From Sunday to Tuesday of this past week, the Javits Center was once again littered with cheaply branded propylene tote bags, which is indicative of one thing: here be conventions.
The Center was hosting the International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York . It’s “the only all-encompassing event in New York for the restaurant and foodservice industry, making it THE one-stop source for everything you need to succeed in today’s market.” Comprehensive would be doing the displays a disservice; all aspects of gastronomical life were represented.
As a whole, it was both enlightening and humbling. I’m sure when all the soon-to-be CIA grads are walking the aisles, few (if any) are considering what kind of motion-sensored paper towel dispenser they’ll put in the bathroom of their dream restaurant someday. But it is a decision somebody will have to make at some point, and those affected by it are rightfully represented at the show.
The two major features this year highlighted the local products of New York, and the prevalence of umami in Japanese cuisine.
Taste of New York
Besides having some flashy Honey Whiskey, the “Taste of New York” had great dairy products (including a dynamite sheep’s milk bleu.) But the real surprise was distinctly and undisappointingly Brooklyn: gluten free bread from Everybody Eats. The texture of the white bread was flawless: springy and chewy with a deliberate crust. The boys at the booth were eager to talk about their flagship product, and I expect to see it coming to a trendy bread basket near you.
Besides a viscous mixture of octopus and wasabi that I ate out of a packet and would not recommend, the Japanese Pavilion did not disappoint. Ramen noodles, soy sauces, vinegars, and other staples were in the house, as was a great powdered green tea au lait from Kobataen. Somehow both rich and refreshing, the warm shot of tea evaded the chemical/artificial cling that often accompanies powdered beverages.
I avoided the Pub (which is new this year) until everyone was just about wrapping up, so I could navigate it sans crowd. You could say it was a hit. Local ciders and wines stood beside Sauvignon Blanc ice cream and some barely alcoholic kombucha from Kombrewcha that almost had me feeling like a real human being again and not someone who had eaten something new every dozen steps for several hours.
The participants in the U.S. Pastry Competition put on a show, and almost half of the floor was dedicated to non-edibles: exterminators, equipment suppliers (including food trucks), apparel, and the like. It may have been because I went on the first day, but nobody was too in-your-face, despite each company being there for the sole purpose of pitching a product. But it also could have been as enjoyable because I followed the advice my chef friend gave me: “Don’t make eye contact unless you know it’s something you want.” To add to that, maybe make a list or something? It’s easy to get distracted in there.
Article and photos by Julian Giarraputo, a chef’s kid with decent knife skills but who’d rather use a pen.