One of the best perks of working at the Good Housekeeping Research Institute this summer, aside from the regular smell of freshly baked brownies coming out of the test kitchen, is the fact that I get to attend food and nutrition events as press.
The first two of these events occurred a couple weeks back.
I was very excited to attend the first event, a Target Grocery Editor Event highlighted by a cooking demonstration from Giada De Laurentiis. I sometimes feel like a foodie failure for not watching enough of the Food Network, but the damn shows just make me too hungry, and I find I would rather be sampling a chef’s food in his restaurant than watching him make it on TV.
However, I am intrigued by the concept of chefs launching their own food lines. Does Emeril really cook with his own line of pans at home? And does Mario Batali really reach for a jar of his line of sauce when entertaining guests or does he cook it from scratch? The selling point is that you can cook just like the chefs, except without the million dollar kitchen and line of sioux chefs (or thankfully all of Gordon Ramsay’s swearing). So these products provide the shortcuts that you would need to impress you friends and family. But were they really going to be impressive?
I concentrated on the foods as I a) was there for work and b) thought it would be awkward if I brought my own ingredients and started making chili in her 6-Qt Dutch Oven to see if it cooked as evenly as the Le Creuset I have a home (she swears it does).
She cooked a simple pasta using her sun dried tomatoes and pesto, as well as green olives, basil, garlic, EVOO, lemon juice, parmesan, salt and pepper. Everything went into the food processor then was tossed with some freshly cooked linguine – a perfect, light summer meal that could easily be made from shelf-stable ingredients.
Next she made ‘Caprese Burgers,’ a mixture of sirloin beef with her pesto, formed into 4-inch patties and grilled then topped with fresh mozzarella, basil and tomato. These were delicious – an interesting and creative way to add some Italian into your burger. A great tip she gave was to freeze the mozzarella balls to make slicing them easier. Oh Giada, you have some tricks up your sleeve.
There was time for questions and answers, then some taste-testing of other products. I had already determined my next stop, and went for her new line of spreads and dips.
The Eggplant and Pepper. The flavor was slightly smoky, rich and bold tasting – much more impressive then some $8.99 stuff I have put in a bowl and tried to pretend I made. And at $2.99 a jar, this is a party essential.
But wait! Don’t run out to Target yet! The best taste of the day was BY FAR this Charred Tomato Vinaigrette.
I totally overlooked this. Tomato Vinaigrette? Sounded boring. But when I asked Giada what her favorite product was (yes Dad, I spoke to her) she went right for it. The flavor tastes like…Charred Tomato. I don’t know how else to describe it. Just go buy it. I already ordered some.
There isn’t a Target convenient to Boston so I rarely find myself shopping there, but I will definitely be making a special trip out to pick up this vinaigrette. A case of it. And all the spreads. Cause I’m good at putting things in a bowl and pretending I made them. Now I can just say Giada made it. That is even more impressive.
Outside of the products though, the most impressive part of the event was her explaining how long and painstaking the process was to perfect her jarred sauce (especially at $2.99 a jar – the Marinara with Artichokes is her favorite by the way). Maybe these chefs do take these lines seriously. And maybe if I went to Giada’s, her pantry would be lined with her own line of sauce. I’ll wait patiently for my dinner invite.
The second event I was lucky enough to attend was Food Fete, a press event gauged at bringing food and lifestyle editors together with food, beverage and kitchenware purveyors. This was by no means a nutrition-targeted event (I don’t consider Mike’s Hard Lemonade Lite a health food), but instead an opportunity to see products new to the market or not even yet available for consumers.
Having worked in sales for years in my prior life as a financial kingpin, I attended many a conference, although usually on the other side of the lines. I know how difficult it is to get someone to stop and just hear your spiel sometimes, so I was happy to visit all the booths and hear what they had to say. The highlights and a sneak peak into what just hit (or will soon hit) the foodie market:
Yasso Frozen Greek Yogurt The first ever frozen Greek yogurt bars. 70 calories, 0g of fat and 6g of protein. Natural fruit and vegetable juices are used for coloring the Blueberry, Raspberry and Strawberry flavors. I am eating one right now. Yes, I know you are jealous.
This cheese is fantastic – it rolls out flat like a sheet, then you can spread and stuff things inside it, roll it back up and slice it into individual servings. If this all sounds too complicated for you, there is an informational video on You Tube.
These are single serving salads that each include a grain, some fruit toppings and a dressing. Blueberry Quinoa Protein Balance, Cranberry Wheat Protein Boost and Tomatillo Black Bean Protein Energy. The fat is a bit high (around 20 grams) but that is only if you use the entire dressing packet which you definitely don’t need. What a unique offering to the single serving meal space!
Delicious kettle corn containing 4 – count ‘em – 4, natural ingredients (popcorn, oil, sugar and salt). God knows what is in that stuff at Fenway (don’t take that personally, Mike!) They are also making 70 calorie bags for Halloween. So if you’re the toothbrush guy, there is now a healthier ARD-approved treat to handout to all the Justin Biebers and Dora the Explorers that come to your door.
There were many other products but these were the standouts for me. Innovative, tasty and interesting, Food Fete was a fabulous event I would recommend attending if you have the opportunity.
The biggest lesson I learned from these events it is that impressive, tasty food doesn’t have to be expensive. I would never previously have considered grocery shopping at Target when we have Whole Foods right around the corner or shopping anywhere but the Fromagerie for my party cheese – but most people don’t have that option. So it makes me happy to see that healthful, delicious products are making it into the hands of all Americans – not just the ones that can afford it.
- The Aspiring RD