HEADS UP: The 2016 International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York is now in the history books as of yesterday (8 March). As always, it was a feast for the senses, especially the tastebuds. To that end, over the next few Wednesdays, we will be bringing to your attention news of some noteworthy, new and newish food and drink products that are nutritious, delicious and crafted with care. Week 1: 1857 Potato Vodka.
JIM Barber has about him a farmer in the dell quality. Perhaps that is why this reporter allowed him to pull me into his sphere and put into my hand a white handbill advertising his product.
I peer at the card absently, yet I can see that it is extolling the finer points of a vodka. It is just after noon on Sunday, 6 March and I have been in the environs of the 2016 International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York at the Javits Center about 30 minutes. Just long enough to participate in some journalistic gossip in the pressroom before visiting the New Product Showcase.
I have had my fill of the showcase and am about to be on my merry way when I am waylaid by the affable JB. Frankly, I am hungry, not thirsty. And if I were thirsty, I doubt my palate would be in the mood for vodka, even if it is made from potatoes.
Nevertheless, because of JB’s aforesaid farmer/dell aspect, I listen attentively as he gives me to know in a pleasant, soft-spoken voice the facts of life about 1857 Potato Vodka.
“We started out as a vegetable farm in 1857, he is saying of Barber’s Farm, "but last year  we started making vodka ... And it is made from our potatoes and they are fresh, unlike most other potato vodkas.”
Many potato vodka distillers use frozen spuds (of course, by necessity if they don’t grow their own) and undertake other quality-distorting practices before preparing them for the distillery process.
As Nancy Badlam, left, from Kenab Orchards booth visits, Jim, Cindy and Ford Barber pour samples of 1857 Potato Vodka for attendees at the 2016 International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York. Photo by V.W.
At the small-batch operation that is Barber’s Farm Distillery, run by JB’s former interior designer sister, Dorcas Roehrs, and his sons, Elias and Ford, the potatoes go direct from the earth into the distillery phase. Moreover, the potatoes are watered from Barber's Farm own spring.
One would expect no less from this concern that has for six generations kept those in the Schoharie Valley of Upstate New York (Middleburgh) and farther afield in fresh dairy and produce, grown the way God intended.
JB's wife, Cindy, is the president of Barber's Farm; a nephew is vice president. JB is the New York State Executive Director of the USDA Farm Service Agency. Among other things, his office is tasked with safeguarding the food supply.
The Barber's Farm Distillery dispenses potato vodka in small batches. Photo from 1857 Spirits Facebook page.
I did not sample the 1857 Potato Vodka on Sunday afternoon, but rather on Monday (7 March) around happy hour time. Even on a palate with Champagne and sparkling wine tastes, it is clear that there is something good in here.
At the restaurant and food service show, there are three vodkas, including one made from red-skin potatoes. The red-skin is a little too brusque for my taste. My favorite is the original and the only one on the market at the moment.
Incidentally, those with certain dietary restrictions may be pleased to know that 1857 Potato Vodka, advertised as farm-to-bottle, is also naturally gluten-free.
As its pr says much better than I can articulate, the vodka possesses a creaminess and hint of sweetness.
Cindy Barber is president of Barber's Farm and Ford Barber heads up regulations and compliance at the Barber's Farm Distillery. Photo by V.W.
It is also refreshing, no doubt thanks to all of those fresh potatoes grown in rich soil, with proper water and other best practices.
Visit http://www.1857spirits.com to learn more about 1857 Potato Vodka; visit http://www.barbersfarm.com to learn more about Barber’s Farm.
Chaat: Not for the Sweet Tooth, But It’s YogurtThe Chaat Company collection of savory yogurts. Photo from The Chaat Company Facebook page.
PREPARE your tastebuds, for they are about to experience a paradigm shift.
In the form of Tamarind Date, for one. It’s my favorite of the quartet from The Chaat Company. Delicious, but different, considering what it is.
In fact, all are tasty. Ideal midday snacks. Or midnight. Or just about anytime a body feels hungry and is in need of a light, quick pick me up.
The Chaat Company (aka the chaat co) is fulfilling its mission to bring Indian street food – or chaat – to the United States. No, you are not getting a samosa or some tasty vegetable on naan. You are getting yogurt in popular Indian flavors. As a savory snack, not a sweet, a growing category in the yogurt aisle.
The Cucumber Mint will do the trick, too, also created to impart a burst of energy and nutrition, while bypassing the inevitable sugar crash. All four of the chaat co yogurts are made with zero sugar added. All of the sugars therein are naturally occurring.
One would think that the Mango Chili would pack the most sugar with its 9 grams in the 5.3-ounce container. One would be wrong. That distinction goes to the tamarind date with 13 grams.
Bringing up the rear with 6 grams are the Ginger and the cucumber mint. As a comparisons, most nonsavory yogurts contain at least around 25 grams of sugar in a container of comparable size.
Committed to making healthy food, The Chaat Company takes a care with how it makes its yogurts. For instance, the milk comes from grass-fed cows. The yogurts contain digestion-friendly probiotics. They are gluten free. Non-GMO. There’s nothing to dislike here.
Tamarind Date is one of four savory yogurts produced by The Chaat Company. Photo from The Chaat Company Facebook page.
And if crunch is a necessity, that's in there, too. Each flavor is topped with lentil puffs.
Visit http://www.thechaat.co/ to learn more about The Chaat Company (the chaat co).