I remember it like it was yesterday. My pal and partner in podcasting, Autumn, sent me a gchat asking me if I wanted to apply for a press pass and go to the Fancy Food Show. After a cursory scan of the seemingly endless list of vendors and products, my fingers could barely move fast enough to fill out the application.
If you've never been before, the Fancy Food Show is an event showcasing specialty food products from all over the world. It's an opportunity for food artisans--think cheesemongers, chocolatiers, meat magicians, candymakers, cake craftsmen, coffee roasters, spice mavens, sauce specialists, condiment connoisseurs, ice cream inventors, gummy bear gurus, cocktail aficionados and everyone in between--to showcase their products and introduce them to distributors, caterers, food business owners and members of the press (like me). With well over 2,400 exhibitors and 180,000 products, the Javits Center was saturated with talent, passion and incredible new food products!
Sadly, I was only able to attend one of the days, so I barely made a dent in the labyrinth of specialty food stalls. Still, for the one day that I was there, I made a point to try to visit both booths that were of interest to me (by that I mean cheeses, charcuterie, chocolate, ice cream and baking related items) as well as some foods I wouldn't normally try. In the latter category, that included things like black garlic (gummy, slightly sweet, not abrasively garlicky, and thus, delicious) and melon Milkis (a fizzy carbonated milk drink with a fruity sweetness that's surprisingly refreshing), which isn't technically new (it's been around since 1989, but it was new to me!).
Some of my favorites from the day include:
Queen City Cookies' bacon schnecken. Oh my heavens. If you have no idea what a schnecken is, get yourself to the Queen City Cookies website! It's part of the German immigrant heritage, and pretty popular in the Philadelphia area, but in my four years here, I've yet to find anybody making it with bacon! It's just the right amount of sweetness balanced out with the smokiness of bacon and the comforting flavor of cinnamon, all rolled into a sticky yeast bun. And, if that wasn't enough, their stall was super cute, adorned with the bright colors of their packaging (most of which had uplifting quotes). Bacon, sticky buns, bright colors and uplifting quotes? I think the schnecken beckons you to order some!
While we're on the subject of sticky, delicious baked goods, we need to talk about Kentucky Woods Bourbon Barrel Cake. Holy mother of layered cake goodness, Batman! This may be the most perfect flavor combination ever to grace a cake pan. It starts with a moist layer of dark chocolate cake, which is topped with a sweet brown sugar and pure maple cake and then finished with chocolate, pecans and a very sexy drizzle of caramel bourbon icing. I expected this cake to be too much of one flavor--either unfortunately boozy due to the bourbon, abrasively sweet from the maple and brown sugar and caramel, or aggressively chocolate. Instead, the flavors hit my taste buds in layers--moving from the rich dark chocolate then switching gears to the sweet notes of the maple brown sugar layer and finally finishing with nuttiness and the distinct taste of bourbon. I've already requested one to be shipped for my birthday (mom, if you're reading this, it can serve as a reminder to order!)
Maybe it was the attractive man at the booth speaking about seduction and love in a French accent, but I fell in love with Bono Foods Fleurs d'Amor marshmallows. These fluffy pastel pillows are part of a new line for the French company, who specializes in combining the French specialty of seduction with food. Each little pillow has delicate, romantic flavors like violette, juniper and floral notes. Admittedly, I hesitant to let my tastebuds venture down lavender road, so trying so many florally notes had me taste-testing with trepidation. This family of flavors can be overpowering and taste almost soapy if the chef is too heavy-handed, but Bono Foods knew just when to stop. Each bite was soft and delicate, like young love or a spring romance. Even if the marshmallows hadn't been delicious, this booth would have won for creative and successful branding. The marshmallows were making their first appearance in the US, so buyers, if you're reading this and want to make your customers fall in love with marshmallows (and your company), these little clouds of French seduction are it!
If you're looking for comfort on a spoon, look no further than Phin & Phebe's ice cream. Hailing from the epicenter of American food artistry, Brooklyn NY, these ladies started their venture in 2010 with the hopes of combining a childhood favorite snack (Ritz crackers sandwiching peanut butter and fluff) into an ice cream flavor. After that successful experiment, they tested countless flavors, worked day jobs but sold ice cream on weekends and according to their website, "never slept." (gee, that sounds familiar!). I for one, am thankful for their hard work and diligence. This has all led to such flavors as Coconut Key Lime, Maple Bacon Pecan, Goat Cheese Caramel and more. I had the immense pleasure of trying Banana Whama, a smooth, custardy ice cream with banana pudding and wafer pieces. Totally nostalgic and lovely, with a genuine banana taste thanks to all-natural ingredients. Best of all? They're found up and down the East coast!
Last but certainly not least... okay, actually, pause. Let's be honest. I'm about to announce my favorite product from the ENTIRE Fancy Food Show. Chuao Chocolatier's Pop Corn Pop was so spot-on and innovative in its interpretation of chocolate covered popcorn--from the buttery taste to the popping sensation with each bite--it felt as if you were eating popcorn as it was popping in your mouth. Momentarily disorienting in the best way possible. Chef Michael Antonorsi's flavors and combinations were playful and imaginative, like the Firecracker Bar, a combination of sea salt, smoky chipotle and the same popping candy sensation that made the Pop Corn Pop so exciting to eat. As if the unusual flavors and experiential eating excitement were not enough, the company is committed to using ethically sourced cacao and all natural ingredients.
If you are able to make either the upcoming Winter Fancy Food Show or next year's summer iteration, take advantage of the opportunity and go see what the world of food has to offer!