Getting Oh So Fancy at the Fancy Food Show

by Jen Wanous

Think of a Costco on steroids. Take away the tire shop, keep only the gourmet food section and add a sample table for every product—then you have the Fancy Food Show. I visited my former hometown of San Francisco last weekend to attend this very convention.

The expansive convention center floor stretches out for easily 50 stations per row, amounting to a total of over 1,500 vendors. Each vendor has a gourmet food product and offers samples of their fancy food, almost cafeteria style (minus the hair nets). It is a prime opportunity for procurers of fancy foods to connect with major (and small) buyers from around the world.

With an aspiration to one day market a food product of my own, I went to the show to be inspired, to have an insider’s look into the industry and to meet new people in the fancy food world.

On the first day, I was wowed by only a small fraction of the 1,500 exhibitor’s goods. I went station-by-station tasting everything from Spanish prosciutto to sea salt caramel truffles to panda bear cookies to cardamom ice cream and soy chips (all in that order). Needless to say, I had a tummy ache within 15 minutes.

For round two on the second day, I had more of a game plan. I had a light breakfast and came fully prepared to gorge myself. There were many foods that caught my attention. One was a “guacamame” which was an edemame and tofu based dip that tasted (and looked) just like guacamole. It’s so much cheaper than avocados and keeps much longer. Genius. One of the clients for whom I currently consult on menu development is an Asian-Mexican fusion restaurant. You better believe that I’ll introduce this brilliant idea to them.

With a full smorgasbord waiting, I gravitated to the oils. I don’t know about you, but the price tag on most oils at the grocery is enough to scoff at—here, oils were displayed in all their glory in a plethora of flavors, all ripe for the pickin’. For the first time, I sampled hemp oil. Its grassy earthiness would go with any salad dressing. I had always wanted to try avocado oil, but sadly was disappointed by the flavor tasting like a turned avocado. What wowed me was a wok oil that boasted of lemongrass, Thai basil and chili.

Moving away from oils, another impressive sample was a chocolate cracker topped with goat cheese and peppered raspberry jam. Paired with a California Pino Grigio, it was a surprisingly perfect match.

Gluten-free products could have had an entire section to themselves. From GF sweet and sour sauce to GF crackers, it’s obviously the biggest current trend. In terms of marketing and branding, “natural” is plastered all over packages. Few were actually “organic” but the ones that were seemed to be the highest quality and best tasting. A great example of this was Jenis Ice Cream (I was a bit partial to the name), which comes from grass-fed cows and has a delightfully creamy texture.

Below are some pictures that I took while I was there, enjoy.

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