Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Taste the European Tradition

By Melinda Contreas

As the Summer Fancy Food Show made its return to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center from June 17th-June 19th, more than 2,400 exhibitors from 80 countries and regions used the show floor to reach as many of the 25,000 attendees as they could over a three day period. With many of the key players in the industry in one city over the three days, a number of exhibitors took the opportunity to host private press conferences, receptions, and banquets both before and after the show, hosting key players in the industry in a more intimate setting.

One of these exhibitors was the Polish organization: The Union of Producers and Employers of Meat Industry (UPEMI). They held a press conference and VIP Banquet at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill on Sunday evening following that day's Fancy Food Show activities.

Following a ban on European meat imports into the US since 1997, a settlement of the meat trade dispute between the US and EU was announced in March 2012. UPEMI used the press conference to discuss the coming liberalization of the market, and the opportunities and challenges it presents for the EU as seen from the EU/ Poland perspective while simultaneously promoting "Tradition, Quality, and European Taste," a two year program funded by the European Union and the Government of Poland. First launched on March 7, 2011, the campaign targets distributors, wholesalers, importers, local producers, processors and industry associations with the goal of providing information and promoting the pork and beef production and processing industry in the European Union to selected countries including the US, South Korea, and Vietnam.

The fastest growing economy in the European Union, Poland, informed everyone at the press conference about their high quality, healthy, traditional, and tasty pork and beef, encouraging everyone to help promote and stimulate Polish exports. Ending the press conference with an invitation to come to Poland and taste their products locally, guests didn't have to wait until a trip to Poland to taste the finest in European meats, as an array of pork awaited them at the VIP reception.

Guests were treated to live music performed by two lovely violinists throughout the evening.

The Hyatt Regency provided an assortment of cold salads, sides, and miniature desserts to pair with the European pork.

Of course the stars of the night were the European meat dishes of contemporary Polish cuisine prepared by renowned chefs from Poland, which included Whole Baked Pork Ham, Roasted Pork Neck served with Onion Sauce, Traditional Beef Goulash, Pork Tenderloins in Mushroom Sauce, and Barley Grouts.

I am not really a ham person, though the only ham I've ever really had is what I'm typically served at Thanksgiving, which is a warmer, thicker version of Oscar Meyer lunch meat. I usually just help my self to a very tiny serving, so my family won't think I'm crazy if I don't put ham on my plate.

If I was served the ham from this event on Thanksgiving, I would gladly help myself to three or four large servings. This ham was heartier than the ham I'm used to, and reminded me more of roast beef. It was paired with a chili sauce that I was originally slightly afraid to try, as I can't really handle hot sauces, but the sauce had the perfect amount of kick to it, and wasn't overwhelming at all. This was definitely my favorite dish of the night, though I also loved the roasted pork neck, which reminded me a lot of chicken.

Though the focus of the event was the meat, I can't end this write-up without raving about the Sekacz.

The Sekacz was the perfect dessert. It wasn't sweet at all. I went back for a second slice, and could probably eat a whole layer of the tree if I had this in my kitchen. This Polish dessert is basically a sponge cake, and an American might think of adding whipped cream and fruit to it just like you would to a shortcake. Sekacz is lovely just the way it is, and I later learned that it is in fact most often eaten plain. I am officially on a hunt to track one of these down in the DC area (or online). Tips welcome!

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