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!

Comments (2)

Just Do It… Yourself Basket

balsmmendocinosmyidmugsmHave you ever had that dream?  You know, the one where you’re a kid in a candy store and you’re  filling up a huge bag full of your favorite candies?  Hmm, maybe it was just my post-Willy Wonka dream.  I think it was the inspiration behind  Challah Connection’s  Do it Yourself Basket .  With this basket, you get to choose what you want to put in it.  It’s all the same kosher yumminess you’ve come to know from our gift baskets, but you’re the design team.  You know Aunt Rachel dies for blue and white cookies but rugelach…not so much?  Pile on the blue and white!  Or that Mom is a chocoholic but could take or leave raisins? Chocolate, we’ve got.  Lots and lots of chocolate.

Not to pat myself on the back, but it’s really a brilliant idea.  It’s not as crass as sending cash and a lot more tangible than a gift card.   Recently I saw the Do it Yourself Basket really go to work for an interfaith couple friend.  George recently called me, in a bit of a dither.  George is not Jewish but his wife Leah is, and this year, after 17 years of marriage, George wanted to surprise her with a plethora of Jewish treats.  Sad to say (correction: George was sad to say), he didn’t really know which ones were her favorites, and he wanted it to be exactly perfect.

“George,” I said. “My advice is to give the woman what everyone woman wants.”

“Jane,” he said. “I think you should just forget about Johnny Depp and stick to kosher gift baskets.”

“No, no,” I corrected him. “I mean, give Leah something to drool over…that fits in a basket.”

“That’s why I called,” he whined. “She loves it all.  Chocolate babkas, cinnamon raisin rugelach, blue and white cookies.  Also, last year I broke her great-aunt’s menorah.  I don’t think you make a basket that big.”

“First of all, we can do whatever you want, but why not let Leah make her own basket?

“She could do that?”

“Yes, George! Just tell her to follow our “6 Easy Steps to Create the Perfect DIY Basket.

George realized he was onto something.  While on the phone, he instructed me to put together a gift basket for his six-year-old nephew, his mother-in-law, and his boss.  All customized, all do it yourself.  George was very pleased with himself.

Now, if only there was a Do It Yourself Basket at Neiman Marcus…

Happy Shopping,

Jane

Comments (1)

Surviving Chanukah

TBHAN-Large-1

Raising three sons is not unlike living on the Galapagos Islands–you know–where Darwin’s Survival of the Fittest is demonstrated best? Those finches with the really sharp beaks are a whole lot better at cracking open nuts than their round-beaked cousins.

Sometimes the competition to survive in our household was akin to that. Instead of beaks, picture head locks and other wrestling games that required the weakest to scream “uncle” repeatedly.

So I wasn’t all that surprised–even on the day after Thanksgiving –that the usual competitive urges were being demonstrated for my benefit. Now, instead of head locks, there was a bit of verbal jousting going on as we sat around the table eating delicious leftovers. My youngest son Mike rubbed it in to my oldest son Sam that he, Sam wouldn’t be home for the first night of Hanukkah. Sam, Mike explained, would miss out on the following:

1. Mom’s challah stuffing
2. Harry’s crispy Golden Latkes complete with home-made apple sauce and cold, delicious sour cream.
3. Roasted Chicken
4.blue and white cookies.
5. Gelt
6. The first night gift.

“Too bad for you,” Mike said through a mouthful of leftover Thanksgiving turkey. “Aren’t you going to be taking finals that week?”

Sam nodded glumly.

“All the more for me,” Harry chimed in. “Mmmm, I can’t wait to hog down some latkes. Last year I think I set a record.”

My husband Josh said, “I think you made it to 12. It was kind of horrifying to watch.”

“I can’t help it if I appreciate my own cooking,” Harry protested, helping himself to more cranberry sauce.  It was true; Harry had become an expert latke maker, cooking golden brown latkes to perfection in an enormous frying pan given to our family by none other than my mom, Becky Mark.

Sam, 19 years old and usually high up there on the whole Survival of The Fittest thing, was looking pretty upset.

It was time for an intervention.

“Actually, Mike, Harry…I happen to have a lot of great Hanukkah presents for college students. And I’m pretty sure Sam will be getting something in the mail. Cookies to keep his energy up while he studies, plus lots of other goodies to help him celebrate.”

Sam instantly brightened.

“Thanks, Mom.”

I still hadn’t delivered my coup de grace. “And Sam, remember you mentioned your hillel was having a Chanukah party? We’re actually sending blue and white cookies for it. And challah.”

“Cool!”

Mike looked up from his plate. “Mom! There’s not going to be enough left for us.”

I smiled sweetly at him, my round-beaked finch. “Well, Sam is out there on his own. We have to make sure he’s taken care of.”

It was Mike’s turn to look sad.

I relented. “But there are plenty of Chanukah goodies for everyone.”  han56mirlg

It was Westport, after all, not The Galapagos Islands. We could do more than survive Chanukah. We could share the celebration, even hundreds of miles apart.

Happy Chanukah!

Jane

p.s. And sure enough, Sam headed back to college with a carload of challah and blue and white cookies!

Leave a Comment

A Community of Entrepreneurs

When I left the corporate world 20 years ago, I didn’t know what to expect.  After successfully launching and running my own marketing firm (first client: American Express), I wanted my next career step  to combine my passion for baking challah with the business acumen I had acquired.   Because I grew up with the aromas of my own mother’s wonderful baking (usually old world Jewish recipes, for the Jewish holidays), it was only natural that I would come to love baking myself, and my family knew they could always count on the smell of home-baked challah every Friday afternoon.

In 2002, I saw the opportunity to marry my interests by purchasing Challah Connection, then a small challah delivery service. The decision to expand and revitalize Challah Connection was a big commitment, both professional and personal.  Knowing my almost obsessive need to give 150 % to any work venture, I wondered: would I ever allow myself to relax?

Seven fun, sometimes difficult, but always interesting years later, I know the answer to that question: no!  There’s no time to relax.

But I have the genuine satisfaction of knowing that each and every gift that Challah Connection ships out is of the highest quality.  It may sound corny, but it’s like that credit card commercial.  Offering a truly thoughtful shiva basket or Hanukkah gift to a very-missed college student on behalf of his loving parents is priceless…to me.

But enough about me!

One of the great things about launching my own business was discovering a community of like-minded entrepreneurs in Westport and the surrounding towns.  Through networking and through daily life, I’ve come across a truly amazing group of people who have also had the courage to go out on their own and launch serious, profitable  businesses. Once a month, I meet with these women to discuss each others business issues, always with the goal of business growth. The community of these fellow women entrepreneurs has been so helpful and satisfying.  We are proof that it is possible to do what you love and be successful.

Jessica Bram, Author, Happily Ever Divorced

Jessica Bram, Author, Happily Ever After Divorce

Jessica Bram is the author of Happily Ever After Divorce. It’s funny and hopeful a book as you would ever want to read –reading her essays on her divorce is like eating potato chips…you get the point).  She also runs the Westport Writers’ Workshop and offers all kinds of classes on writing, from memoir writing to short story writing  (I’ve heard they fill up fast).

Barbara Ross, Evocateur

Barbara Ross, Evocateur

Barbara Ross is the owner of Evocateur. After a long career in corporate finance, she is fulfilling her dream of gorgeous jewelry and accessories. Handcrafted in Connecticut, her pieces are droolworthy.  I especially love her 22 K gold cuffs.  Although I wouldn’t say no to the sterling silver leaf pieces either…  Her line also includes  bangles, pendants, earrings and belts.

Donna Jackson launched  Saraswati’s Yoga Joint in Norwalk–a yoga studio that must be seen and experienced to be believed. Think walls painted the color of sorbet and a yoga practice that is challenging without being demoralizing and spiritual without being sappy. I must admit to be totally addicted to twice and sometimes thrice weekly doses of Donna’s down dogs.

Lyn Girdler, Not Another Guide

Lyn Girdler, Not Another Guide

Lyn Girdler’s website Not Another Guide offers travel guides written by locals. Even though I grew up in the New York environs, I have actually used her guide to New York City because its loaded with tidbits about food and shopping that make me feel like a native…again.   And quite honestly, without her eclectic guides, I never would have discovered Alphabet City’s amazing array of vintage shops.

nancycollamer

Nancy Collamer, Collamer Career Consulting, Jobs & Moms

Last but certainly not least, Nancy Collamer’s very helpful website Jobs and Moms.  Nancy is a career coach who founded The Jobs and Moms Career Center.  She advised women online as the “Jobs and Mom Pro” for Oprah Winfrey’s Oxygen Media. Nancy has the knowledge and compassion to guide women in careers that work for their families, often outside the rigid 9 to 5 parameters.  I highly recommend checking out her website if you are thinking about making some kind of a career move. Nancy and I had lunch yesterday and I found out that she counsels clients nationwide–thanks to Skype!

Kudos to those of you out there who had the courage to go for it!  Good luck to those of you about to try something new.

And may today we all take a risk…a leap of faith in ourselves,

Jane Moritz, Challah Connection Owner

Comments (2)

Saying Yes

I had spent the day weighing the merits of this kosher blue and white cookie over that, this Hanukkah gelt over that, this quality wooden dreidel over that fun plastic pink one. Hanukkah Blue & White Cookies

I had come up with a really great Hanukkah basket , one that my mother would be proud of. It was eleven p.m., a time for the quiet contemplation of “CSI.” My husband Josh had just plunked down next to me with a bowl of popcorn. Ready, set…relax.
The phone rang. It was my friend Mark, frantic.
“Listen,” he said. “I’m in a bind. I’m in charge of a fundraising event.”
“That’s great.”
“Can you prepare 12 kosher gift baskets by seven a.m. tomorrow?”
“Twelve?”
“Well, some people at a synagogue need to be thanked for great work. By tomorrow.”
“Seven a.m.?” I said. “You meant p.m., right?”
“Well, no. Seven a.m. You see…”
I cleared my throat. “Never mind.”
Mark is a party planner and a dear friend, but I had been drawn into his mishegas before. For those of you who don’t speak Yiddish, mishegas is a very handy word. It means ‘craziness’ or ‘crazy behavior.’

Time and time again, Mark had “situations.” He needed 500 rugelach bags for a bris by…tomorrow. He needed twelve fragrant loaves of home-baked babka for a bridal shower by…today.

“They specifically asked for Challah Connection kosher gift baskets,” he wheedled. And possibly lied. TBHAN-Large

“Can you pick them up?” I asked him grumpily.

“I’ll see you at seven.”

Don’t get me wrong. Mark is very good at what he does. But when he doesn’t know how to say “no.” He wants to give his customers everything they ask for, and then some. It doesn’t matter to him if they just remembered that Aunt Florence adores a good chocolate babka.

I hung up the phone with Mark and looked longingly at the TV screen for a moment. There was somebody chasing somebody else across the screen, guns drawn.

Then it hit me. It wasn’t that Mark didn’t know how to say “no.” It wasn’t that 25 gift baskets would make or break Mark’s career.

It was that saying “yes” to the 12 people who needed to be thanked at the synagogue felt good to Mark. It felt good to be a yes-sayer, to give an affirmative answer to someone who is expecting a “no.” Maybe “yes” was like a chain. Mark said yes to the synagogue, and I said yes to Mark. Who knows? Maybe a “yes” was heading towards me.

May today contain a yes,

Jane

Comments (1)

Ask Jane: Sitting Shiva

Q. Dear Jane: The mother of a very dear Jewish friend has passed away. What is the best way that I can offer comfort to my friend during this time? Is there a specific way I should honor the memory of her mother? I am not Jewish and am not familiar with the traditions.

A. Visiting your friend and bringing food is an ideal way to pay your condolences and show her your support. When a Jewish family experiences the loss of a loved one, the tradition is for the family to sit Shiva [pronounced SHI-vah. ]

Sitting Shiva is the tradition of mourning in the Jewish religion. During the shiva period, typically a 7-day period (the Hebrew word shiva means 7) friends, family and neighbors pay a home visit (“shiva call”) to the mourners. The company of others during Shiva plays a key role in helping the bereaved in this time of mourning.

Jewish custom discourages sending flowers when people are sitting Shiva. However, food is almost always welcome. Some people make donations to a favorite charity in the name of the deceased. For those who are unable to make a personal visit, sending a kosher gift basket such as a Shiva Gift Basket or Jewish Sympathy Basket, with a thoughtful card is an appropriate and thoughtful gesture. Kosher baskets are recommended so that no one is excluded from sharing in the basket contents.

Your gift should have a gift card signed by you (many people often forget to sign their gifts cards). And when you are thinking of what to write, a simple message is best. Consider a message such as “With our heartfelt sympathy,” or “We are so sorry for your loss. May (insert name of deceased)’s memory be a blessing to all who knew him/her.” Another popular option is the more traditional message: “May G-D Comfort You Among All The Mourners Of Zion And Jerusalem.” Click for more help with writing gift cards.

If there is a chance to be helpful, make an offer, or just complete the task, when appropriate. Run errands, pick-up at the airport, host someone coming in from out of town, cook or clean-up, or take care of children. Whatever can be done to remove daily chores from those sitting Shiva becomes an immense help.

If you have a question for Jane about Jewish Traditions, holiday menus, Jewish recipes, gift giving or more, please fill in the comment box below and we will answer it in an upcoming post of Ask Jane.

Comments (1)

Site Design by AutoMagic Studios eCommerce Design and Development