2009 Summer Fancy Foods Show Review – Part 3
July 14th, 2009

Another product that caught my fancy at this year’s show is healthDropzTM. Called a “Beverage Booster,” the company claims that by adding six drops to any beverage, you get the benefit of the supplement, free of flavor or calories. Available in energy, focus, and green tea, I decided that I was in grave need of a kick and tried the energy in water. There really was no flavor. I was truly surprised – it just tasted like plain water!

But since I am here to talk flavors, I was very pleased to find a line of flavored dulce de leche from the Argentian company el Semillero. Also a producer of chimichurri (yum), the dulces were available in mint, orange, and, I believe, cinnamon and coconut, aside from original, of course. I sampled the orange which was delicious. What a fabulous idea!

While walking the aisles of the show, I found inspiration for a friend’s baby shower at the Sutter Home booth. Alcohol Removed Fre® Wine tastes just like the real thing, and is available in all the classic varieties – Merlot, White Zin and Chardonnay, just to name a few. The Fre website also boasts “cocktails” using the wines. And at the booth, a few “Preggatini” recipes were available too – “cocktails for the mom-to-be.”

Other highlights from this year’s Fancy Foods Show included Jelly Belly’s new Superfruit mix, featuring acai, Barbados cherry, blueberry, pomegranate and cranberry flavors – a delicious mix, especially if you’re a red fruit fan like myself. Another fave, Brownie Pops take brownies, dip them in chocolate, and put ‘em on a stick – HELLO!

At the Winter Fancy Foods Show in California, hibiscus seemed to be all the rage, but in NYC it was all about the blood orange. In fact, quite a few blood orange flavored items (confit, juice, marmalade) took home Sofi Awards.

With over 2,300 exhibitors on the show floor, I had a tall order for this one-day jaunt. But once the feet start aching, and too much sampling leads to a thousand-yard stare, it’s easy to miss a great product. That’s why it’s always helpful to check out other show reviews – because we all see something different!

A few of my favorites this year are Bobby Flay’s review from the CBS Early Show (check out the video), New York Daily News (check out the mini-melon), Sara Moulton on ABC’s Good Morning America, and Slashfood’s day-by-day highlights.

Plus, you can revisit our reviews from the January Fancy Foods Show in San Francisco!

2009 Summer Fancy Foods Show Review – Part 2
July 13th, 2009

Next up on the fancy brigade is a stop in Peru. Last month, we took you on a little journey through Peru, with flavor chemist Yuko Nodo. But at the Fancy Foods Show, the flavors of Peru came to me.

So often, I avoid the international pavilions. The mind (and feet) can only take in so much in a day, and typically the pavilions are filled with a lot of commodity products. And let’s face it, there are only so many nuts and so much olive oil a girl can take.

But Peru did it right. At a large endcap of the pavilion I was drawn in by the call of Pisco Sours…delish! After one turn around this overly crowded display, I found out that the trade organization PromPeru had joined forces with a local Peruvian restaurant, Oh! Calamares (Kearny, NJ), to present an amazing spread of goodies. I snacked on potato pastries and chocolate flan! The lucuma fruit was heavily promoted through samples and signage, as were Peruvian potatoes and purple corn. Elderberry, amaranth and quinoa were also displayed in the pavilion. With all of the foodie interest in Peruvian cuisine recently, it was no surprise to see this was the absolute busiest booth at the show.

And, speaking of crowded booths, Ciao Bella Gelato had its fair share of traffic, too! I sampled the Key Lime Graham Cracker Gelato – a 2009 Sofi Award Winner in the Perishable Foodservice Product category. There’s no question why this product won! So often, key lime flavored products don’t translate as well into non-pie applications. If not done right, they can taste, well, artificial. But this was right on – authentic and refreshing, like a frozen slice of fresh pie.

Last fall, I read about Skyr - a strained Icelandic yogurt that’s been slowly making a name for itself. Plus, it’s non-fat and sugar-free. So when I happened upon the Siggi’s booth at the show, I was excited to taste! I tried the plain first, to experience the true flavor of skyr. It tastes quite a bit like traditional yogurt, only much thicker and creamier. It’s very filling, and sour. They had a number of flavors on hand to sample, and I went immediately for the grapefruit. The flavored varieties are sweetened with agave nectar. The grapefruit seemed a bit thinner than the plain, and was more tart, or course, but quite good. I wish I hadn’t been so full at the time, or else I would have tried more of their flavors – they all sounded delicious!

In an issue of Fast Track Fast Trends last year, we explored Coneinn Pizza, which is basically, a pizza in a cone! The product heats in the microwave, in an upright package. Sounds great, doesn’t it! Problem is – it’s a European product. That’s why I was so excited to see the Coneinn booth at the show! I was pretty sad that they didn’t have any samples to try (I’ve been drooling over it for a year, after all!), but I did find out that they’re looking for stateside distributors. They will be mine…oh yes, they will be mine.

One more installment to go! Next time we’ll talk alcohol-free wine and flavored dulce de leche!

2009 Summer Fancy Foods Show Review – Part 1
July 9th, 2009

Another season, another Fancy Foods Show! Last Monday I hopped the train to New York and breathed in the scents at the Javits Center.

Perusing the booklet before hitting the show floor, I got pretty excited to see one product in particular – black garlic. I first caught wind of black garlic late last year, and have seen it pop up in a number of foodie blogs since then. More recently, it was written up in the Washington Post and Gourmet, but I still had yet to try it. Black garlic is an ordinary garlic bulb that has fermented for about a month, resulting in what you see below. The taste is unexpected – sweet, fermented, and almost smoky. It has a subtle garlic flavor, but not at all overwhelming, and the texture is very soft. I brought a sample back to the office for our chefs to try, and they were blown away by the flavor. While at the booth, I also tried the black garlic jam, which was tasty and sweeter than the actual clove, and experienced a number of visitors running up to the booth excitedly yelling, “we love this stuff!” While I had read about this new flavor phenom in a number of blogs, this was honestly the first commercial product I had found – most foodies have been making it on their own. Expect to see black garlic grow on restaurant menus in the near future. Also, the folks at Black Garlic, Inc. were featuring a black garlic energy drink. Since black garlic claims to be loaded with antioxidants, it’s possible that this foodie favorite may also grow as a healthy ingredient.

Black Garlic Uses

Now to the important stuff – chocolate!! Grazing the show floor, a girl could make a mean meal on the stuff (and did, by the way). In flavors, sea salt prevailed, as did varietal dark chocolates, caramel, tea flavors and even some florals, like lavender. But at the Vosges booth, it’s still all about good old-fashioned bacon. Those fabulous cocoa gods and goddesses debuted more bacon chocolate goodness – a dark chocolate version of the Mo’s Bacon Bar, a bacon chocolate toffee, and even, dare I say, bacon chocolate pancakes! Alas, I got to the booth a smidge too early for the pancakes – and I’m still kicking myself…

Now, I’m not much of a honey fan myself (I know, I know…how can I not love honey), but I was impressed by the concept of varietal honey from Savannah Bee Company. These varieties have been specially chosen to pair with tea, cheese and grilled foods.

Of course, there is way more to talk about from this year’s show! Check back next time, we’ll talk about Peruvian flavors and Skyr!

A Detour with Fro-Yo
July 1st, 2009

On Monday, I had the pleasure of attending the Fancy Foods Show in New York City!

But, a little more on that later – first I want to talk a bit about my post-show, pre-train detour to Pinkberry!

Sure, Pinkberry is old news…and yes, I’ve had it before. But with a lack of fro-yo joints in the Philly area, a gal gets a little excited when the opportunity to visit a Pinkberry arises.

An added bonus this trip was the addition of flavors to the fro-yo menu since the last time I visited. (At that time, they only boasted plain and green tea.) This trip, I sampled the pomegranate yogurt, topped with blueberries (aren’t I healthy) and Oreos (well, just a little).

Pinkberry Pomegranate Frozen Yogurt

The whole experience got me wondering about the fro-yo craze, and eventual fall, only a mere two decades ago. And, as fate would have it, the infamous frozen yogurt episode of Seinfeld was on re-run that night when I got home.

Watching that episode got me concerned. Does frozen yogurt have the legs make it this time? What’s so different? Well, first of all, there seems to be a better focus on health and nutrition this time. Not just as a fat-free/low fat alternative to ice cream (although, Seinfeld fans may believe differently!), new fro-yo promises certified cultures, just like in “real” yogurt, as well as low calories and natural ingredients.

The refreshing taste and encouragement to top with fresh cut fruit only adds to its perception. (Ok, so the occasional Oreo winds up in there too!) Plus, it’s even tastier, now that the tartness of yogurt has seemed to catch on with consumers.

And, according to USA Today, even though Pinkberry and Red Mango have had to close some shops in an overcrowded southern California market in the past year, both are still growing rapidly – with an estimated 1,000 shops between the two to open in the next five years.

Fro-yo certainly has a better a chance of survival this time around…or, at least, I hope so!

Summertime, and the eating is easy…
June 30th, 2009

 Probiotic Super Fruit Ice Cream

Well, it is finally (FINALLY!) looking like summer here in the Philly area (what is that big yellow orb in the sky?). And now that I can leave my cardigans at home, I’m looking for some hot weather treats with a little mojo.

Tasting Table L.A. recently featured a number of Los Angeles area shops that are taking ice cream sandwiches in a whole new direction. Imagine a homemade Meyer lemon cookie with lavender honey ice cream, or fudgie chocolate cookies with salted caramel ice cream. I’m drooling in my mango water ice right now.

Everything Old is New Again…
June 26th, 2009

Just the other day, I read that both Sun-In and Zinc Oxide are back in for the summer. Now right there are two things that I never imagined to see in my beach bag again.

But then there are classics that endure – like macaroni & cheese. I actually used to hate the stuff…but with a husband that practically lives on the blue box, I’ve not only grown to appreciate it, but love it.

So when I recently read about Good Tastes Kitchen’s Mac & Cheese of the Month Club, I began to drool. Customers can sign up for one, three, six or 12 month subscriptions that deliver “Bliss in the Mail.”

Ranging from the typical All American variety, to Cajun, Pancetta & Pea, or even Pumpkin & Sage, recipients explore seasonal and ethnic flavors through and American classic.

And while the price seems, admittedly, a little high, each month feeds a family of four for a total bill comparable to a casual restaurant. So that you can enjoy it in the comfort of your own home, with your orange hair, and your neon green nose!!!

Like sand through the hourglass…
June 24th, 2009

I’ve been reminded recently of how my tastes have changed since I started working at David Michael. I was a super picky eater – I’d turn my nose up at everything. If it looked “weird” or unusual, if it smelled funny, or if it wasn’t the norm, I refused to try it. But these days, things have changed, and I’ll try anything at least once. (Just not raw meat or fish – sorry, that still gets me.)But it can’t just be my work environment, can it? Sure, I’ve been exposed to more flavors and foods than I could have ever dreamed of – add to that co-workers with a real zest for flavor that can’t help but get you excited about new things. But, I’ve also matured (well, somewhat!), and have grown more experimental in my own kitchen. But is there something else? Have I simply been progressing along with other consumers – growing more open to ethnic flavors and exotic foods? After all, when your friends want to try the new Indian place in town, how can you turn them down?

Consumers are more adventurous these days. But, at the same time, they still harbor a number of preconceived notions about “weird” foods. (Like, say, my own personal refusal to eat sushi.)

Consumers like familiarity. My go to happy meal will probably always be chicken fingers and french fries, but my list of comforting favorites has grown to include goat cheese with pears, breakfast enchiladas with eggs and tomatilla salsa, and tzatziki on just about anything (including those chicken fingers and fries!).

Asparagus flavored licorice – a future trend?

Asparagus flavored licorice – a future trend?

Combining unusual and new flavor developments with more familiar ones is a great way to introduce new concepts to consumers. After all, isn’t that how we grew to love mango so much – by pairing it with peach? And now mango is the familiar flavor, helping to usher in lesser known fruits like guava.

Now is the time to get experimental…challenge yourself to try a new food at least once a week. A little hesitant? Combine it with something you love.

Bartender, can I have a brew?
June 22nd, 2009

From the evolution of molecular mixology to the rebirth of cocktail classics, bartenders are literally setting the bar a bit higher. Bartending has evolved into a culinary profession. At upscale establishments, bartenders are referred to as “mixologists,” creating bitters and tonics from scratch, and experimenting with infusions and tinctures (alcoholic extracts made from herbs).

Modern mixologists, or bar chefs as some are referred to, will source ingredients for their drink menus as they do the rest of the menu – focusing on seasonal and fresh ingredients, visiting farmer’s markets, locating exotic ingredients, handcrafting the above mentioned bitters, tinctures and infusions, squeezing fresh fruit juices on a daily basis, and stocking precious and obscure liquors.

Seeking to educate their patrons, and rid their glasses of the overly sweet appletinis and lemon drops, modern mixologists work with a combination of esoteric ingredients, science and creativity.

Modern Mixology Concoctions

But with a downturned economy, and an increase in at-home entertaining, how is the average consumer expected to keep up? Syrups and drink mixes are always helpful, but can sometimes lack the panache or versatility of a bartender’s arsenal. There are, of course, exceptions, and one of the most innovative products we’ve spotted recently is Tea Forté Cocktail Infusions.

With added visual appeal – it looks like a pyramid tea bag with a leaf for a string – Tea Forté literally brews a cocktail. And the flavors? Well, they’ve got us really excited. Lavender Citrus blends white tea with lavender, bergamot, grapefruit and violet. Lemongrass Mint combines lemon myrtle and spearmint. And Silkroad Chai merges black tea with cardamom, ginger and cinnamon.

And as for versatility, a great example is the Lemongrass Citrus, which is said to work well with Gin & Tonics and Mojitos, aside from custom recipes.

Of course, Tea Forté doesn’t just do cocktails – they’ve got a whole line of tea and iced tea bags, but this cocktail line truly shines. And now, I’m feeling inspired…and thirsty…

A Peruvian Adventure
June 15th, 2009

Today we welcome guest blogger Yuko Noda, a food chemist in our processed flavors department. Yuko recently returned from a trip to Peru, and had lots to share with us about the experience, and the flavors!!

Last year, both Epicurious and Bon Appétit predicted that Peruvian cuisine to be the hot ethnic cuisine of 2009. True to their predictions, we are seeing more Peruvian inspired dishes and drinks making their way into magazines and on restaurant menus. As I had coincidentally planned a vacation to Peru, I was excited to find out more about this delightful cuisine on my trip.

Some people say that Peru has the best and most diverse food in all of South America.  Peruvian cuisine is a melting pot of flavors ranging from Incan and Spanish cuisine to Chinese, Japanese, African and other European immigrant influences. One example of this is the popular dish lomo saltado, a beef sirloin stir-fry seasoned with soy sauce, vinegar and aji chili pepper (Peruvian hot pepper). It is served with French fries, which are sometimes mixed with the stir fry, and white rice. Visually, it seemed kind of strange – but then again, how can you go wrong with deep fried potatoes?

Speaking of potatoes, Peruvians adore potatoes and grow a few thousand varieties of them, ranging in color, shape and size. Potatoes were in virtually every dish that I ate on my trip-as one of the main ingredients in dishes like causa (potato mashed with aji chili and layered or stuffed with a mixture of tuna, chopped red onions, avocado, boiled eggs, lime juice and mayo) and lomo saltad. They were also served as sides or garnishes in dishes like ceviche, alpaca steak and roasted cuy (roasted whole guinea pig which is a specialty in the area around the town of Cusco). If you’re wondering, both the cuy and alpaca were quite tasty. Alpaca meat was tender and the flavor was similar to a cross of goat and lamb. And cuy tasted kind of like rabbit. I cheated and got the shredded cuy confit, instead of the whole animal with its head and feet. (Seriously, would you want this thing staring at you from your plate??)

One of my favorite dishes was arroz con pollo. Arroz con pollo is a popular dish in the Latin world but what makes Peruvian arroz con pollo special is the use of cilantro. Cilantro blended with water is added to the cooking liquid, giving the whole dish a green hue. People who don’t like cilantro may actually enjoy eating this dish since the cilantro flavor is very mild. The same flavor profile is seen in seco, a stew with cilantro sauce made with beef, lamb, chicken or duck.

Cuy (roasted whole guinea pig)

Cuy (roasted whole guinea pig)

From munching on Inca protein bars (containing quinoa, amarath and popped wheat and a hint of anise) while hiking on the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, to enjoying aji de gallina (shredded chicken in a rich creamy aji chili sauce served over rice) in an upscale restaurant overlooking the pre-Inca ruin in Lima, my trip to Peru was definitely a culinary adventure!

Machu Picchu in the early morning

Machu Picchu in the early morning

Tempted to try some Peruvian flavor for yourself? Stay tuned to dmflavors.com! Yuko will recreate one of her favorite dishes for the August Recipe of the Month. Visitors to this year’s Innovation Roadshow will also have the opportunity to enjoy some Peruvian flavor at Yuko’s booth.

Happy National Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Day!
June 9th, 2009

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble Pie

Just a quick note to let everyone know that today is National Strawbery-Rhubarb Pie Day!! Seriously! Celebrate with our recipe of the month – Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble Pie!

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