There were more than 40,000 products being exhibited at this winter's Fancy Food Show. Unfortunately, I only had one day to see (and taste) as many of these products as I could. I put together a list of what I thought were the best of what I was able to experience.
Many chocolate companies were present at the Show, and I tasted dark and bittersweet chocolate from most of them. By far the best of the chocolates was from Dagoba Chocolate. Dagoba Chocolate uses only organic, shade grown cacao sources from Central and South America. The flavor of Dagoba chocolate is hard to describe, but it's definitely complex. Most chocolates can be described simply as chocolaty and most people know what you're talking about. Dagoba chocolate has layers of flavor, each of which can be called chocolate, but are distinctly different and yet harmonious. To our taste buds, it tasted more raw - closer to the source of origin with less processing. In short, the Dagoba chocolate was awesome and was definitely the top highlight of this year's Winter Fancy Food Show. (When we tasted it last winter, we felt it was the highlight of last year's Show as well.)
Other chocolates of note include Sweet Riot's chocolate covered nibs. They take roasted cacao nibs, crush them, and encase the nibs in different types of chocolate.
|Sweet Riot chocolate covered nibs|
|Scharffen Berger Chocolates|
Several vendors were displaying grapeseed oils and olive oils. From the representation at the Show, it seems that grape seed is the new "in" oil for dipping, cooking, and frying. In any case, you really do have to taste not only the brand but also the variety to really know if that oil is agreeable to your particular palate. For example, we tasted several varieties of Colavita extra virgin olive oil and found we enjoyed the olive oil produced from the Tuscan region more than other areas of Italy. We only tasted five brands of grapeseed oil, but of the oils we tasted, Salute Santé was the best of the bunch. Their extra virgin grapeseed oil has a slightly nutty taste with a hint of the wine crush. One fact that interested me was that the company also uses their waste oil to run their company vehicles. (I've been unsuccessfully trying to buy a 2006 Jetta TDI for the purposes of running biodiesel.)
|Salute Sante Grapeseed Oil and Infused Grapeseed oils|
I have a thing for trying new beverages. If we're traveling in a new area and I see a soft drink or juice flavor that I haven't tried before, I have to get it and try it. One of the better beverages we tasted was GuS (Grown-Up Soda). One of Tina's complaints about sodas is that they are too sweet. GuS is a carbonated beverage with just the right amount of cane sugar (not HFCS) and fruit concentrates. We also tried IZZE sparkling juice but found them to be not sweet enough (most of the sparkling juices tasted a bit too sour to us.
|GuS (Grown-Up Soda)|
Another great beverage was the Cabernet Grape Juice from Didier Goubet. As far as I know, this beverage is only available in France (unless a distributor picks it up and starts distribution in the U.S.) and is made from the juice of Cabernet grapes from the Bordeaux region of France. The juice, like all grape juices, was very sweet, but, unlike the garden variety grape juice, it had a more complicated flavor and a stronger fruitiness.
Jan. 2007 Update:Sweetwater Cellars has picked up the Didier Goubet Cabernet Grape Juice for distribution. They also have the Didier Goubet Merlot and a variety of other specialty grape juices.
|Cabernet Grape Juice|
Another great beverage not currently available in the United States, is Elderflower Pressé from Belvoir Fruit Farms. This beverage is lightly carbonated and has a pleasant floral and lemony flavor.
Jan. 2007 Update:Chefs' Warehouse now sells Elderberry Presse by the case. I can't tell from the website if the producer is Belvoir Fruit Farms.
The worst beverage I tasted at the Fancy Food Show is the Carl Jung De-Alcoholized Sparkling Wine, a product that has been produced in Germany since 1903. To me, it tasted simply of acid and yeast.
|Carl Jung non-alcoholic sparkling wine|
Almondina is a super-thinly sliced biscotti that's made mostly of almonds and dried fruit instead of flour. The cookie is crispy and perfectly textured for eating out of hand and dipping.
The most intriguing food we saw at the show was called Cavi-Art. Cavi-Art is a product made of seaweed that looks and tastes exactly like salmon caviar or lumpfish caviar (four varieties). When we were first presented with the salmon Cavi-Art, we thought it looked amazing. Even after being told it was made from seaweed and after close examination, I thought it looked exactly like salmon roe. (Unfortunately, I didn't have a side by side comparison with real salmon roe.) The flavor and texture of the roe was uncanny as well. The surface of each Cavi-Art drop had just the right amount of tension and the burst of flavor as they burst in your mouth was so close to salmon roe that I honestly couldn't tell the difference. I think the main benefits of Cavi-Art is that it's shelf stable, doesn't contribute to overfishing, and (for calorie conscious guests) low in calories.
|Cavi-Art - Salmon Caviar Made from Seaweed|
The last food item I'll mention is a product called Caramoo Caramel Crumble. Chances are everyone reading this will have tasted something like Caramel Crumble before, but might have forgotten over time. Caramel Crumble is, just as the name suggests, simply a crumbly textured caramel candy. The texture is kind of like an aged cheese that falls apart as you chew it. The flavor is plain caramel. I remember having something like it as a kid, but I have no idea who made it or where I got it. It's a caramel candy that's fun to eat and doesn't stick to your teeth. The only problem is that it doesn't last too long (because you can chew it) and due to the short duration in your mouth, you'll probably end up eating too many.
|Caramoo - crumbly caramels|
|Spiced skewers provide flavor from the inside out|