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Sampling the items at the Fancy Food Show

Posted: Friday, Feb 14th, 2014

Last month I headed to Moscone Center in San Francisco with approximately 18,000 other foodies to attend the annual Winter Fancy Food Show, sponsored by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade. This popular three-day event brought together 1,350 specialty food producers with retail and foodservice buyers as well as food writers from all over the country.

Like many of those in attendance, I was on the lookout for the newest products and items that would launch some of this year’s hottest culinary trends.

A trade show of this magnitude (it filled both of the exhibition halls at Mascone) not only presents sensory overload if you try and taste too many products, but there really isn’t enough time to do justice to all that is available in just a single visit.

Since we did have only one afternoon set aside for the show, my wife and I had to be very selective as we walked up and down the aisles scanning the new products. Not everything we saw and sampled made a positive impression on us, but here are a few of the items we encountered that definitely received a thumbs up!

Bill Brady, the owner of the La Selva Beach Spice Company, introduced his line of 16 organic spices plus the spice blends he has created and sells in grinder bottles at the San Francisco show. Gourmet Himalayan salt is blended with other ingredients to create a number of bold tasting condiments.

Of the ones I have tried so far, the Best Burger and Chicken Licken blends have been absolutely delicious when added to meat, chicken, and even stir-fry veggies. I am just beginning to use the Oak Smoked Salt, Taste of Tuscany and the Daily Grind when cooking and thus far they have also provided some subtle and pleasing flavors to what I am preparing.

An absolute delight and complete surprise were Vintage Italia’s Pasta Chips. Most of the crunchy snakes we sampled were a disappointment, but these pasta chips were a knockout. They come in five delectable flavors inspired by the sauces and tastes of Italy. There’s Marinara, Alfredo, Spicy Tomato Basil, Garlic Olive Oil and Mediterranean Sea Salt.

Cholesterol-free, these chips contain 60 percent less fat than regular potato chips and the taste really pops. The Alfredo and Marinara were particularly tasty and the bags brought home with us were quickly emptied.

If you are looking for an alternative to regular rice, I suggest trying a product packaged by a San Francisco company called SOOFOO. A blend of brown rice, five grains and three types of lentils, SOOFOO comes in four flavors — Original, Garlic and Herb, Hint of Curry and Moroccan Medley.

Because of the diverse ingredients, this dish has an interesting texture and taste. Be sure to follow the instructions for preparing the colorful pouch of certified organic grains exactly and don’t undercook. You’ll have a side dish or entrée (add meat or vegetables) that will receive raves from both family and friends. This is also one of those dishes where the leftovers are actually even better!

Although there were some really outstanding bakery goods at the show, two items stood out. Walkers pure butter, shortbread Mini Scottie Dogs were a definitely a winner. The bite-size morsels were a rich, tasty treat that was impossible to pass up and there’s no way you can limit yourself to just munching one or two of these delicious cookies.

Another local Bay Area company, Sugar Bowl, also offered some mouthwatering baked goodies. The family bakery’s Madeleines, Petite Brownie Bites and new Duet Bites are excellent, but the Petite Palmiers are totally to-die-for. They sent us home with a box of these scrumptious, flat pastries that didn’t last more than a day!

Some innovative and unique flavors were featured at the Terrapin Ridge Farms booth. These sauces and marinades could be used not only on salads, veggies, meats and seafood, but they could also be combined with other ingredients like cream cheese to produce jesty dips.

The ones we sampled included the Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette, Garlic and Herb Vinaigrette plus the Toasted Sesame and Ginger Vinaigrette which would enhance many Asian dishes. Our favorite, though, was the Roasted Pineapple Habanero Sauce which not only made a lip smacking dip when added to cream cheese but was also great on grilled salmon.

As most cooks have learned, the culinary parchment products made by Paper Chef make life in the kitchen much easier. The award-winning (Gold Sofi in 2012) parchment Tulip and Lotus Baking Cups along with the Sheets on a Roll make baking virtually hassle free.

Now the Canadian company’s new cooking bags do the same for preparing vegetables. Offering grease-proof, scorch-proof, and non-stick alternatives to other cooking methods, these new bags won’t unravel or leak and they are microwave safe. Perhaps the best feature of this bag that steams foods to perfection is that it makes clean-up a snap. Just remove the contents and toss the used bag in the wastepaper bin!

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