Last weekend, the Nourish Network crew scoured the aisles of the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco looking for companies that really embodied our values of enjoying food that’s healthy for our bodies and the earth. Here, the first in my three part series (I’ve got a lot to say and didn’t want to overwhelm you) on our 18 favorites:
Village Harvest Frozen Fully-Cooked Grains – You may not think of brown rice as cutting edge; but these are—and the quinoa too. In this truly unique product line, Village Harvest cooks various grains to perfection (honestly, Alison and I were both marveling how their quinoa was cooked better than ours at home), and then freezes them instantly. Which means all you have to do is heat and eat. I love the idea that I can have brown rice or a medley for dinner even if I don’t have 50 minutes to cook it. And if I need even more of a boost I can reach for their “Un” Fried Brown Rice or Spicy Thai Brown Rice, both of which have surprisingly few ingredients (all of which are readable), low amounts of sodium, and a clean, simple taste. Because these grains are flash-frozen and kept frozen, there’s no need for chemical preservatives—and you can truly taste the difference. Seek them out in your grocer’s freezer case.
Ayala’s Herbal Water – I’m not a soda person, so I’ve wholeheartedly embraced the influx of naturally flavored waters coming onto the market. But some of them taste like your Britta does when you come home from a two week vacation. Not this one. With a crystal fresh taste and flavors like Cloves Cardamom Cinnamon (just a hint of spice in the aftertaste) and Lemon Verbena Geranium (my favorite . . . gorgeously perfumed), these are just what I’ve always wanted in a water.
KIND Bars – I’ve been a fan of KIND bars for a while now. Where other bars are a lot of filler, KIND bars are essentially just dried fruit and nuts. They’re super-satisfying, low in sugar, reasonable in calories and packed with fiber, protein and healthy fats. A winner all around.
Dragunara Organic Sweet Chili Sauce – Finding this was kismet. The night before the show a Brussel’s Sprouts with Chile Sauce dish was a standout at dinner. But I was lamenting that all the chile sauces I’ve ever seen are loaded down with thickening agents. Then the very next day I rounded the corner at the end of an aisle and found Dragunara, made with just five ingredients: water, sugar, chiles, vinegar and salt. Finally, a chile sauce with bright, zippy, natural flavor. I got so excited I think I freaked people out.
Chuao Chocolatier – Alison and I had just hit ‘overload’ when Brooke from Chuao (pronounced choo-WOW) Chocolatier deftly finagled us into a tasting. Which really wasn’t that hard to do once we’d eyed the flavors, like panko, caramelized chocolate nibs and anise. What struck me immediately was that these innovative flavors were paired with high quality dark chocolate, as opposed to the more common milk chocolate. During a grilling on production practices, Brooke taught us that despite being without Organic and Free-trade certification, the people behind Chuao chocolates (Venezuelan-born brothers) are working to ensure sustainable production and social responsibility within the Venezuelan cacao market. And, for those who have no will power with an open chocolate bar, Chuao offers individually-wrapped mini bites of just 100 calories each. I’ll definitely be seeking these guys out.
Field Roast Grain Meat Company – I have to admit; I walked right by these guys the first time. But then Nicki tasted through the line and was so excited by it that she all but ran me back to the table. And I’m glad she did. Founder David Lee combines ancient Chinese and Japanese vegan preparations with the European tradition of charcuterie to create sausages, meat loafs and pates—all without meat—that are superb. The Celebration Roast, a vegetarian roast stuffed with a puree of butternut squash, apples and mushrooms, and the Italian sausage were my favorites.