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Ancient, Peruvian cuisine are hot food trends

11:11 AM, Jan 21, 2014   |    comments
A woman sells snacks at a traffic ligth in Lima on December 27, 2013. In the past few years in Peru half a dozen new local companies specialized in Andean snacks producing for the local market and for export have sprung up, one of which, Inka Crops, comercializes its products on the web through Amazon. AFP PHOTO/ERNESTO BENAVIDES (Photo credit should read ERNESTO BENAVIDES/AFP/Getty Images)
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SAN FRANCISCO -Gluten-free is gone, baby. Quinoa is quiescent. Seaweed went, and hemp lost its edge. In their place, find a new South American cuisine, grains the Romans knew and a high-end take on a college staple.

Trendy new foods on their way to stores and restaurants near you were on display at this year's winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. Some 1,300 exhibitors from 14 countries sought to entice the 18,500 attendees with their newest offerings. Some to watch for:

• Not for jerks. Jerky is the "it" snack for those following the paleo diet, which tries to emulate the eating patterns of our caveman ancestors. It guides eaters to consume only foods their hunter/gatherer ancestors might have found. A veritable carcass of dried meat products graced the showroom floor. There was Krave, a Sonoma, Calif., company which offered black cherry barbecue jerky. Salmon jerky was offered by Ocean Beauty Seafood in Seattle. Three Jerks Jerky offered the seemingly oxymoronic but very tasty filet mignon beef jerky.

• Baby food grown up. Shelf-stable stand-up foil pouches engulfed the baby food market starting in 2008. As those infants grew to toddlers and beyond, the market followed them. Today, foil pouches of fruit purees and veggie mixes are one of the hotter trade items in many elementary school lunchrooms. Marketers are offering them in more adventuresome blends that appeal to adult tastes.

"When you go to the gym, while you're driving, it's a healthy new way of eating fruit," says Damien Callery of Ouhlala Gourmet of Coral Gables, Fla.

• Ever more exotic grains. The public's hunger for once-rare grains such as quinoa, buckwheat, teff and sorghum seems to know no bounds. Even more obscure offerings are coming. Freekeh is a roasted green wheat with origins in the Middle East. Pronounced "free-kah," it has a nutty, smoky flavor that stands out from blander grains. Wholesome Kitchen of Far Rockaway, N.Y.,offered tastes of ready-to-cook freekeh blends including apricot and raisin, herb and currant, and mushroom and herb. Another up-and-coming cereal grain is farro, an ancient Italian strain of wheat sometimes called emmer.

• Fancy ramen. You may have lived on 30-cent packages of ramen in college, but they're nothing like the high-end ramen noodles now appearing in upscale grocery stores. These come fresh or air-dried, often using surprising grains and tastes. One example is traditional Japanese ramen-style noodles made from rice and millet offered by Lotus Foods of Richmond, Calif. The jet-black forbidden rice ramen comes with a white miso and mushroom broth packet. Millet and brown rice ramen cooks up in four minutes.

• Peruvian is the new Thai. San Francisco has at least 20 Peruvian restaurants, and the South American nation's tastes found their way to the showroom floor. One example: air-popped, heirloom chulpe corn grown in the Andes, lightly dressed with avocado oil and Peruvian spices. Called cancha, they are a world apart from the Corn Nuts found in convenience stores. The creator is Ronald Flores, a native of Lima who was studying international business at San Francisco State University. He wrote a business plan that so captivated his professor, Bruce Heiman, that he invested in the company, Nazqiz. "Peruvian cuisine is a deep, untapped well of flavors. They started feeding me Peruvian food, and I was entranced," Heiman says.

(Copyright © 2014 USA TODAY)

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