Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Top Trends from the Winter Fancy Food Show 2018

I’ve already shared some of my favorite finds from the Winter Fancy Food Show 2018, but another reason I attend the show is to try and identify what’s trending. Here are my topic picks.

Mushrooms
Mushrooms seem to be everywhere and showing up in ways that are a bit unexpected. I first discovered crispy oyster mushroom “chips” in Taiwan, but at the show this year I saw Yuguo shiitake chips from China.They are light and crunchy and supposedly healthy. I like them a lot. There were also two kinds of mushroom jerky, one made from mushroom caps and another made from mushroom stems in "Zesty Thai" flavor, available from Pan's Mushroom Jerky. Last but not least there were somewhat medicinal elixirs, cocoa and “coffee” made from lion's mane, chaga and reishi mushrooms by Four Sigmatic. I wasn’t crazy about how they tasted but they are being sold more as a health product than a gourmet one. 

Coconut snacks
Coconut is nothing new, but it’s being used as a component in lots of different and frankly delicious snacks.  If you like coconut, you will like these. Some top picks for me were the wafer-like Sejoyia coconut thins, the clusters from Creative Snacks Co with cranberries cashews and almonds, and Cocomos toasted coconut chips with orange and sunflower seeds, which were somewhat in between a cluster and a wafer. 

Vegetable Chips 
Vegetable chips have been in vogue for quite some time, but I’m seeing more and more unusual options like red rice and quinoa crisps from Grounded from Lundberg Family Farms, pea puffs from Peeled cassava crunch and beet snacks from Plant Snacks, carrot and beet chips from HardBite, kumara and parsnip crisps from Proper Crisps.

Legume Snacks
Pea protein is big, and it’s especially evident in snacks. I also saw crispy broad beans and puffs from peanuts. Other products I noticed included colorful "chickbean crisps" from Saffron Road, chickpea snacks from Kay's Pass the Peas, quinoa and lentil snacks from The Daily Crave but I'm sure there were even more. New guidelines now recommend introducing infants to peanuts to help ward off allergies, so snacks like puffs may prove popular with kids. 

Non-dairy yogurts
Just as non-dairy milks and “cheeses” have become more popular, more non-dairy yogurts are popping up. I particularly liked the coconut yogurt from Anita’s but also the Greek style almond yogurt from Kite Hill

Aloe 
Aloe has been on trend in Japan since the 1990’s but it seems to be gaining in the US as well. I saw it in Alove yogurt from Japanese manufacturer Morinaga as well as in a myriad of drinks. Aloe is hydrating and can help with digestion. 

Cold Vegetable Soups
This is an interesting one I didn’t see coming. Anyone who has been to a supermarket in Spain has been amused by the refrigerated cartons of gazpacho. I saw several lines of cold, ready to drink soups, with unique flavors like cauliflower cashew, pumpkin cinnamon sage and beet orange basil from Zupa and carrot yellow tomato and spicy avocado from gazpacho maker Tio. Most were vegetarian but at least one, Bonafide uses a bone broth base and calls their products "drinkable veggies." 

Cold Brew
If cold brew coffee is big in coffee shops, it’s perhaps even bigger in retail stores where you can buy it in cans or bottles. I saw so many brands this year it was hard to keep track but they included Jittery John's, Coffee Blenders, Fog Dog, Peerless and Grady's. While I mostly saw cold brew coffee, I also saw "ice steeped" cold brew tea from Japanese maker Ito-En

Drinking Vinegars
Drinking vinegars have been gaining momentum and this year I saw more than ever. Some are traditional apple cider vinegar based while others use balsamic or add other ingredients like ginger or fruit juices. There were two I particularly liked, Fire Cider’s apple cider vinegar-based tonics made with horseradish, onions, black pepper, and garlic, organic habañero peppers, turmeric, lemons and oranges. It tasted like it could banish a cold. The other was the deliciously fruit forward one from Olitalia in blueberry, cherry and pomegranate. 

Drip tea and coffee packs
Last year I was excited about a Vietnamese drip coffee as part of the DIY kit trend, from Copper Cow, this year they are introducing Thai ice tea packs. Meanwhile I saw other companies like Vietnamese grocer Lee’s are also selling Vietnaemese drip coffee packets, albeit without the condensed milk. 

Monday, January 29, 2018

10 Highlights from the Winter Fancy Food Show 2018

This year I'm sharing several posts recapping the Winter Fancy Food Show. Kicking things off are a few of my favorite things (cue The Sound of Music). Stay tuned for posts on trends and the newest products. 


In my round up of all things bananas last year I mentioned a unique banana jam. This year I tried the latest jam from the same producer, made from jackfruit. You may know jackfruit as a fiberous vegan replacement for pulled pork. In this jam it has an incredible tropical flavor that tastes like a combination of mango, pineapple and banana--think Juicy Fruit gum but so much better. It’s like a little tropical vacation in a spoon. 

I’m lumping these three things together because they fit in the category of couverture, that’s chocolate speak for a product that has a very high percentage of cocoa butter. Coffee thins are made with a unique coffee product and cocoa butter, no cocoa solids at all. It’s has the texture of chocolate, but it’s coffee. It’s available in three different varieites, latte, espresso and cruz special blend and makes use of a proprietary technology that transforms coffee into something smooth and creamy. Valrhona is introducing two new couvertures, one with passion fruit and one with almond, neither of them contain cocoa solids either. They won’t be available in a retail product but expect your favorite chocolatiers to start using this divine stuff in their confections.  

Flavored maple syrups
I talked to a retailer who told me that this past holiday season his company saw an incredible increase in sales of maple syrup. Having tasted some of the more recent flavored maple syrups I can’t say I’m surprised. My favorites come from a company called Runamok. They infuse maple syrups with flavors such as makrut lime leaf, cardamom, ginger as well as bourbon and rum barrel aged maple syrup and my favorite, pecan wood smoked maple syrup. 

You may have had black sesame ice cream before but the black sesame ice cream from Humphry Slocombe is a game changer. It’s made from their base with ground black sesame seeds but the secret is an addition of toasted sesame oil which is fragrant and lusicous. 

Wadaman organic white sesame oil
While we're on the topic of sesame oil, I have to say, this one is the best I’ve ever tried. It’s has a lusicous buttery flavor and an almost floral aroma. It’s so good, and much more delicate than the typical toasted sesame oil which can be overly intense and almost bitter.  It's available in Asian speciality stores and online from Japanese Pantry.

Sauerfrau squeezable sauerkraut
I was already a fan of sauerkraut, but not only is this sauerkraut delicious and comes in 3 varieties, classic, sweet Bavarian and craft beer mustard. It’s ridiculously convenient because it comes in a squeeze bottle. It’s tangy, but not too juicy, still raw and filled with probiotics, but it will keep in the fridge for ages. Good stuff and coming soon to stores.

I wrote about Bakwa a few years ago. Of course pork jerky is delicious but now Little Red Dot Kitchen has applied their magic touch to eggplant to make something they call jerky. I just call it good. I’d love to layer it on a baguette and make sandwich with it. 


Axel Provisions pickled onions
Axel Provisions launched with three versions of their chimichurri sauce. It’s very good. But what I really liked was their pickled onions. The founder ate these onions in Argentina and decided to make them himself. You could make them too, but his are really, really good. They come in two versions, one is red and spicy with habanero and the other sweet with jalapeno. Both are irresistable. 


Heirloom grain pasta
This year I saw more pastas made with different grains, including heirloom varieties of wheat. I sample pasta from two different companies, Monograno Felicetti from Italy and Sfoglini from Brooklyn, Monograno uses several different types of wheat, I tried the pasta made from a variety of durum wheat called matt. Sfoglini uses a variety of different grains but in blends that keep the pasta al dente, something that can be tricky when experimenting beyond wheat. 

Which is the best prosciutto? Generally speaking, he one in front of you. But in tasting San Daniele, Parma and Modena, I have to admit, Modena won me over. The texture and flavor of prosciutto is dependent upon not just origin, but also which part of the prosciutto it comes from. It’s formed in a pear shape, then often trimmed and formed into a block for easier slicing. One end is saltier than the other. The prosciutto I had from Modena was from the center and it was rosy, meltingly tender and delicate. It was the perfectly mild balance of sweet and salty. Prosciutto from Modena may be new to us, but it has been made in Modena since the 16th century. The meat is massaged with salt twice, and allowed to rest for 70 days. Once dried it’s massaged with a mxiture of lard, salt, spices and flour. The entire process takes 14 months. It’s recently gained entry to the US and like San Daniele and Parma prociutto it is a DOP (protected denomination of origin) product, look for it at a deli or gourmet shop. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Ramen Heads - Movie Review

Ramen Heads is a documentary about ramen in Japan. As the name implies, it’s about the obsession of both ramen makers and ramen eaters and dives deep into more bowls in more styles than you can possibly imagine. The film focuses on Japan's number-one ramen master Osamu Tomita, who has won the highest ramen honors 4 years in a row. Unlike other ramen masters, Tomita is happy to expose every part of his process. He reveals the highest-quality ingredients and his constantly evolving approach to cooking the perfect bowl with equal attention to both noodles and broth. Surrounded by apprentices there is still much he insists on doing himself. His shop is so popular he sells tickets ahead of time to decrease the long wait for seats. 

Tomita proclaims, “if you’re not a ramen head yourself, you can’t possibly satisfy other ramen heads.”  and so perhaps not surprisingly, he spends his one day off a week eating ramen on his own and with his familly; next to his bed are ramen magazines and recipes. He’s singularly focused on ramen, not just for his customers but for himself and for his appreciation of ramen in Japanese culture. It is and has been his calling since he had a bowl of ramen that changed his life. After that he became an apprentice to a top ramen master before opening his own shop. Ramen it seems, is so much more than just noodles and broth, it’s truly a way of life. 

As you probably already know, ramen is a big deal in Japan. There are magazines, guidebooks and websites devoted to it. As the films narrator explains, ramen is “cheap, immediate and deeply satisfying”, and in Japan, unlike many other iconic dishes, it allows for great creativity.The film introduces viewers to some of the other top ramen masters in Japan and their individual styles of ramen, briefly explores a ramen festival and offers a quick timeline of the rise of ramen in Japan. All along the way the cinematography will make your mouth water. The soaring and majestic music can seem cheesy at times, but it is the cinematography that cements this film as the ultimate ramen food porn and I warn you, if you decide to see this movie you better make plans to eat ramen afterwards because you will seriously crave it. Check out the trailer below and you'll see for yourself. 

Ramen Heads plays at the Roxie as part of the SF Indie Film Festival on February 10th and 13th, 2018 in San Francisco. Learn more or buy tickets.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Miyagi Oyster Mushroom Bisque Recipe

A few weeks ago I received a dozen and a half miyagi oysters from Real Good Fish as part of my my seafood subscription. Because miyagi oysters are delicate and small, I generally just serve them on the half shell, but this time I decided to make bisque. Bisque is a creamy soup traditionally made from seafood and in particular broth from seafood shells. 
Searching around online I found a recipe for oyster bisque from Chef Greg Atkinson in Seattle that called for cooking the oysters in the shells. While I have gotten better at shucking oysters with practice, this appealed to me greatly! It’s a stunning recipe but I only had half the amount of oysters required so I could only make a half batch. The second time around I was inspired to make a bisque with both oysters and oyster mushrooms. Oyster mushrooms look a bit like oysters in color and shape. They have a very mild earthy flavor that reminds me of oysters as well. 

My recipe uses less heavy cream than the original and I puree the mushrooms as well as the bits of onion along with the oysters. The resulting soup is rich and complex and the luxurious topping of whipped cream really takes it over the top. This is a soup worthy of a special occasion. Maybe New Year’s Eve? Next time you find yourself wiht some oysters, I hope you’ll give it a try. 

Miyagi Oyster Mushroom Bisque
Adapted from a recipe by Greg Atkinson
Serves 4

Ingredients

1 1/2 dozen live miyagi oysters 
2 cups water
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup minced white onion
1/2 pound chopped oyster mushrooms
Pinch freshly ground pepper
Pinch grated nutmeg, or to taste
1/2 cup dry sherry 
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream, divided
2 Tablespoons freshly chopped herbs such as parsley, chives or tarragon

Instructions

Scrub the oysters to clean off any mud or shell chips. Bring 2 cups of water to a full rolling boil in a 1-gallon Dutch oven or pot over high heat. Put the oysters in the pot, cover, reduce the heat to medium and let them steam until they open or become very easy to pry open with an oyster knife, about 8 minutes. 

Remove the steamed oysters from their shells and put them and their liquor in a blender. Strain the liquid in which the oysters were steamed into the blender as well.

Rinse or wipe the Dutch oven and add the butter, heat over medium-high heat and add the onions, Cook for about 2 minutes or until softened then add the mushrooms. Sauté until the mushrooms release their liquid and begin to dry then add the sherry. pepper and nutmeg and cook until the sherry has evaporated and the mixtures sizzles in the pan. Add 1/4 cup cream and bring this mixture to a boil. 

Transfer the mushroom mixture into the blender with the oysters and blend to make a very smooth purée. Return the mixture to the pot, add the milk and heat through. 

Whip the remaining 1/2 cup cream. Garnish each serving of soup with a dollop of whipped cream and chopped herbs.

Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I received the oysters from Real Good Fish I was not compensated monetarily for this or any other post.