Event Review: The 2017 International Restaurant and Foodservice Show of New York

Disclaimer: In exchange for a review of this event, I was offered a press pass.  Many photos attached.

The 2017 International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York, held at Manhattan‘s Javits Center from March 5-7, highlighted various food suppliers and wholesalers as well as – among many other facets of restaurant and catering life – pizza oven, furniture, hand sanitizer, broom, point-of-sale system, and stationery distributors.  The event organizers will also be holding shows in August in Los Angeles, and in September in Orlando.

I was particularly interested in attending this event for the second consecutive year, not only to see if what nuances there were, but also because it’s not merely about food vendors.  Sure, the plethora of bread and chocolate  – and various combinations therein – commonly found at these events are always appreciated, but repeatedly chowing down on that dangerous duo considerably slows down my pace.  When they had time, chatting up manufacturers of such products as 2-watt wireless transmitters (e.g., there’s a long wait at the restaurant, and the maître d’ gives you a device that buzzes when your table is ready), pesticides, booths and labels provided a different take on the foodservice industry.

“Theme” areas for this year’s show included a New Product Showcase, Taste of New York, a Culinary Demonstration Theater, a Japan Pavilion, The Pub, and a Pastry Competition.

So, photos anyone?

I’m frequently on the lookout for good hummus, and as with most products, the less ingredients there are, the better.  That’s where Hummustir also gets it right.

Their four products – Classic (the original), Mediterranean (with lime and garlic), Village (with cumin and garlic), and Blazin (with habaneros) – lack the mumbo jumbo commonly found on other hummus labels.  Yet, even though they don’t have preservatives, you can store them without refrigeration for months…though, after opening the packages inside, you should consume the hummus within seven (7) days.  The description may not sound pretty, but it’s a brand worth getting to know.

The Truffleist is a Long Island City, Queens-based truffle outfit founded just in November 2013.  Although the original product created by owner Jimmy Kunz for his family was truffle butter, their encouragement inspired him to add truffle oil, salt, mustard, and honey to the mix.  Truffles are imported from Europe, but he also works with NY state companies to source other ingredients.

Indeed, as truffles are uniformly rich in flavor, you don’t need to overdo it.  That said, I’ve rather enjoyed drowning bruschetta in the truffle oil…

Later this year, he plans to introduce a truffle sampler, with 1 ounce containers of salt, honey, and mustard.  Personally, I look forward to trying the truffle cheesesteak, which can be found in the warmer months at various NYC outdoor markets.

Starting with the Japan Pavilion, this machine swiftly forms nigiri sushi (the oblong type, with the fish on top) rice.  Pick up a clump, it almost immediately dispenses another.

They weren’t lying.  The sushi machine staff were making maki (smaller rolls) with Vegheet.  Sounds like a character from Dragonball Z.

Although last year’s Taste of New York was more rewarding – that harissa was my favorite condiment of the year – this year, there were a number of liquor, cider, and locavore-type manufacturers.

The demonstration at the time of my photo was testing if the microphone worked.  Huzzah!

I finished it all.  The forklift booth really came in handy after the show…

I left an awful lot of crumbs behind.  Fortunately, this 120-year old company came to the rescue.

For the crumbs I neglected, the appearance of fruit flies was inevitable.

Balancing one’s diet is key.  So, I threw in some mushrooms for antioxidant power.

Added a heaping portion of protein, courtesy of this newfangled shwarma shredder.

…and finished it off with more bread, in the form of pizza.  We’re in NYC, so what else am I supposed to do?  (By the way, those ovens have rotating discs that can cook a pie in one revolution.)

As a bonus, these folks gave me a free retractable roof.  From now on, this will take the place of my umbrella.

When you have a four-hour wait at a restaurant, just hope that the battery on these pagers doesn’t run out.

If you forget to pay, this might be your job: polishing glasses.

As an aside, the sushi menu on the right has a bizarre name: “umu” means “to give birth.”

Amusing times at The 2017 International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York.  If you could attend, what would you want to see?


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Japanese Onigiri Month, Part Three

Before a brief interruption in this month’s scheduled programming, I bring thee three more versions of Japanese onigiri to sample:

I’m predicting it now… the food trend for 2017: onigiri and milk.  Ya, maybe in a prison in Japan.  But hey, maybe they were packed together?

By the way, this omusubi has salmon (しゃけ/sha-kay, though it’s also pronounced さけ/sa-kay, similar to the liquor).  Even more appetizing.  It also clearly suggests how to best open the onigiri.  Pull 1 down, then the other two.  If you don’t get it right the first 100 times, you still beat my record.

Miso-pickled vegetables (やさい みそ/yasai miso).    Too healthy, but a good change from the…never mind, I want my fish.

Another twofer.  The onigiri (みそ おかか/miso okaka) contains miso-flavored katsuobushi – shredded, fermented, dried, smoked skipjack tuna (is there any tuna left?).  I’m not sure how to describe the miso-katsuobushi’s 食感 (しょくかん shokukan), or mouth feel, though perhaps it’s akin to being a belt in a washing machine.  I dare you to imagine something equally bizarre.

The bottom meal is called 胡麻和え (ごま あえ/goma ah-ey).  It’s one of my choice Japanese snacks; quite simply, it’s spinach with sesame dressing.

Any favorites yet?  Did the milk sell you?

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Japanese Onigiri Month, Part Two

For the next installment of onigiri (omusubi) month, I bring you three – nay, two and a half – more suggestions, fresh from Japan…but first, a Japanese language primer:

– 新発売 shin hatsubai = new product (new sale)
– コシヒカリ koshihikari = commonly-used variety of rice
– You may have noticed that I am writing o-nigiri and o-musubi.  That “o” (/お) is a honorific way to say various nouns.  Respect your food. Owaffle, ospaghetti alle vongole.  Got it.

japan-salmon-and-salmon-belly-wasabi-onigiriSalmon and fatty salmon with wasabi soy sauce (サーモンと鮭トロわさび/saamon to sake toro wasabi).  What tempted me the most?  Apparently, salmon on salmon action (after all, the Japanese on the left does say “musubi for love/affection”).

japan-larger-sized-salmon-roe-onigiriLarge-sized salmon roe (大粒いくら/ootsubu ikura).  OK, or just dupe us by shrinking the amount of rice, and maintaining the same quantity of salmon roe.

tokyo-japan-crab-mayonnaise-onigiriCrab with mayonnaise (蟹めしマヨ入り/kani meshi mayo hairi).  I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a type of mayonnaise-only onigiri.  East Asia goes crazy for that stuff.  Order a salad, and see what happens…

Back to this onigiri, the package expressly mentions that meat from the crab leg (棒肉 bouniku) is used.  Seriously though, watch out for the mayonnaise.

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Introducing…Onigiri (おにぎり/🍙) Month

After taking a moment to reflect back on the more than five years BuildingMyBento has been around, two things stand out–

  1. There has only ever been one themed month, and that was five years ago.
  2. Not enough deference has been given to the literal meaning of buildingmybento.  In other words, food that is commonly found in a Japanese bento.

Without further ado, I bring you onigiri month…


Photo courtesy of Gurunavi

Onigiri (おにぎり), also known as omusubi (お結び), is at a minimum a clump of rice and salt.  Although that clump is typically in the shape of a triangle or circle, it wouldn’t surprise me if someone tried forming one into a Nepalese flag.  These rice balls are popular on-the-go snacks in Japan, but they can also be found at convenience stores in Taiwan, China, and South Korea, possibly among others.

(Although the emoji for onigiri – 🍙 – represents well the carbohydrate-heavy snack, to me it either looks like a nose, or a…modest rice ball.)

Now that you’re more familiar with this Japanese staple, you might be thinking, how could there be a whole month dedicated to something so dull?  I wondered the same thing…

until realizing how many photos I had of the myriad varieties of omusubi available throughout Japan.  So, except for a couple of days, I’ll be introducing you to some ideas with which to prepare your own onigiri.

初めに (to start)…

tokyo-japan-ikura-onigiri-%e3%81%84%e3%81%8f%e3%82%89%e3%80%80%e3%81%8a%e3%81%ab%e3%81%8e%e3%82%8aIkura (いくら), or salted salmon roe.  This not only happens to be the most unintentionally artistic of my onigiri photos, but it’s also the oldest photo in the collection, taken in August 2005.

How to Open: There will often be instructions on the packaging on how to properly open the packet.  This one is easy because the whole onigiri is inside of it.  Others, you’ll have to tear at certain places by following numbers 1, 2, and 3.

For some Japanese language assistance, the writing in parentheses on the package、税込 (ぜいこみ/zeikomi), means tax is already included.

What are your favorite types of onigiri?  Have you seen them at your local convenience store/petrol station/vending machine?

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The Q-rious Quince and More

I had no idea what a quince looked like, let alone tasted like on its own, but there was one excellent memory of the yellow pomequince paste, or membrillo in Spanish:


Stewed Quince and Tea, in Tbilisi, Georgia

Yes, I can recall greedily taking sample after sample of membrillo at a local supermarket.  It was often served with manchego, a Spanish sheep’s milk cheese, and paired very well with…whichever toothpick I could find to get the most out of the stewed fruit native to the Caucasus and Iran.  It was delicious – no argument there – but I can’t help but feel somewhat disappointed in adding sugar to something fruit-based…rather, if you had to do it (such as with cranberries), add other fruit juices/honey as opposed to the unnecessary granulated stuff.

So, is a quince one of those cranberry or hachiya persimmon-types that is typically processed into a jam, stew or other playground for botulism?

As hinted at above, yes.

Fast forward to last year’s visit to Baku, Azerbaijan. My first meal in the Azeri capital was punctuated by a small haadiya (gift) from the restaurant owner- a fresh quince:


Quince with Azeri Dishes in Baku, Azerbaijan

Knowing just a tiny bit of Turkish and roughly two words of Azeri, I forced out a ben bu yemek istiyorum, which I took to mean “I want to eat this.”  Stupid me, I should have just used hand gestures.  Either way, the managers motioned that it was ok to eat raw, though in retrospect, probably uttered the opposite.  It was very tough, tart, and didn’t take long for me to stop eating that way (hmm, perhaps I could poach the next quince in a hotel room tea kettle?).

In other words, if you’d like to experiment and cook with quince, check out this site for a few suggestions.  Meanwhile, I’ll have to scour the esoteric co-ops and produce stores of Manhattan for another try.

n.b. The second photo also contains a souvenir from my Azerbaijan Airlines flight between New York and Baku.  I asked flight attendants to jot down some local Azeri dishes; ironically, the air sickness bag was the most convenient way to do it.  Still, I prefer the halcyon pen and paper method to notes on a phone (phone batteries die, and paper usually won’t draw unwelcome attention).

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Event Review: The 2017 New York Oyster and Beer Festival

Disclaimer: In exchange for an event review, I received an entry ticket.  All photos were taken by my associate.

On February 11th, the Tunnel/La.Venue at the Waterfront (269 11th Avenue between 27th and 28th Street) in Manhattan, New York hosted The New York Oyster and Beer Festival. Included in the ticket price, in addition to the bivalves and some liquor samples, also present were a dj (this time, spinning tunes at a reasonable volume) and another obnoxious crowd incapable of lining up.  Perhaps that’s where the alcohol came into play…perhaps not.

the-2017-new-york-oyster-and-beer-festival-1Whereas I don’t have too many photos, to sum up The 2017 Oyster & Beer Festival, it was a mess.  I noticed one ceviche booth that had either already exhausted its supply for the day by 1:30 (the show ran from 12-4), or had decided not to show up.  Lines for drinks and oysters were often conflated, there were no wet-naps, and raw oysters (e.g. as opposed to grilled ones) predominated.

That said, let’s have a look at a few photos:

the-2017-new-york-oyster-and-beer-festival-5This may have been the one oyster booth that wasn’t simply raw oysters, which would explain why I asked my colleague to take a picture of it.

the-2017-new-york-oyster-and-beer-festival-7Clam chowder?  Where are the oysters???

the-2017-new-york-oyster-and-beer-festival-2The best thing in the place (the sign, not the beer)

the-2017-new-york-oyster-and-beer-festival-4OK, some of the oysters were good.  What I did miss was a sign signifying the type of oyster and its point of origin.

Ah, if only I had some chilies with which to eat them…

the-2017-new-york-oyster-and-beer-festival-3Sounds better than it was…

the-2017-new-york-oyster-and-beer-festival-6The potatoes were nice, but the bbq and goat cheese version had more shell and flotsam in them than actual oyster.  Garlic butter oysters though, those were nice.

Had there been more of a variety in the preparation of oysters, and perhaps another food (oyster crackers) to help cleanse the palate, that would’ve been a step up.  Maybe next time I’ll just get to the oyster and beer festival as soon as the event starts, to have a basis for comparison.

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A Day in the Life of a Fast Food Patron in Saudi Arabia

You might think I was too full to remotely consider eating lunch or dinner after that buffet experience in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.  You might be right…but still, local food was on my mind, so how else would I try some of it?  By wandering, of course.

and when I say local food, it’s only a half-truth…

riyadh-saudi-arabia-herfy-fast-food-restaurant-2Enter Herfy, the largest fast food chain in Saudi Arabia, which also comes with a woefully outdated homepage.  It was founded in 1981, and has branches throughout the Middle East.  On the surface, it looks like a welcoming place for famished omnivores.

riyadh-saudi-arabia-herfy-fast-food-restaurant-3Oh, no!  I happened to be walking by this old town location while it was closed for prayersC’est la vie Saoudite.  You see, save for government and bank roles, typical working hours are from 7:30/8am-noon, then closed for prayers, then operating again from around 3:30/4 until 7 or 8pm.  Some tourist sites may have extended hours, but get used to seeing the “closed for prayers” sign, and bring snacks.

Think about it this way- the hottest times of the day (say, near Mecca) are usually between noon and 3:30-4, so the government is keeping your well-being in mind! /cough

If you’re already eating while a restaurant is closing (i.e. pulling down the curtains; locking the door; turning off lights), staff won’t kick you out; instead, you’ll either feel special or claustrophobic.

riyadh-saudi-arabia-herfy-fast-food-restaurant-4Fortunately, after a few minutes of wandering around the block, the party was able to start, and Herfy opened.

At first, I didn’t find anything too noteworthy— guest workers running the show, unhealthy options populated the menu, segregated seating for women and families.  Wait…what?  Looks like we’re going back to the future:

riyadh-saudi-arabia-herfy-fast-food-restaurant-1Yep, women and families had to sit behind this curtain.  If you’re male and alone, whether or not you’re married, you’re sitting in front.  Plenty of countries are guilty of similar actions either in their past lives or currently; nonetheless, it’s still a bit of shock.

Additionally, it encourages me to eat much faster than usual…

riyadh-saudi-arabia-herfy-fast-food-restaurant-5There’s my Herfy hamburger.  I clearly asked for no mayonnaise; do you like the ironic condiments provided?  It was ok, sure, but this post is meant to serve two purposes.  One, that nearly every country has a way for you to make requesting seat belt extensions an life goal.  Two, “welcome to Saudi Arabia” (مرحبا بكم في السعودية جزيره العرب marhabaan bikum fi alsewdyt jaziruh alearab).

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