2014 Summer Fancy Food Show
If you’re wondering what’s hot, the answer is popcorn. It’s a few other things, like smoke flavored anything, matcha green tea, proprietary spice blends and chia seeds in anything, but popcorn was by far the most marketed, bagged and sampled product at the 2014 Summer Fancy Food Show. I came home with eight bags.
I had heard about the fancy food show, whispers about what a scene it was and how daunting those miles of aisles could be. What I never heard uttered was how much I would eat, graze, and snack. It was seven hours of walking and nibbling. It was a Passover Seder without the chairs.
The new product aisle was where I had been instructed to begin. Best-named and cleverest one-box joke was worthy of a photo home to Mom: Voila Hallah, three different kinds of a packaged bread-mix hallah. (Although I thought it was spelled with a C.) I tasted the basic egg and it was surprisingly good. (They also carry whole wheat and spelt.) The owner told me she had her “Voila” moment when she was in the kitchen trying to bake, her kids were running around and she realized she couldn’t do it all.
Wondergrain is a pre-packaged sorghum--a gluten free couscous-like grain. If you've tried Israeli couscous, this is similar, but not as perfectly cylindrical and chewy. The grain is grown in the Midwest. I can see this challenging quinoa for its title in a few years, once people have learned to pronounce its name.
I'm not a huge meat eater, but Pork Clouds, packaged in small 100-calorie chip bags, is such a perfect snack for me, no carbs, no sugar, just fat and protein. The pork dust, also not something I might find myself buying, would be an awesome coating for a protein before you cooked it. Maybe even tofu for an evil twin non-vegetarian twist.
I tasted Aloe Very, a hydrating drink that seems much like coconut water. It's made from aloe plants grown in Texas--with almost nothing else, just a tiny bit of sweetener. I talked with one of the founders and he told me what little water is needed to grow aloe, in fact he told me the plant is best when you ignore it for like six weeks, which makes it immensely more sustainable than coconuts, most of which come from Thailand and the Philippines by slow-moving ships. I guess this product is so new there's no website yet.
The last snack I tried in the new aisle were crunchy roasted fava beans going by the name Fabz. In comparison they’re somewhat like roasted chickpeas, which I also like, but can be a little too dry and dense. The fava beans, both high in protein and fiber, are great--airy and crunchy--they tasted light if maybe a tad salty. With the world going crazy over nut allergies, and planes no longer giving out those wonderful little single-serving bags, I told the group of ladies (it’s a women-owned family business), that they needed to get it on planes. Hello, airlines, do you hear me?
ULIV Java, a blend of coffee, green tea, yerba mate and astragalus, that is being partnered by Martha Stewart, sadly, no Martha sightings. What's astragalus** you ask? According to their materials it's an adaptogen*, which helps you adapt to stress. Hm. It’s not bad, but I find myself wondering why I would want to blend all of those things into one drink. I’m not sure I want that much caffeine. They’re marketing it as a tool for a healthy diet including exercise. I’m intrigued, but not sure it’s my thing.
*What's an adaptogen? According to the Dr. Oz site (I know), an adaptogen "is meant to increase general resistance to stress and disease, and normalize disturbances in your body’s ability to balance itself."
**What's astragalus? According to WebMD it's a root that has long been used in Chinese medicine, and that seems to stimulate and increase the immune system. This however is not scientific fact.
Boston-based drink, Motto, is a sparkling matcha green tea beverage in a glass bottle. It was so good I had seconds. The drink is made from sparkling water, honey, lemon, and apple cider vinegar. They're actually using both honey and agave because they each lend a different taste. As someone who usually thinks things are too sweet, I didn't have that problem here. They're stocked at my local Whole Foods.
Coconut and almonds have not lost any of their luster in new products. I tasted Almond Coconut Water from Victoria's Kitchen. The drink was nominated for a SOFI award at the show, and it's an interesting drink if a little offbeat. I'm always tempted when I'm faced with a huge refrigerated wall at the drug store on a hot muggy day in NYC, but they all still have calories and carbs, which I'd rather get from food.
Tuvunu is a tea from Greece that comes sweetened and unsweetened. It comes in a giant size can, and looks a bit like an energy drink. The owner said he was considering re-working to appeal to the health-minded U.S. customer. The unsweetened has three ingredients: Greek mountain tea (caffeine free), honey and lemon. That's it. They're working with farmers in tiny areas of Greece, which I think is awesome.
Until I saw it, this product never occurred to me. Toastabags is a mesh-like bag that allows you to make a grilled cheese sandwich in your regular toaster. Just think about that.
Molecule-R, a Canadian company is hoping to bring molecular gastronomy to the home chef. Their home kits were very intrigued, especially the one that shows you how to make spaghetti with a skinny tube and a syringe--and agar agar of course, a thickener you can use to make spaghetti out of say a tomato. Their newest product is a set of four forks that come with flavor discs and scents so you can play games with the affects of scent on our taste buds. Really cool, and worth taking a look if you're into kitchen chemistry.
The last item was a collection of flours that I am dying to try: cassava, banana, sweet purple potato and palm starch. They were from a small Indonesian collective. The biscuits made with the palm starch had the best crumbly shortbread consistency and were really tasty. I tried to get a sample but she wasn't forthcoming. As interesting as these are, I think chickpea is going to be the next flour craze, along with the pea legume being used as a protein source for any plant-friendly products. I'd love to see whey and soy continue to be used less and less.
The show was indeed overwhelming, and the array of food was daunting. It was also fun talking to everyone and trying new products. I'm glad I biked there, but perhaps next year I'll add a few more miles to my morning commute. Like 50. Big thank you to Jennifer Lea Cohen for getting me in and telling me to wear sneakers and bring extra bags.