"I will try almost anything once but I really regret trying a Sechuan button. The sensation is somewhere between licking a nine-volt battery and licking two nine-volt batteries."
The "for the trade" only three-day International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York at the Jacob Javits Center wrapped up yesterday. While much of the floor space was dedicated to cooking equipment, restaurant furniture, menu designs, doggy bag products, and all sorts of mundane sundries of the trade, there were still booths of interest to Serious Eaters.
The Japan Pavilion
My first stop was the Japan Pavilion, where I got to sample ramen, Fuji apples, and seaweed. There was also plenty of saki and beer.
Of the more bizarre items offered: something called the shrimp hot dog. I tried a bite and immediately wished I had not. I don't think you will see these for sale at the corner hot dog cart anytime soon.
Closer to home, and on the other side of the hall, was a special section set up for local producers: artisanal potato chips, locally produced veggie burgers, and locally harvested mollusks.
The show was not without drama. Mark Pastore of Pat La Frieda meats reports that a beautifully marbled USDA Prime shell steak from Creekstone Farms, Kentucky, went missing from his display box. To tell you the truth, they looked so inviting, I was tempted to pilfer one myself.
Pizza, Pizza, Pizza
Lots of pizza-related items on display, most of which would make New Yorkers cringe. This was not about the quality New York pizza we are spoiled with, but the mass-produced franchise model.
There was also a display set up to promote competitive dough tossing, a sport unfamiliar to me. Competitors spin and fling pizza dough in a way that no true pizza artisan would. Rubber mats are used in place of pizza dough (which, to be honest, looked about as appetizing as most of the pizza being served).
Year of the Pig
More pork here than you could shake a stick at! From exotic hams from Spain and Italy to domestically produced porchetta pork products—they were everywhere.
I will try almost anything once but I really regret trying a Sechuan button. The sensation is somewhere between licking a nine-volt battery and licking two nine-volt batteries. In other words: remarkably unpleasant.
Recession, What Recession?
We might be deep in a recession but there was still plenty of luxury, high-priced items. From truffles (for display purposes only; no one was giving these away)...
...to Wagyu beef, which was rationed out in minute portions.
Sweet tooths had plenty of options. Some highlights included the mountain of cakes from Carousel Cakes and Gifford's Ice Cream which were invariably mobbed.
There was no doubt in my mind—this was the most delicious thing I sampled. Capogiro gelato: simply sensational, especially the milk flavor.
Not Edible, But Wow!
The most entertaining display was the Shamwow. Many attendees, including myself, walked away with a couple of rolls tucked under the arm.
Last and least, I present the worst booth of the show, both in terms of display and location.