I have to admit, I will make myself available to virtually any press event that involves tasting new and creative food items coming on the market. So I was eager to go to the Let’s Eat Speed Pitching Media Event, where some 20 different food manufacturers offered both insights and tastes to their new food lines. Some of these items can be found in NYC gourmet markets and grocery stores (great for snacking in your hotel room). You can find others in your local supermarkets. Regardless, here is a roundup of the tastes that I thought were the very best (so take notes!)
I admit, I haven’t seen or eaten a “cheese ball” since my college days. But Kaukauna’s offerings impressed me, as did the company history (they’ve been around making cheese since 1918). And, like so many food manufacturers, they are smart enough to change with the times. Their new products, “No Artificial Anything Cheese Balls,” which come in Sharp Cheddar and Port Wine, are pretty darn pure, made from cheese, whey solids, dry milk and flavorings that include wine and spices. They also pack a wallop of taste, and another plus: easily spreadable, so they won’t break your cracker!
Another brand I remember from my childhood, Arnold Bread was always considered (at least when I went shopping with my mom) the “high-end” purchase, a bread that evoked quality, and yards above (a-hem) the Wonder Bread of my youth. The company recently released a new organic line, which consists of a Rustic White (with a hint of sea salt), a 22 Grains & Seeds and a 100 percent Whole Grain version. No assembly line taste here: This is the kind of bread you would think arrived in a bread basket at a high-end NYC restaurant. Well done, Arnold!
A few nights ago, I decided my 23-year-old son and his gang of friends, who were over to watch a football game, would be my test group for Saffron Road’s new line of baked chips, (which come in Chipotle, Sea Salt, Cucumber Dill and Cracked Pepper). I didn’t have the Cucumber Dill and Cracked Pepper chips to offer them, but I opened up the big bags of the Sea Salt and the Chipotle, and they were exclaimed over (they loved the kick of the Chipotle Chips) and vacuumed up in about five minutes. The proof is in the disappearing act.
As a coffeeaholic, I was keenly interested in this new brand of Cold Brew pods: The folks at Java House explained that you can use the pods in a Keurig to make both cold and “hot” cold brew (it sounds like a contradiction, but cold brew is simply a method of processing the beans that result in a less acidic cup of coffee, and can be served both hot or cold). I don’t have a Keurig, but the team quickly assured me that, with 8 ounces of cold water (for an iced coffee), OR 8 ounces of hot (for a cup of regular hot coffee), I would get the same result: you don’t need the machine to make a mug of the brew. I took home the samples, opened a pod and poured it into a coffee cup, added 8 ounces of filtered water into the mug and then zapped it in the microwave to heat up—and I was genuinely wowed by how smooth the flavor was. No wimpy flavor, mind you—I don’t like coffees that are too lightly roasted. Just incredibly smooth, with plenty of substance, yet without a hint of acidic “bite.” This was a win-win!
Oh my. Take two of my all-time favorite flavors—pistachio and chocolate—and meld them into what Setton Farms calls its Chewy Bites, and what is not to love? This company, in California’s Central Valley, (which also produces an irresistible version of Dark Chocolate Pistachios, above) is a huge grower of pistachios in the U.S. The boys in the football-watching room went crazy for them all, especially the Pistachios + Cranberries (“very fruity and chewy” was the consensus), but they also devoured the Pistachio + Blueberry Cranberry and Pistachios + Plums.
Give me a cold glass of a full-bodied chardonnay, some exceptional cheese on a plate and a great Netflix show, and you couldn’t make me happier—I don’t even need the bread. So, when I sampled a new variety of Sartori Cheeses, I was simply buzzing with joy. This cheese company makes several types of fine cheese—Parmesan, cheddar, goat cheese—but I tend to lean towards the sharp, hard flavors of a Parmesan. The Reserve Line includes a wide variety of original flavors, such as basil and olive oil; rosemary and olive oil; raspberry, chai and more. I went nuts for the Espresso Bellavitano, with just a hint of the espresso bean infused into what tasted like a supremely fine Parmesan; and the Merlot, also with a very subtle Merlot wine accent. This is the stuff the good life is made of!