The international specialty food business puts on the Fancy Food Show; the winter version in San Francisco and the largest one at the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York City in the summer. I don’t believe I’ve missed either attending or working the summer version in over 20 years. Larger than ever with a new conventional hall at the Javits Center added just last year it is impossible to see everything in one day, in fact, I spent almost 2 whole days and know there were booths I missed. When walking the show my focus is on savory items, items that are a little bit different and limited sweets.
I’m always looking for that “different” item – something that would have never crossed my mind and bazinga, in the first row I found two. One was Teriyaki Tuna Jelly with cooked tuna and mentaiko that is used with sushi or a condiment with finger food and what looked liked green olives but were baby peaches that you pop in your mouth whole, so sweet and tender you even eat the pit.
What was big this year, what had an overpowering presence was cheese, ever kind of cheese – so many vendors, distributors and international companies. Lots and lots and lots of cheese – everywhere you turned.
I reported last year on caramel having a big presence and this year it wasn’t any different; sauces, teas and candies. Stash’s salted caramel mate tea, Fat Toad Farm and Big Picture Farm caramels made with goat milk and Gearharts caramels with miso instead of sea salt for an umami kick made it to my Instagram feed - @daracooks
I’m a tea drinker and I must say more tea manufacturers seemed to present this year again kicking up the caramel flavor and also turmeric as featured from the Republic of Tea along with their Downton Abbey series like Downton Abbey Grantham Breakfast Blend Tea or Downton Abbey English Rose Tea. The *sofi™ winner in the hot beverage category was tea pigs' liquorice and peppermint (www.teapigs.com) – naturally sweet and less than 3 calories. Let me not forget Owl’s Brew tea based cocktail mixers.
No doubt that pickling and kimchi are on the rise in public awareness and acceptance. The number of manufacturers has increased in this category but not an over abundance. Eye catching packaging and enlightening was a stop at Mother In Law’s Kimchi where I had a lesson on Gochujang Sauce from owner Lauryn Chun. It is a fermented chile paste used in Korean cooking as one would use tomato paste but with a mild kick. Recipes for both the chile paste and the four flavors of kimchi came from Jang Mo Gip Restaurant, which translates into mother-in-law’s house and is Lauryn mother’s restaurant in California. There was Schoni Gourmet sauerkrauts with flavors like Asian, Wasabi, Curry and Mexican. Brooklyn Brine a newbie at the show stood its ground next to the Fancy Food Show veteran Rick’s Picks who walked away with the sofi™award in the appetizer, antipasto or hors d’oeuvres category for their Smokra, smoked okra.
Beer tapped off a new segment at the specialty food line with 2014 sofi™ winner Triple Ale Onion Savory Spread by Wozzi Kitchen Creations to Jelly Belly’s newest flavor addition jelly bean – Brew. Yes, a beer flavored jelly bean.
La Pasta ‘s newest item Beet, Butternut Squash & Goat Cheese Ravioli was the sofi™ 2014 winner in the Pasta, Rice or Grain category. There are numerous Italian sauces and a new manufacturer is Bongiovi Pasta Sauces introduced their Marinara, Garden Style and Arrabbiata sauces – I tasted the marinara and it was just the right mix of tart and sweet. If the name seems familiar, Jon Bon Jovi is the famous son of John Bongiovi Sr who markets their family sauces. Portion of their proceeds go to Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation whose mission is to combat issues that force families and individuals into economic despair.
Frozen treats category grew with low calorie high flavor entrants like Sorbabes Gourmet Sorbets Organic Pistachio with Sea Salted Caramel to Brewla’s craft brewed Root Beer Float Bar which delivered in flavor.
Now back to hot, Nona Lim Non GMO, certified gluten free soups all vegan with flavors like Zucchini Soup, Miso Ramen, Thai Green Curry to French Onion. Neilly’s Global Cuisine brings island food and flavors to the forefront with their empanadas to coconut stew.
Mustards, well they are going through the roof with additional flavor profiles, my favorite was Green Mountain Mustard’s Deli Dirt, the everything bagel mustard and then Vintage Bee creamed honey, a process of slowly spinning honey until smooth and then adding fruits and flavor profiles like chocolate mint honey. Don’t worry there were plenty of products touting the ever so popular Sriracha profile. Check out my earlier story on Green Sriracha.
Your dog was not overlooked, Frenchie’s Kitchen…”if dogs could cook, this is what they’d serve” is their tag line. Frenchie’s Kitchen is all natural cooked meals for dogs; beef, barley and veggies; turkey, quinoa and veggies; and chicken, brown rice and veggies – all whole foods.
*The sofi™ Awards represent culinary innovation across America and around the globe and are chosen by a national panel of specialty food professionals. This year’s winners and from years past can be found at SpecialtyFood.com