Yesterday wrapped up this Summer’s Fancy Food Show, and I’m pleasantly full. For three days the Javits Center in New York City hosted 2,400 food vendors representing 80 countries in a culinary celebration. Wholesalers and retailers alike lured show-goers to their booths with samples of the most delectuable gourmet treats you can imagine: cheeses, oils, chocolates, jams, fresh carved meats, gelato, wine, and pickled everything. And if you’re anything like me where a simple baguet slice will do, so long as there’s a spread or condiment to accompany it, the SFFS was heaven on earth.
There were some familiar faces from last year, but I was excited to see that among the newcomers were a solid selection of sustainable brands. While the label “all natural” is tossed around with less regard than the term leads on, having an “organic” label is still a rarity. So how come there were so many tasty brands promising gluten-free, GMO-free, natural products but without the organic certification? When I asked, the vendors were ready with honest – sometimes even unapologetic – answers. For some, it comes down to cost. Sadly the demand for cheap food has brought the price of conventional products down so low that competition would be futile. Many of the vendors at the SFFS – though high-end – are small-scale in production and are up-and-coming companies who don’t have the financial backing to pay for organic certification. Others are wary to claim the label “organic” as a precaution to their customers; with cross-contamination of seeds and fertilizers from companies like Monsanto, crops grown with the intention of being organic could accidentally be tainted. And then there are some vendors who have been around the sustainability game long enough to make the call that the standards for organic certificaten have been lowered to a point where the promise no longer carries the same weight in terms of safety.
But, the brands that do go for certification – and there were some impressive ones at the show – can don a label that we know means they took the extra time, care, and money to deliver the standards we demand and deserve. It seemed the trend this year for organic products was in the coffee, olive oil, tea/herbal water, and snack industries. Here were a few of my favorites:
Brad’s Raw Foods: After struggling with his weight, cholesterol, and general happiness, owner Brad knew he had to make a lifestyle change. Inspired by documentaries and research and encouraged by friends and family, he made the switch to a plant-based, raw diet and was so stunned by the results he couldn’t not share his newfound secret to total rejuvination of the mind, body and spirit. He began a line of kale chips that will have even kids asking for more. With flavors like cheddar, red bell pepper, nacho, and my favorite, nasty hot, these tasty, healthy chips will help satisfy cravings with any diet. All products are certified organic, gluten-free, GMO-free, vegan, and kosher. I may have taken more than a handful…
But then I washed down the spice with Ayala’s Herbal Water. This line of herb-infused water, sparkling water, and tea is what I’ll reach for from now on instead of fruit juices and even other flavored water brands. My favorite was the lemongrass mint vanilla sparkling water; the fizziness was just enough to elevate it from a water to a beverage, but not harsh or gaseous – a perfect quench. All of the drinks are made from pure artesian water and flavored using only organic herbs and other plant-based nutrients. No sweeteners, sugars, additives, preservatives, or calories! Just guilt-free, healthy, natural water!
At first I mistook the sleek, chic bottles of O Olive Oil for cocktail mixers! I was pleasantly surprised to instead find family-farmed, cold-pressed organic olive oil served with a basket of bread niblets – I’ll always have more room for bread and oil. Made from California-grown koroneiki & arbequina olives, this EVOO has a smooth, almost fruity flavor to it and needs to be a staple in every kitchen.
Other standouts at the SFFS included: Kevala, a complete line of organic cooking essentials including sesame, coconut, and olive oils, raw honey, tahini, fennel seeds, turmeric, and cardamom, echinacea, and cacao powders; Mexico-based Maya Gold, showcasing organic coffee, jams and spreads, chocolates, and honey among its gourmet line; Motto, a refreshing sparkling version of the treasured macha tea, a product that – though not certified organic – has the health benefits of twelve cups of green tea, including antioxidents, beta-carotene, chlorophyll, and l-theanine, which all help detox the blood, boost the immune system, relax the mind, and awaken the brain; and Snikiddy, a line of veggie chips and munchies that’s the best alternatives to salty snacks I’ve come across so far, and again, although not organic, an excellent source of vegetables and free of GMO’s and gluten, plus a great way to trick kids into healthier snacking!
I want to applaud all of the brands at this year’s SFFS for pledging to their customers to create honest, safe, healthy, and mouthwateringly delicious food products. I’d say I’ll be in a food coma until next year’s show, but all of these holistic recipes and ingredients left me satisfyingly full and inspired to reevaluate my standards for what gourmet food means. Look for some of Lux & Eco’s favorite vendors for sale on the site soon!