Expert Column: Winter Fancy Food Show Delights

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Expert Column: Winter Fancy Food Show Delights


The Winter Fancy Food, held Jan. 11-13 in San Francisco, was the largest in the winter show’s history and featured 80,000 examples of specialty foods from across the U.S. and 30 countries.

In addition the inaugural inductees into the Specialty Food Association's Hall of Fame were feted. The list of inductees can be found here.

The aisles were filled with classic favorites and intriguing newcomers that included sweet treats, spicy condiments – in fact, heat was added to almost anything you can put in your mouth – cookies, crackers, soft drinks, coffees, teas, cheese and pickles. 
Among our favorites were:
Pickle Power
Pickled and fermented foods continue to be popular because they offer palate-pleasing nutrition to consumers who want to eat healthy and demand intense flavor.
The Pickled Figs and French Plums from Boat Street Pickles are special accompaniments for cheese and charcuterie. The spicy-sweet flavors also turn a dish or vanilla ice cream or a slice of pound cake into a sophisticated dessert. The 9-ounce jars have an SRP of $12. Shirlee Erickson and Renee Erickson (author of the cookbook, “A Boat and a Whale and a Walrus”) sampled the pickles.
Brooklyn is the epicenter of craft pickles, and Brooklyn Brine’s Moroccan String Beans marry the pickle craze to the interest in ethnic cuisines. These sweet, crunchy green beans are brightened with preserved lemon and a subtle smoky back-note. A 24-ounce jar has an SRP of $8.50. Pictured below are Shamus Jones and Elena Balletta.
The Hickory Brussels Sprouts from Preservation and Co. in Sacramento marry three trends: pickles, Brussels sprouts and smoky hickory. We love them right from the jar. The 16-ounce jar has an SRP of $10.
Gee Whiz – More Cheese! 
Cheese continues to be a major consumer draw for cooking, for eating, for pairing, for turning into treats.
Sartori unveiled its latest addition to The BellaVitano line: Citrus Ginger. Classic, creamy BellaVitano is rubbed with citrus, ginger, and sesame during the aging process so hints of the flavors permeate the cheese. This is flavored cheese for a cultivated palate. Brian Kohlman was at the WFFS launch. A 5.3-ounce wedge has an SRP of $7.75.
Blaser’s Natural Habanero Ghost Pepper Jack Cheese from Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery is not for the faint of heart! Ghost peppers are hot, hot, hot – figuratively and literally. Jack cheese is taken to a new level with the addition of the 10-alarm chilis. A 7-5-ounce package has an SRP of $3.
Fricos are an Italian specialty – grated Parmigiano heated to melting and then allowed to harden. They’re gaining a following in this country, too. Talk about not being able to eat just one! Among the newest are Whisps from Arthur Schuman. Made from pure Wisconsin Parmesan.
A World of Flavor
International cuisines, once available only in restaurants, are now accessible to home cooks.
One of Mexico’s most delicious sauces is molé, but since most molés contain dozens of ingredients, U.S. home cooks have been waiting for a quality prepared sauce. The wait is over. Hernan Molé Poblano, a blend of 28 chilies and spices, is all-natural and vegan. The paste transorms vegetables or proteins into an authentic Mexican dish. A 7.2-ounce jar has an SRP of $8.99. Shown are Isela Hernandez and Cesar Castano.
All things hot meet all things ethnic. Mustapha’s Mediterranean Harissa is made from Moutapha’s personal recipe created in his own kitchen. The traditional hot sauce originated in North Africa but is now a part of many Middle Eastern cuisines. Moustapha was at the Peterson Cheese booth to sample his all-natural harissa made in Morocco with Agadir peppers, preserved lemons, spices, and tomatoes; it contains no artificial preservatives. The complex, vibrant flavor complements many foods and needs not be confined to ethnic preparations. A 10-ounce jar has an SRP of $10.49. 
Olo Foods has been in the market with its Chipotle Paste for several years. This year owners Jonathon and Tessa Lowe introduced Harissa Paste to offer customers another spicy condiment with a unique tast. SRP: $6.99 for a 4-ounce tube.
One of the trendiest cuisines is Korean and the latest flavor sensation to entice American palates is Gochujang. Mother-in-Law’s, a go-to brand of kimchi, is offering Gochujang (which means fermented chile paste) in four flavors: 00 Original, 01 Tangy, 02 Sesame and 03 Garlic. Available in 10-ounce jars with an SRP of $8-$10.
Just Because We Like It
A few items jumped out because of their uniqueness and great taste.
We could exist on a 3-times-a-day diet of marzipan so we were very happy to find Nuttyness Chocolate Covered Orange Cayenne Marzipan. The delectable almond paste is infused with orange zest and ground Cayenne peppers. Then clothed in chocolate. A match made in heaven. SRP: $5.99 for a 2.5-ounce bar.
Divino Handcrafted Gelato-filled Fruit is imported from Italy. Real fruit shells are filled with gelato made from perfectly ripe fruit and then frozen. The individual portions are good enough to be the finishing touch to any gourmet meal. Available in five flavors: Amalfi Lemon, Black Diamond Plum, Ciaculli Tangerine Roman Kiwi and Apulian Peach. SRP: $3.99-$4.69.
Rory and Glenda Hart introduced Pure Birch Syrup from The Canadian Birch Company. Yes, it really is syrup made from birch trees and it’s delicious, rich and sweet. 100-ml bottles; Amber and Amber Gold have an SRP of $20 and Dark has an SRP of $25.
And finally, an item that stood out because it’s both intriguing and fun. Fresh Origins Herb Crystals, Fruit Crystals and Flower Crystals are little bits of concentrated flavor that burst on the tongue – like Pop Rocks for grown-ups. They’re perfect in place of finishing salts for salads, entrees and desserts. Made from cane sugar and fresh herbs, fruits or flowers. SRP: $14.95 for 4-ounce jars.