a winner.”

Give us a call and say “Hi” to these fabulous kids. They’ll be thrilled to speak with you!

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