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Food Fete 2013

by Eleanor Lee
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We attended the ninth annual Food Fête on January 21 in San Francisco, a media event showcasing specialty food and beverage products. There were quite a few cheese and snack purveyors among the 20 or so exhibitors and here are a few that stood out, for better or for worse.

Crunchies is a natural snack that is seeking to be the healthy alternative to the potato chips and fruit snacks that children (and many adults) love to munch on. They freeze dry all different types of fruits and vegetables and everything is organic, wheat free, gluten free, fat free, and preservative free. I tried some of the fruit crunchies and they are definitely flavor free too. Somehow, I do not think these are going to replace chewy fruit snacks or crispy potato chips anytime soon. Or even real fruit. The Crunchies are not crunchy at all. They are quite chewy though, in the way that you may chew a small piece of styrofoam that has a somewhat tangy and sweet taste to it. The package tells us that it takes eight to ten pounds of fresh fruit to make one pound of Crunchies.

That just seems like a sad waste of fresh fruit. These don't even resemble the dried fruits you find in trail mix. However, to be fair, I did not get to try one of the vegetable flavors. And one probably can't have too high expectations for super healthy snacks. But if you are determined to try them out, Crunchies are pretty much sold in all your neighborhood's grocery stores. There are many varieties to choose from including mango, bananas, strawberries, peas, corn, pineapple, and the list goes on.

Enjoy Life Foods
Onto another healthy snack - Enjoy Life Foods. I was pleasantly surprised by these snacks that purport to be gluten free and free of the eight most common allergens (in case you are wondering what those are: gluten, wheat, dairy, peanut, tree nut, egg, soy, fish and shellfish. Not sure why any of these snacks would have fish and shellfish in them to begin with but I guess eight sounds more impressive than six). They have quite a few products - chips (made from lentils), chocolate for eating and baking, cereals, cookies (crunchy and soft baked), chewy bars, and seed and fruit mixes.

I tasted a few of the chocolate bars (they even have dark as well as milk chocolate), the crunchy cookies, and the "plentils" chips and to my surprise, they were all things that I would not object to including in my regular snack rotation. They tasted quite "normal" and that is probably one of the best compliments I can give to a "healthy snack"! That is also probably because these snacks are not fat free, as the Crunchies are.

I do not suffer from any of the eight common allergens but I suppose it wouldn't hurt to decrease one's intake of wheat and gluten in general. If you are looking for plentils chips or some allergen-free cookies, you may find Enjoy Life Foods at most of your large neighborhood grocery stores.

Kohler Chocolates
Yes, it's that Kohler, the one that makes faucets. The chefs at their American Resort Club (that would be their five star resort in Wisconsin) started making chocolates in 2007. As a caveat, I feel I should note that I am a huge chocolate lover but not a snobby one - I will happily eat and buy Hershey's as much as I enjoy artisanal chocolates made by the local chocolatier. So I am already inclined to like the Kohler's just because they are chocolate.

The signature chocolate are terrapins, which are a blend of chocolate, salted pecans, and caramel. These are quite sweet and after eating half of one, I thought I had better stop. Don't get me wrong, I could have eaten it all but I felt that I needed to exercise some self restraint as it was right before bedtime. I also tried their more delicate handmade pieces - dark chocolate hearts (was not a fan but that is because I don't believe chocolate should be tainted by fruit), the crème fraîche ganache, and the hazelnut ganache.

The crème fraîche was my favorite. There is a definite craftsmanship evident in the chocolates and there is probably a flavor for any chocolate or candy lover out there. But I don't know that I would necessarily go out of my way to seek them out. If you live in an urban area, there is no shortage of "fancy" chocolate that you can procure quite easily - as opposed to ordering online or going to Wisconsin for them. I am now curious about the resort though...

Sheila G's Brownie Brittle
I thought this was going to be like a peanut or chocolate brittle, but it's really a thin cookie-like version of the edge of a pan of brownies - those crispy, chewy edges that everyone loves. Brownie Brittle does have that crispy quality, sort of like you are biting into a chocolate-flavored pita chip, but they are not as chewy as I would like.

They are only 120 calories a serving so they are a nice sweet snack substitute for an actual cookie or brownie. In fact, they taste very much like those 100 calorie pack Oreos where you get the taste of an Oreo but not the calories. Of course having the Brownie Brittle just really made me want to eat a real chocolately chewy moist brownie. Good thing I don't have any lying around the house. There are a variety of flavors to select from as well - toffee crunch, chocolate chip, and walnut.

There were quite a few dairy and cheese exhibitors at the fête and since I love cheese, I tried all of them. They were all delicious cheeses but one purveyor stood out in my mind. The Sartori cheese company makes an espresso rubbed cheese that I could eat a whole wedge of in one sitting (probably not a good idea due to my late-developing lactose intolerance). The combination was just surprisingly good. Don't worry, it does not taste like you are eating cheese with pieces of espresso beans. The cheese itself is called Bellavitano, a variety developed by Sartori - it is creamy, nutty, fruity, and of medium softness. The espresso gives it an almost aged cheddar-like tang to it. I generally like harder cheeses that are very sharp or really soft stinky cheeses, but this Bellavitano hit the nice middle ground for me.

I also tasted the version rubbed with chai but it did not quite appeal to me as much.

Eleanor loves to eat and write and share her opinions to anyone who will listen. Her favorite food is ice cream.

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Written by Eleanor Lee
Published on January 31, 2013 at 11:35 PM
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