Comedian Alan King picks a peck of kosher pickles

ROYAL PALM BEACH, Fla. (JTA) — Did you hear the one about the comedian who went to a deli and ended up becoming a partner in a Florida kosher food venture?

It's no joke. Several months ago, Alan King, the legendary Borscht Belt comic, was eating a corned beef sandwich at a Boca Raton, Fla., deli when he became smitten with the pickles on the table.

Soon after, the owners of the 30-year-old Miramar Pickles Company in Fort Lauderdale, who happened to be having lunch at the same deli, were at his table discussing a new business venture.

After extensive recipe testing, Alan King's Perfect Pickle is currently available in kosher stores and supermarkets in New York and Florida. Plans are in the works to sell the pickles nationwide.

Packed in jars that resemble pickle barrels, the pickles come in six varieties. The labels are adorned with a recent photo of King and words that his Jewish mother, Minnie, used to tell him: "Eat! You'll feel better."

"I happen to be a pickle maven, so this was a natural for me," King, 70, said recently in a phone interview from his Manhattan office.

"I'm very pleased with what's going on," he said. "I have been autographing bottles of pickles by the thousands and having the time of my life doing it."

In fact, King has such a following from 50 years in show business that people are literally lining up to try his pickles.

Erwin Hartman, a partner in Miramar Pickles with George Bell — a former Hebrew National executive — was at King's side during the mid-June launch of Alan King's Perfect Pickles in Manhattan.

Future pickle events in key markets are expected in the fall, after King finishes his stand-up dates around the country. By then, the entire line of Alan King kosher products is expected to be available.

King said that what attracted him to this venture is the fact that the products are kosher. "Jewish audiences have been supporting me for more than 50 years, so I thought this was a great combination. After all, I was raised in a kosher home and my mother used to bottle her own pickles."

King's other partners in the new business are Maurice Levy of New York and Rob Pirozzi of Flakowitz Bagel Inn in Boca Raton, where the fated meeting between King and the pickle-makers took place.

Pirozzi — whose father used to own a kosher bakery in Great Neck, N.Y., where King's wife shopped — said his customers are wild about the new pickles.

"People absolutely love them," Pirozzi said. "They also didn't know that Alan is knowledgeable about the food business. But then again no one knows he co-authored a book several years ago called `Is Salami and Eggs Better Than Sex?'"

For his part, King believes his pickles "are better than Viagra. When you eat one of my pickles, everything puckers up."