As we said earlier, innovation was in evidence throughout the show, in product offerings, beautiful packaging and even in the thought behind forming the companies. One standout we particularly admired – Rumi Spice – reflects both the business savvy and the real heart of some of our military veterans. While one of the world’s most distinctive and difficult to harvest spices, saffron, is most often associated with Spain, the #1 rated saffron in the world heralds from war-torn Afghanistan. Inspired by their tours of duty and vowing to help Afghani families through economic empowerment, a team of returning veterans formed Rumi Spice, a farmer-partner company that has the support of both the U.S. and Afghan governments, to provide resources to sustainably grow and harvest saffron, offering farmers an alternative way of life and better source of income.

One of Mona’s favorite products was Mike’s Hot Honey, a chili pepper-infused honey. According to the fellows at their booth, Mike started using the Hot Honey he’d been making for his own enjoyment as a topping for pizza.  At a Brooklyn pizzeria!  It was a hit – and a brand was born. Another treat was Brownies to GoGo.  These confections were unbelievably moist.  The owner/baker Kerri Watson was charming and we wish her the very best in her chocolatey endeavors. Last – if you’re looking for a lovely business gift (or a gift just for yourself) Mille Lacs Foods out of Wisconsin, sells crackers, cheeses, olive oils and even gummi worms, all the components needed for the perfect basket of goodies.

We will have more to discuss in coming weeks about our findings at the show, but for now, we’re firing up the barbecue, in anticipation of a celebration of an Independence Day worthy of our nation’s culinary melting pot.

Happy Fourth of July, to foodies everywhere!