International Association of Culinary Professionals Culinary & Book Expo 2012

Palm Sunday was the last day of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) Conference in New York City. With the last day of festivities came the culinary and book expo smack dab in SoHo. The culinary expo served as a smorgasbord of local, national, and international exhibitors of food & beverages and equipment for food professionals. KitchenAid and Cuisinart, big names in the food tools field, were there as well as Vitamix--unveiling their newest blender. The high power emulsion of the Vitamix 5200 blender created some wonderful chocolate fondue using chocolate from fellow exhibitor Guittard brand chocolate. Overall the texture was so smooth that you just wanted to slurp the sample and not be held down by a pretzel only providing bits of deliciousness. Another big name in the baking field, King Arthur Flour, was present promoting their latest catalog filled with not only ingredients for baking but equipment as well including pans, racks, and great tools for slicing and dicing. I gushed to representatives that I've been using my mini doughnut pan pretty steadily since purchasing it from their site.

The culinary expo was a carb and cheese fest, and I am not complaining about that at all. Light flavored cheeses such as goat cheese were paired with full-flavored ones like blue, soft cheeses like brie were paired with harder ones like Parmesan to show off the range of tastes and textures when it comes to the cheeses that can enhance a recipe. One of my favorite uses of cheese, and a nice way to spice up an old favorite English muffin, was the goat cheese, marmalade, and walnut which pairing on a whole wheat Bays English muffin, kept warm under a heating lamp. It was the perfect kind of treat to make you feel like you wanted to curl up on the couch and watch TV with some nice warm Runa "tea" on a rainy and chilly day. Any food dish that evokes cozy fantasies is a good one.

The Savory 

Kikkoman had a booth showcasing their variety of panko bread crumbs as well as their newer sauces both spicy and mild. The salmon burger with slaw made with Kikkoman panko bread crumbs and spicy chili sauce was a hearty & filling item that hit the umami spot. Soft bun, warm meat, tangy slaw, amazing.

I spoke to Kikkoman representatives and let them know I often use their brand of plain panko as a topping for baked mac and cheese as well as breading for chicken. Once you start using panko you cannot go back to regular bread crumbs. It's very light and crunchy without being grainy. One of the Kikkoman reps suggested I also use it for french toast. Having just made french toast with cornflakes I can only imagine the added crunch factor with panko. Yet another item to add on my To Do list.

Canadian Lentils served a phenomenal lentil and cheese quesadilla while also offering a sample recipe book for more uses for lentils including appetizers, soups, main courses and desserts.

Soon after trying the quesadilla I stopped by The Regal Vegan's booth to taste the toasted walnut lentil pâté that had a great savory kind of meaty taste to it without the meat of course. The texture was of a creamy spread and it was a huge favorite among attendees. After a minutes consideration I purchased some on the spot. Ella Nomcova, executive chef and founder for The Regal Vegan line, created the pâté after huge demand grew from customers that wanted to take it home rather than only try it at the restaurant she worked at. It's vegan friendly and tastes good fitting The Regal Vegan's philosophy of love, respect, and other nutrients as food honors the person eating it.

At the book expo where cookbook authors were set up to talk about books ranging from gluten-free to sensual cooking aphrodisiacs to all kinds of desserts to BBQ cooking to international fare. The tabbouleh with roasted walnuts was available from the book One Tribe Gourmet by Sara Hafiz. This tabbouleh was not as oily as ones I have tried in the past. It was more herb than olive oil and had a pungent taste due to the greens of mint and flat leaf parsley, while also introducing me to the cereal grain of bulgur.

Top Chef season 1 finalist Dave Martin was with the Nueske's booth where he made chicken jerky and also a chicken mesclun green salad with shaved parmesan and a light vinaigrette. This was a great, lighter contrast to much of the items available because carbs  (read: baguettes) were there aplenty as was cheese in the steady pairing of the two. Again, not complaining as all were delicious.

I also couldn't get enough of the lamb jerky provided by American Lamb. I know people may be on the fence about lamb and also veal but I have to say the jerky I tried was not too salty but also had a good range of spices and smoky flavor in it. If you've had real jerky you know that it's not as nicely packaged, nor should it be, as a Slim Jim. It has a rough exterior but a chewiness to it. It's hearty and filling and cured and dry so that it keeps well with age. In the case of jerky aging it is a good thing. Where USA Lamb's jerky was more in line with what I've seen Chef Martin's was done as an after thought so as not to waste Nueske's left over chicken but was a good taste as well and not as dry.

The Sweet 

The Rescue Baker Lisa Camerlengo presented her campfire cookies (a s'more cookie essentially with marshmallows and chocolate chips) as well as flourless chocolate cake (a dense dark chocolate delight), and her lemon bundt cake (a great citrusy treat within a moist cake).

Artopolis Bakery Patisserie specializes in Greek desserts and offered many items including baklava and melomakarona. I tried the melomakarona another dense but moist cookie with cinnamon, brandy, and honey included that reminded me of gulab jamun in texture and taste.

Artopolis Patisserie - A Citysearch find!

One of my favorite sandwiches which I'm unsure fits into the sweet or savory category is the peanut butter and jelly sandwich offered by Peanut Butter & Company made with their Smooth Operator peanut butter. Their store is also located in downtown Manhattan and their biggest seller is the Elvis inspired peanut butter and banana sandwich. PB & Co's peanut butter is as natural as it gets with a handful of ingredients, all of which you can recognize and pronounce. Good stuff.

I loved, loved, loved Wisconsin Cheese's dessert panini "The Mackenzie" made with pound cake, rosemary butter, fig spread, and Wisconsin brie. This was a super warm item where everything melded together and the fig and pound cake had a nice sweetness that melted in your mouth and the brie, being light in flavor and texture, worked well with it overall. I'm not a fan of figs, but it really enhanced this item and I couldn't get enough of it, especially being so toasty right off the grill!

I also enjoyed samples of the chocolate cake available in the book expo by the author of Sweet Home Rebecca Miller French. It was the last thing I tasted before leaving the expo and it definitely stuck with me.

The Information

It was great to speak with many of the exhibitors about more of the variety of uses for their goods and how much they encourage those to alternate their way of cooking within the food industry but also extending this to how people cook and bake in our everyday lives. Speaking with Chimere of Clean Plate Company we considered how great it would be for people of various backgrounds and communities to visit the culinary expo to not only taste new things but see and learn how different flavors can create something very powerful in a dish. There's a big hesitation once we get older to divert from what we grew up with. Chimere and I agree that it starts with children, from there we all grow into our own tastes. I know I experimented more with foods in college than I ever did when I was younger.

In discussing the best types of pears to use for baking at the USA Pears station I was informed that the samples they had of anjou and red anjou as well as bosc would be great for pies, particularly bosc if you wanted to retain a firmer texture within a baked item. Judging the ripeness of a pear includes touching the neck and feeling for firmness or not. If it's firm then that extends to the body of the pear as well. Pears are great for their crispness and get ripe once they are removed from the tree. They're in the apple family and also have a similar texture to the apple when baked, softening with the sweetness intensifying when cooked.

Canola Oil is one of the better oils being discovered by professional chefs. It has less of the solid saturated fats and more of the omega-3 fatty acids than even olive oil. It's being touted as one of the more versatile oils out there with a neutral taste. Canola Info is pushing it more for other uses as well as baking (in lieu of vegetable oil used in many cakes and cake mixes). I'll dig deeper into Canola and see how it may enhance the health factor, particularly for vinaigrettes.

7th Taste Flavored Olive Oils

I was happy to meet Luane Kohnke author of Gluten-Free Cookies which was the book I based all my cooking for last August when I did only gluten-free baking. I admire the fact that Luane has a full-time job at an ad agency and that she developed these recipes out of a pure love of baking and wanting to provide more options for those with celiac disease or who were just interested in using other ingredients and seeing how they work together. The mixture of flours she uses work really well together to create a great taste without taking anything away from the cookie itself just because it's gluten free.

Lentils are not beans technically, they are pulses but considered in the legumes family. Canada Lentils spreads the word about their various uses and how filling they can be. The goal of The Big Book of Lentils is to show that lentils work in desserts as well adding more fiber and protein to goods overall. It doesn't serve as a replacement for anything within the dessert frame but adds that healthier ingredient to enhance the nutritional content.

Runa, which isn't really a tea, is a leaf brewed like tea. Runa had their warm and cold bottled teas available and the traditional guayusa is divine! It's not reminiscent of a tea you may have tasted like earl grey, which many teas are based on, or english breakfast but holds its own with a subtle but lightly sweetened taste in the cold form. It does not have caffeine in it so don't expect an extra jolt to the senses to keep you up, but the all natural taste is said to aid digestion and boost metabolism being a welcome addition to the bevy of teas (or tea like) beverages on the market. And Runa is now available at Whole Foods. Chambre du Sucre also had a lovely tasting hibiscus raspberry tea that was a divine thing to taste after having many cheeses and sweets throughout the day.

As is always my wish when it comes to conferences it would've been great to have more time to explore what each booth had to offer. Compared to conferences like Book Expo of America this was not as hard to get through in terms of seeing everything and getting as much information as possible as it was on one floor. Yet, three hours wasn't enough, hard to believe. Seeing and tasting different olive oils infused with great flavors like BBQ bacon and curry and discovering more about endives (their variety and tastes in recipes) and tasting walnut foccacia I have to say I came out of the culinary & book expo much wiser and more excited to try other recipes to expand my own cooking and baking habits. Here's hoping IACP returns to NYC next year. New York City seems the prime place to connect culinary enthusiasts and professionals alike.