Although I’ve attended a number of food events in the past three years, there are a few products in which I’m always buying different brands, in an attempt to find something quality. No, I’m not going for the extra obscure; rather, items such as olive oil, salsa, pickles,
and kolo are among the most in-demand. Throughout those shows, I spoke with few purveyors of those and other foods who were glad to offer me a sample in exchange for a brief write-up. (You can also purchase all of the below brands on their websites linked in the descriptions.)
Proudly Made in New York, Brooklyn Whatever is an affable mother and son team that specializes in Shmolives, Shnuts and Shpickles. What’s a shpickle? Brooklyn slang for a non-native? Nope. It’s a pickle that’s not a cucumber. In this case, I was most tempted by the less commonly found (in these parts) pickled kale, Brussels sprouts and okra. Not cloyingly salty, either, for I’ve eliminated a few brands already due to their excessive NaCl. Good stuff, indeed; and if they add daikon to the roster, then we’ll really be in business.
Zia Green Chile Company was founded by a New Mexico-native, although the company is based in NYC. The Zia are a tribe indigenous to northwestern New Mexico, and the Zia sun – the symbol on both New Mexico’s flag and these jars of chilies – is a synecdoche for the state.
The chilies come from the town of Hatch, and I’ve enjoyed their spicy, very slightly sweet flavor ever since I’ve known about their existence…which contrary to what you might be currently thinking, is longer than one day. Hatch chilies and salsas will forever have a place in my pantry. If you’re in New York, check out Smorgasburg for a Zia booth.
Although I didn’t meet the Finnish folks behind the Scarsdale, NY-based Four Sigmatic at a food event, I’m quite taken to the non-psychedelic variety of mushrooms. They come in myriad flavors and species, but the common denominator that appeals to me is the earthy undertone; it’s the same appeal of a Japanese bottle of tea. Just pour water into soil, slip a straw in, and…okay, that’s getting carried away. I really dug the mushroom hot cocoa, too. Kiitos! (thanks, in Finnish)
Four Sigmatic attributes specific benefits to drinking each packet; for instance, the cordyceps mushroom elixir is best suited for those seeking an energy boost and a remedy for fatigue. I single cordyceps out because I learned of the Chinese word for it, 冬虫夏草, or “winter bug, summer grass,” while living in Shenzhen. It’s a parasitic fungi from Tibet, and in keeping with the TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) approach, cordyceps can cure EVERYTHING.
Though the founders of Jalapa Jar hail from Austin, TX, their first experiment outside of a makeshift tent across from the entrance to SXSW was Brooklyn. They have three blends as of now, and they have plans to expand to the west coast, possibly adding more varieties along the way. You may have already guessed, but all jars include jalapeños; just how many jalapeños is one thing that will help you differentiate the varieties. Try one of their salsas – and/or a breakfast taco – at Smorgasburg.