The heavenly aroma of cheese wafted from the BelGioioso Cheese display. I tasted a wedge of the extra sharp provolone and wanted more. Unable to decide what to try next (the fresh mozzarella, prosciutto and basil roll looked divine as did the other two dozen cheeses on exhibit). But with as many of the 535 exhibitors at the International Restaurant and Foodservice Show at the Javits Center I’d planned to see, I had to move on. Still, the picante flavor of BelGioioso provolone cheese lingered on my palate
My nose led me farther down the aisle to Kettle Cuisine, where I tasted delicious beef barley with vegetables and carrot ginger soups. More varieties were being ladled in cups to tasters lining up. Kettle Cuisine handcrafts their product using traditional methods that honor each ingredient. They’re hearty, organic, lactose free and created with imagination. The 30-year old company launched its first line of deli cups to retailers in 1996 and today is among the tastiest soups to find in a supermarket.
I crossed over a few aisles and found Jason Cohen’s Flower Pot Tea. The teas are flavored with blooming tisanes, which come from parts of China. The dried white tea (the younger tea leaves aren’t rolled or oxidized) is packaged with a special type of lotus from a plantation connected with the monasteries at Putuo Shan, China. Visually appealing and delicious, the lotus, rose (commonly found in Xinjiang) and chrysanthemum teas are used in traditional Chinese medicine. The teas are packaged as pods, which with the addition of boiling water, burst open as beautiful, aromatic flowering teas.
I wandered over to the Aurora display, an abundant grouping of natural, organic packaged food products owned by Stephanie Blackwell – one of the few women exhibitors at the show. Aurora provides the highest quality nuts, granola, trail mixes, dried fruits and salad topping. They’re certified SQF, organic and Kosher, and they strive to help maintain a sustainable environment, using recycled plastics and converting their roasting oils to biodiesel. Aurora is a supporter of Habitat for Humanity, Sterling House and CT Food Bank among many other charitable organizations.
I sleuthed out another women-owned company exhibiting at the show. Green Mustache channels their passion for delicious and healthy smoothies that are tasty for everyone, big and small. They recently launched a line of handlebar mustache-shaped crackers. The organic, gluten-free and vegan snacks are made with organic chickpea flour, kale and chia. Everything at Green Mustache is sugar and preservative free.
It’s almost impossible to eat a pretzel without mustard, and the Wicked Twisted Pretzels brothers make both. Three years ago they set out to create a pretzel that rivals Philly’s and Germany’s Bavarian pretzels and have succeeded in making a delicious hand-twisted, baked pretzel. By using ingredients like fresh malt and roasted barley to give their pretzel a slight nuttiness, the Wicked Twisted pretzels have that melt in your mouth flavor. Traditionally dipped in plain mustard, the brothers developed a smokey maple, tangy and jalapeno mustard made from a 19th century family recipe. The condiments can be used as a meat marinade, a glaze, on sandwiches and in salads. Both hard and the soft Bavarian pretzels as well as the mustards can be found in the U.S. including Whole Foods markets.
The Alessi table had a Gift Box that’s a combination of the most popular selling items under the gourmet Italian label, Alessi, a family-run, U.S. business, which imports items from Italy under the Vigo Importing Company. Items in the Gift Box include Alessi Balsamic Vinegars, Soups, Risottos, Grinders, Extra Virgin Olive Oil and more. It’s available on line at alessifoods.com.
The staff of life was awaiting me on the other side of the room. Rudi’s Organic Bakery is a leading producer and distributor of certified organic breads and bakery products in the U.S. Committed to baking high-quality organic breads that contain the healthiest ingredients, Rudi’s breads are free of artificial ingredients, preservatives, free of high fructose corn syrup, trans-fat and GMOs. The cinnamon raisin bread is a perfect accompaniment with breakfast coffee or tea, and it’s recommended for sandwiches as well. http://rudisbakery.com
Where flight attendants, resorts and restaurants got their scented towels from was always an enigma. Now it’s not. White Towel Services provides pre-moistened, individually wrapped 100 percent cotton refreshment towels. The 8 x 9” or 10 x 12” square towels can be presented hot or ice cold, are single use, hypoallergenic and are available in four scents: lemon, lavender, peach/mango or unscented. The company also manufactures their towels according to needs: Self-Tanning? That’s a great idea, and make-up remover towels are a hit as well.
I needed a towel after walking through the chocolate aisle. In addition to world-wide exhibitors with chocolate samples, I tasted Valrhona, the rich, dark chocolate from Tain L’Hermitage, France and a dark chocolate from the Dominican Republic. The Paris Gourmet presented the 28th Annual US Pastry Competition on March 5th. Accomplished chefs from the pastry world had been selected from a stateside panel of judges to present them with a highly technical sculpted chocolate showpiece. This year the assigned theme was Modern Matters Come to Chocolate. I viewed the winners, and was overwhelmed by the ingenuity and craftsmanship of each entrant. Sugary sweets didn’t stop at the chocolate aisle. They dotted the room with hard-to-resist ice creams, candies, gooey baked products and drinks.
The range of foods was endless as were the kitchen and restaurant appliances, equipment and green products, in addition to several categories chosen in the Innovative New Product Showcase. A panel of media judges at the Pitch the Press Conference selected Catering Stone for their revolutionary stones, which keeps food hot or cold for hours without ice, electricity or open flame, using thermal energy storage. They’re also 100% food-safe (there are no hazardous, nucleated substances or mixtures inside the hot stones, and water is the primary component in the cold stones). The reusable, sustainable and green products ultimately earned CateringStone the top spot for 2017.
I spoke with exhibitors and buyers at the International Restaurant and Foodservice Show. Overall, the consensus of opinion was concern for the environment and the delight at seeing more organically-grown produce, products and free-range, grass-fed meats than in previous years.