Sold out & buzz-worthy The greatest food show on earth!
From hemp seed yogurt to salumi, pumpkin pesto to kale popsicles, hibiscus tea to Hello Kitty marshmallows — not to mention a replica of the Mona Lisa composed of 14,212 jelly beans: every conceivable specialty food and beverage popped up at the 2013 Summer Fancy Food Show.
Back in the Big Apple
After a two-year hiatus in Washington, D.C., the 59th iteration of this gastronomic extravaganza returned to its long-standing home of New York City — bigger and better than ever, a smash hit.
Owned and operated by the now-named Specialty Food Association — formerly the National Association of the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT) — the show debuted an ambitious new brand: Specialty Food. Craft. Care. Joy. Its mission: to recognize and promote the passion and commitment of the people behind the products.
The biggest ever
The show sold out weeks ahead of its June 30-to-July 2 time slot. Over 180,000 products, 2,400 exhibitors from more than 89 countries and 24,000 attendees burst the seams of the renovated and expanded Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, filling 354,000 square feet of exhibition-hall floor space and spilling out for some special events into venues across Manhattan.
Food artisans, importers and entrepreneurs comprised the exhibitors; buyers represented top retailers, restaurants and other consumer entities.
There were pre-parties, after-parties, happy hours and a 6-foot-high cake, by Buddy Valastro, aka The Cake Boss, carved into the shape of a “sofi.” Standing for specialty outstanding food innovation, the sofi Awards bring Oscar-esque chef statuettes in silver (finalists) or gold (winners) to the best of the best. This year, Chef Marcus Samuelsson delivered the keynote address and presented gold sofis in 32 categories at a spirited red-carpet ceremony.
Amid much grazing, buying and selling, coteries of expert trend-spotters roamed the aisles to forecast what products will soon land on grocery shelves, restaurant menus and in home kitchens. Some trends and products to note:
Fresh, memorable and, sometimes, in arresting combinations:
Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams (www.jenis.com), winner of the Outstanding Product Line, makes gold-standard ice cream, frozen yogurt, dessert sauces and toppings called Gravel (crumbled donut, salty graham). Pristine ingredients inspire inventive flavors: Lime/Cardamom, Yazoo Sue with Rosemary, Goat Cheese with Red Cherries.
Gelateria Naia (www.gelaterianaia.com) hand-crafts another transcendent frozen delight — in small batches, in tempting flavors such as Recchiuti Burnt Caramel, Blue Bottle Coffee, and Pistachio that tastes like freshly picked nuts.
Chuao Chocolatie r (www.chuaochocolatier.com) creates cheerful, culinary-inspired confections. Two new bars: Pop Corn Pop — puffed whole grain, toasted corn chips, popping candy, sea salt and milk chocolate — simulates the mouth-feel of America's favorite movie snack; Orange-A-Go-Go — candied orange, orange bergamot and dark chocolate — celebrates an iconic citrus.
Wild Poppy Juice (www.wildpoppyjuice), one of the most inventive juice lines, takes big risks with superior results in the beverage category. Made with organic fruit, agave and global spices, the colorful juices jolt with unexpected combinations: Grapefruit Ginger; Blood Orange Chili; and Plum Licorice.
Wildly Delicious (www.wildlydelicious.com) aptly describes this company's gold sofi-winning preserves. Try Beet & Red Onion or Tangerine & Red Chili.
Robert Rothschild Farms (www.robertrothschild.com) expands the palate with two new spreads: Strawberry Lime Basil; and Caramelized Onion Balsamic.
Numi Organic Tea (www.numitea.com) introduces a new taste sensation: Savory Teas — real organic vegetables, wild herbs, decaf tea and aromatic spices. Choose from six flavors: Tomato Mint; Spinach Chive; Fennel Spice; Carrot Curry; Broccoli Cilantro; and Beet Cabbage.
Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company Bay Blue (www.pointreyescheese.com) tied for the gold sofi in the best new product category. The mild blue cheese, golden in color with blue-green veining, blends pungency with a salted-caramel finish.
Noosa Finest Yoghurt (www.noosayoghurt.com) reflects its Australian roots in its eight fruit flavors — including passion fruit and mango. But the plain version registers the irresistible tang of an Old World yogurt culture.
Health and wellness
Today's products address: allergies — especially gluten; lifestyle preferences — vegan, vegetarian, kosher; environmental issues — especially sustainability; plus ever more healthful kids' foods — whole grains, baked chips, superfruits and natural sweeteners such as agave and stevia to replace high fructose corn syrup.
Partners (www.partnerscrackers.com), a longtime maker of all-natural, ancient-grain goods, introduces a line of gluten-free crackers in three flavors: olive oil & herb; roasted garlic & rosemary; and olive oil & sea salt.
Sea Fare Pacific , a division of Oregon Seafoods (www.oregonseafoods.com), offers totally delicious seafood soups and curries that are fresh, wild-caught, sustainable, gluten free, non-GMO, conveniently packaged, ready to heat and shelf-stable for two years. Try West Coast Cioppino or Smoked Salmon Chowder.
San-J (www.san-j.com), home of impeccable Tamari Soy Sauces — traditional, low-sodium and gluten-free, releases new gluten-free Asian salad dressings — Tamari Sesame, Tamari Peanut and Tamari Ginger — useful as well for marinades or pasta flavorings.
Good Boy Organics (www.integratedorganics.com), maker of BOPS, “the only certified organic baked potato crisp in America,” also bags the youth vote for Organicasaurus, dinosaur-shaped cheese puffs.
Better Bean Co. (www.BetterBeanCo.com) focuses on fresh, clean, healthy, vegan — and tasty legumes. This product comes in five flavors: cuban black beans; three sisters chili; uncanny refried beans; wholly chipotle bean dip; and rethought red beans.
Simply Sprouted Way Better Snacks (www.livebetterbrands.com), tortilla chips made from sprouted seeds and grains — broccoli, radish, black beans, blue corn — promises powerful nutrition. A recycled paper wrapper, when planted, grows wild flowers.
Ginger adds just the right spark, sometimes where you least expect it. Check out Ginger Chili Sauce or Organic Ginger Syrup from The Ginger People (www.gingerpeople.com).
Lime ranks prestigiously this year as the go-to flavor balancer. Check ingredient labels to find that many products derive tartness from lime juice.
Goat: meat, cheese, milk, yogurt—and confections? Big Picture Farm (www.bigpicturefarm.com), partnering with chocolatier Shawn Askinosie, makes stellar Cocao Latte Goat Milk Caramels.
Cruncha Ma-Me (www.crunchamame.com) freeze-dried edamame, flavored with sea salt/black pepper, onion/chives or jalapeno, are packaged in single-serve packets, boasting only 90 calories and more protein than an egg.
Popcorn (www.popgourmetpopcorn.com), in many flavors from savory to sweet, is declared snack of the year.
Creative Snacks (www.creativesnacks.com) markets wasabi peas, dry roasted soy nuts and vegetable chips — broccoli with white cheddar, green beans, okra.
GimMe Seaweed Snacks (www.gimmehealth.com) claims the broadest range of minerals of any food on the planet. Organic roasted sheets — sea salt or sesame — make for easy, out-of-hand snacks. Crumbled and seasoned with Cheddar or Honey Dijon may be an acquired taste.
Whole, ground, sprouted, pressed and popped
Chia Pods (www.thechiaco.com.au), the darling of the show, claims to be a powerhouse of Omega 3, fiber, protein, vitamins and anti-oxidants. The Australian producer's website offers nutritional information, history — chia is Mayan for strength — and recipes. Note: there's no hair-growing benefit.
Stoger Oils (www.stogeroil.com), from Austria, are cold-pressed from seeds — pumpkin, cherry, chile and tomato--and used as finishing, not cooking, oils. Their sophisticated subtlety enhances a broad range of dishes.
Arette Organic Tea Seed Oil (www.aretteorganic.com) is a gourmet, extra-virgin, cold-pressed oil with a high smoke point and a clean taste.
So many condiments means there's no excuse for boring meals.
Cackalacky (www.cackalacky.com), slang for Carolina, is a versatile sweet potato-based spice sauce made in North Carolina.
HerbNZest Artisan Foods (www.herbnzest.com), a new line of natural, vegan and healthful condiments, deserves a kitchen helper medal. Zest up your menu with caramelized apple champagne mustard, pumpkin pesto or spoonable curry ketchup.
California Sun-dried Tomato Ketchup (www.trainafoods.com) elevates this picnic staple to a higher realm.
At the show's close, 250 volunteers moved in to collect 150,000 pounds of everything from meat, cheese, yogurt and chocolate to vinegar, coffee, pickles and crackers. The Specialty Food Association then donates these quality leftovers to City Harvest, the Association's long-standing hunger relief charity. Since 1997, the Fancy Food Shows have generated 1.5 million pounds of food to the program.
The final audit showed 220,300 pounds of specialty food was donated to City Harvest this year.
Ann Haigh is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.
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