Best Bites from the Fancy Food Show, San Francisco
The Fancy Food Show was recently held in San Francisco. With over 1,300 exhibitors from around the world, it covered most of the Moscone Center. I'm still full from all the samples over two days.
The show is organized by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade and is attended by the food industry and press. Everywhere you look, people are dealmaking, schmoozing, and trying to convince retailers to sell their product. A big player at a show like this is Whole Foods. As you can imagine, if you are a specialty food vendor, a Whole Foods contract could be very good for business.
The products run the gamut from delicious and revelatory (the California-based cheeses) to disgusting and palate-destroying (a sunflower seed snack stands out). Here are some stand-outs from the show: hot chocolate from Oregon, salumi from Virginia, malva pudding from NorCal, and more.
Moonstruck Chocolate's Fortunato No. 4
Moonstruck Chocolate, from Portland, Oregon, is making waves in the chocolate world. They're the only American supplier of a rare cacao bean, the Pure Nacional, that was recently discovered in Peru and thought to be extinct.
Chocolatier Julian Rose (pictured above) is selling the beans either as a whole bean that's covered with Pure Nacional chocolate, or as a 68% cacao bar. Trying the beans was a treat, and unlike any other chocolate that I'd experienced. The bean itself had a bright, fruity flavor that was altogether delightful.
Shanley Farms Finger Limes
Finger limes are a small, citrus fruit, about pinky-sized. I had been hearing people talking about this fruit before finding their booth. Finger limes originate from the Australian bush and have just recently come to California. Shanley Farms is one of only a couple producers and sells at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market.
The limes are amazing. When cut in half, you can squeeze the caviar-type fruit out of its pod and either drop it into your mouth or put it in a recipe. The crunch and the size of the citrus reminded me of tobiko, the flying fish roe commonly found at sushi bars. It's fun to consider the possibilities of this fruit. Jim Shanley, owner of Shanley Farms, says the default use is with oysters.
Tasting the salumi of master salumiere Oliviero Colmignoli of Olli Salumeria was one of the highest points of the show. Colmignoli is from Rome and now produces salumi in Richmond, Virginia. After coming to the U.S., Colmignoli had to work hard to find the right pork for his product and settled on a group of hand-picked farmers, including the lauded Becker Lane Organic Farm in Iowa.
If you find Olli Salumi in your area, try it. Fantastic, clean flavors; my favorite was the sweet coppa. Olli's culatello and lomo both recently won recognition in the Good Food Awards.
The apricot almond panforte from Chelsea Britt's Panforte Comapny is made in Southern California. The loaf is loaded with fruit flavors and nuts. I've never had a panforte that I loved, but while talking to a friend and sampling this one, the world kind of stopped. The bright fruit flavors exploded. The bite was rich, dense and chewy.
Skillet Street Food Bacon Jam
Joshua Henderson, who runs the Skillet Street Food truck in Seattle was sharing his delightful bacon jam. Do we really need another bacon product? That's what I thought until I tried this. The savory puree is made after rendering the bacon and spices for about six hours. Try it on a hamburger, grilled cheese, or a deviled egg.
Vendors were offering literally hundreds of drink, tea being the most abundant. Tangerine Passionfruit is Fizzy Lizzy's newest drink. It has a great balance of tart and sweet. Jan's Soursop Juice was wonderful (soursop is a sweet fruit found in many tropical countries). Jan's juice line can be found at some Asian markets.
The Tao of Tea Tulsi bottled iced tea was easily my favorite of the teas. Tulsi is also known as holy basil and this unsweetened, uncaffeinated tea is subtle and refreshing. Hot Lips Soda is a soda company that was born out of a Portland pizza shop. Their pear flavor actually tastes like true pear fruit—try it in a cocktail.
Very Peri Sauce
This little hot sauce from Maryland had huge flavor. Though fiery, the sauce was evened out by garlic, spices, and a nice tartness. Very Peri is made from the piri piri pepper, a small birds-eye pepper used in East African, Portuguese and Brazilian cuisine. If you've ever had the awesome Nando's Chicken, you're probably familiar with peri peri sauce. When I get my hands on a bottle of Very Peri, I'll be using it in tacos, on quesadillas, with chicken and in rice bowls with vegetables.
Kari's Malva Pudding
Kari Mansfeld makes Malva pudding, a traditional South African dessert that sells mainly in Northern California specialty stores. The pudding resembles a British sticky toffee pudding in its spongy consistency, but has a light, subtly sweet flavor.
While great on its own, it would also be a nice base for other ingredients like ice cream or a fruit sauce. Kari's Malva Pudding is sold in freezer sections then heated up at home. It's convenient while elegant, with that homemade feel you don't normally get from a frozen dessert.