When I was young and hungry some years ago, I heard my clients talking about this incredible thing called the Fancy Food Show. Purveyors of gourmet goods would put forth their latest offerings and you could stroll down aisle after aisle and eat all you wanted. And, miracle of miracles, because I wrote about food products I could get a trade pass.
It’s actually torture, folks. Eating a giant marinated artichoke on the stem followed by a truffle (chocolate) then a truffle (fungus, in butter or cheese) then a shot of tequila at 10 in the morning is deeply disorienting. And then you do it again and again and get seriously fucked up.
So, now I try to pace myself a bit. I look at what the trends are, what’s missing, something with news value and I try to find at least one really unusual item that I like so much I will buy it myself. Here’s this year’s list from the San Francisco show:
This year’s trend: cheese. I realize cheese isn’t new, duh, but the distribution system has gotten so universal and efficient that you can now offer nutty cave-aged gruyere, grand wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano and piles of stinky gorgonzola at your corner store in Podunk, Anywhere. As a result, far more cheese on display by volume and by distributor than ever before.
What’s missing? Artisanal single-source coffee. The day before I had been at the Good Food winners at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and I tasted one cup after another of carefully brewed coffee from single-source beans grown in an environmentally sensitive manner by workers who are paid well for their jobs. Politically correct yes, but also the stuff tastes great, and if you are a serious coffee maker you will soon find yourself happily paying double for an intense, rich cup that blows your mind. Yet coffee in any form was rare, and single-source nonexistent. I predict a big artisanal coffee invasion in 2013.
Best food story that’s not just about food: Hydros. It’s a Britta filter crossed with a water bottle, for those on the go who don’t trust their local taps. (Not needed in San Francisco which has some of the purest and most delicious tap water in the world.) Every time you buy one, it buys clean water for someone in a third world country for a year. I spent time with the founder, Winston Ibrahim, who is passionate about food as an avenue for solving problems and is investigating other opportunities with baby food, hallal foods and tea.
Best product I am buying myself: River’s Edge chevre from central Oregon. This small dairy specializes in goat cheese and I had two unusual riffs which are shown above: the Sunset Bay has a layer of smoked Hungarian paprika in the middle and the Up in Smoke is soaked in bourbon, wrapped in a maple leaf, then smoked. Both seriously good and different. They have wide distribution through several wholesalers (see cheese, above) so tell your local gourmet shop to order some.