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Fancy Food Show, San Francisco, CA, Tasted on January 18, 2004 Back on August 4 of 2002 when this website first began, the very first posting mentioned the Fancy Food Show. At that time I said we'd probably need to go. Well, a year and a half later, we went. (And due to the incredible backlog of this site we're finally posting about it six months after that.) Here's a quick rundown of what it's all about. First, the name. The name is kind of, well... "fancy". I suppose it's not their fault as the show has been going on for a couple of decades but still it seems so silly. Also it's not just "Fancy Food" but "Fancy Food and Confections". Also, this is a trade show. I love trade shows. All the industry folks hawking their wares. When in San Francisco it fills all of Moscone Center - no small feat. Because it's an industry trade show, only members of the industry are allowed in. I know some people who "manufactured" a food related business and had no trouble getting badges for the show. It costs $35 a ticket in advance, so a little cash and a little creativity should get you in just fine.

The show. The idea of row upon row filled with hundreds of booths pitching their various contributions to the world of cuisine is exciting. It's even more exciting when you know that pretty much every single one of them will be offering free samples. And after the first 326 tastes of olive oil/salsa/tomato sauce/cheese/vinegar/sugar free anything/nuts/wine/chocolate/ham you're feeling like the king (or queen) of the world. But #327 comes along and you're pretty much done. Don't get me wrong, there were some nice little finds among the first 326. It's just that there's only so much you can take.

Additionally, this kind of show lends itself to certain types of food and not to others. Trade shows are about trade. On a big scale. And that means foods that are trying to get big distribution and optimized for that scenario. Don't get me wrong. There were plenty (hundreds) of small producers represented. I loved trying yummy artisinal cheeses from New Zealand, various delicious hams from Italy, ten different flavors of gelato from Calfornia, wacky Hello Kitty snacks from Japan, and olive oil from Lebanon. But after awhile it was just tough to try yet another barbecue sauce.

There were some weird moments. The "mascot" for the show is this Oscar-like silver chef statue that they give out as an award. They hired a mime who dressed in a silver outfit and wore silver makeup to wander the show and ply his trade. He scared me. But not as bad as a really out-of-place hippy reporter who casually strolled up to me in the press room asking me a) if I'd seen Bobby Weir yet, and b) I knew of any good parties. Bob Weir (a member of the Grateful Dead) apparently has a line of hot sauces (I hadn't seen him). And if I did know of any parties I certainly wasn't inviting this dude (I didn't know of any parties).

Ever see those cajun spices called Fish Magic, Poultry Magic, etc.? The face of Paul Prudhomme (Dom Deluise's doppelganger) graces each bottle. He was tooling around the show floor in an entirely white outfit tasting various things at different booths. Surreal. Speaking of surreal, how about the Japanese gentleman trying to sell us a soup making machine. We lost the details as we each did a double take looking at the name of the machine - the Soup Server Navi. Each of us first read it as the Soup Server Nazi. Scary.

The French guys at the Lorina booth (they make yummy carbonated lemonades) asked me if the drink I sampled was "crazy". We had to spend a few minutes educating them on English slang. From then on they were asking patrons if their lemonade "kicked ass".

While I didn't get to try nearly as much as was there, I tried enough to find some yummy items. Here's a rundown:

  • Cuvee du Minot - the best apple cider I've ever tasted. Crazy light. Sparkly. Pure apple taste.
  • DeliManjoo - delectable Korean light and airy corn cakes filled with fruit or creme filling. As delicious as the hot pastries were, the machines that made and wrapped them were fascinating.
  • Laguna Tuna tomato sauces - everyone in the group seemed to like them. They did have a freshness about them even though they were bottled.
  • Mr. Krisper Rice Chips  - I love rice crackers, and these were yummy light versions that approximated chips but were baked.
  • An incredible assortment of "frying cheese" from Wisconsin and Cyprus. Yep. I've seen raclette before, but this was a trend. I have a new, deep, and abiding love for frying cheese.
  • Red Leicester with Wasabi and Spring Onion - I love Cotswold, and this seemed like its yummy cousin.
  • Plugra - my favorite butter. Super creamy yummy.
  • Dutch Parrano cheese - I love this stuff. Nutty, creamy, almost sharp but not. It's not cheap but my 2 year old loves it. I'd rather he eat this than slices of yucky american  cheese. And it tastes incredible when melted. Gets super sharp and strong.

There were also a couple of things that were entertaining:

  • The enormous line of Hello Kitty branded marshmallow treats. (I think they're sending me a bunch.)
  • Bubbie's Homemade Hawaiian Mochi Ice Cream. Its like a weird Jewish/Japanese/Hawaiian thing. I'm not a big mochi fan, but these seemed alright despite the odd branding.
  • Fartless beans products. Is gas such a problem that people really need to seek out these items?

Bottom line, we had a great time. Spending a couple of days bouncing from one food vendor to another, eating all the samples you can eat, and even happening upon some new interesting items is definitely fun. It's true that you won't find a ton of fresh food being sold there, and that many of the items are targeted at as mass an audience as possible. But it will be like hanging out in the specialty aisles of the supermarket with each vendor there offering you a taste. I'm not sure I would do it again, but I'm glad I went once.










Tastingmenu is focused on superlative restaurant experiences from two perspectives: behind the plate and behind the stove. Tastingmenu is written by Hillel (professional eater) and Dana (up-and-coming professional chef) in Seattle, Washington.

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  Garlic has long been credited with providing and prolonging physical strength and was fed to Egyptian slaves building the giant pyramids. Throughout the centuries, its medicinal claims have included cures for toothaches, consumption, open wounds and evil demons. A member of the lily family, garlic is a cousin to leeks, chives, onions and shallots. The edible bulb or "head" grows beneath the ground. This bulb is made up of sections called cloves, each encased in its own parchmentlike membrane. Today's major garlic suppliers include the United States (mainly California, Texas and Louisiana), France, Spain, Italy and Mexico. There are three major types of garlic available in the United States: the white-skinned, strongly flavored American garlic; the Mexican and Italian garlic, both of which have mauve-colored skins and a somewhat milder flavor; and the Paul Bunyanesque, white-skinned elephant garlic (which is not a true garlic, but a relative of the leek), the most mildly flavored of the three. Depending on the variety, cloves of American, Mexican and Italian garlic can range from 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches in length. Elephant garlic (grown mainly in California) has bulbs the size of a small grapefruit, with huge cloves averaging 1 ounce each. It can be purchased through mail order and in some gourmet markets. Green garlic, available occasionally in specialty produce markets, is young garlic before it begins to form cloves. It resembles a baby leek, with a long green top and white bulb, sometimes tinged with pink. The flavor of a baby plant is much softer than that of mature garlic. Fresh garlic is available year-round. Purchase firm, plump bulbs with dry skins. Avoid heads with soft or shriveled cloves, and those stored in the refrigerated section of the produce department. Store fresh garlic in an open container (away from other foods) in a cool, dark place. Properly stored, unbroken bulbs can be kept up to 8 weeks, though they will begin to dry out toward the end of that time. Once broken from the bulb, individual cloves will keep from 3 to 10 days. Garlic is usually peeled before use in recipes. Among the exceptions are roasted garlic bulbs and the famous dish, "chicken with 40 cloves of garlic," in which unpeeled garlic cloves are baked with chicken in a broth until they become sweet and butter-soft. Crushing, chopping, pressing or pureeing garlic releases more of its essential oils and provides a sharper, more assertive flavor than slicing or leaving it whole. Garlic is readily available in forms other than fresh. Dehydrated garlic flakes (sometimes referred to as instant garlic) are slices or bits of garlic that must be reconstituted before using (unless added to a liquid-based dish, such as soup or stew). When dehydrated garlic flakes are ground, the result is garlic powder. Garlic salt is garlic powder blended with salt and a moisture-absorbing agent. Garlic extract and garlic juice are derived from pressed garlic cloves. Though all of these products are convenient, they're a poor flavor substitute for the less expensive, readily available and easy-to-store fresh garlic. One unfortunate side effect of garlic is that, because its essential oils permeate the lung tissue, it remains with the body long after it's been consumed, affecting breath and even skin odor. Chewing chlorophyll tablets or fresh parsley is helpful but, unfortunately, modern-day science has yet to find the perfect antidote for residual garlic odor.  

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