Imagine a giant cocktail party – an event so big you’d need a map to find your friends. Everywhere you look, people are nibbling things off toothpicks and licking stuff off spoons. You can’t turn around without someone waving a squeeze bottle of hummus at you.
Oh, what fun Hieronymus Bosch would have painting the Fancy Food Show, a carnival of eats that takes place twice a year. The event brings new products to the attention of retailers, but it’s also a chance for the press to put on badges and gorge.
I have so many wheels and wedges to show you and so many celebrity cheese visages to honor that I will split this post in two. First, an overview. For my next post, the complete cheese redux.
Trends & Observations
It’s certainly the Year of the Goat. Everywhere I turned, someone was waving a goat’s milk caramel. I must have sampled a dozen kinds. The best was Happy Goat caramel spiked with Scotch.
Bacon is still hot, and now you can find it in popcorn and chocolate. I think I am hitting my limit, except for a new Skillet Bacon Spread. It was terrific with cheese on a cracker.
Cherries are the new pomegranate.
The rice cake is not dead. Everywhere I looked, machines were spewing out popped grains and pressing Styrofoam-like cakes into forms. Say no to rice cakes drizzled with chocolate and topped with streusel.
Purple sweet potato ice cream exists. And fyi: it’s delicious.
Cheese and artisanal chocolate will take over the world. I sampled nib after nib and wedge after wedge. Beware: Lots of new chocolate packaging looks like Vosges knock-offs. Vosges debuted a chocolate-chip cookie mix, and the samples were bank.
Bye bye chai, hello boxed hot chocolate. No loss there.
Crackers are undergoing a renaissance. So are cheese straws.
Bamboo. Bamboo. Bamboo.
Adult sodas, with less sugar and labels that call to mind bath salts, are the new Snapple.
Behold boozy jams and savory spreads that pair well with cheese and charcuterie.
On the fringes: buffalo-based snack bars, grow-your-own-mushroom kits, and honey in handpumps.
Best Blue Cheese: Flora Nelle, Rogue River
Best New European Cheese: Lord of the Hundreds
Best New American Cheese: Reading Raclette
Best Cracker: Pan Forte Crostini from Rustic Bakery
Best cheese combination: Halloumi with Meyer Lemon Relish, Bella Cucina
Best pickle: Lavender White Asparagus, Brooklyn Brine
Best Spread: Fruit Caviar, The Fine Cheese Co.
Best Chocolate Novelty: Askinosie Chocolate Hazelnut Spread
Best Cheese Display: Cypress Grove's “Cheese Cake”