Event Review: 2017 New York Summer Fancy Food Show, Part 2

Welcome to part 2 of my review of the 2017 New York Summer Fancy Food Show (for part 1, please click here).  This time, I’ll be reviewing some of my favorites from the show.

Also, one of my buddies, Mark, helped out in determining one of the myriad food options that deserved a mention.  Mark is tech-savvy feller who just happens to dabble in the culinary arts.  Some of his personal favorite foods include plov, mantou with condensed milk, jerky, and peanut butter.

On with the show…

Canaan Fair Trade

Based in Jenin, Palestine, Canaan Fair Trade produced in my opinion, the best tasting olive oil of the Fancy Food Show this year.  Not only was their olive oil quality, but their tapenades, other spreads, and flavored oils were also tasty.  That said,  I am usually skeptical of olive oils being diluted with various flavors and essences; however, as thyme is native to Southwest Asia, I gave Canaan the benefit of the doubt.  Turns out, it was the right choice.

You might be interested to know that Palestinian Fair Trade Association, which was only established in 2004, is the world’s largest group of producers of fair-trade and organic olive oil.

Liuzzi Cheese

In 1981, Liuzzi Gourmet Food Market was founded in North Haven, Connecticut by immigrants from the Southern Adriatic region of Italy.  Today, the market specializes in imported cheeses, meats, preserves, and other delectable goods, but I’m good to go with a mere jar of olive oil-laden zucchini and a container of stracciatella cheese, which hails from the province of Foggia.

queens bucket

Though I’m accustomed to wrapping perilla, or beefsteak plant, leaves around sashimi, I’m none too familiar with perilla oil.  After tasting it on its own at the Seoul-based queens bucket booth, the first question on my mind was, can I have all of your samples?  Actually, no, it was “what’s the difference between expeller-pressed and cold-pressed?”  Duh, it’s temperature regulation.  Certain foods may not mesh well with higher temperature pressing, so cold-pressing is less likely to affect the more subtle notes in them.

The perilla oil had a nutty, buttery odor, and the flavor was much the same, almost akin to unsalted cancha.  It wasn’t as filling as olive oil, and I’d offer it a place atop my salad greens – or below roasted vegetables – any day.

What would one of my food show favorites reviews be without mention of Korean food?  We may never know.

santa barbara BAR

Every year at the Fancy Food Show, I try to find another “travel bar” to add to the backpack.  Though, it’s not always a success; these santa barbara bars might be a case-in-point.  I thought that the textures and heartiness were present in both the dark chocolate almond and mango lemon varieties, but the advertised flavors were dubious.  The mango lemon lacked lemon, and the dark chocolate almond was mono-chromatically chocolate.  Still, I’m open to their other options, because the other aspects of the bars worked.

Joray Fruit Rolls

The Shalhoub family of Brooklyn, NY first capitalized on individually-packed fruit roll-ups in 1953, and have been hand-making them since then.  Each fruit roll is roughly one ounce, among the largest in the business, and Joray offers a number of flavors, including sour cherry, plum, apricot, and fruit punch.  Although some of Joray’s products have added cane sugar, I have only tried those without added sugars.  That added-sugar free version exist is why I tip my hat to them.

Mimi’s Homemade Ajvar

Though I am currently unable to find a link for their product, Mimi’s Homemade Hot Ajvar was a gentle (though not spicy enough) and nasty-ingredient free take on the Macedonian/pan-Balkan red pepper spread.

Clarity Juice

Non-GMO and Organic, Clarity Juice also wins my seal of approval for their blends, and for adding nothing else to the fruit and vegetable juices.  Want a kick?  Craving the sweet stuff?  Neither?  Clarity Juice has you covered.

Morton & Bassett Spices

Morton & Bassett Spices is one of the few brands at the show that I’ve known about since childhood.  The founder, Morton Gothelf, was in attendance, and was very friendly and knowledgeable about his products.  He founded the company near San Francisco, California in 1986, in large part because he had trouble locating specific spices and herbs when cooking for friends.

What stood out to me in the supermarket way back in time was that Morton & Bassett containers had nothing to hide.  The products were transparent, and the quality was high.

In this case, I’m now on a peppercorn-kick, so I was offered a package of whole green peppercorns.

Mediterranean Seawater

Zumo gazpacho has become my go-to ready-to-drink gazpacho; I felt that it was well-rounded, had a balanced flavor profile in the vegetables and olive oil, and wasn’t overpoweringly salty.  That last bit might be a surprise, for the company, Mediterranean Seawater, prides itself on bring us consumers certifiable seawater in all of its mineral-heavy and pH-friendly glory.  But, don’t grab the nearest straw and run to the shore just yet– let these folks do some explaining for you.

Obrigado Coconut Water

Straight from Bahia, Brazil, I introduce to you Obrigado Coconut Water.  It’s non-GMO, naturally low in sodium, and contains no added sugar.

More importantly, Obrigado Coconut Water is committed to ecological conservation efforts and sustainable agriculture.  They have employed a system called mosaic farming, in which they aim to best match their crops with the local terroir.  Furthermore, they utilize the husks of brown coconuts for fiber erosion control, wherein fiber rolls are placed on slopes to catch falling sediment, but also let water pass.

Finally, let’s hear what Mark has to say about Ayoba-yo’s biltong and droëwors, or dried wurst.


Last week, for the first time I tried Ayoba-yo’s biltong, a South African version of beef jerky. It has been around for about 400 years and incorporates spices such as salt, vinegar, and coriander, which were abundant in the Cape Colony.

Spicy Biltong.

Very unique and substantial taste. Not overly spicy, but enough to give it a kick. Very moist despite being cut so thin.

Traditional Biltong:

Far more complex and nuanced taste. Very peppery. I prefer this to the Spicy Biltong.

Droëwors, or air-dried beef sticks:

The most striking ingredient is probably…the air. Unlike the other two varieties, the air-dried beef sticks are decidedly on the dry side. It tastes very natural and makes for a substantial snack, and unlike slim jims does not have a taxing effect on my physical comfort.

Let us know if you have tried/are planning to try any of these foods!

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Restaurant Review: andpizza, Manhattan, New York, USA

Disclaimer: In exchange for this restaurant review, I received one pizza.

A fair question would be, why would I review a pizza chain based in Washington D.C.?  Not only that, but New York, New York is the land of (good) pizza, and D.C. throws crab rangoon feta on every possible slice…until 2010, when &pizza opened their first outlet on H Street NE.

&pizza recently opened their first Manhattan outlet in NoMad, at 15 West 28th St. (between 5th Avenue and Broadway).  They have more than 20 branches to date, mostly around the DC area, but are also expanding their presence throughout other regions.

The concept however, is unlike your usual pizzeria.  &pizza takes a bit of Potbelly and a hint of Chipotle – the kind without the bad press – and melds them into a casual, relaxed conveyor belt-style pizza eatery.  Furthermore, where possible, local/non-GMO/organic/non-HFCS ingredients are used.

There’s a smattering of toppings, sauces, and “finishes” – figure, egg, shrimp, spicy chickpea, fig balsamic, and pickled red onion – not commonly found at pizza place (oh, lookey here, feta’s available too).  Surprise: most toppings don’t cost extra, but the base price of the pie is around $10, so quite a bit more (and less surface area) than a couple of NY slices.

Create your own huarache-shaped pizza (ok, it’s Mexican Spanish for sandal, but it’s also a delicious and filling street snack), or choose from a bunch of tempting pies.  That day, I went with “Farmer’s Daughter,” heh, which has spicy tomato, spinach, mozzarella, Italian sausage, egg, parmesan, and red pepper chili oil.  Upon seeing shrimp while on line, they were promptly added to my order.

As &pizza NoMad only opened last month, I’ll give the muddled prep/cashier service the benefit of the doubt. In spite of that, the flavors – the mix of textures of the egg and shrimp, along with the soothing basil and peppery sausage – made me think that I had chosen the right pie- perhaps I’ve spent too much time in Japan?  Heck, the quality combination and flavor of toppings and surprisingly pleasant crust quickly made me forget about the slow-moving line…until I discovered an egg shell resting on one of the pieces.  Whoops.

In addition to pizza, &pizza also offers a handful of different drinks, as well as a couple of  minuscule cookies produced in tandem with milk bar‘s Christina Tosi.    Though I’d sooner go to a local pizzeria for a couple of slices, when I crave random ingredients again (and trust me, it’ll be soon), &pizza will indeed be revisited.

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Event Review: 2017 New York Summer Fancy Food Show, Part 1

The Specialty Food Association’s 2017 New York Summer Fancy Food Show took place at New York‘s Javits Center from 25-27 June.  The membership-based Specialty Food Association was established in 1952 to promote and cultivate intrigue in specialty foods companies in the US.  The Fancy Food Show has been an annual event since 1954; furthermore, in the winter, San Francisco has hosted a smaller version of the convention for a number of years.

This year, in addition to the incubator alley, which spotlights start-up food companies in their initial stages, the sofi awards, and the What’s New, What’s Hot celebrating innovative culinary ideas, a new theme area called Level Up was introduced.  At Level Up, one could listen to various discussions on the future of food, try alternative proteins, snacks, and drinks, and learn about current trends in retail technology.

I went a bit overboard at the New York Summer Fancy Food Show this year. Which is to say, I always overdo it at that particular event, so…cue the crocodile tears.

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I’ll get to the brief reviews of specific products in Part 2 of the review, but for now we’ll take a look at some of the unusual notes and unexpected themes of this year:

Xocolata Jolonch offered hot chocolate, which was easily the best drink of the show.  Best dessert though?  One of them…good for the taste buds, bad for the belt loops.

Olive oil, for men???  If department stores had a whole floor devoted to olive oil, I’d be fine with that.

Olive oil “caviar.”  Pointless, but most welcome.

Noticed more waffles than usual.  Also noticed lots of maple syrup.  I like where this is going.

Olives.  This display would be on the second floor of my aforementioned department store.

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Hailing from Romania, and imported by Michigan-based Max’s Imports, Livada plum butter not only tastes excellent, but can also boast that its sole ingredient is…the humble plum.  By now, I’ve become accustomed to Max’s Imports expertise in sourcing quality Eastern European products; Livada is no different.

At the China section this year, I saw approximately two non-Chinese vendors…but there was a mirror in one of the booths, so it may just have been one.  Though, I have to give credit to the Tangshan chestnut company for not adding sugar to all of their merch.

One of the more nuanced items at the Fancy Food Show was bakkwa (肉干 rou4gan1), or air-dried, salty-sweet meat.  Though it hails from Fujian province in China, I’ve come across it a lot more in Singapore and Malaysia, where it’s typically sweeter.  Although there are a number of (beef) jerky vendors at the show every year, jerky has more of an umami/smoky flavor.

Fish chicharron…but from Latvia?!  Chicharrón generally refers to fried pork rinds (skin); the name may originate in Spain, but fried pork rinds are eaten throughout the world.

Latvia decided to go nuanced, and avail of its location on the Baltic Sea to create a product which I could see (but not crave) topping new-age sushi rolls.

We’re heading into dangerous territory now.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of my 2017 New York Fancy Food Show review, in which I cover some of my favorite selections.

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Event Review: Airliners International 2017, Denver, Colorado, USA

Disclaimer: In exchange for full expo registration, I am writing this review.

Celebrating its 41st annual 3-day expo, Airliners International 2017 took place in Denver, Colorado from 14-17 June at the Crowne Plaza Denver Airport Convention Center.  In addition to this airline collectibles event – the largest of its kind in the world – there were also parties, airport tours, and contests.  But there was no mention anywhere of D.B. Cooper.

Although I only had time to attend the show, which was separated into three banquet rooms at the hotel, as someone who used to amass airline playing cards, silverware, and amenity kits as a hobby, I was curious to see how much…weirder aviation anoraks’ collections could get.  As it turned out, the answer is “not much.”

Perhaps the most amusing part of the show hit me right at the beginning…airline safety cards.  It wasn’t just the sheer volume of them, or that there were ones from airlines and aircraft hailing from the world over, but I got a kick out of the illustrations, and language used on each card.

Playing cards. I only collected souvenirs if I had flown that particular route/airline, otherwise I had no interest.  That said, a pack of New York cards might’ve been a nice (re-)gift.

I admire the blunt nature of this man’s booth.  He wasn’t selling anything.  On top of that, he had a friend compile a list of every extant airline trading card pack; that’s the binder on the right.

Badges, lapel pins (in this case, from the bygone airTran), and pins for kids.

Is it a mirror image?  Is it chiral?  No matter what we think it is, I see lots of magnets.

Luggage tags.

Airline timetables, some from before airport security theater was introduced.

You got it, boss.

Model planes.  Didn’t see any Stratolaunch, though.

Maybe I was being too picky…I should have constructed my own, and entered it into the model plane contest.

Posters.  I guess “the new Sabena way” is now known as SN Brussels.

Uniqlo had less tacky airline shirts back in 2005, but there were a handful of modest ones that I should have inspected more closely.

Braniff was a Dallas, Texas-based airline that operated from 1928-1982.  The name was also adopted by two different airlines thereafter, but the original still captures the hearts of many.  What do I mean by that?  Today, there’s a Braniff Airways Foundation which tries to preserve the memories of Paul Revere Braniff’s 1920s brainchild.

Along with being able to celebrate the Concorde’s dubious history, there was a selection of other pamphlets, magazines, and books to peruse and misuse.

Fans, mostly from carriers flying to Japan/East Asia.  This was the most surprising booth at Airliners International 2017 Denver, and I’ll leave you with that.

Other one day shows take place throughout the world, generally in the US, Canada, and Europe, so don’t fret if you were unable to attend the Denver expo.

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Guest Post: New York City’s Greatest Sporting Events

There are limitless things to see and do on a visit to New York City. There are famous skyscrapers and museums, unrivaled dining experiences, gorgeous parks, iconic shows, and the list goes on. It’s truly one of the most overwhelming cities in the world in that you just can’t do it all in one trip.

Because of this, it’s best to separate travel guides into particular activities or areas of interest. In this particular post, we’re going to look at some of the city’s great sporting events. You don’t necessarily need to be a fan of any of the related sports to enjoy the ways in which these events bring out the culture and enthusiasm of the dynamic and passionate population of the city.

Postseason Baseball

Baseball is often referred to as “America’s pastime,” and though its popularity has waned in certain parts of the country, it’s still a major sport in New York City. In large part this is because of the Yankees, arguably sports’ most successful franchise. The Yankees play in the Bronx at a stadium so beautiful it doubles as a gigantic monument to the team’s brilliant history. And it’s not just about the Yankees. In fact, earlier this year polling found that there are more Mets fans than Yankees fans in the city for the first time in years. That’s made games in Queens at beautiful Citi Field every bit as buzzworthy as those at Yankee Stadium.

But it’s during the postseason that these venues are truly worth visiting. The Yankees carry the pride of a century of success, and it shows when the season boils down to its most important games. The Mets, meanwhile, are as good as they’ve been in quite some time, and the increased enthusiasm is palpable throughout the stadium. Ideally, a sports fan would visit both venues to get a true feel for one of the city’s favorite activities.

College Basketball At Madison Square Garden

Madison Square Garden might just be the most famous basketball stadium on the planet. Unfortunately, its team, the New York Knicks, has been underwhelming for the better part of the last 20 years. What’s great about a venue like this though, and really New York in general, is that it attracts attention from other teams and sports as well. In this case, MSG can become very interesting when some of the better college teams visit—as they often tend to do.

This past college basketball season proved the point rather well. Heading into the national tournament at the end of the season, Villanova and Duke were named among the favorites to compete for the title. Along the way, they were expected to meet in games scheduled at Madison Square Garden. However, both teams were upset early, which meant that weaker teams had to play at MSG. In front of passionate fans in the historic venue these teams still delivered some outstanding games, seeming to prove the theory that it’s every player’s dream to play well in this particular building.

U.S. Open Tennis

Nothing beats the excitement and good cheer of the U.S. Open, particularly for a lot of international visitors to New York City. This is the last “Grand Slam” tournament of the tennis season, and always attracts the very best men’s and women’s players from all over the world. But it’s really the venue that makes it particularly special.

Though it’s currently undergoing renovations, the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens is about the happiest, most pleasant sports facility you can find. Fans flock to the Open every year and walk among the different courts enjoying a vast array of drinks and concessions and stopping by the different matches. The crowds tend to be friendly, and there’s a pervasive sense that everyone feels fortunate to be there. Plus, the tennis is usually pretty incredible.

There are many more sporting events worth noting in New York. But if you’re interested in seeing the city’s passionate side, these are some to mark on your calendar as you consider a visit.

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Fallen Star “House” at the University of California, San Diego (USA)

In honor of tomorrow’s trip to California, today’s post is about the Fallen StarHouse” at the University of California, San Diego (USA):

Since 1981, the Stuart Collection of UCSD has amassed and placed on display throughout the campus various works of public art.  Feel free to take a walking tour of the main school grounds to err, catch them all.

In 2012, Fallen House became the eighteenth addition to the Stuart Collection, when it was donated by the Korean artist Do Ho Suh (서도호).  It was created out of Suh’s feeling of cultural displacement after uprooting to the US in 1991, and pays deference to one’s ability to recall memory of a certain space/location.

One can visit Fallen House on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12:30 until 14:00, though you’ll have find it first.  Heh, just kidding, it’s located atop Jacobs Hall of the Jacobs School of Engineering.  Although I didn’t get to inspect this monument to domestic architecture, let me know if you have been able to!

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Product Review: Kalahari Biltong

Disclaimer: In exchange for sample packets, I am writing this food review.

To best describe Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Kalahari Biltong, I’m going to borrow a line straight outta there website

Imagine the tenderness and texture of prosciutto, the lean protein of jerky, and the beef flavor of steak tartare.

Founded by three athletes inspired by a trip to South Africa – the home of clay, bunny chow, and biltong – Kalahari Biltong is the ideal snack for those who crave jerky but don’t want the Willy Wonka-esque chemicals, additives, and uncomfortable feeling after chomping down on a couple it.  Except, it’s lighter than jerky, and much less chewy.

They offer a concise online guide as to how their biltong is made, but what sticks out the most is their sugar/gluten/soy-free and paleo-friendly ingredients list– beef, vinegar, salt, black pepper, chili powder, and coriander.  That said, I do wonder what chili powder means, since they have two flavors to try, Original and Peri Peri; peri peri refers to the bird’s eye chili native to Sub-Saharan Africa.

Doesn’t this all sound too good to be true…a tasty snack of vacuum-packed air dried beef?  To me, both flavors were not too salty, light, and lacked nasty sinewy/chewy pieces.  It was easy to understand how jerky and prosciutto fit into the description.

There may not have been too much meat in each packet, but I’d definitely try Kalahari Biltong again, particularly if they were to introduce a legit spicy version.

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