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Food show presents tastes for tomorrow

While survivalists stash flour, sugar, coffee, tea, water, dried beans, Spam and canned ham, gourmets will graze their way into the millennium in grand style.

The Summer Fancy Food Show's 4.5 miles of displays at Jacob Javits Center here were a revelation in potential shelter-fare for the haute crowd and a preview of foods that eventually could filter down to neighborhood supermarkets.

Rather than bake with run-of-the-mill flour, gourmets will have special stone-ground wheat, spelt, soy or oat bran flours or fancy bread mixes.

Gourmet larders no doubt will contain rare estate-grown coffees and specially blended teas. Officials from Texas Food Research in Austin, Texas, hope that they will sweeten them with sparkling Gemsugar, pure, crystallized Thai cane sugar with natural herbs coloring them in ruby, sapphire, topaz, jade and zircon shades.

Cold beverage options for gourmets include micro-brewed Virgil's Root Beer with natural herbs and spices, Reed's Extra Ginger Brew and Raspberry Ginger Brew made with real ginger and Riggs & Forsythe's Aronia Cassis (aronia berry, blackberry and black currant).

Beverage purists also might want to stash 450-year-old Fiji Natural Artesian Water in their millennium pantries. The water's promoters boast of its purity: "Fifteen hundred miles from the nearest continent, the islands are remarkably free of industry, pollution, pesticides and detergents that are so common throughout the rest of the Earth."

Finally, canned meats will be replaced by luxuries including Italy's best "prosciuttos" and Spain's Serrano hams, grass-fed Argentinian beef, smoked salmon from Scotland's famed lochs, caviar, snails and, for tender, quiet moments amid possible panic, Love Oysters for Two (pull-top smoked oysters with crackers and napkins).

The wholesalers and retailers at the show were searching for foods to comfort, excite, stimulate and captivate their well-heeled customers. In their hunt through this two-story metropolitan food jungle, they could eye, sniff and taste hundreds of products from around the world, from savories to sweets, beverages to condiments and cheeses to pastas.

About 60,000 foods from 30 countries gave products such as gourmet mustards, flavored vinegars, salsas and hot sauces their starts before they became so popular that regular supermarkets began carrying them.

Will Scotch Rocks make it into supermarkets? The rocks, actually ready-to-freeze minipackets of water from the Chapeltown Glenlivet Spring in the Scottish Highlands, are expected to appeal to travelers seeking to avoid Montezuma's revenge from tainted ice cubes and to Scotch enthusiasts who don't want to "pollute" their high-quality drinks with ordinary tap-water ice cubes.

Time will tell if Hot Sauces for Cool Kids, a kit from Mo Hotta Mo Betta, will sell. Packed in a lunch box, along with a hot sauce coloring book, the sauces include "Cool Baby" (slightly spicy sauce) and "Wild Child" (not so mild), "Crazy Kid" (kinda hot sauce) and "Screaming Teen" (hot and mean sauce).

"They're not for every kid, but they're fun for the ones who want to work their way up to handling the fiery heat of adult sauces," said Tim Eidson, who founded the San Luis Obispo, Calif., company with his wife Wendy.

The show was good news for futurists who worry that mealtime will include "food pills" and tubes of "nourishment."

Ron Tanner, vice president of the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade Inc., which stages the Fancy Food Show, said, "In the 1980s and 1990s, people were looking for unique or unusual foods and flavor combinations like orange kiwi with garlic, but, as we head for the millennium, people are eating more traditional foods like soups, artisan breads and cheeses and olives and olive oil. They want top-quality foods, often incorporating ingredients popular for decades or even centuries. After all, the reason some products have lasted so long is that they simply taste so good."

Still, there is a plethora of old-fashioned foods _ homemade noodles, cereals and granola bars made by the Schlabach Amish Bakery in Benton, Ohio, or the Deep Dark Gingerbread Cake from Dancing Deer Baking Co. in Boston.

Comfort also can come from spoonfuls of Maryland Vegetable Crab or Thai Shrimp, Scallop and Zucchini soups from Kettle Cuisine in Somerville, Mass., or 5-Star Mushroom and Fire-Roasted Vegetable from Truesoups in Kent, Wash.

"Soups are really hot," said Page Carlsen, Truesoups' vice president, as she ladled samples for show goers. "People are getting away from canned chicken noodle and tomato, and, when they find a good soup, they make it a meal by adding bread and salad."

All kinds of honeys and fruit curds are ready to smooth any rough roads leading to the millennium.

Drunken Berry Honey, containing raspberry and blackberry honey with walnuts, cinnamon and brandy, is the Sorrenti Family Farms' new product for the millennium. Marita Trunk, "queen bee" at Oregon Apiaries, Newberg, Ore., buzzes with new ideas for her line of creme honeys that come in fruit flavors from cranberry and blackberry to strawberry, raspberry and apple cider.

Lemon curd, as much a British teatime staple as double cream, now is made in strawberry, raspberry and orange flavors.

"They're intended to bolster a relatively flat jam and jelly market," said Keith Sweeney of Dickinson Family Inc. of Ripon, Wis., a Smuckers' division.

Futurists' taste buds can forge ahead with Seaphire, an emerald-green succulent that grows in desert coastal soils where nothing else thrives. Chefs use this crunchy and very salty plant (5 ounces contains a teaspoon of salt) from Seaphire International, Phoenix, Ariz., as an accent for soups and salads and to garnish entrees.

"All natural" are words that sell to gourmets headed for the next century. They're considering foods that range from Chicken Burguettes ("100 percent all-natural chicken, no skin, no byproducts, no binders, no fillers and made from Murray's Chickens, which are raised without the use of antibiotics") from New York City's Gold Farm Natural Food, to "lean and clean" game, meat and poultry pates from Groezinger Provisions, Neptune, N.J., to frozen Swedish Glace soy dessert in chocolate, vanilla and strawberry.

The biggest show segment probably still is devoted to sweet treats, sauces and top-quality foods that will make good splurges at millennium celebrations.

Desserts can be as simple as French chestnut cream or fruit in Cognac, a box of chocolates or berry-flavored chocolate sauces to drizzle over ice cream or cake, but standing tall among options are something like the triple-layer, double-flavor desserts from Annie Pie's Bakery, Longwood, Fla. The company turns out incredible creations, including the Peanut Butter Explosion, the Chocolate Triple Whammy with Cherries and Colossal Carrot cakes.

Cheeses such as the 4-year-old aged Dutch Gouda being sliced by Bram Emous, Cheeseland, N.Y., probably are nearly as rich as the cakes. The glassy-looking, dry cheese containing crunchy bits is a top-seller.

Emous said, "People may be on health kicks until they taste this, but, once they've had it, they crave it and say, "The hell with the diet.' "

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