Tuesday, 29 January 2013 12:00

Events Fancy Food Show is Fancy

The 38th Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco is HUGE.  There are over 1,300 exhibitors and more than 18,000 attendees – a few facts I only truly grasped when I was on the exhibition floor. Another fact? Free food breeds savages.

This was my first time at this foodie event, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. My stomach and I weren’t prepared for the thousands of specialty foods and beverages that were featured from over 35 countries. The event is like an endless buffet and the information I received in my press kit justified that: it is “The largest marketplace devoted to specialty foods and beverages on the West Coast.”

NASFT’s Fancy Food Show is geared towards buyers who are looking to jazz up their product offerings in the next year and while I’m not a buyer, I’m definitely an eater. Samples. Everywhere.

From cheese to prosciutto, and wine to chocolate, the food and drinks seemed like they went on forever. There was caramel popcorn, there were cake pops, beer brittle and something called Holy Crap (I’ll get to it). In fact there was so much for people to sample that’s it’s almost impossible to highlight it all.  I was, however, warned not to start off with chocolate for the sake of my palate. While I did listen and started with Gelato, my willpower was quickly tested. And I failed.

Gelateria Naia

I used to think I could only get real, great tasting gelato from the small towns surrounding my family’s hometown in Italy or, at best, from my little Italian neighborhood back home in Montreal. Not anymore. Naia makes their own gelato and sorbets from scratch, in-house, using local ingredients from the Bay Area. Gelato is generally made with real milk (not cream) and contains zero artificial anything. Naia’s gelato stays true to the tradition and uses real flavors. I love that. I sampled  pistachio and single malt whiskey, both amazing. The textures were smooth, creamy and felt magical on my tongue. The flavors were subtle, yet distinct, and really delightful. And I don’t use the word “delightful” very often. Since, I can’t get enough (hello, they use Tcho Chocolate) the minute I can, I’m heading to Gelateria Naia. Thanks for being awesome San Fran.

Migliore’s Jalapeño & Pomegranate Jam

I had a small sample of this jam with what I can only assume was Brie cheese. I honestly didn’t really pay any sort of attention to detail, I was distracted by the explosive flavour that was going on. As soon as you pop that cracker, cheese, and jam in to your mouth, the jam takes center stage. A family recipe, this jam (and it’s fig version) is made from all natural ingredients from California and Italy. From the figs to the jalapeños and  it may have been my favorite. Think about it; you can use this on toast, crackers, couple it with cheese, use it as a secret ingredient in your chicken or pork marinade…heck, I’d even use it as an ice cream topper and make the most awesome parfait known to civilization. Dare me.

Ticklebelly Desserts

There they were, a booth with a tower of cupcakes, cake pops, and loads more goodies. The sweets were taunting me, subliminally calling me over for just a taste. I promised myself I wasn’t going to stop at this booth, then someone handed me a chocolate velvet cake pop. I was done. It was amazing. I took 2 more. You win, Ticklebelly Dessert. You win.

Hudson Valley Foie Gras

I must take a moment to mention the amazing foie gras I tasted at the show. What I appreciated most was Hudson’s Valley efforts to communicate their use of humaine and sustainable farming methods. I suggest you check it out! As I passed the booth, I saw a lady pop a cracker topped with foie gras in to her mouth and overheard her say “this isn’t fair, teasing us with foie gras that we cannot purchase!”  There’s a loophole in the California foie gras prohibition, but I’m not getting in to it. I hail from Montreal, where foie gras is a normal culinary experience. It’s considered no different from eating veal or Kobe beef. So, this point goes to Canada!

Catalpa Malbec

No food and beverage event would be complete without some wine tasting. And judging from the wine lovers gathered at this particular booth, I could understand why this wine was such a hit. It’s pretty darn delicious. The wine comes from a 70-year-old vineyard in Argentina. From my stealth ninja investigatory skills, I was able to find out that the grapes used in the wine are hand picked – only the winners make it through! I can tell you that this wine had all sorts of awesome flavors going on… some berries, plum and currant. It would totally go with chocolate, lamb, pork… any meat, really. In my dreams, I envision it going well with a hearty stew. Mmm.

Holy Crap

I taste first and ask questions later. Holy Crap is right! What is this stuff, why is it so good for you, and why did I have to hear about a Canadian product in California?! SO many questions. Here’s the lowdown. The first thing you’ll notice is the texture of this cereal – it’s not dry and crunchy like the usual cereal varieties. If you don’t mind change, you’re golden. You can totally slap this in your oatmeal, your yoghurt, and almond milk – whatever you feel like. Now, on to the answers. What is it? It’s a combination of grains that were originally mixed together by Corin Mullins to help with her husband Brian’s food allergies. In this concoction, Corin blended together buckwheat, hulled hemp heart seeds, and a key ingredient  & ancient grain called Chia. Add in some organic cranberries, raisins and apple bits and you got yourself one of the healthiest gluten free breakfasts available. Why is it so healthy?  It’s certified organic, gluten free, lactose free, kosher, a pretty significant source of fiber AND has all those good omegas in there! Lastly: why have I never heard of it? Beats me, I come from a French province.

I am truly glad I made it out to this show. Not only did I get to try all sorts of delicious treats, but I was also introduced to some wicked new foods and beverages. And hey, I’ll try anything once! A word of caution to anyone planning to head to the Summer Fancy Food show in NYC – get there early, you have so much ground to cover. Also, wear elastic waist pants.

By Angelique Picanco