NO LONGER is "imported" a boast. Nowadays food shops proudly announce that they N sell American foods, meaning regional American foods and preferably those made in small quantity and otherwise available only from inaccessible mountain hamlets. Note, for instance, the new collection at Bloomingdale's food shops (lately not even known as shops, but as The Food Source). Buyers scoured the country from Hawaii to Maine and came up with some wonderful, some good, some not so good and all expensive edibles to celebrate America the Beautiful. Two of them we have been familiar with before and are glad to find closer to home: Granny Goose chips, five kinds including two of corn and three of potato, are worth nearly anything, certainly $1.50 a bag. Our favorites are Hawaiian-style potato chips, small and just a bit thick and very crisp and tasting truly of potato. But we are being won over by Granny Goose's thinnest, lightest and most corn-tasting of tortilla chips, too.
Then there are Grand Finale caramels, even better than our extravagant imaginations had expected caramels could be -- $6 a box, or $6.50 for a caramel sauce that is just like liquified caramels and available in several chocolate-nut-liqueur variations.
Bloomingdale's is now retailing the very fine salads -- chicken, beef and vegetable variations--from Amber Grain caterers; $5 to $11 a pound, they are a hefty price but also hefty with sumptuous ingredients. Also in the savory line, there is an interesting "dry" monterey jack cheese with a pleasantly grainy interior and a peppery bite on the exterior; and Vidalia onion pickles are $6.50 a jar. On the sweet side are Fisher's Caramel Corn from Ocean City; Savannah pralines, which are pecans with the barest crunch of orange-spiked caramel around them ($4.75); and pistachio brittle from Pistachio Farms of California, which is in Las Vegas. The brittle is crunchy from bits of ground popcorn as well as from sugar and pistachios, and has an intriguing and not-too-sweet flavor; a 12-ounce box is $7.75.
Not all is a star-spangled success, though. Many will find Bloomingdale's California panforte too sweet, though there will be those who don't mind that in order to enjoy this nutty, fruity and chewy Italian-style confection. And Hawaiian Plantations' ginger conserve with macadamia nuts has all the benefit of a gingery punch but is just too sticky. The macadamia nut-chocolate chip cookies are simply dreadful, tasting of little but shortening and flour.
A few years ago it was fashionable to knock Washington for its lack of bagels (which managed to take the heat off some of the city's other shortcomings). Now you can't take a deep breath without smelling another new bagel factory -- within the last year in Georgetown's and Capitol Hill. Bethesda has just entered the competition, with What's a Bagel at 4811 Bethesda Ave. Open daily from 6:30 a.m. and until 8 p.m. weekdays and Sundays, until midnight Fridays and Saturdays, WAB bakes the biggest bagels we have seen, a hefty five inches across, and pretty good ones (though not chewy enough for our taste), at 24 to 30 cents each. The usual flavors, from poppy seed to cinnamon-raisin, are available, and stuffed if you like with lox spread, whitefish salad, tuna or--how ecumenical!--shrimp salad. There are also homemade knishes, but so doughy and stingily filled that we hope you will wait until the knish maker gets his recipe in order before you bother.
Instead of scouring the country for special foodmakers, one could scour White Flint Mall on Saturday, Oct. 23, and Sunday, Oct. 24, at the Second Annual Maryland Cake and Candy Show, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. It is a contest, open to cake-decorating, cake-baking and candy-making enthusiasts, with categories ranging from small children through professionals. Registration for entries was "preferred" by last Friday, so call quickly if you want to enter: 301-593-8762.
Kitchen Bazaar is expanding, with a new store in Annapolis. What will be most interesting there will be kitchenware for those with no room to expand; the store promises to feature hard-to-find items for boat owners.