After skipping 2015, Temple Kol Emeth’s NoshFest is coming back this Labor Day weekend with more food vendors than ever and a variety of entertainment, including cooking demonstrations.
The festival is being held Sunday and Monday, Sept. 4 and 5, at the East Cobb Reform synagogue on Old Canton Road. It features 35 to 40 Jewish and non-Jewish food items, including pastrami and corned beef sandwiches, matzah ball soup, Nathan’s hot dogs, fried green tomatoes, barbecue brisket, Bruster’s ice cream, pasta, blintzes, bagels, fried Oreos, tiramisu, and baklava.
For Hal Schlenger, who has been involved in planning NoshFest since its inception six years ago, the food tasting is the best part of the event.
“I like to explore and try different things,” Schlenger said. “There are different kugels that are there, and there are different ways that people make things, so my favorite part is the sampling. When we created the festival, we asked vendors to sell small portions of things. You can taste a knish without being full. The idea is to get people to sample things.”
The entertainment lineup includes DJs who play b’nai mitzvah, bands, Israeli dancing and a krav maga demonstration.
Two chefs are conducting cooking demonstrations, something new for the festival. Chef Robert Velazquez of the General Muir is teaching how to make latkes three ways on Sunday afternoon, and Chef Matt Marcus of Portofino is demonstrating on Monday how to make gravlax, a Nordic salmon dish.
“We’re looking for something to make it bigger and better every year,” said Lon Goodman, a NoshFest co-chair. “We thought that going out and getting chefs from key restaurants would open it up to people who would hesitate to come or keep them there.”
Another entertaining addition to the festival is a bagel eating contest. The entrance fee is $20, and each participant gets a $20 Bagelicious gift card.
The person who eats the most bagels in five minutes takes home the $500 grand prize.
In the past six years, Schlenger said, he has seen the festival evolve to include more Jewish foods and more appealing entertainment, such as DJs who perform at Jewish simchas.
“By doing that, we had entertainment that was more engaging,” he said. “They might do a dance and get the crowd more involved.”
Event planners hope the introduction to Jewish food, tours of Kol Emeth and entertainment draw in non-Jewish members of the community to see what the Jewish faith is all about.
“We hope that if you are Jewish, you would bring a non-Jewish friend with you,” Schlenger said. “Yes, you can go to certain restaurants and get a pastrami sandwich, but maybe you haven’t had some of the other foods. In my family, we try to invite someone who’s not Jewish over for seder. (It’s) the idea of Jewish food in an environment that’s really friendly to the non-Jewish community so we can show off together that it’s fun being Jewish.”
While the festival is popular, it’s not the only way Temple Kol Emeth reaches out to the public. The synagogue hosts an ecumenical Thanksgiving celebration in November.
“It’s great to see how well we all get along,” Schlenger said. “We’re past (co-existing). We don’t think that’s enough. We’re at respect and appreciate.”