Fancy Food Show Brings Vendors in to Taste From 50 Countries Over 3 Days
Recently I attended the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, however it hosted a number of vendors well beyond the world of food in the BayArea. Global in attendance, vendors showed up to tout their latest and greatest from Asia, South America, Mexico, Europe, Canada, Australia and others. I saw and tasted so many things, my head was spinning by the end of day, as was my stomach. Try mixing garlic, yoghurt, tomato sauces, cheese, tea, wine, whiskey, tequila, coffee, sushi, noodle dishes, sweet sauces and chocolate all within a few hour period. The number of extra virgin olive oil producers was astonishing, so large that it made you think that it was the most economically viable product to sell, but above and beyond the 500% mark-up for pizza?
The show touts 80,000 products and 1,300 exhibitors from 50 countries. Since it covers so much ground, it obviously takes quite awhile to get to all the exhibitors and you can't possibly take them all in and attempt to have any quality 'tasting' time along the way. Below are the call outs of some of my favorites as I meandered my way through aisle after aisle. Given the nature of the WBTW, I decided to separate them by country and by category for easy access. When I list a country, it doesn't necessarily mean that the vendor is from that country, but rather it could be the food they specialize in.
- Canada: Rene Rey Chocolates based in North Vancouver. They have a number of 'no sugar added' options including almond, hazelnut, mint and orange to name a few.
- France: Les Trois Petits Cochons: they started a small charcuterie over 35 years ago in Greenwich Village New York and now, they lead the pate and charcuterie industry, offering an extensive line of artisanal pates, mousses, terrines, sausages, saucissons, smoked meats and other French specialties. My favorites: their Pacific-caught wild salmon terrine and the Pate de Campagne, which is made up of pork meat, pork liver and onions, spiced with garlic, parsley, bay leaves & thyme. They also do a really nice turkey sausage with wild mushrooms and cognac.
- France & US: Marin French Cheese Company specializes in gift boxes and baskets. What I tried (and liked) was their Quark Garlic and Blackberry, as well as their Grand Artisan Cheese and their Washed Rind Cheese (SchlosskranzHerz). The 'CheeseFactory' as it is often referred to, operates under the brand name Rouge et Noir. It has been producing hand crafted Artisan soft ripened cheese apparently since 1865. Rouge et Noir cheeses are similar to French and European varieties, but reflect the characteristics of Northern California, producing its own regional style. (they are located in Marin Country in California).
- Ireland & Japan: Located in Ireland but with offices elsewhere and tea from Japan, Suki Tea import to 37 countries. I talked to Oscar Woolley who set me up with an Earl Grey Blue Flower blend and a a Fairtrade Green Tea. They also have other flavors including Red Berry, Peppermint, Chai, Russian Caravan, Popcorn Green Genmaicha, Lemongrass and Ginger, Spiced Citrus, Roobios, Nettle, Mango Tango, Chamomile, among a number of others.
- Spain: Zoe Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Zoe means life. The color exquisite, the texture and thickness just right. I didn't do a side-by-side comparison with the hundreds of others on the floor, but did manage to sample olive oil from about 8 vendors.
- Spain: I learned that less than 10% of all Iberico pork is 100% pure Iberico de Bellota. The meat of the pure Iberico pig, the gold standard for pork, has health benefits similar to olive oil that the Spanish call this acorn-fed pig, the four legged olive tree. The purebred Iberico pigs are all born onsite and raised by local farmers in The Farmers Cooperative of the Valley of the Pedroches (COVAP) in southwestern Spain. For more information, visit Iberico Fresco's website.
- Spain: Flor de Sal d'Es Trenc comes from the southeastern coast of the Balearic island of Mallorca Spain. Since 2003, they have been harvesting their product in the salt flats of Es Trenc, a place with a longstanding tradition of salt extraction. They have five blends of herbs and spices, including Flor de Sal Olivas (Kalamata black olives from Greece), Flor de Sal Mediterranea (with Mediterranean herbs), Flor de Sal Hibiscus (with dried hibiscus flowers), Flor de Sal Sri Lanka (a curry blend of ten spices) and Flor de Sal Rosa (with Gallic Rose petals, Szechuan pepper and Sarawak black pepper). For more information, visit their site. (BTW, I absolutely love their packaging).
- Japan: Health Bolstering tea from Zenyakuno. My favorites: Kuromame tea, which has a soft, sweet and roasted flavor. They're made from black soybeans, which is traditionally used in many Japanese dishes. The black rind of the beans contains anthocyanins and other rich ingredients such as lectithin, which are said by some to aid in health. I also tried the Hatomugi tea which is made from Hatomugi (Adlay), which is often used in rice cakes, bean paste, tea and as a grain in Japan. The most unusual however was Dandelion Tea, which has a coffee-like flavor and texture, but is caffeine free.
- Japan: Black Garlic by Kashiwazaki Fruit and Vegetables Corporation (Oirase). Surprisingly good, black garlic was an unusual find as I had never tasted it before. Unlike conventional garlic, Oirase Black Garlic has a fruity flavor and is rich in various amino acids and polyphenol antioxidants, approximately 5.8 times more polyphenol antioxidants than regular garlic.
- Japan: Amazake cocktails from Houraiyahonten Company. Amazake is Japan's traditional beverage made by fermenting rice malt with no sugar added. It contains glucose, B1 and B2 vitamins and amino acids, often referred to as a "drinking infusion." It is said to help relieve brain fatigue especially during sports activities.
- Japan: Sake. How can you go to an international food show and not taste sake? In recent years, apparently the popular taste in Japan has moved away from the 'light and dry' style towards more full-flavored sakes. Tedorigawa sakes are known for their full-bodied sakes, and they also tout 'low acidity,' all done in conjunction with a method they call the Yamahai Brewing Method. Tedorigawa's sakes are big on flavor but not dense or heavy. After tasting all of them, I'd have to agree. With the exception of its "Silver Mountain" junmai, which is best served warm, they taste best served crisply cold. My favorites were the Tedorigawa "Iki na Onna" which has a taste of wild honey, and the Tedorigawa "Yamahai Daiginjo" which also has a honey flavor but is also slightly herbal in taste. Their sakes are available in the states: California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Texas, Virginia and Washington. Visit World Sake for more information.
Japan: ZAck Lim's "Pure Sake" which is a category of Japanese sake classified as "Jun-mai-shu" which is made with rice, rice koji (Aspergillus oryzae) and water. My favorites: Hikomago (Junmai-Ginjo - very dry), Ayaka Binkakoi (Junmai Shu) which was a little smoother and has a milling ratio of 60%, slightly higher than the Hikomago and lastly, the Abe Kameji which has a milling ratio of 40%. This is a premium sake and they suggest serving at room temperature.
- Japan: Yamamotoyama Pyramid Teas. I tried the Sencha Green Tea and the Gyokuro Green Tea, both full of flavor and body. You can find out more about their tea line at Yamamotoyama America.
- Greece: 5 Olive Oil. Not only is the olive oil delicious, but it is sold in a beautifully designed bottle. You can also get the Unique Gourmet bottle, which is decorated with Swarovski crystals. Their tout? A special varietal blend that is produced by the method of first cold extraction at low temperatures -- its acidity does not exceed 0.5%.
Mexico: Tequila 1921. With a name like that, how could you not stop by? The story has it they told me as I was sipping, that the owner found a bottle in the 1970s of a tequila bottle from the 1920s which is what their packaging is based on. Their tequila is made from 100% Blue Weber Estate Grown Agave. Cultivated in the red oil of the highlands region of Jalisco Mexico, they use a slow production process. In the milling phase, the fibers are run through the juice extracting rollers and water is injected in strategic locations for optimal sugar extraction. For more information, visit their site here.
- U.S. - Vermont: I tried Vermont's Smoke & Cure's maple-brined bacon which drew me in. Also on their 'menu' is are pork sausages (Hot or Sweet Italian), Breakfast, Beer Brat and snack sticks. They tout that they're artificial ingredient 'free'.
- U.S. - California (Sun Valley): Velvet Rope Bake Shop not only has a fabulous name, which btw, the owner (Eric Katigbak) opted on as a connection to his previous profession when he was in "music videos." A family run business in the Sun Valley area, their scrumptious cakes were not only delicious but perfectly presented. Each one of their Cake Truggles is handcrafted and made from scratch. Their flavors include: Double Chocolate, Red Velvet, Carrot Cake, Chocolate-Covered Banana, Mochaccino, S'mores, Peanut Butter Chocolate, Coconut and they also have a seasonal line as well which includes apple pie, champagne and chocolate, eggnog and pumpkin among others. The use real lemon zest and juice, grate their own ginger and carrots and use natural peanut butter.
U.S. - Pachamama Raw. They do raw organic products such as granola bars, pistachios, flax crackers, macaroons, chips and cookies. Their fabulously tasting Raw Kale Chips are drizzled with an organic sauce made up of cashews, lemon juice, pink Himalayan sea salt, and other spices. For more information, check out their site.
- U.S. Crystal Flakes has a product they call FalkSalt which comes in various flavors including citron, smoke, rosemary, red chili, black, wild mushroom and natural. My favorites were rosemary and wild mushroom.
- U.S. (Wisconsin): Eagle Cave Reserve Bandaged Cheddar from Meister Cheese Company. Their cheese comes from local dairy farms in the Southwest Wisconsin's unglaciated region.
- U.S. (California): Artisan Truffles from Le Grand Confectionary. They specialize in gift boxes of truffles.
- U.S. & Italy: Arthur Schuman. They are the largest importer of Pecorino Ramano in the U.S., importing about 35% of all the Pecorino Ramano entering the U.S. All I can say is yum.
- U.S. & Italy: Parma's Prosciutto Di Parma. It is produced in the province of Parma, Italy, using only four ingredients: specially bred and fed Italian pigs, sea salt, air and time. The prosciutto is air-cured for a minimum of 400 days up to 30 months.
- Italy: Giordano wines. My favorite of the batch they brought with them was the 2008 Piu Uve Unico Plus Giordano. For more on them, visit their site.
- Italy: Nudo Olive Oil is made from 100% Italian olives mainly sourced from the olive groves of a little village called Loro Piceno in Le Marche, Italy. The olives are picked by hand and cold-pressed the same day. They're known for their flavored oils (and I tried 4 of them) leaving with a smile on my face and a huge thumbs up. Flavored oils are made by pressing fresh citrus fruit or herbs with the olives in the press with no additional additives. Flavors include: lemon, chillie, mandarin, thyme, basil and garlic. They also have a very cool program called: Adopt an Olive Tree, which now includes 6,380 olive trees of varying degrees of gnarliness, across Le Marche and Abruzzo on the east coast of central Italy. The program is a collaboration between twelve small, artisanal olive producers and the program has become a lifeblood for many small scale producers as it offers them consistent, reliable payment at a fair price.
- Italy & NY: I met the 'sauce' queen Lidia's son-in-law Corrado Manuali who gave me pasta and sauce to sample. Her pasta is made in Italy and is made from high quality wheat, milled on the premises. Some of the options include: Penne alla Vodka, Fusilli Puttanesca, Fettucini alla Romana, Spaghetti with Shrimp Marinara, Rigatoni with Chunky Eggplant Sauce & Ricotta Cheese, and Farfalle Primavera.
- Italy: Olive Oil Source touts a number of flavored organic olive oils and balsamic vinegars. Of those I tried, favorites included: Rosemary, Garlic, Chipotle flavor infused, Lime Flavor Infused, and those I didn't try but wanted to and are high on the list include sun-dried tomatoe, tangerine, truffle and porcini mushroom flavor. How did I miss that one? For more information, check out their site.