FOOD FETE – NOVEMBER 2013

With Autumn well under way, a number of food purveyors gathered under the Food Fete banner on November 7th to present their latest products to assembled journalists in New York. Here’s an account of noteworthy items I was able to sample.

Surely more people would bake at home if only it didn’t often involve so many details regarding assemblage of ingredients and thereafter cleaning various vessels used in the process. Fortunately, Luce’s Gluten-Free Artisan Bread [www.lucegfbread.com] has made the process of baking fresh flavorful bread at home absurdly easy with their mix kits. Each is packaged in an easy-to-use way, with pre-mixed-and-measured flour, instructions, a support sheet for shaped dough and a paper bag – which simulates a professional steamer oven – in which the bread is baked. Since the mixes are designed to be ready for the oven after you “just add water” and mix the ingredients by hand (with no need to allow the bread to rise, or proof), there’s no mixing bowl, bread pan or other accoutrements needed; hence, no clean up, and the bag you bake the bread in can be discarded thereafter; each loaf is the right size to complement a meal for four. All flavor varieties are gluten-free, and include Classic Sourdough, New Italian, Bold Buckwheat Premium and OMG Flatbread. I baked an Italian loaf at home and found it to be surprisingly moist; I also spiked the mix with some ‘Hemp Hearts’ – raw shelled hemp seeds – from Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods [www.manitobaharvest.com] –, which added a nutty, slightly sweet and crunchy texture to the loaf.

Another purveyor of bread mixes was represented: From Anna [www.fromanna.com], which specializes in a variety of gluten-free products. The three brands sampled were Gluten Free Classic Herb Bread, which has a hearty taste due to the herbs, thyme, sage, parsley and other seasonings in it (it makes a great base for holiday stuffing); Gluten Free Pumpkin Bread, a moist, spicy bread that well accommodates any nuts, fruit or other ingredients one may wish to add to it; and Gluten Free Banana Bread, also a moist flavorful blend made of pure bananas, maple and honey sweeteners.

Panera Bread [www.panerabread.com] operates 1,777 bakery-cafes in 45 states and in Ontario, Canada, and thus feed millions of people daily, with not only the fresh, authentic artisan bread that gives the company its name but a wide variety of other fresh foods as well. They were sampling what they call a Power Chicken Hummus Bowl: with all-natural, Antibiotic-free chicken, with cilantro jalapeno humus, baby spinach, cucumbers, diced tomatoes and red onions finished with fresh squeezed lemon and fresh chopped cilantro.

A fine accompaniment to any bread would surely be any one of the outstanding dried meat products produced by Brooklyn-based Jonty Jacobs™ [www.jontyjacobs.com]– Purveyor of Fine Beef Products. While the niche of beef jerkies and similar dried meat products has become a crowded category lately, the styles perfected by Jonty Jacobs, called Biltong (dried meat slices) and Droewors (dried sausage), and derived from South African methods which have been developed over hundreds of years, truly stand apart. The meats are rubbed with vinegar and spices before being hung to naturally dry, which, along with a fatty marbling, preserves the moisture, flavor and easy-to-chew character of the snacks. There are no chemicals, additives used, nor are the meats cured using sodium nitrates, as is typical for many such foods.

Another area where there has been a lot of growth in new food products is dried fruits. While many seem to sacrifice preserving the flavor of fresh fruit for the sake of the shelf life and convenience of dried varieties, a distinctive line of such foods was presented by BARE [www.baresnacks.com]. Their Barefruit All Natural Apple Chips are distinctively light and crunchy, and the extensive baking process brings out the essential sugar of the apple, caramelizing it on the outside of the resulting chips of dried fruit. They also add some great seasonings to the mix – the two flavors being sampled were Crunchy Chile Lime Apple Chips and Crunchy Sea Salt Caramel Apple Chips.

Another undeniably crowded field of food products are chocolates of all shapes and varieties, particularly truffles. I have had my share at tastings, product launches and trade shows, and can say that the flavor varieties developed by Calogero’s Dusty Truffle® [www.thedustytruffle.com] definitely stand out. Billed as “The Fun Truffle With The Serious Taste®”, these truffles have been crafted via inspiration by the classic chocolate truffle being dusted with cocoa powder. Original flavors are the spicy and complex East My Dust (Spicy Rocky Road), a blend of 70% dark chocolate, mini marshmallows, walnuts and a dash of cayenne pepper; the tart Pixie Dust (Dark Limon Citrus), made with a combination of lemon and lime juices along with 70% dark chocolate; the deep rich Dust to Dust (Intensely Dark), which features 70% fresh cream ganache infused with tiny bits of cacao nibs and dusted with a Black Onyx cocoa powder; and my favorite, the Angel Dust (Coconut Nirvana) flavor mingling white chocolate with coconut milk, toasted coconut and a hint of rum. Future proposed flavor names – Brake Dust, Coal Dust, Cocoa Dust, Crop Dust, Fairy Dust, Gold Dust, House Dust, Moon Dust, Prairie Dust, Saw Dust, Silver Dust, Star Dust and Trail Dust – hint at possibilities equally imaginative, scrumptious and surprising.

Also in the chocolate arena, though specializing in bars, is Divine Chocolate [www.divinechocolateusa.com], an enterprise that not only produces great chocolates but does so in a socially conscientious way, as it is a brand and Fair Trade firm co-owned by the Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Cooperative cocoa farmers in Ghana – where the world’s richest pods are to be found. Bursting with pieces of zesty orange and spicy ginger is the Divine 70% Dark with Ginger and Orange, whereas the Divine 38% Milk Chocolate with Toffee and Sea Salt balances the buttery and crunchy toffee with a dash of salt; a Limited Edition flavor of note is the Divine Dark Chocolate with Hazelnuts and Cranberries, chock full of the fruits and nuts. There are also a number products timed for release to the holiday season; these include the Limited Edition Divine Milk Chocolate with Spiced Cookies bar, which contains pieces of Christmas spice cookies; Divine 70% Dark Chocolate Christmas Trees in Christmas Tree Box; and Divine Milk Chocolate Christmas Trees in Christmas Tree Box. More bite-sized treats that were presented were the Divine Dark Chocolate Mint Thins; Divine Dark Chocolate Ginger Thins; Divine 70% Dark Chocolate Coins; and Divine Milk Chocolate Coins.

Another firm presenting a number of holiday-themed products was Pepperidge Farm [www.pepperidgefarm.com]. Goldfish Holiday Crackers and Grahams have been dressed up for the season, in a festive selection of green and red crackers, and new Vanilla Cupcake grahams sprinkled in seasonal colors will be in stores over the holidays. Pepperidge Farm’s famed swirl bread is now available in a classic gingerbread flavor, nationally through January 2014. Lastly, the iconic Milano Cookie Collection will be augmented by some new varieties: Candy Cane, which sandwiches peppermint and chocolate between the two classic cookies (available beginning October 2013); Dulce de Leche, the delectable chocolate and caramel combo; and Lemon Chocolate, “a refreshing pairing for springtime” (the latter two flavors will be available nationally beginning in February 2014).

Two other exhibitors displayed opposite sides of the spectrum as regarding sweet things. Zulka Pure Cane Sugar [www.zulka.com] is made from only real fresh sugar cane – unrefined to provide a pure sugar as is found in nature; ideal for use in any recipes where refined white sugars are traditionally used, it’s Non-GMO Project verified, and is available in one-, two- and four-pound bags, as well as 100 count four-gram packet boxes. Valor Chocolate [www.valorchocolate.com] products are largely Sugar Free, and come in both Dark and Milk varieties; added ingredients include Marcona Almonds, Cocoa Nibs and Hazelnut Mousse.

Often at Food Fete exhibitors include the trade associations of various US agricultural concerns, and at this edition there were several such entities presenting the best that America’s growers have to offer. On hand were the American Pistachio Growers [www.americanpistachios.org], the California Table Grape Commission [www.grapesfromcalifornia.com], and USA Pears [www.usapears.org]. Since I love pistachios, grapes, and all of the varieties of pears presented, which were grown in the northwest – Red Anjou, Green Anjou, Bartlett, Red Bartlett, Bosc, Comice, Concorde, Forelle, Seckel and Starkrimson (and come to think of it, most of these are grown in New York State as well) – they didn’t need to convince me of the value to be had in natural and fresh American-grown produce. Also on hand was the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association [www.fruitsfromchile.com], reflective of the increased presence of Chilean food products to be found in the US in recent years. (At Puro Chile in New York’s Little Italy you can get some great olive oils, wines, nuts and other artisanal food products, in addition to other items imported from Chile, and the unique Chilean carica fruit can be found in many stores.) At Food Fete they were sampling Blueberry Quinoa Salad and Blueberry Dark Chocolate Clusters

A major player in US produce is Dole [www.dole.com], and for good reason. They have continued to evolve new products and to meet changing consumer demands, building on their long-standing base of brand recognition and marketplace position. For Dole® Bananas they have developed a “Peel the Love” recipe [www.dole.com/peelthelove], which utilizes the Yonanas Frozen dessert Maker to turn over-ripe bananas into a delicious and creamy treat that looks and tastes like soft serve ice cream. The new product presented by Dole Fresh Vegetables [www.dolesalads.com] were a line of ‘Chopped’ Salad Kits, combining fresh and crispy greens and vegetables with well-blended dressings in packets within the kit that one can drizzle over the veggies according to whatever portions and flavoring favored by the consumer. These come in five varieties: DOLE® All Natural Chopped Chipotle & Cheddar Salad Kit, combining cheddar cheese and cheddar tortilla strips with crunchy green and red cabbage, crisp Romaine, kale, sweet carrots, green onions and Dole’s Chipotle Ranch dressing;

DOLE® All Natural Chopped Bacon & Bleu Salad Kit, featuring Applewood smoked bacon mixed with crunchy green and red cabbage, crisp Romaine, kale, sweet carrots, green onions and Dole’s original Blue Cheese dressing; DOLE® All Natural Chopped BBQ Ranch Salad Kit, with crispy fried onions, cheddar tortilla chips, crunchy green and red cabbage, crisp Romaine, kale, sweet carrots and green onions, plus Dole’s tangy BBQ Ranch dressing; DOLE® Chopped Asian Salad Blend, with crunchy green and red cabbage, kale, broccoli slaw, snap peas and sweet carrots – a blend also ideal as the foundation for a stir-fry; and DOLE® Chopped Summer Garden Salad Blend, which mixes green and red cabbage with crisp Romaine, radishes, green onions and sweet carrots.

Two products were highlighted by Chicken of the Sea International [www.chickenofthesea.com]. Their kipper snacks are tasty herring fillets naturally smoked over hardwood chips, which contain healthful omega-3 fatty acids and are an excellent source of protein. Genova® Tonno in Olive Oil are wild caught Select Yellowfin tuna caught from deep waters, packed Mediterranean-style with olive oil and no additives; I find these are quite good for making pasta sauces. In addition to these two items, Chicken of the Sea had on hand for sampling an impressive array of other canned sea foods from their extensive product line: Lump Crabmeat, White Crabmeat, Chopped Clams, Brisling Sardines, Minced Clams, Fancy Smoked Oysters in Oil, Sardines in Louisiana Hot Sauce, Solid Light Tuna, and Premium Skinless and Boneless Chunk Style Pink Salmon in ‘To Go’ Cups.

If you’re looking to enjoy such seafood in a sandwich form, one way you could would be to use the Asian Style wraps manufactured by Nasoya® [www.nasoya.com]. At approximately 160 calories per serving, Nasoya wraps compare favorably to other options, and come in three varieties: Won Ton Wraps, Egg Roll Wraps, and Round Wraps. Nasoya also makes noodles, and their non-GMO organic TofuPlus is the nation’s first and only tofu “beefed up” with nutrients normally found in meat that are nonetheless still important for those eschewing meat in their diets – TofuPlus is fortified with vitamins B-2, B-6, B-12, Zinc, D-2 and Calcium, as well as being cholesterol-free; it comes in four varieties: Nasoya Sprouted Super Firm TofuPlus, Nasoya Firm Black Soybean TofuPlus, Nasoya Firm TofuPlus and Nasoya Extra Firm TofuPlus.

Two yogurt and yogurt-based product manufacturers were sampling their goods. Some Australian expatriates teamed up with natives of their adopted Colorado in 2009 to launch Noosa Finest Yoghurt [www.noosayoghurt.com], dedicated to bringing the best tasting Aussie style yoghurt to American consumers, and now found in more than 5,000 grocery, natural and specialty stores nationwide, including Whole Foods, Target, Safeway and Fresh Market stores. Their ten flavors – including Plain, Tart Cherry, Honey, Blueberry, Raspberry, Strawberry Rhubarb, Passion Fruit, and Lemon – are available in 4-ounce variety packs and in individual 8- and 16-ounce cups. OPA! By Litehouse, Inc. [www.litehousefoods.com] Greek Style Salad Dressings are the only Greek Yogurt dressing in the salad dressing category, have half the calories and fat of typical salad dressings, and come in four fine flavors: Blue Cheese, Feta Dill, Ranch, and Caesar.

ALDI, Inc. [www.ALDI.us] is a global retail supermarket chain that began operations in Germany 1913. They have introduced a number of gourmet private label brands – Specially Selected, SimplyNature, Southern Grove, and Savoritz among them – into the US market, representing a wide variety of snack foods. Among items on display were SimplyNature Exotic Vegetable Chips, Savoritz Entertainment Crackers, Specially Selected Brie Cheese Rounds, Specially Selected Goat Cheese Logs, Specially Selected Prosciutto Panino, Specially Selected Aged Reserve White Cheddar Blacks, Specially Selected Flavored Hand Crafted Cheese, Southern Grove Dried Berries, and Southern Grove Dried Apricots. They were also featuring fresh food preparations, and these were a fresh fruit kabob with strawberries, pineapple and drizzled melted Choceur chocolate dip; and a Caprese kabob with fresh mozzarella, tomato and spinach leaf with a Tuscan Garden Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing.

The Quaker Oats Company [www.quakeroats.com] had several new products on display. Quaker Warm & Crunchy Granola is a first-of-its-kind hot cereal which delivers both the goodness of Quaker Oatmeal and the crunch of multigrain granola together in the same mix; to be available nationwide in 2014, it comes in three flavors: Apple Cinnamon, Honey Almond and Cranberry Almond. Quaker Real Medleys are ready-to-eat in the form of a more traditional cereal, with blends of multigrains, real fruit, nuts and crunchy granola clusters in the mix; also available nationwide in early 2014, the two flavors are Cherry Pecan Almond and Peach Apple Walnut. Quaker Instant Oatmeal Cups are a quick-to-prepare update on previous ‘instant’ oatmeal products in the Quaker line, ready to eat shortly after adding hot water (or microwaving them with water added); the two flavor varieties are Apple & Cranberries and Honey & Almonds.

For snack food lovers who prioritize healthy eating, Sante Nuts [www.santenuts.com] offered delicious spiced and candied nuts, all roasted by hand using methods ensuring a great balance of crispness and flavor. Available in 1 oz. or 4 oz. sizes are their buttery, sugar cane sweetened Candied Pecans, Roasted Salted Pecans and Cinnamon Pecans. Coming in 1.25 oz. and 5 oz. packages are their tasty spicy Cardamom Cashews, Garlic Almonds seasoned with cayenne and black peppers and cane sugar, and Chipotle Almonds seasoned with chipotle peppers and ancho chiles. Available in 4 oz. re-sealable bags are the Candied Walnuts variety, and their mildly sweet Candied Pistachios are available in 1 oz. and 5 oz. Packages.

The other three exhibitors were demonstrating articles for food preparation. Behmor, Inc. [www.behmor.com] presented their Brazen Home Coffee Brewer, an innovative device using newly invented technology in a product for consumer use that was previously only available in commercial brewers. Adjustable settings for pre-soak, brew time and temperature calibration are the unique features, and these allow people to actually account for their altitude in the brewing process, enabling a better result no matter where they are; the Brazen won the “People’s Choice Award” for Best New Product at the 2012 Specialty Coffee Association of America Trade Show, and Gizmodo lauded its capacity to produce “maybe the best dripped coffee from a machine.” Browne & Co. [www.browneco.com] manufactures a wide range of kitchen devices, under the brands AdHoc, Berard, Cuisipro and Nogent. The AdHoc line includes the Milano Electronic Pepper/Salt Mill, the Ivan Wood Pepper/Salt Mill, the Pepe Chili Cutter with AdHoc’s exclusive SchneidWerk® blade, and the Spice Bomb infuser vessel. The Berard line includes storage devices, such as the Salt Keeper, and Glass and Olive Wood Storage Jars. A unique Cuisipro device is the Magnetic Spot Scrubber, which enables users to get at hard-to-reach spaces within glass containers by use of two magnetized pieces, one you drop inside the vessel, and the other that you use outside to guide magnetically the interior piece to do the scrubbing; the other Cuisipro items on display were Scoop Bowls, which enable easier transfer of foodstuffs into them. The Nogent items featured were the Expert Series Chef’s Knife, the Expert Series Paring Knife, and the Super Kim Can Opener. All of these are moderately priced, from $8 to $50. An international team of award-winning chefs who’ve pioneered the sous-vide cooking process have put together Cuisine Solutions [www.cuisinesolutions.com], and their mission is to cultivate recipes allowing other fellow professional chefs and “passionate foodies” to prepare restaurant-quality dishes faster, more economically, and with consistently high quality. To demonstrate their methods they served some outstanding entrees: a slow-cooked Braised Lamb Shank in a rich Portobello Red Wine Sauce accompanied by savory Green Lentils sautéed with vegetables; their signature 72 Hour Seared Beef Short Ribs with Creamy Parmesan Polenta topped with a great Port Wine Sauce; and all-natural Turkey Breast over greens with a light Balsamic dressing.