The tablehopper's Recap from the Floor of the Fancy Food Show


Spreads from Trentino, in the Manicaretti booth.

I only had one day to attend the winter ~FANCY FOOD SHOW~ this year, and it kind of felt like I was a photojournalist going into battle: camera at the ready (the ability to take pictures is a courtesy that is only extended to press), comfortable boots zipped on, and a knapsack slung over my shoulder (where I could place information sheets and postcards and samples that aren’t supposed to be given away, ahem). You have to surrender your palate to an onslaught of flavors, veering madly from a bite of prosciutto to caramel chocolate to a spicy pickle to an ice cream sandwich within minutes. There is so much to look at—it’s a staggering amount of visual information. There’s a lot of great packaging (and lots of really bad packaging as well). And there’s quite the confluence of smells, like the wafting of bacon from the Nueske’s table, and you always know when you’re near some cheese.

The people watching is epic, especially the Italians in their suits, always talking amongst themselves in the Italy section, taking turns to go find an espresso at the other booths. I think the folks at the Bolani table should teach a class on how to sample—they work lickety split, and manage to hand out more samples than I can even count.

The show always features the debut of products, like this year’s new headcheese from Fra’ Mani, or the new chocolate bars from Poco Dolce.

There are also so many products that I think restaurants and bartenders would both find intriguing, from a palate-cleansing water to tasty non-alcoholic beverage options for their patrons (besides the usual sodas), to interesting ingredients, like these vinegars, and this pine cone bud syrup. I could spend an entire day on the cheeses alone. And it’s great to be able to taste the entire line of some of the charcuterie producers. I was blown away with the quality of the salumi from OLLI Salumeria, based out of Virginia—delicious speck, in particular. And the new Iowa White spread from La Quercia, which totally tasted like spreadable lardo (dangerous).

The ingredients for home cooks are endless, from the Taste #5 Umami Paste to the new Thai wok oil from Tourangelle to yuzu chile sauces. And let’s not even talk about the Skillet bacon jam.

While you feel completely exhausted at the end of the day (the only thing I want is a beer and a salad), I always walk away from the show fired up about products I hope to see in local stores, restaurants, bars, and on my shelves at home.

Here’s a photo album I took of the tastes and products that stood out for me.