Interesting Finds at the Fancy Food Show

This week I went to the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. Filling both the huge north and south halls of the Moscone Center are thousands of food manufacturers, producers, wholesalers, etc. All of them are hawking the latest in foods - be it trendy or just a new take on a classic.

Here are the five trends that the National Association of the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT) saw for 2011. Then I'll tell you what I found.

Chocolate for Breakfast: Tea, Belgian waffles, granola and hot chocolate on a stick.
Foods for Healing: Ancient healing teas, Blackwater with 77 minerals, aloe and cucumber drinks, plus micro-batches of healthful beverages.
New Noodles: Yam, kelp, farro and spelt.
Heat with Flavor: Ghost peppers, yuzu-wasabi sauce and piquillo almond glop.
Creative Chips: Pinto beans, naan, peas, mung beans, kale and wild rice.

Other trends the panel identified are: retro foods, classic cocktails, wine-flavored foods, mini servings and cured meats.

I was only there for five hours (of a three-day event) and was unable to give the show the due diligence it deserved. Next year, a full day at least. Anyway, I was rushed. I tried to make a point to visit any vendor that had contacted me in advance and some certainly peaked my interest. Over the next month or so I will be writing more about some of the NASFT vendors and their products. For now, here's a starter...

Healthy Chocolate, or, as the confectionary specialist liked to call it, Functional Chocolate. There were quite a number of vendors who were adding supplements to the chocolate. Like adding CoQ10 for heart health or resveratrol (from wine grapes) for its antioxidant and life extending properties. I plan to write more about this subject after I get some samples and talk to the companies.

Aloe Water. Last year it seemed to be coconut water and this year it's aloe water. The claims range from the sensible (anti-inflammatory, speeds healing) to the unproven (helps in weight loss). The point is, there were a lot of vendors with it. I must admit that I liked the one I got from alo with mango and mangosteen flavoring.

Exotic Fruits. I know about some exotic fruits due to my half Asian blood. I've had mango, ube and lychees for decades. But this week I tasted a few new things in ethnic ice creams and can only say - bring it on!  Any person who has gone to the Philippines knows the Magnolia ice cream brand. Now there is a Stateside version and along with familiar coconut and mango they also have pandan, jackfruit, lychee and more. Rumba had the South American exotic fruits. I was introduced to locuma, mamey and cherimoya.  If I missed any Indian ice cream producers with cardamom and rose water, let me know.

Charcuterie. This one isn't news for any foodie. Charcuterie refers to prepared meat products, meaning sausages, salamis, rillettes, smoked meats, etc. I must admit that this is one of my favorite parts of the show. Poor Girl Kimberly was going cheese crazy, but for me, I'm sampling as much salumi and proscuitto as possible. I even had a duck prosciutto - gamey but delightful.

And a few other things that immediately struck me...

34° Crispbread sent me samples before the show. I tried them and was amazed at how light and crisp they were, stood up to spreadable cheese, and didn't complete flavorwise. It was no surprise to see them featured at many of the cheese booths for the cheese samplings.

NoOodle, which I hope to write about after I've cooked with it, is a no calorie, no fat, no carb, no gluten noodle made from an Asian yam. Used in Asia for centuries, this noodle soaks up flavors of what it's mixed with.

Savory Choice. Last year I got some of Savory Choice's broth concentrate packets. They come in turkey, chicken, beef and vegetable. A packet makes a cup of broth the concentrate. Well, it took the whole year to really appreciate them so that I was happy to come across them again this year.  Sometimes you want the broth to be already concentrated down and not have to take the time to reduce it yourself.

Tablehopper is a book and a website by Marcia Gagliardi. If you dine in San Francisco you need this reference book. Gagliardi knows the dining scene and has come up with a clever book. After realizing she was always asked where to go, in xxx price range, for xxx occasion, she compiled it into a guide. Looking for a place to take the new in-laws? How about the perfect location to for a blind date? She has all the suggestions.

There's more to tell, but those will be for future posts over the next few weeks. I'll be sampling a few more products and tell you what's worth a try.