Story and Photos by Manos Angelakis
Today, specialty food is very big business. Total U.S. specialty food sales are $120.5 billion. Specialty food represents 14% of all food sales in the US.
The 2016 Summer Fancy Food Show was the largest since the show was established in 1954. More than 2,670 exhibitors filled the entire Javits Center in New York City with the latest in food and beverages from across the world.
National pavilions were plentiful, starting with Italy, the largest international exhibitor and one of the largest exporters to the US of wine, olive oil, cheese, canned tomatoes and fish and pasta and continuing with practically every other member of the United Nations. Even smaller countries that had no national pavilions were represented by US importers that bring in goods from around the globe to be sold in our marketplace.
A very large number of exhibitors featured cheeses – from numerous European and North American areas.
Extremely flavorful butters were shown from France, Finland and Ireland.
A product that was represented in high quantity was olive oil; specifically cold pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO). We saw exceptionally good product from Spain, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Morocco and Tunis. Actually it was very interesting to see that olive oil from North Africa that only a few years ago used to be of very low quality was upgraded; 80% of production is now considered to be high grade. Most tasty and with low acidity were EVOOs from single varietal olives, such as Arbequina, Arbosana, Picholine and Verdial from Andalucia, Tunisia and Morocco; the Greek Kalamata from the central Peloponnese and Koroneiki from Lasithi, Crete; and Frantoio, Leccio Maremmano and Moraioli from Italy.
Two principal varieties of Tunisian olive trees are responsible for most of the olive oil exported from this country. Chemlali, a tree that has adapted well to the arid conditions in Tunisia and is responsible for 60% of exported EVOO, and Chetoui, a green oil with fresh almond taste, is responsible for 35% of EVOO exports.
An exceptional EVOO, which should be only used in salads, was the esti Early Harvest oil produced every November from handpicked Koroneiki olives in the Mani region by Lelia Foods S.A. It is deep green in color, has the aroma of fresh crushed green olives and a spicy, slightly bitter taste. This is olive oil at its best!
Another excellent salad EVOO was from Elyxus of Morocco. Produced in the province of Beni Mellal, it was a blend of cold extracted, estate bottled oils from Picholine Marocaine, Arbosana and Arbequina. The color is golden/yellow; it is fruity, has a slightly bitter taste and pungent aroma.
From the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, there was very tasty Bottarga; pressed, salt-cured fish roe from Grey Mullet.
Bottarga – the name is of Italian origin – is usually presented as a beeswax covered double lobe of fish eggs and is used thinly sliced on bread as an appetizer or grated over pasta. In the UK and the Balkans it is also known as Avgotaraho, the Greek name for this prized product (see www.bottargagold.com)
Taiwanese Long Kow Foods exhibited a number of noodle packages that included Bean Vermicelli, Dragon King Vermicelli, Crystal Noodles, Puli Rice Noodles, Purple Potato Noodles, Red Sorgum Noodles, Sesame Noodles, and Taiwanese Ramen amongst approximately 45 different noodle products. Tony Lee, the company’s CEO was at hand to personally guide me through the tasting.
The Turkish Confectionary Promotion Group is an industry coalition that represents the Turkish sweets industry worldwide. They participate in every major food trade show. Three quintessential Turkish sweets, Lokum (Turkish Delight), Halva and Baklava were sampled at the stand together with Turkish coffee. The best known style of halva, tahini halva, has been made in Anatolia since time immemorial. One of the most delightful confections produced since the times of the Ottoman Empire is Lokum or as it is known in the English-speaking world “Turkish Delight”; the best lokum is still made and sold at Ali Muhiddin Haci Bekir in Istanbul, a legendary sweet emporium located just a few blocks from the Egyptian (Spice) Bazaar, near the Galata Bridge. I had both a lokum and a piece of halva together with a glass of sweet coffee (šok şekerli) at the stand. Exceptional!
Cinco Jotas, the gold-standard IbÚrico ham from pigs fed only acorns was showcased at Marky’s Caviar booth. It is considered the most luxurious ham, from free range, heritage pigs that graze in meadows of Andalucia in Southern Spain. The slices were silky with a flavor that was nutty and sweet and lingering on the palate for a long time.
Yoghurt producers are starting to move away from offering only fruit-flavored, dessert like products by adding savory options to the production lineup. Two big-name companies Chobani and Fage were featuring new flavors such as Chili Lime and Smoked Onion (Chobani) and Coconut Curry with Cashews and Olive Thyme with Almonds (Fage). These are in essence flavors featured in North African and Indian cuisines and are in answer to new companies that are entering the New York ethnic market with similar savory rather than sweet products. The savory product can be used as a sauce or in food preparation to marinate fish or meat dishes.
Medusa Regnioli, makes seafood, anchovy, mackerel and octopus marinated products. Located in the Italian pavilion, it was a treat for someone that likes the “boquerones” style of white anchovies.
Finally, from Antico Pastficio Toscano Morelli, Wheat Germ Pasta. The pasta we tasted had an extraordinary flavor and aroma. The typical unflavored pasta is made from durum wheat semolina, processed according to ancient craft techniques. Packaging is in 250 or 500 gram cello packages. There is also a flavored line that includes Egg, Corn, Pepper and Lemon, Basil and Garlic, Red Pepper, Truffles, Nettles, Tomato, Saffron, Cuttlefish Ink, Porcini Mushrooms, Olive Leaf with Spinach and a few others flavors that appear in different pasta styles such as Linguini, Tagliatelle, Paccheri, Spaghetti, Penne, Fusili, Straccetti, Pappardele, Tonnarelli etc.
© July 2016 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.