Winter Fancy Foods
The sold-out 2014 Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, held Jan. 19-22, 2014, at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, was the largest in the show's 39-year history, with a record 212,000 square feet of exhibit space showcasing more than1,350 exhibitors and 80,000 specialty foods and beverages from across the U.S. and 35 countries and regions.
Among the standouts on display were numerous gluten-free and non-GMO products, dairy and non-dairy ice creams, cheeses, condiments and jerky. Crisps and thins of all types and sizes were abundant and spanned the flavor spectrum from sweet to savory.
The more unusual ice cream flavors at the show were McConnell's Olive Oil and Salted Almond and Steve's Scotch Chocolate, which is a vegan ice cream made with coconut milk. Phin and Phebes introduced its Vietnamese coffee-flavored ice cream while Chocotal introduced three single-origin vanilla ice creams made with vanilla from Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Madagascar. Chocolate ice creams, made with single-sourced cacao from Ghana, Costa Rica and the Domincan Republic, are also available.
One of the best packaging ideas we saw was the Wine Stack from Stacked Wines. Each Wine Stack includes four individually portioned wine glasses. Perfect for picnics and tailgaiting.
High-quality flavored cheeses continue to gain ground. Among the finest was Quickes Elderflower, an import from the U.K.'s Quickes Traditional – it combines Quickes Buttery Cheddar with elderflower notes. The elderflower complements the cheddar's lingering flavor, and the cream colored paste is flecked with flower flakes. Available in a 4-pound clothbound truckle. Yancey's Fancy sampled its flavored cheddars including its recent introduction, a naturally smoked aged cheddar with jalapeño and cayenne peppers.
A more daring flavor combo is Noble View Creamery's Beechwood Monterey Jack with Kimchi.
Grafton Village Cheese has begun to age its outstanding cheddar for six years; it's called, appropriately, 6 Year Aged Cheddar. In addition, Grafton now has a good supply of the superb Bear Hill, second place Best in Show at last year's American Cheese Society Competition. Bear Hill is a washed-rind alpine-style cheese made of 100 percent sheep's milk. It has a fruity, nutty flavor and smooth mouthfeel.
Rogue Creamery debuted its 80th Anniversary Cheese, a small-batch cheddar made with Rogue Ale's 80th Anniversary Ale, a strong Imperial Brown Ale made with 13 different ingredients. The beer is poured over the curd of this classic hand-milled, full cream cheddar during the make process. The blocks of cheddar showcase a light marbling and distinctive flavor of ale.
Several cheesemakers are bringing out new packaging options, many of them designed for single servings or grab-and-go. BelGioioso's Fresh Mozzarella Snacking Cheese is three ciliegine – small balls that weight just 1/3 ounce each – in a thermoform pack with no water. 6-ounce and 16-ounce retail packages are available.
Coach Farm is answering the grab-and-go demand with single-serve fresh goat cheese buttons. The individually wrapped buttons weigh 1 ounce each and will be packed 24 or 160 per case.
Red Barn Family Farms is packaging its Edun and Heritage White cheeses in sticks. Right now the sticks are individually packaged but a multi-pack is in the planning.
Gluten-free continues to be strong, appealing to many consumers who do not have to avoid gluten for health reasons. Gluten-free has taken on an aura of better-for-you, expanding its popularity and seemingly taking it out of the fad category. In the baking category, several products for bakers opting to create gluten-free baked goods were on display, including gluten-free flours. Domata, Minneapolis, Minn., introduced several types of gluten-free flour made with rice flour, cornstarch and tapioca dextrin – Recipe Ready Flour, Seasoned Flour and Pizza Crust Mix. All are available in 1- and 4-pound packages.
Meat snacks were prevalent at the show, with several varieties of upscale, high-end jerky on display. The common threads were quality cuts, subdued salt and natural ingredients.
Chef's Cut Jerky uses a proprietary process to brew a gluten-free soy sauce that flavors the hand-cut meat used to make its steak, turkey and chicken jerky. Available in Original and Chipotle Cracked Pepper Steak jerky, Original turkey jerky and Roasted Red Chile chicken jerky. SRP: $6.99.
Krave Jerky is all natural and made from whole muscle, hand-sliced meat. It is gluten-free and contains no nitrates, MSG or corn syrup. Available in Basil Citrus and Lemon Garlic turkey, Black Cherry Barbecue and Grilled Sweet Teriyaki Pork, and Chili Lime, Garlic Chili Pepper, Sweet Chipotle and Pineapple Orange Beef Jerky. SRP: $7.
Field Trip Jerky is the brainchild of three friends, Scott, Tom and Matt, who wanted a high-protein snack without all the chemicals of ''gas-station'' jerky. When they couldn't find it, they created their own. Beef Jerky available in Original #3, Honey Spice #11 and Teriyaki #23 flavors. SRP: $6.
Three Jerks Jerky uses 100 percent filet mignon – it calls itself ''an aristocrat among plebians'' – to make its Original, Memphis BBQ and Chiptle Adobo flavored jerky. The Jerky contains no MSG, no nitrates, no nitrates and no preservatives. SRP $14.99.
Several companies introduced chocolate bars including The Peanut Shop of Williamsburg. The milk and dark chocolate bars combine savory seasonings, fruits and peanuts – for which the peanut brand is already known.
Also introducing a line of vegan, filled chocolate bars was Endangered Species Chocolate Co. Made with 72 percent dark chocolate, six fillings are available: almond butter creme, sea salt and lime creme, coconut creme, blueberry vanilla creme, raspberry orange creme and lavender mint creme. The bars are made with ethically traded, sustainably grown chocolate and single-source, organic palm oil and are certified non-GMO, gluten-free and vegan.
Vosges Haut Chocolate, long known for its creative and oftentimes sweet and savory flavor combinations, introduced its Super Dark Chocolate Bar line that pairs 72 percent dark chocolate with other super foods. Six bars are available: Matcha Green Tea & Spirulina, Reishi Mushroom & Walnut, Pomegranate & Goji, Coconut Ash & Banana, Acai & Golden Berry, and Guajillo & Chipotle Chili
Another veteran chocolate company has ventured into the bar. Baci, Perugina's signature confection, is the inspiration behind Perugina's Double Layer Candy Bar. It has Luisa Dark chocolate, made of 51 percent cacao, with a layer of gianduia (milk chocolate whipped with ground hazelnuts). These 5.2-ounce bars are scored into 18 pieces and include a love note inside each wrapper, just like the original Baci (the Italian word for ''kisses'').
Seattle Chocolate Co. introduced a new chocolate bar and new smaller sizes for its jcoco existing line. Making its show debut was the Seattle Chocolate's Here to You milk chocolate bar. The bar is addition to the company's Fun and Fabulous Collection, which is designed to replace a greeting card.
Kohler Co., best known for its kitchen & bath plumbing products, previewed its Chocolate Bar Collection in six flavors: Milk and Dark Chocolate, Hazelnut Crunch, Mint, Cherry Almond and Peanut Butter. Culinary Collective showed off its new Blanxart Eco bars, Ritter Sport sampled its new coconut chocolate bar and Taza Chocolate introduced its Tazito Minibars that pair crispy brown rice with 65 percent dark chocolate in five crunchy flavors.
Crisps, both sweet and savory, were a big trend at the show. Innovative new snacks include Vintage Italia's Pasta Chips in Sea Salt, Marinara, Garlic Olive Oil, Alfredo, and Spicy Tomato Herb flavors. They're made with semolina flour and Italian herbs and are oven-baked, not fried. Amoun Foods prides itself on producing non-GMO pita breads with clean labels. The pitas are made with only six ingredients.
On the sweet side, Sheila G's previewed its new Blondie Brittle brownie chips. Other new thin crisps included Simply 7 Quinoa Chips, Simply Sprouted Way Better Snacks' Pitaaah Chips, 479 Popcorn's Toasted Sesame + Seaweed Popcorn, and Rhythm Superfoods' Super Food Chips, SeaSnax's Premium Roasted Seaweed Snack and Brad's Raw Kale, to name a few.
Ips – rhymes with chips – Egg White Ch(ips) are all-natural chips made with corn, egg whites and other all-natural ingredients. They're made with a proprietary Pressure-Puff process that produces a light, crunchy chip without frying. Flavors include Aged White Cheddar, Barbeque. Cinnamon Sugar and Sea Salt & Black Pepper.