"" What's She Eating Now?: Fancy, and Not So Fancy, Food

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Fancy, and Not So Fancy, Food

I returned from the Fancy Food Show at the Javits Center yesterday with a very confused stomach. Think sampling specialty foods from the world over by touring aisles that span several football fields, times two floors, and juxtapose candy and confections, with meats and cheeses, with oils and vinegars, with exotic beverages and other miscellaneous items. That said, I endured the back and forths between sweet and savory (and sometimes delicious and disgusting) to ferret out some of the best products available.

Before I reveal my top 10 list, however, I need to share some winners of a different kind.

First up, I give the “Are You Serious Award” to the pizza in a cone. “A new way of eating pizza” all the way from Spain, this product consists of a dough cone with pizza stuffings that one heats up in the microwave. It is reported in the literature to have a ‘pleasant and acceptable smell and taste,’ qualities I certainly look for when I eat conical food. For some reason this company had a huge booth well placed at the end of an aisle but no samples so we may never find out if the tuna flavor is as good as the representative boasted.

Next is a dead tie for the “What’s in a Name Award”. The first co-winner is the maker of Cheesecake in a Jar. The face my Show companion made when she tried it gave me an idea of what it tasted like but for the sake of argument lets say it was delicious, I don’t see Dean & Deluca eager to line their shelves with an item of said sobriquet. Cheesecake in a Jar shares its envious honor with GarLic It, a line of marinated garlic products for use primarily in sauces, marinades, and condiments. The marketing material convincingly declares “you’ll Like it!” I confess I actually thought the product itself was pretty good and I could see using at least two of their flavors in a variety of things but items with names like this belong next to things like Slankets and Shamwows in stores that sell things you ‘can only buy on TV in the next 10 seconds’. If you can somehow accept having this product in your house if you get hit by a bus and your family and friends go through your possessions its actually worth a try. Check it out at slicedgarlic.com.

The “Fraternity Prank Recipe Award” goes to this gem from Riba Foods that I found, rightfully so, on the floor of the convention center: Salsa Cheesecake. I would declare “need I say more?” except I need say more: the recipe calls for a topping of black bean dip. Requiring someone to eat this as a condition of “friendship” would be the worst sort of pledging ritual.

The “Mr. Hanky/Picture Says a Thousand Words Award.” (See photo on right)

Now on to the good stuff. I based my selections loosely on a combination of taste, originality, and ingredient quality and regret that I couldn't include everything I gave the thumbs up to. My top nods go to the following exhibitors:

#1. Porcetta from Porchetta Primata. Narrowly eeking out top honors, Porcetta Primata uses antibiotic and hormone free pigs raised on a corn and soybean diet. To prepare the porcetta they first de-bone the pig and hand rub it with select spices.

They then sew the pig back up and roast it Italian style for over 4 hours. The end result is moist, succulent pork meat surrounded by skin cooked to a perfect crispiness. And the best part, you can get it delivered to your door. Your choices: The classic porcetta pictured here is a whole pig and weighs approximately 45 pounds. If you’re not entertaining an army any time soon there are options for a tronchetto (a loin and belly roll prepared the same way) weighing in at 16-19 pounds, a proscuitto porcetta (leg) tipping the scales at 10-12 pounds, or the pancetta porcetta (belly) weighing in at a light snack weight of 3-4 pounds.

#2. Strauss Free Raised Veal. On offer at this booth was a strip cut of veal prepared with just a little salt in a skillet and, a veal hot dog. The strip was positively delicious. The meat was tender and outrageously flavorful, so much so that I was able to ignore the somewhat bizarre man standing next to me trying to make an entire lunch out of the samples and randomly stabbing several pieces with his used toothpick in an apparent attempt to claim them. Next came the hotdog. I was expecting it to ruin the great taste I had left over from the strip and it blew me away. “How is this so good?” I asked. Jessica Mosner, a third generation meat wholesaler from Mosner Veal & Lamb, informed me that they use 100% shoulder meat ‘so there are no odds and ends in there’ and its also skinless so there is no texture or flavor interference from a casing. Mosner partners with Strauss who ensures the veal they sell is humanely-raised, free-to-roam, has access to its mother’s milk in addition to 100% vegetarian feed, and is hormone and drug-free (See Strauss's site). Stay tuned for retail distribution coming to New York in the next few weeks.

#3. Black Garlic. I give this product serious points for originality. It looks just like garlic but is its cloves are black and it tastes sort of like a prune with hints of mushroom and is really good. It gets this way through a special month-long high-heat fermentation process which gives it its darker color, softer consistency, and sweeter taste. Their website has a tab with recipes but I think this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what you can do with it. Especially because it also comes in liquid form which I could easily imagine using as a sauce ingredient or even as a stock (yes, they had it flowing in a fountain at the show).

#4. Yanni Grilling Cheese. This cheese is semi-firm and cow milk based but what is unusual is the high heat it can withstand without melting. I don’t know how they get it to do that and I am not sure I want to but I can tell you that after cooking this cheese in a pan it is insanely good. The surly guy making the cheese told me you can find it at Wholefoods.

#5. Charlie’s Truffled Popcorn from Susan Rice. I regret not taking the contraband sample I was offered after I revealed myself as the popular blogger behind WhatsSheEatingNow.com. The bag was large and I thought it wouldn’t fit in my purse but in retrospect I wish I just shoved it under my shirt and pretended I had a bun in the oven because I could sure go for some now. Light fluffy popcorn dusted with truffles makes a great snack. Truth be told you can make this yourself pretty easily with an investment in some truffle salt but why go through the trouble when Susan Rice does such a good job. Check out her site for some other Susan Rice truffle products and read about her ambitious mission to bring black truffle farming to the US and corner the market.

#6. Japanese Delight Kombu Seaweed Products. Low fat, low calorie, and sans artificial flavors or transfats, these pre-packaged seaweed and seaweed/noodle products allow you to make traditional-like Japanese dishes at home in 10 minutes—oh, and it tastes good. They don’t distribute in New York quite yet but you can buy packs of 10 at this page on Amazon.

#7. Crepinis by Crepini Café. Despite the unfortunate name, crepinis come in both savory and sweet flavors and are actually quite good without breaking the calorie bank (the spinach and feta is only 40 calories per serving and is pretty hearty). Why did they choose a name that sounds like crap? The wrap is a cross between a crepe and a blini. But if you can get past this transgression the product is quite good and is hand-made to order with local, all-natural ingredients and is available on their site. The portobella-parmagiano was my favorite of the ones I tried.

#8. Chilean Carica from Tamaya Gourmet. Carica is a fruit that grows in the semi-desert valleys of northern Chile. Tamaya Gourmet bottles it and also a pear unique to the area and they are both delicious. Check them out at TamayaGourmet.com.

#9. Tur-Duc-Hen from Tony Chachere’s. To be honest I thought this would be gross—a chicken stuffed inside a duck stuffed inside a turkey and then frozen for you to later defrost in your home. I tried it for yucks and to have something funny to write about but I have to say it was better than I thought it would be.

#10. Kim Chee Fried Rice Sauce from Hawaiian Pride. I had a language barrier issue here which ended up with me walking away with a sample I wasn’t supposed to have so these guys deserve a brief write up. This flavoring comes in liquid form and is all natural with no preservatives. It was great. They had other flavors for different uses as well but they don’t seem to have a website. Its in a packet that looks like powdered seasoning but its squishy when you pick it up as its actually liquid. If you happen upon it or some of their other products they are worth a try if you want to make dishes with difficult to create Asian flavors at home.

Honorable Mentions:

· Dried Kimchi. Unfortunately I didn’t seem to leave the show with any product literature about this stroke of genius. Imagine kimchi that doesn’t go bad or smell. Brilliant. I checked the list of Korean exhibitors to see if I could identify the producer and where you can get it but no dice. I did, however, find a Korean food company that has tabs for food and a tab where they push mouse traps, fly paper, and roach mats. I will say that that may be the cutest label possible for something of this sort.

· Element Bars. I was not able to try this product but find the concept innovative. Customers can go to their site and customize their own energy bars by selecting a core, a variety of add-ins, and a personalized label. Pretty neat. Check it out at elementbars.com.

So as you can see it was an eventful day of trying food, although I did abstain/wimp out from drinking olive oil out of a wine glass as I saw many do. I also neglected to take a picture of myself with the costumed mascot for bacon salt. But I'm happy to report there are no early signs that I caught anything from the bad acts of un-apprehended double dippers and sincerely hope you benefit from my three hour tour. Here’s to fancy, and not so fancy, food!


  1. Thanks Jessica for including the Chilean Carica in your Top Ten List!!!

    Starting August 2009, the Chilean Carica and the Wild Baby Pears will be available to everybody in the US via online thru www.tamayagourmet.com

    Daniel Vitis

  2. I laughed out loud from start to finish. However, I must take issue with your nomination of GarLic It! for anything but a top slot. Granted the name is not great, but the product itself was divine. For god's sake, it had anchovies in it. How brilliant is that? It's like Sicily in a jar. It was absolutely delicious, and I wish I had some right now to slather on some pork chops that I'm cooking for dinner.