Best of the Fancy Food Show 2010: Hidden Gemsfeatured

Now that we’ve covered the heavy weight categories at the Fancy Food Show, Chocolate and Cheese, I wanted to give some shout outs to our favorite Hidden Gems discovered at the show this year:

1) The Smoked Olive’s Sonoma Smoked Olive Oil  
Smoked Olive Oil

Smoked Olive Oil

Amongst the plethora of high-quality extra virgin olive oils I sampled at the show, The Smoked Olive’s stood out the most with its unique and complex flavor. Created by husband and wife team, Al Hartman and Brenda Chatelain, these smoked olive oils start with the finest California extra virgin olive oil, which is then naturally wood-smoked using a patent-pending smoking process that does not expose the oil to heat, air, or light. Thus, they are able to retain the full-bodied, fruity flavor of the oil, while imparting a beautiful wood-smoked flavor. The Sonoma Smoked Olive Oil is my favorite of their three flavors. It has a smoky flavor that is robust, but subtle enough that it doesn’t overpower the natural flavor of the premium olive oil or the food it’s served with. Enhance roasted meats, seafood, or veggies by drizzling it over as a finishing oil. Personally, I can’t wait to experiment with it over some truffled eggs.
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2) Vignette Wine Country Soda’s Pinot Noir
Vignette Wine Country Soda

Vignette Wine Country Soda

"Part wine country magic, part soda pop pleasure,” Vignette is a lovely fizzy beverage that is naturally sweetened only with varietal wine grape juice from California vineyards. My favorite flavor is the Pinot Noir – bright and refreshing, with a tinge of sweet, berry flavor, this elegant beverage is just plain pretty. Pat Galvin came up with the idea for Vignette when his wife was pregnant with their first child...and green with envy every time he’d be enjoying a glass of wine. So he developed this sophisticated, non-alcoholic beverage alternative. It’s also all natural, made from 50% varietal juice, caffeine free, and with no added sugar or high fructose corn syrup. I was surprised at how tasty these sodas were. Really refreshing, and not too syrupy sweet at all. Perfect for not only those stylish mommas-to-be out there, but for any picnic, brunch, or ladies’ luncheon as well (pearls optional).
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3) Black Garlic
Black Garlic

Black Garlic

The show floor was abuzz with this culinary curiosity, Black Garlic. What exactly is Black Garlic? It starts out as regular garlic, which is then turned into a delicious, mellow, sweet garlic with cloves that are the color of dark molasses and the chewy texture of soft dried apricots or prunes. The transformation from white to black garlic happens through a patented fermentation process. No additives are added. Instead, the color comes from the development of the sugars and amino acids in the garlic through a special chamber that regulates specific levels of heat and humidity. Black Garlic is available in whole bulbs, pre-peeled cloves, and in a puree form. Try cooking with it just like you would use regular garlic, or, use it as a garnishing gastrique.
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4) Mama’s Goodies’ Sesame Seed Butter Nut Crunch
Mama’s Goodies, Sesame Seed Butter Nut Crunch

Mama’s Goodies, Sesame Seed Butter Nut Crunch

It was wonderful seeing Mama’s Goodies again at the Fancy Food Show this year. An original recipe for butter nut brittle passed down for generations, Mama’s comes in five flavors: sesame and almond (traditional Iranian flavors), as well as cashew, pecan, and macadamia-coconut. Besides the plethora of nuts, pure honey, 100% maple syrup, and real butter, Mama’s Goodies has a great story behind it. In 1979, Rohy Khorshidian, her husband and their four young daughters fled Iran for a better life in the United States. They left behind much of their personal belongs but retained the things deeply rooted in their heritage...among which was Rohy's old-world family recipe for nut butter brittles. As she strived to help her family adjust to their new life, Rohy would often make her famous nut brittles that she had been known for in Iran. Before long, she was making a name for herself and her brittle here as well, and when her daughter, Kathy, grew up, she saw an opportunity to share her mom’s treats with the world. My favorite is the original Sesame Seed Butter Nut Crunch. It reminds me of a Chinese candy that we have sometimes, with a homemade taste, satisfying nutty crunch, and sweet, buttery flavor.
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5) Lotus Foods’ Indonesian Volcano Rice
Lotus Foods Rice

Lotus Foods Rice

Lotus Foods had an eye-catching display of a dozen or so rice cookers full of steaming varieties of exotic-looking heirloom rice...pink, green, even black rice. I enjoyed a sample of the Indonesian Volcano Rice, a colorful blend of nutrient-filled brown and red rice from the mineral-rich volcanic soil of Indonesia. It tasted wholesome chock full of stuff that’s good for me (fiber and minerals like magnesium, manganese, and zinc). Besides the tasty flavor, more importantly, was what I learned about how the rice was cultivated using the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), an ecologically sound method of rice production that helps resource-limited farmers in Asia, Africa and Latin America to improve their yields, health, livelihoods and environment while producing better quality and more nutritious rice. SRI encompasses alternative methods which have dramatic impacts: Farmers can increase yields from their traditional varieties by 50-100%, using 25-50% less water and 80-90% less seed, with less drudgery, and few or no purchased agrichemical inputs. Nearly a third of the world's population depends upon rice for their subsistence and livelihoods, and rice production has to increase by 30-40% percent over the next 25 years. With diminishing land and water, SRI represents a significant innovation to meet these needs. System of Rice Intensification (SRI):
  • Superior Flavor & Nutrition
  • Contributes to food security & poverty alleviation
  • Conserves billions of gallons of water
  • Reduces methane emissions
  • Protects biodiversity
Props to Lotus Foods for the admirable work they do in helping to support SRI.
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6) The Ginger People’s Ginger Chews
A Happy Ginger Person

A Happy Ginger Person

No, this is not an amputated Care Bear, it’s a Ginger Person, mascot of The Ginger People. The Ginger People is a family-owned-and-operated business that offers all things ginger (over 80 products) including, ginger chews, ginger beer, ginger snaps, even ginger "babies” made from crystallized baby ginger. The Ginger Chews were my favorite ginger treat – soft and chewy, and full of sweet heat. You can even make a comforting beverage out of them by adding a few pieces to a cup of boiling water and stirring until dissolved. I love it that there is a whole company that is solely devoted to this one, intense, super-ingredient. A quick chat with the good Ginger People and I learned that ginger not only tastes great, it helps to boost immunity, promote digestion, counter nausea, and even mitigate arthritis pain. (All videography by Christina Robles)

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