What's new: Fancy Foods 2009
fermented teas ...
By Pat Tanner
You might think that in this struggling economy the annual extravaganza known as the Summer Fancy Food Show would be a bit downbeat, or at least not as well attended this year. Yet the number of food buyers and other trade professionals was up — 25,000 over three days at the end of June. And although the number of exhibitors was down slightly, I still found trawling the aisles of the Javits Center to be a Herculean task, and quickly OD'd on chocolates, cheeses, cookies and confections of every order, salad dressings, snack foods, salts, and other swank savories.
I suppose that the reason the specialty food sector does not seem to be suffering is that these are considered small indulgences, enjoyed without the guilt that major splurges incur. At least, they don't for me, so I am happy to pass along a few of my favorite finds and to note some of the recent trends in these so-called fancies.
Exotic citrus flavors are really big — particularly blood orange and yuzu. Gold award winners in 32 categories included fresh squeezed blood-orange juice, caramelized onion and blood-orange confit, yuzu citrus tea, yuzu marmalade, and Sarabeth's Kitchen Blood Orange Marmalade. Congratulations go to New Jersey's own Ciao Bella Gelato Company, whose new key-lime graham-cracker gelato won in the category of outstanding perishable food-service product.
Chocolate is a perennial favorite, of course, and this year many chocolatiers jumped on the chocolate-and-sea-salt bandwagon, often with the addition of caramel, making a most tempting trifecta. Honeys — single-flower, infused with other flavors, or still in the comb — have been growing in popularity in recent years, but this year I noticed a new twist: honey grilling sauces, such as one by my favorite producer, Savannah Bee Company. These days honey has new competition in the natural-sweetener category with the increasing presence of agave syrup.
Tea lovers might want to check out the class of long-fermented teas known as puerh — considered to have special health benefits — from popular organic brands such as Numi and Rishi. And if you haven't yet switched from synthetic sponges and paper towels to their all-natural biodegradable, compostable, and reusable counterparts, you might want to seek out those of Skoy Cloth or Twist. The latter brand is available at the Whole Earth Center, Wegmans, Whole Foods, and other locations in the area.
Sampling the wares at shows like these results in as many clunkers as winners. Here are my picks for best-of-the-best:
This year the company introduced Roasted Rhubarb Compote at the Fancy Food Show. The compote, and the recipe below, are good enough to convert even the rhubarb-reticent. If you're partial to strawberry-rhubarb pie, a jar of the compote with fresh sliced strawberries makes easy work of it.
There was a unique and touching feature at the Muirhead booth this year. Ed Simpson passed away last year and, as a tribute, Doris and daughter, Barbara, who now run the business, exhibited the cherry-condition 1930 Chevy Sedan that Ed had worked on restoring.
MUIRHEAD'S ROASTED RHUBARB DESSERT CRISP
1 jar Muirhead roasted rhubarb compote (available online)
Effie's Homemade Oatcakes and, starting this summer, corncakes with the texture of oatcakes. 'I can't stop eating them, unadorned.'
2 cups fruit of choice (chopped apples, strawberries, other berries)
For the topping:
1/2 cup flour
1 cup oatmeal, uncooked
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine filling ingredients. Place in an 8"x8" baking pan. Mix together topping ingredients until crumbly. Top fruit mixture with topping. Bake for 45 minutes. Serve warm, with ice cream (if desired).
Serves 6 to 8.