Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Lessons from the Winter Fancy Food Show

(Bacon T-shirt courtesy of J&D's Foods)

Earlier this week we had the pleasure of attending the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. For three days, over 1,300 exhibitors from nearly 40 countries showed off their very best products and we stuffed our faces as much as humanly possible. There were mountains of cheese, rivers of sauces and more olives than snowflakes in Alaska.

Lesson 1: Pork is still sizzling hot.

There's pork everywhere these days. People just can't seem to get enough bacon, prosciutto, pulled pork, ribs and chops. Chefs are getting pig and pork tattoos to immortalize their affection. At the Fancy Food Show there was more than enough bacon and cured pork to go around. Company reps were slicing prosciutto on-site and offering samples of bacon-wrapped everything.

Even people who don't eat pork could get in the game with a visit to J&D's booth. In J&D's, the J is for Justin and the D is for Dave. At the show, we hung out with Justin as he explained how you can make anything and everything taste like bacon while keeping it kosher and vegetarian. The company started with Bacon Salt before branching out into a ton of other products including Baconnaise, Bacon Rub and our new favorite, Bacon Croutons. Those suckers are addictive even without a salad!

Lesson 2: An avalanche of artisan cheeses and olives.

As we weaved through the International aisles with products from Italy, France, Greece and Switzerland we were struck by the amazing variety of cheeses and olives making their way to the US. There were cool new cheeses, like a Blue Brie that had all the great creaminess of brie with a subtle hint of blue cheese flavor. There were also a number of delicious flavored cheeses from Yancey's Fancy in Corfu, New York. We enjoyed their Double Cream Medium Sharp Cheddar as well as the XX-Sharp Ol' Timer Cheese. But, their Roasted Garlic and Jalapeno & Peppadew Cheddar cheeses were some of our favorites because the flavors were tangy and intense.

Our favorite olives of the show were from Mani Imports, who source their products from across the Mediterranean. They served our favorite bite of the show, a red pepper stuffed with Feta and Mizithra (a Greek cheese made from either sheep or goat's milk).

Lesson 3: Craft brewers care about food pairings.

In the beer area, which had the most energy of any part of the show, we sampled great craft brews from Goose Island and Kona Brewing.

Kona brews according to a seasonal schedule and was serving its Pipeline Porter, brewed with real Kona coffee for a great dark, roasted flavor. It's great with red meat or any hearty soups and stews. They also offered their Koko Brown, which has a pronounced fresh coconut flavor.

Goose Island offered their Vintage Ales, which are actually designed for food pairing. We tasted the Sophie, Matilda, Pere Jacques and Pepe Nero. Our favorite was the Pere Jacques, a Belgian Style Abbey Ale with fantastic malty and fruity notes. It pairs well with bittersweet chocolate or wild game meats. We also enjoyed the Pepe Nero, an intriguing beer brewed with black peppercorns. The addition of pepper makes it a perfect pairing for anything coming off the grill, from meat to vegetables.

Now that we're back from the show, we have so many ideas and food pairings to try. Our plan is to use the FoodPair Recipe Search Engine to find creative dishes for the new craft beers and cheeses we were able to sample.

Even though we wish there was a Fancy Food Show every day, it's good news for our waistlines that it only happens twice a year.

Have you tried any great new foods lately? Share your experiences in the comments.

If there are any themes, ingredients or dishes you'd like us to highlight, post them in the comments or on our Facebook page. And while you're at it, Like us on Facebook for helpful food news, tips and recipes in your news feed.


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