2010 FANCY FOOD SHOW – POST #6: Not Chaat – But Chat!


One of the best things about the Fancy Food Show is that it gives you a chance to chat with the producers and proprietors behind the brands. Many are entrepreneurs – some just starting out or expanding – and their passion is contagious. Here are some folks whose personalities are their secret ingredient.

  • I really enjoyed the energetic second-generation cheese affineur from La Casearia Carpenedo, in Treviso, Italy, who told me how his dad liked to invent different ways of aging cheese – including the one I was tasting, which had been packed in hay and placed in used wine barrels to soak up all sorts of interesting notes. He told me his dad got the idea when he was stuck behind a slow hay wagon on the road one day. As you can see, he even brought along some sweet-smelling hay to make his point. Dad would be proud.
  • It was fascinating speaking with the guys from Pollen Ranch about how their products came about – and tasting some of their new blends, which have some very sophisticated layers of flavor. Despite the brand name, all of their fennel pollen is collected from wild plots of plants. They have to be detectives and negotiators to track the patches down, then get agreement from the owners to let them collect the pollen. And, I found out that dill pollen just might be the next hot seasoning. Are you listening Mario?
  • I spent a lot of time chatting with the delightful Meg Dhamer of Pigtale Twist, who makes a delicious low-fat, refrigerated buttermilk-based bleu cheese salad dressing, as well as other products that are naturally low in calories due to her ingredient choices – like using cane sugar rather than corn syrup. I could tell she had a real passion for quality ingredients when she told me all about where she sources her bleu cheese.
  • From Mark Tupper (that’s not him in the photo!) of Triad Fisheries, I picked up a tip for cooking frozen salmon, which I’ve never thought was worth eating: Sear thawed salmon for a minute on each side, then bake in a 165 degree oven for 20 minutes. Triad freezes their catch on the boat and claims the taste is oceans away from most frozen salmon. Their crudo samples did a pretty good job of supporting that claim. I’d be curious to try cooking it.
  • The Lavender Lady, from Little Sky Lavender Farm, is one of those passionate producers I love to support. Her lavender sugar, tisane, cookie mix and brownie kit were great reminders that lavender isn’t just for sniffing anymore. Part of the continuing trend that’s merging flowers and food. Yeah, go ahead and eat the daisies!
  • I’d never heard of teff, the miniscule, gluten-free (“Death to gluten!”) Ethiopian grain, until I stopped at the Mama Fresh Injera booth, with a bevy of kind folks who filled me in – and up. Injera are crepe-like rounds and the company proudly states “367 farmers” and “105 factory workers” help bring it to market.
  • I got a kick out of the mini-campfire scene at the Plush Puffs booth, as I toasted my cubist caramel swirl marshmallow over a can of Sterno. The result was quite tasty, and I’m ready for s’more!
  • Lotus Foods not only has some intriguing exotic colored rice varieties, they are working with farmers pioneering a new cultivation method (developed by Cornell University) that uses up to 50% less water and no chemicals, but generates up to twice as much yield. Right now they offer three varieties, from Indonesia, Madagascar and Cambodia. I was amazed that rice could be grown without flooding the fields – a major breakthrough worth supporting.

This is my final post on the Winter Fancy Food Show. If you haven’t read about my favorite picks and trends, check out the other posts!
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Gayle Keck
Lowell Thomas Award-winner Gayle Keck has sipped fermented mare’s milk in Kyrgyzstan, dug for truffles in Italy, crafted wine at Napa Valley’s “Crush Camp” and munched her way through every continent except Antarctica, which seems far too focused on frozen food.

She has written for Gourmet, National Geographic Traveler, Zagat San Francisco Bay Area Restaurants 2010, and is a frequent contributor to the Washington Post and other major newspapers.

Gayle has visited 49 US states (sorry, North Dakota) and more than 40 countries - though her favorite trip was a flight from Chicago to San Francisco, when she met her future husband on the airplane. She also blogs at Been There Ate That
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