The Charlotte Jewish Film Festival had a sold-out crowd for the second year of its Fan Appreciation Day on July 19 at the Regal Ballantyne Village Stadium Theaters.
Outgoing CJFF Co-Director Rick Willenzik wrote in an email that the day “is a way for us to say thank you to everyone who continues to make the CJFF one of the premier cultural events in the region.”
CJFF screened “Deli Man,” “Above and Beyond” and “Touchdown Israel” and held an inaugural chicken-soup contest, tailgate party and Q&A sessions with Ziggy Gruber, the guide of “Deli Man,” and with director Erik Greenberg Anjou of “Deli Man” and Paul Hirschberger of “Touchdown Israel.”
“Over the last several years, the CJFF has put an emphasis on value-added programming to enhance the experience of our fans,” said festival co-director Benjamin Schwartz.
The CJFF decided the chicken-soup contest was the perfect accompaniment to the “Deli Man” screening because Gruber is the seven-time winner of the Chicken Soup Cookoff in Houston.
Gruber, who owns Kenny & Ziggy’s New York Delicatessen, agreed to be one of the contest judges.
Other judges were Jon Dressler, owner of Dressler’s and Dogwood Southern Table & Bar restaurants; Frank Scibelli, owner of FS Food; Amy Rogers, contributing editor for “WFAEats: All Things Food and Culture;” and Anjou.
Rogers, who had never judged a chicken-soup contest before, thought choosing one soup from six entries would be easy. As it turns out, she wrote in an email, “It was really, really difficult, because all of the soups were so good.”
Dressler said he was honored to be one of the judges. “What a unique opportunity,” he said. “How many times in your life do you get to judge something as precious as chicken soup?”
The contest was open to anyone who could make and transport four gallons of hot chicken soup, keep it warm and serve it at the venue. There were three professional entries from Izzy’s Catering, Melanie Rowe Catering and Portofino’s Ristorante Italiano e Pizzeria.
There were three individual entries from Shellie Barer, Sandra Goldman and Janice Zacks.
Barer’s Mommy’s Chicken Soup was the ultimate Critic’s Choice Award winner.
“Mommy’s Chicken Soup had a very rich stock,” Gruber said, “and it had a good balance between salt and sweetness from all the vegetables, especially from the carrots.”
Barer’s winning soup, and Fan’s Favorite Award winner Jered Mond, owner of Izzy’s Catering, shared recipes with ingredients but no measurements.
Gruber said he takes the same approach with his chicken soup.
“Cooking is not like baking, which is more of an exact science,” said Barer, who was excited to win her first cooking contest. “Cooking, you can always fix it. Add broth or chicken.”
Barer’s prize-winning kosher soup recipe was given to her by her late ex-mother-in-law. It calls for water, kosher chicken, parsley, dill, parsnip, salt, onions, carrots and celery; sometimes, she said, she uses a turnip as well or instead of the parsnip. Barer served it with matzoh balls.
The ingredients for Mond’s Momma Rita’s chicken soup are kosher chicken, water, celery, carrots, onions, salt, pepper and egg noodles. The soup is named for his late mother, Rita Mond.
“As far as I know, I make it the way she used to make it,” Mond said. “By memory, I stick stuff in a pot, and it never comes out the same two times in a row, but it is close to hers.”
Anjou wrote, “For me, the two winners were neck and neck (oops, sorry chicken!).”
Marissa Brooks is a freelance writer: email@example.com.
The Charlotte Jewish Film Festival’s next event is a three-film series on Oct.11, Oct. 18 and Nov. 1. Early bird pricing until Aug. 30; series pass is $21, individual ticket $8. Details and tickets: http://charlottejewishfilm.com. All movies are screened at Regal Ballantyne Village Stadium Theaters, 14815 Ballantyne Village Way in Charlotte.