The Winter Fancy food show is not for the faint of heart. The annual convention, which took place earlier this week at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, requires stamina, a willingness to elbow your way through a crowd, and a stomach of steel.
When you walk into the show, which takes over both the north and south halls of the convention center, there are thousands of people walking around briskly, carrying various reusable bags with product names plastered along the sides. Buyers and restaurant representatives from all over the world are here to find the next big products in the food world.
The one thing you'll notice? Everyone is chewing. Mouths are constantly moving as people sample cheese, wontons, olive oil, taffy, gelato, gluten-free bread, kale chips, chocolate, cookies and more.
There's a section for domestic-made products, a section for new products, aisles devoted to food from France, Japan, Italy, Germany and more, a corner devoted to cheese, and just about every antipasto you can dream of.
We braved the show this year to report back on a couple of products to look out for. Here are some highlights:
WuWanWo Soy sauce: This is not the soy sauce you see on the tables at Asian restaurants, but in another universe entirely. This soy sauce is fermented and brewed in terra cotta jars using black soybeans and Piranske Soline sea salt, and no preservatives. The sauce isn't overly salty, and it has a rich, meaty quality to it. Like a fine olive oil, it's not meant to be cooked. You'll be tempted to drink it straight, but if you can restrain yourself, try it in a salad dressing or as a finishing drizzle on a piece of fish. There are two different varieties, including "harmonious," which has a lighter soy flavor, for around $40 for a 250-ml bottle; and "rich," with a bolder flavor, for around $50 for the same size bottle. www.theshopagora.com/
American Nduja: The classic Calabrian salami spread is made with pork and chile peppers. A couple restaurants in L.A. serve it, including Maccheroni Republic in downtown L.A. The noted Iowa cured meat company La Quericia is making their version of nduja, called American Nduja, and they're doing it with prosciutto and speck. It's an addictive mix of pork, chile and sea salt. You can spread it on a cracker, your fingers, or add a dollop to a bowl of penne for a pasta sauce with a kick. The suggested retail price for a 5-ounce package is $6.99 to $8. The product will be available online soon at Zingerman's Mail Order and Murray's Cheese. www.laquercia.us.
Caramiele honey hazelnut spread: I know you just read the words "hazelnut spread" and thought Nutella. This is not Nutella. It's a spread made with Acacia honey and IGP Piedmont hazelnuts. The two combine for a sweet, nutty spread with the color of caramel and the consistency of smooth peanut butter. It's every bit as addictive as Nutella, but without the chocolate flavor. Like Nutella, you can eat it on a spoon, on fruit, or spread it on a pastry. The suggested retail price for the Caramiele is around $10 for a 8.8-ounce bottle. www.ritrovo.com.
Superbutter premium seed butter: It's peanut butter, without the peanuts. Superbutter seed butters are made with roasted sunflower, flax and sesame seeds, cane sugar, sea salt and palm oil. The seed butter has a roasted, nutty taste, and has the mouthfeel of real peanut butter. And like peanut butter, it comes in creamy or chunky. There's also vanilla bean, made with Madagascar bourbon vanilla and vanilla seeds, and a chocolate seed butter with dark cocoa. The seed butters are all dairy-, gluten-, trans fat- and cholesterol-free. The suggested retail price for the creamy and chunky varieties is $5 a jar, and $6 a jar for the vanilla and chocolate flavors. www.store.superbutter.com/
Nancy's Fancy gelato: This is Nancy Silverton's line of gelato and sorbetto, the one we told you about last week on Daily Dish. The onetime pastry chef and woman behind Campanile and Mozza is making gelato and sorbetto. Flavors include Butterscotch Budino with salted caramel swirl, a play off the budino dessert at the Mozza restaurants; Stumptown Spiced Coffee with cracked cocoa nibs made with Stumptown coffee; Frutti di Bosco (Greek yogurt and mixed berries) and more. Recognizing that the market was saturated with salted caramel products, Silverton says she decided to go with a chunky salted peanut butter with crunchy chocolate instead. The gelatos and sorbettos are $10.99 a pint and will be available in the spring at stores nationwide. www.nancysfancy.com.