A mouth-watering buffet of the most innovative, award-winning comestibles from the 2018 National Restaurant Association Show
The purpose of the Food and Beverage Awards (FABI), bestowed annually by the National Restaurant Association (NRA), is to recognize the most creative, tasty, and marketable products coming out of the foodservice industry.
A recent Bernstein Research report noted that millennials, poised to have greater spending power than previous generations, dine at restaurants more frequently than their predecessors. So it’s unsurprising that this year’s recipients reflect the industry’s ongoing work to attract new diners with discerning palates, a preference for variety and convenience, and a socially responsible outlook.
New vegan and gluten-free offerings are reaching high points of refinement, from plant-based caviar and crunchy hydroponic beans to devilishly rich brownies. Comfort foods are making a comeback, reimagined for a generation of foodies who demand heartwarming, soul-filling, and healthy dishes. There’s ample room for decadence, too. Let’s take a look at some of this year’s most promising honorees.
Fresh Ways to Beat Meat and Banish Gluten
When it comes to searing-hot trends, plant-based foods are on fire. Answering the demand for truly edible meat substitutes for every meal, Beyond Meats debuted its Beyond Breakfast Sausage at the show. The sausage blends pea, mung bean, rice, and sunflower protein with flavor notes of sage and nutmeg. Beyond Breakfast Sausage looks, cooks, and tastes like traditional pork sausage and contains twice as much protein—and it sizzles! Hallelujah!
When it’s time for lunch, why follow up that luscious breakfast with a peanut butter sandwich? The folks at The Amazing Chickpea have a better idea with a chickpea spread that looks and tastes like peanut butter. This mixture of dry roasted chickpeas, sunflower seeds, olive oil and cane sugar has the iconic peanut butter flavor, without nuts, dairy, or ingredients containing gluten.
For restaurants looking to offer an end-to-end gluten-free sandwich experience, pre-sliced, gluten-free hoagie rolls from Smart Flour Foods captured a FABI this year. The company’s blend of three naturally gluten-free grains, amaranth, teff, and sorghum portends to produce baked goods with better texture and taste than rice flour-based products.
Disrupting produce is the lofty goal of Pete’s Living Greens, an employee-owned and operated hydroponic grower dedicated to propagating sustainable greens. FABI recognized one of Pete’s products that most of us have only seen as an ingredient in a Chopped basket: salicornia. Also known as sea beans, salicornia are slender, salty long beans with an asparagus-like taste. The beans grow using up to 85 percent less water and 70 percent less land than typical growers, and, thanks to their attached live roots, stay fresher longer than similar, traditionally-grown varieties.
Comfort Food With Authentic Asian Flair
Bone broth in a sippy cup? Snuggle down with a Shiitake Beef Bone Broth Heat and Sip Cup from Oakland-based Nona Lim Foods. This FABI winner helps fight inflammation and boosts the immune system with a decidedly from-scratch vibe. There’s no gluten, no dairy, no GMO to be found in this cup of soup, just Asian-inspired flavors and fresh ingredients.
Craving a sumptuous bowl of phở? The award-winning Beef and Chicken Phở Concentrates from Mama La’s Kitchen bring classic, authentic Vietnamese taste from its kitchen to your favorite restaurant. A fragrant marriage of beef bone broth with coriander, star anise, clove, ginger, and other warm, bright spices defines the beef concentrate; the chicken concentrate packs a punch of ginger, shallot, cinnamon, and fennel.
Caffeine With a Conscience
Love the convenience of your one-cup espresso maker, but cringe at the waste created by the plastic coffee pods? You can love your single-server with abandon, thanks to Caffè Vergnano, maker of Compostable Èspresso Capsules. Italy’s first compostable coffee pod contains rich, bold espresso. Cups can be recycled in the organic bin, and are compatible with Nespresso coffee makers. The recyclable outer packaging is designed to create significantly less waste than similar containers.
La Colombe Coffee Roasters are perfecting the art of gourmet premade coffee with Draft Latte chilled latte beverages. Draft Lattes combine cold-pressed espresso, hormone free-milk, and textured microfoam to create an innovative canned drink that evokes a realistic coffee-shop experience. By using nitrous oxide to create a consistently silky, thick texture, Draft Lattes have the familiar creamy mouthfeel sought by latte lovers.
Luxe and Luscious
This entry was a FABI favorite. Sabatino Tartufi truffle infused soy sauce elevates everything it gets splashed on. From the legendary Italian company whose truffle products routinely appear on Oprah’s Favorite Things lists, this sauce kicks umami up several tantalizing notches.
A sweet home Chicago classic delivered lavishly rich desserts to the 2018 NRA show. Eli’s Cheesecake Company enraptured the FABI judges with its Florentine Honey Almond Bar, which uses honey harvested by students from The Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences. Eli’s newest “cutie” dessert is composed of almonds drenched in honey glaze, nestled in a shortbread crust.
Proving that clean indulgence is laudable, FABI chose gourmet gluten-free brownies from Sweet Street’s Manifesto™ product line as one of this year’s winners. The individually-wrapped treats are made with sustainably grown dark Honduran chocolate sourced from a women’s cocoa collective, cage-free eggs, pure cane sugar, and all butter dough with no GMOs in sight.