Friday, July 2, 2010

Highlights from the 2010 Fancy Food Show

I was fortunate to attend the Fancy Food Show this year, which is the largest specialty food & beverage marketplace in North America.  Organized by the NASFT (National Association for Specialty Foods Trade), this summer's Fancy Food Show gathered 2,400 domestic and international exhibitors--showcasing all types of food and beverage products such as artisanal cheeses, gourmet desserts, spices, cured meats, pasta, sauces, fruit juices, flavored water, teas, coffee and so much more. I can't even describe how many things I tried that day, and my tastebuds were on total, utter overload. 

Held at the mother of all trade show venues, the Jacob Javitz Center in Manhattan, the Fancy Food Show exhibitors sprawled out over 675,00 square feet ( heard right).  There were over 180,000 products on display, and they were available for sampling too.  Each company had their own booth set up, and while some were simple with modest signage, others were all tricked out with hanging cheese and cured meat displays, a four-tiered cake made out of cheese (see above picture), an on-site gel candy sculpting area and more.

Everyone who worked the booths was super enthusiastic about showing off their products and encouraged you taste them.  So even after my umteenth cheese sample, there was another eager representative smiling at me with another beautiful piece of chevre. I really couldn't refuse.

It was very cool to see that there were over 80 different countries represented at the show.  Some had their own aisle (which was quite extensive) including France, Spain, India, Peru, Egypt, Italy, Korea and others.  I liked perusing these aisles because it's where I found the most obscure and interesting foods such as unique Indian spices or a delicious almond cake in the Moroccan aisle.  It was really very cool and especially since the people who represented each particular country had travelled all the way to NY to show off their products. 

After about the 20th aisle, I started getting full and had to walk around without taking samples to give my tummy a break.  But I got right back into it with gusto and had the chance to walk around every single aisle, seeing nearly all 2,400 exhibitors in about 3 hours.  I was efficient in my tastings and only tried about an eighth of what was there but I felt like I got a good representation of the show and got a lot out of it.  I learned about different food brands, and discovered food companies I've never heard of.  Below are my highlights:

Cypress Grove Chevre - This artisanal cheese company from Arcata, CA is known for goat cheese.  I tried a couple of different varieties and absolutely loved the purple haze (fresh goat cheese with lavender and fennel pollen) as well as the humboldt fog, known for its ashy center.  This cheese was smooth and so spreadable--it was a very sophisticated, elegant cheese that you might entertain with.  This booth also captured my attention with their Ultimate Cheese Cake - literally a four tiered cake-like structure made out of cheese. I later found out that they sell these through their website for $195.  Not as much as I thought. Really.

Peanut Flips - Oh my, I couldn't believe that I actually found these here!  They're little cheese doodle shaped snacks that are covered with a crushed peanuty rub.  I usually get them in Slovakia where they're known as "Chrumky" but I've never seen them in the United States.  They're incredibly addicting and are also a good fit for American palates, I think (Dan absolutely loves them).  They're also better than Cheetos because they don't turn your fingers orange and yucky.

D'Allasandro White Truffle Oil - The amazing smell emanating from this booth alone is what drew me in. I first tried their truffle butter and then dipped a little piece of bread in their white truffle oil.  Mmmm...the ultimate indulgence. Oh what I wouldn't give to have this at my disposal all day - there's just something so luxurious and beautiful about its complex flavor and intoxicating aroma.  I looked up the price and it's only $29 for a 250 ml bottle, which is totally doable.

Sarabeth's Peach Apricot Jam - Although Sarabeth's is so close to us geographically (its 5 locations dispersed throughout all of Manhattan and its products distributed in every NYC supermarket worth its salt), I haven't had the chance to try its jam. 

I was happy to see the Sarabeth's booth, decked out in their signature deep, pumpkin color, pretty floral tablecloths and a very clean, classy display.  And as I smeared a bit of peach apricot jam on a delicate cracker, I immediately smiled to myself.  The intense floral taste of the apricot and the ripe peach hit my tastebuds in all the right places. It was sweet but not to sweet and transformed me to another place - a garden where beautiful ripe fruits are picked straight from the trees, succulent and still warm from the sun.

Although these products are just a small pinch of what I tasted that day, you'll be able to see it soon enough, as many of these products will hit your local supermarket or specialty food stores in the near future.

If you'd like to get another taste of the Fancy Food Show and the SOFI Awards (they're like the Oscars for specialty foods), take a look at this video.  You'll also see some of the products mentioned above and their owners sharing their .  You'll also see some of the products mentioned above and their owners, sharing their perspective.

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