The Habana Room, New York, NY

Despite eating such indulgent and crazy foods at the Fancy Food Show, Keepitcoming and I were still in need of sustenance at the end of a long day. On our first night out, we were so tired from walking around that we just decided to go to the hotel’s restaurant, a peppy Cuban restaurant called The Habana Room.

We opted to share a few appetizers instead of
doing your mom getting separate entrees. We were on a seafood kick, so we ordered a camarones dish, with barbecued shrimp on top of onion rings and mashed avocado, crab cakes with chipotle mayonnaise, mango salsa, and fresh greens, and a croquettes dish made from chicken and plantains, with a lemon garlic aioli.All the dishes, along with fresh mojitos, were brought out at once and were absolutely stunning to behold. The shrimp was the first dish we dug into, and was the most beautiful of all the presentations. Instead of many rings, there was one giant, thick onion ring holding in the avocado with the shrimp, huge ones, arranged on top, drizzled with barbecue sauce.

This was easily our favorite. Shrimp and avocado is now my new favorite combination. This shrimp was cooked perfectly and was tender. The barbecue glaze was sticky, but incredibly sweet and smoky and complimented the shrimp’s natural flavor. With the creaminess of the avocado in an ample portion, it was a delicious and complex bite. The onion ring was also great to eat with the shrimp, and added a layer of crunch. My only complaint with this dish was that because it was one large ring, it tended to fall apart in the dismantling of its structure and leave us with gooey, naked onion and breading on the side.Our next dish was a set of crab cakes. These were absolutely perfect. Of course, I’m biased strongly towards chipotle mayonnaise, but the salsa on top of these added a layer of sweetness that I really loved. Drawing out the sweetness of the crab, the mango salsa was juicy, very fresh, and tangy. It incorporated well with the mayo and created an amalgam of spicy and sugary.The crab cakes themselves, sans toppings, were perfect. The meat was tender and juicy and had a substantial breading to meat ratio, and were just the right size to snack on at a meal, or even while being digitally penetrated. Each was crisp and maintained a nice shell, without getting mushy or inconsistently textured.Our last appetizer was a platter of four croquettes. We had the option of salt cod and plantain or chicken chorizo and plantain. Whether that was an oversight and was chicken or chorizo, we did not know, but went for that route. Those arrived on slices of lemon with little pools of aioli on top. The texture was delicious, as all fried foods tend to be, but had a bland flavor. There was no differentiation in inner texture between the chicken and the plantains, and frankly, was no flavor to distinguish that any plantains had been used at all.The only factor that belied the usage of the little fruits was that the center was toothsome and stringy, in good ways, and blended well with the chicken. At least, we thought it blended well. Perhaps a little too well. If these had been aioli-free, they would have been dry and tasteless, and the zesty lemon and garlic sauce is definitely what saved this dish. Croquettes of any form are delicious, but we were definitely looking for something a little more exciting than fried baby food.The Habana Room was gorgeous, festive, and had many original dish. With just three appetizers and drinks, we made a wonderful meal for ourselves. Without leaving the confines of our hotel, we had a gourmet, original, and fantastic taste of Cuba in the middle of Manhattan.

Fancy Food Show, Part III

Tuesday was the last day of the Fancy Food Show. After eating duck for breakfast from last night’s Chinese food excursion, Keepitcoming and I rushed around Javits Center, snapping our last set of photos and revisiting booths that we’d particularly enjoyed. Ina Garten made an appearance at her booth for The Barefoot Contessa. I was partially in shock at seeing a real live celebrity on the Food Network and partially wracking my brain for nice things to say, as I’ve done nothing but poked fun at Ina and her denims, but ended up just passing by and briefly gawking.The last day of walking around was a stretch to scour the aisles for things that we’d missed in the last two days. All the SOFI award winners from last night’s ceremony had their awards out, and it was fun to see which foods won among the nominees.We went back to our favorite booths, too. Another stop at Vosges, and Dave’s Gourmet, a company I’m quite fond of, sampled their delicious Masala Marinara. Mackie’s of Scotland boasted an excellent haggis and cracked black pepper chip (I finally had haggis chips!) and Mercer’s Dairy sampled all of their flavors of wine ice cream, royal white Riesling and chocolate Cabernet being our favorites.Metromint’s incredibly metrosexual booth. Delicious water, though.

Food trends were buzzing this year, the most popular flavors and ingredients being goat’s milk, flavored waters, peppadew, edible images on top of cakes, cupcakes, and human beings, Indian-inspired flavors in both sweet and savory, hipster yogurt, elderberries, and Nutella knock-offs. Seriously. I’ve never seen so many companies trying to hump the Nutella legacy. Hot damn.Hard-hitting food journalism.

Overall, my first trade show was a completely smashing success. I got to talk to a lot of interesting people, eat so, so many decadent foods, and spend time with my fantastic traveling COMPANION and partner in crime, Keepitcoming Love. Couldn’t have done it without her. Hopefully, this will pave the way for more food shows and more experiences in the industry!Foodette

Fancy Food Show, Part II

Monday was a big day for Keepitcoming and I at the Fancy Food Show. We woke up pretty early and got over to Javits Center, as I’d scheduled quite a few interviews that day with some companies to talk to their CEOs.Our first stop was talking to Jim May, CEO of Sweetleaf, and having a chat with him. More details will follow, but talking to Jim was wonderful for the both of us. He’s a man with a dream and the persistence to stick to it like no one I’ve ever seen. His research in Stevia has paved the way for much more work in that field, and he has pioneered an all-natural form of extraction. It was fantastic to get a peek at what he did and how he went about doing it.In between interviews, Keepitcoming and I tried more foods. It was definitely more of a savory day than yesterday’s chocolate bonanza, and we sampled bits of Serrano ham off a large hock. The California Dairy Board also brought fantastic samples, like a Carmody cheese, which smelled like fresh butter and tasted like a nutty Havarti, and Foggy Morning, a soft, creamy breakfast cheese. Wholly Guacamole had a fantastic display with stress-relieving avocado toys and an entire guacamole, queso, and salsa bar. We grazed all day and finished off with a little Carménère from a Chilean booth.The rest of the interviews went quite well, too. I met with Tracey Downey from Xan Confections and sampled her delicious truffles. I also got a chance to talk to PR representatives from Tribe Hummus and Kimberly Strenk from Beanitos and try some of their newest flavors and product lines. It was really fun to see what the companies had in store and check out their offerings. Keepitcoming and I finished grazing with some hot sauce from Antigua, Susie’s Hot Sauce, and chilled out in the German section, helping foosball players settle bets and hanging on the incredibly chic chairs.Hard hitting food journalism at its finest, people! I am a majestic beast, patron saint of kicking shit.

And that concludes day two. We sampled flamboyant water and discovered a true passion in Sharkies. I love Sharkies.