People of all ages and backgrounds packed the Embassy Suites Hotel this Sunday for the first annual Jewish food festival.
Dubbed the ABQ Nosh Fest, the event featured over 40 different food vendors and a variety of activities for the whole family, including a photo booth, a kids’ zone and a football “playoff zone,” courtesy of Baillo’s Electronics.
The Jewish Community Center of Greater Albuquerque organized Nosh Fest, with the participation of numerous volunteers, vendors and event sponsors. JCC Executive Director Dave Simon said planning the event has taken a year, and JCC has reached out to every Jewish congregation and organization in the city.
“We’re extremely delighted to be able to bring a new food concept to the city,” Simon said. “We are very much a foodie city, and we realized at the J that we hadn’t brought these kinds of delicious foods to the public before in an organized way. I’m just overwhelmingly grateful for the response.”
JCC Board of Directors President Eric Maxon echoed this sentiment.
Describing the event as ground-breaking, Maxon said, “We’ve never put together so many vendors to celebrate Jewish food and culture, and we tried to reach out to all different segments of the population.”
Many familiar vendors, such as Einstein’s Bagels and California Pastrami appeared to be doing brisk business along with restaurants, such as Savoy, Slate Street Café and Zinc.
In addition to the main food event, there was also the premium Latke and Vodka Tasting Room, sponsored by Grey Goose. Chef Chris Pope from Zinc Wine Bar and Bistro volunteered to prepare four different types of latkes along with 20 different gourmet toppings, ranging from caviar and truffles, to pate and smoked salmon.
Kevin Patruznick, a member of the JCC board of directors, described the various types of vodka available to sample, which required the purchase of a premium $50 wristband.
From the lead featured vodka, Grey Goose, to vodka from New Zealand, Japan, Colorado, Hawaii, Israel, Roswell and more, 12 different types of vodka were available, Patruznick said.
In addition to these events, there was also a free Nosh Talk given by food author Joan Nathan, the “Queen of American Jewish Cooking,” who has condensed a lot of her knowledge about Jewish cooking into a book called “King Solomon’s Table.”
“It was a real journey for me, and I learned so much,” Nathan said of the cookbook. “I explored the history of Jewish food, but more importantly the history of all food in the Western World. When I finished it, I said to my editor, ‘I didn’t write the book I set out to write,’ and she said, ‘The best books are not the ones you set out to write.’”
Simon believes there may be interest and support for Nosh Fest, as many people in Albuquerque may have a Jewish background without realizing it, he said.
“As many as 25 to 30 percent of the Spanish who first settled in New Mexico had Jewish heritage,” Simon said. “The heritage here is Sephardic, which is northern African and Spain, as opposed to Ashkenazi heritage, which comes from eastern and southern Europe.”
As far as whether the event will continue, Simon was optimistic.
“We want to make this an annual event,” Simon said. “Based on the insane line and happiness and joy that’s going on, it’s easy to say that this was a huge success and will become an annual event.”
Aaron Cowan is a volunteer reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers volleyball and men's and women's golf, but also writes on other subjects, including culture and politics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AaronTCowan