A Feast of Fancy New Food

A Feast of Fancy New Food

published in the Chicago Sun-Times

Imagine wandering for hours amid tables of the best cheeses, chocolates, confections, coffees, olives, sauces, dips and chips while friendly fellow foodies beg you to take a taste. Sounds like a dream, right? It is until about six hours in, when you’d rather have a glass of water and an antacid than another gourmet fruit and spice spread on organic macadamia flax bread.

Still, the feast that is the Spring Fancy Food Show, Global Food Expo and All Things Organic Show brings new and truly wonderful discoveries to Chicago restaurateurs and retailers. Chefs, bakers, importers and artisans big and small proudly presented their goods and goodies April 27-29 at McCormick Place, showcasing both responsible practices and wild caloric abandon. This intrepid reporter bit the bullet (among other things), attempting to taste it all in the name of journalism. I’m done eating for the week, but you might want to try a few of these finds…

Feeling a little under the weather? Especially this year’s weather? You could try light therapy, moving to Florida, antidepressants, or maybe just a Chocolate Prescription. The health benefits of dark chocolate are well-known—antioxidants can improve heart health and decrease blood pressure, and the resulting increase in serotonin improves your mood. The potential side effects also are well-known—too much, and you’re buying those depressing stretchy pants. The beauty of the Chocolate Prescription is its 72 percent cacao bars are packaged in 1-ounce portions, each just enough for one day. A $19.99 box contains seven bars, a week’s supply. A four-week prescription is $76.99, or you can join the Chocolate Lover’s Club and save 10 percent each month. Get your daily dose at www.chocolateprescription.com.

So you think you might try cooking with wine … but you always end up drinking it first? Hey—that’s OK! You can have your glass and marinate, too. Sweet, smart and saucy Mia Sebastiani has dealcoholized her family’s Sonoma wines and turned them into super-flavorful Mia’s Kitchen cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay reductions. With no fat or sodium and hardly any calories, they’re an indulgence minus the hangover or regret. Pair as you would with wine—the cab is great for grilled food, and the chardonnay gives shellfish, potstickers and the like a kick. They’re also great slugged straight from a plastic cup. A gift pack, one 12.7-ounce bottle of each, is $39 online at www.miaswinesauce.com.

The mere mention of tofu induces gagging noises from your family. So don’t mention it—serve it under some marinara! Tofu Shirataki turns tofu into spaghetti, fettuccine and angel hair “noodles.” They’re vegan, low in carbs, low in fat, sugar free, cholesterol free, gluten free, dairy free and almost guilt free, with 20 calories per serving. You could eat the whole 8-ounce bag for just 40 calories, plus maybe a bellyache. Even better, these tofu noodles taste like the real deal, especially when you use them in one of the recipes at www.house-foods.com/yummy_recipes.html. The only thing that might give your secret away is the smell when you open the package. Just pour the noodles into a colander, rinse for a minute under cold running water, and it’s delizioso, just like mama used to make (if mama were Japanese). Find Tofu Shirataki in the refrigerated section of Sunset Foods and some Whole Foods stores.

You really should take time to stop and taste the roses. That’s right, taste the roses, though not the ones in your back yard. Those growing in the Kazanlak Valley in central Bulgaria have been harvested and turned into Sence Nectar, a drink and drink mixer. While the scent is a dead ringer for your grandma’s perfume, the taste is surprisingly light and fresh, even more so for Sence Silver, with one-third the sugar of the traditional. The rose nectar can be consumed straight or mixed into clear sodas or alcoholic beverages. Its pink color and delicate bottle make it a pretty wedding favor and a popular choice with champagne. Just don’t leave it lying around, or you might find the female members of your household dabbing on their wrists. You can buy Sence locally at Sam’s or Binny’s or see www.sencenectar.com.

Usually when someone slips something into your drink, it’s bad news. But Healthy To Go’s Go Greens Super Fruits and Veggies packet has more than 40 fruit and vegetable powders to power your bottled water (or glass, if you’re trying to avoid the bottle tax). How often do you chug kale, pomegranate, acai, grape seed extract, rice bran, white tea, barley grass and other good stuff? Not so much, maybe? This handy mega mix serves it all up without added sugar for 32 measly calories. Healthy To Go also makes a Green Tea Energy Fusion and Acai Natural Energy Boost and just debuted Berrie Crush Plus C, in case you’re still feeling deficient in some nutrient you didn’t know you needed. If you like your super foods squeezed into teeny calories, check out the drink mixes at GNC, Vitamin Shoppe or online at www.togobrands.com.

One Thousand Hills Fair Trade coffee is a rich roast resulting from a partnership between Michigan State University; Lansing, Mich.-based Paramount Coffee; and the farmers of Rwanda. It’s an international goodwill program ($1 per pound supports the Rwanda initiative) with a Midwestern connection. Paramount also is producing Caffe Rosa, a blend created by roast master and breast cancer survivor Kathi Zollman. For each bag sold, $1 is donated to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. See www.paramountcoffee.com.