The NRA. No, this is not all about the latest rifles and such – I’m talking about the National Restaurant Association show, an annual affair that takes over the city of Chicago for a weekend. For a flavor trend-seeking trekker such as myself, it is an opportunity to see and experience the latest and greatest in food and beverage innovations, while meeting the leaders of some of the newest and most innovative companies in the restaurant industry.
To say this show is big – is a massive understatement. It. Is. HUGE.
- Want an automatic sushi maker? They’ve got several.
- A new walk-in freezer? You got it.
- A complete bakery or deli line up? That too.
As such, I’m going to give you my Top 5 for what was new, interesting, and pervasive over this great weekend of food and beverage-based fun, focused of course on the flavor of things.
5) Bread, bread and more bread.
It’s crazy that in the height of all things paleo and keto, there are still an amazing number of bread and bakery suppliers. One thing’s for sure: no matter what the latest diet fad is, there is an incredible amount of delicious baked treats available for everyone in different grains, vegetables, textures and formats. Bread is here to stay, folks, and it is better and fresher than ever.
Of particular note: Venice Bakery’s cauliflower pizza crusts in different flavors
4) Gelato for everyone.
I think I may have eaten gelato from 20 different booths. You want to look for new and different flavors? Taste some of the latest gelato creations!
One of my favorites: Almond Butter & Honey Gelato
3) Condiment craze.
No longer your momma’s ketchup and mustard, companies are bringing on all sorts of ethnic and fermented-inspired condiments. The one pictured below was incredibly delicious. In culinary school, you are taught that spicy + sweet + fat + salt is always a good combo. This achaar is proof of that.
2) Crafted goes mainstream.
Many beverage companies have decided in the last few years to explore the ‘crafted’ scene. There are also smaller outfits still inspiring us with new and innovative products and flavors. The Brooklyn Crafted ginger beer was a great example of this. Ginger + Lemon and Lime = delicious! I also loved seeing the globally inspired floral flavors. It is evident floral inspired flavor profiles are here to stay… at least for a bit.
1) Not your usual burger or brat.
Plant-based meat was everywhere. Soy, sweet potato, faba, pea, you name it, they have it in a burger or meat base. The most popular booths throughout the show were Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat – both serving up delicious mini burgers. Add a delicious bun, caramelized onions and some additional condiments, and you wouldn’t even realize it’s not beef – that is some darn good beef flavor I must say!
Stay tuned for more trekking in my next post from the IFT show in mid-July. The IFT is in Chicago this year, but there is bound to be some different and interesting highlights to share.