Thursday, January 22, 2009

Highlights from the Winter Fancy Food Show

This year I tried so many delicious things at the Winter Fancy Food Show, it's hard to know where to begin. Let me take you on a brief tour of highlights. Today I'm sharing some delicious international offerings and next week come on back for some of my favorite domestic bites and sips.

Strawberry Orange Blossom Jam
Sometimes it's the color of something that catches my eye. I don't think I've ever seen a strawberry jam quite so vibrant as the one at the show from Tunisia. Even though I was trying to limit myself to tasting savory things, I took a spoonful of Stifen's Strawberry Orange Blossom jam and was transported to a field of fruit and flowers. The bright color was matched by the bright flavors. I don't know exactly how they process fruit, I only know they are able to retain the freshest color and flavor.

Italian sauces from Tesori of Sicily
It was both the color of these conserves and pestos plus the unusual flavors and combinations like asparagus and almond or squash blossom flower that attracted me to Tesori of Siciliy. Each one I tried was stunning. Incredible intense flavors, the essence of saffron, eggplant, almonds and more. The caponata was white, with no tomato, but I have never had a better or more sophisticated version. It was refined and delicate without the heavy sweet sour flavor I'm used to tasting. These sauces to use on bread or pasta are nothing short of spectacular.

Trikalinos avgotaraho
Bottarga is Italian salted and dried grey mullet roe, and I appreciate it's briny, salty sea flavor. But I'd never had Greek Trikalinos bottarga, known as avgotaraho before. Imported by the The Rogers Collection, it's soft, less salty, bright apricot in color and rich with flavor. I loved it. I can imagine using it with pasta, salad, on bread. It's flavor is concentrated but has a sweetness as well that tempers the salt. Imagine a chewy thin slice of the clean sweet essence of the sea. It's a luxury product to be sure, but filled with nutrients and so dense that a little goes a long way.

Guayeco guava jam, marmalade & paste
I'm fascinated by the fact that guava can taste so different from one place to another. The color changes too, sometimes it is greenish, then pale or bright pink. This Mexican guava from Guayeco & Co was a dark golden raisin color. But the flavor was not like guava I've tried before. Sweet but with an almost citrus tang with tropical notes. It is available in paste, jam and marmalade and I could see using it on pastries, in sauces, glazes for fish or meat. It was like discovering a new fruit, I'm not even sure I would have realized it was guava. A really excellent product, easily the best guava marmalade I have ever tasted. Needless to say, I will seek out in the future.

Yarra Valley Dairy Feta
There was so much rich luscious cheese at the show, it's hard to single out just one, but I'm going to anyway. The marinated feta from the Yarra Valley Dairy in Australia was one of the mildest, sweetest feta cheeses I have tasted in a long time. Scented with a thyme and garlic infused olive oil, it was creamy and fresh and left a lasting impression. Sometimes something simple and pure is even more impressive than a pungent, blue, triple creme, whatever.

I'm not generally speaking a soda drinker and even the supposedly "dry" styles have disappointed me, but I really liked Bionade, an organic drink from Germany. Made with malt, it is fermented and not very sweet. The malt sugar is not converted to alcohol, but into gluconic acid, which is also found in honey. It's lower in calories than other soft drinks and quite refreshing. The ginger and orange flavor in particular was my favorite. I could see pairing these with food. Flavors included herbs, lychee and elderberry. A very sophisticated and uniquely flavored drink, well worth seeking out if you want something non-alcoholic that is dry enough to enjoy with food.

Over at Bay Area Bites you'll find the products I hope indicate potential trends in the future.