Dave Wallace of Bittersweet Herb Farm in Shelburne, Massachusetts (two towns away from my home in Hawley!), has a smile on his face this week. His wife Jill and son Miles are feeling pretty perky too, as you can see from the picture above ( which comes courtesy of Bittersweet Herb Farm).
One of this family company’s classic products, its Spices of India mix, has made it to the finals in the sofi awards.
“The NASFT is the biggest gourmet food organization in the country, and the Fancy Food Show is the premiere show in the country and perhaps in the world,” Dave told me recently. “It’s a major event.”
I love the Fancy Food Show. What food writer could resist wandering through the Javits Center in New York encountering aisle upon aisle of things to taste? I’ll miss the show this year—although to tell you the truth my feet and my digestive system won’t! It was nice to have a chance to talk to Dave about it.
He explained that his company seldom misses a Fancy Food Show. Asked what he gets out of exhibiting there, he mused, “You get some orders. You don’t get a lot of orders.
“You get a lot of contacts. Everybody in the food industry goes there. We come home with probably about 200 leads that we spend pretty much the rest of the year following up on.”
For this year’s sofis about 2000 products were submitted by food companies throughout the world. Bittersweet’s spice mix is one of four finalists in the category “appetizer, antipasto, salsa, or dip.”
At the Food Show the NASFT will ask 300 buyers to rate the finalists. The grand-prize winners will be announced at a reception Monday evening.
Even if Bittersweet’s spice mix doesn’t get first prize in its category, Dave explained, he and his family will still be winners.
“You’re awarded a silver medal just by being a finalist. It is a big deal. We talk about waiting till the show to find if we won but in reality we’ve already won,” he noted. “To be among such a select group of products is definitely an honor.”
Beyond the honor, Dave observed that he is already gaining attention and orders from buyers because of his silver medal.
Perhaps ironically, the Spices of India mix is not a new product. “Actually it’s one of our original seasonings, which would make it about 27 years old,” said Dave. “I’ve loved Indian food since as long as I can remember.”
He didn’t necessarily expect the spice mix to win, he admitted. “Indian food or Indian cuisine seems to be the trend of the year. I noticed that there were several products with Indian flair [in the finals]. We just happened to enter the right product at the right time.”
Dave said that he had actually expected one of Bittersweet’s newer products to be nominated for a sofi—perhaps its wild blueberry and limoncello jam (excellent in crepes or tarts) or its new southwest seasoning mix, which the Wallaces like to combine with mushrooms, onions, vegetable sausage, and cheese for a southwest egg scramble.
“Life would be much easier if I had a crystal ball,” Dave chuckled.
Asked about his favorite way to use the Spices of India mix, he responded, “I make a sauce, a very quick and easy sauce with unsweetened coconut milk—an eight-ounce can—and two tablespoons of the Spices of India (or to taste). I heat it up and add a little salt and pepper. You can use it as a sauce on just about anything: fish, chicken, lamb vegetables.
“Or I just add a pinch to my tuna salad, egg salad, chicken salad.”
He explained that the mixture is popular because it is spicy but not necessarily hot.
“We do a lot of these consumer shows. People are afraid to try it because they’ve had a negative experience with Indian spices being too hot. They’re surprised at how mild it is, how flavorful it is.”
The judges in New York will try the spice mixture in one of the recipes featured on the label, probably the first recipe given, which makes a creamy, flavorful cheese spread. Dave gave me a jar of the spices so I made the spread for friends recently. Everyone loved it.
The mayonnaise made the cream cheese a little less heavy, and the spice mix really brought depth to the cheese. The recipe appears below.
1 cup cream cheese, softened
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Spices of India mix
Blend the cream cheese and mayonnaise and stir in the spices.
Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. (A little longer is a little better!)
Serve with crackers, pita chips, or vegetables. Makes a little less than 2 cups of spread.
Courtesy of the NASFT. Photography by Mark Ferri.