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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

CrazySexyFancyCool

Ms. Slab likes to describe my romance style as “meat and potatoes.” And I know what you're thinking, friend: high five!

But lately I've begun to worry. Does she mean filet mignon and pommes dauphine, or that hamburger I stuffed with Pringles and left in the fridge? Not that it really matters. After all, in this fast-paced recession-gripped age, who has the resources to spice up life?

Never fear, gentle reader. No matter the times The Porkchop Express likes to look on the bright side. The bright delicious side. So we headed down to the 54th Annual Fancy Food Show with an extra bit of pep in our step and a mission in tow: find a few items guaranteed to arouse mind, stomach and loins alike. Yes, our annual round-up of haute eats is here; and this year's theme is 7 Great Ways to Woo Your (Wo)Man, Fancy Style! So let's begin...
Matt Scott models milled grist

...with wheat. After all, who doesn't like a piping hot baked good? And aren't muffins quite often “made for stuffin'”? Either way, Bacheldre Watermill produce fantastic flours from their upstart Welsh outpost. Owners Anne and Matt Scott mill with care and, dare I say, flair: slowly, using traditional stones and high-quality organic grist. The finished products are distinctive, pure, and genuinely flavorful. What is more, they have collaborated with perennial Porkchop Express favorite (and last year's top pick) the Organic Smokehouse on an unusual product: Oak Smoked Stoneground Strong Malted Blend Flour. So grab a bag if you see it; your rolls and loaves will woo, guaranteed.
Solera's Marcona Almonds are as good as they look

Those looking for a simpler sort of foreplay might stick to the basics. I.E. nuts. And on this front, nothing starts the engines quite like Spain's golden, fruity, crunchy, delicate Marcona Almond. Sure, they're pricey; but oh so sassy. Like the sacks imported by Solera Luna, lightly fried in extra virgin olive oil and tossed with sea salt. Grab a handful with a slice of Manchego, and laugh at the poor saps still eating Cali almonds; or go nuts crazy and marinate a few with olives, herbs and citrus rind; or shave some onto a salad of pears and raw milk Cabrales; or dice and fold into your favorite madeleine recipe. Just let your imagination wander and don't hold back; this is your evening, and you're ready to break some rules!
Jessica Dietrich bearing good cheer and bacon chocolate

Speaking of which... a “bacon chocolate bar” sounds very, uh, “Fat Elvis.” Alas, in this mixed up crazy world of ours up passes for down and gross passes for haute. Which may help explain why fancy-pants boutique-y chocolatier Vosges Haut Chocolat decided to bring Mo's Bacon Bar to the people. Hmm. I like bacon; chocolate, it depends. And the combo? Sounds contrived. But the taste... wasn't bad. Somewhere between nasty and arousing. Clearly, a “41% cacao” milk chocolate/applewood bacon combo isn't on everyone's sexytime menu. But more unconventional lovers might take the plunge. At the very least, this scratches many itches (sweet, salty, crispy, creamy) whilst addressing one of life's great clichés (what doesn't go better with bacon??! Hahahahaha!!!)
Tracy Wilkinson-Claros models some serious sweet

All kidding aside, it wasn't our favorite desert of the day. Said honor instead went to the Sticky Toffee Pudding Company. Before the show I thought “sticky toffee pudding” was the punchline to a dirty English joke (innit). But it's actually a classic Old World desert: a ridiculously good and totally sweet cake (the “pudding” bit) baked in sticky toffee. This enticed me on so many flavor levels I don't know where to begin. Let's just describe it as is: burnt sugary, slightly salty, a bit nutty (pecans), a touch fruity (dates), a tad perky (espresso). To which we said behave! and kept moving. To Armenia, actually.
Sylvia Tirakian and Gabriela bearing serious gifts

What do you know of Armenia, friend? If you answered sexy and fruity then you may be familiar with Harvest Song's luscious artisanal preserves. Each elegant jar contains only three ingredients: cane sugar, lemon juice, and fruit hand-picked from the fertile Ararat Valley. They say this region's high altitudes and bright sunshine yield remarkable ingredients, and it shows in the toothsome final product. Under their careful hand, even the most staid flavors sing anew. Tops on our list? Perky Plum (wonderfully sweet-and-tart), buttery Apricot (rich and creamy), and a Cherry whose Sour just didn't quit. So enjoy a dollop on everything from piping hot biscuits to butter-seared foie gras. Or throw caution to the wind and serve a spoonful to that special someone in your life... “love” doesn't usually taste this good!
Always fresh never frozen: Rosa Prezioso-Galeno serves up the day's Big Hit

Now I know what you're thinking, friend: sweets are fun to eat but where's the meat? All things great come to those who wait, and we have a serious doozie for this year's top pick: a prime piece of porcine pleasure that proved to be our overall Fancy Food '08 Favorite. And it it goes by the name of Cioli porchetta. Cioli's tagline is “a tradition of goodness,” but this doesn't do the product or its producer justice. After all, Ariccia is the epicenter of porchetta, that marvel of Italian ingenuity (boneless pork rolled with garlic and aromatics, sliced and often sold from trucks). I adore this stuff, but haven't had a solid one in some time. Nor did I expect a Food Show booth to produce anything noteworthy. But thanks to Cioli I stand seriously corrected. This was as good as any I remember tasting in some time – tender and juicy with moist meat, crispy skin and terrific seasoning – and quite literally a show-stopper. As in: people stopped at the stand, raised a skeptical brow, tentatively tasted, then ate; and ate some more, and praised, and ate. Which leads me to wonder how these folks have been around since 1917, yet still don't have a New York City distributor... For the love of all things good, someone do something about this. I need me some more porchetta.
Alessandro Izza pours some of his family's finest

And I need to cool down. On a delicious, intoxicating note. Because, friend, every classy date needs a sassy digestif, and Izzi's Amaro Erbes is as fine as they come. The family has produced high-quality tonicos since 1903 (four generations and counting), but – due to the Grandfather's reticence – only started importing in 2002. Which is good news for the rest of us. Far less distinguished amaro leave a cloying, medecinal taste in the mouth. By contrast, Izzi's exceptional elixir offers a lively, minty mix of 40 of fine fresh roots and herbs. Plus, full alcohol content (80 proof, unusual for this sort of drink) makes it relatively dry and inebriating. Vibrant, fresh and soothing all at once? Sounds CrazySexyFancyCool. So rev those motors, friend; you are officially ready to hit the love tunnel... in style!
Three more for the road: sand sculptor Kirk Rademaker displays his impressive skills, whilst ensuring I will not touch hummus for at least three months...
and Giant Fuzzy Monkey sends mixed messages, flipping us off... with the peace sign...and one last shot of the Porchetta people, Rosa with creator/maestro Gianluca Cioli. Because we care, this pork's for you!

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Red Hook'd: End of Season

FYI, The Red Hook Soccer Fields Taco Food Stand Eat Place Non-Tent Trucks will be ending their season this Sunday, October 26th. Their satellite stands at the Brooklyn Flea will continue to operate through December 21st. So taco up.

As for The 'Chop? Fancy Food report to be posted in the next day; and Vendy Round-Up to follow.