I attended the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco last week. For those of you who have never heard of it, this is a trade show for people who make or import specialty food stuffs to peddle their wares to grocery store chains, restaurants, retailers, and other professionals in the food industry. I had no real business there, other than a love of food — “fancy” and otherwise. More on that in a later post.
For now, here were some of my favorites from the show:
Award for Food I Ate First Upon Getting Home
Sheila G’s Brownie Brittle. Salted caramel was the flavor they were handing out samples of. Oh. My. God. I had been avoiding this product in Safeway for the past few months. As I told the people at the show, I just knew I would take the bag to bed with me and eat the whole thing. While it didn’t end up in bed, it was eaten first and fast. Brittle implies crunchy, which it’s not, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t delicious. I see on their website that Weight Watchers recommends them which I think is funny. It’s not exactly a health food though it could be argued that it has a relatively low calories-and-fat-to-deliciousness ratio. Some dairy, alas, but not brimming with it at least.
Award for Most Generous Vendor (and best nut butter by a long shot) goes to Barney Butter. This is my absolute favorite almond butter and I have tried them all, including the make-your-own almond butter machines at health food stores. The man at the booth was either touched by my emphatic praise for his product or eager to get me away from his booth so he could sell to real reps. He gave me a giant jar of my preferred butter (crunchy) and coupons for three more free 16 ounce jars.
Most Generous Country with Free Food: Japan
The booths were partly arranged by country, with some of the bigger players like Italy and Germany boasting their own pavilions. Japan had a big presence, preparing sushi, hand sandwiches (OK, they were basically hot pockets), and handing out samples of everything from the cutest cheese cracker you have ever seen to candies, both strange and tasty. Unlike the understandably suspicious Europeans (why is this woman with no badge trying to acquire free food?), the Japanese were only too happy to hand over whatever they had. Note to the Japanese vendor selling the salad dressing called “Creamy nuts,” I tried to warn you.
Weirdest Flavor of Candy
This award goes to woodruff, which I kept trying to assure the nice German man who represented the candy company is NOT a thing in English. He urged me to Wikipedia it. (A verb in German, apparently.) Guess what? Wikipedia refers you to the Latin name for this tiny white flower that grows in European forests. To be fair to woodruff (aka Galium odoratum) it tasted really nice. As I walked away from the booth, the guy called after me that the candy in my mouth helps to regulate your period. A young, attractive man. I have never dated a German. Now I know why.
Benoit, from Isigny Sainte-Mere, purveyors of the best cheeses, butter, and cream in the world. He was the reason I was able to peruse the fancy foods of the world and he was recently featured in a short piece in the New Yorker called “The Cheese Stands Alone.” You can’t read the whole thing without a subscription, but the gist is that the FDA forced him to destroy some beautiful aged mimolette. This is a crime. Mimolette is one of the most versatile and succulent of cheeses, fabulous as a snack, amazing as an ingredient in recipes. Benoit had a big ball of it with him at the show and he kept handing me pieces off of it. You know I am lactose-incapable. I am equally unable to refuse mimolette, the true Queen of Cheeses. I haven’t been able to find a photo that does justice to the vivid orange hue of this gorgeous cheese but I will keep trying.