Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The San Francisco Winter Fancy Food Show

What could be more fun (aside from being there) than to write about the three ring culinary attraction of the year in one of the great food destinations of the world? Fabulous food in San Francisco is an oxymoron as nearly everyone knows that the San Francisco Bay Area has cutting edge international cuisine with restaurateurs and chefs whose names evoke star status. Being part of the buzz was great fun for us despite the work, the exhaustion, and the weeks of following through with calls to interested clients.

Although this was our company’s premier at the Fancy Food Show, I’ve worked at numerous food shows as well as walked the aisles as a visitor for years. In other words, I was well prepared for the inevitable assault to the senses and the swollen feet that come with the territory.

Food shows fall into the category of culinary spectacle, given such a staggering number of specialty foods where even the most sophisticated gourmand is bound to find something new to titillate a jaded palate. After all, there aren’t too many places in the world where you can experience green mole, dark chocolate enrobed caramel with sea salt, Tibetan yak cheese, Golden trout caviar and pomegranate green tea all within a few yards of each other. And that’s just mentioning a few of the 80,000 products that were displayed by 1100 exhibitors.

Although the show was somewhat quieter than in the recent past, there were still 16,500 store buyers cruising the aisles for something unique to please shoppers. Chefs, producers of unique artisan food products, culinary students and the press all prowled the aisles, ready to pounce on the perfect ingredients or prepared treats to taste, discuss, order or write about in their weekly columns.

So what was unique and special besides our Sweet Treats Sugar Sampler and fragrant extracts and beans? A product touted in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Mercury News and that caught our eye is Adora Calcium. It’s the first calcium supplement that isn’t chalky, and the chocolate that contains the bone-building ingredient is smooth with a deep flavor. It comes in milk and dark chocolate and will be available soon at Target.

The Republic of Tea, a socially conscious business, continues to produce wonderful beverages filled with ant-oxidants.

Palapa Azul is a terrific ice cream company that is producing “paletas” those fabulous icy fruit bars available from Mexican push carts, but with unique new flavors. They also have Mexican-style sorbets and ice creams.

Guittard Chocolate Company, a San Francisco tradition since 1868, continues to produce high quality chocolate for home bakers, professional pastry chefs, confectioners and artisan ice creameries. They have recently begun producing chocolate varietals for serious chocolate lovers, including a Single Origin Chocolate Tasting Kit with 16 small bars from four distinct regions in Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia and Madagascar. The kit additionally contains information about each chocolate growing region, what makes each variety unique, and descriptions that bring to mind the descriptions of fine wines. You can find out more about where to purchase this fun tasting kit at It’s also available at

One of the most interesting products that caught my eye, not only for its taste but because it is a perfect crop for Indonesian vanilla growers to consider as secondary crop, is Island Crisps. Island crisps are made from the seeds of the Melinjo tree. After the fruit is gathered, the seeds are roasted in a hot wok filled with sand. The seed is then removed from the outer shell and pounded into a disk while still warm. It is then dried, sprinkled with Balinese sea salt, and it’s ready to eat. A family tradition for over 1000 years, Island Crisps are now available in the US. This is a great way to have a healthy, crispy, gluten-free treat while also supporting sustainable agriculture in Indonesia. For information contact

It was fun to see friends at the show, both exhibitors and customers of ours. Choctal, an extraordinary chocolate and ice cream producer, brought us three pints of their amazing frozen bit of heaven. Their chocolate ice cream is creamy smooth and deeply flavored, making your taste buds come wide awake while simultaneously making you swoon. This is not your ordinary chocolate ice cream, but rather, an essential chocolate ice cream experience! Their vanilla ice cream is equally as richly flavored, using our ground beans and extracts blended with fresh cream and cane sugar. You can learn more about Choctal at

Looking for the best saffron in the marketplace? Let me introduce you to Juan San Mames, the saffron king! Juan is originally from Spain and for years imported saffron from La Mancha. However, Spain no longer produces enough saffron to export; even if it says it’s from Spain, it has been imported to Spain from Iran and then from Spain to the U.S.

In fact, the autumn-blooming crocus varietal from Iran is a better quality flower and produces deeply rich threads to flavor everything from breads to paella to pilaf. Although more research needs to be done in this regard, it appears that saffron has medicinal value for the liver. True or not, adding a few threads of saffron to water or tea is both flavorful and refreshing. Fresh saffron ice cream and saffron flavored chocolates are exceptional. To learn more or to order, visit

While this barely breaks the surface of the show's offerings, it will need to suffice for today. I am attempting to be more consistent in posting blogs and I promise I will write more culinary adventures very soon.

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