Worlds of New Experiences

Worlds of New Experiences

What do you know about halo-halo? If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably never heard of it, or know anything about it. Have you ever tried chocolate-covered potato chips? You’ve got to be kidding me, right? Next you’ll tell me Milli Vanilli was really a singer, or Bigfoot is real. The Culinary Culture team was lucky enough to travel to some very interesting and informative food shows recently. First, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) show in Chicago, and next the Fancy Food Show in Washington, D.C. We walk the shows to check out the newest trends, see what trends seem be dying out, and do our best to speculate about what might be next!

The National Restaurant Association show is one of the biggest and most diverse food shows in the world. Companies from all across the globe flock to Chicago to show off their latest and greatest, whether it may be a new food item, cooking utensil or product, or services they can provide to restaurants and restaurateurs. During this time, the city runs amok with foodies looking to unearth new restaurants, try their old favorites, and take up recommendations from friends. Before heading to the show, we headed over to a spot we had wanted to try since we originally talked about going to the show months before, XOCO, run by Chef Rick Bayless. Stay tuned to the next blog for our thoughts on this authentic Mexican street food themed restaurant and some great photos that will definitely make your mouth water.

As we mentioned months ago on Dish Bliss, street food and food trucks are quickly on the rise throughout the United States, and this trend was overtly on display at NRA. Companies selling food trucks were brightly displayed, and attendees were able to go in and check out the food trucks first-hand, test the equipment and see how it functions. Other companies were selling food truck franchises from globally inspired food to start-up pizza trucks. Another interesting trend taking off right now is gourmet beverages, which come in all shapes, sizes, flavors and varieties. Specialty teas, ginger ale with real minced ginger, sparkling beverages crafted by celebrity chefs made with real fruit juices and organic tea are just the tip of the iceberg. How does an ice-cold pomegranate-black currant sparkling soda on the patio on a hot summer day sound? I thought so. Other interesting beverage developments are cute individually sized bottled cocktails with equally cute names such as Strawberry Sunshine Martini and Downtown Cranberry Cosmo, and water infused with fulvic acid, which helps the body to rapidly absorb the drink’s nearly eighty minerals, and oh, the fulvic acid just happens to turn this water black. All the innovations in beverages seem to focus on gourmet flavors, convenience of delivery, or healthy benefits associated with the drinks.

Along with these interesting food and beverage creations, are similarly innovative ways to consume them. The classic Bloody Mary just got a little bit better, with a company that developed a beef straw. That’s right, a straw made out of beef jerky. Remember when you would drink soda through a licorice straw when you were a kid? Now you can drink your adult beverage through an edible beef jerky straw. If you’re not of drinking age yet, don’t fret, we’ve found milk straws for you. These neat little straws are plastic but as the milk is drawn through them, the flavor beads inside the straw slowly dissolve and turn your milk into chocolate, strawberry, vanilla, or cookies and cream flavored milk. Another novelty I happened upon was edible utensils. Small spoons with flat bottoms that sit with their convenient handle facing you come in varieties such as corn lime, Parmesan black pepper, and coconut curry.

Coconut is also used as a key ingredient in almond rice pops. These tasty snacks are gluten free, vegan and trans fat free, and flavor options include blueberry, strawberry, mango or cranberry. The chocolate-covered potato chips however, aren’t quite as healthy. These are the ultimate indulgence for lovers of the sweet and salty combination. Banana bread crackers, cranberry-orange and chocolate loaf crackers make for great healthy dipping snacks, and gourmet candy bars range from white chocolate truffle with lemon candy pieces to milk chocolate with graham cracker and marshmallows and all the way to milk chocolate truffle bars with confetti cake centers. After sampling and walking a show like this, it’s usually time to hit the gym, or the sack.

The Fancy Food show in D.C. has some interesting things to see as well. While you may see some of the same vendors as the NRA show, this show is geared more towards specialty and gourmet food products. Much like the NRA show, vendors come from all over the world to showcase their best products.

Some interesting finds include wine flavored ice cream such as Red Raspberry Chardonnay, Chocolate Cabernet and Cherry Merlot, which are certainly worth a try, as well as the Wine-a-Rita booth, a convenient product that combines margaritas with your choice of wine, with enough variety to please even the most discerning critics.

After the wine, I ran across waffles flavored with vanilla, Belgian chocolate and maple cinnamon. Next, premium ice cream in flavors such as Thai tea, red beans, ube, mango, lychee, coconut and halo halo, a Filipino fruit and bean mix made with coconut and jackfruit, among other things, from a small company specializing in quality ice creams and dessert bars.

These shows are also a showcase for other smaller companies trying to get their brand out to the masses. Take La Quercia of Norwalk, Iowa for example. They produce some great hand-made artisanal meats made with just pork, sea salt and spices, with no nitrites, nitrates, or any other substitutes. They were the first domestic producer of prosciutto in the United States and their careful attention to quality and their craft shine through in their incredible products.

Convenience, quality, local, expanding unique flavors and ethnic ingredients were very evident at the food shows as the major themes. Items such as a “coil” retail pizza made of stuffed phyllo dough offered gourmet filled pizza with an upscale presentation and at the opposite end, a great s’mores kit brought together nostalgia and comfort foods, all in a convenient one stop package.

As you can tell, these food shows are a great place for inspiration and to catch new trends early on. Every year we see many new and interesting products and flavors that spark ideas for us to take to the kitchen. We hope some of the products we described do the same for you!

                                                    

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