One of the best things about working in the food industry is the fantastic food shows we have to go to. This year we had the pleasure of visiting The Speciality Chocolate Fair (yes, it is as great as it sounds) and its sister event The Speciality & Fine Food Fair.
Let’s start with food before we get to the chocolate. Some of the most interesting vendors turned out to have a halal certification of some sort, or had products that were suitable for those eating a halal conscious diet. The number of cheesemakers who use vegetarian rennet was surprisingly high, so we went all out on cheese tasting. Several types of Irish, Cornish, and Scottish cheese later, this one was the favourite:
The flavour of the cheddar was mellow and at first thats what you taste. The ginger kicks in a few seconds later and then you have the bizarre but yummy combination of both at the same time.
The ‘free from’ range at the Speciality & Fine Food Fair was just as you’d expect from a fair with this title: expansive and delicious. These include vinegars from The Little Herb Farm, Solpuro avocado, and the most impressive nut free satay sauce we’ve ever tried, courtesy of Yau’s. It really does taste just like peanut satay. Not just any peanut satay, good peanut satay sauce!
If you’ve ever been to Australia or New Zealand you’ll recognise Pic’s peanut butter. I invest in good quality peanut butter, so to find something better was an exciting surprise. It really is very good.
The prize for novelty has to go to Ten Acre, who make crisps and popcorn with flavours that are so intriguing they leave you with a raised eyebrow. The classic range is complemented by popcorn that is flavoured like strawberries and cream, fennel and lemon, and wasabi. Its a taste sensation and quite a novelty to be tasting all these interesting flavours from a teeny kernel of popcorn. Ten Acre have unusually interesting branding, with a whole Ten Acre world created online and a story behind each flavour.
Other highlights include The Cornish Ketchup Company (who knew that existed?!), Turkish Delight made by Özerlat with no gelatine and in a blast from the past, a herbal tea company called Cuppanut founded by Gareth Gates.
The Speciality Chocolate Fair showcased just over 70 producers. Some our favourites were there (shout out to Paul at Cocoa Hernando), and some new discoveries including African Sky Foods who take macadamia nuts, cover them with chocolate and have thus created a kind of nut/chocolate heaven.
Reindeer Moss Chocolate by Chocolala was an interesting find. It turns out Reindeer Moss picked from Estonia doesn’t have much of a taste, but is used to give the chocolate an interesting texture.
Doisy & Dam make superfood chocolate, with flavours like ‘Date & Himalayan Pink Salt’, ‘Quinoa, Smoked Tea & Vanilla’, and ‘Coconut & Lucuma’. After you’ve Googled what ‘Lucuma’ is and tried the chocolate, it makes much more sense. Chocolate that might be better for you, and tastes good is a winner.
The Speciality & Fine Food Fair and Chocolate Fair are, as usual, great places for food inspiration. We’ll be sharing some of these stories over the next few months, and look forward to seeing you there in 2017.
About Gem Hunter Zohra
Zohra runs Halal Gems, the curated guide to halal dining. Their interactive magazine has reached the Top 10 on Apple’s App Store in 18 countries. She produces and presents her own TV show in the UK, The Curious Foodie , on BMTV (Sky Channel 845).
Zohra holds an MBA from Cambridge University, and lives in London, England. Follow her on Twitter.