Culinary chic: lite, low and full of beans

February 14, 1993|By Charlotte Balcomb Lane | Charlotte Balcomb Lane,Orlando Sentinel

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA — LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Proof that the self-indulgent attitude of the 1980s is history was evident at the recent National Food Distributors Association trade show.

In the more than 254 displays set up at the Walt Disney World Contemporary Resort, the culinary puritanism theme of the '90s was all wrapped up in bright, healthful and politically correct packages of no-fat salsa, guilt-free chips, convenient whole-grain blends and ever-more exotic combinations of beans for soups and stews.

Virtually extinct were the decadently rich fudge ice-cream toppings and liqueur-drenched cakes that flooded stores during the '80s. These days, specialty food suppliers and distributors think modern consumers want foods that offer good taste and good moral fiber.

More than half the exhibitors touted products that were low in fat, cholesterol, sodium, sugar or calories. Dozens of distributors showed off brands of hot stuff with names like Arriba Chipotle Salsa (made with flame-smoked jalapeno peppers), Wimpy Salsa extra mild) or Hotter 'N' Heck (extra spicy). Salsas were matched with avant-garde-flavored tortilla chips made from black beans, black corn or red, white and blue corn, and seasoned with lime, sea salt or chili.

Beans also are becoming big business as manufacturers compete to concoct tempting soup blends, including variations on Cajun, Cuban, Southwestern and Caribbean.

In other trends, established brands such as Jack Daniels whiskey and Tabasco pepper sauce are dripping into new products. Tabasco now adds zing to ketchup, mustard and pepper jelly.

However, some new foods still aim to satisfy the snackoholic that lurks in most American consumers. Peanut-butter filled pocket pretzels is one such product to be on the lookout for.

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