Treats and Trends at Last Week's Fancy Food Show in San Francisco

Imagine a lavish spread of drinks, pates, cheeses, chocolate and confections sprawling over an area the size of three football fields, and you will get an approximation of what it's like to be at the 35th Winter Fancy Food Show, held last week in San Francisco's Moscone Center.

Billed as the largest marketplace for specialty food and beverages on the West Coast, this industry trade show is not only an opportunity for checking out new trends in the market -- it's a golden ticket for unlimited noshing. 

With more than 1,300 exhibitors pushing free samples, Fancy Food is Disneyland for foodies.

Among the thousands of exhibitors from over 30 countries, it was good to see Arizona admirably represented by Fairy Tale Brownies, Arizona Gunslinger Hot Sauce, Green Valley Pecan Company, and others.

With 80,000 products on display, it was easy to get overwhelmed, but we spotted several tasty trends that may show up on our local markets' shelves this year.

Anything Bacon
Is the bacony culinary theme still hot? A lot of exhibitors are betting on it.

For sandwiches and dips, you can get bacon-flavored spread that's vegetarian and kosher (Baconnaise). For snacking, there is bacon in popcorn (BaconPOP). For your sweet tooth there are bacon ice cream and bacon caramel toffee, both by Vosges, which also makes bacon chocolate (Mo's Bacon Bar).

For best straight-up bacon, our pick is Nueske's Applewood Smoked Bacon. The Wisconsin-based family operated company employs a 24-hour smoking process to imbue its gourmet bacon with a lingering sweet-smoky finish.

Farm to Supermarket Shelves
Building up from previous years' all natural/organic trend, the farm-to-table food trend is trickling down from chef-driven restaurants down to mass grocery items. A standout snack item is Tyrells' premium 'seed-to-chip' potato chips. The company grows their own heirloom varieties of potato and hand cooks 15 flavors of potato chips.

Truffle Field Forever
In this belt-tightening economy, the distinctly luxurious taste of truffle pulled in hordes of tasters.

Although the Italian Pavilion was awash with deliciously neat rows of truffle pate, truffle salt, truffle olive oil, and even brined whole truffles, it was a California-French artisan oil mill, La Tourangelle, that knocked a homerun on pure intensity of truffle flavor with its Infused Black Truffle Oil. For a delightful take on truffle appetizers, California-based Fabrique Delices' savory truffle cream macarons drew wary palates to return for second and even third samplings.

Exotic Citrus
This may be the year where classic citrus like orange and lemon give way to products that incorporate the exotic flavors of Italian Blood Orange and Japanese Yuzu.

Texas-based Aliseo Foods is asking customers for room at the breakfast table for its fresh-squeezed blood orange juice, with a distinct sweet flavor and hints of raspberry notes. Blood orange also made its appearance a wide range of scrumptious condiments, from marmalade (Sarabeth's) to confit (Brickstone Fine Foods).

Yuzu, an obscure and expensive Japanese citrus that has been part of the arsenal for high-end restaurants, seems poised to go mainstream. The fruit has a tart freshness that is a complex blend of grapefruit, lemon and lime and an evocative citrus fragrance. Most products shown were imported.

Particularly memorable were Yuzu Tea (Jayone Citron Tea), Yuzu Marmalade (Sakurauchi Sa) and Yuzu Koshu chili paste (Yakami Orchard). 

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Jan Wichayanuparp