I spent three days at the Fancy Food Show walking the aisles where tens of thousands of food products were on display, and many of them offered up on-the-spot tasting opportunities. I tried chips and dips, cheeses and crackers, pickles and peppers, cookies, candies, meats and cold cuts, soups, yogurts, tomato sauces, hot sauces, sweet sauces, teas, sodas, gluten-free you name it, ice creams, crackers, smoked fish, canned fish, fresh fish, prepared meals, jams and jellies, and more.
Of all these things, there are a few that I can still remember and still want more of. Here are some of my favorite things at the Fancy Food Show:
PICKLES AND PEPPERS
“Wickles” stands for a wickedly delicious pickle and they truly are. The company was started a little more than 15 years ago by two brothers, Trey and Will Sims, using a family recipe. The pickles have a little sweetness and a little heat. Besides their flavor, they have an amazing texture. They are somewhat translucent–so you think they will be soft–but they have a nice crunch that is very different from the crunch of a raw pickle. It has something to do with starting them in a saltwater brine, which somehow ferments them and changes their texture. Anyways, forget the science. These are the perfect pickles.
I’ve never noticed these before. But I tasted them at one booth at the Fancy Food Show and then saw them at many other booths. They had slightly different names but all of them were tiny pear- (or teardrop) shaped red peppers that were slight hot, slightly sweet, and rich in flavor. They originate in Peru. Some say they are a cross between a cherry pepper and a jalapeño pepper, but they seem more like a cross between a peppardew pepper and a cherry tomato.
Meat and Cheese
I was never big on sausage until about 10 or 15 years ago. I’d say that its the sausages that have changed and not me, except that Nueske’s has been around since 1933 and they still use some of the original recipes. They specialize in applewood smoked meats. I like their bacon too, but when I went by the booth at the Show, I tasted the Bacon Cheddar Bratwurst. The bratwurst, which is a combination of beef, pork and bacon, has a nice smoky flavor and you can both see and taste the cheese in it. Since Nueske’s is from Wisconsin, they use Wisconsin cheddar.
Cypress Grove is located in Humbolt, CA. They started in 1983 and still focus solely on fresh goat milk cheeses. Best known for their Humbolt Fog cheese, which has a thin layer of vegetable ash through the middle, I’d have to pick the Truffle Tremor cheese as my favorite. I love the earthly flavor and smell of the truffles combined with the tangy, soft goat cheese.
A number of booths were featuring products from Spain. A number of booths featured canned products, such as tuna, anchovies, mussels, and cockles. Tastes of Spanish cured hams, which were prohibited in the U.S. until less than ten years ago, where being offered in many places. And Jose Andres, the owner and chef of several restaurants in D.C., L.A. and Las Vegas, has his own line of products — oils,vinegars, olives, potato chips, canned seafood — all from Spain. His most decadent has to be a sardine style can of sea urchin caviar. At first glance, it looks almost like a terrine that has been made from sea urchin, but as you start scooping it up, you can make out the meat of individual sea urchins. The consistency is a little more solid and grainy than fresh sea urchin, but the flavor is there. It was delicious out scooped up out of the can with a potato chip, but J.A. Foods shows it over deviled quails eggs on their website.
A CATEGORY OF ITS OWN
Okay, so this one I already knew about from previous Fancy Food Shows. I even have some in the fridge. But I had forgotten how delicious it is. If you haven’t had it, the idea of a drinking vinegar probably does not sound very appealing, but they are not what they sound like. You add the vinegar to soda water and you end up with a carbonated beverage that is very flavorful, not overly sweet and has only a hint of sourness. I like the herbaceous flavors like Thai Basil and Ginger and Tamarind, but there are also a number of fruit flavors. They also make great cocktails–something a little different from tonic water, but not too sweet and sugary.
A Masala Dosa is an Indian crepe made of rice flour and flour made from a black lentil bean known as an urad dal that has been folded over and stuffed with a spiced potato mix. Since a dosa is usually served freshly made, I was surprised to tastes these dosa that come frozen. The potato mixture was very tasty and the crepe had a nice crunch to it. If I had a dosa craving and I couldn’t get to Curry Hill (Lexington Ave. in the 20’s), these would do just fine.
I love Malaysian food and the sauces are alway complex and hard to find outside of Malaysia. I enjoyed the lemongrass curry sauce and the black pepper sauce from Asian Meals, a Malaysian company. Their website links to some Youtube videos with demonstrations on how to cook with the sauces.
Like the Truffle Tremor cheese I mentioned above, I can’t resist the combination of cheese and truffles. Sabatino is one of the premiere makers of truffle products and importers of truffles. They also have products such as oils, vinegars, tapenades and honey. I didn’t know they had packaged products like truffled risotto, potatoes and mac and cheese. I only tasted the mac & cheese and it was quite nice–there was a definite truffle flavor and I liked the tasted and consistency of the pasta and cheese sauce.
I’ve never had a chocolate covered jelly bean. You taste the chocolate more than the jelly bean. At first I didn’t taste the heat, but it snuck up on me. These were definitely spicy. A little like red hots, but a better taste. The heat stayed with me for a while.
HOT SAUCES AND DRESSINGS
There were many sauces that I liked. Here is a slideshow of them: