The Specialty Food Association is a thriving community of food artisans, importers and entrepreneurs who bring craft, care and joy to the distinctive foods they produce. Established in 1952 in New York, the not-for-profit trade association provides its 3,000 members in the U.S. and abroad the tools, knowledge and connections to champion and nurture their companies in an always-evolving marketplace. The Association owns and produces the Winter and Summer Fancy Food Shows. We asked that local artisan sauce producer Doug Renfro, one of the owners of Mrs Renfro’s gourmet salsas, to send us a report from the show in San Francisco.
It’s that time of year again, when I spend three days surrounded by 2,500 booths of cheese, coffee, chocolate, wine, pate, and more. The 40th annual Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. (Not all of the foods are actually fancy.) Talking about our food products during the day, researching culinary trends during evening dinners and dodging aggressive panhandlers in between; what could be more fun?
I’m sitting in the airport looking through trade magazines for upcoming trend information and sure enough, my tastebuds are whetted. I see an ad for a chocolate bar containing coconut ash (there is such a thing?), then an ad for barrel-aged sriracha sauce. Haven’t even left DFW and I’m already salivating.
As I approach the boarding area, I see a good omen: Dallas cheese legend Paula Lambert is on my flight. This first lady of queso surely signals a great trip!
Although I spend most of my time in our Mrs. Renfro’s booth, discussing our brand new bbq sauces, including a literally hot ghost pepper version, I do manage to walk the show and find some interesting items for craveDFW:
Teafee – yes, someone created a drink mix which is comprised of both tea and coffee . . . he admitted that the world evidently wasn’t quite ready for this trend and that he has it available for immediate purchase at a significant discount! – on the positive side, his “biscuits & gravy” hot chocolate mix is a hit – and his “Bud Fudpucker Sweet Key Lime Pie” mix caught my eye – that product name would make for a great t-shirt, just sayin’.
In the “I love fusion flavors, but this is a new one for me” department, I give you “Hot Monkey Pineapple with Cardamom and Pepper Vodka Indian Spiced Popcorn.” (Give me a minute, I’m out of breath from saying that.) You’ll be shocked to learn that these colorful folks are from Oregon (duh – everything cool & trendy seems to come from Oregon.)
Moving on to the “I’ve literally never heard of that” department, I was treated to a sample of a Calamansi fruit bar. This Filipino fruit does indeed make for a tasty & tart frozen treat, but I always worry about folks trying to sell something most people have never heard of – good luck!
Down the aisle from our booth was the nation’s #1 specialty salad dressing, Brianna’s from Brenham – always good to see the home team doing well in an international trade show
One constant during my 20+ years of working food shows is that celebrities always want to have their names on food in stores – this year’s entrant was Jon Bon Jovi’s dad, with his pasta sauce – and before you ask, no, JBJ was not there . . . you would have seen the lineup of autograph hounds out the building, backing up to Market Street – I hope their sales are Runaway and not Sellin’ on a Prayer (groan).
You may have thought that it’s not possible for any more significant gluten developments, but I was thrilled to see Walkers shortbread cookie, founded in 1898 and still manufactured exclusively in the Scottish highlands, unveiled in a gluten-free version – I guess we haven’t seen it all yet.
Lastly, there was some nice news for a local food bank when the food show’s new charitable foundation gave $26,000 to the Tarrant Area Food Bank
I’m back on the plane now, headed to the culinary playground I like to call DFW – the three-chile uttapam from last night is suggesting to my body that it may be time for some good old-fashioned comfort food – cheers!