Baldor Bite’s organizers warned attendees in writing: “Just don’t call it a food show.”
Indeed, Wednesday’s all-day event at the beautiful NYC seaport was a lotta lotta more than a food show!
What I saw was a huge and inspired community of mutually benefitted members, building on their success by sharing what they love with even more people, a.k.a. people like me.
You see, Baldor Specialty Foods is the trusted supplier to New York City and area’s top chefs. They work directly with over 1,000 farms and partners worldwide, employ over 300 delivery trucks, and offer over 6,000 items for sale.
The yearly Baldor Bite event features over 100 vendors. These are cool farmers, artisan producers of produce, dairy, pasta, beverages, and more, and specialty food importers with seriously ... the best stuff. Most operate locally, but all distribute their tasty bites with Baldor. These are partners.
More than a food show, Baldor’s Inside Track panel discussions go on all day like a marathon, bringing together diverse food industry heavyweights to discuss the future of food.
I stepped into that room briefly to find Randy Garutti, CEO of the trendy New York burger joint, Shake Shack. The colorful guy was talking about the inevitable evolution of his industry. He said they can’t ignore online food ordering apps, nor tackling the expensive logistical challenges of food delivery.
I also thought I heard him say that brick and mortar grocery stores would soon be a thing of the past. Hmmm … that is alarming. I like shopping at grocery stores.
Oh Baldor, Your Heart Runs Deep
Baldor is a New York City immigrant success story of the finest kind. The company traces its history to Brooklyn in 1918. Louis Balducci Sr., from Bari, Italy, got himself a produce pushcart, which obviously evolved from there. The company has been run by generations of the Balducci family ever since.
Baldor runs a food lovers paradise. Need a case of cactus pads, Impossible Foods burger patties, or baby candy cane beets? No problem. Or the cutest baby fennel sourced from Babe Farms in the coastal Santa Maria Valley of California, the place where the most colorful veggies grow? Check, check.
Baldor specializes in local, cause that is what people want. Its got over 500 local items available today, and the growing season is just getting started.
Baldor’s "local" is loosely defined (local is always important to define) as the northeast region, that is as far south as New Jersey, north just into Maine, and east to the Atlantic Ocean.
This is a fertile growing region bursting with family farms and producers. The area is famous for its apples, grapes, dairy, and maple syrup.
What? A Whole Pig?
Who said you could butcher a pig in the middle of a conference room? I guess Baldor approved the mighty feat, because there it was displayed in all its glory, a 250-pound Old Spot Gloucestershire heritage pig from Joyce Farms.
I stood mildly in awe as celebrity women butchers Erika Nakamura and Jocelyn Guest deconstructed that pig in front of over 100 intrigued onlookers.
A bizarre sight indeed. But really, what hard work! The women clearly labored to hacksaw, slice, and move around each portion of the pig into a pile along one end of the long tables. Not sure where it went from there. This is an hours-long process to do by hand.
Goat Milk Mania
Coach Farm’s display of goat cheese products attracted me seemingly out of nowhere. It was so impressive, and I don’t even love goat cheese.
You’ve heard of chevre goat cheese? Well, these guys have drinkable Yo-Goat, Hudson Valley aged goat cheese with truffle, a raw milk, soft-ripened goat cheese they call Rawstruck, goat ricotta, and my favorite, the goat grating stick.
The goat grating stick is a hard aged goat cheese that Coach recommends grating over salad. To me, it looked just like Parmigiano Reggiano. It tasted amazing, bright then smooth, and not gamey at all. (Apparently, the way goats are tended can reduce this gamey taste quite a bit.)
I was told this unique invention came after someone forgot about a batch of chevre in the cooler. It’s a classic story.
The chevre had dried out badly, but when a log was lifted, it felt hard in the center. After using a peeler to remove the natural rind, this incredible parm-like cheese was waiting inside to greet the world. Cool huh?
One of my favorite discoveries was Asarasi’s sparkling tree water, from maple trees. My mind has trouble wrapping around the excitement of the idea of drinking water filtered by trees. I love trees!
The taste was super clean, with zero aftertaste. Perhaps something like drinking diamonds. I immediately thought it would pair well with mint, but Founder Adam Lazar told me they prefer to flavor with fruits that grow on trees, such as lime, lemon and cherry. Well, okay then! That does make sense.
One of the more incredible things about this water is that it is a byproduct of the maple syrup industry.
Every year, up to 1 billion gallons of tree-filtered water vanishes in the process of making maple syrup because the sap that is tapped from trees is 97 percent water and only 3 percent sugar.
The traditional process of making maple syrup is to boil off all the excess water. The water literally evaporates into the air.
Now there are different methods to separate the water, and the water is left as a waste product. Not anymore.
You can buy Asarasi on Amazon (affiliate link), or check for brick and mortar locations on the company’s website.
Brooklyn’s Darling Artisan Pasta Shop
I really couldn’t resist stopping by Sfoglini Pasta Shop’s booth. This company, founded in 2012, makes 16 organic durum semolina pastas, plus a series of New York State grain pastas, with ancient grains such as rye, emmer, einkorn, and spelt.
What I didn’t know is they also make use of rare seasonal ingredients, like tomato leaf pasta, beer pasta, basil pasta, mint pasta, sriracha pasta, ramp pasta, and nettles pasta. I can’t wait to try all of these.
And I learned such good news that this company is expanding its manufacturing space almost four-fold this year to Coxsackie, in upstate New York. This will enable Sfoglini to bring down prices, according to co-founder Scott Ketchum.
This is good news! I love artisan products, but I feel in general companies also have a responsibility to produce products that are affordable.
I asked Ketchum what might hold them back from expanding production of a seasonal product, like ramps pasta.
He said its the availability of ingredients.
I find that interesting. It isn’t demand—Ketchum said they’ve grown without any marketing on their part because its a product people love—but it is supply of high quality ingredients that pose the limit.
Okay, you might argue that ramps is a bad example, since ramps grow wild, but the tale is telling. Our food supply needs improvement. Okay. I’ll stop there with the opinions.
I’ll Go to Baldor Bite Again
There were so many interesting things at Baldor Bite that it is impossible to highlight them all.
Oh wait, one more. I think I can’t leave out my first taste of Mike’s Hot Honey.
This is another Brooklyn best-kept secret, so I am sounding pretty biased on Brooklyn today. But I don’t care what you think on this account, because Buttered Veg, based in Westchester County just north of the city, is part of this community.
Mike’s honey was served on another local legend’s premium vanilla ice cream. I am speaking of Ronnybrook’s high quality dairy near Millerton, N.Y.
I ate Ronnybrook’s 16 percent butterfat frozen cream drizzled with throat-burning Brazilian chili pepper-infused honey, and I survived to tell the tale. Apparently, Mike discovered the concept in Brazil, where they were drizzling hot honey on pizza.
You could imagine, Mike’s fun bicycle cart stand offered one of the most popular samples at Baldor Bite.
But what I really enjoyed the most was the family feeling you got at the event. The friendly service of the team at Maracaibo Media Group under Lynn Munroe’s leadership was really exceptional.
Overall, you could feel it was “all in the family.” Nobody took themselves too seriously, and it was a lot of fun. I’ll bet a lot of business got done, too, and that is important.
Above all, Baldor Bite was a customer appreciation event that Baldor decided to share with the world. Thanks to Baldor for including me.
P.S. I was not paid for any of this. I just really loved the events, and the products. Amazon links are affiliate though. I will get a small commission if you buy my recommended items through Amazon, at no extra cost to you.
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