|(Photo by Oscar & Associates Photography)|
Known as The International Foodservice Marketplace, this is where all-things food happens each year. Over 67,000 attendees, which included over 47,000 trade buyers and distributors from all fifty states and over 100 countries packed Chicago’s McCormick Place for the industry’s largest event of its type that featured the latest in foods, food trends, food technology, culinary, and educational. The massive show, with some 638,424 square feet of dedicated exhibitor space was the largest to date event of its type that catered to the restaurant, foodservice, bar, and hospitality segments. For more information on this event, visit http://www.restaurant.org/Home
I had the pleasure of attending this mega event three of its four days, and despite investing an average of four hours per day, I barely scratched the surface. My main goal at this year’s event was to find foods and taste experiences that were healthy, convenient, and readily available, whether online or at local markets. The following exhibitors from this year’s event generously provided me with products to further test and experience in my home environment. Enjoy my experiences!
~ Prepping and Presentation ~
BakerStone Pizza Oven Box ~ If you long for the ability to make really authentic tasting pizza, the key is to have a cooking temperature that’s outrageously hot, like 750-850 degrees F. Conventional ovens aren’t designed to sustain this type of heat. Trying to use the outdoor grill to bake pizza isn’t the answer either, unless you have a specially designed pizza cooking medium that is adaptive to gas grill (or charcoal grill). BakerStone Pizza Oven Box is an ingenious way to achieve an authentically cooked pizza. This item is designed to fit on top of the grill source a fired up; the Pizza Oven Box has a temperature control dial for ease of achieving maximum heat output where gourmet pizzas can be created in under five minutes; temperature range can be regulated for standard baking or wood-fire temperature levels. This unit is also ideal for baking breads, cookies, meats, fish, poultry, and veggies. The BakerStone Pizza Oven Box offers easy portability, complete with handles. Once you make pizzas in this BakerStone Pizza Oven Box, you’ll never order takeout, or bake another one in your conventional oven. For more information, visit http://www.bakerstonebox.com/index.html
Himalayan Chef Salt Block, Salt Grinder, Seasoned Salt ~ Himalayan Pink Salt is a hot trend, but it’s history can be traced back for at least one-quarter million years; this prized gourmet salt was formed by salt deposits in India along the Himalayan mountain range, and was once referred to as “king’s salt”, because it was reserved for the nobility. Himalayan salt is also prized for having the highest number of nutritional elements of any other substance, some eighty-four different elements that a human needs each day for optimal health, and has a pure and clean taste. I recommend that you use this exceptional salt more so as a condiment, versus a straight salt add to a recipe. Products tried included the Himalayan Chef Salt Block, Salt Grinder, Seasoned Salt. I loved using the Salt Block for cooking; after tempering it in the oven, the Salt Block maintained its high level of heat to a point where you could actually cook on it; the cooking process imparted a subtle salt taste. The Salt Grinder was the perfect tabletop-seasoning accessory to have on hand for doing fresh grinds of this delicious salt. The Seasoned Salt with Lemon Pepper was the perfect hit of seasoning to my simple pan sautéed salmon, which elevated the overall flavor profile. For more information, visit http://www.himalayanchef.com
Picnic Time ~ Nothing screams summer like a picnic, and while Picnic Time offers a wide variety of products suited for this outdoor passion, I was especially drawn to its impressive array of beautifully crafted baskets that have a wide appeal for anyone and for any need. I chose their Highlander Picnic Basket to test. Made of sturdy willow with folding rattan handles, the fully Tartan Plaid cotton lined Picnic Basket comes complete with a service for four, which includes hand-blown 7 oz. wine glasses, 8” porcelain plates, SS forks, knives, and spoons, SS salt and pepper shakers, SS cheese knife, SS wine corkscrew opener, hardwood cutting board, food storage container, insulted wine duffel, and a 60”x50” Tartan Plaid blanket; the only things not included are place mats and napkins. This is a beautiful and an ideal take-with for all of your special outdoor picnicking and entertaining. For more information, visit http://www.picnictime.com
~ Palate Pleasing Tastes ~
|(Founder Bob Moore)|
Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods ~ There really is a Bob behind the brand, Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods. Bob Moore and his wife Charlee began the company over thirty years ago as a way to offer healthy, nutrient dense, and wholesome goodness of whole grain products. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, or afternoon tea, Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods has just the right product. I had the pleasure of trying a few of their whole grain goodness in the form of their popular Buttermilk Pancake Mix, Organic White Wheat Farina, Oat Bran & Date Nut Muffin Mix, and Scottish Oatmeal Scone Mix. For breakfast one day, I made Buttermilk Pancakes, for another day, I made the Wheat Farina. I also made their Date Nut Muffins one day, and another, made Oatmeal Scones. Compared to conventional and comparable products, hands down, these were the best tasting whole grain mixes I’d ever tasted. They were filling and nutty, and when I dressed them up with honey, or jams, or maple syrup, or whatever, those little embellishments merely enhanced the overall flavor and goodness of each product.
|(My Oat Bran & Date Cranberry Nut Muffin Cake)|
My Take: I customized the package directions on the Oat Bran & Date Nut Muffin Mix by using the suggestion of using molasses, instead of honey (I used Black Strap Molasses); I then added a splash of pure vanilla extract, plus some dried cranberries and walnut pieces; and to the top, I sprinkled my homemade “Sugared Baking Spice Blend”; lastly, instead of using a muffin tin, I opted for pouring the batter into a stainless steel skillet, lined with parchment paper. Since I’m not an avid baker, I was thrilled that the finished product came out as good as it did; I also sweetened some plain Greek yogurt with honey and used this as a topping side to a nice slice of my versions of Oat Bran & Date Cranberry Nut Muffin Cake; this turned out to be a nice hearty and delicious whole grain breakfast treat, or tea time treat. For more information, visit http://www.bobsredmill.com
Honey Smoked Fish Company Original Honey Baked Salmon ~ Salmon remains a hot food trend, and preferred for being a high quality source of protein, that’s also low in fat and cholesterol. It’s also nutrient dense, and contains an abundance of vitamins, like A, D, B6, and B2; other nutrients include niacin and riboflavin, calcium, iron, zinc and phosphorus. Salmon is also rich in heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, making this one of the most perfect foods to consume. I tested the Original Honey Baked Salmon variety, which is marinated for several hours in a proprietary blend of natural herbs and spices, and then slow smoked over 100% hickory wood, which insures that the meat is extremely moist and tasty, with a very subtle hint of smoke. The taste of Original Honey Baked Salmon was fresh and sweet, and the meat moist and flaky; it’s delicious! A very popular recipe using this delicious product is their “Five Super Food Salad”, which I also sampled at the show (for this and other recipes, be sure to check their website). After tasting this salad at the show, I was “hooked”; it was one of the most flavorful salads of its type I’ve eaten.
|(My Blueberry RanchYogurt Salad Dressing and Honey Smoked Salmon Garden Salad)|
My Take: I’ve recreated this recipe using my own twists and turns. Blueberry Ranch Yogurt Salad Dressing and Honey Smoked Salmon Garden Salad…to taste, I combined my homemade blueberry preserves, with bottled Ranch Dressing, and plain non-fat yogurt…I mixed everything thoroughly and placed in fridge to chill...the chilling process aided in the blending of these flavors…once chilled, I then used it to dress my salad, which will consist of a piece of Honey Smoked Salmon, which I flaked…for the salad portion, I combined Romaine lettuce, sliced baby cucumbers, chunked Roma tomatoes, toasted slivered almonds, chopped whole scallions, crumbled blue cheese, and dried cranberries…I mixed the salad ingredients thoroughly, and then topped it off with the flaked salmon…I then dressed the salad with my delicious homemade salad dressing, and mixed everything thoroughly. For more information, visit http://honeysmokedfish.com
Lavazza Gran Aroma (Medium Roast) and Santa Marta (Medium Roast) ~ I’ve always been partial to full-bodied, strong black coffee, and after taste testing these two varieties definitely didn’t disappoint. Lavazza is Italy’s leading retail brand of coffee. The Turin, Italy based company was started in 1985 by the Lavazza Family, who continues the family tradition to this day in running the company; its distribution is worldwide and is available in over ninety countries. Gran Aroma is made from 100% Arabica beans; it has a deep rich taste that is consistent throughout the entire palate; the deep coffee aroma has the subtlest hint of white flowers, and, a faint taste of citrus; these aspects make for an interesting and complex brew that is delicious. Santa Marta is also made from 100% Arabica beans. Much of the same flavor notes of the Gran Aroma were present in the Santa Marta, except I discerned an slight sweetness to the brew, which I also found more intense and deeper. Either variety will delight the coffee purest, but for those who insist on adding a sweetener and creamer, not too worry, because the original aspects of these superior roasts won’t be minimized with this type of “window dressing”. For more information, visit http://www.lavazza.us/us/
Smart Flour Foods Gluten-Free Garden Margherita Pizza ~ While I don’t have a medical condition that mandates a “gluten-free” diet, occasionally I do try these types of foods. I had the opportunity to taste test this particular Gluten-Free Garden Margherita Pizza, and I admit I was skeptical about its overall taste. This is a personal sized pizza that had just the right amount of sauce, cheese, and sweet basil flakes. My Take: After baking the pizza, and while it was cooling, I added a few extra items to the top. I added some sweet basil pesto, a roasted red pepper and eggplant spread, garlic powder, and dried oregano to "customize" the pizza as my own. A nice side garden salad made for the perfect meal. Overall, the flavor was fresh, with well-balanced flavors; I especially enjoyed the nice thin and crispy crust. For more information, visit http://www.smartflourfoods.com
Upton’s Naturals Italian Seitan, Chicken Seitan, Original Jackfruit, and Thai Curry Jackfruit ~ This company provides healthy and nutritious vegan alternatives. And although I’m not a vegan, I do from time to time do the vegan-thing for a change in dietary choices. Your system won’t miss the meat using these products, which are healthy and nutritious with a meaty texture and flavor.
|(My Italian Seitan Marinara With Cavatappi Pasta)|
My Take: The Original Jackfruit is ideal as a natural meat alternative; cooked and then seasoned with a favorite barbecue sauce, it makes for a delicious sandwich when served on a crusty roll with all of the trimmings, like sweet pickle, red onion, and coleslaw; a real yum. For dinner one evening, I used the Italian Seitan and turned it into a delicious recipe… “Italian Seitan Marinara With Cavatappi Pasta”…here’s my recipe… chiffenade of fresh sweet basil…diced yellow onion and diced clove garlic…over medium heat, brown onion and garlic in EVOO…add package of Upton’s Naturals Italian Seitan…add dried oregano and continue browning…after everything has browned, add jar of Trader Joe’s Rustico Pomodoro Pasta Sauce...mix well…add large dollop of Aldi Priano Sweet Basil Pesto and chiffenade of fresh sweet basil…mix well…reduce heat to simmer, cover, and continue simmering while pasta is cooking…add Himalayan pink salt to water and bring to rolling boil…add Cavatappi Pasta and cook until al dente…drain well…serve pasta covered with sauce. The dish turned out flavorful and had the texture of cubed beef. For more information, visit http://www.uptonsnaturals.com
~ Food Judging ~
|(Photo by Oscar & Associates Photography)|
Bellavita Italian Expo Pavilion ~ This was the first appearance of Bellavita Italian Expo at the Restaurant Show. Within the pavilion were exhibitors that represented the finest in Italian wines, cheeses, pizza, grains, pasta, coffee, and gelato. I had the pleasure of being one of the food judges for their special designated award categories. It was very exciting to approach the finalists to chat with them about their products and then to taste them and rate them. The Bellavita Italian Expo Pavilion was a tremendous success and will no doubt become a regular component of the Restaurant Show. For more information, visit http://www.bellavita.com
~ In Closing ~
|(Photo by NRA Staff, Photo Booth)|
Explore tastes and ways to prep and present…expand your culinary horizons. Be sure to visit each website, explore all of their offerings and where you can purchase each item. Be sure to also checkout their social media platform, including signing up to receive their emails, newsletters and special offers. That’s it for this edition. Until the next one, remember to always celebrate yourself and your culinary curiosity. Happy creating…happy cooking…happy eating!
By Terry Herman
TERRY HERMAN continues perfecting her passion for food and wine. She has been covering culinary related for many years as it relates to wellness and a healthy lifestyle. Her popular blog, Terry's Spa, Beauty and Wellness Go-To has featured formidable reviews of cookbooks, restaurants, wine and food, food prep and tools, chef interviews, and coverage of prestigious events such as International Home+Housewares Show, National Restaurant Show, Sweets and Snacks Expo, and Food Marketing Institute. She has served as a food judge at the Bellavita Italian Expo Excellence Awards (Chicago). She has been published since the mid-1990s in both consumer and trade publications, and is regarded as an expert in spa, beauty, wellness, travel and lifestyle, and is frequently interviewed by publications for her expert content. She has also presented at major industry conferences, and has served with distinction on numerous governing and advisory boards. She has a background in strategic and qualitative management, consulting, and motivational speaking. In addition to her blogs, her social media outreach also includes Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Don’t forget to “Like” her Facebook Page, Terry’s Second Helpings. Please note that the “Comment Section” has been disabled. For additional information, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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(Photo credits as indicated, or as represented by the specific brand.)