If you didn’t make it to the Fancy Food Show during its recent three-day run at New York City’s Jacob Javits Convention Center, take a stroll down the aisles through the eyes of Ciao Chow Linda. Granted, it’s my Italian-centric vision, but I did taste foods from countries all around the world too – Canada, France, China, South Africa, Morocco and the U.S.A. of course, as well as many more I can barely remember.
This is a long post with lots of pictures but if you stay tuned to the end, you’ll see my top five favorite things among the thousands of foods available for tasting in the huge convention space, plus a recipe using one of the top five products on my list. The Fancy Foods Show is North America’s largest specialty food and beverage trade event with 180,000 products including confections, cheese, coffee, snacks, spices, ethnic, natural, organic and more. There were 2,500 exhibitors from 81 countries represented, and 24,000 attendees. So you see why it takes three days to make the rounds. I know I missed some things with just one day there, but there’s always next year. If you want to head to the West Coast, the 2011 Winter Fancy Food Show takes place from January 16-18, 2011 in San Francisco. Comfortable shoes were de rigueur, since the Javits center has 760,000 square feet of exhibition space and I was trying to see it all in five or six hours. I walked in just after it opened at 10 a.m. and saw a ton of cheeses. I stopped immediately to sample some of the Italian cheeses. Can’t resist a good aged parmigiano. This “La Tur” cheese from the Piedmont region was a real winner – a soft cheese made with three different types of milk – goat’s, sheep’s and cow’s milk. The Rosso di Langa is delicious too and they’re not that hard to find. I saw the Rosso di Langa in my supermarket this morning. I wish I had sampled this French girolle cheese, but I took the picture and forgot to try it. It looks interesting doesn’t it, with that spinning crank on top? Next time. How about this cake made of different wheels of cheeses from Cypress Grove Chevre in good old Cal-i-for-ni-a. They make delicious, award winning goat cheeses like Humboldt Fog and Bermuda Triangle, a triangular shaped goat cheese that makes a distinctive presentation. Many of the exhibitors were serving these crackers from 34 degrees that I had never tasted before, and I am now sold on them. They were the perfect accompaniment and come in many different flavors aside from “natural” including rosemary and lemon zest. I tasted lots of olive oils too, from France, Italy, and Greece, among other places. My palate was getting jaded at a certain point, but this one made from Moroccan olives– Less Terroirs de Marrakech – was new to me and I really liked it. I tasted so many balsamic vinegars too, including one that was 50 years old. But I have to say, nothing compared to the complex, caramel-y aged balsamic vinegar I tasted in Italy at Acetaia San Giacomo, owned by Andrea Bezzecchi. Some of his products were also on display at the show. I was getting thirsty so had to have some liquid refreshment, starting with this sparkly blood orange soda made by Lorina, a French company. It was a cool, refreshing break. Their product comes in lots of different flavors including a lemonade. Later in the day, I saw a woman holding a tray of green apple martinis for sampling. I had already nixed the hard liquors like cognacs and whiskeys, since I had to keep my wits about me, but couldn’t let this pass me by. I haven’t had one of these in years and this one was just as good as I remember. I’m sorry I forgot to get the name of the company that makes this cocktail mix. At a certain point, I needed a cup of coffee to keep me going. You can’t go wrong with a cup of Illy espresso. After a few hours of walking, tasting and carrying a lot of brochures and samples in a bag slung from my shoulder, I thought I had done a pretty good job of perusing the booths. But then I found out there was another entire floor with at least as many exhibitors. OK, so I rested up a few minutes in a chair and plunged ahead. Hey, it’s all in the name of research for you guys, so I steeled myself for a few more trying hours. I’m so glad I did because I discovered a few really great specialty products and ran into a few notables too, including this gal, who’s the reigning Miss Italia, Maria Perrusi. We have a kind of inside joke in the family about Miss Italia because our vacations for many years seem to have coincided with the televised beauty pageant whether we were in Italy, the Czech Republic or in Hungary. One year we bumped into quite a few actual contestants in Salsomaggiore, a spa town where the pageant is held and nearby to where my relatives live, but this time I only had to schlep to New York to meet Miss Italia in person. But even more fun was saying hi once again to Tanya and her mother, Lidia Bastianich. They were serving up some pasta made with Lidia’s line of pasta and sauces. Naturally I couldn’t pass up a plate from my food guru. The only time I’ve ever bought a jar of commercially prepared tomato sauce was decades ago for a camping trip, but I have to admit that Lidia’s jarred sauce was delicious. But what would you expect from the queen of Italian cuisine? There were a few funny characters walking the aisles too:
Mona Lisa was also there. Can you believe this was made entirely of Jelly Belly jelly beans? OK, so maybe you didn’t want to sample cheeses anymore, you wanted something more substantial for lunch. You want to start with some olives or an antipasto bar?
How about some pizza? Octopus, seafood salad and anchovies – if fish is more your thing. Or maybe gnocchi in pesto sauce ladled from a huge parmesan wheel? Take your pick of these pastas in red sauce being served up by Lombardi’s Gourmet Imports. Or how about a porchetta sandwich. This porchetta is made in Kentucky by Porchetta Primata, but they even had one a producer from a vendor in Ariccia, Italy, the world-famous home of porchetta. Eating light today? Try some of this really flavorful tuna from Tonnino. Now if you wanted to have something sweet, you were in heaven. There were enough chocolates, candies, cakes, pastries and cookies to satisfy the most indulgent sweet tooth ever. This Gooey Butter Cake mix from Ann & Allen Baking Company in St. Louis was really good, especially the chocolate variety. Here are some other products I would gladly eat again and again. I loved these cherries in Kirsch alcohol – Griottines – made by a French company. They’re delicious all by themselves in a shot glass, but they’d also be great with champagne or prosecco, or served over ice cream, or cooked in a sauce and poured atop a duck breast. There were soooo many types of pasta, both fresh, frozen and dried. These little shapes were so adorable – one in the shape of clusters of grapes, the other like little ears – and both in multi-colored varieties. But from what I could gather, this brand – Casa Temporin – is still not available in the U.S. Now here was something really hot in more ways than one. Have you ever eaten ‘Nduja’? It’s a fiery red spread from Calabria made with hot peppers and sausage. This one is from a producer called “TuttoCalabria.” This was new to me too – chocolate puff pastry from DuFour Pastry Kitchens. Served with whipped cream and strawberries, it gave me ideas for future desserts. These cookies made out of rice and corn flour and flavored with orange were really good. Even if I weren’t wheat intolerant, I’d eat a bunch of these Italian cookies made by the Oryza Group. This fig balsamic dressing from Stonewall Kitchens is a new product for them and was a nice find. I’ll be looking for it in specialty stores near me. OK, counting down to the five yummiest things I ate and plan to search out and eat again and again are: 5. Bobbysue’s Nuts – These were so addictive I could have eaten a ton. They’re organic pecans, cashews and almonds that are spicy and sweet but not too sweet. There’s even a variety that’s drizzled in chocolate if you want to take it a step further. 4. These Italian jams from Fattoria Antica Tuscia were sensational – and there was no sugar or other sweetener added. 3. These figs from F.illi Marano, “bocconi della nonna” or “grandmom’s little bites” were a real treat. Stuffed with almonds or walnuts and then rolled in a cinnamony sugar mixture, or dipped in chocolate. yumm. 2. Point Reyes blue cheese from Farmstead Cheese Company. Forget those gorgonzolas, those Stiltons, those Saga blues. This buttery, creamy, tangy blue cheese made in California is THE BEST blue cheese I have ever eaten. 1. If I came away with nothing else from the show, I was thrilled to have discovered this product made in Armenia. It may not look like much, but what you’re looking at are fresh walnuts in the shell by a company called Harvest Song. Fresh baby walnuts are picked green from the tree before they have a chance to age. Then they’re cured with lemon juice and sugar and served complete with shells that are still soft. This was my number one pick from the show not just because it was so darn good, but because of the unusual nature of the product. The company also makes a line of wonderful fruit preserves too. By the way, I was not paid to endorse any of these products. I’m just giving you my honest opinion on what I thought were really delicious foods and beverages that I tasted the day I attended. I know I left out a lot of things too, but I didn’t want this post to run on forever. I tried to find out whenever possible, where consumers could buy these foods. Some of the exhibitors didn’t know. In many cases, Whole Foods was mentioned. Murray’s Cheese Shop and Zabar’s in New York City were also cited as places to buy some of these items. If you’re not in New York, check with the specialty food store near you, or look online. Many of these companies have websites and I’ve included links whenever possible. Other times, you can find them for sale at online companies like Amazon.com. Hope you enjoyed the tour of the 2010 Fancy Food Show. Ciao Ciao to the Javits Center from Ciao Chow Linda. OH, not over yet. I headed back to Times Square (where I used to work) when I saw this fella on the street having a nosh. Us humans at the Javits Center weren’t the only ones with food on our minds. As promised, a recipe, courtesy of Point Reyes, Farmstead Cheese Company: Gourmet Mac and Cheese printable recipe here 1 pound elbow macaroni 1/4 cup butter 1/2 cup chopped onion 1/4 cup flour 4 cups whole milk 2 t. Dijon mustard 1 t. Worcestershire sauce 1 t. hot pepper sauce 1 cup grated Jack cheese 1 1/2 cup grated Point Reyes Vintage White Cheddar cheese 3/4 cup (about 6 ounces) Original Blue cheese crumbles salt and pepper to taste Cook the macaroni a la dente. Drain well and set aside. While the macaroni is cooking, melt the butter and saute the onion until soft. Stir in flour and cook until mixture is smooth. Whisk in milk and simmer until the mixture thickens slightly. Add the mustard, Worcestershire, pepper sauce, and all the cheese. Stir to melt. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix the sauce with the cooked macaroni and pour into a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Cover with foil and bake in 350 degree F. oven for 20 minutes. Remove foil and return to oven for 10 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes. Serves 8. Javits Center, Fancy Foods Show, Point Reyes, Farmstead Cheese Company, Harvest Song, Lidia Bastianich, Ann & Allen, 34 degrees, Cypress Grove Chevre, F.illi.Marano, Fattoria Antica Tuscia, Rossa di Langa, La Tur, DuFour Pastry Kitchens, Les Terroirs de Marrakech, Oryza Group, Illy, Bobbysue’s Nuts, Miss Italia, Maria Perrusi, Stonewall Kitchens, Jelly Belly, Lombardi’s Gourmet Imports, Porchetta Primata, Tonnino, TuttoCalabria