Gift Ideas for Passover

The Jewish holiday of Passover begins at sundown on Friday, March 30th, and ends on Saturday, April 7th (although it lasts for only 7 days if you happen to follow the customs practiced in the Israel). It is one of the most widely observed holidays among Jewish people.

Passover is a celebration of the liberation of the Jews from Egypt during the ancient Egyptian empire. Almost everyone, no matter what their religious or cultural background, is familiar with the story of Exodus. In brief, it recounts how God sent plague after plague upon the Egyptian people until the ruling Pharoah at the time (unclear who this would be) finally allowed the Jews who had been held in slavery to be freed. Before the Pharoah relented, the Egyptians endured invasions, infestations, infiltrations, outbreaks, scourges, blights, afflictions and diseases! Specifically: Blood (all the waters turned to blood), Frogs, Bugs (probably lice), Wild Animals, Plague (killing livestock), Boils, Hail, Locusts, and Darkness. It wasn’t until after the 10th and final plague, the death of the 1st born child from every family (including the Pharaoh’s son), that the Pharaoh called for Moses and told him that he could set his people free. The holiday is called Passover (Pesach in Hebrew) because God “passed over” all the houses of the Jews and spared them from the final plague.

The Seder (the ritualized dinner ceremony) is held on the first night of Passover. Some families and cultures may also have a Seder on the second night, but the first Seder is the main celebration. There is a very prescribed order to the Seder meal. It begins with saying the Kiddush (blessings) and drinking the first glass of wine. The Haggadah is the text that is read throughout the Seder meal which includes the story of the exodus and the Four Questions about how this night is different from all the others. At various points in the telling of the story, wine is drunk and specific foods are eaten to punctuate certain events such as bitter herbs to remind one of the bitterness of enslavement.

Any celebration that involves food and wine is a perfect gifting opportunity! Every year we create several new Passover gift basket ideas just for this purpose. It should be noted that Passover gift ideas can be a little tricky since there are fairly strict constraints on what can and what cannot be eaten. For example, no leavened bread is eaten during this holiday. (This is because the Jewish people had to flee Egypt so quickly after they were freed that they didn’t have time to leaven their breads. Hence, the tradition of eating matzah and why Passover is also called the “Feast of the Unleavened Bread”.) Moreover, the food eaten at a Seder and indeed during the entire Passover holiday needs to be certified “Kosher for Passover” which means that the foods not only comply with Kosher dietary laws but also will not contain any grains that could ferment and possibly leaven, such as wheat, barley, oats, rye and spelt. Pre-packaged foods will have this label clearly marked.

Kosher for Passover Gift Baskets

This Passover, we are offering three sizes of our gift baskets filled with naturally Kosher fresh fruit and two deliciously delectable Passover dessert items: chocolate dipped macaroons by the well respected Schick’s Bakery and Barton’s cashew crunch bars, both labeled Kosher for Passover. In all of our Kosher for Passover gift baskets we make sure to keep our Passover desserts and goodies in their original wrappings so that your recipient will know that your gift is definitely Kosher for Passover.

Kosher for Passover gift basket

This medium sized Passover Gift Basket makes a perfect gift idea for Passover.

Kosher for Passover Wines

Wine is a great gift idea for any occasion, but it’s especially appropriate as a Passover gift idea because one cup of wine must be drunk at four different points during the Seder (that’s a total of four glasses of wine per adult!). The four glasses symbolize the four promises God made to the Hebrews, loosely interpreted as: I will free you from your burdens, I will bring you out of enslavement, I will give you help and guidance, and I will take you as my people.

So if the Seder will be hosting a large group (which is very common) there will definitely be a need for more wine. Make sure the wine is Kosher for Passover Image result for okp symbol and remember that red wine is preferred.

We are recommending a lovely dry red wine from the Galil Mountain Winery in the Upper Galilee region of Israel. This wine includes several grape varietals: cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and a little bit of petit verdot.

Kosher for Passover red wine from Israel will be a welcome gift at any Seder dinner table.

Include a bottle or two of this Kosher for Passover wine in one of our Passover dessert gift baskets for an extra special Passover gift idea. Your grand gesture will be greatly appreciated!

Raise the bar on your Passover gift basket by including a Kosher for Passover wine.

Whether you are attending the Seder, or sending your gift to loved ones from afar, your thoughtfulness will mean so much on this significant Jewish holiday. “Chag Pesach Sameach” or “Happy Passover” from all of us at Manhattan Fruitier!

Traditions of Purim

The “Purim Story” is derived from the Book of Esther, or “Megillat Esther”. The dramatic events that form the basis of the Purim celebration are described in a prior blog on the History of Purim. Today, we wanted to focus on some of the customs surrounding this holiday, particularly those that entail the special foods eaten during the happy Purim feast and the Mishloach Manot (Hebrew) or Shalach Manot (Yiddish). This year, the Purim celebration begins on Wednesday, February 28th and ends on Thursday, March 1st.

Misloach Manot Ideas

Literally translated as “sending of portions”, the Misloach Manot is specifically mentioned in the Book of Esther: “…. Therefore do the Jews of the villages, that dwell in the unwalled towns, make the fourteenth day of the month of Adar a day of gladness and feasting, and a good day, and of sending portions to one another. …” Thus, one of the traditions of Purim is to send gifts of food and drink to friends and family. Anyone above the age of Bat Mitzvah (12 years old for girls) or Bar Mitzvah (13 years old for boys) is expected to participate in the Shalach Manot.  The foods must be ready-to-eat and there must be at least 2 types of food included (that is, food that requires different blessings from each other). The obligation is to send to one person, but most people send gifts to many.

It is also customary to use a 3rd party messenger to give the gifts since Misloach or Shalach means “to send” rather than “to give”. That’s why we at Manhattan Fruitier offer a line of gifts for Purim that we can deliver for you! We have four Mishloach Manot ideas that should please anyone on your gift list.

Hamantashen

Each of our Purim baskets contains the essential food that most embodies the meaning of this holiday: hamantashen! Hamantashen is a three-cornered or triangular shaped pastry that is folded to disguise (not completely, but partially) the sweet fruit-based fillings inside. Most Misloach manot ideas would include hamantashen. Our baskets for Purim include both the traditional poppy seed hamantashen as well as apricot, and they are both Kosher.

If you already know the story of Purim (if not, you can refer to our blog on the History of Purim — see link above) you will know that Haman was the evil Prime Minister of the King of Persia, who was married to Esther. Haman plotted to massacre the Jews but was thwarted by Esther. Hamantashen (Yiddish) is literally translated as “Haman’s hat” or “Haman’s pocket”; in Hebrew it is called Oznei Haman meaning “Haman’s ears”, and these little pastries do resemble these items.

The word tash in Hebrew means “weaken”. It may be that eating hamantashen or “weakening Haman” symbolizes the many incidents described in the Megillah where the tables are turned on Haman. For example, Haman was once strong and in the king’s favor, then he was out of favor with the king and became weak; Haman wanted royal robes and to ride the streets on a royal horse, but Mordecai ends up being given that privilege; Haman was once the Prime Minister, then his nemesis Mordecai was given his position; Haman once owned property, then Queen Esther inherited it; Haman once plotted to kill the Jews, and then he and all his family were killed, etc.  Another interpretation is to show that something bad and evil can be turned into something sweet.

The way hamantashen is made also reflects one of the core themes of Purim. The sweet goodness of the filling is hidden inside the pastry, the same way that Esther’s true identity as  Jew was disguised, and the same way that it is said all the miracles of Purim directed by God were concealed.

Wine

It is also typical that ideas for Shalach Manot include wine! Since Purim is a joyous holiday it should come as no surprise. Wine always adds a celebratory note to any festive event. But there are several possible explanations that come from the Talmud and the Story of Purim itself. The Book of Esther distinctly states that the Jews rejoiced at Purim by drinking. The Talmud also says that on Purim, one is to drink to the point of not being able to distinguish between “cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordechai”! However, the Talmud also says that drinking should be moderate so as not to get so drunk as to break any of the commandments.

In accordance with tradition, then, we have paired each of our Purim baskets with a delicious wine. The wine in our Misloach Manot baskets are all Kosher and are imported from Galilee, Israel.

Purim Delight With Wine (wine can only be delivered in New York State and Washington, DC)

Purim Delight With Wine
(wine can only be delivered in New York State and Washington, DC)

We offer both a dry, full-bodied red wine (Alon, 2012 from several varietals) and a crisp and citrusy white wine (Sauvignon Blanc, 2016) from the Galil Mountain vineyard.

Other Traditions

When reading the Megilla or the story of Purim, it is common practice to use a noisemaker or stomp one’s feet every time the name of Haman is spoken, as if to expunge him the way he wanted to wipe out the Jewish race.

Dressing up in costumes and/or masks is another Purim tradition. While the entire Book of Esther does not mention “God” at all, it is believed that God was actually guiding the way at every point in the story. In other words, God’s miracles were hidden from Esther and Mordecai. And Esther hid the fact that she was Jewish from the king who wanted to marry her. Dressing up may also reflect the dressing up in royal garb as Esther did as Queen and as Mordecai did when he was honored by King Ahasuerus. So disguise is an underlying premise of Purim.

Finally, it is expected that one will give to charities during the Purim holiday. Matanot L’evyonim or “gifts to the poor” are usually in the form of money and typically it would be the amount that would be spent on a meal. Alternatively, one could also send a meal. It is required to give the Matanot L’evyonim to at least two people, but often people choose to give to many in need.

Chag Purim Sameach or “Happy Purim”!

A Brief History of Purim

The fascinating story of Esther begins in that part of the world that we now know as Iran, during the Achaemenid Dynasty of the Persian Empire, around the 4th century BCE. By that time, the Jewish diaspora was well established and groups of exiles could be found living in Persia. Esther’s parents were dead, and she was raised by her older cousin, Mordecai, who was like a father to her. Her story is found in the Old Testament of the Bible in the Book of Esther and it narrates the origins of the holiday of Purim.

The Book of Esther (Megillat Esther) or “The Story of Purim”

The Persian empire was ruled by King Ahasuerus who was looking for a new beautiful wife. Reluctantly, Esther was included in the group of young women to be considered. The king immediately fell for her, and she was made queen, all the while keeping the fact that she was Jewish hidden from him. One day, Mordecai overheard a plot being hatched to murder the king. Mordecai got word to the king and the plot was thwarted sparing the king’s life.

Haman, a prime minister of King Ahasuerus, was offended when Mordecai, who was a very proud man, refused to bow to him as was decreed by the king’s order. Haman decided that he would take revenge not just against Mordecai, but against all Jews, by exterminating them. He threw “lots” to determine the lucky day for the massacre, and it was the 13th day of the month of Adar on the Hebrew calendar. Haman told the king of his plans and the king gave him his blessing.

Mordecai told Esther that she had to do something to stop this massacre and that she herself would not be safe even though she lived in the royal palace. Esther told Mordecai to gather all the Jews in the area and have them fast for 3 days after which time, she would approach the king. Although she had not been summoned by him, after 3 days Esther bravely went to the king’s chambers with the knowledge that she could be killed for such an unauthorized intrusion. Fortunately, King Ahasuerus was quite happy to see his beautiful queen and asked her what she wanted. She invited the King and his Prime Minister, Haman, to a feast that she had prepared for the next day.

At the feast, the king again asked Esther if she had a request and she told him that she would like to invite him and Haman to attend another feast of food and wine the following day and she would make her request then. Haman was very honored to be included in this royal fete. But when he left he saw Mordecai who again would not bow to him and he became furious and was compelled by his advisors to build a gallows to hang Mordecai the next day and to go to the king with his plan.

That night, the king was reminded that Mordecai had saved his life and that he had done nothing in return to thank him. When Haman came to ask his permission to hang Mordecai, the king first asked him what he should do to honor someone. Thinking that the king meant how he could honor him, Haman explained that the person should be dressed in royal garments, given a royal horse, and told to ride through the streets of the city proclaiming that he has the special honor of the king. The king rather liked that idea and told Haman to make it so for Mordecai whom he wanted to honor for saving his life.

Haman was chagrined, but carried out the kings wishes the next day. After the ceremony, he went to the second feast with the king and queen. Queen Esther revealed to the king that she herself was a Jew and begged him to save her people from the annihilation planned by Haman and incited by his hatred of the Jewish people. When the king discovered that Haman had already built a gallows upon which he planned to hang Mordecai, he declared that “the tables had turned” and Haman himself would be hanged there.

More tables turned after that: Mordecai was made Prime Minister and Esther was given Haman’s estate. But the decree Haman had had the king set forth – to exterminate all the Jews – was still in place and could not be removed. Instead, Mordecai and Esther had the king set forth another decree that the Jews could fight against their oppressors. And on the 13th of Adar, the day Haman was to begin his massacre, the Jews fought back and killed their would be murderers including all the sons of Haman. The next day was a big a joyous celebration of freedom that became the holiday of Purim (literally meaning “lots” in Hebrew), on the 14th day of Adar, and is commemorated with feasts of food and wine around the world today.

Introducing Wine Gifts

We are delighted to introduce you to Manhattan Fruitier’s very own collection of wines! Wine is a natural extension of Manhattan Fruitier’s gift offerings. We hope you are as tantalized as we are by the possibilities. We are currently offering individual bottles of wine and wine gift baskets for delivery in New York State, including, of course, NYC.

Prosciutto & Parmigiano Basket with a Tuscan Chianti wine

Our Prosciutto & Parmigiano Basket with a Tuscan Chianti

We know that buying wine can often be intimidating. There are so many choices and so much to know about wines from around the world. I recently tasted delicious bottles from Sardinia and Lebanon. Wherever grapes will grow, good wine is likely being made. It’s hard for even a wine expert to keep up.

That’s why we put so much attention into creating a highly curated wine collection that won’t overwhelm you.  Instead of thousands of wines to choose from, we offer fewer than 100 wines that reflect the highest standards in grape growing and winemaking. It’s the ultimate indulgence to enjoy a bottle of high quality bottle of wine from a small producer half way around the globe. And delivered as a gift in New York City, it’ll be prized and remembered.

Whether you are purchasing an individual bottle of wine, or pairing wine with one of our gourmet food gifts, we will guide you like a sommelier in a restaurant. In fact, our wine selection is curated by sommelier Ryan Burkett, who trained as a sommelier in fine restaurants in Charleston and New York City. Ryan has a passion for introducing people to the wines and producers he believes in.

Here’s the bottom line:  Any wine you buy from us will be exemplary. We want your experience of buying wine, whether for yourself or as a gift, to be stress-free and fun.  And we’ll deliver to your home or work anywhere in New York State.

The Wines

We offer wines of all tastes and styles with one very important thing in common: they are made by people who care. The wines we offer best express their creator’s intentions. We choose wines from grape growers and winemakers (often one in the same) who want to convey their sense of place, or terroir, to us through the grapes grown on their land.

Wine making is part art and part science. It involves working with an unstable product (fermenting grape juice) which has to be monitored and sometimes gently massaged to ensure that it stays on the path to become an enchanting libation. The best wine makers gently guide the fermentation process, without heavy handed interventions.

wine gift basket with red wine

Our Organic Cheese Basket with a bottle of organic red wine from the Loire Valley

We have a special affection for “natural wines,” namely, wines made from grapes that are grown organically or biodynamically, and made with no or very few additives. The idea is to let the grape speak to us through the wine. This is the magic of wine:  You can be mentally and emotionally transported to France, Italy, Spain, Australia, California, Sicily … while sipping wine in your NYC apartment.

We will be blogging regularly about wine so that you can travel to amazing places and share the stories of people with a passion for what they do.  Wine is geography, history, culture, language, and countless other facets of life.  But really, wine is about the pleasure of drinking it. Enjoy!

7 Great Rosh Hashanah Gift Ideas

It’s not obligatory to bring or send a gift for the Rosh Hashanah holiday, but it’s a thoughtful gesture that will certainly be appreciated. Food gift baskets are great Rosh Hashanah gifts to give, since the Jewish holiday is celebrated with particular foods. If you are going to give a gift of food for the holiday, make it classic. For example, during Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), eating honey and other sweet dishes symbolize the wish for a “sweet” New Year. It is also customary to eat fruits, such as apples and pomegranates. It’s a good idea to make your food gift Kosher, unless you know for sure that the family does not keep a kosher household.

Here are 7 great Rosh Hashanah gifts to give or send for the holiday celebration!

#1. Gift Baskets of Kosher Honey and Apples
Probably more than any other gift of food, honey and apples are the most popular for Rosh Hashanah because they are typically a focal point of the holiday meal. Dipping apples into honey is a Rosh Hashanah tradition. Apples are a plentiful fruit in the Fall when the Rosh Hashanah holiday is observed. Honey is significant not just for its sweetness, but also for the industry of the bees that made it and is a reminder to give of oneself in the coming year.

Kosher-Honey-Hamper for Rosh HashanahWe offer two classic kosher Rosh Hashanah gifts that will be sure to please any gathering. Our Kosher Bees Knees gift includes the delectable combination of seasonal apples, kosher honey from the Catskills and Kosher peanut butter. Our Kosher Honey and Nougat Hamper contains the classic ingredients of seasonal fresh fruit and kosher honey for dipping, as well as kosher honey almond nougat – a chewy delight!

#2. Gift Baskets of Fresh Fruit
Fruits other than apples are also traditional at Rosh Hashanah. Pomegranates are frequently included on the Rosh Hashanah dinner table because the abundance of seeds represents the many good deeds that will be done in the New Year. Fruit is naturally kosher, so giving a fresh fruit Rosh Hashanah gift basket will always be a safe bet! Manhattan Fruitier’s fresh fruit gifts for Rosh Hashanah always include pomegranates and apples.

#3. Gift Baskets with Kosher Sweets
Kosher Basket with BabkaSweet foods are a main feature of a Rosh Hashanah celebration in the home. A Rosh Hashanah gift idea that combines fresh fruit with kosher sweets, such as chocolate babka (a traditional treat at a Shabbot dinner), cocoa-dusted almonds, and chocolate-dipped pomegranate seeds, hits all the central themes of the holiday.

#4. Traditional Rosh Hashanah Food Dishes
If you like to cook, there are several time-honored dishes served at a Rosh Hashanah meal that you could make. However, if you do not keep a kosher kitchen yourself, you should probably choose to buy something already made and certified Kosher. Your host may encourage a pot-luck approach to filling out the Rosh Hashanah table, particularly if the party attending is large. Tayglach (a honey and nut pastry), and honey cake are two great Rosh Hashanah gifts to bring, whether homemade or not.

#5. Kosher Wine
The blessing of the wine is always part of a Jewish Sabbath or Jewish holiday so bringing a kosher wine is a perfect gift for Rosh Hashanah. There are many really great kosher wines available these days, far elevated above the classic Manischewitz! You can’t go wrong if you bring wine to a Rosh Hashanah celebration. If it’s not consumed during the holiday, it will be on hand for the next occasion.

#6. Exotic Fruits
It is customary to eat something “new” on Rosh Hashanah because it symbolizes the newness of the coming year. One common “new” food brought to the Rosh Hashanah dinner table is an exotic fruit – something that has never been tried. You can have fun shopping the import markets in your city. Asian markets specifically tend to carry lots of unusual and tropical fruits. Rambutans, originally from Malaysia and Indonesia, are curious looking fruit with a delicious, sweet white flesh. They taste and look like lychees on the inside, but the outside looks very different with green spines like spiky hairs that stick out of the outside shell.

Champagne grapes are tiny, sweet, seedless, delicate cousins of the more familiar grapes. Because their season is short and they are so fragile, many produce stores do not carry them and so they may be considered quite exotic for most people. Champagne grapes will look all the more beautiful when arranged on a flat dish and placed in the center of the dining table.

Bringing an exotic fruit to try for the Jewish New Year is a great gift idea and will definitely get you noticed for your contribution!

#7. Send A Thoughtful Note
It is customary to remind your loved ones how much you care and how grateful you are to have them in your life. Bringing a classic “Shana Tovah” (“Good Year”) card with your personal sentiments to the hosts of the Rosh Hashanah dinner makes a fitting and poignant gesture. Consider adding the card to your Rosh Hashanah gift basket!

If you can’t be with your family on Rosh Hashanah or you are invited to join in a family Rosh Hashanah celebration and can’t attend, sending a gift in your stead will make your presence warmly felt. Remember that Rosh Hashanah begins on Wednesday, September 20th and lasts for two days ending at nightfall on Friday, September 22th, 2017. “L’shanah tovah!”