2014 New York Fancy Food Show

New York Summer Fancy Food Show, 29-30 June 2014 (1)

I first went to the New York Fancy Food Show in 1999. At that time, I had never eaten so many of the foods -Japanese, Turkish, mushroom stems, undercooked animal parts – which these days, are frequent guests on my plate.  Also, I remember Italy being the dominant source of exhibitors, East Asia barely was a blip on the event space floor and some guy named Bobby Flay was whipping up mango salsa for the billionth time.  Additionally, I completely forgot to go to the convention on a hungry stomach.

Lesson learned.

Skip forward a mere fifteen years, and I’ll give you a crash course on the goings-on of the 2014 New York Fancy Food Show:

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Oh hey, we’re starting off with one of my favorites from the show- Tunisian lablabi.  It’s a chickpea stew with olive oil, stale bread, eggs, and cumin, as well as olives and pickles on the side.

Lots of countries had booths this time – ones that stood out to me included Tunisia, Italy, France, Indonesia, the R of Korea, and China (fortunately, no stinky tofu or cement-filled eggs this time) – but the US sections were by far the largest.

Speaking of China…

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This wasn’t an anomaly.  Not much traffic at this end of the event, but judging by the mainland Chinese thirst for anything not “made in China,” it shouldn’t be a surprise.  Nevertheless, I had some good conversations with a few folks, mainly from Hainan Island and sellers of local coconut-based products.

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What?  Baltimore-Washington International Airport had a booth?

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Buffalo mozzarella, care of a few Italian-Californians.  It was creamy, but lacked depth.  The subtle textures provided an agreeable mouth feel…uhh, from where’d I pull those words?  It’s food, not a study in Dadaism.

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Cool.  One of the spice vendors had this as its main display.  I asked one of the folks if that was real saffron in the lower-left corner, to which he replied “YES.”

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Indonesia had a presence, which was nice.  Though, the snacks on offer were mostly fructose and peanuts where the shells had more flavor than the legumes themselves, but this booth had mango, rambutan and soursop honeys.

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I really like these.  But they’re sold all over the place, including many duty-free shops, so nothing happened here.

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I grew up with these Italian crackers, known as taralli.  Had no idea that sweet versions existed, and still don’t.

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Maple shaved from cubes.  One lick and your child will be awake for years.  They served it alone and with bacon and bleu cheese.  Good stuff, me thinks.

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Hatch chiles from New Mexico.  One of the employees was nice enough to start my souvenir sample collection with a jar.

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You know you’re in a fancy food show bathroom when mint leaves make an appearance.  Also, c’mon guys, don’t treat this bathroom like you would those at JFK.

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You’re not supposed to take samples home.  So I took them to an apartment instead.

Special mention goes to the extremely suspicious bag of Chinese dried vegetables in the lower-left, and to the “sample” of Korean toppokki sauce in the middle.  Otherwise, the foods with labels were mostly agreeable and are almost all welcome to raid my wallet once again.

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There’s more.  Marzipan, cherries, Brazil nuts, lemon juice, pickled peppers, a guide to French cheeses, and olive oil?  This set was made for me.  JetBlue, I like the Terra products, but take a hint from here too.

 

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Have you ever attended a food convention or trade show?  If it was in New York, care to leave a detailed reply below?

My First Inaugural Flight: New York, NY to Hyannis, MA (USA)

I’ve done a good amount of flying up ’til now, but I’ve never had the opportunity to take an airline’s inaugural flight.

Some of you might be thinking, who cares?  Maybe you’re right.  You still have to drag yourself to the airport, strip for the security carnival, fight for space – both in your seat and in the overhead, and hope that the seat-back pouch isn’t filled with delicacies not found at Singaporean airports.

Then again, maybe you’re wrong.

In fact, it’s a combination of the two…

I recently hopped aboard the inaugural jetBlue round-trip between New York and Hyannis/Barnstable (in Cape Cod), Massachusetts.  Expectations did not exist for how jetBlue would celebrate this occasion, though I reckoned that at some point various dignitaries might make jejune speeches about how important “this new destination” is.

After a short nap on the subway to JFK, the home base of jetBlue, I woke up at the wrong Sutphin Blvd. station.  So, thanks to an unfriendly subway station by the name of Briarwood – Van Wyck Boulevard (you can’t make a free transfer between lines), I had to waste some time before finally getting to the noxious JFK AirTrain transfer point.

Enough of that verbiage, let’s get some pictures in the mix:

jetBlue Inaugural Flight JFK-HYA, 26JUN14 (1)

For every new jetBlue destination, a relevant painting is unveiled.  For Hyannis, you can see a couple of four-letter acronyms sailing.  Makes sense to me.

jetBlue Inaugural Flight JFK-HYA, 26JUN14 (2)

Ah, food.  Now it was worth the trip.  But wait, since this is the flight to Hyannis, how come there aren’t any plates with cranberries, potato chips or lobster rolls?  More on that later.

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The captain said that the flight would be 35 minutes, and he was…off by five minutes.  Curious about the distance?  Have a look here.

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Our fifteen minutes of fame.  In other words, if the total in-air time was 40 minutes, we spent another 15 waiting to disembark.

Also, it’s a tradition that inaugural flights get a water cannon salute right after landing.  Southern Californians must be enraged.

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As it was the first day of the flight, extra time was added to allow for festivities at Hyannis’s (HYA) airport.  I took advantage of this by running down Barnstable Rd. towards the water, to stretch my legs, snap a photo of lobster trawlers and…

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to have a lobster roll.  Normally, I’m a guaranteed clean plate.  This time, I could only finish 96% of the meal.  A good treat nonetheless, though I also wonder what an Azorean lobster roll would be like.

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Being able to walk from an airport to a downtown is refreshing, considering you’re sitting for the majority of the time you’re on a plane.  But, how about taking a crisp morning jog on the runway?

jetBlue Inaugural Flight JFK-HYA, 26JUN14 (8)

How’d those get past security?

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jetBlue handed out gift bags as well.

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Suffice to say, I won’t be needing a lot of that stuff. However, I’m a big fan of Cape Cod potato chips.  In fact, they are possibly my favorite US-brand.

My question to you is, are you curious about the presence of a light bulb?  Here’s my answer: Cape Cod is known for its lighthouses.

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Bonus: During both the flight to and from HYA, the flight attendants handed out a few prizes to passengers in randomly selected seats.  I happened to be sitting in the right place because I received frequent flier miles.  This begs the question, where to next?

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Have you ever been on an inaugural flight?  Did the loot favorably compare to what jetBlue offers?

From the Big Apple to the Great Firewall

Nope, no political statements intended in the title.  However, in case you wanted to know, the Big Apple generally refers to New York City, and Great Firewall ends with of China.  Just how are we going to now tie these two ideas together?  Let’s find out.

I’ve previously mentioned that I’m no friend of window seats.  But if the configuration of airplane seats is 2-2 – or 1 and nothing… – and if I can ever be warned enough in advance without fumbling for my camera (blurry photos?  ¡gracias, no!), then flying wouldn’t be so bad.

Well, on the unusual occasion that an airline decides to (unintentionally?) play the role of killjoy, I become snap-happyI’ve never seen a cloud before, or a sky, or an edible airline meal, or another passenger’s nape.  So, take hundreds of photos of them!  Try to play a game with your family and friends.  Whoever lasts the longest through your photos gets to delete any photo he/she sees fit.  Unless of course, you were only able to get one in:

South China Sea - Not Manhattan Island

Hurriedly snapped on a flight between Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia and Hong Kong, I immediately though of the New York island of ManhattanDo you notice the resemblance?  The New York section of “The World” in Dubai clearly lacks verisimilitude when compared to this one, don’t you think?  (Also notice how, in “The World,” there are about two or three Japans.  China and the Koreas are not amused.)

Manhattan Island Photo, Wikimapia

Source: Wikimapia

Speaking of China, if you track the average route that a flight from Kota Kinabalu to Hong Kong takes, it passes right over the Spratly and Paracel Islands.  These days, the real Manhattan seems as if its another rapidly developing mainland Chinese city – extensive public transit, but nothing else carried out with humans in mind  – so it would make sense if the carbon copy was located in one of those archipelagos…

If you know the whereabouts of this North American expat (not me, silly), please post a link below to a map showing its location.

Donkey Sandwich

Don, don, don, donkeyyyyy…oh sorry, that’s something completely off-topic.  Don Quijote is also the name of a discount shopping chain in Japan with an incredibly irritating theme song running on a loop.  If you’re an expat and you’re in the mood for mushy peas or a 24-hour store to get said mushy peas, Don Quijote might have you covered.

Back to the main course, that being a donkey meat sandwich.  Where?  You guessed it, China.

Beijing - Donkey Sandwich (1)

The bread had an air of ciabatta

If you’re keen on eating just about anything, then China is the right place to visit.  In fact, people in the food industry are often so generous that they’ll even let you sample things not on the menuSeriously?

For the benefit of the candid carnivore, here’s a Chinese language lesson:

驴/lǘ (as for the pronunciation, try rolling your tongue) = donkey
肉夹馍 ròu​jiā​mó = a northern/central northern Chinese sandwich
feeling not quite right = me, afterwards

In any event, I had heard that donkey sandwiches were a possibility in Beijing, where I was briefly living at the time.  Armed with the knowledge of those Chinese characters and a premonition of part of today’s language lesson, I walked around one of the older neighborhoods to the east of the Beijing Railway Station, expecting a good meal.  The bread, onions and bell pepers were good, but the quality of the donkey might best be compared to a sandwich consisting of the bottom of one’s shoe after a full day’s walk.  With everything that the shoe could have collected afterwards.  Yeah.

Beijing - Donkey Sandwich (2)

“I’m the best!!!”

…but it’s healthier than the other .gifs.  Yes, the male donkey (well that’s the symbol for a male, no?) is, according to this sign, higher in protein and mineral content and much lower in fat than cows, sheep and pigs.  It also has the goofiest face, so apparently that means dig in.

Would you be interested in trying donkey?  Tonight?

Don’t Drink the Water

Jakarta - Colorful Canal (1)

Part of me is thinking, what was written on those t-shirts?  But then, I’m transported back to reality, where the more pivotal question – what color is that water? – eagerly awaits acknowledgement.

Some background:  While the Dutch were in control of what was then known as Batavia in the Dutch East Indies (present-day Jakarta, Indonesia), they built a complex system of canals and channels in the low-lying city to help manage annual floods.  Although the current situation is a disastrous one, that’s a story for another time.

On my usual wanderings throughout Jakarta, I’d pass by many a canal, ditch and open got (gutter).  During the rainy season, they’d introduce themselves to me too.  Jakarta, I hardly need to know you that well.  That particular canal, in the Karet neighborhood in the southern part of the city, proved to be a serendipitous shortcut on my walk back home.

Jakarta - Colorful Canal (2)

A week later, I walked by the same canal, albeit in a slightly different part of the neighborhood, and realized then and there that, if I was to get sick…no one should be surprised.  To think you had bad plumbing issues.  Maybe the Kappa had something to do with the red tint?

Can you see why some of us are so fond of Jakarta?

Language Study: Conflicted Clothing in China

Xiamen - Yarou Store

I was ambling through one of the main shopping corridors of Xiamen, China when I ended up in front of Yarou.

Was the woman in the light blue jeans clapping before I got there?  That’s how you know A) You’re in China and 2) Since you’re in China, the International Olympic Committee should be taking notes.

However, it’s not the ambiance we’ll be focusing on so much as the store name itself.  Depending on your comprehension of Chinese and Japanese, Yarou may just be another place to buy clothes that don’t adequately fit Westerners.  But for your viewing pleasure, I will treat you to another language lesson today:

Sticking with Chinese first, Yarou could mean 鸭肉 (yāròu), or duck meat.  Is that Chinese slang for cotton?  No.  Thus, I don’t think that was the store owner’s goal.

But then there’s Japanese.  The relationship between China and Japan, amigos ’til the end, might have influenced this shop name.  The most harmless definition of yarou – やろう (pronounced as ya-rou) – refers to a type of wild yam.  Moving on… it’s also slang from the Kansai region of Japan, better known as the location of Osaka.  It means “seems like” or “I guess (so).”  We’re not making progress yet.

Then there’s 野老, which literally means “field old.”  In other words, it’s an elderly man living in a rural area.  In other words, what does that have to do with a shop selling women’s clothing?  Scratch it off the list.

For the last guess, let’s make it a good one.  First things first- why do many of us yearn to learn the bad words in a language before understanding how to utter a sentence?  If movies are one of the main sources of language study, should we then be forgiven if certain words are easier to remember simply because they are frequently repeated?  But then, are those the only movies/programs available?  No, and that’s a topic for another time.

Now, to attempt a relatively smooth transition, the last yarou may be 野郎, which could stand for guy, but more commonly denotes a bastard/s.o.b.  If someone with flared nostrils says this to you, duck for cover.

On the other hand, is it merely a clothing store?  Let’s go with yes.

Pizza

If someone asked me what I wanted on my tombstone, I probably wouldn’t respond.

Don’t worry, dear readers!  Tombstone is a brand of frozen pizza.  Who were they kidding though?  Advertising frozen pizza to someone raised near New York City?  Whether it was them, Ellio’s or DiGigorno – that’s all I can remember from watching tv commercials as a child - did they even use mozzarella cheese?  Even more confusing is that I remember eating Ellio’s on a number of occasions…let’s hope it was only when pizzerias were closed, say for Christmas or on the day honoring the fellow with an alliterative name.

It warrants mention that, even though I’m a New Yorker, I’m not here to debate which place has the superlative slice or pie  (Anyway, thus far, it’s New Haven, Connecticut…).  So Chicagoans, although I don’t like using a fork when chowing on pizza, your food contribution is still valid.  Not you, however.  Your sweetened adzuki bean entry was disgusting.

Rather, let’s peruse a few examples of what constitutes pizza around the US and a couple of wildcards (apologies in advance, as some photos were taken with the iForgotMyCamera):

Buffalo - Banana Pepper Pizza

Buffalo, New York: If you visit New York, please remember that there’s more to the state than Gotham.  For instance, we have Buffalo, where slices are served piping hot and with condiments carefully raided from the nearest Subway sandwich franchise.  Stay tuned tomorrow for a slice of ripped latex glove.

I have never thought to use banana peppers as a pizza topping, which is to say, I would have never thought that China was part of Taiwan either.

Cambridge, MA - Sweet Potato, Ricotta and Cranberry Pizza

Cambridge, Massachusetts:  Ricotta, sweet potatoes and cranberries.  I had this in May, so what was in season?  Guess I was channeling my nonexistent New England roots.  I can’t recall the take-out place’s name, but it’s in Harvard Square.

Washington, DC - Pi Pizza (Cornmeal)

Washington, D.C.: District of Pi, a St. Louis-based chain, set up shop in DC too.  Their claim to fame is that they add cornmeal to the crust.  The cornmeal provided a nice hint of sweetness, and overall the pie was tasty. If you’re looking to impress a client/woman/Jeopardy! host with your knowledge of Missourian delicacies, read up on Provel.

New Haven, Pepe's Pizza & Foxon Park Kola

New Haven, Connecticut: The star of this list.  You can’t get a slice though, unless you want to get chewed out by restaurant employees.  Bad pun, I know.

The Little Italy of this college town is centered around Wooster St., and it is there that you can find Pepe’s pizza.  I’ve gone through a bunch of their toppings – including “plain” and the summer seasonal clams and garlic – and have yet to find a blip.  The Foxon Park soda from East Haven, CT is a bonus, though some patrons might prefer a bottle of this import.

Florence, Olive Artichoke pizza

Florence, Italy: Olives and artichokes.  But it’s in Italy, so that’s a start. Rectangles seem to be a popular shape in the boot, and the first type I recall eating was in Rome, with boiled potatoes as the topping.

Haven’t been to Naples yet, but I’ll save that for when pickpockets insist on only taking my camera, instead of taking my camera and memory card.

Nyaung U-Bagan, San Kabar Restaurant,  Lime-Ginger Juice, Pizza and Grilled Vegetables

Nyaung U, Myanmar (Burma): My girlfriend-at-the-time and I became tired of getting sick from Burmese food, so we decided to get sick from Italian food for a change.  Even for the randomness of the location – and at the time, in spite of heavy sanctions – it wasn’t the worst pie.  Good lime and ginger juice accompanied it, and the tomato and zucchini salad was mightily inviting.

Hollywood - Lahmajun and Ayran

East Hollywood, Los Angeles, California: After a swell Thai dessert right down the road, I opted for lahmajun, an Armenian/Turkish “pizza” covered in minced lamb, tomato sauce and various herbs.  Ayran, a salty yoghurt drink almost guaranteed to make you gain weight, nicely pairs with the flatbread snack.

 

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Based on this brief guide to pizza around the world, what’s your fancy?