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Notes From the 2014 Fancy Food Show: The Year of the Coconut

by Stephanie Zonis

Recently returned from the 2014 summer Fancy Food Show, I have no hesitation in pronouncing this “The Year of the Coconut”. Coconut is in everything, whether it's Jackson's Honest Chips (www.honestchips.com) or the Halo-Halo Milkbar from Magnolia (www.magnoliaplease.com), a mix of coconut, jackfruit, adzuki beans, purple yam, and cream. From Hail Merry's Coconut Vanilla Creme Miracle Tart (www.hailmerry.com) to Jax Coco's Coconut Water (http://jaxcoco.com/hk/en/) to the Coconut Oil Cooking Spray (made with organic coconut oil) available from Kelapo (www.kelapo.com), some form of coconut is in an awful lot of foods.

Gluten-free products have, if anything, increased in number since last year. Whatever you may think of this trend, it's fair to say that some of the gluten-free baked goods and baking mixes have improved significantly with time. I had a soft, chewy Ginger Molasses Cookie from WOW Baking Company (www.wowbaking.com) that I'd be happy to consume on any occasion you'd care to name. The Chocolaty Chip Cookie from Lucky Spoon Bakery (www.luckyspoonbakery.com) was likewise solidly good; I'd be interested in trying their muffins, too. If you like to bake at home but want to make gluten-free creations, think about Cup 4 Cup LLC (www.cup4cup.com). This business has developed flour blends and baking mixes (Pizza Crust, Brownies, Pancake & Waffle), none of which contain gluten. As the name implies, you substitute these flour blends or baking mixes on a cup for cup basis in recipes you already know and like, thus eliminating a big hurdle in eating gluten-free.

A surprise to me at this Show was the uptake in the use of beets. Wozz! Kitchen Creations (www.wozzkitchencreations.com) has an outstanding Spiced Beet Finishing Vinegar (the Triple Ale Onion Spread is a winner, too). Made by Lukas (www.madebylukas.com) sells a prepared mix for Beet Veggie Burgers that are “all about the vegetables”. The mix contains no soy, dairy, yeast, or gluten, and all you do is shape burgers from the mix and heat them in a skillet, the oven, or over the grill. Most unusual of all is the Beet Pate de Fruit from Maui Fruit Jewels (www.mauifruitjewels.com). If you're not familiar with pate de fruit, it's usually made by combining fruit juice or puree with sugar, a little glucose syrup (usually corn syrup in the US), pectin, and an acid (like lemon juice). The mixture is cooked to a high temperature, poured into a mold, allowed to set, and cut into small pieces. Maui Fruit Jewels specializes in tropical fruit pates de fruit, but the Beet variety is a lovely deep red and tastes great. Unlike most pates de fruit, these “jewels” do not have sugared exteriors, a refreshing change.

The “heat” of the moment is sriracha, sometimes called Rooster Sauce. It's a multi-purpose, chile-based condiment that originated in Thailand and, as you might expect, has changed somewhat on its journeys to other parts of the globe. Cocktail Crate (www.cocktailcrate.com) has a Sriracha Margarita Cocktail Mixer. (If you're not into heat in your cocktails, you can choose from other varieties such as Lavender Bloom or Ginger Bee.) I like the ingredients I see here; there are no cheap fillers. If you're one of those people who can never have enough different kinds of mustard, try the Atomic Rooster Sriracha Mustard from Green Mountain Mustard (www.buymustard.com). Again, you'll find different levels of heat in the various offerings here, from the Clove Encounter (Garlic Clove and Oregano Mustard) right up through the Barn Burner (Red Habanero Mustard). I love the idea of the Deli Dirt, which combines the flavors and textures you'd get in an “everything” bagel right in one jar.

“Alternative” nuts, seeds, and grains are thriving. Chances are that you've eaten pumpkin seeds before, but I'll bet they weren't as good as Superseedz (www.superseedz.com). These roasted pumpkin seeds are offered in flavors ranging from Really Naked (no salt or other seasoning) to Coco Joe (cocoa powder, coffee, vanilla, salt, and just a little sugar) to Super Spicy. Like most seeds, these pack a powerful nutrition punch. You can toss them onto salads or use them for crunch in your oatmeal or yogurt, but honestly, I think they're best straight out of the bag. You know about chickpeas, as well, but have you tried the Roasted Chickpeas from Biena Foods (http://bienafoods.com/)? Crunchy, satisfying, and tasty, these, too, are snacks that would make a nutritionist happy. They contain protein and fiber that will help keep you feeling full, yet have no cholesterol or saturated fat. I can't decide whether I like the Sea Salt or the Honey Roasted best. And have you heard about freekeh? Freekeh is roasted green wheat (“green” as in immature). The mission of Freekehlicious (www.freekehlicious.com) is to spread the word about this truly ancient food. Freekeh is related to wheat berries, but it has a nutty flavor because it's been roasted. And, because the wheat is immature when harvested, the flavor is milder than that of wheat berries. In fact, freekeh is a chameleon; it will take on the flavors with which you cook it. It also has a great texture. I like it cooked with an onion and herbs, drained, and mixed with pesto and thinly-sliced Swiss chard, but it would be fine for breakfast, too. See the website for information about freekeh's health benefits.

Below are a few individual businesses who had products I found worth noting, even if they didn't necessarily fit into the latest trends.

---Quin Candy, http://quincandy.com/. This small-scale candy company knocked my socks off. This is a business that produces and sells Tangerine Chews that truly taste like tangerines! Their Twizzlie Rolls are supposed to be competition for a more famous name's T___ Rolls (fill in the blank; it ain't rocket science), but I find that an injustice. Twizzlie Rolls have an entirely different, less rip-out-your-dental-fillings texture, they actually taste like chocolate, and they contain a delightful hint of coffee. These candies are not sickly sweet, and the respect given to ingredients is commendable. Smoked Cola Gumdrops, Blackberry Lollipops, Maple & Cracked Black Pepper Caramels...don't you love people who play with their food?

---Peanut Hottie, http://peanuthottie.com/. This is a peanut butter flavored drink that's served hot (just add boiling water and stir). Yes, that sounds awful, but I was surprised and amused to discover that I really enjoyed it. It contains no caffeine and is vegetarian-friendly, and I'd like to know why I didn't think of it first. I won't claim that Peanut Hottie is nutritious or healthy, but not everything in life needs to be. This tastes a lot like my childhood, which contained an inordinate quantity of peanut butter, and you can enjoy it in the evenings, since it contains no caffeine.

---Red Boat Fish Sauce, www.redboatfishsauce.com. If you do not know about fish sauce, it's a salty liquid, brown or reddish-brown in color. It is *the* condiment of choice in Southeast Asia and imparts a unique flavor to many dishes. As the name implies, it is made from fish. In fact, genuine fish sauce is made from nothing other than fish and salt; the heavily-salted fish go through a lengthy fermentation period, and the resulting “juice” is fish sauce (yeah, I know; I can't imagine who first thought it'd be a good idea to consume this juice, either). Be aware, however, that there are multiple grades of fish sauce. The fish sauce made by Red Boat is, frankly, amazing. Yes, it's salty, but there's a clarity and complexity of flavor here that I just don't find everywhere. If you ever wanted to find one food that embodied umami, this is it! You need a high protein content for a good-quality fish sauce, and Red Boat states that their sauce contains “the highest natural levels of protein on the market”.

---Gelateria Naia, http://gelaterianaia.com/. This company, based in northern California, makes some fine gelato. But they have now introduced a bar gelato, which is, as the name implies, gelato in bar form. I ran across this booth when I'd been at the Fancy Food Show for about two hours one morning, sampling steadily during that time. Suddenly, an entire chest freezer filled with gelato bars appeared before my increasingly glazed eyes. The kind gentlemen in back of the freezer urged me to help myself. Now, I'd have sworn I couldn't eat anything else right then, but a bar of Blue Bottle Coffee Gelato? How could I refuse? Well, it was insanely, unfairly good. It was so good, in fact, that I returned to this booth twice more during the Show to try other flavors; I can report that the Lindcove Ranch Tangelo Sorbetto and the Guittard Dark Chocolate Sorbetto varieties are just as good. Other flavors available range from a St. George Single Malt Whiskey to Recchiuti Burnt Caramel to Kiwi Sorbetto.


Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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