Appetite: Catching our Fancy

Fancy Food, the largest showcase of specialty foods in North America (held annually in NYC and SF) returned to the Moscone Center. Again this week I explored thousands of products from around the world, with only the limits of my stomach to slow me after hours of sampling.

Fancy Food showcases trends in food, which there’s been much talk of this week already. I didn’t notice many major differences from last year, but saw a welcome increase in spirits vendors (though still merely a handful) and a continued proliferation of healthy, organic, low calorie (therefore sometimes tasteless) products. I was impressed by Teatulia out of Denver and their completely compostable wrappers and packaging. Their clean, 100% organic teas are grown in Bangladesh, subtle but full in flavor. I also took note of Philippe Padovani of Padovani Chocolates‘ sultry chocolates, in flavors ranging from apple banana ganache to lilikoi soft caramel.

Here’s my coverage from last year, and my stand-outs this year:

SPIRITS

Sinai Mezcal – Probably the best taste of the day for this spirits lover was Sinai Mezcal, a tiny, under-the-radar mezcal that, despite tasting numerous brands, is the first to really excite me since Del Maguey. Whether Blanco, Reposado or Anejo, each is smoky, clean with slate and agave. Don’t mind the low budget labels… it’s all in the taste. They need a US distributor (hello, anyone?) At the very least, it should be on the shelf at Tommy‘s.

Velho Barreiro – One of the most popular cachaca brands in Brazil, this bright sugarcane spirit tantalized in a well-made Caipirinha but also stood on its own, whether the traditional Velho Barreiro or Gold (aged) version.

FOOD

La Tourangelle Oils – Based out of Richmond, CA, it’s no surprise these memorable oils are local. La Tourangelle‘s peanut, pistachio, sesame, white & black truffle, and avocado oils are superior to average brands, but their latest releases especially wow: Thai Wok Oil exudes lemongrass and basil essences, while Pan Asian Stir Fry Oil is layered with garlic, ginger, fried onion. You can purchase at Whole Foods, Andronico’s and Williams Sonoma, to name a few.

Rumba Dessert’s Ice Creams
– I’d seen Rumba before, but had not been able to try as many of its products as I did here. Whether creamy banana & cinnamon, tart passion fruit ‘maracuya’ or caramel-y lucuma (a tropical Peruvian fruit), I appreciate the robust flavor and care evident in these ice creams.  Rumba’s husband/wife team are delightfully engaging (wife, Laly Protzel is president and creates the recipes, while her husband assists with marketing and business). Find Rumba at Noe Valley Whole Foods and RJ’s Market in the Rincon Center, not to mention around the Bay Area.

Tahitian Gold Vanilla Products
Tahitian Gold is an elegantly-packaged line of vanilla products based out of Torrance, CA. Going the 100% natural route, they use a range of beans to create an intense vanilla bean paste, refined extracts for cooking, Tahitian vanilla sugar and fleur de sel. The look and quality is among the best I’ve seen in the vanilla world.

GlopGlop may not exactly sound appetizing, but it’s a playful spread of Parmesan and Asiago cheeses, olive oil, garlic, herbs and spices. It’s another Bay Area-based company — and the exciting part is they’re working with one of my very favorite chefs, Aziza’s Mourad Lahlaou, who has created sauces and dips they are hoping to sell further into the year. I especially like smoky harissa, chickpea and yogurt herb.

Yarra Valley Dairy’s Marinated Feta – From Australia, Yara Valley Dairy’s (http://www.yvd.com.au/) creamy feta pops with flavors of herbs in uber-fresh cheese. Handmade on the farm, it’s an elegant (and addictive) snack.

Crispy Green & Fruitzio – Usually a long list that includes gluten free, dairy free, vegan, nut free, means I’m not going to like it. In the case of a little bag of freeze-dried fruit from Crispy Green and Fruitzio, I’m pleased at just how edible the product is. Stand-outs were freeze-dried pineapple, banana and kiwi. It’s one of those guiltless snacks that doesn’t compromise flavor. Here’s where to find it.

COFFEE

Malabar Gold Supreme from Josuma Coffee Company – Kudos for a shiny, silver espresso machine calling me like a beacon and perfect espresso preparation of Malabar Gold from Josuma, based in Menlo Park. They sell their beans mainly to cafes or restaurants though are seeking retailers. The crema atop their espresso glows a warm, velvet brown, while the flavor awakens you with robust, elegant force.

Caffe Barbera – From Naples, Italy, Caffe Barbera, a fifth generation coffee company since 1870, likewise served a supreme shot from their gold espresso machine.

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