I ditched work last Monday to attend the Winter Fancy Food Show for the afternoon, which was epic and enormous, taking up both halls of the Moscone convention center. It would be impossible to see everything even in a single day as it is the largest marketplace for the specialty food industry on the West Coast. I focused on the north pavilion which featured 600 exhibitors specializing in natural and organic products.
There were a few booths that didn’t want me to take pictures, in fact a hard faced dowager at browniepops almost smacked me and chased me off telling me that pictures were not allowed… too bad cuz those browniepops looked so adorable and I know you are just dying to know what they looked like… I was surprised to be spurned at a few other booths as well, I suppose they thought I was trying to steal trade secrets or rip off their booth design… but that was just a few of the 1300 exhibitors, so fear not I did snap a good number of pictures…
I signed up to attend an educational seminar on Miso and Natt0: two up and coming foods put on by JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization). I got caught up in the exhibitor booths and lost track of the time, so I was very disappointed to miss the presentation on natto. Natto are fermented soybeans that have health benefits from special enzymes and bacillus, which are concentrated in the sticky strings which can stretch to a length of 4 feet. As far as first impressions go, it’s a hard sell because it looks bad and smells like things that have been stored between the gnarled toes of ancient mountain trolls. The characteristic ammonia aroma is similar to strong cheese like Limburger. They served Natto and Caesar salad dressing, and crostini made with whole wheat bread topped with natto mixed in diced tomato, onion, olive oil and white wine vinegar. I noticed that the samples that had been passed around the tables were mostly uneaten.
Most people are familiar with miso soup, so this ingredient is much more widely known and accepted. It’s made from fermenting soybeans with salt and koji-mold (made from rice barley or soybeans) but milder and has a distinctive sweet, savory flavor that is full of umami that blends well with other foods. Chef Ema Koeda did a presentation on the varieties of miso, talked about its health benefits, then did a cooking demonstration of Japanese Miso Burgers.
I found the recipe here, although I think that the miso made the burger too salty. One person expressed concern about the sodium content of miso to which she replied that it is usually served with foods that are high in potassium which counteracts the sodium.
Next was another cooking demonstration by Chef Jeff Hubbard of Roy’s Restaurant, who made Misoyaki Butterfish with Sizzling Soy Vinaigrette. His cooking technique was flamboyant and exciting to watch with flames and pyrotechnics to make the sizzling vinaigrette. I have the recipe somewhere, let me know if you want it.
The dish was delicious, but sounded too complicated for me. I’m glad we have Roy’s here in the city which serves this signature dish on their menu as I don’t think my kitchen stove could handle the above cooking techniques!
After that I headed back to the pavilion to continue exploring the hall’s bounty. The Ginger People had an interesting fountain that caught my attention. Normally these are used for chocolate fondue, but this was an oddly chunky Sweet Ginger Chili Sauce, that spluttered and dripped, served with a tray of roasted chicken chunks to dip in with. They also featured a variety of crystalized ginger products, ginger beverages and chewy candies that I love.
Tiger Tiger had bottles of interesting flavored mayonnaise, tikka, wasabi and sweet chili along with a variety of chutneys.
But the item that caught my attention was the Wasabi Sauce, that I sampled. It was kind of like tabasco sauce, but tasted like wasabi instead of jalapeno… My entire countenance was aglow and the girl handed me a box to take with me.
The Black Garlic booth had bold graphics that caught my eye. I was curious about this product after eating it in an intriguing dinner at Commis Restaurant last year. Black garlic gets its characteristic color and texture from fermentation. When it undergoes fermentation, the natural sugar and amino acids produce melanoidin, a dark-colored substance that is responsible for the black color.
It reminded me of the beverly hillbillys song: gold that is… black gold… The texture and taste was very intriguing, a bit like prunes, but down a completely different path. Dark and sticky, it melts in your mouth leaving the earthy and pungent flavor of garlic.
I was very excited to get a couple of heads to bring home. I swear, this was like halloween… I can’t wait to try it on bruschetta or pizza!
truRoots displayed a variety of organic sprouted grains, which are naturally sprouted and then dried. The process wakes up dormant enzymes that activate brain-boosting and health benefits, while reducing cooking time and enhancing texture and taste. I love the idea!
The Nature’s Indulgence had a gorgeous display of granola. This particularly caught my attention because I just tried to make granola at home and it burned… horribly… so disappointing – if only it had turned out like this..
They handed out samples and were all around nice people.
There were many varieties of chocolate covered pretzels, but Funky Chunky peanut butter pretzels were my favorite. Crunchy pretzels drizzled with creamy peanut butter, laced with buttery caramel and drenched with dark, milk and white chocolates. Topped with fresh-roasted chopped peanuts and broken into bite-sized chunks.
There were so many kinds of exhibitors, I had never seen boulders made of salt before. Real Salt is an all-natural, kosher-certified sea salt extracted from deep within the earth, crushed, screened, and packaged.
It is filled with chewy nougat and peanuts and well, I have to agree with the website that this is what a snickers bar should taste like…
The Ca$hew Cow bar was also delightful. Cashew butter, roasted cashews, bits of cashew brittle, puffed rice and a smidge of sea salt. All dipped in a very delicious dark Ecuadorean chocolate. I looked these up on the website, and they are pretty expensive at $4/bar.
At this point, I was feeling a bit dazed, but unsatisfied though because I hadn’t yet come across the bacon flavored envelopes (that I couldn’t remember the name of). I wandered over to the southern pavilion only to see yet another gigantic hall packed with another 600 booths of enticing food purveyors.
I wandered around but ran out of time as the doors closed at 5:00 pm. But I did manage to visit the Vosges booth, who makes one of my all time favorite chocolate bars, Mo’s Bacon Bar. I was able to sample nibbles of their magnificent truffles and chocolate bars.
Ah, another tragedy… they had no more samples of the mo’s bacon chocolate chip pancake mix
And no samples of the ice cream… although I must admit that by this point in the day, my tastebuds were pretty overloaded and I was basically suffering from museum syndrome after sampling foods all afternoon.
This was a mere handful of what could be found at the thousands of booths at the Fancy Food Show, which definitely require more than a single day to taste your way through…
A few other perspectives: