Bottom Line: Expect the unexpected. Indeed a cliché, but Edible Magazine & Vayner Media’s Food Loves Tech expo @ the Waterfront took me right out of my comfort zone and transported me to an amazing place. Like many visitors at the event, I found myself savoring new, unknown delicacies that I never would have imagined edible.
Review: Innovation, creativity and sustainability: the three words that sum up the Food Loves Tech Expo sponsored by Audi USA. From the quirky, ingenious, and daring to the familiar, comforting and nostalgic, there was something for everyone. Passionate individuals from around the country and Canada converged under one roof determined to challenge the way we look at food.
Judge ye not! Things are not what they seem!
One Hop Kitchen from Toronto, run by food scientist Lee Cadesky and his fiancée, offered the ultimate blind tasting challenge – three different tomato-based ragu sauces: beef, meal worm, and cricket. Ready to taste, I closed my eyes, opened my mouth and muttered a quick “here goes”.
Delicious! Although the beef bolognaise could have used more seasoning, the meal worm was incredibly enjoyable. I can’t believe I’m actually typing this, but it’s true! Ewww!
I wondered how did such a charming couple decide of serving bugs. Perhaps it was a first dinner date, with one of them suddenly exclaiming, “You know what this pasta sauce needs…” They will be back at the Museum of Food and Drink on June 28 /29.
They weren’t the only insectivores on the block. Exo Protein also offered a mashed up cricket paste bar to anyone feeling adventurous. Like One Hop Kitchen’s pasta sauces, Exo Protein also disguised the unusual ingredient into something familiar, like an upmarket Fig Newton.
Happily, it wasn’t all about mashing up crickets. Sir Kensington’s Fabanaise served up a delicious (but vegan!) mayonaise, made from the left over water of drained canned chickpeas. My worry about veganism aside, I respect Sir Kensington’s nothing-goes-to-waste attitude.
And to be honest, if I hadn’t known the secret ingredient, I’d swear I were eating regular mayonaise.
Sustainability also pertains to space as much as food. Let’s face it, more people live in cities, where space is scarce. Locavore urban agriculturers Gotham Greens grow their produce from rooftop gardens, while Seed Sheets will build you your own harvest-ready garden with their kits.
But there were also tasty conventional bites. Le Fusion ( or rather la fusion!) also served delicious fried vegetarian spring rolls, including a Mac n’ Cheez.
Then there were also the sweet comforts: crumble cake, cupcakes and sweet potato cookies from Make My Cake Bakery in West Harlem. Yummy!
And I loved the white cheddar from Beecher’s Cheese, salty, crumbly and oh so good.
Sustainablity is the future of food
Food waste is a global phenomenon, ironically even with the massive amount of hunger in the world. On the other side of the pond, activists like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in the UK are fighting hard to curb it.
In the US, everything from purple potatoes, imperfect veggies and of course tons of bread, gets tossed in the bin. In the restaurant world, waste is even more common, which the late Keith Floyd once called it a very expensive disease.
All smiles at The Food Stand, but who’s the villan-looking geezer in the back?
In recent times, many chefs have been championing sustainable practices to save money and contribute to the betterment of the planet. Attending speakers such as chef José Andrés, a protégé of molecular gastronomy legend, Ferran Adrià, and owner of several celebrated restaurants in the U.S. has also thrown his hat in with The Food Stand to stop waste.
Creativity and innovation go hand-in-hand
The virtual reality space at the event was really cool. AR Pandora, specializing business solutions, including virtual architecture, took visitors to a new dining alternative reality, where we could examine a virtual dish from all angles. Truly impressive.
For those who have loads of dietary restrictions, Nima showcased its portable food ingredient sensor.
In some cases, the concept was better than the product. Nasa grant-winners and innovators BeeHex programmed a 3D printer to create a heart-shaped pizza. Chintan Kanuga of BeeHex hopes eventually to install pizza-making vending machines.
Although it was impressive to watch, but it took an awfully long time to make. The end result didn’t deliver on taste or texture. The pizza crust was raw, the sauce cold, and not at all pleasant to eat. And I don’t see how taking out the human element makes for a better pizza. And in New York City, getting a slice is already an easy convenience.
Chicago-based Farmer’s Fridge – another really great idea of delivering snacks to every fridge and the option to donate unused food. Unfortunately, the machine was out of commission due to transportation issues. What a pity because it ticks all the boxes on nutrition, sustainability and innovation.
Some of ideas, however good, didn’t work for me.
Indie Fork restaurant had a drink plus crostini special, but the menu wasn’t cheap. And with the price of the event tickets and the added cost of a $16 cocktail, many opted to go elsewhere.
In spite of some minor worries, the highlight of the afternoon was dinner by Food Sessions from Canada. The traveling French-Canadian company produced an exquiste dining installation for its guests, centered around nostalgia and the pleasure of the table.
Behind the parked Audis, registered diners sat at a rectangular table. The calm voice in their headphones instructed them to savor every bite and record their thoughts.
What may seem like solitary experience turned out to be incredibly interactive, mainly because we were sat with people we didn’t know. And then there was the food: a spicy chicken, seasoned beautifully and moisty. Each garnish worked in total harmony with the main event.
With every bite, we listened carefully to the soothing voice instructing us to write down our cherrished food memories while waiters pourred generous amounts of wine. Like all good meals, the moment lingered over a glass and great conversation with new faces and creating new memories of the plaisir de la table that will stay forever.