Summer Fancy Food Show 2016: Biggest Haul with my Top Picks!

The ultimate place to be discovered in the specialty food industry is the “Fancy Food Show.” Led by the Specialty Food Association, this NYC event has strengthened due to record breaking sales in the specialty food arena. The sofi Awards are basically the Oscars of the food world. One year I will get there in person! But being a self-proclaimed food expert and a heavy hitter in the product research area, I decided to add my own twist and pick the best of the best sampling my way through various vendors that were in attendance. But truly the best result of this event?! Exhibitors donated 100,000 lbs. of food to City Harvest – remarkable! 
Though this list might seem ridiculously lengthy, the 2016 Summer Fancy Food Show featured over 180,000 products from 2,550+ vendors. Narrowing down just “20” out of that large list, was quite the task! Here are my top picks and why. All were selected based on quality, variety and overall palatability. 

::{Bees Knees Hot Honey}: You’re hearing it here first – I’m naming this the official Chikfila honey. I can picture it now the Classic Bees Knees Spicy Honey Chicken Sandwich. In all seriousness, I’ve been eating honey in my chicken nuggets my entire life so a spicy version is like the best food condiment thing that could ever happen. I decided to swap the fast food sauces (all loaded with corn syrup and who knows what else) for this honey. OMG. The chicken breakfast biscuits smothered in this honey, there’s a reason I’m talking about this product first (FYI the rest are ranked in no particular order!) I also used 1/4C of this on honey-lime salmon, the only problem was that I liked it so much I also used it as a dip! This is my new go to essential. Time for a lifetime supply order…

::{ Chocolate Honey Patties from Heavenly Organics:}
These quickly have taken over as my absolute favorite treat, dark chocolate with a honey center similar to caramel but without the fake ingredients (lower calories, more benefits). Instead of ice cream or high-test desserts at night, I have these with a cup of tea. I seriously just can’t keep enough of them in stock.

::{Cucina Amore Quinoa Meals}: Before these were even at the Fancy Food Show, I’ve been enjoying them for lunch. Hearty and filling with bold pops of flavor, they don’t need to be heated (I hate microwaves) so I eat them as is. Quinoa paired with fresh “salsas” – artichoke & roasted peppers, mango jalapeno (my favorite), basil pesto. These not only save money but can also help you lose weight by avoiding fast food during the day. Quinoa is a fantastic protein and fiber source with 0 essential amino acids, 0 cholesterol and super easy to eat on the go (even comes with a spoon). It takes the edge off when you’re starving and I love each of the flavors.

::{Dave’s Gourmet Hot Sauces}:: Dave started the whole hot sauce “trend” with his Insanity flavor. I love the full line but my favorite is the Caribbean – fresh carrots, habanero and garlic (I used half a bottle in one sitting). A quick search on their hot sauce line will return 1,000’s of 5-star reviews. I run through these quickly as I use hot sauce on almost everything.

::{Everything Dogs from The Perfect Bite}: Puff pastry and everything bagel seasoning, these are making it so hard to stick to any type of diet. Paired with my hot sauces, this is a treat for yourself or a dinner party. They make a full line of gourmet appetizers and never skimp on high quality ingredients, all made from scratch.

::{Go Organic Candies}: I usually keep a stash of Jolly Ranchers but looking at the ingredients (and trying to cut processed junk out of my diet) I tossed them for Go Organic candies. These have pure cane juice and natural flavors. Fresh flavors include apple, pomegranate, honey and my favorite – iced mint mango.

::{Grady’s Cold Brew Coffee::} This comes in a huge reusable bag with coffee bean pods that you “steep” overnight in the fridge (video tutorial to follow). The end result is a smooth coffee concentrate with no bitter aftertaste. A splash of cream and it’s the perfect money saving replacement for my daily habit! Anyone that knows how to use a faucet can make cold brew with this. Gone are the days of messy containers filled with coffee grounds.

::{Greek Rice Pudding}: The first thing I noticed is that this contains real ingredients! Nothing artificial and no bizarre aftertaste (like some of the ones on the grocery shelf) It reminds me of what you’d get from an authentic Greek diner – cinnamon and pure vanilla. Super smooth and more like the texture of a custard. They have many different desserts, after tasting this, I can’t wait to check out the other treats they offer (my diet won’t like me)!

::{Hoboken Farms}: Jersey grows the best tomatoes so if you’re not getting your sauce from Jersey right now…why??! The first sauce I tried from Hoboken Farms is the “Big Basil” – both NY Times and Wall Street Journal have picked this as a top sauce brand. You can pronounce all of the ingredients – fresh whole tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, sea salt and basil. I serve this with linguini or on my eggplant parmigiana. It’s a huge time saver for weeknight meals without sacrificing quality. Try any flavor with spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles for a healthy twist!

::{Laurie’s Black Licorice Chocolate Toffees}: Hand-crafted in La Marqueta East Harlem, Laurie & (her three) Son’s combine crunchy toffee mixed with the flavor of ground anise and real licorice. The toffee is dipped in decadent, fair- trade dark chocolate. I ate two bags in one sitting. They also craft dark chocolate dipped ginger – using fancy spiced ginger from Fiji, black sesame seeds and fresh vanilla beans.

::{Mamma Chia}: My #1 purse essential is my beloved Mamma Chia fruit pouches. I once bought every package left when they had a huge sale. It’s filling when I’m hangry, I love the texture and the bold pop of fruit flavor. This is the first time I’ve tried their bars and granola (my new compliment to yogurt parfaits). But my #1 is still their fruit pouches, stay tuned for all of my favorite recipes using their chia seeds!!

::{Meta Matcha}: I could (and will) write a separate post on the endless benefits of matcha (ground green tea). I thought I would find it hard to swap this with my daily espresso but 3g contains more caffeine than one espresso shot (score!) They also have these new bottled brews that contain over 400mg of antioxidants (excited to try those when they come out). My daily recipe involves 3g matcha powder, vanilla bean powder, coconut milk and honey (video tutorial to follow)

::{Arteasan}: Iced tea, next to water, is my go to drink. With flavors like rosemary, mango, elderberry and much more infused into functional teas (“Calm” and “Be Well” are my favorite picks) all are packed with antioxidants and botanicals. And I’m obsessing over their Yerba Mate, this has become my afternoon 3PM coffee replacement! 

::{Just Jan Tangerine Sriracha}: The perfect balance of sweet and spicy, this is the best marinade for wings – sweet tangerine with vinegar, red chile and garlic. Convinced yet? You need this one in your life for the perfect, spicy caramelized wings.

::{Cocomels}:: Espresso caramels made with coconut milk. Need I say more? They’re rich, buttery and better than standard caramels. I also love the sea salt flavor! I just need to do a better job at sticking to my limit of 2-3/day.

::{Fishers Popcorn}: They’ve been crafting popcorn since 1937 and certainly have mastered their trade. Nothing can beat their caramel. They even make one dipped with old bay seasoning which gives it a subtle kick. 

::{Wildway}: They specialize in grain-free foods. The Banana Nut Granola is so delicious – try it on top of yogurt or in a smoothie bowl. I also make it with coconut milk and use 1/4C = 140 calories only. This cereal is life changing for those with allergies. And for anyone who’s dabbling in the Whole 30 plan, this is a must have item.

::{Danny Macaroons}: Coconut macaroons with salted caramel, dipped in chocolate and roasted almonds – just a few of their varieties. The coconut is fresh and shipped to perfection. I feel like I just stepped out of the bakery and bought these!

::{Annie B’s}:: The best for sharp cheddar popcorn. Now Annie B’s does specialize in caramels, so it goes without saying that that popcorn flavor (and their candies) receive a 10/10 but don’t sleep on their sharp cheddar – the boldest, saltiest one I’ve tried! I ate two bags in one day (the snack sizes, so I guess that’s not as bad?)

::{Revive Kombucha}: Kombucha, is the famous fermented beverage with probiotics credited with aiding in digestion, mental clarity and endless health benefits. If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say “Kombucha is too strong, I don’t like it…” hold your horses! Revive is a CA family-owned brewery who mixes up crafted teas and syrups with Kombucha giving you all of the benefits without the overpowering bite. I felt like I was getting a cold, drank one of these and my symptoms disappeared.

.::{Sencha Green Tea + C}: Different than my other matcha, this has little to no caffeine and the primary purpose is to boost your immunity. A double-shot of green tea gives you the best of both worlds. Whole-leaf sencha imparts earthy notes, while shade-grown matcha adds a sweet layer of grassy undertones. A green fuel for daily life. Taste Notes: Vegetal, Roasted Our whole-leaf blend of sencha & matcha powder provides more nutrients than a typical tea bag. Our Vitamin C comes directly from Acerola Cherries, providing 300% DV of the antioxidant Vitamin C. We add coconut water powder for replenishing electrolytes, as well as a traditional immune-support blend of Ginger, Turmeric, and Orange Peel for daily wellness.

::{Sparkling Bitters}: Sparkling water is my daily drink since I’m not a juice person, these are lightly flavored with tonic bitters. Made with premium, all-natural flavors including gentian root extract for a touch of bitterness, they also help to aid in digestion, curb sugar cravings (I need help in this area), relieve heartburn, support the liver and balance your appetite. They have zero grams of sugar and zero calories. It’s thirst quenching and is also perfect for spritzers my favorites are the Meyer Lemon & Grapefruit Mint

::{Steep Echo}: Teas from Steep Echo are made with olive leaf, my recipe: juice of 2 lemons, 1 lime, 1 bunch fresh mint, 4T honey, 4 Steep Echo tea bags steeped in 4C water; blend, serve cold over tons of ice. I was feeling a cold coming on and this helped me out. 

::{Ginger People Chili Sauce}:: I love steamed chicken and vegetables but completely cut soy sauce out of my diet, a few tablespoons of this is my swap for added flavor but not a huge amount of calories. This is sweet + spicy, I’m trying it next as a dip for coconut chicken.

::{Lafaza Vanilla Extract}: This is the first time I’ve ever tried vanilla bean powder and I’m never turning back. For smoothies (especially matcha ones) this is my essential. Sun cured single variety vanilla beans from the island of Madagascar are ground to a fine texture and sealed for freshness. I add 1tsp to smoothies, mix some in yogurt, sprinkle a dash on ice cream or a cappuccino. Add their extracts to pancake and waffle batters, cheesecakes and crème brulee! Lafaza partners with independent, small-scale farmers who utilize only organic, sustainable forest practives so the beans are grown and harvested according to Fair Trade principles.


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