Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Borscht Is Getting a Makeover: Beet Smoothie or Beet Mojito, Anyone?

Borscht, the drink and soup made from beets that was a staple in Eastern Europe for generations, and that gave the Borscht Belt (the Jewish hotels in New York's Catskill Mountains) is on the verge of a makeover.

Reporting from Hempstead, New York in a front page article in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, Lucette Lagnado writes:
"Summer used to be borscht season," says Marc Gold, chief executive of Gold Pure Food Products Co., based here. Several times a week, he recalls, "we would ship it in trailers—40- to 52-foot-trailers" each packed with 1,000 cases of bottled borscht headed to supermarkets. 

These days, the borscht business is beat. Mr. Gold recently watched as one of his workers loaded a truck with just 360 cases of his 79-year-old family company's recipe. Mark Dewey, whose Dewey Produce Inc. in Byron, N.Y., grew beets for nearly all the borscht makers in the Northeast, says his shipments to borscht producers have dropped to just 200 tons a year, down from 1,750 tons a year in borscht's heyday.
"It needs a totally new look to it," Steven Gold declares. "A sexy look." He advocates taking the word "borscht" out of the equation altogether. Call the product "Beet Smoothie," he suggests. "Power Beet Juice," offers Howard Gold. How about "Organic Borscht" to capture consumers devoted to natural foods?
Meanwhile, at the Friars Club, the private midtown Manhattan club for comedians where borscht is still on the menu, Freddie Roman casts a skeptical eye on efforts to make it chic.
"I am one of the few Jews in the history of the world who does not like borscht," says Mr. Roman, the dean of the Friars Club who earned his station with countless nights on the Borscht Belt circuit.
But Mr. Roman does have a suggestion for the Golds: Mix their borscht with mint and rum and "call it a Beet Mojito."

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