This is part four of my four part series covering the 2014 Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore, MD. Each post will be divided into four categories: sweets, snacks, miscellaneous, and my top five. To check out the other parts in this series, click here.
Naturally, after sampling and tasting my way through dozens of products at the Natural Products Expo some made a bigger impression than others. Just as the cream always rises to the top, the following five products rose above the rest and have earned a place on my top five list of the best products at Expo East. This list is not arranged with one product ranked higher than the other because all five products featured deserve equal kudos and regard. They break the mold and give those of us with dietary restrictions something to celebrate as we regain the ability to eat once-forbidden foods. In fact, I dare say each of these products are an improvement on their traditional gluten and dairy laden counterparts which pale in comparison.
Feel Good Foods
Asian food has become a staple of my diet as I have found reliable restaurant options and recipes to make at home. Summer rolls, curries, and stir-fries have become my go-to comfort foods, but there’s one aspect of traditional (Americanized) Chinese cuisine that I’ve been missing: spring rolls. Crunchy, piping hot spring rolls. Luckily, Feel Good Foods (FGF) has brought several products to the market to help gluten and dairy free diners enjoy their favorite restaurant delicacies at home: spring rolls, dumplings, and full meals (kung pao chicken, vegetable fried brown rice, etc). At the Expo, FGF sampled their vegetable spring rolls which were freshly fried and disappeared in mere minutes. The rolls were crunchy on the outside thanks to the deep frying and softer on the inside as their flavorful centers were stuffed with vermicelli, carrots, cabbage, yellow onions, and other veggies and spices; talk about the perfect late night study snack! They are sold frozen and could easily be prepared using many different cooking methods: pan-frying in oil, the oven, or simply microwaved. FGF’s full product line is certified gluten-free by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO) but some of their products do contain egg and soy so double check labels before buying. For more information and a store locator, check out their website here.
Although Hail Merry already earned a place on my best-of sweets list with their dark chocolate mint miracle tarts, this spot on my top five list was earned by their Persian lime tarts. As a born and bred Floridian, key lime pie holds a special place in my foodie heart as it was my family’s go-to dessert whenever company was in town. Since going gluten and dairy free three years ago, key lime pie has all but vanished from my diet due to a lack of options available, but Hail Merry brings key lime pie back in a big way. These gluten-free, grain-free, vegan desserts come in a cute mini servings (that serves two) that feature the nutritional benefits of coconut oil. The crusts are spot on for a graham cracker taste and the filling is thick, creamy, and bursting with tart lime flavor. For more information and to locate retail locations near you, check out their website here.
My Dad’s Cookies
My Dad’s Cookies literally stopped me in my tracks as I marveled at their beautiful assortment of cookies on display. Artisan in quality, My Dad’s Cookies makes twelve cookie varieties that would make any fine bakery turn their head and marvel. Started by a New York dad concerned with the lack of truly delicious offerings for celiac kids and adults, My Dad’s Cookies was founded on the premise that gluten-free cookies made with top quality ingredients could level the playing field and be served equally to those with and without dietary sensitivities to prevent the isolation that kids often feel from their special diet. Nut, dairy, and gluten free as well as kosher, each unique variety offers options for every type of cookie lover from rich chocolate based cookies to cinnamon and lemon flavors. Sampling their raspberry linzer and lemon drop flavors, I almost cried at how meaningful it was to eat truly great cookies again and was touched by the hard work and passion that went in to each and every cookie. My Dad’s Cookies even earned an extended review as they allowed me to sample many of their delicious varieties. For more information, check out their website here. My Dad’s Cookies are also available through Amazon at this link.
Cappello’s is a company that I had on my radar from the start when I first started planning my Expo East must-see companies. Makers of gluten and grain free pastas, gnocchi, and cookie dough, Cappello’s blows their competitors out of the water with the unmistakable quality of their products which are almond flour based. Offering samples of their fettuccine, gnocci, and cookie dough, I sampled each product with high expectations which not only were met, but surpassed. The fettuccine was perfectly al dente and twirl-able (a must for me with noodles) while the gnocchi were thick and soft. The true spotlight stealer however was their cookie dough, which being vegan in addition to gluten/dairy/grain free meant that it can be consumed raw. That’s right- it’s actually safe to consumer this cookie dough raw and it was sampled as such. The batter featured notes of vanilla and maple syrup with dark chocolate mini chips which proved to be a deliciously addictive combination that invoked the ultimate guilty pleasure of eating raw cookie dough. Florida folks can find Cappello’s products in the freezer section of Earth Fare markets in Jacksonville and Tallahassee. For more information, check out their website here
Proving that New Yorkers have made a definite impact on my best-of lists from the Expo (see Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Co., La Esquina, and My Dad’s Cookies), I save my final product mention for DF Mavens, a NYC based company that serves up non-dairy ice cream using coconut, almond, or soy milk as their base. Last on this list, but definitely not least, DF Mavens’ completely changed my opinion on non-dairy ice cream and convinced me that I can once again enjoy creamy, delicious ice cream without having to compromise flavor or texture. Hopeful moving into the retail market near Baltimore and/or Orlando soon, I sampled their mint almond cookie bars which feature cool mint almond milk ice cream surrounded by a hard chocolate outer coating embedded with Oreo-like sandwich cookies. I was floored by the ice cream novelty from the first bite and impressed with the rich, creamy core that could fool anyone who didn’t know they were non-dairy. The incredible texture is achieved through their special small batch, slow churned process that renders the dessert extra thick and creamy. Coupled with the satisfying crunch of the chocolate and cookie shell, the treat had a delicious juxtaposition of flavors that proved to be downright irresistible I stopped by for a second bar before the day was done. Hopefully, they’ll be in more retail outlets over the next few months, but currently they are available mainly in New York and Connecticut. For more information, check out their website here
Well, that wraps up my coverage of the 2014 Natural Products Expo East. Even now, I am still recovering from the whirlwind experience of the expo which excited me and expanded my horizons with options that are currently (or coming soon) available from companies I’ve heard of and companies I had the pleasure of meeting. I am definitely looking forward to attending next year’s Expo on September 16-19, 2015.
I was provided samples of each of the products sampled in this review but was not compensated for writing these reviews. All opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links.
Which of these finds are you the most excited about? Comment below!