New England Food Show: the Best (Meal) Ticket in Town

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Carolyn Choate in work mode, interviewing Cathy Nehl of Bob's Red Mill.
Carolyn Choate in work mode, interviewing Cathy Nehl of Bob’s Red Mill.

Barking Tomato

They say, “Beware the Ides of March,” but I was way too preoccupied thinking about free samples and meeting Bob – of Bob’s Red Mill fame – at the New England Food Show than travel and parking logistics (yawn) when planning my exciting “Barking Tomato” field trip into the Big City last Sunday. All those food fantasies got dumped pretty quickly in Boston Harbor, temporarily anyway, when I found myself smack dab in a Bean Town traffic jam – not the Wild Maine Blueberry variety from Stonewall Kitchen I had been lusting after – thanks to simultaneously combusting crowds from the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the Boston Flower Show, the Seafood Expo of North America, and the New England Food Show. Masses of hungry, winter-weary, green homo sapiens clogging downtown sidewalks, streets, and byways like lipoproteins.

NE Food ShowTo the brains behind the concept of the first shuttle bus? The Nobel Prize is the least we can do as, clearly, parking at the Boston Convention Center on March 15 was not on the menu. So to those who actually enjoy logistics, traffic management, and good signage, salut! The hour plus drive from Nashua to satellite parking to Convention Hall was actually very palatable there and back; the buses as dependable as an atomic egg timer. And, man, were they scrambling to get at the yummies and gadgets and demos inside. Over  330 food-related vendors from around the country. Here’s a few booths I literally or figuratively gobbled up.

Bobs FlourBob’s Red Mill: When I found out that Bob’s Red Mill, one of the country’s most trusted, natural, whole grain mills, was going to exhibit at the New England Food Show, I said a little prayer. ‘God, please send the guy with the broad smile I see on the package ‘cause I want to thank him for feeding me and my family the really good stuff when I was battling cancer.’ Of course, I’ve been eating it ever since. Bob Moore is a rock star in the health food constellation but that kind of hoopla would probably offend him. Here’s a guy as down to earth as they come who turned a late-life infatuation with stone ground wheat into a multi-million dollar empire with well over 300 products. From traditional unbleached flours to organic, artisan varieties including almond, rice, and even black bean flour. Add cereals, granola, beans, seeds to the inventory.

Like a kid running to meet Santa at the mall, I bounded for booth #3507 to meet Bob but, alas, I spied a lovely “elf” aka Cathy Nehl instead. Sensing my disappointment, she invited me to Oregon to meet Bob and take a tour of the company she now partially owns thanks to its founder who, on his 80th birthday, gifted the whole bowl of dough to his employees. Not many such examples of altruism around these days. In the meantime, she was very excited to tell me about the debut of their latest product: Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour, a revolutionary solution for those struggling with the frustration of substituting gluten-free ingredients with confusing measurement conversions. “It makes baking easy,” Cathy insisted, “And, the taste is very similar to wheat flour.” Bob’s Red Mill, what a blessing you are to “clean” eating.

Hancock LobsterHancock Gourmet Lobster Company: Cal Hancock’s grandma knew a thing or two about serving lobster in her Ogunquit restaurant back in the day and passed it on to Cal. After years as an exec in the medical field, she returned to the East Coast in 2000 with a mission to bring the great taste of fresh Maine lobster to folks across the country. After tasting Cal’s Port Clyde Lobster Mac & Cheese, I know why it’s one of her top sellers among the many entrees, appetizers, and dinners she ships overnight or 2-day express to consumers and restaurants. “The creaminess of the mascarpone with the tender lobster and the texture of the panko crust?” Cal enthuses, “There’s nothing better. It’s how I beat Bobby Flay on “Throwdown!”” That’s just the tip of the Homarus americanus. Hancock has won 13 Sofi’s, the “Oscars” of the specialty foods biz, since 2003 for such decadent delicacies as Old Port Lobster Flatbread, Spruce Head Smoked Scallop Lobster Bisque, and Nubble Light Lobster Wellington. Congratulations, Cal, on 15 years of good taste; your Grandmother would be proud!

Stonewall Kitchen: I thought it would be very neighborly to visit Stonewall considering they’re a New England institution. Besides, they ALWAYS have something tasty going on when I stop by the Pheasant Lane Mall location, or the one off I-95 heading for the beach. The New England Food Show was no exception. And their timing was perfect. Three brand new grill sauces I wanted to drink straight out of the bottle: Boozy Bacon, Honey Sriracha, and Raspberry Chipotle. How many days until Memorial Day? My advice here: Whether chicken, pork, beef, or fish, I microwave for a few minutes before grilling to reduce heterocyclic amines or HCAs, carcinogens that are released from animal muscle under high grill heat.

Bookends, left, Joan Warnock, right, Peggy Sullivan.
Bookends, left, Joan Warnock, right, Peggy Sullivan.

Besides drooling over Stonewall Kitchen’s rich and sassy trio of barbeque sauce – let’s call a spade a spade – my mind started drooling when I found out that the goddess of Stonewall Kitchen cookbooks, Kathy Gunst, will teach a class at Stonewall’s impeccable cooking school at their York, Maine, headquarters on April 3. (Register online.) Gunst just published her most recent cookbook, Notes from a Maine Kitchen, which I am eager to read. Her first cookbook for Stonewall Kitchen, Harvest: Celebrating the Bounty of the Seasons, with fellow authors Jim Stott and Jonathan King, remains a personal and family favorite, one that I often refer to as “tried and true” when cooking from my garden or the seasonal bounty from the local farmer’s market. I love that simplicity needn’t be confused with unsophisticated, if that makes any sense.

CookbooksThere were tons of non-edible but tantalizing booths to swallow. The latest in home wine chilling and pouring units in sleek, stainless steel that nestle right next to your Keurig. (Sans the unhip, unrecyclable plastic Ks.) Every conceivable dishware, cookware, cutlery, and glassware design in a multitude of materials for home and commercial use including dish-washable collections in sustainable bamboo. (It resembled finely carved maple.)  Of course, I went berserk at the book vendor booth what with all the newly released cookbooks, food memoirs, and beautiful coffee table books all assembled by Peggy Sullivan and Joan Warnock of Book Ends, an independent book store in Winchester, MA.

“Ladies,” I said, “one of these days my memoir will be on your shelves, Flat as a Pancake & Loving It, how my fondness for food and travel helps me cope with a double mastectomy.” I’m still writing it . . .

Carolyn Choate

About The Barking Tomato: Carolyn Choate loves to chew on food. Literally and figuratively. In the kitchen from her garden in Nashua or her favorite market, a restaurant across town or across the globe. When not masticating, Carolyn is likely swilling wine or spirits as neither is far from her heart – or lips. Forget diamonds and Louboutins, she’d rather blow a wad on Pinot Noir and grass-fed filet with fresh sautéed morels. And write about it. You taste the picture: The “Barking Tomato” aspires to push your “foodie” button. Carolyn’s day job is producing local affairs programming for WYCN-CD. You can contact her at

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