by Lorrie Baumann
Specialty food producers showed up en masse at this year’s Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo to introduce southern California restaurateurs to great gourmet products that can help their foodservice operations create the kind of flavor experience that their upscale clientele demands. Many of these folks will be familiar names to specialty foods retailers too.
Sparrow Lane artisanal varietal vinegars was at the show to talk about why these California-produced products are better. “A lot of balsamics on the market start with red wine or white wine and then add caramel colors. We have our own plant where we produce our own vinegars from the natural grape must, so you don’t get the extra sugars and the other things that don’t belong in there, and then they’re aged in oak barrels from 12 to 15 months and then bottled,” says Jesse Layman, the company’s “head chef and marketing guy.” He’s been a chef for 25 years, and he says vinegars have a wide variety of uses, allowing you to eliminate salt while enhancing the flavors of the food. Blackberry balsamic is wonderful with pork and chicken dishes and served en croute. And of course, they are still good on salads. Use Sparrow Lane varietals on salads as a nice finishing vinegar.
Fresh Origins offered fresh microgreens packaged for foodservice use. Although microgreens have been getting a lot of buzz in white tablecloth restaurants over the past year or two, the company is just now looking for a toehold on the retail market. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Daiya brought its line of dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free, Kosher, vegan cheese alternatives. Daiya recently came out with some cream cheeses that come packed in 8-ounce containers (12 per case) in flavors including strawberry-style, made from real strawberries, original flavor that’s like a traditional plain cream cheese and an onion and chive-style product. The company also makes cheese-alternative slices for retail sale in Swiss-style, cheddar style and a provolone style. The slices come in cases of 12 7.8-ounce packages. Mozzarella, cheddar, and pepper-jack style cheese alternatives are also available for retail in shreds. Contact Trevis Umble email@example.com. He’s the retail sales manager for the western U.S., but if he’s not the appropriate contact for you, he’ll refer you to the right person.
Pure Indulgent Foods is offering “flats” as a companion for cheeses and spreads. These savory crackers come in flavors including Rosemary Cranberry, Cashew Date, Chili Mango and Fig Olive. At the show, the Rosemary Cranberry and Chili Mango flavor crackers were drawing attention as an all-natural way to add a crisp touch to a salad. Call 403.243.5699 for more information.
SooFoo demonstrated that “Mighty Grains with a Strange Name” can be delicious with samples of their blend of nine organic, GMO-free grains and lentils grown in the U.S. “We have the original blend here that we’ve cooked in water in a rice cooker and we’re sampling with some olive oil and a little salt,” says Felice Charlton, Director of New Business for the company. The product also makes a Lemon Kale Salad for which Charlton developed the recipe. Add the cooked grain to some kale and crumbled feta and toss with an olive oil-lemon juice dressing. Add some pine nuts and dried cranberries for nutty crunch and sweetness. Visit www.soofoo.com.
Blaze’s Beans in Vancouver teamed up with Orange County Produce about 10 years ago to produce a line of spicy pickled beans that are great for Bloody Marys. “Almost everything we market has been going to Canada for the last 10 or 15 years, but we’ve been marketing in the U.S. for only the last five or six years,” says Matt Kawamura, a Partner in Blaze’s Beans. Visit www.blazesbeans.com.