Herbal Snow, an ethereal flavor of ice cream from Los Angeles ice cream maker Mashti Malone and one of our top picks from the Winter 2006 Fancy Food Show.
Winter Fancy Food Show
Best of Show ~ January 2006 ~ San Francisco
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Although it’s half the size of the NASFT’s* main show in July in New York City, the Winter Fancy Food Show is huge. We spent every minute of its three days racing from booth to booth, and we still missed a great deal of it.
*The National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT) is the professional association for specialty food producers.
The specialness of the winter show is its location: San Francisco attracts West Coast producers who never make it east to the New York City show: we met people from Alaska to New Mexico who exhibit only in San Francisco. California itself is a huge contributor to the show: not only a vast expanse of fertile farmland but a community of imaginative food artists creating a stunning variety of cheeses, chocolates and foods of every description.
The California Olive Oil Council was out in full force with an impressive display of gourmet olive oils; among the representation from California, Australia and New Zealand, we tasted more than 100 fine oils. The Old World groves of Spain, Italy and France might as well have not existed!
If we noticed any trend, it was not the “flavor of the year” as in years past, which brought us rivers of chipotle, pomegranate, wasabi and yuzu that flowed through everything from mustard and salad dressing to crackers and sweet or savory snacks. Perhaps those will emerge at the summer show. Here, the trend was...toffee. New toffee companies have mushroomed all over the place, as if to declare that the low carb craze is over.
A second trend which has been emerging over the last couple of food shows is fruit pastes, which have long been enjoyed with cheese in Spanish cuisines (guava pasta is easily found in Latin supermarkets, and membrillo, quince paste, is the cheese condiment of choice in Spain). You can find fruit pastes at many cheese stores. Led by Australian and New Zealand producers, several brands of tasty fruit pastes—sold in attractive and colorful squares and rectangles in many fruit varieties from fig to kiwi—were enticing buyers, and should be more visible at cheese counters nationwide shortly. Just as with any other condiment, a small dab should be enjoyed with the piece of cheese.
And The Winners Are...
Of all the products in this winners group, three distinguished themselves as not only superb, but distinctly different from anything else in their category. It is to them that we award THE NIBBLE™’s gold, silver and bronze stars for excellence and innovation at Winter 2006 Fancy Food Show.
- Kombucha Wonder Drink, Kombucha Wonder Drink Line
- Mashti Malone, Original Rosewater Ice Creams
- Callison’s, Seasoned Skewers
But all of these products are winners. We look forward to writing complete reviews of them in the coming months. Presented in alphabetical order, they are:
Kombucha Wonder Drink
. We would call them soft drinks, except they’re actually a fizzy tea drink made from kombucha yeast. Kombucha has been a popular health drink in the Himalayas for thousands of years. The taste is exciting, and if it brings us greater physical and mental stamina, so much the better.
Tzu Thé’s Green Tea Accessories
. You couldn’t look in any direction at the show without seeing tea, but Tzu Thé’s stood out in two areas of innovation: the highest and most stable levels of EGCG content (the antioxidant in green tea) and the grab-and-go innovation of brewing whole leaves in brew pods that fit into attractive sports bottles—and don’t get bitter with sustained infusion. (They refer to this system as “Accessories.”)
Kombucha Wonder Drink.
Candy & Chocolate
Lillie Belle Farms’ Lavender Salt Caramels.
Everyone is getting on the salt caramel bandwagon these days—for good reason. They’re delicious, a perfect counterpoint of sweet and salty. Each is different in its own way. Lillie Belle Farms adds organic lavender grown on its Oregon farm, and organic lavender caramel is simply divine.
- 34° Foods With Attitude’s Tasmanian Spiced Cherries. These impossibly plump dark cherries are soaked in Australian pinot noir, wine vinegar and spices, giving them a deep, complex flavor. They would be a great addition to a cheese tray or served with robust meats.
Life may not be a bowl of cherries, but this bowl of Tasmanian spiced cherries will add life to most dishes at your table.
Desserts & Sweets
- Mashti Malone’s Original Rosewater Ice Creams. For years, Mashti’s ice creams were available only in Los Angeles, and legendary elsewhere. Now, with FedEx bringing dry-iced, rock-hard deliveries of ice cream anywhere in America overnight, you can enjoy these exotic wonders wherever you live. Or you can convince your specialty retailer to bring them in: some Whole Foods stores will be carrying them soon. Click here for our review.
Mashti Malone’s line of ice creams are based on rosewater, but each has a distinctive flavor that will transport you over the ice cream rainbow.
Meat, Fish & Cheese
Point Reyes Original Blue. We love blue cheese and we tasted a lot of great ones at the show. But we totally lost our heart to this moist, creamy, perfectly balanced blue with hints of lemongrass and sea salt. It’s made of the unpasteurized milk of a herd of Holsteins that graze overlooking Tomales Bay.
Da Morgada Sardines. People who loves sardines or who have never had the great ones from Iberia should make room in the cupboard for these outstanding fish from the shores of Portugal. Plump, juicy and remarkably fresh-tasting, these sardines are available in three delicious options: olive oil, olive oil and tomato, and our favorite, spicy olive oil. Distributed by Traditfoods of Portugal, they are imported by Cheeseworks and are available at iGourmet.com.
We left our heart in San Francisco...with Original Blue from Point Reyes Farmstead.
Callison’s Seasoned Skewers. Surely this idea must have existed before—it’s just too obvious! But we take our hats off to Callison’s for making seasoned wooden skewers imbue meat, poultry fish, and vegetables with the taste of Citrus Rosemary, Garlic Herb, Honey Bourbon, Indian Mango Curry, Mexican Fiesta and Thai Coconut Lime from the inside, as they cook.
The French Farm’s Penja White Pepper. It’s nearly impossible to single out just one product from this company’s consistently delicious products, but the new Penja White Pepper deserves a special nod. Subtle but wonderfully aromatic at the same time, it would be terrific in light-colored sauces or baked goods that need a flavor kick. Give it as a gift to your favorite cook.
Mirabelle European Gourmet Foods’ Flavor Infusers.
Created to give an extra pop to ordinary desserts, you just sprinkle flavored, powdered sugars from the shaker onto homemade or store-bought desserts. We tried several and were amazed at how dramatically and deliciously they transformed plain shortbread. Our favorites were the Organic Lemon Lavender and Hazelnut Harvest Spice. Try them on anything from cookies and cakes to specialty coffee drinks.
. We love how this company has put together such an attractive offering of gourmet salts: flavors, colors, and textures to adorn and dazzle your foods. We have learned from great chefs that a plain sliced tomato with a pinch of volcanic salt and droplets of olive oil creates a great dish. There is greatness to be created from the offerings at Saltworks.
Alaea Hawaiian Sea Salt gets its color and
unique flavor from natural, mineral-
enriched, purified alaea clay. Mix the
coarse grain variety with herbs and use it
as a roasting salt to seal in the natural
moisture of meats; or use the fine grain
variety as a table salt.
Mirabelle Flavor Infusers.
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