Saturday, January 24, 2009

More Fancy Food Show – Winter 2009

I promised to tell you our favorite items from the Fancy Food Show so here they are.

Our Favorites

Let me start with the obvious. Yes, they were there. Justin and Dave, the Baconnaise boys. If you haven’t read tangobaby’s escapades with Baconnaise yet, click here.

Image by Baconnaise
Their booth took on the atmosphere of a tailgate party put on by fraternity brothers. First it was BaconSalt, and then it was Baconnaise, now it is Baconnaise Lite – now there’s an oxymoron. The big surprise is that Baconnaise does not contain bacon, only bacon flavoring. I think it might even be a vegetarian product. Believe or not, they are kosher certified. Now that takes chutzpah! When it became obvious that I was a bona fide groupie, either Justin or Dave (don’t know which), reached behind the counter and handed me: (drumroll) Bacon lip balm! Tangobaby, I scored a second one for you. It’s the perfume you were looking for!
California Wine Wafers
On the other end of the scale are the very elegant wine wafers by California Wine Wafers. These beautiful, crispy, light, delicious wafers have a four hundred year history starting in a spa resort town in the Czech Republic. They are delicious with wine. They are beautifully packaged, see top photo; they would make a lovely hostess gift. Their website has dessert recipes including one called Nutella Light Torte, where the only ingredients are Nutella, whipping cream, and cinnamon-hazelnut wine wafers. I bet that’s delicious!
California Porridge
Every one of us who tasted the California Porridge by Our Daily Grain loved it. The combination of the steel cut oats, wheat berries, rolled oats, sunflower and flax seeds create a great flavor and texture. The plump, nutty wheat berries made it especially memorable. The best part is that is comes in ready-to-eat individual serving containers. Just heat and serve!

Photo by Our Daily Grain
The porridge has no sugar in it, even diabetics can enjoy this product, but we were given the option to add maple syrup flakes. They were great because they added a great crunchy texture and just the right amount of sweetness.
Other Favorites
I polled my co-reviewers for their favorites. They found lots of interesting booths that I wish I didn’t miss.
Linda loved the sweet, yet spicy, Peppadews , stuffed with cheese, which looks like a small red pepper or large grape grown in South Africa.

Stephanie and Edith thought the Cantaré Foods' booth with the Spanish tapas were out of this world. Their national sales manager, Jim, made hand-pulled mozzarella cheese. Edith said “they had the best tasting samples from the whole show; I think I tried four different things there.”

Photo by Stephanie
Stephanie also enjoyed the Agave Dream line. “Two dental hygienists from Southern California scraped together their savings to launch delicious ice cream and granitas that have only agave nectar as sweetening. Apparently agave nectar has a very low glycemic index; even diabetics can eat this ice cream. Nicole and I sampled the chocolate and the pomegranate granite; both were delicious.”

Photo by Stephanie
Stephanie also visited the Strauss Family Creamery. They just launched soft-serve vanilla ice cream...”delicious, and I'm not a soft-serve fan!”

Interesting Combinations of Flavors
RoseAnn’s and my favorite combination of flavors is found in the sea salt chocolate caramels from Lula’s Chocolates. Even though it was at the end of five hours of continuous tasting, these chocolates truly stood out. The combination of the soft caramels, dark chocolate, with a few crunchy crystals of salt was magic. They offer a nine-piece box of caramels, each with a different artisan salt. That would be a fun tasting with some wine!

Photo by Lula's Chocolates
Just to prove that we are a diverse group, Jodi thought it as a dreadful idea. "That was such a great piece of chocolate, why would you ruin it by adding salt to it?" Nor did she like the lavender vanilla gelato: “I would use it as a face cream”. (Dakota Angel and I loved it.) Just when I chalked Jodi off as someone who didn’t like new flavors, she tried and liked the wasabi cheese. Now I wish I tried it.
Photo by Stephanie

Vosges chocolates, Stephanie’s favorite, offered a bacon-flavored (!) chocolate which was wildly popular.
The Cheese from Britain booth offered a cheese called “Red Dragon” which is made with mustard seeds and ale. My friend Jodi pointed it out to me and told me that she had it when she was in Wales last year. Because cheese is so filling and rich, I was careful not to taste too many cheeses because the day was still young and I wanted to taste many, many more foods. I was leery, but I decided to try it anyway. I liked the crunchy mustard seeds and the little kick in the flavor but I didn’t taste the ale at all. I assumed it was overpowered by the mustard until I realized that the ale arrives as an aftertaste. I think foodies call it a finish because “aftertaste” has a negative connotation. Mustard and ale are a great combination, especially if you add some celery, crackers, and a glass of beer.

Another interesting flavor combination that Jodi and I enjoyed was in the onion jam in merlot by Huerto Azul:

It was delicious: I think this would be great inside baked brie!

If this didn’t send your head spinning, next post I will write about the most beautiful, most unusual products, and about some of the beverages.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Fancy Food Show - Winter 2009

DSC03790 Hannah's naturals prizes
Hannah's Delights with Sofi Awards

One of my many passions is food. I love discovering new foods and new flavor combinations, the more unusual the better. The super bowl for foodies is the Fancy Food Show, produced by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT) since 1955. NASFT is the organization who awards the Annual Sofi Awards, Oscar’s foodie brother. The summer show is in New York and the winter show is, lucky for me, usually in San Francisco. Sunday I attended this show for the fourth time.

Attendees & Exhibitors
This show is huge. 20,000 food professionals crowd both halls of the Moscone Convention Center all looking for the latest and greatest food-related products. Combine this with 2,000 plus exhibitors, representing over 80 countries, who are eager to show them off. What does this mean? Yes, you guessed it: thousands of tastings! Imagine Costco during the lunch hour times a thousand.

DSC03793 gnocchi maker
Photo by Stephanie

Photo by Jodi

If a product touches food, it was present in this convention. Obviously, food purveyors were there, but so were packaging and shopping bag manufacturers, retail display vendors, food associations, food publishers, and even breath mint vendors. I attend as publisher so I now happily report to duty as a reviewer. To help me with this review, some of my foodie friends came along. It's a tough job, but someone has to do it.
Photo by Stephanie

Photo by Stephanie

It is very easy to overeat at this event. The first year we went, we tasted everything from every booth. We were full, and nauseous, before we got through ten percent of the booths. You could be tasting chocolates in one booth, olives in the next, salts around the world in the booth after that, and gosh now there’s cheesecake tasting. My my my, Mylanta! I now try to sample in sequence of a meal; savory items first, then dessert items. This means that I skip many booths, but it’s impossible to taste everything anyway.


Like in every other industry, awareness of a green planet is a strong focus. This year, organic foods as well as shopping bags were well represented and I was happy to see a few more fair trade organizations.

The natural and organic section grows larger each year, but there is a shift in what is considered healthy. Low carbs and low fat are taking a back seat to omega-3, antioxidants, and MUFA's (mono unsaturated fatty acids).

In previous years we there was always a lot of discussion about what was in a product, now more and more time is spent discussing what is NOT in a product. Vendors, like Willow Cole of Heritage Shortbread,  proudly tell you what's not in the products. "No corn syrup, no modified food starch, no saturated fats..." Hallelujah!
Trendy Ingredients
Walking down the aisles, you hear many overlapping sales pitches and conversations about ingredients. After a while you start to hear the same words over and over again. This year I heard lavender, sea salt, and goji berry repeatedly.

The first time I tasted lavender chocolate was at a Fancy Food Show around three years ago. This year, lavender was teamed with just about anything. Most chocolate vendors offered a lavender flavor, but I also saw lavender salt, shortbread, biscuits, cakes, cookies, honey, spreads, and ice cream. Dakota Angel and I both loved them all, but Jodi said: "It makes me just want to take a bath with it or use it as a face cream."
Artisan sea salts are still hot. No body of salt water in the world is spared; each and every one of them has given its all to season your food. It is passé to just say that your product contains sea salt; you better know which sea the salt was sweated from. Sea salt crystals are actually quite beautiful. It comes in many hues and they each have their own unique flavor: gray Celtic salts, red Hawaiian salt, pink Australian flake salt, or Black Sea salt. I even saw some green salt, but I didn’t stop to find out where it came from, probably because I heard a platter of prosciutto calling my name.

Goji berries, a heavy lifter in the antioxidant arena, are touted in many jams, smoothies, chocolates, and toppings. After a while, I began to think that no blended fruit product was complete unless it had goji berries in it.

That’s it for today; stay tuned, because next time I will tell you our favorites.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

At Last

Other than the clock striking noon, when Barack Obama officially became the President of the United States, this was my favorite moment of inauguration day:

It was all perfect: The song, Beyonce, Michelle's dress, Barack in white tie, The First Couple gazing into each other's eyes...

Did it look like Barack was saying “How about that?” to Michelle? Is it considered eavesdropping when you read someone’s lips when they are dancing? I hope not.

Photo lifted from here.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Obama Inaugural Breakfast

Today at noon EST, the Barack Obama became the 44th president of the United States. I was surrounded by friends as we watched President Obama deliver his inaugural address. As always, he set his hopes high:

“…We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.”[1]

Having lived through the discrimination against ethnic Chinese in Indonesia, racism was foremost in my Chinese father’s mind when we emigrated from The Netherlands to America in 1966. He even made the last-minute decision to settle his family in San Francisco instead of New York City because he heard that San Francisco had the largest Chinese population in the nation. I recall having watched the turmoil of the American Civil Rights Movement on our television in Amsterdam. After our arrival, we witnessed the assassination of those who gave their lives defending the inalienable rights promised in the Declaration of Independence.

Today, I am bursting with pride that my adopted nation has not only survived the bloody turmoil of those years, but that now the headlines around the world will shout out that Barack Obama is our president!

I am also proud that this is the beginning of a new era:

The above keyring belongs to one of the guests at this morning’s inauguration breakfast.

Thank you to Dakota Angel and her husband for sharing this historic moment with us.

Did you watch the inauguration? Where were you and what were you doing?


[1] A full transcript of the prepared address is here.
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