Slowly and carefully, Greg and I chewed, on the verge of both laughter and disgust as we tried to put a name to what it was we were tasting.
“It’s like a bad taco,” Greg said.
“Tequila or margaritas — regurgitated,” I said, thinking suddenly of a college night long, long ago.
It was actually vomit that we were sampling — vomit-flavored jelly beans, to be precise.
When we had passed a display of rather unappetizing-sounding new Jelly Belly flavors at the Fancy Food Show in New York City, we had known it was a silly gimmick but hadn’t been able to resist. And so we spent some unpleasant minutes with mouths full of centipede (which tasted like grass and earth), skunk spray (as billed) and canned dog food (think Chef Boyardee). (Canned dog food and centipede are new this year.)
Drawing the line at Baby Wipes, we decided to walk away while our tastebuds were still intact.
“I still taste Booger in my mouth,” Greg whispered as we slunk away.
Well, somewhat intact, I suppose.
Not that the Fancy Food Show, organized by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, is only for the brave. For the most part, the bi-annual show is a showcase of new food products that people could buy with the intention of actually eating.
It’s where packaged food trends begin and blossom — the reason Greg, the food editor for the Houston Chronicle, and I were trolling its aisles earlier this week.
Yuzu popped up in a variety of places — in truffles by Knipschildt Chocolatier and marmalade by Sid Wainer. And “superfruits” such as acai that supposedly have restorative qualities were present in waters and drinks along many aisles.
But it was blood orange flavors that were truly ubiquitous — in teas, olive oils, jams and sodas.
After sampling several blood orange drinks, I settled on an Efferve energy soda as my favorite — it was just sweet enough and not as cloyingly saccharine as some of the others.
Some news: We learned that Yorkshire Tea, one of my favorite brands of tea and the label I usually turn to for my morning cuppa, is branching out into Earl Grey and green teas. And that Toblerone just launched a fruit and nut version of its triangular bars.
We sampled a lovely Lebanese yogurt gelato and maple bacon lollipops, which were … salty.
(Photo credit: Das Foods)
We discovered the existence of a fabulous invention: grits in a tube …
… and met a bunch of very nice ladies from Village Mixes in New Hampshire who sell handy (and dangerously tasty) pie-crust and crumble mixes.
I even had a mini-reunion with Sara Engram, a former colleague at the Baltimore Sun who is a cofounder of The Seasoned Palate, which sells organic spices packaged into one-teaspoon packets for convenience. (How brilliant is that?)
Sara, who used to be an editorial page writer and editor, is also
working on a book, “The Spice Kitchen: Everyday Cooking with Organic
Spices,” which will hit stores in November. (So, yes, everybody: Buy it.)
After hours of sampling — and a few uncomfortable moments of being stalked by a man dressed as a giant peanut — we knew we’d hit a wall when we passed a display of delicious-looking citrus chocolates by San Francisco-based luxury chocolatier TCHO and Greg whizzed past, pronouncing, “I CANNOT eat another bite of chocolate.”
(Which, I might say, is not a bad problem to have.)
But then minutes later, we happened upon caramel sea salt brownies by Mari’s New York that had just won an award from the trade association.
It took just a moment for us to decide.
One for the road it was. And the eating continued.