East Bayites Are Making Banana Chips, Fake Bacon, and Basil-Seed Drinks

They also make hot nuts, as revealed this week at the Fancy Food Show.


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Images by Kristan Lawson

Among the 14,000 companies showcasing everything from teriyaki-sriracha sauce to chocolate peanut milk at this week's Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, many were based right here in the East Bay. Here's what some of those locals are up to: 

Based on Singapore-style street snacks, Hayward's Little Red Dot Kitchen makes Bak Kwa, slow-grilled and Southeast Asian-spiced meat bites. Check out the pork, turkey, beef, and candied-bacon versions — and a fiery eggplant version.

Also in Hayward, Yuguo Farms uses produce grown sustainably via a farm-to-market strategy that gives growers in China's Dahongshan Valley funds, education, and other empowering tools to make irresistibly non-GMO Shiitake Mushroom Chips. Can a snack be both crunchy and chewy? Yep.

Union City-based Hungry Elephant makes eminently snackable, potassium-packed Nana Chips: plantain chips ranging in flavor from mildly salted to tomatoey-sweet to peppery-hot ... but not too hot, explains company founder Ramakanth Subbagari.

"My partners and I grew up eating plantain chips in our country — India — and we thought: Why not bring Indian traditions and tastes to American consumers, but make those traditions and tastes suitable to American palates?"

From sunny San Ramon comes Zen Basil, a line of intriguingly textured refreshing drinks made without refined sugars but with organic basil seeds, which look and feel like miniature boba but which, hydrated as they are with organic fruit juices, pack a more flavorful punch. 

Company founder Shakira Niazi is from Afghanistan, where the seeds are popular — and hailed as a high-fiber, mineral-rich superfood with alleged stress-reducing, memory-enhancing, toxin-flushing powers. 

Based in both Berkeley and France, La Tourangelle produces specialty oils ranging from olive to walnut to toasted sesame to sacha inchi to coconut to sweet almond and beyond. One of its current top sellers is its satiny roasted-pistachio oil, made from locally grown, sun-dried nuts in nearby Woodland according to 150-year-old French traditions.

Also based in Berkeley, coconut-chippery Dang Foods has a new line of sticky-rice chips, made from steamed organic Thai sticky rice, soaked in watermelon juice and crisped. Check out the Sriracha Spice, Coconut Crunch, and Original flavors. 

Berkeley artisan soybeanery Tofu Yu makes some of the best faux flesh out there — from grab-and-go salads, sushi, and wraps to soy pastas to spicy pan-fried marinated soy strips to "bakon" and "beef" jerky (under the new Veganvore imprint), and more. Debuting soon is a vegan pizza with a brown-rice crust. 

Dublin-based nut company Karma recently launched a new line of plump, dry-roasted, skin-on "wrapped" cashews in such flavors as Cinnamon, Lime Twist, Roasted Peri Peri, and Coconut Crunch.

A forerunner in the biscotti business, Oakland's Crunchy Foods has been making Biscotti di Suzy since 1985, using fresh butter, California almonds, local Guittard chocolate, anise seed, real lemon juice, and other natural ingredients.

The folks behind Oakland's Caged Heat cocktail syrup — which was born after co-founder Jared Hirsch bought cardamom pods, chilis, and tamarind paste at Oakland's Oaktown Spice Shop — are preparing for the production of their new syrups: Fairy Dust, Crimson Smoke, and Cherry Bomb. 

Founded in 1969, Pittsburg's Ramar Foods International is America's number-one Filipino-food company, offering a wide array of ice creams, snacks, and frozen meats. 

Berkeley's United With Earth markets Persian cucumbers, Golden California and Mission figs, and Medjool dates along with delectable almond-and-coconut date rolls.

San Ramon-based Brands of Britain doesn't manufacture its own merchandise but imports from Britain such popular lines as Fever Tree cocktail mixers, Tiptree preserves, and Taylors of Harrogate teas — whose products include the assertively astringent Yorkshire Tea.

Yorkshire Gold's makers "know where to source their leaves and what to do with those leaves once they have them," said Brands of Britain president Mark Rajeski. "People who know this brand won't go without it.

"The bad news is that there's now so much junk tea on the market, and so many brands making gimmicky claims, asking you to pay $16 for six little teabags.

"But the good news is that American tea consumers are starting to get it — to understand what makes a really great cup of tea."

Other East Bayites at the show included Alameda-based madeleine-maestros Donsuemor, Berkeley-based coffee roastery Fogdog, Oakland-based bone-brothery Nona Lim, Oakland-based vegetarian grab-and-go gourmands Epicurian Solutions, Kensington-based biscotti-bringers Semifreddi's, Hayward-based palmier-providers Sugar Bowl Bakery, Hercules-based ice-cream experts Gelateria Naia, and Oakland-based coffee connoisseurs Peerless and Mr. Espresso

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