Fancy Food Show Winter 2010 San Francisco

I was a Fancy Food Show virgin. And I wasn’t well prepared. Had only a couple of hours on the last day to do a quick spin through the halls, with a vague notion of sampling whatever took my fancy and then diligently reporting back from the field about hot, new finds.

I failed miserably, mostly due to information and food overload. A few themes emerged. Natural, gluten-free goods out in force. Cheese and chocolate rule. Gussied up, grown-up snacks all the rage.

Sponsored by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, a non-profit trade association, the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco’s Moscone Center is a massive marketplace showcasing niche food products. And, yes, we’re talking processed food here, folks.

And large as in 184,00 square feet, 1,300 exhibitors, and 17,000 attendees from 30 countries.  It’s like throwing a Specialty Foods Olympics.

My far-from-thorough list of intriguing offerings, not necessarily hot or new.  Blue cheese from Rogue Creamery, including the rugged sounding Rogue River and Cave Man, Pan Forte Crostini from Rustic Bakery (good with all that cheese), and Secret Stash Sea Salts, with flavors like Almond Cardamon and Bloody Mary.

On the sweet side: Granola from The Bunnery made by a French family in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Happy Goat caramels, made locally with, yep, goat milk, and handmade Belgian chocolates by Rogue Confections (These vintage inspired rounds are almost too beautiful to eat, don’t you think? Almost.)

And to drink: Belvoir‘s elegant, English, elderflower presse.

Some people love trade shows. Me, not so much. What won me over at this event? The international array of people along with their international array of products.

The Italian cheesemakers were adorable with their divine cheeses wrapped exquisitely in grape leaves.

The down-to-earth Aussies gave me good-natured grief, including one who sells quite lovely lemony, gluten-free cookies for the Byron Bay Cookie Company, and another from The Tasmanian Honey Company, who imports honey that tastes and smells like home.

No surprise, the Peruvians serving pisco sours from La Mar knew how to throw a party. And the European women exhibited European chic.

Here’s what else I learned on my maiden voyage:

1. It’s way more fun and educational to attend such events with fellow food folk. Thanks Nani and Dianne for leading the way.

2. You can, indeed, eat too much cheese and chocolate. (Brought to mind that Monty Python skit: ‘Where’s my bucket?”)

3. It’s a trip to go beyond the Berkeley locavore bubble and explore a whole wide world of wonderful food out there, even if we mostly source it close to home.

4. In the end, it’s the people and their pride and passion for what they produce or peddle that you remember, as much as their product.

5. Next year: Be prepared. Have a game plan. Don’t try to taste it all at once — or at least not in two hours.

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18 Responses to “Fancy Food Show Winter 2010 San Francisco”

  1. marthaandme Says:

    It sounds absolutely amazing! I am so jealous!

  2. Nani Steele Says:

    Oh, you did good-agree, much more fun with friends like you and Dianne. Think you pegged the best stuff in the aisles too, and in fact, marking off only a couple of hours to attend, in truth, is not the worst way to go about it. You’re much more thoughtful about what you do while there.

  3. Alexandra Says:

    Thanks for sharing this visit to the specialty food trade show, which I enjoyed savoring vicariously. Those chocolates at the top are awesome.

  4. Meredith Resnick Says:

    This is the second article I’ve seen on this show (which sounds incredible and amazing). How fun it must have been!

  5. Fanny Says:

    Hi Sarah,

    Your article cracked me up! This was my 3rd Fancy Food Show. And by the 3rd time, I felt more prepared. What I do now is take samples home instead of trying to taste everything – taste overload. And I just focus on the foods I like, such as ethnic foods and teas.

    It always takes me 2 days to go through both halls. It’s a lot of walking so I try to wear sneakers. And if you bring your own bag, they won’t look through it. They let you leave with your own bag and a bag from the show.

    • Sarah Henry Says:

      Hi Fanny,

      I wish we’d met BEFORE the show, but lovely to meet you now nonetheless.

      Such sage advice from a veteran:

      Bring samples home. Stay focused. Wear sensible shoes & carry a big bag.

      Duly noted for the next major food meet.

      Cheers, Sarah

  6. Sheryl Kraft Says:

    You got me at the very beginning with those gorgeous chocolates. And now, reading all the way through, I think you’re a very lucky person to have been there to experience it all. Sounds wonderful!

  7. Jennifer Margulis Says:

    I just read about this on Stephanie’s Wasabimon blog. This looks like the COOLEST show ever!

    • Sarah Henry Says:

      There were lots of food bloggers out in force at the Fancy Food Show.

      If anyone cares to compare notes, Cooking with Amy does a nice roundup, with the promise of more to come, and also links to a host of posts on the same subject. Check out Amy’s offerings here:

      http://cookingwithamy.blogspot.com/

  8. Cook 4 Seasons Says:

    I’m still bouncing off the walls from my chocolate rush (my fave was dark bar with bacon) and like you, I was only at the show for a brief time!
    Love your blog…

    • Sarah Henry Says:

      Nice to see you here, Karen, and glad you like what you see.

      I just checked out Cook 4 Seasons (lovely photos & tasty-sounding recipes) and I see we have much in common.

      I’ll come say hi next time I’m in St. Helena. Cheers, Sarah

  9. Lisa Jaffe Hubbell Says:

    mmm…pretty pictures! If only there was smell-a-blogging.

  10. Nastassia Says:

    I wish I could have gone to the Fancy Food Show, what a delicious time you had! I keep hearing about Happy Goat Caramels. I’m definitely going to have to seek them out and try them!

  11. Stephanie - Wasabimon Says:

    I had a great time at this event. I wish I’d been a little more stable in the tummy so I could enjoy it more, taste-wise… stupid food poisoning.

  12. Sarah Henry Says:

    And fist bumps to the Fancy Food Show folks who, post event, decided to donate all those artisanal goodies (and, it should be said, some ordinary grocery items as well) to local residents in need of a good feed.

    Read more here: http://articles.sfgate.com/2010-01-24/bay-area/17835253_1_winter-fancy-food-show-food-handouts-donated

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