This past weekend, culture staffers—along with tens of thousands of food industry folks—made our annual pilgrimage to San Francisco for the Winter Fancy Food Show. Our goals included connecting with cheese friends, unearthing exciting new products and stories to feature in the magazine, and stake out trends. Our strategy? Stay caffeinated, hydrated, and hungry. Here are a few of the things we got excited about:
Cool Collaborations: We tasted both the mellow Trivium (a natural-rind goat’s milk cheddar) and the lush, tart Tricycle (a soft goat’s milk wheel with a wrinkly geo rind) from Creamery 333, a partnership between famed French affineur Herve Mons, cheesemaker Arnaud Solandt from Montchevre in Wisconsin, and distributor François Kerautret of The Peterson Company.
We were also intrigued by Red Barn Family Farms in Wisconsin, which aggregates milk from dairy farms around the state that meet the company’s quality and humane animal husbandry standards. Red Barn pays these family outfits a premium for the milk, then partners with established local cheesemakers to produce top-notch wheels and wedges such as fruity, semi-hard Cūpola (crafted by Katie Fuhrmann from LaClare Farms in Malone, Wis.) Delicious and sustainable, this model is a total win-win. And speaking of sustainability, we noticed quite a few cheesemakers adding organic offerings to their repertoires—an encouraging trend indeed.
Extra Cream, Please: We often chat with cheesemakers about consumer preference for luscious cheeses with buttery flavors. So it’s no surprise that producers are adding more and more cream to their curds. Double or triple-cream wheels are nothing new—and they were everywhere, including a decadent new triple from Président—but what about a quintuple cream? Enter The Blue Jay from Wisconsin’s Deer Creek Cheese, a robust blue, mellowed by added fat and studded with juniper berries. Emmi Kaltbach Le Cremeux (right), a Swiss import from Emmi Roth USA, also includes extra cream, resulting in a yielding texture and rich, brothy flavor.
Peppy Popcorn: Last year, we couldn’t escape hemp stuff at the Winter Fancy Food Show—this year, the “it” item was popcorn, in every variation imaginable. From T-Pops Tokyo Style Popcorn seasoned with nori, sesame, and matcha (our fave) to Masala Pop in Indian spice and caramel-rose varieties. In other snack news, chips are still going strong and many also boasted worldly ingredients—from sticky rice and turmeric-tinged cassava to coconut.
Infusions Everywhere: Up and down the rows, we found unexpected products injected with flavor. Take Pizootz, a line of Virginia peanuts infused with all sorts of herbs and spices prior to roasting (we liked the Bay Spice and Doritos-esque Baha Taco versions), or Crown Maple’s syrups (left) dosed with smoke, bourbon, vanilla, and more. Shrubs and drinking tonics were also steeped with intriguing herbs and fruits, such as the Gravenstein apple cider drinking vinegar accented with vanilla and lemon from Sonoma Syrup.
Super-Stylish Design: Call it the Instagram effect, but we noticed sleeker, sexier packaging across the board (holla to the new organic line of pâtés and mousses from Les Trois Petit Cochons, below). And beyond the souped-up boxes, bottles, and bags, vendors are also finding innovative ways to package old favorites—see the cute, burger-size slices from Grillies Halloumi or the ayurvedic spice packets from Pranayums for coating grapes, sprinkling on oatmeal, or buzzing into a smoothie.