News From the Fancy Food Show

Winter Fancy Food Show 2019Foods of Fancy
The Fancy Food Show was held this week at the newly renovated Moscone Center. And, I can honestly say it was the most fun I’ve had at the show in a number of years. It was considerably larger with more vendors than had been there previously (which is not surprising). You can always tell how well the economy is doing by the number of vendors packing the pavilions. I can’t really say that there was one obvious overall theme to what I saw at the show, what I can say is that this was a year of innovation and exploration.

In shows past, certain categories have dominated the landscape. Last year you couldn’t take a step without running into vendors with jerky or meat sticks. It was jerky here, jerky there, jerky everywhere. Before the jerky, we navigated the very crowded category of coconut water and vitamin water craze. And don’t get me started on the chocolate years…Yes, there really is such a thing as too much chocolate. This year there was no dominant item. Variety was everywhere. If I had to sum it up in three words they would be: Innovative, multi-cultural, and female.

I chose Innovative because there were plenty of vendors who took a good product and made it better. For example, there was one company that proved that peanut butter is not just for the lunch box crowd. Their Spicy Thai Peanut butter was fantastic and would be great thinned out and used with chicken or directly into a salad dressing. Another company was not happy to simply produce great honey. Instead, they decided to combine the health benefits of honey with other ingredients like turmeric, black garlic, and calendula for great tasting honey that not only improves your health but ups your cheese plate game. Finally, there’s the beverage from Japan that looks like beer and tastes like beer but has no calories, sugars, carbs etc. It’s basically water and it’s all natural—blew my mind.

Last year the influence of Korean cooking was everywhere. This year the flavor doors to the rest of Asia have been thrown open. We tasted a fresh lemongrass paste made by a local vendor that was heaven. (Look for that on our shelves soon.)

One of the items in the “New and Exciting” section was a puffed water lily seed snack that you would swear was popcorn—but with more protein, less fat and fewer calories. Copper Cow Coffee offers coffee addicts the intense coffee flavor and sweet indulgence of organic sustainable grown Vietnamese coffee but in a portable single-serve pour-over set. And they are women-owned…

This brings me to my last word: female. There were a lot more booths promoting the products produced by women-owned businesses. Now, it may have seemed like more because those businesses were making it a point to let people know that they were owned by women. And, that’s fine by me. The fact that being a women-owned business is being presented as a positive thing is what makes it great. One such business is Muddle & Wilde which produces elegant citrus-based drink mixers that can be combined with your favorite liquor or added to sparkling water for a refreshing soda. They are fantastic!

As I sit here pouring over the stack of sales sheets and informational brochures that I collected, I feel energized and excited about what’s to come in the food industry this year. We’ll try to keep you up to date when something we loved from the show arrives. Until then, I have this recipe on my mind as I think about that lemongrass paste….

Grilled Pork Chops with Sweet Lemongrass Marinade
Adapted from Charles Phan’s Vietnamese Home Cooking
Read more…

Spicy Turkey Burgers

Spicy Turkey BurgerBird on a Bun
My family has a group chat so that we can check in during the day to discuss such important matters as When was the last time you showered?, Did you put the dishes in the dishwasher? and We’re out of cereal. My personal favorite is the afternoon ritual of What does everyone want for dinner? If I am lucky, I will get an actual text response, usually from my husband because, like the old people that we are, we text in complete sentences. My kids like to respond with emojis and more often than not, the response is the cheeseburger emoji.

I am an unapologetic burger lover and I have passed this love of meat and cheese on to my children. My husband also loves the sacred burger but, because he is a better person and more concerned about such things, he will oftentimes opt for a turkey burger to give his arteries a break. While I applaud his efforts, I have found it difficult to emulate them because I had yet to find a turkey burger that is worth it. They tend to be flavorless and dry. Sometimes I do come across a recipe that I have to try.

This recent find is what’s for dinner tonight since it is hot as Hades and there ain’t no way I am turning anything in the kitchen on when it is 95 degrees out. Plus, the kids have practice and burgers be fast and easy. Slice up a watermelon and you have a quick cool tasty hot summer dinner…

Spicy Turkey Burgers
Adapted from the Food Network
Yields 4 Burgers

I recommend first cooking up a small test burger to check that the degree of spiciness and seasoning is to taste. That way, if you are not too keen on spice, you can add the chili paste gradually.  Read more…

Zucchini Pickles

Zucchini PicklesPickle Play
The recent hot weather means that my garden is in full swing. The cucumbers have found their way into various salads. The green beans have been perfect when lightly steamed. And, we’ve been eating the super-sweet cherry tomatoes like they are candy. It’s been manageable so far but I can tell that veggie overload is coming soon.

If there is one problem with growing your own veggies it’s the possibility that you will find yourself with too much. Sure, you could give some to your neighbors and friends but sometimes even that is not enough to lessen the load. Or worse, what you have a lot of isn’t what everyone wants to eat. Homegrown tomatoes are easy to give away. (There have been times when I had to break up fights in the office when I brought my extras in. Okay…fights might be a strong word.)

Zucchini, on the other hand, can present a challenge.

I love zucchini. My family merely tolerates it unless it comes in chocolate bread form. So, when I do plant it, I always have more than we will consume.

If you find yourself up to your ears in squash, try making these Zucchini Pickles that I adapted from the Zuni Café Cookbook. It’s one of my all-time favorites and a must-have for the avid cookbook collector. These Zucchini Pickles are an interesting way to use up your squash harvest. And, they make for a nice change from the usual summertime backyard dill pickles. It’s nice to have choices…

Zucchini Pickles
Adapted from the Zuni Café Cookbook: A Compendium of Recipes and Cooking Lessons from San Francisco’s Beloved Restaurant

Yields 2 to 3 pints Read more…

Graduation Feast

Graduation FeastMy sons are graduating from eighth grade this week and the whole concept is blowing my mind. I am not prepared, nor do I feel old enough, for two kids in high school. It feels like I was just holding them on my shoulder while they drooled and then I blinked and they were 14…

With all of the chaos that is the last week of school (never mind the graduation-specific stuff), it is safe to say that I haven’t been doing much cooking. So, in honor of two of my most favorite people, I have put together a list of their favorite dishes. These are the recipes that, if I had 10 more hours in the day and I could clone myself, I would serve to celebrate their accomplishments. These are also the recipes that I usually have to double if I want to actually get to taste them myself…unless they have friends over, then I’m out of luck.

To all of you who might have kids or relatives graduating from middle school, high school or college, I offer you a hearty congratulations not only to the graduates for their hard work and dedication to get to this milestone—but to the families that worked equally as hard to get them there!

Cherry Cola Ribs
You’ve gotta try these. They’re the bomb! They are also extremely addictive.

Feast or Famine Mac ‘n Cheese
I offer you two of my top recipes for a comfort food favorite, Mac & Cheese. True, the desperate can go the blue-box, plastic cheese route. But the real deal is easy to prepare, and you can make extra for the freezer.  Read more…

Chili Corn Casserole

Chili Corn Casserole Corn Fed
Can someone tell me where the month of May went? Yesterday I blinked and now all of a sudden we are staring Memorial day in the face. The fact that Memorial Day weekend is upon us is a good thing in my opinion, if only because it is the herald of summer weather, fun, and a slower pace.

For me, and a lot of other people, Memorial Day marks the beginning of BBQ season as well as the arrival of the summer produce. I’ve noticed the peaches and nectarines have started to appear as well as the English peas and the good strawberries. What makes me happiest though is when the local corn starts coming in.

I love fresh corn on the cob and when it’s at its peak, sometimes I don’t even bother to steam it. Corn the cob can be a pain in a BBQ setting ‘cause you aren’t always able to sit and eat. And, managing it one handed can lead to either serious butter stains or corn in the dirt. So, it’s nice to do something with corn that is more paper plate friendly.

Per usual, I will be spending Memorial Day enjoying America’s pastime from the bleachers in Brentwood. But, there will still be time to throw some steaks on the grill and celebrate. So, I am crossing my fingers there will be some corn on the way to the baseball fields ‘cause there is still one more family birthday to celebrate and I’m in charge of sides.

I found this take on cheesy corn casserole in one of my magazines and I can’t wait to give it a try this weekend. The original recipe called for green onions. But, since I am a rebel, I am going to swap those out for diced green chilies. Feel free to try the onions for less of a kick.

Happy Memorial Day!

Chili Corn Casserole
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated
Yields 8 to 10 serving  Read more…