Typing is difficult this morning. Having spent the past three days at the Winter Fancy Food Show at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, the swelling in my fingers and joints from abundant chemical ingestion is apparent. The food hangover I am fighting from the mix of salt, chocolate, sweet, savory and simply disgusting is far more debilitating than a month of Martini afternoons at JG Melon.
But, somebody had to do it. A product hunt- a safari for king of the show, the one new invention or concoction, hidden between the over-sugared caramel flavored marshmallows and the bland, watery, acidic salsa could make all the difference in a restaurant.
Although the Fancy Food Show appeals primarily to the specialty grocery market, there is always an array of products the restaurateur will find useful. Many of the vendors offer foodservice sizes and are happy to direct ship. It´s the hunt, which takes the time.
This year savory was the hottest category at the show and the trend developing with chocolate drinks offering spicy Mayan aftertaste, rather than the sweet, sugars of yesterday are defining the future of the product and the population that consumes the majority of it.
On average, Americans eat about 150 pounds of sugar a year in food and drinks. That is equivalent to 32 teaspoons per day. As the population matures, sugar is no longer an energy-boosting friend. Therefore, many are alleviating it from their diets, altogether.
The chocolate industry has been tweaking savory bars for the past years and now the trend is to use the liquid from the Gods with a hint of pepper or other infusions.
Keep an eye on this market. Hot, spiced chocolate could prove the perfect base for unsweetened after dinner drinks. Spicy chocolate drizzled on an olive oil cake would be delightful with an after dinner wine.
Another innovation which doesn´t sound as nearly as tremendous as it tastes are chocolate chip cookies laced with chili pepper in the batter. The combination can´t be too hot, but a bit of spice adds life to the chocolate has been disguised with sugar.
If you are still using regular, iodized salt in your kitchen, you are a decade behind the times. Remember the girl with the umbrella, on the Morton´s Salt container? How about Hiwa Kai, Bolivian Rose, Sel Gris, Fumee de Sel, they are the new language in specialty salt. With over two dozen flavors, styles, flakes, crystals, and granules, SaltWorks has taken the salt to new continents.
Their products add flavor to food, artwork to a table. Whether an Alderwood Smoked Salt or a Hiwa Kai, a black lava salt produced in Hawaii, the products are great for a garnish or as a finishing salt at the table.
Ah, the rosemary sprig. We were all roasting either lamb or shrimp on the stems of those hearty pine scented branches. I would set mine aflame on the way to the table. Well goodbye, rosemary.
The hottest product at the show had to be Seasoned Skewers. Callisons Fine Foods has developed six great tastes of flavored skewers that will make you wish you had invented them. Once that passes, get on the phone and call the company. These are a-must for any restaurant that serves appetizers done on a grill, open flame, or broiled. The flavor-enhanced skewer changes a shrimp or scallop from a product of the sea to a delightful taste that few can accomplish, quickly in a kitchen.
Your chef may balk. Your kitchen manager will claim they can produce it quicker with a marinade. Consistency is the key here. These skewers offer the same flavor each time. Three days at the show-, seven shrimp skewers later- all at different times- each one, tasting consistently delicious.
And, as we continue to replace this chef, and fire that guy, we all know how difficult consistency is to maintain. These skewers are great. And, the company isn´t trying to stick it to you with the price- less than eighteen cents a skewer. Mighty tasty.