Food Show Finds

Do you insist on serving only homemade goodies to your guests? Me, too. But I’m here to report that there are time- and effort-saving prepared products that taste as good as homemade-maybe even better. I know because I’ve tasted them.

I spent two days in Washington, D.C. last week attending the Summer Fancy Food Show, a Mecca for retailers and restaurateurs seeking the latest and greatest in specialty foods. Run by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, Inc. (NASFT), the event is billed as “the largest marketplace for specialty foods and beverages in North America,” and it is BIG! I spent hours walking seemingly miles of aisles there, sampling from the 180,000 specialty products on exhibit (cheeses, cured meats, condiments, oils, vinegars, spices, prepared foods, desserts, and more).

There was food on display and there were chefs demonstrating dishes as far as the eye could see. As you might imagine, I was in foodie paradise. Here’s just a small sampling of my favorites. I’ll mention others as I experiment with them at home.

Pimento Cheese from Callie’s Charleston Biscuits –Southern specialties are becoming popular everywhere, so you may want to introduce your guests to a trendy southern treat from this family-owned supplier. It would be good with crackers on the cocktail table or on the breakfast table along with Callie’s fabulous featherlight, readymade biscuits.

Lobster Potpies from Hancock Gourmet Lobster Co.- Everything I’ve tried from this lobster specialist from Maine seems like it just came out of my own kitchen. No wonder they keep winning NASFT awards. The latest introduction is a nifty little frozen lobster potpie, which would make an impressive meal starter, I bet, but there are a dozen other classics, including two that are gluten-free–Lobster Corn Chowder and Lobster Mac & Cheese.

Humm! from Fountain of Health-Sure, there are a lot of packaged hummus products in the stores, but so many are disappointing. This one isn’t, perhaps because it’s made from better ingredients (as the company claims) or because it’s topped with olive oil. Humm! comes in nine flavors, among them caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, and roasted pine nuts.

Kitchen Table Bakers ™ Parmesan Crisps- Wheat-, gluten-, sugar-, and transfat- free, these all-cheese crisps made from aged Parmesan, would be great on the cocktail table as guilt-free nibbles, especially for the carb-watching crowd, or as soup or salad toppers, or even instead of melted cheese or bacon on a burger. They’re available in 10 varieties (newest: Flax Seed)

Kimkim Korean Hot Sauce- Another hot sauce, you say? Yes, but one with incredible depth of flavor. It took the Gold medal against five competitors in the show competition’s Cooking Sauce or Flavor Enhancer category.

Delicate Cucumber & Shallot Artisan Vinaigrette from Lucini Italia-Earned Gold in the salad dressing category. It’s unusually elegant, tasting fresh from the garden, not the bottle.

Sukhi’s Samosas-Indian food is catching on nationwide, and these appetizers (many of them vegetarian or vegan) make it easy to add an exotic touch to your next dinner party. Actually, you could put an excellent Indian meal on the table in no time with the company’s comprehensive line of fully prepared entrees and sides.

Merguez Sausage from Trois Petits Cochons-This spicy sausage made from lamb, beef and harissa paste, part of a line of handcrafted pate and charcuterie products, was a silver finalist in the show’s award competition.

Bacon Schnecken from Queen City Cookies- These salty/sweet buns would work especially well on the breakfast or brunch table. They fit into the trend to savory sweets and are remarkably hard to resist.

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