The Specialty Food Association is a thriving community of food artisans, importers, and entrepreneurs – our kind of people, right? I’m thrilled to be attending this year’s exhibition and having the opportunity to meet the artisans, taste their products and recommend the best to you. The Specialty Food Association’s (SFA) annual State of the Specialty Food industry report reveals that specialty foods remain one of the fastest-growing segments of the food business – everything from olive oil to truffle oil, sweet snacks to savory, multitudes of spice blends, custom sauces, and convenience items. Best of all, some of the vendors have shared samples with me in advance of the show — and I’m giving you a first peek…
Traina is showcasing multiple products at the show and my preview package included two types of barbecue sauce (You know how we like our barbecue). Their Sun-Dried Apricot was more textured and started sweet but ended with a spicy finish. I would slather this on chicken legs or pork. The Sun-Dried Plum was noticeably smoky with a bit of heat and would be my pick for meaty beef ribs.
When I first saw the packages for Traina FruitOns — I thought, “this makes sense”. Dried fruits and sun-dried tomatoes that are chewy and moist straight from the package. The Sun-Dried Tomato FruitOns would be a perfect salad topper and the All American Blend, would be ideal in your morning oatmeal or yogurt or even mixed into your next batch of granola!
In addition to the barbecue sauce and Fruitons, Traina is also rolling out Organic ketchup. I received samples of Sicilian Tomato and Herb as well as the Organic Sun-Dried Tomato. With no high fructose corn syrup, the Tomato and Herb reminded me of a homemade tomato sauce — and the herbs were very prominent. I actually used a few tablespoons in a pot of simmered lentils to give it some oomph and the family raved. The Sun-Dried Tomato Ketchup had deep tomato flavor and overall was our taster’s favorite for topping burgers or dipping fries.
If you’re following a gluten free diet, Cup 4 Cup is showcasing it’s gluten free flours and mixes. You’d never know they’re gluten free — and that’s their tagline — Gluten-Free But You’d Never Know It. I haven’t had a chance to bake with these mixes yet, but will soon. My girlfriend and fellow blogger, Dana Peller from Pellerini swears by Cup 4 Cup and with a husband and two growing boys, she wouldn’t steer us wrong!
Of all the products we sampled, Nature Nate’s Raw and Unfiltered Honey won the biggest praise. It was perfectly balanced, sweet and exactly what you expect honey to taste like with the perfect silky smooth texture. Bonus for also coming in convenient, portable single serving packs that can easily be tucked into your bag for on the go honey emergencies. Check their store locator so you can pick up Nature Nate’s when you’re buying honey.
These Thindulgent Sandwich Cookies by Sheila G’s are crispy, light and flavorful with a thin filling of chocolate fudge. We sampled the Toasted Coconut and Salted Caramel and the tasters were divided on their favorites. The Thindulgent Toasted Coconut Sandwich Cookies had a great balance of coconut and chocolate and were my favorite because they weren’t overly sweet and perfect with a cup of tea or coffee. The Salted Caramel was a bit sweeter and was studded with caramel chips. One of the tasters detected a maple-y flavor which she really enjoyed.
Also from Sheila G’s, her Brownie Brittle which hit it big a few years ago. This Chocolate Almond Brownie Brittle has a robust brownie aroma when you open the bag and these are studded with mini chocolate chips and crunchy almonds. If you like chocolate and crunch, this snack is for you. I only got to enjoy one piece because my husband devoured the rest. Be forewarned, they’re addictive.
Fruit Bliss is rolling out several varieties of unadulterated dried fruits that are sweet and chewy without any added sugar or preservatives. Organic and pure, these fruits would be perfect for baking, topping salads, stirred into curries or braises and of course, eaten out of hand. We tasted the organic Tart Cherries – which come dried and pitted. When they say tart, they mean tart and would be great on top of salads or mixed into oatmeal cookies. The Organic French Agen Plums are plump and sweet with no added sugars and are perfect for sweet or savory dishes.
I thought Season Savories were a great addition to the healthy on-the-go lunch scene options. Flaked, canned, boneless sardines are generously seasoned and packaged in a small tin. The Mediterranean Sardine Salad Kit is blended with veggies, herbs and fresh bell peppers. The Lemon Veggie Sardine Salad Kit has vegetables, herbs and fresh lemon juice while the Sweet & Spicy Sardine Salad Kit has fresh bell peppers, veg and a blend of herbs. Each package comes with a disposable spoon and brown rice crackers for an all-in-one high protein snack or lunch. If you’ve got more time on your hands, try the sardines mixed with a bit of greek yogurt or mayonnaise and a bit of diced celery and herbs. Serve over a bed of greens with cucumber and tomatoes (that’s the way I enjoyed them).
Pereg is showcasing a bunch of specialty, gluten-free flours, legumes, quinoa and spices. When I received this box of goodies in the mail, my first thought was that the packaging was really high quality. I loved that every product was in a durable resealable package — most with a convenient zip closure.
This is especially nice for things like coconut flour, which tends to leak out of its confines and coat everything in the pantry in a fine dust.
Another helpful feature is that each product comes with a recipe on the back to give you inspiration and guidance when you’re trying unusual flours — like chickpea or plantain flour. We’ll be doing a lot of experimenting with these ingredients after the show, so stay tuned…
My/Mo Mochi Ice Cream came packed in dry ice and shipped well. I received Mint Chocolate Chip, Double Chocolate and Salted Caramel flavors. Each package came with 6 – 1.5 ounce pieces. The ice cream was creamy, smooth and flavorful and the mochi coating was soft and gelatinous when bitten into. Two tasters had never tried the gooey coating before and it took some getting used to, but another taster couldn’t get enough. My/Mo Mochi comes in eight flavors and they will be introducing an ice cream with mochi bits as well as a dairy free and vegan mochi at the show.
If you’re a fan of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (and who isn’t?), Alto Olivar has an exceptional offering. Part of a Chilean contingent presenting at the Fancy Foods Show, Alto Olivar’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil is packaged in beautiful, display-worthy oval glass bottles, this Chilean olive oil has herbal, grassy tasting notes and a fruity, floral bouquet. Ideal for homemade vinaigrettes for your summer salads or drizzled over a piece of fresh grilled fish, this olive oil is delicate, balanced and flavorful. So far, I’ve used it in several homemade vinaigrettes and last night’s chimichurri sauce.
4505 Meats wants to change the way you buy and eat meat by creating delicious high protein, chef-driven snacks from the finest quality, all natural clean meats available. Their line of pork cracklins (sea salt or chili and lime) are paleo certified and gluten free with 7-9 grams of protein, 0 carbs, no antibiotics and hormone free. Hogs are humanely and sustainably raised. Plus the cracklins are crunchy, melt-in-your-mouth delicious! My preference was the sea salt, but other tasters liked the chili and lime.
That’s all for now — but there are hundreds more products waiting to be discovered at the Fancy Foods Show and I can’t wait to try the inventive products and meet the dynamic, creative people behind them! I’ll be sharing with you on my Instagram Stories and Facebook pages so stay tuned this weekend for the latest cool things — I may even do a few “lives” if I’m feeling brave enough!
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