Friday, January 23, 2009

Fab Food With a Veg Vibe

Who: VN Editorial Assistant Stacy Blondin + VN reinforcements
What: The Fancy Food Show
When: Sunday, January 18, 2009
Where: Moscone Center, San Francisco
Why: Because if you’re going to eat food, it may as well be fancy

The Scoop: In the words of  "Friends" character Maggie Wheeler, guest starring as Janice Hosenstein Litman Goralnik, “OH ... MY ... GOD!” These three syllables were the first—and only—that came to mind as I descended the steps of the Moscone Center and caught glimpse of destiny: Fancy Food. Everywhere.

Who knew heaven's gates would look like this?

OK, so I had an ever-so-slight inclination that fancy food just might be among the things I’d find at the Fancy Food Show, a hypothesis I intelligently deduced from the pre-show information I’d been provided — namely, the event title and printed PDF brochure. But, it is moments such as these that give true meaning to the phrase seeing is believing. A veg-inspired scavenger hunt was clearly in order. And I’m not talking about your typical fifth birthday party play. This was serious. Armed with the Official Show Directory, a healthy helping of hunger, and my own two feet, I headed into the North Hall, prominently designated as the Natural and Organic Pavilion.

Now, let’s see how many ways the question can be politely and plainly posed: Do you happen to have any vegan options? Do your offerings contain animal products? Are any of your products vegan? Do you carry any cruelty-free fare? That’s vegan, spelled v-e-g-a-n, as in vegetarian minus -etarian, plus -an. OK, so the options are many. As, I came to find out, are the answers—but let's stay focused. I was, indeed, pleased to find this small, albeit significant, two-syllable adjective fending for itself among the cured meat, gourmet cheeses, and candy confections. Amidst the 1,500 exhibitors and 80,000 elegant edibles, I managed to find more than my fair share of meat-free fancies. Rather than bore you with the intricate flavors and textures of everything eaten, which could be fun but would definitely exceed word count, I’ll take you on a brief tour of the show, highlighting a few VN faves.

Because every herbivore sometimes feels like a nut, jump on the latest bandwagon along with Nut Land, Mareblu Naturals, and Mrs. Mays Inc.’s completely vegan lines of crunchy, crackl’n nut clusters. Fun flavors like Cranmango Cashew Crunch, Pom-raspberry Crunch, and Cranstrawberry Cashew Crunch are almost as fun to say as they are to eat. But, if soft is more your style, or you’re just crazy for peanut butter, opt for one of PB Loco’s 11 flavors of gourmet peanut butter spreads, five of which are vegan, and, as far as we know, haven't been recalled in the recent peanut butter recall frenzy! With options such as Sumatra Cinnamon and Raisin, Jungle Banana, and Asian Curry Spice, it is clear that these people take their peanut butter—and creativity—seriously.

Moving right along, if you haven’t already, be sure to Follow Your Heart to Earth Island’s innovative concepts in vegan fare. And whatever you do, don’t forget to sample their show-stopping raspberry cheescake. A couple … three … four more bites can’t hurt! Perhaps best known for their miracle in mayo, Veganaise, this pioneer in vegan alternatives boasts an array of dressings, sauces, faux chicken and cheese to top all of your condiment needs.

Noting the novel, GranoVita definitely deserves an honorable mention for their brand spank’n new — at least in the US of A — selection of soy-based spreads and dessert. Their mayo, salad dressing, and barbecue sauce may need a little texture tweak, but they’re on the right track with their yogurt dessert, Deluxe Soyage, which comes in six fabulous flavors—banana, mango, tropical, plain, black cherry, strawberry, and raspberry. Yum!

If you’re getting a little full, lighten things up with Living Harvest’s new unsweetened hemp milk, which brings hope to Americans who consume an average of 50 teaspoons of caloric sweeteners daily. FYI, that’s 40 more than the USDA’s recommended 10. Thank goodness these sugarless sidekicks can now be found in two fabulous flavors: vanilla and original. Oh, and one more thing (Psssst, don’t tell) ... there’s word on the street of a hemp-inspired frozen dessert in the works. 

Before heading out, be sure to find you faux fix at Field Roast—a booth where carnivores meet herbivores and fall desperately in love. If not with each other, at least with the amazing assortment of grain-based cutlets, sausages, loaves, cheeses, patés and, of course, gravy. No, this company didn’t forget a thing when it comes to flavor—lentil sage, wild mushroom, and smoked tomato—mouth watering yet? Even the savviest of meat-eaters could easily mistake these works of art for the real thing.

Stacy, all smiles for Field Roast's faux fare

If you still have room for dessert, despite having nibbled on assorted shavings of vegan dark chocolate, tortilla chips, sesame crackers, spicy salsas, roasted nuts, and olive oil all day long (or was that just me?), give Silver Moon’s cocktail-inspired frozen desserts a whirl. Try a slushy Pomegranate Martini, Mango Mimosa, or Mojito Ice for a kick in the mouth of the best kind.

Just remember to take VN Associate Publisher Colleen Holland’s advice to heart by staying hydrated with a bounty of beverages along the way. With something to quench every type, degree, and lack of thirst, take your pick among endless flavors of coffees, teas, sodas, energy drinks and, yes, water. Metromint’s chocolate mint flavored H2O definitely topped my list. What will they think of next?!

With 33 years under its belt, I think it is safe to say that the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, Inc. has got their act together. And if you happened to miss San Francisco’s show (or think you just might be hungry by the time June rolls around), don’t despair; head to New York City for your share of fancy veg-friendly fare.

1 comment:

Melisser; the Urban Housewife said...

Granovita coming to the States? I love their soy whipping cream.