While there are undoubtedly many theories and philosophies regarding various diet regimens designed to ensure a healthy and long life, I have always maintained that gustatory pleasure for its own sake promotes one’s well-being – or, to put it another way, “the fat is where the flavor is.” Thus, it is with expectation that New York gourmands look forward to the second annual installment of The Great Big Bacon Picnic. Hailed as “The Bacon Event of the Year”, it has been moved to Autumn for 2016, and over the two-day weekend of September 24 & 25 there will indeed be a celebration embracing all manner of cured pork delicacies and artisanal spirits at the Old Pfizer Factory at 630 Flushing Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
The Summer Fancy Food Show had an interesting undercurrent I only caught wind of due to my early career start in Investment Banking with JP Morgan — Mergers & Acquisitions, especially with respect to the natural and organic foods industry. The Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) conglomerates have always been on the prowl for competitors — whether to force out of business or sideline, if possible, or to replicate new product successes, co-opt or takeover. In 2016 the emphasis is on identifying new trends or ones that have been bubbling under the surface for awhile and buy them out. Hormel recent bought both Applegate Farms (a personal favorite) and Justin’s Nut Butters. General Mills started the trend by acquiring Annie’s (the bunny mac & cheese).
Perhaps the most striking group of mountains within the domain of the Alps are the Dolomites, situated in the region of Trentino-Alto Adige. They point towards the sky not in the pyramidal or conical forms commonly seen elsewhere, but rather as a collection of craggy, singular sentinels looming over a very distinct area of Italy with a rich artisanal tradition and agricultural bounty. Thus it is apropos that the unique soil and environment in this realm of pristine air, clear lakes, glaciers and diverse microclimates gives rise to some exceptional wines.
It may not be the case that Matt Groening’s everyman owes his record-setting television sitcom longevity to yeast, hops and barley, but certainly many a similar notable accomplishment has been fortified with regular consumption of Homer Simpson’s favorite quaff. Those sharing his obsession have something to look forward to as from February 19-28, the 8th Annual New York City Beer Week will take place – yes it’s a ten-day week, but would seven days be sufficient to allow for a sampling of the fine products of local artisanal brewers? In the elasticity of time, let work weeks be shorter, and beer weeks be longer.
There is little better on a Sunday afternoon in the middle of winter than a hearty bowl of stew, and the version perfected in France, the Cassoulet, raises the concept to an art form. While there is no standard recipe, ingredients usually lean heavily on meats such as lamb and pork, slow-cooked in a savory mélange, and beans are essentially mandatory. At a previous cook-off one attendee remarked that he didn’t like beans – to which I retorted “going to a cassoulet tasting and not liking beans is like going to Bill Cosby’s house and not liking roofies.”
While January annually brings cold weather, it also avails New Yorkers a great and singular opportunity to indulge in the kind of pleasures one normally associates with the long days, warm and sunny weather, and open-air celebrations of summertime – namely, the feast presented by the Beer, Bourbon & BBQ event, slated for January 30th. Once again taking place at the Tunnel, at 608 West 28th Street, the Manhattan installment – the 7th annual – of Beer, Bourbon & BBQ is the opening event in a multi-city tour; future stagings are set for February 27 in Tampa, Florida, April 1 & 2 in Timonium, Maryland, May 7 in Charlotte, North Carolina, May 21 in Atlanta, Georgia, June 11 in Richmond, Virginia, June 17 & 18 in National Harbor, Maryland, August 5 & 6 in Cary, North Carolina, August 20 in Virginia Beach, Virginia and September 17 in Leesburg, Virginia. Named by Fest Forward the ‘Best of the Fests’ 2015 Award Winner, it is indeed a welcome gustatory escape from the rigors of winter.
Following up from the great ‘Discover Georgia in New York’ event that took place in the Chelsea Market from September 25-27, and which enabled visitors to acquaint themselves with the fashion, art, food and wine products of the ancient Caucasus nation, aficionados of that land’s culture had an opportunity to savor the viticultural products of the region in depth at a wine tasting held at the Astor Center on October 6. Although Georgian wines have been available in the US for some years, the occasion was only the second time that a “critical mass” of these – representing many different wineries and major areas – have been presented to American oenophiles, with the broad assortment poured displaying the diverse styles and rich history of over 8,000 vintages cultivated.
The Summer Fancy Food Show and the Gay Pride Parade both celebrating victories this year in New York. Fancy Food inaugurated the first ever Specialty Food Week in New York and the LGBTQ community celebrated the historic Supreme Court ruling. 2,500 exhibitors showcased 180,000 products, thankfully not all of them food or I wouldn’t have been able to finish the show. There were some interesting new products this year that made it worth spending three days trudging through NYC’s infamous Javits Center. These are the ten food items that are worth you tracking them down and trying them with your friends and family.
By any measure, it is truly a golden era for food in the United States, and particularly with regards to the specialty foods industry. A niche that hardly existed 50 years ago, specialty foods sales have achieved a record high of $109 billion, accounting for nearly 15 percent of all retail food sales in the U.S. While it may now seem to have been inevitable that a nation with a populace as diverse, large and steadily growing as that in America would embrace the development of an increasingly abundant variety of food products and cuisines, it nonetheless took some visionaries to recognize the potential for the growth in this area and to cultivate the means of delivering such a bounty to what has become an ever expanding marketplace.
The first time I laid eyes upon the statuette given to the winners of the SOFI™ Awards – the annual honors recognizing outstanding achievement in the realm of specialty foods – I detected a distinct familiarity about the form, but couldn’t immediately place it. While the figure is fundamentally modeled on ‘Oscar’, the three-dimensional logo of the Academy Awards, in that it is bisymmetrical, golden, standing erect, and holding an object (appositely a serving platter instead of a sword), there was another aspect to it that struck me as reminiscent of an iconic predecessor – namely, the head. The SOFI statuette, you see, is apparently wearing a chef’s toque, but not one that is clearly delineated; rather the sculpting is more evocative than realistic, so that the abstracted headwear resembles as much a bulbous projection extending the cranium as a hat sitting atop it.
And then I had it – the SOFI statue is a Kanamit!