Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Incredible Edibles at 15th Americas Food and Beverage Show, Miami, Fla.

Innovative edibles abounded at this year’s 15th Americas Food and Beverage Show hosted by the World Trade Center, Miami. Companies from North to Central to South America, the Caribbean and overseas attended this two-day buying and selling event at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

The Edibles by Jack, Chelsea, MA

Jack Milan of The Edibles by Jack

Forget about recyclable cutlery, instead think edible. That’s what I came across at The Edibles by Jack booth. Jack Milan, President and Founder, a caterer by trade, saw a need for something better than traditional Asian serving spoons. When he added up the cost of hiring someone to collect and wash the spoons and replace the broken ones he invented edible spoons.

I tasted a spoon of brie and jam on a parmesan black pepper spoon. It was crunchy and light. “No salt is added to anything,” said Milan. He doesn’t want the spoon competing with the food put on it. “They have a six month shelf-life if kept in a cool, dry place and securely wrapped,” added Milan.

There are over ten flavors, both sweet and savory. And they accept requests for new flavors.
You can purchase spoons online, for $0.85/spoon plus shipping and handling or by the case at www.ediblesbyjack.com. Or call 617-884-3791

MimicCreme by Green Rabbit LLC, Albany, NY 

Vincent Colavito of MimicCreme

I’ve been lactose intolerant for many years and I often struggle to find a whipped topping that does not contain soy or high fructose corn syrup.  So, I was extremely happy when I found MimicCreme made with certified organic almonds and cashews.

The company was founded in 2008 by Rose-Anne Colavito, President, a vegan who wanted to create a product that could compete with heavy cream. MimicCreme’s first products did exactly that. Then they branched into the coffee creamer market and chose not to add whiteners, so the vanilla bean style is beige instead of cream colored.

The company launched HealthyTop at the 15th Americas Food and Beverage Show after feedback from customers who said the heavy creams would not whip. MimicCreme added coconut oil to the recipe. “To get the best results, chill it as much as possible before whipping,” said Joey Toma, Operations Manager of MimicCreme. He said that the product would increase four times in volume when whipped.

MimicCreme is also Kosher Parve, gluten-free, GMO-free, High Fructose corn syrup-free, polysorbate 60-free, and cholesterol-free.

Kelapo Coconut by Beneficial Blends, Tampa, Fla.

Alison Millar of Kelapo Coconut
Certified organic coconut oil in baking sticks with eight tablespoon marks, is what Kelapo Coconut launched at this year Americas Food and Beverage Show. Not only that, the sticks are made with unrefined, cold-pressed, Fair for Life fair trade certified, extra virgin coconut oil.

Alison Millar, Director of Marketing and Events, said, “extra virgin means it is from the first pressing of the coconut.” She added the saturated fat of coconut oil is plant based, and used immediately by the body, unlike animal fat. So it makes a good replacement for butter.

Kelapo’s pre-measured coconut oil baking sticks twin-packs sell for $8.99, and their family of coconut oil products can be found at Whole Foods, Dean and Deluca, independent natural food stores and online at their website www.kelapo.com   

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Gluten-Free to Organic Items: Sarasota Farmers Market, Fla.

Sarasota Farmers Market overflows with selections from gluten-free caterers to organic farmers' produce.

I was pleasantly surprised by the variety and number of vendors at this 30-plus year old, farmers market in downtown Sarasota, on the West coast of Florida. It took up three city blocks in a row and eight side streets and included over 70 vendors. There were three-organic farmers, many plant vendors, lots of food booths, crafters, dog treat booths, coffee merchants, honey producers: and the list went on and on.

Sarasota Farmers Market, Fla.
Copyright 2011 by Helen a Lockey
I stopped by Good to be Gluten-Free catering, run by former restaurant owners Christine and Jeff Harman. They had a broad selection of gluten-free items on one side and gluten-free, lactose-free items on the other. I bought some lactose-free cup cakes.

Copyright 2011 by Helen A Lockey

Jeff said I had to be careful with his products because they did not have much of a shelf life.

I also stopped by Worden Farm's booth, a certified organic farm in Punta Gorda, Florida.  Chris Worden, the owner, smiled and answered as many questions as there were about his produce. He wanted his customers to find what they were looking for: hyper-fresh organic produce as reasonable prices. The booth also served as a pick-up location for Worden's CSA members.

Copyright 2011 by Helen A Lockey

The day I went, the booth was crowded with equal numbers of fresh produce and customers. I bought a delicious spring mix bag for $4, red baby kale bag also for $4, and the biggest head of endive lettuce I had ever seen for $4.

I ran out of time and did not get to visit with as many booths as I desired. So next time I'm going to set aside the whole morning to see what other treasure the Sarasota Farmers Market contains.

Parking can be a challenge. But I found a free, multi-level, garage, just across the street from the Sarasota Whole Foods Market on 1st Street, and around the corner from the market.
For a complete list of vendors go to this Sarasota Farmers Market page.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Festival of Chocolate, West Palm Beach, Fla: Pics and Tastes

Chocolate! Chocolate! Chocolate! I love the stuff, especially if I'm in a hall full of chocolate with a few hundred other people. 

Cocoa pods in the raw
At The Festival of Chocolate, in West Palm Beach, I started my tour with a "Wine and Chocolate" workshop. Gary Dinstuhl of Guittard Chocolate Co., CA, was very educational and humorous. My favorite pairing was an earthy Peruvian select origin with a rich Langhe Wine from Italy.

Gary Dinstuhl holding up two cocoa pods

Once I recovered my senses, I waddled back to the main hall to see what other cocoa inspired treats awaited me. There were fabulous sculptures.

The ones from the Notter School of Pastry Arts reminded me of the movie: Charlie and The Chocolate Factory.

Created by students at Notter School of Pastry Arts

One of my favorite booths was Double Dare You of Chateau Confections from Winter Park, FL.

Their items tested my adventurousness with chocolate covered gator jerky, hand-dipped whole jalapeno peppers, and chocolate coated crickets.

I tried two out of three: crickets and jerky. The bugs won. I loved their crunchy texture and taste.

Cricket piece broken in half

I made one last tasting stop at The Olive Tap booth to try their balsamic vinegar from Italy.  It really tasted like its name.

 The Cupcake Cottage, Royal Palm Beach, won Best Chocolate Cupcake in show and was runner- up to Best-in-Show.

Veteran Archie Bourne of Schakolad Chocolate Factory, Tampa, won Best-in-Show for his Italian Amaretto Truffle

I had a fun time and I look forward to next year's show.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Localecopia's Meet and Greet, Palm Beach, Fla: A Locavore Haven

Got Local? Localecopia in Palm Beach County, Florida does. It is a non-profit organization, formed in 2008 by Geoffrey Sagrams and Rick Hawkins. It is designed to bring together Florida farmers, food purveyors, educators and local government with chefs and other businesses, to share ideas and products.

At this past Thursday's Meet and Greet, they did exactly that. Thirty plus companies from produce distributors to farms to culinary creators to compost vendors were there.

Jon Donkin of QV Farms

Set in the Breakers Palm Beach, the event thrilled Localecopia newcomers QV Farms, a Loxahatchee based farm. Jon Donkin and Tony Baker, the farmers, started growing fruits and vegetables last year, primarily for their own consumption. "We use organic growing methods so we can control exactly what goes into our plants," Baker said. They grow tomatoes, bell peppers, carrots, micro-greens, and strawberries.

This year with the encouragement of David Sui, Ph.D, an extension faculty member at the Palm Beach County extension, they joined Localecopia. "We've had a lot of interest from people at this event," said Baker.

Ante and Danica Bosnjak of Milan Farms

This same sentiment is expressed by Danica Bosnjak and her son Ante, of Milan Farms in Loxahatchee. They were wholesalers for many years before deciding to include retail sales. They grow lychees, longans, Namwah Thai bananas, kaffir limes, jackfruit, and pomelo. They sell fresh-picked Thai bananas at the Wellington Greenmarket on Saturdays.

They use organic growing methods and work closely with the Palm Beach County Extension office. "Dr. Sui is always giving us hints and he suggested we join Localecopia." They are glad they did because they got a lot of attention from local grocery store food buyers at this event.

Nancy Roe talking to a chef about her produce

Nancy Roe of Farming Systems Research, a community supported agriculture (CSA) farm in Boynton Beach was there with a colorful table of fresh vegetables and herbs. She was happily surprised by the large numbers of chefs at the event. Farming Systems Research has been growing produce since 2000. "We don't have enough to supply it," answered Roe, to a question from a visitor about her opinion on the growth of the local movement. The farm is so busy it has a membership waitting list.

Trish Strawn educating visiting chefs about her meat

Trish Strawn, owner of Deep Creek Ranch in Deland, Florida, was also there, enthusiastically talking about her grass-fed beef and lamb. "It is hormone and antibiotic-free," said Strawn with a smile. She supports other Central Florida vendors by selling products like eggs from Lake Meadows Naturals, and cheese from Latitude Foods.

"I think connections were made. There was an opportunity to connect and educate, in possibly the best venue we have," said Hawkins, smiling and waving his hand to indicate the Breakers. "It was a good day, " he added.

To find out more about Localecopia, you can go to their website www.localecopia.org

Monday, November 14, 2011

Schnebly's Winery, Homestead, Fla: Inventive Tropical Wines, Updated

Wines made from tropical fruit? Who does that? Schnebly's Winery in Homestead, Florida does.

Peter and Denisse Schnebly, South Florida residents for over 25 years decided to start making wine from tropical fruit in 2003. In 2008, I toured the facility and tasted just a handful of sweet tasting wines.

Now, the list seems endless and includes sparkling and dessert wines. This trip I wanted to try their avocado and coconut wines.

Copyright 2011 by Helen A Lockey

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Chef Robert Irvine Cooking Demo At Florida International University

Chef Robert Irvine visited Florida International University (FIU) to celebrate the first annual Florida grown school lunch week. He is a British chef best known for his Dinner Impossible and Restaurant Impossible TV shows. He has a refreshing and engaging comedic quality about him.

To warmed up the audience Irvine instructed the audience, "everyone stand-up, put down your cameras, and put your arms over your head and do this," he said waving his arms back-and-forth over his head. He walked the isles of the auditorium to make sure everyone participated.

He chose a volunteer cheerleader from Brooklyn to lead the audience in a screaming exercise. When everyone had screamed themselves horse, the warm-up ended.

Other audience members became cooking volunteers. Irvine hummed while people cooked, gave mini-lessons on how to cook, and took over when they struggled to cook. He educated with humor throughout.

Pictured below is Irvine giving the students a lesson on how not to cut off your fingers while chopping fruit: Tuck your five fingers under, and rest the knife against your knuckles.

Irvine asked who thought they were fit. Three men and three ladies came to the stage. The men had to prove they were fit by doing as many push-ups as they could. They did 32 reps. Irvine said, "let me tell you. You did more than anyone has ever done. Most just get to 15."

Irvine asked all of the volunteers what they had for breakfast. He was not surprised that some of the girls had nothing. Irvine suggested the best times to eat: first meal--20 min after waking, and last meal--30 min before bed.

Irvine wanted to know how many Italians were in the room. Of those who answered, he asked, what was the best oil to use for cooking and the reasons why. Two got the answered right with olive oil. They became oil tasting volunteers.

They were puzzled by the flavor; it did not taste like olives, they said. It was grape seed oil. Irvine said it was the best oil to cook with because it could be heated to 425 degrees without smoking, unlike olive oil. Then he added, "and no I'm not paid by a grape seed oil company or an olive oil company, but it is the one I use." Later, he added grape seed oil could be reused several times by cooling and straining it.

Irvine finished with a more interactive Q and A session. A woman commented on the overuse of salt in cooking and asked if there was an alternative. He suggested the she try different types of salt, like Himalayan. He said, "when the first miners went down into the ground they found salt. Who would have thought 400 years on we'd be eating rocks." He added, she could replace the salt with an acid or a spice or a fresh herb.

Irvine bewitched the audience with his humor, humility, and infectious personality. The last suggestion he gave to the audience was, "if you are in a check-out line, or somewhere else. And you notice someone struggling to find change, help them out."

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Real Sorbet, Miami, Florida: Organic, Local and Delicious

I love sorbet, but often the ingredients have disturbingly large carbon footprints. That's not the case with Real Sorbet--a small, family owned sorbet company in Miami-Dade Country, Florida. Nick and Tessa Mencia, the owners, source local, pesticide-free, organic Florida fruit for their recipes.

I met them at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden during a Butterfly Day event. They were very friendly and transparent about their ingredients. Nick told me he sourced Starfruit from a neighbor's garden (Coconut Grove), Lychee from Siggi's Organic Farm (Homestead), and Tamarind from Little River Market Garden (Little Haiti). He said all his ingredients were organic, with sourced from Global Organic Specialty Source Inc. (Sarasota).

I bought some tasty lychee sorbet and Nick served it to me in a biodegradable container with a spoon made from GMO-free corn husk material. He pointed out that his spoons wouldn't leach petrochemicals into the soil.

To find out more about Real Sorbet, you can follow them on Twitter @realsorbet or go to their Facebook page.