This year's Fancy Food Show was excellent. I tasted a lot of new products, visited with some familiar companies, and learned a bit more about the food, food makers, and the food industry. I spent two days roaming the halls and only saw a fraction of what was on display, but here's what caught my eye during those couple of days.
Oh, these are listed in no particular order (mostly in order of when I stumbled across their booth and since I wandered randomly, it's fairly random).
Sweet Riot. I mentioned them in my article covering 2006's Fancy Food Show, but felt I should highlight it once more since Tina and I have really taken a liking to their products. The product is cacao nibs coated in chocolate. We really like their Flavor 65 which has the nibs coated in 65% dark chocolate. It's a great balance between sweet and bitter, soft and crunchy. The individual pieces are about the size of a dried currant and great for snacking in small quantities. (Also, the gals who run Sweet Riot are super cool.)
KHSOCOLAT Mini Toffettes are tiny little pieces of toffee coated in milk chocolate. I love toffee, so tiny little pieces are a fun way to experience them - like Sweet Riot's chocolate coated nibs, but with toffee instead.
Ooba is a hibiscus sparkling beverage. It's made with no artificial colors or flavors - just carbonated water, cane sugar, hibiscus extract, citric acid, and ascorbic acid. Other hibiscus beverages are mostly apple juice or grape juice with some hibiscus flavoring, but with Ooba, you can definitely taste the hibiscus extract since it's not being masked by other fruit flavors. They also make a Hibiscus Orange and Hibiscus Lime (of which Hibiscus Lime is my favorite flavor). Hibiscus is supposed to be good for you, but I take all that with a grain of salt - I just know it tastes good.
ITO EN is Japan's largest green tea distributor. You've probably seen their products around: Teas' Tea, Oi Ocha, and Natural Fruit Teas (labeled Tea X where X is a fruit - apple, peach, mango, orange, blueberry, grape, pear). All in all, I think they make an excellent bottled tea product. (I have a preference for ITO EN as well as Honest Tea when it comes to bottled teas.) What was very interesting was their recycling efforts. I received an ITO EN business card made out of ITO EN's recycled green tea leaves. I also sat on a bench made of a resin from recycled used tea leaves! ITO EN makes cardboard, tatami, and plaster boards from used tea leaves as well as using a resin from used tea leaves plus PETE bottles to make plastic-like cups, soap dishes, benches, pen casings, vending machines, bags, and gloves. SUpposedly, all these post-consumer products have tea's antibacterial and deodorizing properties. I thought that was pretty cool.
Triad Fisheries sells Alaskan line caught salmon under the Bruce Gore name. The salmon are allowed to swim on the line until they are tired and no longer struggle, then stunned, bled, cleaned, flash frozen, dipped in seawater (to form a thin frozen protective layer) and stored on board the fishing boats. The deck of the boat is sanitized after every twenty fish are caught. The raw salmon we tasted was great - as good as the best salmon sashimi we've ever had. Firm flesh (not mushy) clean salmon flavor - real different than the sashimi we had that evening at Sozai.
Tasmanian Rain. Water that is supposedly gathered from falling rain in Tasmania (where they claim they have the cleanest skies) and filtered (for legal/export reasons). The total dissolved solids in Tasmanian Rain is about 17 parts per million which is exceptionally low. Not sure this is a good thing - I think minerals contribute flavor and are vital for health. In any case, the water tasted clean and refreshing, but without a side by side taste test with other waters it's really difficult to determine if I like the water more than another. Perhaps I'll train my palate in the future. I'll need to talk to Michael Mascha (who has trained his palate) from FineWaters in the future.
J&D's Bacon Salt. Their slogan is "Everything should taste like bacon" which was enough for me to pay extra attention to them. They make a vegetarian seasoning that tastes like smokey bacon (not like Bac-Os). They also make a Baconnnaise Bacon Vegetable Oil Spread (really mayonnaise but not enough oil content to be able to use that name) was also tasty.
34 degrees Crispbread. They make a thin, ultra crispy wheat cracker that has a great texture as well as a pleasant taste. The sesame and rosemary flavors have an especially fine taste. Lots of flavor without being overwhelming. I can see myself eating these as is, or with a spread, cheese, or pate.
Landrin Waferatto is a new product by St. Petersburg based confectioner Landrin. Landrin is probably most famous for their chocolate creme eggs (like Cadbury's). Waferatto's are like a rip off of Ferrero Rocher but with more modern packaging (less gaudy than the gold wrappers in gold trays). The boxes open up (a little like a flower) when the seal is broken and serves as a bowl for the individually packaged spherical cookie/chocolates. The flavor of Landrin's product is quite similar to Rocher but without a side-by-side difficult to tell which is better. There are distinct differences - Landrin's product seems to have thinner wafers and more filling.
Plush Puffs. Tired of the standard jet puffed marshmallows at the store? Plush Puffs are truly decadent. When heated just enough to caramelize the exterior and warm the interior, the marshmallow just gushes smooth creaminess when chewed. The goo isn't sticky or gummy but has a wonderful mouth feel as it coats and then dissolves away. The flavors Plush Puffs offers aren't just a gimmick, they actually are incredible updates to the basic marshmallow - vanilla bean (with real flecks of vanilla), caramel swirl, and the peppermint "Peppi-Mint" are just a few of the flavors they offer. Ann, the president of Plush Puffs, is also one of the nicest people around - she spent quite some time discussing the best methods for making marshmallows at home. I'll have to try to create a new Marshmallows recipe with the tips she's given me.
Marble Pop. Over 100 years ago, Hiram Codd invented a bottle for carbonated beverages that didn't involve corks and wire. His package had a unique bubble neck and a marble that sealed the top of the bottle. Opening the bottle involved pushing the marble into the bottle (the neck kept the marble from dropping all the way to the bottom of the bottle. A couple decades later, the crown cap was invented and the Codd bottle became uncommon. In 1888, when Codd's patent expired (he hadn't bothered to renew the patent before dying in 1887), several companies in Japan began to produce the bottles and package a carbonated lemonade called Ramune. In recent years, ramune products have been making a resurgence in the U.S. (Sangaria is the brand that I'm most familiar with) complete with the Codd bottle. Now, Nishimoto (the company that produces and market's Shirakiku Ramune) has started an American brand called Marble Pop to sell "western" flavors (strawberry, blueberry, green apple, and original lemon-lime) in the Codd bottle. Marble Pop is available on Amazon.com.
John Wayne Stock & Supply Company just started production on natural and organic beef jerkies. When I asked how did they came by using the John Wayne name (seems like licensing might be expensive) they said they were actually the family (and I did see a Wayne or two on name cards). The jerky was tasty without off flavors that some other beef jerky that I had tasted had. A portion of the proceeds goes to the John Wayne Cancer Foundation.
OKF Sparkling Drinks. This new soda product might be marketed as Swig, but I'm not sure (OKF is original manufacturer). It contains 7 grams sugar for 8.3 oz with no other sweeteners. Lightly carbonated and flavored with natural flavors. Might be a good alternative to sodas. In other news, OKF is the largest manufacturer of aloe drinks (under the brand Aloe Vera King) but Tina and I had never had it before. It's less sweet than the brands we normally have (and Aloe Vera King doesn't taste like artificial grape juice) so we think this may be a superior aloe drink. There is a new flavor - aloe with coconut - that is a good combination.
Essential Cane. Made by FlavorStorm, Inc. in Washington state, Essential Cane is flavored sugar crystals. Each of their twelve flavors only has two ingredients - organic cane sugar and natural flavor extracted from the actual ingredient they are trying to flavor the sugar with. (The process is different depending on the flavor.) The flavors range from Cinnamon to Lime to Ginger to Habanero. These would be perfect for topping a crème brûlée, sprinkled over the crust of an apple pie, or part of a spice rub.
Honest Tea. I went to their booth to try their new line of mates (beverages made by steeping the leaves of the yerba mate). They have a different taste than tea, but I seem to have lost my notes on what it tasted like. I remember liking the new beverages that I tried. More importantly, while I was there, the guys at Honest Tea told me about a new turmeric beverage they tried called Jamu.
Sajen Jamu. With only seven minutes left until the closing of the exhibit halls, I raced over to the South Hall and started asking around for someone selling a turmeric drink. Most people I asked looked at me weird (which was how I looked at the Honest Tea people - "Turmeric? The yellow powder?") but I finally found Morsinah Katimin and her Sajen Jamu. The flavor was not like anything else I had tasted before. It didn't taste like Indian curry (which was my first assumption - although that was ludicrous since turmeric by itself doesn't taste like Indian spices). Instead it was smooth and fruity, sweetened with cane sugar and blended with other roots for flavor. I especially liked the taste of the Ginger-Turmeric. Morsinah served it cold (because that's the way Americans generally like their beverages) but the ice had melted into it and watered down the beverage a bit. I had both the cold and the room temperature (full strength) version and I have to say I like the full strength. If you get to see this in stores, I'd say it's worth checking out just because it's so different. http://www.sajenjamu.com/ is the website, but it appears to not be functional (yet).
Nielsen-Massey is probably a well known brand already although many people may not know their name. It's the brown bottle vanilla extract available at Williams-Sonoma. They still make an excellent vanilla extract and are still family owned. I spoke to a couple of the Nielsen grandchildren and listened to some fun stories about how they had to fill bottles in their kitchen before Chuck Williams placed his first order for a 100,000 retail bottles (which prompted the purchase of their first bottling machine).
Amano Artisan Chocolate. Art Pollard, the president of Lextek International (a well known search technology company) is perfect for Cooking For Engineers. He's not only an extraordinary programmer and computer scientist, but he makes some of the best chocolate in the world. Back in 1996, he decided there had to be a way to produce a superior chocolate. After ten years of study, experimentation, and designing his own machinery and techniques, Amano Chocolate started making high-end artisan chocolate. People started taking notice immediately winning numerous awards every year. Currently, Amano only has four chocolate bars - each of them single origin and all at 70% cacao content. Occumare (from the Occumare Valley of Venezuela), Madagascar (from the Sambirano Valley), Cuyagua (from the Cuyagua Valley of Venezuela), and Jembrana (from the Jembrana Regency in Bali). I tried three of the flavors (they are out of the Cuyagua). Occumare has a rich chocolate (almost fudge-like) flavor that begins to assert some slight acidity before withdrawing to a lingering deeply roasted flavor. Jembrana starts off sweet, coating the mouth, and then ends with some fruitiness without much acidity. Madagascar begins with a powerful fruity citrus flavor which lasts for a while until it suddenly drops off to reveal a mellow cocoa undertone. Simply amazing. This year, Amano has also begun to sell single origin nibs. Usually, I find nibs to be bitter and, occassionally, dusty tasting. Often, nibs just taste like nibs because of the way they are roasted to hell, but Amano's single origin nibs taste like their chocolate counterparts and you can definitely tell which nibs come from which region. Since I covered Foodoro recently, I thought I'd check and you can buy Amano Chocolate from Foodoro.
Fancy Food Show Winter 2009
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