The day began with a Lady Walton cookie. Melting in my mouth, the lemon zest zinged my taste buds, which were expecting scrambled eggs. A stuffed grape leaf, followed by a nibbled slice of Pepperoni pizza and then a deep fried stuffed Jalapeno Popper, enticed the tongue to whisper, move on, quickly. In less time than in takes to have luggage checked, I had traveled to London, Greece, Italy and Mexico.
A short jaunt to the right, I was in wine country. A tasting spoon of Katz and Company Sage Blossom Honey exploded with flavor, relieving the pain of the popper. A soothing refresher that Sage Blossom Honey, I could see it drizzled over a freshly baked warm bran muffin at Beanhaven, that popular eatery in Wayzata, Minnesota.
Just steps into my journey it was time for lunch. I had arrived in Napa. Grilled Chicken prepared in Korean Soy Ginger Marinade, a product from Tulocay´s Made In Napa Valley, enticed me to hover. An array of samples sat before me. Fig and Shallot Roasted Tapenade, Roasted Garlic and Cabernet Mustard- perfect on those little pretzels, and a Tangerine Sesame Shanghai Marinade captured my senses. I proceeded to sample is an almost gluttonous manner before moving on to Vermont, Point Reyes and the McEvoy Olive Ranch.
The journey commenced last year at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. Traveling through the countryside, tasting the branded specialties of small artisan purveyors, mammoth manufacturers and those in between, is a trip worth tasting. Parading down Royal Blue aisles has long been a passion.
Mentally combining products, while walking and sampling, creating a menu along the way is a culinary exercise that could prove profitable.
It´s time, though, for restaurant owners to begin to analyze the importance of melding brands of quality, flavor, and simplicity into everyday menus. The artisan touch is a profit generator. Consistent flavors that cannot be produced in a restaurant kitchen can be regularly introduced to customers by developing a relationship with a quality product line. If used wisely, the products can assist with increased sales.
The first day I opened Chez Foley in Wayzata Minnesota a baked Ham on Rye sandwich topped the menu. Accompanied by a generous portion of cornichons, the sandwich lacked mustard. The restaurant lacked mustard. The mustard delivery had yet to arrive and the chef wasn´t aware of the situation. The first customer to order the sandwich asked for mustard. Shocked to learn our little faux French Café didn´t have any, I had to quickly improvise.
Grabbing a handful of dried apricots and a few spoonfuls of creamed horseradish I quickly blended the condiment that would always accompany the Ham sandwich from that moment on. Apricot-horseradish sauce was invented.
I didn´t know then what I know now, otherwise I would have immediately gone into production of the eventual popular spread.
Today, however, there are smarter people than I, manufacturing quality products that can add flavor to any menu at a reasonable price.
Now before the pseudo purists raise their noses in snobbish distaste, claiming complete freshness, fancy food has changed. The days of the homemade ketchup, unless your name is Heinz, are passé. Take a trip to the Winter Fancy Food Show. It´s worth the money to explore an adventure in food and see the creativity that comes from purveyors who have a passion for packaging flavor.
The Fancy Food Show begins this weekend in San Francisco. For more information visit www.specialyfood.com .