My earliest Hanukkah memories are of standing by my grandma's side as she fried up mountains of her mouthwatering latkes. She was "old school" and would buy piles of potatoes from the local grocery store (bodegas in the Bronx tended to only carry conventional Burbank russets). She would painstakingly peel them, grate them, put them thru the food processor, add some salt and chopped onions, and lay them one at a time into a sizzling oil-filled skillet. Every surface of her kitchen would soon be covered in paper towel draped plates, soaking up the excess oil from the finished latkes. If I behaved and helped out, I would get to try a few steaming samples.Fast forward to the present and Whole Foods Market shoppers have a number of great food options for their Hanukkah needs. Our produce department regularly stocks many delicious varieties of organic and conventional potatoes, from the standard Burbank russets, to red creamers and purple or yellow fingerlings. The adventurous souls can even substitute some Hanna yams for a sweeter latke experience.In the grocery department, we are also working hard to make Whole Foods Market a Hanukkah destination. Expanding our selection of kosher products that meet our strict quality standards has been a challenge, though. Many suppliers still use artificial preservatives and other ingredients we will not carry in our stores. That's why we are excited to announce that Streit's has agreed to take the artificial additives and preservatives out of many of their products. Streit's is a well-known kosher foods producer, the only family owned and operated Matzo producer in the U.S. - they are still based in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
We've partnered with Streit's to bring the first ever sulfite-free potato pancake mix to market. The "clean" potato pancake mix will be featured at our stores this holiday season, and Streit's has been converting their whole production line to move away from artificial ingredients. In addition, we will be carrying their traditional matzo ball soup mix, as well as a mix made with whole wheat flour.Our partnership with Streit's is having a nice ripple effect on the kosher food industry as a whole. Andrew Lansman, head of kosher distributor A&L Foods, puts it this way: "Five years ago, kosher manufacturers didn't even care about being all natural. Now, most are trying to reformulate their product line so they can be all natural. If they do have clean items, they are promoting it on the packaging and in their sales presentations. In addition to the reformulation of existing products, many new items have been developed because of Whole Foods Market's influence, including many whole grain and organic products. If a new item is being developed, the first question the kosher manufacturer will, of course, ask is if they can do it kosher, but the second question they will ask is if they can produce it clean."Aaron Gross, President of Streit's, sums it up: "Being a family owned and run company, we have a strong sense of holiday and place great importance on family gatherings. We understand the importance of providing healthy products that use clean nutritional ingredients while still placing a strong emphasis on traditional kosher meals."In addition to having these convenient and all natural Hanukkah staples, we also carry plenty of other holiday treats and side dishes. Traditional toppings for latkes include kosher applesauce and sour cream. Most of our stores carry Eden and Santa Cruz organic apple sauces, and for kosher sour cream needs, you can't beat Organic Valley or Nancy's.For the sweet tooth, we also carry some cool stuff, including Elyon Kosher Marshmallows, which go great over sweet potato pie. We are also carrying Whole Trade Guarantee™ and Organic Kosher Hanukkah gelt (chocolate coins) from Divine Chocolates, who ethically sources cacao from cooperatives in Ghana. And we even have kosher, fair trade and organic candy canes, made by Pure Fun confections.From the old school to what's new and cool, Whole Foods Market is committed to making Hanukkah festivals more natural, organic, convenient and best of all, fun for the family.