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Drinking a flower, like an Elf – ‘Blossom Water,’ inspired by nature

9 Mar

By Jackie Flaten

Summer in a bottle. That was my first impression upon sipping the tasty “Blossom Water” at the Fancy Food Show. Blossom Water is pure water infused with fruit and flower essences, lightly sweetened with agave and all natural.

The Massachusetts-based company, started in 2013, offers four flavors, aromatic and unique with the ephemeral tastes of summer: Grapefruit Lilac, Lemon Rose, Plum Jasmine and Pomegranate Geranium. 45 calories per bottle and 11 grams of sugar (16 oz. serving); non GMO, no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives; gluten- sodium- and caffeine-free.

bloswatI tried the Grapefruit Lilac, wondering how in the world these two flavors could be woven together but it worked – you first experience the refreshing tartness of grapefruit, softened by a delicate lilac finish.

I also sampled the Plum Jasmine with the same curiosity; the makers know what they are doing. The fruity initial note was balanced with the jasmine providing just a kiss of floral sweetness. These waters are sophisticated enough for any gathering.

Co-founders Steve and Trish, ardent gardeners, were inspired by the heady fragrances of their flower plantings a few years back. Could these aromas be captured into a drink? They managed to do it, quite well. The bottles are beautiful, too – Blossom Water employs a local artist to ”carefully hand paint each watercolor illustration so that it is a botanically correct representation.” Their story: http://drinkblossomwater.com/our-story/

Learn more about the company here: http://www.drinkblossomwater.com; they’re also on Twitter @blossomwater. You can purchase product online — http://www.chatsworthgoods.com/collections/beverage/products/blossom-water-sampler-pack — or look for a store near you, here: http://drinkblossomwater.com/find-a-store/ #blossomwater #drinkblossomwater #floraldrink #flowerwater

Cosmos Creations Divine Premium Corn Puffs

4 Mar

by Angela James

Each year my business partner and I show up the Winter Fancy Food Show with empty stomachs and high expectations. Long ago we learned that it was best to go lightly at the onset to avoid over-indulging and losing focus. Our goal is to seek out unique new products, flavors and trendy food concoctions. This year we were stopped in our tracks by Cosmos Creations gourmet oven-baked puffed corn.

This is not your typical popcorn snack. Cosmos Creations are a delicious, all-natural alternative that we could not stop tasting! An assortment of unique, fun flavors was available including Salted Caramel, Carmel Apple, Spicy Sriracha and, my personal favorite, Coconut Crunch.

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Baked corn is different from popcorn – there are no hulls or kernels because it’s made from corn meal that is extruded then baked, resulting in a puff. Cosmos products are made with all natural ingredients which means no preservatives, no additives, no artificial flavors, and no artificial colors.

The fantastic assortment of flavors initially drew me in, but what kept my attention was the fact that Cosmos Creations satisfy the way popcorn should yet have no hulls or kernels that lodge between your teeth and ‘stick with you’ throughout the day. An added benefit that I think should be shouted from the rooftops is that it’s gentle enough to enjoy for anyone with braces, retainers, and other appliances – Oh how I wish I had discovered Cosmos Creations when my kids were in braces! Cosmos melts in your mouth and are hand-made from natural ingredients, all of which I could pronounce.  It is a gluten free snack made from non-GMO corn with zero trans fats.

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Cosmos Creations gets it drive and inspiration by holding steadfast to their founding purpose for creating a healthful delight for the masses to share. Managed by the Strasheim and Tiller families under the name 4 Him Food Group, CEO John Strasheim says, “We think a great way to demonstrate our beliefs in the fruits of the Spirit, especially joy, kindness and goodness, is by providing our own version of heavenly mana right here on earth.”

Each year I collect my favorite finds and ship a “care package” to my daughter who is away at college, which included several flavors I snagged at the Cosmos Creations exhibit. She soon called me and had to know where to get more (Caramel Apple, please!) for her and her pals. Coincidentally, her school is within a few miles of Cosmos Creations new plant in Junction City, Oregon so they had no trouble finding a local Fred Meyer with a nice selection. Cosmos was a huge hit with me as well as some picky, health conscious college students. We agreed that Cosmos Creations’ pure natural ingredients combine to make an airy, natural snack alternative that proved to be deliciously addictive.

Purchase Cosmos Creations on line here. Or search for a store near you at this link.  Buy Cosmos online at Costco.comFollow Cosmos Creations on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Uniquely Southeast Asian Sweet Treats from Hey Boo!

2 Mar

by Angela James

I actually started out  at this year’s Winter Fancy Food Show with a road map and a plan. In the past I have made the mistake of tasting everything that is offered to me but this year I was determined not to slip into my typical food haze, stay strong and remain focused! I began my journey on the hunt for new, intriguing products as I sampled my way through the US State specific show floor section. Being a lover of all things coconut, I was tickled to find Hey Boo’s Award winning Coconut Jams featured in the Savor California booth. I have long enjoyed Hey Boo’s version of a coconut spread, an indulgence I was introduced to as a kid. But this year I was lucky enough to sample Hey Boo’s newest concoctions – Coconut Caramels in four unique, Southeast Asian flavors -Vietnamese Coffee, Thai Iced Tea, Ginger Rum and Sea Salt. Soft, chewy and incredibly satisfying, I found it difficult to find a favorite, so I continued chatting and sampling much longer than I should have…

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Founder Cristina Widjaja’s career focused on the high tech industry, but her passion for gourmet artisan foods eventually led her back to a treat from her Indonesian roots. All of Hey Boo’s jams and caramels are slow cooked in small batches using only high quality natural ingredients: premium coconut milk, cane sugar, and egg yolk. Organic agave syrup and cane sugar is used in the caramel sauce. Dairy and gluten free. Hey Boo Jams are available in three divine flavors: Coconut Jam, Mango Coconut Jam and Coconut Caramel (my personal go-to!)

Cristina has received high praise for her products from both the industry and consumers. She won a Silver Sofi Award from the Specialty Food Association (like an Oscar in the gourmet food world), and Jessica Seinfeld (yes, married to that Seinfeld) posted how much she loves Hey Boo to her 97,000 Instagram fans at @Heyboojams. You can also join her loyal following on Facebook at HeyBooJams. Buy some online here  or use this store locator to pick some up at a store nearby.

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Pop. Burst. Wow. Meet the Citriburst Finger Lime, Caviar Citrus

1 Mar

By Jackie Flaten

Some of the new exotic fruits are gloriously showy – Day-Glo pink with lime-green tendrils, bold gold ovals with orange spots and vicious pokey spikes, moss green buckyball-esque…

On the other hand, you might not look twice at the Finger Lime, an Australian native that’s smallish, like a short fat cucumber, dark green and innocuous. It doesn’t scream intensity. The price tag might scare you off too.

But if you happen to find a rare Finger Lime or Microcitrus australasica, I highly recommend you buy it. Underneath the mild-looking skin are translucent tiny pearls of dynamite flavor. They’re hard to find, limited seasonally and fanatically sought-after by those in the know. The taste? Like most fruit, almost impossible to describe but I’ll try: “citrusy magical textural flavor explosion.”image

After discovering “Citrus Caviar” a few years ago at the Shanley Farms’ booth within Savor California at the Fancy Food Show, I was hooked. Its high-profile flavor accents anything it accompanies to the nth degree. Samples were served with yogurt as well as on their own. The pop on one’s tongue is reminiscent of the small orange sushi roe, but the taste is citrus, green, sweet and tangy all at once. Top chefs adorn everything from fish to salads to risotto and ice cream with these delectable dots.

The pop on one’s tongue is reminiscent of the small orange sushi roe, but the taste is citrus, green, sweet and tangy all at once. Top chefs adorn everything from fish to salads to risotto and ice cream with these delectable dots.

Poised to be the next great citrus, California farmers are scaling to larger markets. Shanley Farms, out of the California Central Coast, has trademarked their Finger Limes as “Citriburst’; they also provide Morro Bay avocados, kiwis, lemons, coffee trees, raspberry figs, goji berries and more (most produce sold to wholesalers). Citriburst Finger Limes are available for purchase online fall through early winter and also through several distributors including Whole Foods Market, Hy-Vee, New Seasons and Super Valu.

Shanley Farms founder Jim Shanley started farming in his retirement years, after a commodities career. His goal is to leave a real legacy for his family and generations to come. Starting with an avocado ranch, Jim was soon smitten with the first-to-U.S.-market possibilities of the Finger Lime micro citrus. The first trees were planted ten years ago, and begin fruiting in 2011.

Learn more about their products, and great story here: http://shanleyfarms.com/our-story/ Main website is here: http://www.shanleyfarms.com, and you can find them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. #fingerlimes #citriburstfingerlimes #citriburst #newfruit #newcitrus #microcitrus #wffs16 #amazingflavor

 

Curiously sweet tasty flames from Little Bird

25 Feb

By Jackie Flaten

Another great find at this year’s Fancy Food Show – Little Bird Curious Confections of Long Island City, New York. This award-winning chocolate with candied jalapenos is unique, deliciously super-hot and sweet. I started with the milk chocolate-covered jalapenos.

spicOnce owner Sara Meyer (pictured) determined for sure that I had survived that experience, I was promoted to the candied jalapenos realm. Yes, my mouth was in flames — but the good kind of flames. I like it hot, and am usually disappointed by packaging that touts “hotness” as a selling point. But not Little Bird. Woo-wee! Sizzlin’!

It all started when Sara made some chocolate-covered candied orange peels as a treat for her husband. They turned out so munchably great that she was inspired to try candying all kinds of things… but the candied jalapenos proved to be the showstopper, and Little Bird was born.

Now they produce (along with the original candied jalapenos), chocolate-covered candied jalapenos (milk, dark and white) and dark chocolate bark with crushed candied jalapenos. I saw on their Instagram @LittleBirdChoc an intriguing Jalapeno Simple Syrup too.

Little Bird has won several Scovie Awards (Scovies are for the best fiery foods in the world!) for their products and packaging. Buy their products at Amazon Little Bird Chocolates as well as several stores across the U.S. Retailers can purchase in bulk on their site also. Little Bird Chocolates on Facebook

Chocolate-Covered Salted Crickets and Spicy Superworms, Oh My!

25 Feb

By Jackie Flaten

We had a great time exploring the businesses under incubation by the non-profit La Cocina at this year’s Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco.

donbugiSuzanne (pictured) gave us an enthusiastic rundown of Don Bugito, a Pre-Hispanic Snackeria. Don Bugito has two new exciting products — Chocolate-Covered Salted Crickets and Spicy Superworms.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to chomp a grasshopper or the like, but I would have and definitely will when the next opportunity arises. You can get these tasty healthy treats at the La Cocina kiosk at the San Francisco Ferry Building; also check out: Don Bugito.

Learn more about the fine work La Cocina SF is doing to help fledgling food entrepreneurs, here: La Cocina SF.

The fascinating premise and mission of Don Bugito (from their website):

“Don Bugito, based in San Francisco and born at La Cocina, is a food company that offers tasty edible insects prepared as gourmet foods and treats. Monica Martinez was inspired by pre-hispanic and contemporary Mexican cuisine, specifically by the ‘bugs’ she snacked on as a child. This cuisine has been consumed by people in Mexico and within cultures throughout the world for thousands of years. Don Bugito is thrilled to be able to share new versions of these classic foods with an American audience as well as support a healthier world by providing a sustainable, ecological food.”

Elegant Brie wins Sofi Gold!!

1 Aug

Congratulations to Elegant Brie who has just won its first gold Sofi Award for their decadent Mushroom, Garlic, and Scallion baked brie! Media Owls first discovered Elegant Brie last year at Los Gatos Farmer’s Market one lazy Sunday morning.  I was in search of a special treat to bring to a housewarming open house. I, of course, had waited until the last minute to put together something special for a good friend’s party and needed it to appear that I had actually planned ahead and put lots of thought into it! Elegant Brie to the rescue.

I brought home a beautiful brie en croute (the brie’s rind is removed) loaded with sautéed mushrooms, garlic and scallions. I should have taken a picture when I placed it on the guest table. By the time I thought to get my camera, the guests had torn into it like hungry savages.  I should get some credit for saving my friends the embarrassment of photographing them scraping for the last, tasty remnants.

The creamy brie and delicious filling are wrapped in a flaky puffed pastry decorated with an elegant leaf design. It was not until it was all gone and I was asked repeatedly how it was made that I finally fessed up and said I hadn’t actually whipped it up myself and directed my pals to Elegant Brie’s website and the local grocer’s frozen section so they could get their own impressive brie en croute ready to bake at home. Here is a shot of Leslie (The Big Cheese) and Linda (Chief Cheese Officer) and what looks to be a trusted assistant, of Elegant Brie at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. They received the coveted Gold Sofi Award of excellence in the Frozen Savory Category at a red-carpet ceremony at the Summer Fancy Food Show in NYC. We wish you all continued success!!  http://www.elegantbrie.com #elegantbrie #brie #fancyfoodshow #sofiaward #sofi #FFS #mediaowls #appetizer #mushrooms #savorcalifornia

Elegant Brie booth at SF Fancy Food Show 2014. Crew includes of Leslie (The Big Cheese) and Linda (Chief Cheese Officer).

Elegant Brie booth at SF Fancy Food Show 2014. Crew includes Leslie (The Big Cheese) and Linda (Chief Cheese Officer).

Top Tastes from the Winter Fancy Food Show

1 Feb

By Angela James

Since I have attended this show in the past, I was able to learn from my previous mistakes, which included: feeling obligated to try everything, struggling to see everything, and not staying focused on the products that the press would see as distinctive and newsworthy. Armed with experience, I was able to roam the floors with a vague, pleasant eye that managed to avoid the things that have been done before and zero in on what was of interest to me from a PR point of view.

When I first arrived at the show I was stopped by a nice gal who happened to be from Route 29 Carmels & Sweets who wanted to compliment me on my purse! You can see why below– twin owls! I took this as a sign that this show was sure to be a successful endeavor! I was already in great company!

 

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The following are a few of the more interesting items found at the Fancy Food Show. Some are selected according to my own delights and prejudices. I gave preference to the local, most of the products are odd or intriguing, all are treats the press would surely like to tell their audiences about.

I was so pleased to meet the folks from Bread Armor. They produce storage bags that keep Artisan bread fresh longer. They are resealable, reusable and recyclable with sizes to fit baguettes, ciabatta, french bread and more. Why these aren’t available next to the artisan breads right now, I want to know! I have a freezer full of croutons made from not-so-fresh- anymore french bread. Great idea–don’t you think??

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Honestly, I found Fortun’s Finishing Touch Sauces almost by mistake…. It was the end of the last day of the show and most vendors were simply trying to pawn off their perishables. We happened by the Fortun’s and were given full packets of their Marsala & Mushroom and the Lemon Dill Caper with White Wine sauces.

When I got home these were the first items that caught my husband’s eye…. I should tell you that my husband is quite the gourmet cook (lucky me!) and the best BBQ chef in town — seriously. He makes everything from scratch, buys all his veggies at the local farmer’s market — come on– he even raised his own steer because he wanted to make sure it was organically grass fed. Ask anyone — he’s a legend. He had planned to BBQ pork chops for dinner and I showed him the Marsala & Mushroom-  although not traditionally served with pork, he was completely impressed with the flavor and quality of the sauce. Fortun’s passed a test I never thought any packaged sauce could. I definitely want to get in touch with Kevin Fortun!! I’m a believer!!

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We have had Arette Tea Seed Oil on our radar. With subtle nutty flavor, tea-like aroma, and high smoke point, Arette Tea Seed Oil is excellent for dressings, baking, stir-frying and more. High in nutrition and 100% organic are among the many benefits of this unique Tea Seed Oil — and theirs is a story that is just waiting to be told to the world! This year we were very impressed with their new infused tea seed flavors- especially enjoyed Tea Seed Oil Infused with Sun Dried Tomatoes & Chilli Pepper.

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We worked our way over to the Savor California Section and had the pleasure of tasting the Agave Dream Ice Cream Collection. The company strives to produce sorbets and ice creams that are “guilt-free.”  Agave Dream contributes a portion of its proceeds to worthy causes like juvenile diabetes. We especially enjoyed their Pomegranate Acai Sorbet and Cinnamon Ice Cream flavors!

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Winter Fancy Food Show: Tales from the Cornucopia

18 Jan

By Jackie Flaten

Resting my tootsies as well as my alimentary system after spending Sunday meandering through the almost never-ending aisles of the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. This is the premier national food and beverage showcase sponsored by the National Association of the Specialty Food Trade Association, a twice yearly event held here and in New York City (summertime) that has more than 1,500 vendors showing off their wares.

Last year was my first experience with this cornucopia of gustatory pleasure. I swore I’d be targeted and sensible this time around. I’d exhibit some restraint in the face of kindly people relentless in their sample pushing. Decided NOT to start exploring in the cheese and chocolate section as Angela and I did last year.

Somehow, though, upon entering the Moscone South Hall, I found myself instantly in that very section, surrounded by alluring piles of cubed, sliced, crumbled and chunked bleus, fetas, cheddars, chevre and more. The owners and creators themselves are more likely than not to be the person behind the table explaining their product, which makes for a lot of fun and interesting conversations. People are passionate about their products and know their stuff. Thought this cheese tower in the shape of an elegant cake was beautiful, courtesy of Cypress Grove Chevre from Arcata, Calif., maker of rich and delicious goat cheese. Their new  Truffle Tremor is velvety and earthy :

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First stop (after cheese grazing) was Silver Moon Desserts Booth 304 in the California section, North Hall. We are so proud of our association with this San Jose-based top-of-the-line artisan ice cream & sorbet! Sheri Tate’s liqueur- and wine-infused concoctions are made with all natural ingredients, real fruit purees, Real California milk and laced with premium liqueurs like Cointreau and Prosecco. Silver Moon Dessert’s first retail line launched at last winter’s Fancy Food Show and immediately won accolades from industry and public alike.

They launched two new retail flavors at this show: Lavender Limoncello sorbet (oh my, deliciously unique and refreshing) and Real Bourbon Vanilla Bean, a lushly creamy classic aromatic with real vanilla beans and bourbon. Kudos to their outta site marketing firm, HellBent Marketing, that designs their gorgeous, evocative containers:

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More adventures:

Being a huge fan of Hint Water, particularly their Cucumber, Watermelon and Mango Grapefruit, it was of course a thrill to meet its refreshingly down-to-earth and savvy CEO Kara Goldin. She launched Hint, a naturally flavored bottled water without sweeteners or preservatives in May 2005. The company has garnered a tsunami of press coverage and happy hydrated fans since its inception.

Also in the liquid categories, I found A+ Minari to be very interesting. It’s a unusually flavored but tasty “liquified tea” which contains 26 percent extract from water parsley, sourced from South Korea and other Asian locales. Extracted under a patent-pending process andpurported to “dissolve fat cells” – HELLO! — and support liver function, the drink has “no pigment, artificial flavoring or preservatives, tranquilizer (!), and carbonic acid.” A+ Minari is the only company to have this product, created at Yeungnam University, on the market. Unfortunately I could not find a website on their collateral or online, but I did learn that Minari means Korean watercress, Korean parsley, Korean dropwort, water dropwort and has many other names. Distributed by Sae Earl Bio Food Corp.

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I didn’t discover what is now a diet staple, sushi, until well into my fourth decade. But I had always liked cavier, herring, fish and shellfish. Cavier, of course, was never a diet staple but I’d had enough to know I like it. So it was rewarding to try Canadian product Aqua Gourmet’s Vegeterian Cavier, NO cholesterol, NO calories and YES tasty! It’s made mostly from kelp and it maintains what I think is a big attribute of real fish eggs, the delightful in-mouth “popping”:

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And, for all you Baby Boomers who remember eating Flicks at the movies, the chocolate buttons that came in an easy to open and dump in your mouth tube, good news! Flicks are BACK! From their site:

Flicks Candy” is a chocolate flavored treat that has been around for over 100 years. It was originally developed by the Ghirardelli family in the late 1890’s, but wasn’t called “Flicks” until 1904. It was produced in San Francisco, and then later in San Leandro up until 1989. By that time, the machinery that produced Flicks had been continually operating for nearly 100 years, it had been damaged in its move to San Leandro, and replacement parts were no longer available, as the equipment’s manufacturer had been out of business since World War II. For these reasons, production of Flicks ceased in 1989.”

Until Jim Tjerrild changed all that. His family  acquired the Flicks trademark in 2004, and in 2005, acquired the original decommissioned production equipment that produced Flicks for nearly 100 years. After painstaking reassembly, Flicks are now being created again, this time in Fresno, California.

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Then there was the GarLic it! Company. Delicious marinated garlic, sliced and ready to go, coming in flavors like Spicy Chipotle, Sichuan Pepper, Thai Peanut, Tomato Curry and Savory Basil. I can see these becoming a diet staple. Very fresh and tasty.

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Many, many more wonderful finds: Kari’s Malva Pudding, Terra Sonoma Food Company‘s Saba & VerJus, Bacon Popcorn… Another dispatch to come from tomorrow’s explorations!

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-jdf

Walking amongst the Foodies – tales from the SF Professional Food Society

31 Aug

By Jackie Flaten

Aaah, sampling delectable food… My first encounters with the delights of sampling was when the folks took us to cavernous Sam’s Club when we were kids. Even if it was not clearly identifiable or even tasty, if attached to a toothpick, it was free and had to be eaten. My tastes have matured and I’ve still not willingly turned down a free sample of any new or interesting food.

So imagine the thrill of attending the San Francisco Professional Food Society’s annual BBQ last week. The SFPFS is one of the country’s oldest organizations for professionals working in the food industry with nearly 400 members drawn from all sectors of the professional food world. Food journalists, chefs, artists, farmers, vintners and sommeliers, event planners, caterers, retailers, suppliers, food scientists, etc… They know their stuff — what fun to be in an setting where your passionate food professionals and artisans are all trying to impress one another!

SavorCalifornia.com, an organization that showcases the best of the Golden State’s amazing gourmet food and beverage industry, provided the food for the BBQ. Owl A and I wandered among the booths sampling with abandon. We were hard-pressed to find anything we DIDN’T like, everything was high quality and delicious.

Some highlights:

Terra Sonoma VerJus
Terra Sonoma’s Verjus is made from the vineyard’s first harvest. The artisanal Verjus,  produced in limited quantities, starts with the green thinning semi-ripe wine grapes. The delicious Verjus is an acidulant for cooking to use in place of Lemon Juice, Balsamic or Red Wine Vinegar or Rice Wine Vinegar, “used in place of vinegars in your favorite vinaigrette recipe, splashed over fresh cut seasonal fruit, used in place of water for steaming vegetables or light white fish, and used for deglazing pans to name just a few culinary uses...”
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Fentimans “Botanically Brewed Beverages”
Not a big pop drinker (yes, I said “pop” — I’m from the Midwest and on this subject refuse to fold to West Coast pressures), Fentiman’s sodas blew us away with their sophisticated and unusual flavors. They prefer to be called “Botanically Brewed Beverages” but are classified as sodas or soft drinks and are made with natural ingredients in the old-fashioned manner and lightly fermented. (Their packaging is appealing, too.)

We had the pleasure of speaking with the friendly and well-informed President of the US Division, Greg Warwick, who poured us generous samples, told us the story of Fentiman’s, and even gave us a surprisingly tasteful lesson in the sadly obscure Victorian art of “furtling”.
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Fentiman’s beverages are still made in the time-honored tradition by brewing and fermenting herbs and milled roots over seven days. (This compares to just hours’ production time for typical soft drinks.) Since its founding in 1905 with a Ginger Beer recipe, Fentiman’s has been brewing sodas in an array of unique flavors, including: Dandelion & Burdock, Curiousity Cola, Mandarin & Seville Orange Jigger. They opened a production plant in the US in 2007, have gotten some great press and accolades, and are working to expand their distribution sites. We’d love to see their product in stores across the country, they’re delicious and different.

Silver Moon Desserts
Silver Moon brilliantly paired its refreshingly light, lime and rum infused Mojito Ice with its exotic Mediterranean Pomegranate Martini, drizzled with a decadent rum-mint sauce. This dessert was the perfect ending to a perfect meal.
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Many more we’d love to talk about and will perhaps in a future posting. We got a big kick out of the caffeinated ebullience of “Travelin’ Joe” of Travelin’ Joe Espresso Catering, loved Sweet Earth’s Grilled Vegetarian Seitan, the first Seitan I can say with enthusiasm was delicious, and were happy to see others we had met at the Winter Fancy Food Show still out there and growing.
-jdf

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