food & grocery: The Produce Station's general manager dishes on favorite finds from the Fancy Food Show
The Produce Station's general manager, Andrew Gorsuch, recently had the enormous good fortune to go on a hunting expedition... no, not that kind, have no fear! He attended the NASFT Fancy Food Show in Washington, D.C., and was able to peruse "180,000 products including confections, cheese, coffee, snacks, spices, ethnic, natural, organic and more" while schmoozing with "2,400 exhibitors from 80 countries and regions." I am, I must admit, insanely jealous and already planning my strategy to get to the next show!
So, I simply had to live vicariously; I sat down with Andy to hear about all the wonderful tastes, aromas, and people that he encountered on his adventure. I wanted to know which of the delights that he found at the show might find their way to Ann Arbor.
Baia Pasta is, according to its website, "an Oakland-based artisan food company founded by Renato Sardo with Dario Barbone," both of whom are from Piemonte in northern Italy. "The seed for Baia Pasta started when Renato learned that most Italian pasta is made from American and Canadian wheat that is shipped to Italy, made into pasta, and then shipped back. After a few years of study, Renato extracted enough wisdom from the Italian maestri to start extruding his own pastasciutta."
The beautiful pastas — a variety of shapes, designed for different sauces and dishes — are truly made with love and passion.
KIMKIM, a Korean hot sauce, is another delicious item that drew lots of attention. "Most hot sauces deliver heat at the expense of flavor. KIMKIM has been hand-crafted to add rich, authentic Korean flavor that enhances the natural tastes of every dish — with a tangy, spicy kick that makes even the simplest meals unforgettable." It even won gold at the show's sofi Awards in the category of "Outstanding Cooking Sauce or Flavor Enhancer" — a huge honor.
Andy told me that, in the midst of all the sensory overload, he likes to "try as many things as possible, keep an open mind." He looks not only for fabulous products and exceptional quality, but also for interesting and "genuine stories." For him, the people who produce these items are just as important as their foods.
A perfect story to illustrate this comes from Yolka Chocolates. Marian Rivkind's parents were Russian Jews; but because they lived in a communist country, they "had little knowledge of Jewish traditions and had adopted Russian holiday traditions instead." Each Christmas after emigrating to Canada, her mother would bring out beautiful, ornate glass ornaments, and the family would "decorate their 'Yolka' (Russian translation: 'holiday tree')."
But inevitably, the fragile ornaments would break. So "Marian’s mother was inspired to draw on her Russian heritage when families hung fruit and candy on trees as precious treats for the children. She created hand-made foil-wrapped chocolate ornaments." And Marian has carried the idea one step further to produce gorgeous, delicious, "luxurious and smooth" chocolate ornaments that The Produce Station will likely offer later in the year.
Other items that Andy was particularly enamored of include: hand-crafted cheeses from family-owned Sweet Grass Dairy and from Jasper Hill Farm, which ages its own cheeses as well as those from other small producers in their area ... Spindrift beverages, whose line includes sparkling waters flavored with fresh fruit juice ... Lucini Italia's Tuscan Street Food Chickpea Farinata Mix ... Queen City Cookies' Rosemary Sesame Shortbread ... and Danielle's "sweet, fresh, milky" Roasted Coconut Chips (which won gold at the sofis as "Outstanding Snack Food").
Andy told me that he enjoys attending the Fancy Food Show to see what's popular, what's up-and-coming, what's new, what's trending. But what's most important is "building relations and growing with people," developing a community.
The Produce Station is "driven by seasonality," which affects which products are offered and at what time; but keep an eye out for these lovely items. There's always something new and exciting to find in the world of food!
The Produce Station
1629 S. State St.
Ann Arbor MI 48104
Monday - Saturday: 8 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Sunday: 8 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Mary Bilyeu writes for AnnArbor.com on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, telling about her adventures in the kitchen - making dinner, celebrating holidays, entering cooking contests, meeting new friends ... whatever strikes her fancy. She is also on a mission to find great deals for her Frugal Floozie Friday posts, seeking fabulous food at restaurants on the limited budget of only $5 per person. Feel free to email her with questions, comments, or suggestions: email@example.com.
Go visit Mary's blog — Food Floozie — where she enthuses and effuses over all things food-related on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; and look for her monthly articles in the Washtenaw Jewish News. "Like" her on Facebook, or send a tweet on Twitter, too.
The phrase "You Should Only Be Happy" (written in Hebrew on the stone pictured in this post) comes from Deuteronomy 16:15 and is a wish for all her readers - when you come to visit here, may you always be happy.