Are you one of those Costco junkies that look forward to meandering around the isles just so you can try out the samples? Well, imagine that food sampling experience and multiply it by 1000—and you get the Winter Fancy Food Show! (WFFS) The WFFS is the largest marketplace devoted to specialty foods and beverages in the West coast, and more than 18,000 people attended to sample more than 1,300 types of delicacies from around the world. Walking into this kaleidoscope of gourmet goodies for the first time was actually overwhelming for me. Smoked bacon spread here, broccoli green tea there, crispy salmon cakes to the right, silky gelato to the left—it was sensory overload (but in a good way). To make sense of it all for my blog subscribers, I am going to focus mostly on Middle Eastern food.The Canaan Fair Trade booth was my favorite in the whole show. Here I am standing in front of a mural, depicting a village woman bearing the weight of her village on her back.
Canaan Fair Trade is the producing and exporting arm of the Palestine Fair Trade Association, 1700 farm families and women producers in the West Bank. Both the PFTA and Canaan are certified fair trade companies which means self reliance, and social and economic empowerment for the Palestinian farmers and workers, as opposed to the dependency fostered by relief agencies and aid. So for each product you buy, not only are you tasting incredible treats from the Holy Land, but you are helping marginalized families sustain their livelihoods and culture. Canaan’s impact has been tremendous, over $5 million last year into the Palestinian economy. If you go to the website you can learn more about the hard working farmers behind the delicacies. http://www.canaanusa.com/ Here is hand made Maftoul (or couscous) from a cooperative of Palestinian women—their wheat is literally mixed their hands and life stories.
You can tell this couscous is not made in a factory mill, and once cooked the maftoul has a chewy texture and nutty flavor that soaks up any soup or sauce very well. The Za’atar is also as authentic as you can get. Some za’atars on the market have a stale flavor, I have found this brand always tastes fresh. If you are new to my blog check out my recipe idea for maftoul in my March 2011 archive.
I was really excited to see these dips and spreads above because I haven’t visited the Holy Land in over 10 years and yearned for the flavor of foods grown in their soil. This product line answered my prayers! I particularly loved the fig sesame spread, which was a nice combo of sweet and salty–would be amazing on some brie cheese with sesame crackers. The olive honey spread was a surprising combination that totally worked–I could have eaten that whole jar reminiscing about my Grandmother’s olive tree in Bethlehem. Now on to the foundation of Middle Eastern food: extra virgin olive oil.
Once you try this olive oil nothing compares. Well, maybe Daskara Olive Oil does, but nothing else. Because this olive oil is so pure, not only is it robust in flavor, but it also has medicinal properties. My mother would literally drink a tablespoon of this stuff daily to ward off illness–and it worked! It is increasingly difficult to find non-counterfeit olive oil. And you can read more about this in my blog about extra virgin olive oil in My March 2012 archive titled “Update for Olive Oil Lovers.”
Aside from the Canaan Fair Trade Booth, another booth caught my eye, this one from Napa Valley:
Gary and Kits in Napa Valley has come out with their version of Duqqa. Duqqa is an Egyptian side dish consisting of a mixture of herbs, nuts, usually hazelnut, and spices. It is typically used as a dip with bread or fresh vegetables, and eaten as an hors d’œuvre. Pre-made versions of duqqa can be bought in the spice markets of Cairo, with the simplest version being crushed mint, salt and pepper which are sold in paper cones. But now, Duqqa is catching on in the states, sold even in Trader Joes! I have to say the Gary and Kits version has a fresher flavor than the one I tried in Trader Joes. They get pretty creative by making one with traditional hazelnut, one with coconut, and another with pistachio and sesame. Regardless, there is no need to book a plane ticket to Egypt to try this zesty spice mix. Now, onto portable snacks:
Forget nasty Lunchables–this combo is way better. The Ziyad brothers have a new Wild Garden brand of to-go hummus and pita chip snack packs: I recognized every natural ingredient and this whole creamy and crunchy snack is about 200 calories, with fiber protein, and yummy flavor to boot. You can find this on Amazon, Walmart, or maybe even served on an airline near you. You can load up your garage with this dip in several flavors in case of a nuclear holocaust because it is made to endure one year on the shelf without funky preservatives! Thanks for reading my blog, I will be back soon with some more highlights of the Fancy Food Show, but this time with chocolate ideas for your loved one, and an adventurous foodie event that is happening in San Francisco!