Overall I found the Fabulous Food Show a little depressing. Part of it was the casino-like environment of the IX Center itself and part of it was the range of offerings on display within. There were a lot of demonstrations and tastings but walking around the main floor of the IX center, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the quality and diversity of products just weren’t that exciting. There were too many ‘me-too’ seasoning mixes (I picked up one and the top 4 ingredients were salt, MSG, dextrose and corn starch) and barbecue sauces and products that would be at home on QVC. There were certainly some interesting food products but they were the sadly in the minority. One could have had a more enlightening afternoon walking around Whole Foods without paying the $25 ticket price.
One of the best things about the show was how many great Ohio products were on display. When we think about eating local foods the things that spring to mind are fresh produce, dairy and meats but at this time of year its good to remember that there are some businesses making notable Ohio made products that can be found in grocery stores all year long. These were my ‘fabulous’ picks from the Ohio Food products.
I have bought Almondina cookies from Whole Foods without realizing that they were made in Ohio. They are thin and crispy wafers packed full of almonds and come in a variety of flavors, at the show we had a chance to try their new pumpkin spice cookie. Did I mention that they have no added fat?
I was introduced to Kitchen Basics stocks when I was invited to a turkey broth tasting with Robin Davis, the food editor of the Columbus Dispatch. Kitchen Basics was our unanimous (and overwhelming) favorite and really tasted home made. At the show I was able to see the full range of their products from ham to veal to clam and seafood as well as the usual suspects and bring home some samples. If you don’t have time or don’t want to make your own stock, this is the next best thing. It is available at Giant Eagle and Kroger (limited range).
I was very pleased to see Blue Jacket Dairy represented and finally meet cheese maker and owner Angel (pictured above). Angel donated some of her fabulous cheeses for the Local Food Roundtable Reception last week. Her cheeses are available at various farmers markets, the Hills market and at Whole Foods. If you haven’t tried the Gretna Grilling cheese, I highly recommend it, and I also love her chevres.
One of the tastiest samples I had was some smoked chunky kielbasa from State Meats, an old fashioned butcher’s shop in Parma that specializes in kielbasa and European delicacies including pierogi. If you happen to find yourself passing through Parma please pick me up some pierogi and sausage.
Last but not least was one of our favorite finds of the show, the floral elixirs from the Lounging Gourmet. These sweet, fragrant syrups are from a new family owned company in Cleveland. There are currently four flavors: Damascan Rose, Antillean Hibiscus, English Lavender and Andean Fire Orchid. Each one is a blend of flavors, for example the lavender is blended with a touch of vanilla to soften the flavor, the orchid is blended with mango. The Elixirs are primarily intended as a drink mixer but there are other potential uses in salad dressings, sauces and desserts. They would be good in cocktails, with tea or sparkling water. I am looking forward to experimenting with some cocktail recipes (lavender and gin, orchid and tequila), but I think the hibiscus would make a great addition to champagne as a twist on kir royale. I’m not sure where they are available yet but I am sure they will be hitting bar menus soon.