Wednesday, July 8, 2015


Here's my very un-thorough, wholy un-comprehesive, biased and superficial favorites list  of what I saw and loved at this year's Fancy Food Show at the Javits Center.  To be clear, the show is just overwhelming.  It would take a full team of judges to be able to even come close to soundly ranking the infinite array of products here, so this is just a smattering of things I enjoyed.  And by purveyors that were pretty cool standing behind their products, as well.

1.   Stahlbush Island Farms is three years in a row my favorite concept and product, especially given the overwhelming snacky unhealthiness of the majority of products at the show.  Stahlbush features flash-frozen, super fresh, sustainable produce from the lush Willamette valley in Oregon, that is more than eatable just thawed straight from the freezer, nothing done to.  Well, depending on the plant:  the fruits are all scrumptious (marionberry is a favorite) and the asparagus and cauliflower purees are enjoyable sans seasoning (would be even better, perhaps, warmed with a smudge of truffle butter, but I'm just saying).  Others definitely need something done with them, but that is the point.

 2.    I only tried their pickles, but I see on their website they also offer a Bloody Mary mix and a ketchup, all of which I would enthusiastically sample.  'Cause they are richly savory, pungent in flavor and then.... wait for it..... pow!  The pickles, at least, are appropriately named.  They get you right in the back of the throat, long after you've enjoyed their crisp garlicky, pickly splendor.  I actually think I tried a different flavor (a beer pickle was what I recalled), but this is the only one on their website, so maybe there are more wonders left to come.

 3.  This was a real novelty.  I've had aloe juice (love it... sort of like a naturally occurring bubble tea), but this is just the chunks of aloe, sweetened lightly with honey.   I'd be REALLY curious to taste it unsweetened, but catering to the majority of palates, this will probably be an easier sell.  I'd love to look out for a plain version (or at least a sugar-free or less sweet option) at FFS 2016, however (just sayin').  It's super healthy, full of minerals and antioxidants, as well as purportedly helping as an anti-inflammatory and detoxification.

4.   Here we go with my marionberries ago, but like they say, you can take the girl out of Oregon, but you can't take the Oregon out of the girl.  I loved this jam:  lumpy and supple, intensely flavored and a perfect spreadable-spoonable consistency.   Just a lovely product.

5.  As I was leaving (having consumed my ninth or tenth sprig of devastating yummy curried cauliflower pickle), the sales rep mentioned they had run out of the brussels sprouts..... BRUSSELS SPROUTS!!!   So while I didn't try that, the cauliflower still earns a top spot on this list.  It really barely qualifies as a pickle, so gently vinegared that it tasted purely of a sweet, curry-flecked floret, but it was really, really, good.  Like, restaurant-good.  Had I been served that all of anywhere, I would've been impressed.
Let alone just opening a can.

  6.  The intensely pineapply Azores pineapple puree squeeze tube earned this company its entry.  They offer a huge array of fruits, featuring most prominently those from Portugal, and combination fruit-vegetable purees, herb-infused fruits and honeys.  But it is the Azores pineapple that tastes like no other pineapple you've ever had... except maybe the pineapple flavored LifeSaver candy.  But this, my friends, is the real deal.  Their unique metal packaging reduces oxidation and preserves the vibrant colors and flavors of the fruit, making them an exceptional option for a home cook or catering company alike.

7.  I like kraut in its place, but on its own.. well, I prefer my cabbage braised or slawed.  But this garlic kraut could eat like a salad.  It's organic (bonus!) and raw (who'd've thunk?), so naturally full of probiotics and probably insanely good for you.  But this stuff has some serious spunk along with its virtue... something I was super hesitant to try but am SO glad that I did.

8.  On my restaurant reviews, I would never condone a pre-fab cooking sauce, but Saucy Sauce's Spicy Garlic is delicious.  It's punchy and zesty, with a legitimate garlic kick and umami allure, with just a hint of fishy funk (it is an elevated nuoc mam).  For a real punch of flavor in a pinch, this stuff is sublime.
(Plus, I totally love the name.)
9.  Meat jerky is nothing new, for sure, but Epic is offering chicken, bison, turkey, bacon, and more.  The Sesame-Currant Chicken Meat is extraordinary: sweet-savory bites of responsibly sourced chicken blended with nuts, seeds and fruits.  No sugar, honey or syrups sweeten the product, although it definitely has that appeal.  They created the bars and bites to counter the tsunami of hyper-sugary pseudo-candy protein bars on the market.  If people want easy-to-eat protein, supplementary why not just go back  to the source?  (Vegetarians not allowed.)

10.  These things are off the charts.  Cheese Cake Cones from Aunt Butchie's Desserts in keepin'-it-local Brooklyn.  Take a traditional almond lace cookie and roll it into a cone, pipe in a fluffy, moussy cheesecake filling and voila.  A most unexpectedly delicious and decadent portable dessert.  The shell is delicate and buttery, the filling dense and rich and totally drool-worthy.  I've always been a fan of the graham cracker crust on cheesecake, but Aunt Butchie just converted me.

11.  I'm neurotic about my milk.  I only want grass-fed organic, and seriously, I'm not always that conscientious about everything else I consume.  But milk's one of those things that seems like it... compounds any badness if it isn't annihilated at the get-go.  So I'm surprised I never thought about the whey protein added to a few things I actually DO consume: one of those is protein drinks.  So here's Kura from New Zealand, with a pretty delicious, Omega-3 boosted, probiotic protein powder to the rescue.  I'd go with vanilla: although I haven't tried the berry or chocolate, they're made with flavors and not the real thing, vanilla flavoring is one thing I find acceptable.

12. Spice blends are a dime a dozen, but this one is totally novel and completely addictive.  They've powdered blue cheese and blended it with blackening spices to create an umami bomb of flavor.  The cheesiness tamps the heat, but they both exhibit a powerful contribution.  Immaculate on popcorn, brussels sprouts, catfish or steak.  My mouth just starting watering.  Again.

And that's it!  Hope to see you next year!

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