Story and photos by Manos Angelakis
Summer Fancy Food Show 2022
This year’s Fancy Food Show took place on June 12 to 14 and, according to my observation, was the largest iteration of the show I had ever seen!
Contrary to this Year’s Restaurant and Foodservice show that also took place at the Javits, earlier in the year, and was a shadow of its previous size; the Fancy Food Show was humongous, completely covering all levels of the exhibition space.
There were many national pavilions; most countries around the Mediterranean, South America and a number of Asian countries had national group exhibits under a common theme. There were also a lot of large independent importers, producers and other types of exhibitors that I had not seen in previous years. US producers were represented both in State pavilions and at the independent producer area.
This year there were also specific product pavilions, like the cheese pavilion, the chocolate pavilion and the confectionary pavilion that I did not see in previous iterations of the show. Usually these exhibitors would present products within the national pavilion of the area where the production facilities are located.
As I said, every continent and practically every country were there!
Unfortunately, I had only one day to devote to the show. Normally, I would do all three days, but this year I had a wine lunch scheduled for the second day and had to depart for a press trip on the third day. So I tried to jam as much into that day as I could! I was being inundated with emails from show participants to go and see their booths and I did as much as I could, but could not visit everyone.
The olive oil market must be growing exponentially in the US because I saw more producers exhibiting than at any other year. Extra virgin… extra, extra virgin… pomace oil… any kind of olive oil used in a kitchen was there. The Mediterranean countries had the most olive oil exhibitors with Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Morocco and Tunisia at the forefront.
Another product with ubiquitous presence was tomatoes. Canned, jarred, sauces, sun dried, dehydrated… every type of tomato used in cooking was represented with multiple producers. Italy, Greece, Turkey and Tunisia had the largest concentration of tomato product exhibitors. The US arm of a notable Italian producer Pomi was there with a full line of tomato packages.
With the exception of Marky’s and a few other exhibitors there was little caviar shown and the vast majority was from farmed fish, not wild caught! With the retail price of average quality wild caught Ossetra almost $800 per kilo, $150 for 3 ½ oz. tin, there are institutional buyers for restaurants and catering companies, but not that many individual buyers. Wild caught Beluga was well over $1000. Prices can get astronomically high. The Special Reserve Ossetra from Petrossian is $12,000 a kilo, or $378 for a 30 gram (1 oz) tin. Most of the caviar available in the U.S. comes from farmed fish -- the United States, China, and Israel are some of the largest producers. Farmed caviar and a variety of other fish eggs from European and American fisheries was quite available and at a good price. It tasted good with the exception of the Chinese Amur River product, that looked and tasted as if dipped in motor oil!
All the expected cheese producing areas had multiple exhibits, including ersatz cheese made from plants that, unfortunately, tasted to me like processed sawdust. Best cheeses I tasted were from France and Spain, as expected, and from Switzerland, Portugal and Austria. Special cheeses like feta, a white semi-soft brine preserved cheese, was available in most Mediterranean country stands, but the best was still Valbreso, a sheep milk cheese from France that was buttery, tangy and with a mildly salty taste. Unfortunately, the Greek and Turkish feta that I grew up with is now a mostly defatted product that tasted dry and very salty.
There were many more producers this year trying to sell vegetable-based foods masquerading for real meat, fish or dairy products; I don’t know who buys this stuff but they must have dead tastebuds, because none of these products I sampled tasted like anything I wanted in my mouth, I’m sorry to say.
Olive oils that I really liked. From Italy, Lorenzo the premium olive oils of Oleifici Barbera
Ultra premium Urbanella extra virgin Tunisian olive oil from hand-picked, early harvested olives.
Herdade do Esporão Organic, a cold extracted Portuguese extra virgin olive oil that, I think, is best when used in salads and as a finishing oil for vegetable dishes; it is a product of the Alentejo region and the producer is also famous for their wines. Minerva Horio i.e. village, a cold pressed oil from the “Koroneiki” variety of olives.
From Morocco’s Meknes-Fès region. I tasted products of the Moroccan Olive Grove Heritage Assent line Bold & Dynamic Extra virgin oil and the Bright & Fruity series. Both were exceptionally good but the bold and dynamic I think would be best used in vegetable based dishes and as a finishing oil and the bright and fruity would be best as salad oil. Also from Morocco, the Atlas line of Olive Oils with organic, extra virgin oils from Marrakesh and the Desert region (Fès).
All were fresh, extra virgin oil with a fruity and peppery flavor, the way high quality olive oil is supposed to taste.
There was Halloumi cheese from Cyprus, a rather rubbery but very tasty white cheese that is great when charcoal grilled; it is good fried as well. Traditionally, it is made from a mixture of sheep and goat milk. The importer I saw at the show was Alhambra Dairy Products and can be found in most ethnic Greek and Cypriot groceries. To my taste it is one of the better Halloumi cheeses around.
Another cheese I liked was the Valbreso feta; it is part of the Lactalis Americn Group of cheese products and can be found in ethnic markets, including, surprisingly an Indian market near me. It is creamy and tangy! The 600 gr. tin is also available at my local farmer’s market that is owned and run by an Asian couple and is geared mostly towards the South American community in the area.
There were many preserved meat products like Prosciutto and Jamón Iberico, boiled canned hams plus all kinds of sausages. A product that I always have in my refrigerator is Chorizo sausage. I use it as an appetizer and grilled, also in dishes like paella, and sausage and peppers in a tomato sauce. The best tasting sample I had was the Spanish Goikoa, a mild traditional chorizo.
Tomato products like pasta sauces, condensed paste etc., were very evident as noted above.
I liked very much the Italian Pomí line, with a series of products including pasta sauces, tomato juice, crushed tomatoes, strained tomatoes, chopped tomatoes etc., all in recyclable boxes.
Intercomm Foods from Greece showed an extensive line of glass jarred and plastic tub olives that included Green Halkidiki olives from Northern Greece, black (actually deep to very deep purple) Kalamata olives from the Southern Peloponnese, and Conservolea Olives from Central Greece. All preserved in brine.
Another very good preserved olive line was from Bled Conserves. They showed a wide variety of prepared olives including whole green olives, Andaluz-style green olives, green olives with fennel, pitted green olives with garlic, spicy green olives stuffed with pimento, Mexican-style olives, exotic pitted olives, marinated pink olives, sliced violet olives, black dry olives (they call them Greek-style but in reality they are Italian Gaeta style) etc. Very good product in an assortment of sizes.
One product I have never seen before was from South Korea, a Frozen Watermelon Juice. It was from the Jade line of fruit juice products and was very refreshing when tasted. Because I drink lots of juices, orange juice or apple or apricot juice with breakfast, sour cherry juice in a hot summer afternoon or pineapple juice and coconut juice when making piña coladas -- my usual summer cocktail -- and peach nectar for Bellini cocktails, I’m always on the lookout for new tastes.
I use lots of spices in my cooking. So, I’m always on the lookout for new brands that offer individual spices and blends that are difficult to get. I did not see any of the producers I buy from normally. But there was at the show a new to me Indian producer, Orchid Exim, that was presenting semi-cryogenic ground spices. The booth was very busy when I visited and there were very few people to talk to prospective buyers and no one seemed to be interested in talking to the press, so I don’t know whether they are geared towards retail sales or are strictly wholesale. I’ll find out and let you know in the future.
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