The second definition for “fast food,” supplied by the ever-enlightening Urban Dictionary reads: “Food that comes with twice the grease at half the cost, usually stored with excessive packaging and paper napkins.” This is the general conception of the fast food phenomenon for which most people look to large chains like McDonalds, Burger King and Taco Bell. Recently, however, a plethora of healthy food trucks, farmer’s markets and quick service restaurants (such as Terri and Blossom Du Jour) have cropped up in The City, daring to redefine the term “fast food.” As the expression loses its greasy, saucy connotations, Urban Dictionary’s third definition, “food that is hard to catch” i.e. “Look at that hamburger go!” may be a bit more apt. These food carts and markets are actually moving, in more ways than one—the vendors are constantly changing location and their businesses are taking off. Those of us who live in NYC have always been fortunate to have delicious health food restaurants such as Candle 79 , Blossom and Angelica Kitchen at our fingertips for leisurely dinners and lunches–and now we are also blessed to have fast, healthy options for on-the-go munching.
Are you a New Yorker looking for a completely organic and vegan menu, self-described as “Food to help you transform into a being of pure light who can serve all living creatures simultaneously and eternally?” If so, consider staking out our long-time customer, the Cinnamon Snail Truck, who recently won NYC’s 2012 Vendy Award. The Cinnamon Snail Truck’s repertoire includes sweet and savory breakfast foods (good luck choosing between the Fresh Plum Pancakes and the Chipotle Seitan Breakfast Burrito) sandwiches (such as Basil Pesto Grilled Tofu), burgers (the Gouchujang Burger Deluxe is composed of sautéed kimchi, arugula, pickled red onions, black sesame gomoasio and sriracha mayo), drinks (try the Star Anise Coconut Milk Iced Coffee) and pastries (we know you’re craving a miniature cheesecake). Everything is freshly baked at 3 a.m. before heading out for the day and the Cinnamon Snail Truck always offers daily specials!
Smorgasburg, Brooklyn’s biweekly open-air food market, has been raved about by chef, restaurateur and food personality Mario Batali as “The single greatest thing I’ve ever seen gastronomically in New York City.” This gustatory delight is run by Brooklyn Flea, a company which operates many of the largest street markets on the East Coast. Smorgasburg, their edible flea market, is open on Saturdays at their Williamsburg location (East River State Park) and on Sundays in DUMBO (at the Brooklyn Bridge Park), where vendors gather from 11am to 6pm to sell their delectable goods. Check out Brooklyn Piggies (yummy variations of pigs-in-a-banket), People’s Pops (which “transform local, sustainably grown fruits and herbs” into cold, juicy popsicles) and Granola Lab (who bake their creative, crunchy concoctions in their Brooklyn laboratory). If you find yourself craving food that is delicious, local and can be quickly prepared consider stopping by Smorgasburg!
For more info on healthy fast food, check back for an interview with Carpe Donut owner Matt Rohdie. Matt created a delicious recipe for organic apple cider donuts back in July 2007, which he distributed to the residents of Charlottesville, VA from a little red food cart named “Gypsy.” Six years later, he now owns two carts, a shop in Charlottesville, and caters weddings and other events. He also recently trained Ace’s new customer, Andrew Bozzo, who opened his own Carpe Donut truck in NYC. Look for the upcoming post to learn more about Carpe Donut’s journey!read more
In the words of the wise and talented Shirley MacLaine, ”Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb. It’s where all the fruit is.” Following the advice of Ms. MacLaine, all of us here at Ace are excited to announce that we are now distributing fresh produce—yep, you heard it! We are offering juice bar items: apples, beets, carrots, celery, cucumbers, ginger, kale, lemons, and oranges.
For the last few years, we have been toying with idea of incorporating produce into the menu of food items we distribute. We knew that if we were going to do it, we wanted to do it well and we were aware that the key to selling delicious fruits and vegetables is that they have to be fresh—which is difficult to do! We were also sensitive to the fact that there is a time period during every year when carrots and a few other select items are extremely scarce and we didn’t want to leave our root-lovin’ customers hanging.
Worried that it would be too wasteful and problematic, we put the produce idea on hold for awhile—but it was always there in the back our minds. And then the craze for yummy fresh pressed juices came along and we noted that most of the delicious restaurants and cafes we distribute to either have a juicer in the back of the house or an actual juice bar as part of the establishment. When we saw that our customers were getting into it, we said “Hey, we could do this now!” In order to accommodate our new, juicy items, we have expanded out refrigeration space at the warehouse by leasing the building adjacent to ours and building an additional 2500 sq. ft. refrigerated walk-in.
As of quite recently, we have been distributing our new repertoire—along with their usual orders– to certain customers up to 5 times a week. Like many other businesses, we are temporarily having difficulty providing carrots, celery, ginger, and Granny Smith apples due to their scarcity during this time of the year. All of our other items, however, are succulent and bountiful and ready to be ordered–and we expect that as the season changes, the rest will follow suit. Our hope is that our beloved customers (and maybe some new ones as well) will look to us as one of their sources for fresh fruits and veggies!
As springtime finally begins to flower on this island we call home, health-conscious events and news seem to be blossoming as well. Three of Ace’s customers opened new NYC locations and the Big Apple recently hosted the NYC Green Festival, so no healthy eater should be at a loss as to ideas for celebrating this change of seasons!
Looking for a delectable meatless bacon cedar chicken ranch sandwich (made with soy bacon and daiya cheddar) or a fresh smoothie bursting with kale, pear, banana, almond butter and soy milk? Ace customer Terri, “an all vegetarian quick service restaurant serving delicious organic super foods seasoned like familiar favorites” was formerly only accessible in Chelsea. Now their scrumptious sandwiches, salads, wraps, smoothies, juices, desserts, and shakes can also be enjoyed at their new location in the Financial District!
The Peacefood Café: vegan kitchen and bakery, serving “transformational, healthy and delicious” food “prepared and served with mindfulness, gratitude and the intention to nurture” has existed solely on Amsterdam until recently. Now, their pineapple beet lime juice, fluffy quinoa salads and raw cocao mousse pies can be enjoyed at their new downtown spot at University Place. If the fluffy quinoa salad isn’t enough to snag you, the menu also boasts mango lassis (made with soy yogurt), pan-seared shanghai-style dumplings (filled with marinated tofu, shitake and wood ear mushrooms and chinese chives), and raw sushi rolls (yep, you heard us, they’re stuffed with walnut pâté).
Blossom du Jour, “committed to providing delicious, healthy cruelty free cuisine” has been a favorite among residents of Chelsea, the Upper West Side, and the Midtown West area. The Blossom du Jour in Chelsea recently relocated to a new venue on 23rd St. If you find yourself craving a “Blue Velvet Smoothie” (brimming with acai and fresh fruit) or a “Skyscraper Burger” (composed of soy bacon, onion rings and vegan cheese), head over to their latest spot. Also on the menu are smokey avocado wraps (made with smoked tempeh), “naked burrito salads” (containing braised un-chicken tenders and crisp romaine lettuce), and an array of fresh, cold pressed juices.
Another exciting seasonal occurrence was the NYC Green Festival, held at the Javits Center from April 19th-21st. Taking place annually on Earth Day weekend, the festival features an organic, vegetarian and vegan food court, workshops, eco-fashion exhibits, an organic beer and wine garden and a Green Marketplace. Adding to the festivities are live music, food prep demonstration, and eco-fashion installations. Additionally, 2013 was the first year of the NYC B2B Green Trade Day, “afternoon dedicated to bringing together New York Green Festival exhibitors to sell and take orders from regional retail store buyers.”
Also featured at the Green Festival was Ace vendor and creator of exquisite organic truffle oils, DaRosario. We are pleased to announce that, after having distributed for DaRosario for many years, we recently became their master distributor. Among their unique offerings are a variety of white and black truffle oils, truffle bath salts, virgin olive oil, and porcini mushroom oil. If you haven’t tried their organic white truffle oil with acai honey or their organic white or black truffle mayonnaise, there is a wonderful surprise in store for you.
We hope that in addition to tasting all of the enticing offerings at these healthy restaurants, you take some time to frolic among the newly blossomed flowers and enjoy the warm breeze. If you want to do all three at once, try getting some take-out and enjoying a picnic in Central Park. Happy eating!read more
Lewis Tchong, Vice President of the Hudson Valley-based soy sauce company Wan Ja Shan, recently volunteered a few minutes of his time to talk with Ace. We were lucky enough to get the lowdown on their delicious organic line, which we are delighted to be distributing.
Ace Natural: Can you tell me a little bit about the origin of Wan Ja Shan?
Lewis Tchong: Mr. Wu started the original company in Taiwan in 1945 after WW2; that was with the first generation. My grandfather was one of the original investors. We built our North American factory in 1974 in upstate NY. When we initially started the factory most of our business was industrial so we were selling the soy sauce as an ingredient to major food companies, like McDonalds and Nestle. Recently we started selling more retail, predominantly the organic series, which we launched in 2004.
AN: So McDonalds isn’t buying the organic line?
LT: No, McDonalds is buying our conventional soy sauce. There are a few main ingredients in soy sauce, which is soybeans, wheat and salt, so for the conventional product we don’t use organic soybeans or wheat. With the organic line, everything is organic certified and sourced domestically. We get a lot of our organic soybeans from MI, OH, sometimes from Canada.
AN: How did Wan Ja Shan decide to start the organic line?
LT: There was a need to fill that niche in the marketplace. It’s basically the same process with the fermentation as normal soy sauce. And it’s worked out very, very well…the organic movement has grown tremendously over the last decade and we see it continuing to grow over the next few decades for sure.
AN: Have any of the companies that you supply for switched over to organic when you started providing that?
LT: They have. Stubb’s barbecue sauce switched from conventional to organic tamari. Mary’s Gone Crackers switched about a year and a half ago and I see those guys everywhere now. I think what a lot of companies find is that since we source and manufacture everything in-house we are able to provide a very, very good price as opposed to a lot of our competitors who don’t make their own sauces but buy from someone else and put their labels on there. We’ve grown tremendously because we have a good combination of price, quality and we’re local to New York.
AN: How do you think Mr. Wu’s original vision for the company differs from what it has become?
LT: The old generation was really more about just making money, making profit and building a brand wasn’t really the highest priority…it was more just selling deep tankers of soy sauce and paying the bills. I don’t think Mr. Wu ever suspected we would be able to build a brand in a specific market like Whole Foods or Wegman’s. We’re really the first food company from Taiwan that’s penetrated the high-end organic natural retail. When I joined the company the highest priority was to establish a brand of retail first.
AN: What is your favorite sauce?
LT: They’re all very good. Our bestseller, the Worcestershire sauce, is organic, it’s gluten free, it’s vegan because we don’t use anchovies, we use shitake mushroom for our flavor. And we kind of have a secret recipe for the spices in there that we don’t disclose. I like it because it’s very versatile, its very healthy, its low in sodium, you can use it for stir-fry, for marinades, for dipping, barbequing, but its got a very rich, complex taste profile.
AN: That sounds delicious. Do you find yourself putting it on food that wouldn’t normally warrant a sauce?
LT: I’ve been starting to use Worcestershire sauce on salads, dumplings, vegetables and marinades. You can use it to make Bloody Marys, too. I like the flavor so much I’ve kind of been using it on everything.
AN: Do you have any new products in the making at the moment?
LT: We’re launching a bunch of new barbecue sauces and glazes that use our organic tamari as the base ingredient so we’re kind of expanding to the barbecue category. So that’s going to be coming up next year and we’re very excited about that as well.
AN: What are the company’s hopes for the near future?
LT: I hope that one day we have an entire portfolio and really be the go-to brand if you need an Asian fusion sauce. There’s really a trend in that direction–people want new sauces and they get tired of using the same old condiments all the time. I think ketchup and mustard will always be there but I hope one day that we will be the brand that when you think, “I want to make an Asian stir-fry dish tonight,” we’ll have that sauce ready for you to buy.
Recipe Courtesy of Ming Tsai:
Tamari-Marinated Spicy Tofu and Broccoli Stir Fry (Serves 4)
1/4 cup Wanjashan Organic Gluten-Free Tamari, 1-2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 1 tablespoon minced ginger, 1 large package firm tofu (cut into 3/4-inch cubes), 1 head broccoli (prepped into florets & stem peeled, julienned), 1 package rice vermicelli, Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and Canola oil.
In a bowl, combine tamari, hot pepper sauce, garlic, ginger and tofu and marinate for 15 minutes. In a wok, boil water and season well with salt. Blanch broccoli until al dente, about 30 seconds. Strain broccoli and water into a heat-proof bowl/strainer combo and then shock broccoli in ice bath. Add rice vermicelli to hot blanching water and allow to rehydrate for about 5 minutes, then drain. Meanwhile, in same wok, add oil to coat and stir-fry tofu in marinade, about 1 minute. Add broccoli and vermicelli and toss to combine and heat through; check for seasoning and serve.
On March 2nd-4th, Ace attended a yearly highlight of our gustatory engagements: the 2013 International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York. This year’s event, which included new additions and showcased almost 500 vendors from 150 different countries, was by far the most enticing yet. Taking place in the Javitz Center, the show is geared towards businesses in the foodservice and hospitality industry; food vendors are displayed as well as the companies that supply products for every component of the industry, including back-of-the-house equipment and take-out supplies. The attending restaurants vary widely, including everything from “mom and pop” places to large chains.
A new addition this year was the “Food Trends Experience,” which invited participants to sample delicious, fresh food from NY favorites, like our renowned customer Amy’s Bread and Ace Natural preferred vendor Daiya Foods, Inc. The IRFS describes this new savory delight as, ”a tasting adventure providing direct access to product, flavors and ingredients driving the most recent trends in the market – healthy, organic, sustainable, ethnic, artisanal, and more!”
Also enjoyed by attendees were the live cooking shows; Candle 79′s Pastry Chef and Chef de Cuisine, Jorge Pineda, was one of the 15 culinary geniuses who treated guests to cooking demonstrations. Other chefs featured included former participants on Hell’s Kitchen, Chopped and MasterChef. In addition to these informative and interesting performances, Ace enjoyed looking at over 300 of the more staid “food as art” displays.
The Japan Pavilion was a definite highlight, a section which aimed to educate guests about koji and ramen, two ingredients that have experienced a recent surge in popularity. We were also delighted that many of our own vendors had booths this year, including Bob’s Red Mill, Sambazon, Spindrift and Once Again Nut Butter. If you’re interested in attending next year’s food show and want to keep abreast of the latest developments, like their Facebook page or follow Ron Mathews, the man who runs it all, on twitter!read more