Artisan food and drink has never been more popular, with menus across the country featuring the best that local and international producers have to offer. As consumers become more accustomed to speciality goods, caterers need to source products that ensure their offering can compete.
The Speciality & Fine Food Fair 2011 takes place on 4-6 September and promises to showcase a wealth of new artisan produce. We asked David Simms, executive head chef at Restaurant Associates, to share his thoughts on some of the new products appearing at the show.
1. SMOKED HADDOCK CHOWDER - ROD AND BEN'S
The new Smoked Haddock Chowder, from organic food producer Rod and Ben's, is made with haddock caught off the Cornish coastline by small dayboats, which is then smoked at Tregida Smokehouse before being poached together with onions, potatoes and parsley fresh from the farm.
"The first thing that struck me was the strong taste of corn - so much so I feel it should actually be called Smoked Haddock and Corn Chowder. It works well, though, and is well balanced and perfectly seasoned. It's also great to see that the soup is completely natural and free from preservatives - something which I believe is actually reflected in the taste".
2. LAMB PROSCIUTTO - VALLEBONA
Prosciutto di Pecora is a cured leg of lamb, a Sardinian delicacy made from lambs raised on the Mediterranean island. The meat is rolled in crushed seeds, aniseed and pepper and cured for four to five months.
Chef's comments "The lamb is excellent. It has great marbling and has been well cured. It smells slightly sweet, yet spicy, with strong, rich fennel notes. It's perfectly balanced in flavour, again with the fennel really coming through, and melts in the mouth. A great product with plenty of possible applications".
3. ALPEN SIERRA ITALIAN ROAST - GLENFINLAS COFFEE
Glenfinlas Coffee has been sourcing, importing and distributing gourmet roasting coffee for more than a decade and is committed to ensuring farmers and growers receive a fair price for their goods. The Italian Roast is designed to exhibit the intensely dark, lively and sweet character of Rome.
Chef's comments "When I opened the bag I was amazed by the aroma - it was wonderfully rich and spicy with a slight hint of citrus. The coffee was well balanced and full-bodied with a fair bit of acidity and finished with a subtle spicy flavour. I felt it worked best as an espresso, but still worked well when made with a cafetière. A coffee well worth a try".
4. PICK ME UP AT 3 - THE TEASHED
Pick Me Up At 3 Tea is a hearty, caffeine-rich Assam tea, designed for afternoon slumps. The whole-leaf tea is in silky pyramid bags, providing the rich flavour of loose-leaf tea in the convenience of a teabag.
Chef's comments "I think the packaging is fantastic, very energising and fresh. The product itself is also great. The tea is light with a good-quality rich taste and a nice finish. It does exactly what it says on the tin".
5. ICED TEA - LONDON TEA COMPANY
Known for its high-quality tea, the London Tea Company has launched three new iced tea drinks in three flavours: Oolong with Pomegranate & Blueberry; White Tea with Elderflower & Pear; and Green Tea with Mango, Pineapple & Passionfruit. The drinks can be stored in ambient conditions and are best served chilled.
Chef's comments "This is a nice range of drinks, tasty and very refreshing when served chilled over ice. My only criticism would be that the actual taste of tea is very faint, as the additional flavours seem to take centre stage".
6. PANETTONE - SPECIALITY BREADS
Speciality Breads, a supporter of the Red Tractor scheme, is an artisan bakery that focuses on delivering high-quality frozen fully baked breads for the food service sector. The new traditional Italian panettone is designed as an accompaniment to coffee or afternoon tea.
Chef's comments "This is an excellent product. It has a perfect crust and a fluffy and light centre. When it's torn open you get a great sweet buttery rich smell with hints of vanilla. It's not filled with as much fruit as I have seen in other products, but there is just enough".
7. MR HUGH'S RAPESEED OIL - LARCHWOOD FOODS
Grown, pressed and bottled at the company's farms in Norfolk, the new oil is rich in vitamin E, omega-3, -6 and -9 and has the lowest saturated fat content of any popular culinary oil.
Chef's comments "This is a good neutral oil, neither strong nor bitter, just a light, versatile product that would be perfect for dressings and emulsions when you want another key ingredient to be the star of the show. It has a nice deep-yellow colour and would be perfect for use in cooking. I would definitely use it in the kitchen".
8. DRINKING FUDGE - FUDGE KITCHEN
Fudge Kitchen, known for its range of handmade gourmet fudge, is launching Drinking Fudge - a new hot drink concept. Drinking Fudge comes in individual sachets and a range of flavours, including Dreamy Coconut and Tangy Orange.
Chef's comments"I love the packaging of this product, it looks trendy and sharp but would still be perfectly suited in most hospitality environments. As a hot drink it's fantastic - it has a smooth, rich and velvety texture with a fresh and natural taste, but yet not too sweet or overpowering either, so it would work well at all times of the day".
9. PISTACHIO ICE CREAM - GINO GELATO
Gino produces its authentic gelato and sorbet in-store daily using only the freshest ingredients. The gelato is made with organic milk and natural ingredients and contains no additives, flavourings or preservatives.
Chef's comments"This ice-cream is outstanding. It's one of the best pistachio ice-creams I've tried in a long while. The colour is a little dull, but the taste is amazingly natural and not slightly synthetic as so many others are. It has a great smooth texture, easy to scoop/roché, and has an excellent blend of sweet and salty. I'm really impressed that it's completely natural and made fresh each day".
10. CHEESE BISCUITS - LA FROMAGERIE
La Fromagerie supplies farmhouse cheese to some of the best restaurants in and around the UK. To complement the range the company has launched a new cheese biscuit range, consisting of four flavours: Caraway, Charcoal, Oat and 100% Rye.
Chef's comments "I already use the company's cheeses, so I had high expectations for the new biscuits and was not disappointed. The biscuits are as good as the cheeses, and they complement each other perfectly. The range has a home-made feel and each biscuit is crisp, with a combination of great flavours. I also think it's great that the packaging highlights which cheeses the biscuits should be served with, as this is something that is often missed when serving cheese".
11. GOOSEBERRY SPARKLING WINE - LYME BAY WINERY
The Lyme Bay Winery produces a unique range of country and sparkling wines and fruit and cream liqueurs. The new Gooseberry Sparkling Wine is made using fresh gooseberry juice and Chardonnay.
Chef's comments "My first impressions were that the wine smelt fantastic, very fruity and fresh with a strong gooseberry aroma. The drink itself, however, was very tart - which I guess is what you would expect from gooseberries - but with a nice balanced flavour profile. I think it would lend itself better to cooking applications and would be ideal for poaching fruit and making jellies or a sorbet".
The Speciality & Fine Food Fair 2011 takes place on 4-6 September at Olympia in London.
Register for your free visitor badge and learn more about the fair athttp://www.specialityandfinefoodfair.co.uk" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">www.specialityandfinefoodfair.co.uk.