Gluten Free Goodies from the 2013 Fancy Food Show
The Summer Fancy Food Show is back in NYC after a brief stint in Washington, DC, and I was happy to resume my years-old summer ritual of nibbling my way through 6,000 booths for the noble purpose of discovering what’s new and delicious in the world of specialty food.
As has been the case for several years now, gluten-free foods were hugely prominent at the show. I was spoiled for choice with gluten-free cakes, cookies, crackers, pretzels, granolas and condiments populating each and every aisle in the massive convention center, so much so that a man mistook me for being pregnant on my way home from the show and offered me his seat on the subway. Note to self: wear Spanx to next year’s show.
Here are some of the coolest and most interesting things I tasted this year:
- A leaf from a Stevia plant! (super sweet, followed by a bitter aftertaste… just like stevia-sweetened foods and drinks!) It was on display at the CocoPolo booth, a company that makes Stevia and erythritol-sweetened chocolate for people looking to reduce their sugar intake without having to kick their chocolate habit.
- Sun-dried tomato ketchup by Traina (bursting with concentrated tomato flavor… and even more lycopene than regular ketchup)
- Dark chocolate covered hemp seeds by Himalania (at 160 calories and 11g sugar per 2 TBSP, I have a hard time justifying these to myself… but boy would these be a tasty topping for yogurt if I could spare the room in my diet!)
- My first jerky ever, coaxed into my mouth by the kind and convincing people at Krave Jerky (Lemon Garlic Turkey Jerky was delish.)
- Canaan Fair Trade’s new Fig Sesame spread, slated to hit Whole Foods’ shelves in January 2014. (I’m told it is divine on a slice of apple; I’d eat it straight from the jar.)
- Goat Milk Caramels from Big Picture Farm in Vermont (if I had a herd of goats, I think I’d be compelled to make caramels, too! Maybe I need to convince my four-legged friends at Redwood Hill Farm to whip up a batch for me this Christmas…)
- Tea-Riffic Ice Cream‘s stupidly good and creamy ice cream flavors in unusual and sophisticated tea flavor combinations (Does it count as stalking if you plot out a company’s entire distribution network on google maps to determine how many retail outlets you can pass on your commute to and from work? My friend wants to know…)
But these nibbles were mere distractions from my primary mission: to find the latest and greatest gluten-free innovators. I was on the lookout for companies who have looked the gluten-free food market straight in the eye and realized that it’s exploding with junky, starchy, high sugar, oddly-textured crap. The companies who decided to–finally- bring some more nutrient dense, well-textured foods to market. The companies, in short, whose products I would actually buy. They are:
- Wholesome Cravings Protein Baking Mix: Anyone who reads my blog with regularity has seen me on a rant about how much added sugar food companies sneak into their products. It goes without saying that, up until now, I only bake my own low-sugar cookies and muffins for the family; its absolutely impossible to find storebought mixes that meet my criteria for an acceptable daily indulgence: 1 tsp added sugar or less per serving. Even so-called “healthy” recipes online are routinely loaded with sugar– 1 cup or more per batch (I refuse to bake anything with more than 1/3 cup sugar, and generally aim for 1/4 cup. See my Low Sugar Baking recipe board on Pinterest for a few of the gems in my repertoire.)
Oops. I ranted again.
Well, you can imagine my delight to happen upon Wholesome Cravings Protein Baking mixes– gluten free baking mixes for chocolate chocolate chip, banana/chocolate chip, pumpkin spice and apple ginger muffins based on three low-glycemic ingredients: pea protein, whole grain GF oats and ground flaxseeds. From there, you add your own egg and a naturally sweet, whole foods-based fat replacer– mashed banana, applesauce or pumpkin puree. And then, you decide whether to add additional sweetener beyond that–and if so, then which one and how much of it. The box provides guidelines for added sugar, which max out at 2 TBSP (!!) per batch of 7 muffins– or a maximum of <1 tsp added sugar per muffin. Moreover, each muffin has 11g of protein when prepared as directed.
You can see why I am so in love with this concept. I wish more food companies would start leaving out the sugar and letting the consumer decide whether–and how much– to add.
- Geraldine’s Bodacious Sweet Potato Sticks: Ok, so, yeah… gluten free pretzels aren’t a novelty anymore now that even national pretzel brands like Snyder’s of Hanover make them. But what do pretzels bring to the gluten-free table besides lots of starchy, carby empty calories? Nada. If you’re a pretzel addict, however, Geraldine’s Sweet Potato Sticks are a great transitional object to wean you from your guilty pleasure. (Or to upgrade your Goldfish-addicted kiddo to a more nutrient dense, crunchy snack). At 70 calories and 11g of carb per ounce, they’ve got half the calories and half the carbs of a comparable portion of gluten free pretzels from Glutino and one third fewer calories and half the carbs as a comparable portion of Snyder’s GF pretzels. Owing to their legitimate sweet potato content, they’ve also got 50% of the daily value for Vitamin A per serving.
- Free For All Kitchen Gluten-Free Crackers: “Finally,” I said to myself, “a fancy gluten free cracker!” Yes, there are plenty of gluten free crackers on the market. But there is not much variety. Most are rice crackers– Asian style or otherwise. There are a couple of Ritz knock-offs. Crunchmaster makes a multi-seed one that–if you can tolerate its saltiness– is a good weekday vehicle for hummus or cheese. And Mary’s Gone Crackers deserves honorable mention for having arguably the healthiest GF cracker to be had. But fancy these are not. I will confess to having some cracker envy when checking out the cheese plates at parties, and find myself yearing for a taste of those lovely-looking flatbreads–dusted perhaps with some rosemary or garlic– as I resign myself to a rather plain and uninspired rice flour round. It was a delight, then, to happen upon the new GF, flatbread-style addition to the Partners Crackers lineup– Free for All Kitchen. The base is primarily buttermilk and cassava (a.k.a. Tapioca)– so we’re not talking fiber powerhouse, here. But their texture is a refreshing departure from your standard GF cracker, the flavors more nuanced and sophisticated, and I’d happily serve these on my next fancy cheese tray in lieu of a more pedestrian GF cracker.
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