The Summer Fancy Food Show is my Super Bowl, Oscars, and winning lottery ticket all rolled into three glorious, busy, exhausting, delicious Foody Fun days every summer in New York City. The show offers competition, awards, food to taste, drinks to wash it all down, and so very much walking – all while carrying one bag filled with product literature and another filled with samples to take home.
Oy! I’m tired all over again just thinking about it.
Put on by the Specialty Food Association (SFA), the show is the largest specialty food industry event in North America. This was my 22nd show and the first time I attended for all three days. I wanted to conduct interviews and collect details for this and several future columns. And of course, to sample hundreds of new products and old favorites. In coming columns, I’ll bring you stories about how a favorite family recipe comes to market, how ethical eating can change the world, how kosher certification can help grow a food business, and more. But first, let’s talk about trends – what’s new and what’s hot.
The Flavor of the Year is – matcha. The SFA doesn’t announce an official flavor of the year, but there’s always one flavor that seems to appear everywhere, in all kinds of products. Recent years featured sriracha, blood orange, hibiscus, ginger, and acai. This year, matcha is in everything from yogurt to mayonnaise.
Matcha is powdered green tea. Shortly before harvest, farmers shade the plants, leaving them almost in the dark; it makes the leaves softer, sweeter, and brighter. After harvest, the tea leaves are quickly steamed, then dried, and heated in ovens. After stems and twigs are removed, the leaves are ground into a fine, bright green powder. Touted as having all kinds of health benefits, matcha is traditionally stirred into hot water to make tea. It’s often added to smoothies and offered as a latte at coffee shops. I even have a recipe for matcha babka! It has an earthy, green flavor; my oldest says it tastes like the forest smells after it rains. Today’s recipe is an All-Purpose Matcha Dressing.
Speaking of tea, as always, tea is one of the most popular and prevalent specialty products. In addition to the matcha flavor, this year’s trend is tea that claims to have specific health benefits. There are teas to help you sleep, lower blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure, tea to help you detox, improve digestion, and boost immunity. Believe what you want and do your research before using any food or supplement that might interact with medications or cause an allergic reaction. Husband and I have a cup of tea almost every evening; it’s relaxing and tasty, and for me, that’s enough.
Oil and vinegar are also ubiquitous at the show. Extra virgin olive oil from all over the world is popular, of course, but so are oils from all kinds of seeds and nuts, flavored and unflavored. Vinegar is an excellent way to punch up flavor in your cooking and there are plenty to choose from. In addition to white and apple cider vinegars, look for rice, sherry, malt, red and white wine, and balsamic varieties. Vinegars also come in dozens of flavors including fruits and herbs, like fig or tarragon.
Sea and flavored salts are also trending, but more prevalent this year are salts sourced from underground deposits from glaciers or “primordial” waters. They claim to be perfectly unadulterated and free from any micro plastics that might contaminate traditional sea salts.
Gluten-free continues to flood the marketplace, with everybody now labeling their never-gluten-containing products as gluten-free. A few years ago, I predicted that the gluten-free movement wouldn’t last, but clearly I was wrong. The good news is that these products are getting better; I tasted quite a few crackers and cookies that were really good, not just good for gluten-free.
Because of the popularity of keto and paleo diets, jerkys and meat snacks are gaining traction. They tend to be pretty salty and high calorie, but are protein-rich, so they’re satisfying. Being shelf stable makes them great for camping and hiking or to keep in your car.
I’ve talked about natural plant-based meat substitutes, like jackfruit. The biggest new trend this year is manufactured plant-based products, both meat and carb substitutes. For me, there is an inherent conflict in some of these products, which are about as far away from “real food” as you can get. This dichotomy will be the subject of a future column, but I did bring home a sample of a new yam-based, zero carb, zero calorie “noodle.” I’ll let you know what I think, once I get up the nerve to taste it.
The Foody Funnest product I saw is edible birthday cake candles from Let Them Eat Candles. Chocolate candles with edible hemp wicks prevent wax from dripping onto your cake. Blow them out, then eat them.
The absolute best bite of the show for me was Carrot & Fruit Conserve by Le Bon Magot, which means “the hidden treasure.” This newest addition to their line is a perfect mouthful of flavor, hitting all the notes of sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami in one extraordinary condiment. I’ll share more about the company’s founder, Naomi in another column about women-owned food businesses.
All-Purpose Matcha Dressing
This slightly sweet dressing can be brushed onto chicken or fish, tossed with rice or pasta, mixed into yogurt or cottage cheese, or used straight as a salad dressing.
2 TBSP matcha powder, plain
1 C fresh spinach, packed tightly
2 green onions, chopped
Juice of 1 orange
1 TBSP agave
20 grinds of black pepper
½ to 1 tsp kosher or sea salt
1/3 C avocado or other neutral flavored oil
1. Pulse spinach and green onion in bowl of food processor.
2. Add matcha, pulse again.
3. Add orange juice, agave, salt and pepper. Pulse again, until blended.
4. With processor running, slowly drizzle oil into the bowl.
5. Scrape sides of bowl; pulse 1 more time.
Store in refrigerator.
If you questions about food, email Gayle at food@americanisraelite. com.