Vanda Asapahu, founder of Ayara Thai Sauces, is the winner of the Specialty Food Association’s second annual advertising contest for specialty food professionals to tell a compelling story about their passion for specialty food.
Asapahu’s story was selected from 142 inspiring entries about family businesses, culinary breakthroughs, childhood memories, career changes, and more. The prize is a professional ad that will be part of the Association’s national advertising and marketing campaign. The ad will be featured in leading specialty food trade magazines, online, and at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. The show takes place Jan. 11-13, 2015.
More than 12,000 votes were cast in the not-for-profit trade association’s second annual “My Story, My Ad” contest. The 10 entries with the most votes went on to a final round of judging by a panel of advertising and specialty food professionals. The contest was open to members of the Specialty Food Association.
Ayara Thai Sauces was born out of requests from loyal fans of Asapahu’s family-owned restaurant, Ayara Thai Cuisine in Los Angeles, for takeout containers of its distinctive sauces. This company’s Ayara Thai Peanut Sauce was a finalist in the Specialty Food Association’s sofi™ Awards contest for the outstanding products of 2014.
“As our restaurant grew, visitors came to love not only the food we prepared, but also the sauces served with them,” says Asapahu. She adds that customers would return with “amazing stories of how they creatively used our sauces to impress their friends and share in the joy of cooking.”
The contest also included a People’s Choice Winner, based on a popular vote. The trio of women behind Simply Panache, maker of Mango Mango mango preserves, emerged as winners. They are Tanecia Willis, Lakesha Brown-Renfro, a military spouse, and Nzinga Teule-Hekima, a family physician. The company is based in Hampton, Virginia. The prize is an iPad.
For the winning entries, click here.
The contest spotlights the Association’s brand for the industry, “Specialty Food. Craft. Care. Joy.” It is designed to highlight the people behind the small businesses that fuel the $88.3 billion specialty food industry and the innovative foods and beverages they create and bring to market.
“This year’s entries showed how much passion and care our members bring to their work,” says Association President Ann Daw.
The panel of judges included Katherine Alford, Senior Vice President, Culinary Productions, Food Network; Tom Cook, Executive Creative Director, York & Chapel; Tracy Nieporent, Partner and Director of Marketing, Myriad Restaurant Group; Beth Snyder Bulik, freelance writer for Advertising Age; and Denise Purcell, editor of Specialty Food Media.
Passage Foods offers lines of ready-to-use simmer sauces made from all natural ingredients to help home cooks create authentic restaurant-quality Asian dishes in 20 minutes or less. Newest to the brand is the Passage to Vietnam™ Lemongrass Chicken Stir-Fry Sauce, which draws together ingredients such as lemongrass, galangal and lime into a stir-fry with the traditional flavors of Vietnam. Just reading the list of ingredients is like stepping into a white tablecloth Vietnamese restaurant.
Vietnamese cuisine is one of the fastest growing segments in the food category, according to Mintel, and the growth of the Vietnamese population in the U.S. augurs for increasing acceptance and familiarity with Vietnamese flavors among the mainstream population, particularly as American palates become more adventurous and more Americans travel outside the country, where they have the opportunity to taste authentic examples of other culinary traditions.
“It is important to recognize the growth of cuisines from countries like Vietnam,” said Passage Foods’ Mark Mackenzie. “Currently, 80 percent of the Asian category sales originate from mainstream products designed for the U.S. palate, however, the category growth is being driven by authentic products and recipes. With our Lemongrass Chicken sauce, we tried to capture the most authentic and fresh recipe to satisfy the consumer looking for a true Vietnamese meal.”
This summer, up your noodle salad game with some Asian rice noodles by Nona Lim. These extraordinary noodles are sold in the refrigerated section fresh for delicacy.
Nona Lim Noodles have a suggested retail price of $4.39 for a 14.8-ounce package.
Belcour Blue Mountain Preserves, makers of savory condiments, pepper sauces and fruit preserves, taps into its’ rich Jamaican, Chinese and French culinary heritage to release a beautiful 270 page storybook cookbook, “Belcour: Jamaican, French and Chinese Family Recipes for Entertaining,” available at www.belcourpreserves.com.
This unique cookbook features the most well-loved family recipes of chef and author, Robin Lim Lumsden paired with captivating stories of legendary entertaining among several family generations. From love stories and family gatherings to how her grandfather became co-founder of the iconic Red Stripe Beer company and more, this cookbook is an instant classic with its mouth watering imagery and effortless step-by step instructions.
“I’ve gathered an eclectic collection of recipes derived from my Jamaican, French and Chinese culinary heritage passed down from generation to generation, all using our preserves and condiments,” says Lumsden. This cookbook will expand and diversify your recipe repertoire and help you create new, delicious and cosmopolitan meals that your guests will both savor and remember.”
Belcour’s Blue Mountain Honey, which is produced on its own apiary, is home to more than 75 bee colonies and is the signature flavor that sweetens all of the delectable tropical preserves, hot sauces and condiments. Each bottle is full of ripe, flavorful, Jamaican fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices that are cooked slowly, crafted with love and sourced from local Jamaican farmers.
Belcour will exhibit in booth #2168 at the Fancy Food Show in New York City June 29-July 1, with nine of its versatile gourmet condiments, including pepper sauces, fruit preserves and savory condiments. Learn more about Belcour Blue Mountain Preserves at www.belcourpreserves.com.
Sriracha has lived in the spicy condiment spotlight for the past few years making a flavored appearance in everything from popcorn to potato chips and every possible application in between. Musashi Foods has broken the mold of traditional red sriracha with the launch of its Midori Sriracha made from green serrano peppers, turning the heat up on this popular hot sauce.
Additionally this New York-based specialty food company has launched an authentic Japanese Spicy Mayo, the only of its kind on the market today. Both the Midori Sriracha ($4.99) and Japanese Spicy Mayo ($5.49) are available now for purchase at Amazon.com and musashifoods.com. Also, these unique and all natural products will be on store shelves throughout New York and beyond in the weeks and months to come.
“I saw a need for an authentic Japanese Spicy Mayo in the marketplace and spent the past year perfecting the recipe and developing the necessary infrastructure to bring this product to a mass market,” said Musashi Foods Founder and President Gideon Sarraf.
Sarraf is an accomplished entrepreneur with a passion for hot and spicy food. In fact, Sarraf has long made his own sriracha sauce at home, perfecting the heat level to satisfy his advanced palate. After realizing how popular truly authentic Japanese Spicy Mayo is, Sarraf set out to bring this product to market a little over a year ago. During the process and research he also spotted a need for a green sriracha with a different flavor profile than the traditional red sriracha on store shelves today.
“The response to these products has been wholly positive, and we hope to bring it to supermarkets across the country. People have been actively searching for these products; now they finally have a place to buy them,” he said.
Musashi Foods will be at the Summer Fancy Food Show in a booth located in the “New Brands on the Shelf” Pavilion, located on Level 1, behind the 3400 aisle.
Until the 1930s, few Americans had ever tasted a taco or burrito, but since then, Mexican cuisine has become a ubiquitous staple in this country. Likewise, before the 1980s, most American diners would have found it appalling to sit down to a plate of raw fish and rice, but today it seems that there is a sushi bar on every urban street corner. And living in a country with 43,000 Chinese restaurants, it can be easy to forget that there was once a time when the cuisine of China was about as foreign to American eaters as the cuisine of Mars.
Throughout American history, palates (and, subsequently, the foods American cooks place on their dinner tables) have constantly evolved. There are a variety of reasons for this, including the effects of immigration, American travel abroad, the careful marketing of global cuisines in this country and the simple transformation of tastes. It is understood that the dishes most popular with one generation are almost certain to be different from those most beloved by the next. With American palates shifting so rapidly, and with the potential rewards for staying on top of the trends so great, many are motivated to shape and predict what will be the next big thing in global cuisine.
Polish cuisine attracting adventurous gourmands
According to the American Community Survey, there are currently almost 10 million Polish Americans living in the United States, making up 3.3 percent of the total population. In Wisconsin and Michigan, over 9 percent of the population is of Polish descent. As the Polish population in this country is burgeoning, so is the importation of goods from Poland. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, between 2010 and 2013, the value of goods imported into this country from Poland increased 65.5 percent.
International travel to Poland is also up (over 12 percent since 2009), and Americans make up the second largest group of visitors to the country after the French. The cuisine of Poland has become one of the draws bringing American tourists to the country. In part due to the success of high end gourmet Polish eateries, such as Warsaw’s Atelier Amaro, the first restaurant in Poland to receive the Michelin rising star award, hungry food tourists are flocking to Eastern Europe to taste indigenous Polish ingredients prepared with 21st century techniques.
According to Tomasz Piszczek, founder of Polish specialty food company Polska Foods, Inc., the increasing popularity of Poland as a destination for food tourists and of Polish food more generally in this country is the result of Polish chefs going back to the country’s pre-communist roots and re-inventing the national cuisine with an eye toward freshness and flavor. “During the communists, the Polish kitchen used a lot of salt, fat and black pepper to increase the flavor. You didn’t have too many spices. It was difficult to get access to traditional ingredients such as cloves, anise, figs, cinnamon, saffron, walnuts, almonds, and nutmeg,” said Piszczek.
Piszczek explained that contemporary chefs specializing in Polish cuisine approach the country’s food traditions in a different way. “The new generation in Poland right now is bringing back their culinary heritage of the past centuries—food with exquisite flavor that was influenced by Italian Queen Bona in the 16th century in Poland, who brought culinary lavishness to the Polish court,” he said. “As the new generation returns to old traditions, and as more people travel to Poland, many are rediscovering Polish cuisine that artfully blends many European flavors into one celebrated dish, setting the record straight for future generations.” According to Piszczek, this modern Polish cuisine features a wide variety of spices, vegetables, seeds and nuts, and this is the Polish cuisine he sees growing in popularity among U.S. eaters.
Malaysian tastemakers looking to capitalize on American love of fusion
The American love affair with fusion cuisine goes back at least to the 1970s, when increased U.S. trade with Asian countries led to an explosion of American eateries specializing in Japanese or Chinese delicacies, but with a distinctly Western twist. Asian fusion continues to be popular throughout the United States, along with a plethora of other fusion cuisines from Tex-Mex to Louisiana Creole to California cuisine. As Americans continue to go crazy for fusion, another exotic fusion cuisine could be on deck to capture consumer interest in this country: Malaysian cuisine.
For Americans who are often so enamored with the combination of disparate global flavors, ingredients and techniques, the fusion cuisine of Malaysia seems tailor-made for the country’s food-obsessed populace. Malaysian cuisine represents the unique coalescence of Indian, Chinese, Thai, Portuguese, Middle Eastern and native Malay flavors.
“Why do Americans need Malaysian cuisine?” asked Christina Arokiasamy, chef, author and Malaysia’s Food Ambassador to the United States. “America has given Thailand a chance. America has given Japan a chance. America has given India a chance, China a chance, Vietnam a chance. America is a country that is multicultural. America is close to traditions. And Americans are also very innovative. We Malaysians are also very close to our culture, just like Americans. We are very traditional, yet we are so innovative that we can make this kind of food for the American kitchen.”
The most popular Malaysian dishes represent the melting pot that is the company’s eclectic food culture. Hokkien Mee, for example, is a Chinese style noodle dish cooked with crispy cubes of deep fried pork lard. Nasi Kandar is a popular rice dish, seasoned with Thai-inspired curry sauces. Malaysia also offers its own unique take on satay, a dish popular throughout Southern Asia, from India to Indonesia.
With bottled Malaysian sauces, packaged spice pastes and pre-packaged heat-and-serve meals available in many grocery stores, cooks who never before attempted a Malaysian passport meal at home are now beginning to experiment with the exotic flavors of this Southeast Asian kingdom. Meanwhile, those less likely to whip up their own Malaysian feast are experimenting with the flavors of the country at popular restaurants, such as San Francisco’s Banana Leaf, New York’s Nyonya and Las Vegas’ Satay.
Home cooks experimenting with flavors of India
Although Indian food is relatively well established in this country and thus does not necessarily fall into the category of up-and-coming global cuisines in the way Malaysian or Polish food might, the fare of the Indian subcontinent is growing as a mainstream cuisine of choice in this country. According to market research company Mintel, retail and foodservice sales of Indian food have jumped 35 percent in recent years. As a result, more and more home cooks today are experimenting with Indian flavors and ingredients in their own kitchens.
Today many Americans who never before touched a plate of chicken tikka masala, palak paneer or vegetable jalfrezi are carefully dipping their toes into the pool for the first time. This is in part due to the work of gourmet food companies that are attempting to make Indian dishes and flavors more accessible to the average American. Whereas one once had to visit a specialty grocery to pick up the staples necessary for preparing an Indian meal, today the average supermarket offers a selection of Indian ingredients and heat-and-serve dishes.
“It’s getting a little bit easier [to appeal to Americans], because people have become more adventurous in what they want to eat. They want new spice profiles. They want higher spice profiles. And Indian food provides that,” said Mike Ryan, Vice President of Marketing for Deep Foods, a manufacturer of Indian foods.
By Lorrie Baumann
As the world’s economy emerges from economic recession, American foodies are ready to launch out from the safe harbor of Italo-American and traditional American comfort food for deeper culinary waters, and all the indications are that this is going to be a spicy voyage. Demand for seasoning and spice is increasing due to the increasing demand for new flavors and flavor ingredients, growing popularity of ethnic cuisines and increasing health awareness among consumers, according to a 2013 report from Transparency Market Research, a market intelligence company.
This is part of a global phenomenon, according to both Transparency Market Research and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, which released a report in 2011 on growing opportunities for small farmers in developing nations to participate in the global spice trade. India is one of the world’s largest manufacturers and exporters of seasonings and spices, and growth in the Asia-Pacific spice trade is riding on the developing spice markets in India, China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, which have traditionally been net exporters of spices.
“What’s really changed in the spice business in the past couple of years, Spice 2.0, is that 300 million Indians and 400 million Chinese have entered the middle class and want to eat the food of their cultures. American spice prices have gone through the roof as the Chinese and Indians buy more spice,” said Tim Ziegler, Spice Master for Italco Food Products, Inc. a specialty food distributor in Colorado and the co-author of “Spices and Culinary Herbs” by Tim Ziegler and Brian Keating, a poster presentation designed to aid chefs in creating flavors by pairing spices and herbs from the same culinary family. “India is now a net black pepper importer. It is the most staggering development in the spice business in the past 25 years.”
Spices can be defined as vegetable products used for flavoring, seasoning and importing aroma in foods. Herbs are leafy spices, and some plants, such as dill and coriander, provide both spice seeds and leafy herbs. Around 50 spice and herb plants are of global trade importance, but many other spices and herbs are used in local traditional cooking. There is also an overlap between spices and herbs and plants normally classified as vegetables, as for example some mushrooms that are used as spices in China and Pakistan. Paprika is widely grown by small-scale farmers in Africa, while chiles are widely grown in Central America, Asia and Africa. Cloves are grown in low-lying tropical areas including Indonesia, Madagascar and Zanzibar.
Trade is dominated by dried products. In recent years, fresh herbs have become more popular, and spice- and herb-derived essential oils and oleoresins are sold in large and growing markets.
Pepper, the world’s most most important world spice crop, is grown in areas of South America, Africa and India and some Pacific Ocean countries that have high rainfall and low elevations. Lemongrass is another important herb, and it’s grown widely in the tropics. The leaf is used dried in teas, and the stems are used fresh and dried in Asian cookery. Growing interest in organic food and beverages is also catching up with the market as large amounts of certified organic spices have been introduced to the market over the past few years, according to Transparency Market Research.
This trend is already having its effect in home and restaurant kitchens across the U.S. “If the melting pot is true anywhere in America, it’s true in the kitchen,” Ziegler said. “American cuisine is not roast beef and mashed potatoes and asparagus spears any more.”
Ziegler says that Americans are growing more interested in the flavor profiles that originated in Middle Eastern and southwest Asian cuisines. “I’m a history major and I’m a chef. I sell spices on a daily basis, and increasingly the flavor profiles that even the young chefs are asking me for are increasingly southwest Asian,” he said. “I believe that 3-1/2 million to 5-1/2 million Americans have traveled or lived extensively in Afghanistan, Iraq, Bahrein and the Middle East, and those flavor profiles have come back to the United States, and I think that’s going to be a burgeoning trend.”
New Dehli-born Chef Suvir Saran, Executive Chef at Devi in New York City and Chairman of Asian Culinary Studies for the Culinary Institute of America, says that he sees Americans’ growing interest in spices as an indication that Americans are becoming more mindful about how they cook and eat. “My feeling is that we’ve been a nation that’s reactionary and loves fads and diets and trends. With the economic recession ending, people have become less reactionary, and they’re becoming more mindful,” he said. “Taking Mediterranean or whatever comfort food we were already doing and adding more herbs and flavors and spices will be a way that we can cook and eat more mindfully and also save money in the end. Spices and flavoring ingredients are cheap. They’re wallet-friendly and last a lifetime. They give you great joy and great flavor without spending too much…. As there is more availability for aromatics and spices, we can incorporate these into what we already know and create more breadth and depth in our repertoire.”
Chef Staffan Terje, Chef/Owner of Perbacco restaurant in San Francisco, agrees. “I don’t think food ever gets boring. I never think flavors go out of style. I think that people find new things and discover new things for themselves, whether they’re eating or cooking, but I never think that basil and tomato is going to be boring,” he said. “Chefs are exploring other spices and herbs and flavors that might not be familiar to people. Spices had a place that’s been pretty constant for a long time in different foods, but I see that people are exploring things in the spice realm itself. It’s not so much about the heat of spiciness but about different flavor combinations. You’ll see things like cloves and allspice sneaking their way in.”
“I look at how I flavor my own dishes, cooking northern Italian food, and I look at history. Italians were part of the early spice market and adapted things that came from the East and from the New World,” he continued. “You start looking at old European recipes, and you’ll find some very interesting things – the use of cinnamon, the use of ginger – things that came from the Middle East. It’s not just about chile peppers.”
Chef Hosea Rosenberg, owner of Blackbelly Catering in Boulder, Colo. and winner of the fifth season of “Top Chef,” says he’s hearing a lot from his fellow chefs about their interest in the cuisines of Morocco and Latin America. “Everyone’s familiar with Americanized Mexican, but there are so many regional cuisines in Mexico that have not been highlighted, such as Oaxacan,” he said. “I see a few chefs that are starting to get a lot more press attention that are either from Morocco or have Moroccan heritage. It’s an amazing cuisine, and I don’t think there’s enough attention to it as of yet.”
He is exploring both of these cuisines in his own cooking, especially the tagines characteristic of Moroccan cuisine. “I just love the slow cooking, especially in the wintertime. Slow braises of meat. I have a farm and we raise our own lamb, and I’m always looking for creative ways to cook and serve lamb,” he said. “This type of cuisine really lends itself into turning a cheaper cut, if you will, into a remarkable centerpiece-type dish.”
“Now that it’s so easy to access all these spices, I see people really taking regional American cuisine and applying global spices to them as well to enhance those dishes,” said Chef Matt Greco, Executive Chef at The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards in California. “People are using spices that, not long ago, no one had ever heard of.”
“You’re definitely seeing a lot of that cross between American, especially southern American, with Asian flavors,” he continued. “I definitely see a lot more fermented products. Korea uses so many fermented products in their food. I definitely see those types of influences applied to American cuisine. The past five years have seen a rebirth of southern American food, and that whole movement is going to other areas of the United States that have their own food cultures.”
The Associated Press is reporting that the city of Irwindale, Calif. has declared the Huy Fong Foods, Inc. plant that makes its Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce is a public nuisance. The action gives Huy Fong 90 days to abate the odors that have prompted complaints from nearby residents and gives city officials the right to enter the plant and make changes if the odors persist past that date, according to the Associated Press. Read the entire story here in the Huffington Post.
The Specialty Food Association has notified Canada Enterprises LLC, the creator of Jin+Ja, that Dragon Fruit Jin + Ja is a 2014 sofi™ Awards finalist for Outstanding Cold Beverage. There were 2,025 entries across all 30 Awards in Part 1.
Gold Winners will be determined in a special tasting by 200+ buyers at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City on Sunday, June 29 and Monday, June 30. Gold Winners will be announced that Monday, June 30, at a red-carpet ceremony hosted by noted chef Dominique Ansel.