Winter Fancy Food Show 2013: Best New Product

Numi's new Savory Teas win my vote for best new product

Tea has been around for thousands of years and, yet, the folks at Numi have managed to do a brilliant new thing with it. Meet their Savory Teas, in six flavors that star vegetables as the key ingredient, with support from herbs, spices and decaffeinated tea. They’re like the lovechild of tea and vegetable bullion, with a subtle, well-rounded flavor profile. These inventive new tea bags easily earned my “best new product” award at this year’s Fancy Food Show. Fennel Spice is the most expected, with licorice and orange notes – but it gets more interesting after that. Broccoli Cilantro has a bit of a kick, with cilantro and celery. Spinach Chive is perhaps the most complex, with lime, coriander, dill and green tea. Beet Cabbage not only has the crimson color you’d expect, but gets a lot of personality from mustard seed, coriander, clove and apple. My two favorites are Carrot Curry (who wouldn’t love carrot with ginger and turmeric?) and Tomato Mint, which has a Greek feel to it, with lemon peel and cinnamon. Fortunately, they’re available in a sampler pack, as well as boxes of  individual flavors, so you can easily try them all. Boxes of 12 teabags are expected to retail for about $7.99

Packaging for Numi Savory Teas - six flavors plus a sampler pack.

The tea bags need to steep longer than regular teas, eight to 10 minutes, to hydrate the ingredients. The taste is light enough to enjoy with a sandwich, but might be a little funky with a chocolate chip cookie. The Numi folks also suggest the brewed tea can be used to cook rice or noodles. Interesting. If you try them, let me know what you think! Every year, I attend the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, where thousands of  products are displayed for tasting. Any opinions – good or bad – are my own. Nobody pays me to write about a product. Follow me on Twitter to keep up with my latest travel and food adventures.

Casablanca, Morocco: Tagine Dreams

After nearly 30 hours of travel, I was definitely in a dream-like state! A 3-hour layover in New York turned into a 10-hour layover, due to a delayed Royal Air Maroc flight. When I finally got to my hotel, the faded grande dame Royal Mansour (Note to self: avoid Moroccan businesses with “royal” in the name), I was ready for an easy, basic meal. I found L’Etoile Centrale, a modest restaurant tucked away in a street that borders the food market. The walls were decorated with tile and plaster work…

L'Etoile Centrale's classic Moroccan decor

I ordered a Moroccan classic, chicken tagine with preserved lemon, olives and onion. The waiter brought bread, along with black olives and harissa, a fiery spread…

The bread and little snacks came first, then the steaming tagine

When my tagine arrived, the waiter lifted off the conical top and a cloud of steam billowed up. Moroccan chicken is wonderfully flavorful, but tougher than American chicken because the birds run around and build up more muscle. The onions had caramelized into a wonderful sauce – perfect for dipping bread…

Chicken tagine with preserved lemon (that's the lemon slice you see resting on the chicken)

I was invited on a cooking tour with Access Trips, so on this, my second visit to Morocco, I’ll be doing more than just eating tagines – I’ll learn how to make them. I’ll share the recipes and techniques, so we’ll all be able to satisfy our tagine dreams.

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.