I’ve got two inches worth of product brochures tucked into a satchel, and at least another one around my waistline after sampling an ungodly amount of cheese and a few other goodies at the 55th NASFT Fancy Food Show on Monday. The only thing that saved me from complete gluttony was my pseudo-vegetarian—or shall I say, “pescetarian”—status (you can read all about that in our September Health & Wellness Guide). Otherwise, I would have eaten my weight in Serrano ham, proscuitto, foie gras, barbecue pork, duck confit, grass-fed bison, pÃ¢tÃ© and boar sausage. I did, however, sample some wonderful smoked sock-eye salmon from Kasilof Fish Company, which I concluded would make for some very tasty holiday gifts.
I honestly have no idea how I missed the alcoholic beverage section, but since I opted to drive rather than pay the big bucks for an Amtrak seat, that was probably a very good thing. I did notice plenty of sipping going down among the olive oil set, and that most of the international exhibiters were dressed in suits, unlike their American counterparts.Â
For those who don’t know much about the FFS, it’s essentially a foodie tradeshow created to bring specialty food and culinary product vendors—many pioneering entrepreneurs— and buyers together for a little wheeling and dealing, and to recognize those who’ve pushed beyond the limits of innovation, creativity and taste. This year’s event at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in Manhattan brought in 2,300 exhibitors from 70-plus countries and, amazingly, more than 600 companies hawking natural and organic items.
Some 316,000 square feet of space is A LOT to cover, but I did manage to wind up and down nearly every aisle. Admittedly, though, I steered clear of the big-name vendors that I was familiar with (including Valrhona chocolate—what a dunce I am!) and tried to take in as much of the “unusual” as possible.
Probably the weirdest thing I saw was a refrigerated case of vacuum-sealed seafood from the Mediterranean, with things like baby octopi, langoustines, mussels and clams that looked like they’d been lacquered. I found them simultaneously repulsive and intriguing. After all, they were heat-‘n’-eat items and surely better tasting than the Kashi frozen meals I bring in for lunch sometimes.
I felt bad for the reps in the Turkey aisle (the country), who really didn’t have too many window shoppers. But I did discover some interesting sun-dried vegetables, which, like the weird heat-‘n’-eat prepacked seafood or, say, snakes in the zoo, fascinated and creeped me out at the same time. In soups, stews, frittatas, or pasta and rice dishes, though, I bet they’re a savory embellishment.
I’ve got lots of other items to tell you about, but you’ll have to check back for my punch list of what’s hot, what’s new and what you must try to find, such as Glacia’s IceBox water, Rogue Creamery’s Chocolate Stout cheese, Plocky’s flavored and gluten-free tortilla and hummus chips, and Terrafina’s dried fruit and nut mixes.
If I give away any more, I run the risk of cyber verbosity. I will let on, though, that I have a new culinary crush, Southern belle Gena Knox, who has a line of dry and wet brine mixes, salts and rubs, cedar papers, grilling planks and more, and is gorgeous, sweet and, well, working the industry pretty good. Her company is called Fire & Flavor, and she has a sweet little cookbook out called Gourmet Made Simple, which, along with her cheese planks and toppings (think baked brie with all kinds of yummy fruits, nuts and seasonings thrown into the gooey mix), makes one heck of a great gift.
Stay tuned for more on the Fancy Food Show hot list, and for a gallery of photos …