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Winter Fancy Food Show: The 12 Best Foods I Tasted

Porchetta, from Parmacotto, in Italy

Bursting with the flavor of herbs and roasted pork, this deli-style porchetta surprised and amazed me. Parmacotto products are sold in Costco stores – though I’ve yet to see the porchetta there. Why not? I would easily be seduced into buying a 10-lb warehouse package!

Bellweather Farms fresh ricotta

I was just in Sicily last November and swooned over the fresh ricotta cheese – nothing like the grainy, flavorless versions usually found in the U.S. Now Bellweather Farms has captured that fresh, Italian taste perfectly with their whole-milk ricotta – and they’ve even formed it in baskets, Sicilian-style. Available at Whole Foods.

Saba, from Terra Sonoma

Saba-saba-do! Terra Sonoma cooks down grape must (left behind from the wine crush) for hours to make this rich, concentrated culinary syrup. It would be equally good drizzled over fruit or roasted meats. Available online or at Williams-Sonoma.

The new Asian version of Taste #5 Umami Paste

I like this Asian, vegetarian version of Taste #5 (should they call it Taste #6?) even better than the original version. Chef Morimoto had a hand in the creation, and notes of lemongrass, soy sauce and other tastebud-popping ingredients left me wanting more.

Sweet Olive Jam, from Greece

I’m a sucker for foods that defy convention – and Sweet Olive Jam is a perfect example. It was just one of many unusual spreads (apricot and almond, for example) from Mt. Vikos that are made to pair with cheeses. Available online.

Fomz - Fruit foams, with just 4 calories per serving

These not-too-sweet fruit foams are a food-service product, designed primarily to be drink toppers. But after sampling Fomz, I thought they’d be great on fresh fruit or yogurt, squirted on a graham cracker or granola bar – or just slurped off my finger! With just 4 calories per 2 tablespoons, they pack a lot of flavor for the diet-conscious.

High Road, a very adult ice cream - this flavor with bourbon

There were plenty of ice creams on show, but two stood out for their remarkable mouth-feel and deep, complex flavor combinations. Interestingly, both were developed by chefs. High Road had some killer flavors, including Mango-Chili-Lime sorbet and a wicked Brown-Butter Praline – but my favorite was the nicely balanced Bourbon-Burnt Sugar, with both Maker’s Mark and bourbon vanilla, for good measure.

Fox & Swan, another very adult icecream - Thai-curry-coconut was my favorite

Brand new brand Fox & Swan has also churned up some bold and unusual flavors – but blended them beautifully. I just kept asking to try more of them because each was delish. The Thai Curry Coconut really won my heart, though. They got it just right, with a play of sweet, spicy, lush and exotic. The company is so new, they don’t even have much info on their website – but believe me, you’ll be hearing more from them!

Mushroom Alchemy, from Wine Forest Fine Foods

Another little hit of umami, this time from the Wine Forest folks, foragers extraordinaire and authors of “The Wild Table” (foreword by – ahem – Thomas Keller). They had lots of goodies at the show, including their Wild Elderberry Shrub, another winner. But really, don’t you just love the name, “Mushroom Alchemy?!”

Marinated Sheep & Goat Cheese

As my palate started to lag, I asked one of the cheese importers what he had that was a “don’t miss.” He heaped some of this marinated sheep and goat cheese on a cracker – and wow! Sure, it doesn’t look too good in my photo, but trust me, it was delicious. Nice olive oil and the cheese was a perfect, light texture to mingle with it – not hard like most marinated cheeses. Made by Meredith Farms and imported from…Australia!

Ready-made drinking chocolate, from City Bakery

My pal, the wonderful photographer Maynard Switzer, introduced me to the City Bakery in New York. They serve wicked hot chocolate and even wickeder house-made pastries. I was excited to see they’ve bottled up the chocolate magic in a ready-to-drink format. Equally good hot or cold – if you’re willing to risk addiction. (Good god! Just looked at their website and the mothership is having a Hot Chocolate Festival this month, with a different flavor every day!)

Superlative spreads, from The French Farm

If there’s one thing the Fancy Food Show has too much of, it’s jams, jellies and preserves. But these intense and different products from the French Farm made me a believer: confits of violet, lavender or rose petals; banana flambe; coconut and passion fruit; plus many more I couldn’t squeeze into the photo. The company imports a great number of products, including Fallot mustards.

Fresh Iberico Pork

You may know jamón ibérico de bellota, the Spanish ham made from special pigs that forage for acorns. If you don’t, trust me – you want to. Fresh ibérico pork, branded as Ibérico Fresco is also imported to the U.S. now, where it’s mostly snapped up by restaurants and Japanese grocery stores. I particularly like the neck cuts, which were infused with the flavorful ibérico fat.  

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2010 FANCY FOOD SHOW – POST #6: Not Chaat – But Chat!

One of the best things about the Fancy Food Show is that it gives you a chance to chat with the producers and proprietors behind the brands. Many are entrepreneurs – some just starting out or expanding – and their passion is contagious. Here are some folks whose personalities are their secret ingredient.
  • I really enjoyed the energetic second-generation cheese affineur from La Casearia Carpenedo, in Treviso, Italy, who told me how his dad liked to invent different ways of aging cheese – including the one I was tasting, which had been packed in hay and placed in used wine barrels to soak up all sorts of interesting notes. He told me his dad got the idea when he was stuck behind a slow hay wagon on the road one day. As you can see, he even brought along some sweet-smelling hay to make his point. Dad would be proud.
  • It was fascinating speaking with the guys from Pollen Ranch about how their products came about – and tasting some of their new blends, which have some very sophisticated layers of flavor. Despite the brand name, all of their fennel pollen is collected from wild plots of plants. They have to be detectives and negotiators to track the patches down, then get agreement from the owners to let them collect the pollen. And, I found out that dill pollen just might be the next hot seasoning. Are you listening Mario?
  • I spent a lot of time chatting with the delightful Meg Dhamer of Pigtale Twist, who makes a delicious low-fat, refrigerated buttermilk-based bleu cheese salad dressing, as well as other products that are naturally low in calories due to her ingredient choices – like using cane sugar rather than corn syrup. I could tell she had a real passion for quality ingredients when she told me all about where she sources her bleu cheese.
  • From Mark Tupper (that’s not him in the photo!) of Triad Fisheries, I picked up a tip for cooking frozen salmon, which I’ve never thought was worth eating: Sear thawed salmon for a minute on each side, then bake in a 165 degree oven for 20 minutes. Triad freezes their catch on the boat and claims the taste is oceans away from most frozen salmon. Their crudo samples did a pretty good job of supporting that claim. I’d be curious to try cooking it.
  • The Lavender Lady, from Little Sky Lavender Farm, is one of those passionate producers I love to support. Her lavender sugar, tisane, cookie mix and brownie kit were great reminders that lavender isn’t just for sniffing anymore. Part of the continuing trend that’s merging flowers and food. Yeah, go ahead and eat the daisies!
  • I’d never heard of teff, the miniscule, gluten-free (“Death to gluten!”) Ethiopian grain, until I stopped at the Mama Fresh Injera booth, with a bevy of kind folks who filled me in – and up. Injera are crepe-like rounds and the company proudly states “367 farmers” and “105 factory workers” help bring it to market.
  • I got a kick out of the mini-campfire scene at the Plush Puffs booth, as I toasted my cubist caramel swirl marshmallow over a can of Sterno. The result was quite tasty, and I’m ready for s’more!
  • Lotus Foods not only has some intriguing exotic colored rice varieties, they are working with farmers pioneering a new cultivation method (developed by Cornell University) that uses up to 50% less water and no chemicals, but generates up to twice as much yield. Right now they offer three varieties, from Indonesia, Madagascar and Cambodia. I was amazed that rice could be grown without flooding the fields – a major breakthrough worth supporting.
This is my final post on the Winter Fancy Food Show. If you haven’t read about my favorite picks and trends, check out the other posts! Like what I have to say? Subscribe to my RSS feed and spread the word with Twitter!
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2010 FANCY FOOD SHOW – POST #5: Enough, already!

At every Fancy Food Show, I run across a few products or trends I could do without. Here’s a look at this year’s candidates. Enough already!
  • Single origin chocolates. OK, there’s such a glut of SOCs that now even the origins are getting origins. Amano – whose chocolates are superb – tells us which valley in Madagascar one bar is from, and the river basin where another is sourced in Ecuador. What next? Legendary chocolate growers? Sacred mini-plots?

  • Is there ANYPLACE that doesn’t produce olive oil these days? Australia’s into it in a big way – and now Chile is getting into the act, too. There was enough olive oil displayed at this year’s show to turn vast Moscone Center into a huge Slip-n-Slide. Now THAT would have been fun!
Soooo Last Decade
  • I remember being bedazzled by fancy colored salts when they first showed up a few years back. But for the most part, I’m no longer excited. Salt is pretty much salt, once you put a small amount on your food.
  • Would you people PLEASE stop making candy with wine in it? Thank you.
  • I don’t care whether you’ve put a straw in the lid or charged it with “intention” (Melavia) bottled waters are bad for the earth, unless you live somewhere that doesn’t have clean tap water.

Dept. of Wha???

Cupless Joe is capsules filled with instant coffee. So when a cup of coffee is just too hard to find (or make), you can pop four of these and get the equivalent buzz. Right.


Wild & Crazy Names

Anything to get attention! There’s no end to the cheeky products trying to lure you with whacky names…
  • Mother-in-Law’s Kimchi. Not sure whether this is a tribute to the maker’s mother-in-law or a comment on her spicy tongue.
  • Slap Ya Mama Cajun Seasoning. When I asked these folks what their mama thought, they said it was her recipe, and their dad named it. Hmmm.
  • Mary’s Gone Crackers
    Another “Death to gluten!” product. Perhaps eating gluten is what sent Mary over the edge?
  • Bone Suckin’ Sauce
    Please insert your own naughty joke here.
  • Bermuda Triangle cheese
    Maybe I shouldn’t pick on this one. It tasted good, and at least the shape is appropriate. But on the other hand, I fear it might disappear when I close my fridge door.
  • Very wily! Now here’s an entertaining name! I never would have guessed that Wile E. Coyote had a booth at the show!

Check back tomorrow, to meet some interesting people whose personalities are the secret ingredient in their products. Like what I have to say? Subscribe to my RSS feed and spread the word with Twitter!
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