Top Ten Finds at Fancy Foods, Part One

Fresh air, fine living, fabulous ideas.  That’s the Alfresco way.
So, I headed to the recent Fancy Food Show in Washington, D.C. This event showcases everything edible that upscale supermarkets, gourmet and gift shops, and culinary emporia might want to sell—and their customers might want to buy.
With my one-day pass, I knew I had to navigate through literally thousands of booths to find out what’s new with Heartland food artisans, as well as what’s new around the rest of the country.
Now for the drum roll. . . . .
Top Ten Fancy Food Finds 2011, Part One

Candy Box Cake and photo by Carey Iennecaro

1.  Chocolate. 
In Kansas City, I’m a devoted Christopher Elbow Chocolate fan But I also love Vosges Haut-Chocolat from Chicago. I got to taste several new Vosges chocolate creations, including the amazing Black Salt Caramel Bar, bathed in 70% dark chocolate, which won a Gold Award at the show.  Combining caramel, dark chocolate, and blood orange in the Blood Orange Caramel Bar?? I’m all over that too.
2. Bacon.  
In the Nueske’s booth, I talked with Tanya Nueske and Marlys Connor about their Wild Cherrywood Smoked Bacon. Okay, I talked and sampled.  Okay, I sampled. Wild Cherrywood is my new favorite bacon. I once had a wild or chokecherry tree growing along my backyard fence, but this bacon is smoked with wood from an old, untreated cherry orchard in Wisconsin that has been left to go wild again.  The bacon is made with no extra nitrates or nitrites. Dry-cured texture, smoky flavor, slight sweetness—no wonder it won a Gold Award at Fancy Food.
3. Dessert CSA—or SOS?  
What a concept!  Natasha’s Mulberry & Mott bakery in the tony Leawood area of Kansas City recently started a Dessert CSA that has turned into a huge hit. Inspired by San Francisco pastry chef William Werner’s “Tell Tale Society” dessert subscription service, pastry chef Natasha Goellner decided to create her own, playfully based on the community agriculture model.  For $35 each month, subscribers receive new flavors of her signature macarons, homemade marshmallows, and other goodies. The bakery itself looks like Marie Antoinette just left a moment ago—all baby blue, sugar rose pink, meringue white, and those fabulous clear Louis Ghost chairs.  Soon, you can order from them online.
But, back to Fancy Food. If you don’t live near such a bakery, you can still do Dessert CSA—or Dessert SOS—with goodies I tasted there. 
The Daphne Baking Company makes small to-die-for tarts that come frozen; you simply thaw and serve. I sampled the Passion Fruit and Pumpkin.  They also do Lemon, Chocolate, Chocolate Raspberry, and Macadamia Nut.

Sometimes, however, the situation calls for macarons in several flavors and colors. Through Fabrique Delices in Hayward, California, you can enjoy frozen macarons that taste darn good after thawing, in the following flavors: Chocolate, salted caramel, lemon, mango, strawberry, raspberry, pistachio, cappuccino, and vanilla. They come in sort of a clear egg carton, a dozen at a time. Ask your local retailer to get them in. The macarons are not yet up on the company's web site.


4. Mozzarella Cheesemaking Kit. 
When I was in D.C., I had a meal of simple little plates or “piatti piccolo” courses at Osteria Bibiana My favorite was simply burrata, a fresh mozzarella-and-cream cheese, with grilled zucchini, zucchini puree, and fresh mint. Heaven.
Fresh makes all the difference, and many Italian restaurants make their own mozzarella tableside, so I was intrigued by the Mozzarella Cheesemaking Kit by Roaring Brook Dairy.  You supply a gallon of full fat milk, and the kit provides the rest. Make the cheese, then grill a little zucchini, chop some mint, and you’re almost there.
5. Grenadine
When I was growing up, grownups drank whiskey sours—and later margaritas, Harvey Wallbangers, or daiquiris--not wine. Little kids got Shirley Temples or Roy Rogers versions, which are drinks made from grenadine syrup swirled into Seven-Up. Of course, pomegranates were virtually unknown in Ohio (except for one memorable year, when I found a pomegranate in the toe of my St. Nicholas stocking and ate it seed by seed). But the grenadine I remember was little more than colored sugar syrup. My, my how grenadine has changed, at least if you order yours from Sonoma Syrup Co. It actually tastes like pomegranate, as it's made with 45% pomegranate juice. Not just for cocktails, kiddie or otherwise, I could see this drizzled over fresh orange slices, then garnished with fresh pomegranate seeds. Their bottled Olive Juice for martinis is also good.  

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