Sunday, January 17, 2010

Specialty Food Show



Each year the NASFT holds the Fancy Food Show for food professionals. It is not open to the public, but to caterers, restauranteurs, food suppliers, grocers, etc. "The National Association for the Specialty Food Trade is a not-for-profit business trade association established in 1952 to foster trade, commerce and interest in the specialty food industry." The winter show is held in San Francisco and the summer one in New York City.

The event spans three days. Cakegrrl Kristy and I decided to go on Sunday so as to avoid weekday traffic and parking issues. We spent the whole day there and boy, was it packed! Not only with tons of visitors, but with tons of exhibitors trying to get their foods out there.

The show also tries to focus on upcoming food trends. What is gonna be the cupcake or pomegranate for the next year or decade? Which ethnic food is suddenly going to take off in popularity? For established companies, they show their newest products. For new companies, there is the opportunity to introduce their product to thousands of new potential customers. It's usually in this last group that you will spot the trends.

What trends did we seem to see? There was a section of the exhibit that focused on natural and organic vendors. It was here that we definitely saw a lot of gluten free foods. I also saw a lot of natural low calorie sweeteners too. That would mostly be agave and stevia.

In the general food area we saw a lot of ethnic quick serve food items. I would say that Indian food is definitely getting the spotlight with Asian close behind. I asked most of these vendors if they would send me samples to try and then blog about later. Hopefully they will follow through so I can play.

There was also gads of chocolate purveyors, cheeses, and lots of smoked/preserved meats. I was in heaven with trying all the fresh prosciutto and serrano. They would be carving it right off the bone and it was SSSOOOOOOOOO good, buttery, and salty. That was my favorite thing to sample.


Here was one of the chocolate vendors with Mexican spiced chocolate cakes for making cocoa. She was using a molinillo to froth the drink. I asked her why they used that tool and she explained that the Indians believed there was a spiritual element to the froth created and so this was a whisk-like device to help create the froth. My lesson for the day.


Keeping with chocolate, here was a chocolate sculpture being created by a student of a chocolate academy.


This section was where vendors could display their "What's Hot" products. It was concentrated in one small area so we could go through and circle vendor numbers on a sheet and hopefully they will send us further information and samples of their products.


And now I have to share the "Stupid Award" for the show. There were several vanilla companies there showing all sorts of vanilla products such as vanilla infused salt, sugar, syrups, etc. Many were giving vanilla beans away as samples. Kristy and I approached a vendor handing out the beans and talking to our winners of the award. These two women took the vanilla beans and were asking what to do with them while sticking the tips in their mouths like they were some sort of Twizzler! The guy was trying to explain how they were used in cooking, like scraping out the seeds from inside the pods or putting the beans in sugar or alcohol to make your own sugar or extract. These women were clueless as they chomped on their vanilla beans! Kristy and I were like, "Who let these fools into the show? Do they just let anyone in?"

Some exhibitors were very generous. One vendor had a spectacular array of gourmet sausages made with duck, lamb, and other great meats. I figured if I was gonna buy any product it was here and so asked about the price. The guy said they weren't selling any, only displaying. He said they give it away on Tuesday at show close because they wouldn't be able to take these meat products back or sell them. I told him I was from Sacramento and only here for the day. So he gave me a package of lamb sausage right then! At an Australian booth I had a conversation about some of the wild spices coming from the Outback. He gave me a scone mix made with some grain from there. We also got gnocchi from one of the exhibitors in the Italy area. There were also some of the stingy exhibitors who practically slapped your hand if you reached for something. Not a good way to make an impression.

We ended the day with very sore feet and lots of samples and literature to take home. I had three bags full of heavy stuff. It took me quite a while to sort through the things only to realize that I went a little overboard grabbing things I really don't need to be eating right now. But I think I'll just keep these for my movie going snacks and leave it at that. I look forward to trying some of things I actually need to cook, like spices, rubs, mixes, and sauces.

I look forward to going again next year and keep my fingers crossed that I get samples in the mail.
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