The 13 Best Bites of the 2013 Fancy Food Show (So Far)

The summer Fancy Food Show at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City is going full tilt. Booths housing 2,400 exhibitors are spread out across 354,400 square feet. It’s a monstrous amount of food to try and a lot of ground to cover, but the calories you consume are nearly balanced out by those you burn getting around. Here the best of what I’ve sampled so far.

Roasted Coconut and Kaffir Ice Cream by High Road

Tropical and Subcontinental flavors meld seamlessly in this ultra-creamy dessert. This would be phenomenal in an affogato, as would the company’s Toffee Toasted Almond.

Hawaiian Press by Grace & I

Fruits and nuts from the Aloha State are compressed together into eye-catching bricks that are almost too beautiful to eat. Almost. Cut a wedge off to reveal the artfully composed layers, then dig in.

Pure Cane Sorghum by Bourbon Barrel Foods 

Super sticky with earthy, stone fruit, and caramel notes, this amber sweetener would work well in cocktails or cold pressed coffee. Or eat it straight out of the jar. No judgements.

Ghost Pepper Salsa by Mrs. Renfro’s 

What was once thought to be the hottest pepper in the world is having a moment. This fiery, flavorful salsa was an excellent example of how it can complement other elements without overwhelming them. For a guaranteed good time, put a bowl out at your next barbecue by the chips and secretly film your unsuspecting guests when they try a bite.

Sea Salt Caramel Popcorn by 479°  

Sweet + savory = awesome. Put those flavors on a perfectly popped kernel and you just can’t argue. Not that you can really argue when you’re mouth is full of popcorn.

The Chef’s Collection – Ultimate Gourmet Salt Sampler by The Spice Lab 

Spanish Saffron, Italian Black Truffle, and large flake Viking Smoked Oak are all represented in this fetching collection of gourmet salts. The set will look beautiful on your kitchen counter and taste beautiful in the meals you make with them.

Sundried Tomato Ketchup by Traina Foods

Watch out, Heinz, there’s a new kid on the block. Four pounds of Roma tomatoes go into each bottle of this thick, sweet, salty sauce. After one bite, you’ll be rethinking your French fry routine.

Bacon Schnecken by Queen City Cookies

A sticky cinnamon roll stuffed with bacon? Sounds like too much of two good things. I was skeptical, then I took a bite. Call me an instant convert. If my heart could take it, I’d eat this every day for breakfast. And for dessert after dinner.

Tomato Basil Truffle Sauce by Urbani  

Trufflize your pasta routine with this supreme sauce. Equal parts sweet, savory, rich, and herbaceous; it’s the epitome of umami.

Veggie Roaster Packets by Urban Accents 

Take the guesswork out of spicing your vegetables. Just add a little oil and a spoonful of these seasonings, roast, and enjoy.

Ghost Pepper Salt by Sea Salt Superstore 

This super spicy salt created a memory that lingered through two cups of water. Once I put the fire out, I started thinking about the ways I wanted to cook with it. I’m thinking I’m going to rub it on a brisket before a daylong smoke session.

Rocket Fuel by Ethical Bean  

There’s an old saying that I may have just made up: the darker the bean, the sweeter the buzz. These philosophically minded Canucks do an ultra dark roast (call it Beyond Italian) that’s guaranteed to keep you fired up all day long.

Espelette Pepper Mustard by KL Keller Foodways 

Sweet, fruity, and floral on one hand, piquant and a little tangy on the other, this blue ribbon condiment was a fun find. Sure to be a perky stand-in for the customary yellow mustard I’d be squeezing on my frankfurter this July 4th weekend.

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Best Bites & Stellar Sips: Costa Rica

Getting to spend a week traveling around central Costa Rica with my dad was a rare treat. This bonding trip was a last hurrah before I become a father myself, so we tried to pack in as much as possible. In between spotting poison dart frogs during rainforest treks, fishing for guapote (rainbow trout) in a primordial lake at the center of an extinct volcano crater, and relaxing in natural hot springs, we had a chance to check out the local food scene. These are my favorite culinary moments from our adventuresome excursion.

Casem Coop

We had the best meal of the trip up in the cloud forest settlement of Monteverde. This tiny, backroom restaurant at the local artists cooperative serves well-executed comida tipica (traditional food) that’s equally fresh, flavorful, and filling. My arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) came with small salad and a glass of just-juiced guanabana (soursop), all of it simply delicious and well priced.

Passion Fruit Juice Bar & Coffee House

Stumbled across on an unassuming side street in the dusty tourist town of La Fortuna, this diminutive squeezed-to-order café came as a welcome surprise on a hot afternoon. I opted for a strawberry-mango smoothie, while Dad ordered a show stealing mango batido ­– fresh fruit blended with milk and ice – that I wanted to steal as soon as I’d tried a sip.

Tom’s Pan

Otherwise known as the German Bakery (not to be confused with the Austrian Bakery, which is just a few doors down the hill), this laidback operation in Nuevo Arenal is perfect for breakfast. Strong cappuccinos go well with a basket of the house-made rolls and hearty whole wheat toast, or maybe one of their winning cinnamon buns.

Café Monteverde

My favorite coffee in the world comes from one of the most difficult-to-reach roasters on the planet. Their rich dark roast is more than worth the three-hour drive over pothole-riddled dirt roads. A pick-me-up espresso was so outstanding that my 85-year-old father declared it was one of the best he had ever enjoyed in his entire life. And this is coming from a guy who has enjoyed dopios from the tip to the top of Italy.

Las Delicias

This unassuming gem in Nuevo Arenal offers an excellent representation of regional fare. Breakfasts were particularly memorable. I always ordered a casado – a plate full of scrambled eggs, gallo pinto (spiced rice and beans), fresh slices of avocado, a few fried plantains, fresh sour cream or a slab of fresh Costa Rican cheese, and one or two palm-sized tortillas.

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Best Bites: Hawaii, the Big Island

A recent trip to the Aloha State included a non-stop exploration of the local food scene. In this last of three posts (check out recs for Kauai and Oahu), I look back at our favorite gastro memories from Hawaii, the Big Island, which include furikake crusted ono, hot pepper cheese balls, and lilikoi mousse.

Big Island Peppers

My wife loves hot peppers and – though I don’t have her extreme tolerance – I do, too. So when we found a small stand in the Hilo farmers market selling Cheez Doodle style snack balls coated with fresh ground Hawaiian hot peppers, we couldn’t resist. The flavor morphed from artificial cheese to a smoky, yet floral, capsaicin burn that was so compelling that I had to contain myself from eating the whole bag in a single sitting.

CanoeHouse

Hawaiian master chef Alan Wong started out years ago at this beachside beauty at the Mauna Lani Bay resort before going on to build his own empire. Recently appointed chef de cuisine Allen Hess carries on the restaurant’s prodigious pedigree with an impressive new menu that highlights locally sourced proteins and produce. The furikake crusted ono with tempura fried green beans and ginger dressing was a tour de force – the plate went back practically licked clean.

Shipman House Bed and Breakfast

Every morning we stayed at this historic home-turned-inn overlooking Hilo, we were greeted with a colorful spread of fresh fruit (seen above). Much of it was grown on the property, and the platter often included guava, passion fruit, figs, several kinds of papaya, dragon’s eyes, and white pineapple. There were also thick slices of freshly baked Hawaiian sweet bread, which were the perfect AM treat after they were toasted up and slathered with local butter and homemade lilikoi butter.

Merriman’s Waimea

Chef-owner Peter Merriman is one of a core clutch of Hawaiian chefs helping define modern island cuisine. Fresh caught fish and locally raised beef star in many of the entrees, but it was the dessert course that I found the most fetching. The Hanaoka Farms lilikoi mousse has been on the menu since the restaurant opened and it’s easy to see why. Smooth, creamy, slightly tangy and not-too-sweet, it was a picture perfect finale.

Holualoa Inn

This jaw-droppingly gorgeous bed and breakfast is well situated on nearly 30 acres, where a rainbow of fruits and coffee grow in abundance. Every morning, this beautiful bounty is showcased at the meticulously crafted breakfasts courtesy of musician-turned-master-chef Brian Conaway. His apple banana pancakes topped with toasted coconut, bits of toasted macadamia nuts, coconut whipped cream and house-made lilikoi syrup were a highlight of the trip (and a reason why we can’t wait to return for a much longer stay).

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Pound a New Beat: ‘Pound’ Is the Place to Be

Pound

Pound the Hill was supposed to be the sister location of the already popular Pound coffee shop in NoMa. However, shortly after the Pennsylvania Avenue outpost opened in early March, the original store closed due to the fluctuating patronage of the clientele. “The previous location was in a federal-only office park,” says co-owner Karl Johnson, “There was zero foot traffic after 4 p.m. on weekdays and practically none on weekends.” Near Eastern Market, the newly minted cafe is now in a “heavily residential, varied neighborhood,” Johnson says, “which allows Pound to be a destination.”

The Vision: This java joint has an international sensibility. Photographs from Karl Johnson’s globetrotting adorn the brick walls that lead to a cozy library-style backroom, which features bookshelves stocked with travel guides. In addition, all of the coffee brewed here comes from Kickapoo, a boutique fair trade roaster that sources its beans from Colombia, Ethiopia, Sumatra and beyond.

Eats: The menu features two dishes that change weekly. The first is a Thai or India curry, while the second is a revolving special. This week’s offerings are a chili-spiked panang chicken curry ($9.09) and Latin-styled pork carnitas sliders served with a spicy slaw and black bean hummus ($9.09). Also, three sandwiches ($7.25) are always available, including the Poundino panini — pesto chicken, Parmesan, provolone, mozzarella and roasted red peppers — a curried chicken wrap and a portobello mushroom wrap embellished with caramelized onions, sauteed spinach, feta cheese and balsamic vinaigrette.

Finish reading the article on the Express website now.

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One More Way To Cool Down & Get Your Java Buzz On

Sidamo1My Jolt ‘n’ Bolt sidebar was supposed to include one more cold, caffeinated drink recommendation, but it got cut due to space issues. Here it is now, if you’re still looking for a way to kick-start a hot day.

Sidamo Coffee & Tea

With a rich chocolaty start and an earthy, nutty finish, the Iced Ja Mocha is worth braving the construction on H Street. This espresso-infused delight comes dusted with their special Ja Mocha powder, which adds a decadent flair.

417 H St. NE; ; (202) 548-0081.

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