Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Fancy Food Show 2009 Notes - Day Three
Each day on the floor is a cacophony of flavors, smells, colors and even sounds. There’s a sociability element to it and at certain times of the day some booths are jam packed while at other times it’s mystifying that they’re not. And as tempted as I am to grab people walking by to get them to try something that I’ve just discovered, I have to remember to focus on my own goal, which is to let you readers know what’s on the cusp of breaking out as a big new trend and what classic favorites are still out there to be experienced.
One item I tasted the first day and promptly forgot their name was Rubicon Bakery. So after searching for two days, I found them again and even got another sample for later review. They’re all-natural freeze-dried meringue kisses flavored with berries and dipped in Guittard’s dark chocolate. They’re called CocoaBerries and already have a great following with calorie-conscious folks. Low calories & oodles of antioxidants aside, I loved the Strawberry ones which aren’t at all sweet, but bursting with a fragrant & tangy crunch inside a dark chocolate shell.
On the second day my eyes glazed over part way through, just as I arrived in the California Pavilion (really just a corner where a lot of the California companies were concentrated). So I went back with an empty stomach and a renewed sense of adventure.
Coco-Luxe, which has amazingly beautiful packaging, has some new bars. I was smitten with the one called Monkeyin’ Around which is milk chocolate with banana chips & cocoa nibs. I got an array of all their cocoa nib bars (Happy Trails in Dark and Spumoni in White) for a more extensive try back at Candy Blog Studios.
After a few near misses, I finally found Brandini Toffee, which is made in Southern California and has won oodles of awards. The flavors are dark and woodsy, with strong butter and burnt sugar flavors. Then just a touch of chocolate to hold some crushed almond bits to the pieces. They package them in tins or boxes.
I also took a few minutes to check back in with companies that I’ve tried quite a few times. Plush Puffs was there, with the best kind of display, an interactive one. They had little set of burners for fresh-toasting your choice of marshmallows. (They’ve made them a bit smaller, which makes them one big bite or two small bites.) I had a vanilla bean one which smelled so wonderful as it toasted. I paired it with a fresh and wonderful Peerless Cappuccino (one of the other benefits of a mixed food show instead of a single focus one like All Candy Expo).
There were some other fun marshmallow goods at the show. I enjoyed a nice taste of Butter Baked Goods had a Matcha Tea Marshmallow. They were light and puffy, not too sweet with all the fragrant punch of green tea and none of the bitterness.
Though the combination of chocolate and coffee beans has been around for a while, I thought Javaz by How Do You Take Your Coffee brought a few new twists to the idea. They have both milk and dark chocolate covered coffee beans that are specially selected & roasted to be good tasting when eaten, using organic and fair trade beans. And then they’re also given a candy shell.
They also have a line of Java Rocks which are little coffee infused chocolate pieces that are covered in candy shells that look like little pebbles. I hope to get more info on them as they start appearing in markets.
I was so pleased though to get to spend at least a half an hour at an import company called Crossings French Food (website). They handle French confectionery products including some of my favorites such as Arnaud Soubeyran (Montelimar Nougat) and Chocolat Bonnat and never made fun of my pronunciations.
Everything is just so stunningly beautiful that I wanted hug it. (Okay, maybe I was high on sugar, caffeine & chocolate.) I don’t even know where to begin, but here are a few highlights:
Dragees Pecou is an old French company that takes their candy panning very seriously. The colors are bright and crisp, the palette fresh and appetizing and the ingredients sound fantastic. One of the appealing new developments is that they’re going to be selling them in small packages of about 4 ounces each (often you can only get them in bulk or repackaged by a third party).
I tried (pictured left to right):
Little meringue kisses dipped in milk, white and dark chocolate.
70% Dark Chocolate in heart shapes and pastel colors.
I also tried these crazy-divine Chocavenlines Hazelnut in Chocolate Candy Coated, White which were a hazelnut covered in chocolate and then a melt-in-your-mouth white coating.
To take home for review, I have some Paris Caramels made with goat’s milk. I tried some of the more traditional cow-based Fleur de Sel and they’re insanely buttery.
If you can’t tell, this one booth made the whole trip worth it. I want to repaint my house in these colors. I want to string these and wear them like pearls. I want to fill huge floor-to-ceiling glass cylinders with the dragees and just stare at them all day long. (And it all tasted good, too.)
Kraft had a nice booth that highlighted their chocolate brands: Cote D’Or, Terry’s Chocolate Orange, Milka and Toblerone.
Toblerone debuted a Fruit & Nut bar in Europe last year and it’s finally arrived on our shores now. In addition, Terry’s Chocolate Orange was explained to me. They have their standard Milk Chocolate and Dark Chocolate version. Then they add in a seasonal flavor each winter. This year it was Peppermint, the year before a White Chocolate. And next year we’ll get a Toffee Crunch Terry’s Orange. (But there’s still a larger selection in Europe.)
I try not to approach company’s with too many preconceived notions, whether I’ve had a bad experience at their booths before (after all, these trade shows are primarily for them to make sales, not explain their products to me) or just haven’t liked their products. But hey, I’m known for being capricious and carrying a grudge as much as being descriptive and exhaustive. And that tactic paid off on when I went to the Sweets company booth. They make taffy and fruit jelly sticks.
But this year they have something a bit more elegant. Dark Chocolate Wine Gels in Port, Cabernet and Champagne. The short sticks are elegantly packaged in half round “tubes” with a little cellophane sealed tray. The taste is subtle and not at all fake or like it’s trying to hard (like, frankly, salt water taffy can be). I’m looking forward to finding them in stores soon.
I’m packing up my car for the drive back to Los Angeles, it’s absurd how many samples I have. Many are old favorites that I’ve picked up for personal consumption, but I’m also planning a bit of a giveaway while it’s still cool enough to ship.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.