Can I just dork out for a minute?
I am so incredibly excited and inspired by the amazing products and ingredients popping up on the food scene lately. I went to the Fancy Food Show today, and I had such a good time that for the first time in the five years or so since I started going to the FFS, I didn’t get depressed about all the bullshit products out there (bacon salt – “because everything should taste like bacon” -; weird Korean rice cake-making machines that shoot out the tasteless carby discs with a terrifying, firecrackery sonic boom that is somehow supposed to be a selling point; energy drinks, energy candy bars, energy-dipped chocolate, energy-flavored ice cream) and didn’t wander to the fringes of the room and gaze at the teeming masses while daydreaming about Fancy Food Show performance art pieces.
The pictures in this post are from a decidedly not-Fancy Food Showish place called Mr. Apples. It’s supposed to be a pick-your-own-apple farm near me, but when I went in early spring it was full of soft storage apples, mysterious signage, and no people whatsoever. Obviously, I fell in love with Mr. Apples, and have vowed to take all visitors there from now on.
Here is a roundup of the awesomeness:
-After looking for appropriately-priced recycled paper truffle boxes for four years, I finally found some right in my own backyard – my friend Megan recently started a company, Treeo Design, making amazing recycled paper boxes, papers, and wine bags. We’re going to be working together on Lagusta’s Luscious truffle boxes soon. I wouldn’t have thought of Megan’s company for my truffle box needs until we realized we were both going to the FFS, so thank you, Fancy Food Show, for bringing us neighbors together!
(Just so I can harness the immense power of shame-blogging, I would like to state that though my friend Kevin has had good luck with them in the past, another eco-printer, Greg Barber and Co, wouldn’t return my emails about truffle boxes even though I sent them a free box of truffles to try! I’m still wounded. At least compliment the truffles, peeps. Man.)
-Megan was sharing her table with a company that makes biodegradable ribbon – how crazy is that? This is the company, but I see nothing about the ribbon on their site right now, so maybe check back about that. The flier I got from them is fascinating – real English ribbon made from cellulose from Swedish spruce trees. It’s carbon-neutral, chlorine-free bleached, dyed with natural dyes and the wastes from dyeing and spinning are converted into methane which is used for fuel to run the mill – and the ribbon is compostable! I don’t even use ribbon, but I’m so excited thinking about cool companies doing amazing things like this that I might start.
–Saratoga Peanut Butter Company had some delicious and innovative pb, and I’m always looking for more local companies to support. I doubt their peanuts are NY-grown, but who knows
–The Grenada Chocolate Company had some truly yummy and smooth chocolate, and they were sweet people who were having a conversation about veganism when I stopped by (the consensus seemed to be that it was a good thing). Organic beans (chocolate beans, that is), 100% farmer-cooperative, solar energy, vintage European chocolate molds – pretty rad.
-I’ve done a lot of research on and tasting of Askinosie chocolate, and after talking with them today I am pretty much convinced that if the food revolution could be tidily summed up into one company, that company would be Askinosie (and, of course, Lagusta’s Luscious, so two companies I guess). Of course, that wouldn’t matter if the chocolate wasn’t good, but it is great. Unfortunately it is mostly great in a theoretical sense, since it is four times (actually, just two times, I did some recalculating) more than the (already expensive) chocolate I currently use for truffles, but it will hang out in my brain and I will find a way to work it into my cooking somehow.
-The most exciting chocolate find of the day, however, was Taza stone ground organic better-than-fair-trade, bean-to-bar, biodynamic, recycled paper packaged, bike-delivered chocolate (from Chiapas!). It really blew me away, and to explain why I need to get super dorky and talk about conching.
I’d never heard of stone-ground chocolate before today, but it makes perfect sense and I am already in love with the idea. If you know anything about the history of chocolate, you probably know that the chocolate we usually eat is a fermented tropical fruit of Aztec origin that is made using beans from (mostly) Africa and South America combined with European techniques. Chocolate is a global food. As much as I love local products, there is something special about honoring this complex ingredient that comes from so many places at once.
European-style chocolate is the result of many steps – chocolate is not a heavily refined food in the sense that it is chemically treated or “modified,” but it takes a whole lot of mechanical potchking around to get it from bean to bar.
Taza skips one of the big steps, conching, and the result is something strange and lovely that doesn’t sound lovely at all – gritty chocolate.
As they put it: “We skip [conching] in order to preserve the texture of our chocolate and the natural flavors of the beans…the distinct texture of our chocolate gives it the appeal of more wholesome food. We use Mexican molinos, which are traditional stone mills, to achieve our tasty and ridiculously intense chocolate…Taza chocolate is food, not candy.”
That’s exactly it – it was so different from ordinary chocolate that I wouldn’t dream of doing anything but just eating it. The Mexican cinnamon flavor delivered a powerful and rich dose of the beautiful, complex, haunting flavor of true Mexican cinnamon (canela). The vanilla bean flavor had a shockingly heady and delicious vanilla flavor, and the plain 70% and 80% chocolates were equally odd and wonderful. Wow.
-Moving on: I have half of a post all ready to go about how annoyed I was to find Zukay live salsas and relishes in my local health food store, only to realize that they were made with dairy cultures. I saw their table today and marched up to inquire about it, and they assured me that their new lines will not be made with milk-based cultures. Good, because what a great idea they have: fermented and probiotic salsas, relishes, and ketchup! Brilliant! I can’t wait to try them.
-I had a great talk with the Growers’ Co-operative Grape Juice people – they have been making NY state-grown Concord grape juice and products in a co-op structure since 1929 and recently started fiddling around with grapeseed oil. People very much like myself (and including myself) got all excited about local grapeseed oil, and now they can barely make enough. When I need a high heat oil and olive and coconut oil is not appropriate, I use grapeseed oil. I really like my grapeseed oil brand, but it’s from Italy and California, and a lot of carbon emissions could be avoided if I could use local oil (and I can’t stand it when local butter eaters think they have some sort of karmic win over me because of their local fat, ugh…). I excitedly encouraged them to hurry up and make more oil so I could buy it, and they assured me they are working on it.
-I’m excited to research and work with some of the Red Lake Nation Foods products – especially the real Minnesota wild rice.
-And finally. Today another fruit was happily moved off my tasting wishlist: miracle fruit. It was every bit as unbelievable and strange and almost a little scary as I had heard – yes, it really does make sour foods taste sweet! Thank you, crazy miracle fruit grower people, for giving me one of your precious fruits to try, I know you were running low and I don’t exactly look like the fruit buyer for a supermarket chain or anything – you made my day with your generosity and insanely bizarre fruit. I ate two lemon slices and a lime slice that were like candy after the miracle fruit – it works!
-And finally finally: I have now been up for 20 hours with only 3.5 hours of sleep before that and a 16-hour workday behind that. I’m not sure if it’s the veganism or just a general zeal for life and excitement to generally get shit done or what, but I seem to be able to pull off days like this at least once a week, which is good since my life seems to demand that I do so. But I am going to use my lightly hallucinogenic state as an excuse to ask a question I’ve been meaning to ask forever: what’s with the oodles of real life friends who are always saying that they read this here old blog, yet no one ever comments? Comments are so nice, people! Even (especially!) when you disagree with me – let’s go, bring it on! I know – it’s dorky to comment. But it’s even dorkier to have a blog, so help make me feel a little bit cooler, yo.
Update! I forgot to mention this utterly bizarre tagline I saw on some random dessert company booth: “Stressed” backwards is “desserts,” so to reverse your stress, have some of our desserts!
Man oh man I bet they were excited when they hit on that little nugget.