“Hava NaGrilla” – Philadelphia Kosher Smoke BBQ Festival recap!

Philly, here we come!

On this 4th of July, America’s Independence Day, it feels appropriate to share my recap of the Philadelphia Kosher BBQ “Hava Nagrilla” festival from just nearly 2 weeks ago, where your fav team, “5 Dudes & A Vegetarian” competed! So here you go, ‘Murica – Happy Birthday!

But really, what isn’t more American than BBQ? ūüôā

Let’s take this back to Friday, June 21st.¬† Peikes, Ellie and I boarded a very early flight from Midway. Got the rental car, ran a few errands (thank you Dollar Tree for selling KOSHER hot dog buns), picked up Debbie, and headed to the neighborhood of Bala Cynwyd, where we stayed for Shabbat.

Welcome to Philadelphia.¬† The city of brotherly love, cheesesteaks (if they’re kosher, even better), the Fresh Prince, and Rocky Balboa.

The Italian Stallion

Our lovely hosts (thank you Charlotte & Mordy) had everything prepped for our stay, so we had a few hours to kill.¬† What’s one of my bucket list places to visit in Philly?¬† Sadly, no, we didn’t have time to go see the Liberty Bell, or Congressional Hall, or any Art Museums (next trip though…).¬† No, this time, it was the Rocky Statue (cue the theme music), albeit the line to take photos in front was crazy-long.

But then it was time for the “Rocky steps” right beside the statue. Peikes and Ellie raced, while I decided to run up behind them, all while capturing this on video.¬† But, didn’t quote go as planned. When you’re “vertically challenged” and you decide to try and run those steps 2 at a time, it’s not the best idea.¬† It started out great, all hyped up, but I just ended up tripping over myself (sigh…). Oh well, it was funny (if you want to see that video, check us out at @meatyourvegetables on Instagram and click the Philly BBQ highlights)!

Fast forward to a lovely Shabbat, PERFECT weather and before we knew it, time to head over to the venue to start our smokers!

Teams, start your smokers!

The event was held in the parking lot of Temple Beth Hillel – Beth El.¬† The space was great (and it’s always good to have the synagogue available all night.¬† I mean, who really wants to use porta-potties).¬† There were 20 teams at the festival – one of the largest!¬† Some are good friends of ours who we have competed with a lot over the last few years.¬† It’s always good competition when you’re competing against the best of the best, right?

And now for the fun part.  Fast forward a few hours. The brisket and ribs are trimmed. The chicken thighs prepped. Turkey wings?  Well that threw us for a loop at the get-go, but we ended up using the drumette, so either way, we got those prepared too!  Proteins are rubbed, and the meat injected.

Time for a quick commercial break…

In the meantime, a few mishaps along the way.¬† A team just a few yards away from us had some stuff stolen (iPads, wallets) – the jury is still out on if they got anything back.¬† Debbie unfortunately had a quick bout of sickness (sorry, Debs), so I stepped in to help finish the chicken prep.¬† I must say, it’s not the sexiest job for a vegetarian. I mean, cutting through bone, cleaning the skin, it’s pretty gross, BUT our chicken thighs turn out so darn cute when they’re all rolled up and ready go to bathe in margarine (I know, I know), chicken stock and BBQ seasoning.

The last thing on the list to complete?¬† Chili.¬† There were 25 people chosen to sample each team’s chili.¬† Most of the teams were not thrilled with this, since it wasn’t part of the KCBS judging, we didn’t put in as much time and love as the 4 proteins that were being judged and truthfully, it wasn’t our shining moment.¬† Our chili was a tomato-based chili with salsa, leftover burnt ends, and garlic sausages that came all the way from Romanian Kosher Sausage in Chicago.¬† Nonetheless, we didn’t win that category.¬† Oh well.

Time to announce the winners!

After all was said and done, we were VERY happy with how we placed – especially in the company of 20 teams!¬† Our team, 5 Dudes & A Vegetarian placed 3rd in Turkey, 3rd in Chicken, and 7th place overall (and a $100 cash prize)!¬† We didn’t do as well in the Ribs and Brisket categories, but we have some ideas how to improve for the next BBQ competition (which is uh, next weekend)!

Needless to say, we are definitely proud of our performance at the first BBQ competition of 2019.  1 down, 2 more to go!  See you in Cincinnati July 14th, and Dallas, October 27th!

And no… we cannot promise we’ll have any leftovers to bring home. ūüôā

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Recap of the Jewish Food Media Conference!

Welcome to JFMCON!

It’s not every day that I get to sit in a room full of my peers and role models in the social media world who inspire me! But just a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of getting to meet some of these influencers and it could not have been more exciting!¬† More on that later…but first…

Veteran’s Day weekend, Daniel and I headed to NY for the Jewish Food Media conference. We arrived on Sunday and my dear friend (of 20 years!) Nissania Hazghia not only picked us up at LaGuardia airport, but drove us into the city where we had a fabulous brunch at Sunflower Cafe on the Upper West Side!¬† Granted, we were spending about 30 minutes looking for parking, but hey, that’s what we get for driving into Manhattan!¬† I got the Israeli breakfast – 2 eggs (one perfectly cooked; the other not so much), tuna, avocado, Israeli salad and feta.¬† Perfectly filling and perfectly Rachel-friendly!¬† It was so fantastic catching up with an old friend who I haven’t seen since her wedding, 12 years ago!¬† She then drove us to my sister Melissa’s place in Hell’s Kitchen where we dropped our stuff and headed downtown to the 9/11 Memorial.

Wow, if you haven’t been down to Ground Zero – you must.¬† They did such an amazing job not only telling the history and the story behind the building of the World Trade Center towers, but of course preserving the memories and showing dignity and respect for those who lost their lives in the 1993 bombing and of course on September 11th.¬† It was raw, emotional, moving, yet beautiful and humbling.

After the museum, we made our way back uptown and Daniel headed to a dinner that night, while I stayed in with my sister and ordered in from Noi Due.¬† I have to say, we were shocked that they charged for delivery (it seems to be standard that every restaurant in NYC has free delivery, but not this time).¬† While the food was pretty good, it was very expensive and relatively little food for the price (also, they forgot the tartar sauce for the salmon burger).¬† I’m sure the food and portions are much better in the restaurant, but my sister had just traveled back home from Thailand and Bali, so we were definitely staying in that night.¬† Couldn’t muster up the energy to go out.¬† #tired.

The next day, Daniel and I met up at Port Authority to head to Passaic, New Jersey for the conference.  And of course, we met a fellow bus-rider heading to the conference as well!  It was great meeting you Talia (@ron_appetit)!  Love meeting new friends already!

We finally made it!  The space was beautiful.  Factory220 is a cool warehouse-type event space that was great for this conference (except for the giant beams in the middle of the room which made it difficult to see the speakers, but oh well).  When Melinda Strauss (from @kitchentested) started this conference 7 years ago, they had no more than 50 people attend.  But this year was sold out at 150!

The day started off with a walk down the “red carpet” courtesy of Chaim from @trippingkosher and our good friend Yosef Silver!¬† Check out the Facebook live here (fast forward to 16:50 to see Daniel and me)!


First up on the agenda, we heard presentations from sponsors FocusCamerca.com and Kosher.Com, “What Brands are Looking for From Influencers” – some insightful information about contacting brands and standing out in the crowed to do a collaboration with them.¬† Why you?¬† What’s your pitch?¬† How is this going to benefit both of us? Good food for thought…

Next, we heard from 16-year-old popular food and lifestyle blogger, Eitan Bernath about creating your personal brand.¬† And yes, even though he’s young, he has a plethora of knowledge especially on social media (that some of us older farts may need some refreshers on)!¬† But he did have some good points about making your photos consistent as part of your overall aesthetic.¬† Great chatting with you, Eitan!

Lunch is served (yay for some Rachel-friendly salads)!  This is really the time to start networking, chatting away and soaking in as much info from as many people as possible!  And boy did I soak up! Definitely some exciting collabs in the works, so stay tuned!

Okay, back to the presentations.  Next up, we have Miriam Pascal (@overtimecook.com), Food Blogger and Cookbook author.  With the help of our fearless conference leader Melinda, Miriam gave us a great insight into food photography, showing us the use of artificial lights, since not all of us have the option to use natural light (especially when it gets dark so early in the winter!), and of course, promoted the sale with Focus Camera that was happening that day to get the exact lights she was using!  How fantastic!

Sam Adler was next.¬† She’s a food blogger (@frostingandfettuccine.com) AND the Saveur Blog 2018 Award Finalist!!¬† Her presentation, “Finding Your Unique Photography Mood and Style” was fantastic.¬† Really got into the depths of looking closely at your blog, your Instagram feed and figuring out your theme, your aesthetic – similar to what Eitan was talking about earlier in the day.¬† You know exactly how to identify her photos – light colors, pinks, bright and cheery photos, so it was a good reminder for anyone on Instagram!

Miriam Pascal demo’ing her photo and light skills!

Next up was Malkie Scholnick, founder of Power Your Edge, about “Building a Business Beyond Instagram”, but unfortunately, I was out in the lobby chatting with some new friends!¬† I’m sure it would be been super beneficial for me to hear her thoughts!

And last but not least, the #dreamteam.  Blogging Q&A Unplugged with:  Danielle Renov (peaslovencarrots.com), Naomi Nachman (naominachman.com), Eitan Bernath (eitanbernath.com), Melinda Strauss (kitchen-tested.com), and Chanie Apfelbaum (busyinbrooklyn.com). I mean, I DID get a photo of them doing their session, BUT sadly, I had to jet out and head for the airport!

Just being able to meet some people who share similar passions about food, lifestyle blogging, and just navigating the crazy world of social media, I made some great friends almost immediately (looking at you Alexa @sustainablepantry, Racheli @decadencebyRachaeli and Alyssa @aglassofgoldwater)!¬† And how funny that I ended up meeting a slew of people from Chicago, some of us living just blocks away from each other and we had to come all the way to Passaic to meet?!¬† #smallworld. But that was the beauty of this conference!¬† Being able to meet some people who are genuine and want to share their tips and insights about growing your brand and your business.¬† So isn’t this the perfect opportunity to chat (especially with the local Chicagoans I met) to discuss collaborations?¬† What better way to help each other out and grow our brands?

So there ya have it, folks.  A great conference meeting great people.  What more could I ask for?

Check out some more photos from the weekend/event!

PS – HUGE thank you to all of the incredible sponsors and the amazing SWAG BAG!

Rachel’s recap of the 2018 International Home + Housewares Show

The IHHS crew! #selfiestick

Here we go again!¬† It’s March and you know what that means?¬† The International Home + Housewares show!¬† Something I look forward to every year and since this is my third time attending, I feel like I’ve gotten a lay of the land here, but this year I felt a bit “distracted”.¬† What do I mean by that?¬† Well, in years past, I was focusing so much on taking as many pictures (for this blog of course) but this year, I was more focused on networking and making new connections, especially trying to get as much swag as possible (not as much this year, boo) but also trying to get merchandise to review on this blog and my other blog,¬†riskyveggie! But overall, here are my thoughts…

It seemed to me that there weren’t as many of the “smaller” guys – ya know, the booths of the new companies, it just felt like a smaller section of the back of one room (room = MASSIVE hall at McCormick place), and the larger conglomerates just outweighed everything else.¬† So, needless to say, I didn’t strike up as many connections since I just wasn’t feeling it – and much harder to do so from the bigger companies (oh hi Vitamix!¬† Want to give me a free product that I can review?¬† Yea…in my dreams). ūüôā So sadly, not as much swag, BUT I did end up getting TWO free desk air purifiers!¬† Not the prettiest thing around, but hey, maybe I’ll offer one as a giveaway?

But luckily for me, the celeb chef sightings were in full swing this year.¬† And note to self – next year I probably won’t do a full Instagram live from Chef Cat Cora because it took longer than I expected, plus it totally drained my battery.¬† But, was great to meet her anyway (for those of you wondering, she is so petite in person but absolutely stunning).

Chef Fabio Viviani (yes, you know him from Top Chef) was back at at this year and its become a tradition to have him throw raw pasta dough at us (Ellie and me) and get my annual photo with him.  Just the nicest guy and so patient as literally every woman in the audience waited to take a selfie with him (I mean, he is easy on the eyes).

This year, some new additions to the live cooking demos!¬† Christopher Kimball (you know him from Cooks Illustrated), Chef David Burke (culinary pioneer), Geoffrey Zakarian and French chef Ludo Lefebvre (from Top Chef Masters as well) – I didn’t catch Ludo or Geoffrey but caught a quick glimpse of David Burke.¬† If I spend two whole days at the event, then sure, but it’s just impossible to see every booth, every product in just 8 hours!¬† EEK!¬† Of course the next day featured Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli, so bummed I missed her!

One of my favorite booths that caught my eye was a French cutlery company called Sabre.¬† It wasn’t even the most fancy display – it was just simple cutlery but¬†with funky colored handles – hot pink, yellow, turquoise blue and tortoiseshell.¬† Just so simple, unexpected and elegant.¬† You can shop their store here!

So while I didn’t necessarily think it was the BEST show I’ve been to, it was pretty beneficial to talk to some partners about our upcoming Chicago Kosher BBQ competition as well as networking with new companies to review their products – I love supporting small businesses so stay tuned for some product review and giveaways!

And, big shoutout to Gavriel Prero for sharing his photos with meatyourvegetables!

Can’t wait for next year (oh and yes, we’re already registered)! ūüôā


Review: Backyard BBQ & Brew in Surfside, FL

Surprise with Mendel!

Upon walking into Mendel’s joint, Backyard BBQ and Brew, the first impression I got was a cool and hip ambiance with a laid back attitude, a place to chill with amazing food and drinks. The artfully decorated walls displaying just a sampling of Mendel’s awards from various BBQ competitions that he has been competing in for only the past few years, give testimony to the flavors that will be tasted in your mouth shortly.

Look at that BBQ trophy!

I ordered the BBQ burger (per Mendel’s suggestion), half pound beef patty, cooked medium rare that was skillfully layered with pulled brisket, BBQ sauce and topped with crunchy fried onions. Add a side of house fries and this is sure to fill even the most manliest of men. As I hungrily bit into the steaming burger, my mouth was thrown into a flavor frenzy between the savory ground beef and the sweet tanginess of the brisket, mixed with¬†Mendel‚Äôs sweet and tangy BBQ sauce (available on Amazon or ask your local grocery store).

Meaty goodness

After 3 large bites I was surprised to discover that I had only consumed only half the burger and still had the house fries to attack. I decided to come up for air to sample the delicious house fries and wash it down with 2 gulps of Boulevard wheat beer.

While inquiring about the selection of beer, Mendel was excited to divulge that they are hoping soon to have a selection of over 40 craft beers on hand available in cans or bottles. His reasoning was eye opening; he revealed that cans/bottles have a more consistent flavor in the batches they make versus kegs that are brewed on a smaller scale for each individual keg. This was a small, yet interesting detail that most restaurant owners don’t contemplate but Mendel does. It’s all about the details.

When I wasn‚Äôt lovingly staring at my burger, I was able to glance up and catch parts of the football game being shown on two giant 55” TVs on the wall behind the bar.

As I finished my meal I was genuinely filled and satisfied and not needing any dessert. And then a server happened to be walking past me with a fresh slice of Mendel’s famous Maple Bourbon Pecan pie. Although I did pass on ordering it, the aroma of it wafting from the table across from me did make me seriously contemplate getting a slice to go.

The environment of the restaurant makes me want to stop in every Sunday, around noon and stay to eat all afternoon until the final game of Sunday Night Football is finished. I can definitely see myself hanging out here with a group of football or baseball fans to root for our favorite teams.

Two hours later¬†I commented to my wife Rachel (a.k.a. “riskyveggie”) how tasty that burger was and how satisfied I still was. My wife commented that I should just write a blog entry about it and let everyone else know my experience from stopping by Mendel Segal‚Äôs place, Backyard BBQ & Brew. I highly recommend visiting there as often as you can while visiting Surfside/Miami area.

Check out Daniel’s review of the restaurants he visited while in South Florida:

South Florida Trip-Kosher Restaurant Review

Stay hungry my friends!

South Florida Trip-Kosher Restaurant Review

A few weeks ago my wife and I headed down to South Florida for some restaurant hopping and relaxation. Here is a review of the kosher restaurants we tried while we were down there.

Fried CauliflowerStraight from the airport we grabbed lunch at Mozart Cafe in Hollywood.¬† The first thing I noticed was the menu¬†was absolutely massive for a cafe.¬† Of course there was sushi on the menu, because it wouldn’t be a kosher joint without¬†it.¬† In my Pizzaopinion, large menus are a sign of an unfocused restaurant and the details end up getting lost in the shuffle.¬† The food was decent but a bit forgettable,¬†the service was efficient but waiter seemed like he needed to switch to decaf. We sat inside and to be honest we would have been better outside despite a little bit of heat as the decor was a bit boring and the walls¬†were dingy. Also, we received more than one item on chipped plates, which is a¬†pet peeve¬†of mine.

Chipped Plate

We started with breaded tempura cauliflower served with a sweet chili sauce to share. It was definitely breaded and not tempura.  I am not sure why they used the term tempura in the description.  The portion size was sufficient,  which is the least I would expect for $9 appetizer and the sauce tasted like it was out of a bottle.

My wife ordered gnocchi with a garlic alfredo sauce ($17.45).  The gnocchi tasted mass produced and were way over sauced. I ordered their Milano pizza ($11.50) which was what I think of as a Margarita (fresh mozzarella, basil, and tomato) with the addition of shredded mozzarella and tomato sauce.  Overall the pizza was fine, but I suspect the crust may have been mass produced. An 18% tip was automatically added.  Overall it was sufficient for a quick lunch but not particularly impressive and a bit over-priced.

Short Rib FlatbreadFor dinner the first night, we headed to Harbour Bistro the sister restaurant to Harbour Grill, in Surfside. The best way I can describe this place is a super high end deli.¬† Don’t think chicken soup and mile high sandwiches, rather think hand crafted sausages and artisan cured meats.¬† The restaurant is a little on the small side and feels a bit cramped, and did have a small issue with a leaky refrigerator, but once I pointed it out the waitress it was quickly cleaned up. Generally the service was excellent and the food was excellent.

My wife started with the Short Rib Flat Bread ($26) with caramelized onions, and sautéed mushrooms which she thoroughly enjoyed.  I tasted it and found it very good.  The bread was a little thicker than I expected.  My guess is that was done intentionally to handle the volume and moisture of the toppings.

I started with the homemade Sausage Platter, ($24) an assortment of 2 merguez and 2 lamb chorizo.  The flavor and texture Lamb Sausagewere excellent.  You could tell it was homemade and not your average mass produced hot dog.  Honestly it ate like a small meal itself.

Charcuterie BoardI followed that up with the Charcuterie Platter ($34) which a spectacular display of cured meat products.  I could not even begin to remember all the varieties presented, but know that it changes daily based on availability.  The assortment ranged from super rich to downright funky, but I enjoyed it.  I would recommend splitting this dish with at least one other person as it is a lot of food and can be a little overwhelming.

My wife order the Rib Eye ($52) described on the menu as a certified prime rib eye dry aged for 6 weeks and pan seared. It is served with sauteed potatoes and seasonal vegetables.  She seemed to enjoy it and the bite I had was tasty.

For desSteaksert we shared what they called an Opera ($15).  It seamed to be some sort of hybrid of a napoleon and tiramisu.  It was fairly enjoyable and well presented.

While the wine list was large enough for me, I found the number of wines available by the glass a little low, most were only available by the bottle.

Overall the food was excellent both in taste and presentation and the service was excellent. However, the ambiance was slightly lacking, detracted by the open deli counter and the noise of the slicer and vacuum sealer.

For brunch the second day we went to Grand Cafe in Hollywood.  Of the three restaurants we caught lunch at, all Israeli style dairy cafes, this was the best. This time we sat Croissant Specialoutside and enjoyed the 80 degree weather, although the ambiance suffers slightly due to the fact it is a strip mall and occasionally you catch a whiff of cigarettes from the smoking section.  Even though they were fairly busy for a late morning in the middle of the week, the service Waffleswas very attentive, although we were cared for by multiple servers which was a bit confusing.  We started with a warmed chocolate croissant ($4) and a potato boreka ($2) which were generally good. My wife had a the croissant special ($10.45), which is a croissant omelet sandwich with cheese and tomato.  She thought is was excellent even though she does not usually like tomatoes.  I had the Belgium waffles ($12) and a cafe mocha ($4.45), both were good but nothing to write home about.  Overall a good meal.

Mocha Latte


For dinner the second night we headed back to Surfside to Backyard BBQ and Brew.  Before I go ahead with my review, as a matter of full disclosure I want to admit a bias. I consider Mendel Segal, the Pit Master at Backyard BBQ a friend.  I have competed both against him and in BBQ competitions that he has organized.  That being said I will do my best to be objective.

Pecan Pie

First thing I want to say is while they Backyard BBQ is open late like many restaurants in South Florida, get there early because the good stuff sells out fast.  We got there around 8 PM and all forms of beef ribs were done for the day.  The menu was printed on a simple piece of paper in a plastic sheet protector, which I will chalk up to the fact that they recently reopened with a new menu. They have a couple of televisions which I find distracting, but according to Mendel the restaurant gets a sizable crowd for football games. The service was excellent, the waiter was very attentive.  The best way I could describe the decor was elegantly rustic, which I enjoyed.

We started with the Brisket Truffle Poutine Fries ($18).¬† The fries looked fresh and hand cut in house. The gravy was nice and rich, and the brisket shreds were moist, although I don’t know that I got much truffle from the dish, but overall a good dish.¬† On the menu it says, “Ask about our combo platters,”¬† ¬†so I asked Mendel to make me a platter of whatever he thought was good that night.¬† I ended up with a combo including a 2/3 of an order of brisket¬†($20), a full order of burnt ends ($25), and a 1/2 order of lamb ribs ($21) along with sides of red skin mashed potatoes and green beans.¬† The brisket and burnt ends were excellent as I have come to expect from Mendel as the winningest man in kosher BBQ.¬† Although, as far as the lamb ribs were concerned I found the crust from the rub and the fat both to be a bit thick relative to the amount of meat on them, which I attribute more to the anatomy of the animal than the cook, and for what they cost I would not order them again.

They have a great craft beer list.  I was looking for something on the lighter side, so I ordered a Shiner Ruby Redbird, a grapefruit flavored beer.  While I found it refreshing I did not get much grapefruit flavor from it. Mendel also brought me over another beer on the house, a stout that someone had brought him that I found excellent. We ended the meal with the bourbon pecan pie which I highly recommend. Like I said at the beginning, I am biased, but if you are in the mood for some real deal kosher BBQ, this place is not to be missed.

Also check out Rachel’s husband Elliot’s¬†Review: Backyard BBQ & Brew in Surfside, FL

BBQ Combo

On day 3 we had brunch at Yumberry in Hollywood wTuna Melthich was somewhat Yumberry Cauliflowerunimpressive.¬† Similar to when we we went to Mozart Cafe we started with cauliflower tempura ($9), described as battered deep-fried cauliflower served with¬†chili sauce.¬† The dish was very similar to Mozart’s.¬† Yumberry’s cauliflower also seemed to be breaded and not battered and the sweet chili sauced seemed like the same bottled sauce as Mozart.

My wife had a tuna panini ($13) which see said was decent, although not particularly remarkable.  I had a shakshuka ($12). The eggs in that shakshuka were cooked over easy and then added to the sauce (which I found a bit thin), despite my specific request to have the eggs cooked in the sauce.  I also had the Yum Berry coffee, a mocha cappuccino with whipped cream.  It seemed a bit small, and lacked some oomph.  Overall the meal was unimpressive.


Foozo PizzaFoozo FriesLater that day we grabbed a quick early early dinner at Foozo.  The food did take a bit of time but was generally pretty good.  The pizza topping options were creative and the sauce and crust overall pretty good, although it could have been just a tad thicker as it got a bit soggy.  The fries were a bit of let down though, as they seemed to be a mass produced frozen product.

Zac PastriesWe stopped at Serendipity in Wynwood for some ice cream before leaving but they were closed to do a pop-up event offsite. So we walked up the street and grabbed some pastries from the popular Zak the Baker.  One of these days I will get to his new restaurant, as we had been to their old location a few years ago, and their stuff is the real deal, laden with rich butter and flaky puff pastry.

All in all it was nice to visit some restaurants that we don’t have in Chicago and of course the weather was definitely better than back home.

Rachel’s Recap: 2017 Kansas City Kosher BBQ competition

3rd place in brisket! And yes, those are my parents! (Avi was MIA in this photo b/c she was taking it)

It’s been¬†a little over a month¬†since our team “Five Dudes and a Vegetarian” competed once again in this year’s (6th annual) Kansas City Kosher BBQ competition!¬† This year was a little bit different as the competition was part of the Kansas City Jewish Arts Festival at the Jewish Community Center, so the PR for the event was a little bit different.¬† So granted there were LOTS of people that came by the event, but since the BBQ event was sort of¬†tucked away on the side, we didn’t get as many passersby asking to try our food (which, may have been a good thing, since we only had some tasting samples – the priority is for the judges and the rest, well, we take home for family). ūüôā

The BBQ event itself was smaller – only 12 teams this year, instead of the usual 20-25, so our team kept thinking positively that it’ll give us better odds at winning big this year.¬† We competed against some of the best.¬† Some regulars, like Sephardic-Q, DWF Kosher Q Crew (shoutout to my buddy Brian!!)¬†and Dukes of Chazzer (and they won Grand Champ, 2 years in a row now, SUPER impressive – congrats to Andy and the team). We also had the opportunity to have our booth right next to some legit professional BBQers and when I say legit, I mean, they’ve competed in the MASSIVE, “American Royal” BBQ competition (let’s just say, over 400 teams at that one – cue jaw drop).¬† Dan from Chop’s BBQ basically just swept the entire competition, so much so, that he was having a hard time juggling all of his trophies, while carrying them to his car. #sorrynotsorry.¬† But so well deserved.¬† On the other side of Dan was Andy from Smoke on Wheels, who also won big that day.¬† I felt a huge honor just to be competing in the same space as these dudes and wanting to learn from the best.

Same shpiel here – we did prep Thursday night (I made the rubs, cooked the sauces and¬†helped¬†pack up and keep us organized),¬†and the rest we tackled Saturday night, motzei Shabbat.¬† We had 2 new members of our team, Joyce (from KC!!) and my other sister, Avi!¬† It’s become such a family affair and I love it!¬† Saturday night turned out to be great weather, no major hiccups for us and… I quite possibly slept on top of a piece of cardboard underneath a table, and there may or may not have been spooning with my husband involved (it was COLD, okay?!).

Homemade shakshuka for breakfast Рmy permanent role in the morning hours.  It was delish.  Added some beef fry on the grill and breakfast sausage (I heard it was delish, but what do I know?).  All of our proteins looks pretty darn good if I must say so, and we all felt REALLY good about it.

12 o’clock NOON – time for the first turn-in.¬† Boxes are complete with perfectly folded tin foil on the bottom and drips have been wiped up (yes, I’m a bit of a stickler for the perfect-looking turn-in box, but believe me, that’s a good thing).¬† Chicken, ribs, turkey and brisket.¬† All the work pays off, everything is turned in to the judges and now we start cleaning up and it’s time to wait.

Judging time is here.¬† Fingers are crossed, waiting for our team name to be called for something…anything!¬† And lo and behold, we placed the EXACT same as last year – THIRD place in BRISKET!¬† I know we all want to do better (looking at you, Daniel)! And though I agree, I’m still happy we won, especially a trophy.¬† But there are always things to learn from our experiences and ways to improve so we can get a second or FIRST place trophy maybe next year.

A couple takeaways – one thing we have to work on is our timing, though I think we have the cooking timing down, we just have to be more careful about the resting of the meat and plating and so forth.¬† Always a work in progress but we’re getting there, and learning from mistakes.

And the biggest takeaway from this year’s event,¬†was how much we (and by “we”, I mean everyone competing) miss Mendel Segal – who singlehandedly organized this event with the Va’ad 6 years ago and made it the incredible event it is today. Though since he moved to South Florida, it just didn’t have that “Mendel-esque” touch as it could have.¬† Those of you who were there, you know what I mean.¬† It was a great event, don’t get me wrong, just was missing that something extra – those details that Mendel can control in his sleep, he’s such a master.¬† So, yes, Mendel, we all miss you. But we’re excited to check out your restaurant in Miami, and maybe…a¬†BBQ competition there soon??

Check out some picts from the event!

Brisket and the rub!


Chicken prep!






Making breakfast and running on an hour of sleep!


Shakshuka for bfast




Morning selfie


Final touches for the chicken


Honey, baby!


Ellie, with Dave Rogers, from KCBS (Kansas City Barbeque Society – the competition is sanctioned by them)!


Smokin’ it up


Basting those ribs


Final product!


3rd place-winning brisket!




Mendel in his element


Team spirit!!

Kosher hot dog stand at Wrigley Field

  • March 21, 1837 ‚Äď The City of Chicago was founded.
  • October 8, 1871 -The day the Chicago fire was started.
  • April 23, 1914 ‚Äď The day Wrigley Field opened.
  • November 4, 2016 ‚Äď The Chicago Cubs win the World Series for the first time in 108 years.
  • July 21, 2017 – The day Certified Kosher food arrived at Wrigley field.

Few things can impact the day people remember so vividly in their lives — like when something epic happens.¬† Last Friday, Certified Kosher food finally came to Wrigley Field in the form of a Glatt Kosher hot dog stand. Adults raved and kids were excited and yes, some may have even shed a tear or two when they stepped up to the plate to order their kosher food.

There is a lot of excitement about this new venture for both the Cubs and their fans to get certified kosher food in the ball park. From Jews to Muslims (who keep strict Halal), to the health conscience, there is a new kind of dog on the block. With their tasty Romanian hot dogs and spicy Polish sausages, Danzigers will surely have people lining up to get their fill of kosher hot dogs at Wrigley.

Danziger’s kosher hot dog stand is located on the first base side, on top of section 235, in between the last two ramps leading up to the upper deck where the 400-500 sections are located. We are assuming it will be open only 6 days a week and closed for Shabbos with possibly further closings for Jewish holidays. That may change, however, so be sure to check ahead before walking into the stadium.

While still in its infancy, the simple menu consists of a Regular Romanian hot dog or a spicy Polish Sausage Рwhich are reasonably priced compared with other inflated pricing while in the ball park. Looking to pile on a mountain of condiments and build your very own authentic Chicago hot dog? You can get grilled onions for no extra charge or decide to top it off with some mustard and relish packets. There have been some sightings of hot dog sauce (read Ketchup) but we will chuck it up to management’s oversight.

Looking for a quick snack? Be sure to grab a kosher certified pretzel here as it is the only location in the park that is certified kosher ‚Äď – all other locations are not certified!

The entire kosher community is excited to hear this awesome news. But there is word that Danzigers already has competition as Milt’s food truck will be starting to serve up their famous Arietta pulled rib sandwich, but that will have to wait for another week before we can sample it. Stay tuned for more in a follow up post!

2017 International Home + Housewares Show Review

Last Sunday Rachel, Elliott (Rachel’s husband), and I went to the¬†International Home + Housewares Show at McCormick Place on Chicago’s Museum Campus. ¬†For those of you not from around these parts, McCormick Place is the nation’s largest convention center with¬†2,600,000 square feet of prime exhibit space. ¬†Needless to say there was an insane amount of walking involved. ¬†We walked about 10 miles in 9 hours. ¬†Once we got there, we met up with¬†Gabriel Prero and his wife Lena. Gabriel is very long time friend of mine (since preschool) and a very talented industrial designer. ¬†If you ever have the chance to walk a trade show with an industrial designer, I highly recommend it. ¬†While I tend to concentrate on either form or function, Gabriel is able to look at a product and truly appreciate the marriage of the two.

To be honest, we did rush through the show due to its size. One could easily spend two full days at this show, as it fills all three major halls at McCormick Place.  Here are some of the highlights:

Anova is coming out with some cool new items including a $99 immersion circulator. Anova was one of the first companies to bring the immersion circulator/sous vide cooking to the home kitchen, and at that price, this new product really makes sous vide cooking accessible to the home cook.

Aervoe was showing a temperature-controlled induction cooktop for $124. ¬†While it is not as accurate as¬†PolyScience’s¬†THE CONTROL ¬įFREAK‚ĄĘ¬†,at¬†a fraction of the cost, it is be a good option for the home cook.

The Loki Smart WIFI Thermometer, a magnetic ball that can read up to four (internal or ambient) temperature probes and transmit to your mobile device, was something I found interesting.   It also has a social media component for finding and sharing recipes.  They are currently in pre-orders with prices starting at $99.

PicoBrew was there showing off their Pico Personal Craft Beer Brewery. ¬†These things are super slick. ¬†It is a totally hands off¬†system from start to finish¬†with cartridges that can be purchased to produce your favorite style of beer. ¬†The cartridges can also be customized for your own secret recipe. ¬†Unfortunately, at $800 it is out of my price range. Of course, if they wanted to send me one to review I’d be happy to oblige.

Mason jars and fermentation were a running theme throughout the show.  Some standouts in that space were mason jar top companies Masontops, Kraut Source, and reCap.  Kraut Source takes the win in the fermentation department with their lid that includes a spring loaded disk that holds your vegetables below the waterline to prevent any nasty bugs from getting to them. From an aesthetic standpoint, Masontops comes out ahead with some great colors, a wooden cap with a plastic liner, and a chalkboard top.  Finally, from a range of functionality standpoint reCap was impressive, with a wide variety of lids including a sprayer and a pump.

The Party Bar from Igloo
Trailmate from Igloo

Igloo is celebrating their 70th anniversary and showing off the Trailmate, which is best described as the SUV of coolers, and the Party Bar, the ultimate cooler for entertaining.

Like in past years, SodaStream was there giving out their sample bottles and showing off the new MyWater Flavor Essence.  I really love these, as they are unsweetened, making them, a great way to add flavor without added sugar or nasty tasting artificial sweeteners.

We had some time to hang out with Chef Randall Smith at Ergo Chef, and play with their innovative knives. They make a line of RaBBi-Q knives developed in conjunction with my buddy, the winningest man in kosher BBQ, Mendel Segal. Chef Randall also competes in the kosher BBQ circuit on Team Shiva Que.  I look forward to sharing a few drinks with him in the future as we cook brisket late into the night.

Finally we ran in to a few food celebrities including Fabio Viviani from Top Chef,who is absolutely hilarious, Jeff Mauro AKA the Sandwich King, a Chicago native from the Food Network, famous Emeril Lagasse, as well as BBQ legend Steven Raichlen.


For Rachel’s take on the show see here:¬†Recap: 2017 International Home + Housewares Show!

Recap: 2017 International Home + Housewares Show!

Chef Ming Tsai and his “fangirl”

Well, it’s Monday and my feet, legs, shoulders, back (ok, basically all of me) is sore, my Fitbit tracked over 24,000 steps, almost 10 miles and on my feet for 9+ hours all yesterday. ¬†That must mean one thing – the International Home and Housewares show was yesterday! And no, I did not exaggerate those numbers. As their website claims: “Where art intersects with engineering. Where technology informs style. Where exhibitors display innovation, buyers discover trends & the industry connects to do business. It’s just plain smart. ¬†In addition to more than 2,100 exhibitors showcasing thousands of new products, the International Home + Housewares Show offers visitors education and insight into business practices and trends that are shaping the industry. Experience the Show’s strong educational sessions and special displays to help grow your business!”

Smart, yes.  Exhausting, absolutely.

Here’s the scoop. ¬†Daniel and I registered a few months ago (well, I also registered under my other blog Risky Veggie). ¬†The 3 of us (my husband included), left at 8 a.m. on Sunday, arrived just before 9, after winding our way through some random outdoor parking lot that seemed miles away from McCormick place. ¬†We started on one side, walking up and down each aisle, checking out products and booths – everything from Black + Decker to SodaStream, Vitamix, Nest, Cuisinart, and Keurig and checking out every type of pressure cooker from every company you can think of. ūüôā ¬†Luckily there were many raffles to win a pressure cooker, so of course I entered every single one (this is next on my list of kitchen appliances).

We got a hugger! ūüôā
Goofing around with Jeff Mauro, the Sandwich King







Action shot!




First on this side of the exhibit, was walking over to the cooking demo featuring Food Network chef¬†Jeff Mauro (a.k.a. “The Sandwich King) – a local Chicago boy, he won “Food Network Star” a few seasons back. ¬†He was demoing Chicago-style Philly cheesesteak and sweet potato hash, using the new George Foreman grill, with removable plates for waffle-making, braising, broiling, searing and of course grilling. So, naturally, he heckled Daniel and me in the front row, while we took action shots and heckled him back. ¬†He was super friendly and so silly (case in point, my “silly pictures” I took with him). ¬†I gave him both of my business cards and off we went. ¬†Meanwhile, my husband Elliott was off at the Wahl exhibit getting a free haircut and beard trim (this barber, Ben is THE BEST. ¬†If only he had a barber shop near us). ¬†Yay for free haircuts!

Continuing on, chatting with some vendors, ooing and ahing over the fancy displays, getting free bottles of personalized SodaStream drinks¬†(and may I say, their new all-natural and totally sugar-free flavors are pretty good) and… how could I forget? Daniel and I purchased our own portable commercial induction cook top with temperature control, at a CRAZY low price (um, think under $150). ¬†Yup, exactly.

Next, I stumbled upon the Aroma booth and low and behold, Chef Ming Tsai was there doing a cooking demo with their new fancy schmancy pressure cookers (see, I told you). He made 3 dishes – seared beef with rice and watercress, Chinese duck (I left during this demo and came back) and…Dunkin Hines cake. ¬†Yes, it’s true. He was demonstrating how easy it is too make cake in this pressure cooker. ¬†Since I was standing in the front row (why was everyone shying away in the back?), he asked me to be his volunteer, to show everyone how easy it is to use. ¬†The only hiccup was that he forgot to plug it in (cue my deer in headlights face). Okay, all is good. ¬†Photo taken with him, and mentioned that I met him at a book signing years ago downtown, gave him my cards (of course) and again, away we went.

More walking.  Feet getting a little tired by now. Lunch (I brought my own Rachel-friendly food).


Time for the South side hall. ¬†I saw that Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian was going to be there doing a demo, but I waited around and didn’t see him around, so instead, we all head to the Cooking Theater to see the one and only Fabio Viviani for his cooking demos (you may remember him from Top Chef, where he made “It’s Top Chef, not Top Scallops” a famous line and me, being the weirdo I am, quoted it to him last year. ¬†He laughed). ¬†He got a volunteer from the crowd to help him make fresh pasta – orecchiette, to be exact, and Chicken and Cauliflower steak puttanesca, all while chucking balls of pasta dough into the crowd, because, he’s Fabio. ūüôā

Chef Fabio Viviani signing last year’s photo

Wasting no time, I rushed up to the front, asked for a quick photo and (since I came prepared and printed out the photos of the celeb chefs and me from last year), I had him sign my photo of us. ¬†Yea, I’m weird like that (but in my defense, Daniel did that too and gave me the idea of printing out those photos).

2016 IHHS







More walking, more free swag, more business cards exchanged, more contacts being made. ¬†“I’d love to write a review on my blog about your product”, and “where do you sell these in retail” where the common lines that I felt myself repeating all day.

Caught a quick glimpse of Chef Emeril Lagasse at his booth but he was talking with his PR people and heading back to the other wing for an autograph signing.

North side was next. ¬†This is the cleaning, organizing, start-up companies, or some you’ve seen on Shark Tank stuff (i.e. Squatty Potty, Scrub¬†Daddy, DBest), among other big companies like Ziploc, Kate Spade, Clorox and Igloo. I chatted with a few companies who were so excited to give me extra products to try out and review (hair clips, mason jar lids, cookie cutters, and cleaning cloths, just to name a few). A few more cards given out and carrying 3 heavy bags of stuff, it was 5:15 and time to head out.

‚ÄúParty Bar‚ÄĚ from Igloo
“Trailmate” from Igloo

All in all, a great show.  Last year when I went for the first time, I was just getting up and running as a blogger, and now I have not one, but TWO blogs!

I’m always on the lookout for interesting designs, new products – everything from kitchen appliances, home decor, storage, food prep, cleaning products and everything in between. I feel much more prepared now for these types of shows, more business cards to hand out and the best questions to ask “show me about your product” and “what new products are you showcasing?”

Ergo knives!

The trade show is well organized and some company booths are displayed so impressively, so chic, I wish my living room could look that put together (ok maybe it is), but mostly, I coveted those fancy tablescapes. ūüôā And maybe the baby blue vintage-style toasters. ¬†Or the giant copper pots.

Time to register for 2018!

Don’t forget to check out Daniel’s review of the show here:¬†2017 International Home + Housewares Show Review