Monday, July 11, 2011

Washington Social Diary

To get a sense of the size of the food show, take this picture and multiply it ten times.
by Carol Joynt

Here’s some personal insight into my life of late: I had a book come out, and it was received well, including some very nice email from NYSD readers, but it prompted a month or more of book parties, interviews, signings and other appearances – all wonderful – but each a feast of carbs and alcohol. I woke up last week almost ten pounds over my fighting weight.

Which is what made yesterday especially interesting. It was the opening of the annual three-day Summer Fancy Food Show, the coming together of the foodie United Nations. The timing couldn’t have been better because today I start a diet. You have to trust me on this: there’s no better start to a diet than the food show.
To get a sense of the size of the food show, take this picture and multiply it ten times.
For better or worse, the official greeter. Mexico hired DC's star bartender, Derek Brown of The Columbia Room, to create Tequila and Mescal drinks. It was early, but they were good.
The press release summed it up well: “The exhibit halls will be filled with 180,000 products from 2,400 exhibitors representing 80 countries and regions. On display will be the latest food trends and flavors in chocolate, artisanal meats and cheeses, confections, snacks, beverages, salsas, spices and natural and organic products.”

All true, but best measured on a scale of 100 calories per second. At least that’s what it was like as I roamed the acres of food stalls, sometimes enchanted and sometimes overwhelmed by the options and offerings. It was possible to go from tasting salsa, to chocolate, to Camembert to popcorn to Barley candy to Thai and then Japanese and then Egyptian, with a stop for some Mexican Tequila and Mescal along the way.
The United States is the principal exhibitor, but many nations are represented. It was a food United Nations, with 80 countries represented.
The show, representing a $70 billion industry, showcases the treats and delicacies you already take for granted or will see by the fall and winter holidays at your local food emporium. It is usually held at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York, but with that complex undergoing construction the show was moved to Washington for this year and next. It was held here once in the 1980s, too. It is a windfall for local restaurants, as the thousands of attendees eat out – often and well.

What were the trends I noticed? Lots more sauces in bottles, making a home chef like a “top chef” as he or she finishes a plate with that professional touch; exotic fruit syrups that let the consumer make their own flavored waters; marshmallows are still strong, but I expected to see cotton candy too and there was none; cheese and lots of it; olives are booming; caramel; fine meats, especially cured hams, more accessible than ever. Gluten free is a booming trend. It was everywhere. Home cocktail making is about to become more artisanal as mixers by the mini-bottle hit the stores. Lots more frozen delicacies, including Kobe beef sliders.
It wouldn't be a convention without a funny little car. Alas, no clowns.
The food industry is like any other. In a stressed global economy it has to work harder to get the consumer’s attention, to make a shopper comfortably part with the precious dollar. There was notably not a feeling of desperation at this year’s show, it was more “try this, you might like it.” Maybe that’s a way out of the recession, too.

For now, it’s time to fast.
Flavored salts are hot.
At Epicure, just one of dozens upon dozens of cheese displays. The trend with cheese is to serve with fruit spreads, like his Apricot from Nu Lait.
At Bella Cucina, pre-cut lemon rinds for cocktails.
Melville Candy Company's (in Weymouth, MA) gumball machine lollipops.
Gary Melville with a handful of Barley pops. Al Sozer of Valesco Foods of Lyndhurst, NJ will pit his olives against any competition. There's none better, he says.
Valesco's newest olive. Luxury is not lost. Truffles the size of tennis balls, with an important admonition.
Strawberry and Lemon marshmallows, too.
At Golden Edibles, the "everything bagel" of chocolate covered strawberries. New: Golden Edibles offers chocolate covered pears and apples.
Goat's cheese and brie, offered with Cranberry Chutney from the New England Cranberry Company.
Fruitations cranberry "beverage enhancer" can be used in water, smoothies, cocktails and wine. The food show has everything, including Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches. Yay.
Frozen cannoli from Dolci & Salati. We're told they thaw beautifully.
A source of fine Virginia ham.
Pickled garlic: good and good for you. From Low Country Produce. This ham is distributed by Cheeseworks, Inc., of Ringwood, NJ, but it is a rare ham raised in Virginia.
Kobe sliders and other frozen cocktail foods from Gourmet Kitchen.
Even our canine friends were represented at the Food Show.
Their tags said "Ian" and "Chuck," and "diversity certified." From Country Living Magazine, "Pie in a Jar." Literally.
Big cheese.
Sarah Nep, the official "cheese carver."
Anne Duggan with more cheese. From the U.K., and the outfit was not explained. His job was to hold a plate of biscotti. He did it well.
The barrista at Caffe Vergnano.
Explaining "the modern cocktail."
The "modern cocktail" comes like this: in little bottles to be added to the spirit of your choice.
The popular pizza at Rao's.
Fernando Glauberman of Bel Canto Foods, with some of his air cured beef. At Brix, Nick Proia pairs good chocolate with good wine and port.
At Appennino, some exceptional truffle products, especially the spread.
It seemd every fifth sign at the food show promoted gluten free.
Last but not least, more cheese.
Harbo gummy centipedes.
Balsamic vinegars flavored with Pear, Fig and Apple.
Doing business.
Carol Joynt's new memoir, Innocent Spouse, can be ordered from Amazon, HERE.