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Event Review: The 2011 International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York

Smaller Selection, Surprising Taste Favorites


This year's International Restaurant & Foodservice Show was the usual, if not a bit smaller (don't think those back curtains hid the fact that there were fewer booths, management!). There was about as much different food as could last a guest about 1 ½ days, and after that, one would probably grow sick of most of the offerings. You see, after enough years in the food business, you grow to know the industry.Baldor's fruit and vegetable selection--some rare, some not, but all colorful and delicious You know who has mediocre bread, dry pastries, and ravioli that just approaches being inedible. You also know who is good after all this time, and they start to recognize you if you make too many stops at their booth. Let's be honest, right? But even Baldor surprised us this year with some wonderful samplings of unique fruits and vegetables, including the New Zealand Kiwiberry, odd green plums, mini root clusters, and more.


In fact, the bulk of the interesting new foods were presented in the Japanese food pavilion. I saw several add-ins and treats that were pretty exciting, and that's why I go to the show year after year—to discover.


The Japanese food pavilion offered much in the way of sake, salted herring, miso, and beer. More unique offerings included sprinkle-on umami in flavors such as basil and curry, and “Japanese pizza,” a concoction that couldn't have been further from pizza but nevertheless tasted good with a drizzle of brown sauce [liquid MSG]. Scoops of cabbage, carrot, tofu, and other unidentifiable pale ingredients with white sauce were grilled into hunks and served, steaming hot, filling, and deliciously salty and spicy. Pizza, no, but terrific, yes.


Stevia, who needs you? This is the sweetest leaf of them all: Dulce Leaves from Koppert Cress USAIn non-Japanese food news, Carousel Cakes delivered what many of us thought to be some of the most moist, delicious, and sweet red velvet cake we'd ever had. Their mini cupcakes, in fact, were even more moist and delicious than the cake itself—an impressive feat, given the fact that cupcakes are rarely more moist than their cake counterparts.


Deer Park Ravioli made me feel a rare, wrongful tingling: An urge to stop eating pasta. This company tried hard, and perhaps it was the tight cooking quarters, but this stuffed pasta came out grainy, salty, and extremely chewy. Was it really a one-time thing to have bad pasta? Unfortunately, I'd gamble to say that there was no way these pasta pockets could turn out well in any situation.


Fossil Farms scored big with unique meats and creative pairings, such as their Venison Sausage with Blueberries & Merlot Wine.


Dr. Smoothie had some pretty inedible flavor combinations, but I won't blame it on the actual combinations. Their product was just not good, with a sour, bitter, and chemical-laden aftertaste that left me with no desire to taste their smoothies again.


Bella Lula had not just a charming salesman who quit a lucrative career to market this unique drink, but a lightly intoxicating potion to sell as well. Their orangeade and lemonade drinks stood out from the rest with their fruit and mint hints for the sophisticated palate.


The Pride of New York aisle was a pleasure to peruse, with local artisan bakers, orchards, and yogurt companies representing. Even the Healthy Department sent over some fun young guys who chatted with scared restaurateurs while handing out pamphlets that were appropriately titled, “What to Expect When You're Inspected.” Nice, guys. US Pastry Chef of the Year Marcio Cossio's creation. The detail, down to even the vein coloring in the wings, was incredible.


The US Pastry Competition featured a dazzling display of Cirque du Soleil-themed edible creations, and first prize fittingly went to my favorite, the now-crowned Pastry Chef of the Year Marcio Cossio of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.


All in all, it was a successful year, and we can only hope that more companies come back in years to come. Next year's show will take place March 4-6, same place, same city. See you then!

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