Twice a year I go to the Fancy Food Show (FFS) with a plan. This plan includes coming prepared with a looong list of known makers, importers, and distributors to find out what theyﾒre excited about and to hear why. Once on site the plan requires that I spend many hours looking for new and noteworthy cheeses and other products that I don’t know. This particular year, I went with the intent of focusing on curious and creative pairings for cheeses to freshen up our first ever issue dedicated to pairings, Cheese+, coming in April. Here’s what I saw while searching for the perfect playmate for cheese – plus a couple rants.
1. Rant #1: Chia. Everywhere. In everything. Dr. Oz whipped up frenzy for this “super food,” lauded for its perfect balance of nutrients and its ability to absorb liquids up to 12 times its weight. But, CONSISTENCY ALERT!! Everything it’s in is tapioca-like, but with an off-puttingly assertive flavor. Most of the medical claims around chia are centered on its volume of omega-3 fatty acids. Scientific support for omega-3’s efficacy with cancer, heart disease, or autism is slim to none. But there is slightly better evidence that there is some connection to a slowing-down of cognitive decline. No matter which way you look at it, chia is coming to a supermarket near you.
Now, on to the delicious stuff!
2. I went looking for chocolate, and I found it. Chocolate bars and filled chocolate bars have always been there, but, and this makes me happy, their popularity and numbers seem to be on the rise again. Endangered Species, Vosges Chocolates (which include a bacon chocolate bar in their lineup), and Poco Dolce? Why not?
3. We’re going nuts for coconut. I found Coconut Chips at Trader Joe’s a while back and now need to keep them at bay due to my, ahem, excessive interest in them. Yes. It’s true. My name is Stephanie and I am a cocoNUT. And there in San Francisco, I found Blue Monkey Coconut Chips (to go with their line of coconut drinks.) I also found Bee Tree Farms Coconut Water, a safe and less caloric way to feed my addiction. But, beyond these, there were also coconut jams from Hey Boo.
4. Simmering sauces. Too many to list. If it makes us cook at home more often, Viva La Simmering Sauce!
5. Peggy Rose’s Sweet Pepper Jellies, one of which is made with habanero, which means just a slow heat (topping off at HOT HOT HOT!) without the impertinent intrusion of jalapeño. Get it for the picante heat lover in your home.
6. Flory’s Truckle. My pal Rufus at Milton Creamery ages this raw, jersey milk, cloth-bound cheddar made by the Flory family in Missouri. It’s perfection: Dense and balanced – fudgy, sweet, and sharp – a knee-buckler.
7. And from the land that tamed stink and made us love it, there arose Epoisses. And by careful time management, Lassa and I were able to taste test Lincet‘s slightly younger, less-washed, Epoisses next to Berthaut‘s classic. The results? Berthaut’s is more assertive, oozy, and salty while Lincet’s is subtly more lactic. I don’t know what’s not to love about either of these beauties. Both were under full frontal assault from these cheese piggies.
8. Oh, Jose, you’ve done it again. Jose Andre’s line of tinned seafood rescues sardines in olive oil, razor clams, cockles, Galician-style mussels, and (avert your eyes if you have an uni issue) sea urchin caviar from nuclear bunker post apocalypse fare. And they come in round cans. Genius!
9. Grown up soda, and by this I mean less sweet, and less about challenging ingredients. Plus, the sweetener du jour is once again cane sugar, just less of it.
10. And now, Rant #2: To the left of aisle 200, marked only as New Brands on the Shelf, there was a tiny galley style hall with new-to-the-show vendors. These are the vendors that have likely put the few shillings they can scrape together to come to the show in hopes of finding distribution. These folks should be in the center of it all, and their company names should be listed on the map. Burying them and not naming them is unfair. And some of them had unique products, which is what a lot of buyers go to the FFS to find. So, buyers everywhere, take note of Nazqiz, which makes Peruvian air toasted corn snacks called Qancha, an “Incan treat” made in California. Call Ronald Flores, he’s earnest and awesome.Photo Credit: Image courtesy of Brazzale