fancy the food

When I was a kid growing up in LA, I loved going to Fisherman’s Village in Marina Del Rey, not because of the hot dog I could get on a stick, or even the egg they’d put in my Orange Julius, but because I could get little tidbits of meat.  And cheese.  For free! At  Hickory Farms!  The place was heaven to this summer sausage and processed cheese-loving kid.  My favorite was the Sportsman Stick, a meat stick similar to a Slim Jim.  I wasn’t knowledgeable enough to know what kinds of cheeses were given to me by the nice lady behind the refrigerated counter, but I thought the combination of meat and cheese was glorious.  Now, gone are the retail outlets in shopping malls across the nation but my excitement for meat and cheese morsels (LOTS of meat and cheese morsels)  is still satisfied once a year at the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade’s Winter Fancy Food Show, held at the Moscone Center.

Here are some highlights and lowlights of the show:

The Hits:

  • Rogue Creamery‘s Flora Nelle.  Named after the Rogue owners’ grandmothers (Florence and Nelle), this cheese was just introduced last month and is their newest addition.  Similar to their Caveman Blue, but I thought it was creamier.
  • Rochdale Farm’s hand-rolled butter.  The creamiest butter I have ever tasted.  Mary Bess Michaletz, the “dairy queen” of Rochdale, told me she made an amazing pie crust with a combo of this butter and her self-rendered (no doubt) pork fat.  I can only imagine that to be the best damn pie crust.  Ever.
  • Yancey’s Fancy Champagne Cheddar.  Last year, Yancey’s Fancy Maple Cheddar was one of my favorites.  This year, it’s their Champagne Cheddar.  You could taste the bubbles as soon as it hits your tongue.
  • Hot Lips Soda.  Originally a pizzeria, Hot Lips in Portland, Oregon has branched out to make these carbonated fruit juices.  I tried the boysenberry and the apple.  A soda never tasted so good for you.
  • Fabrique Délices’ Black Truffle Macaron.  I think I’ve found the makers of my beloved truffle macarons at Far West Fungi.
  • Justin Esch, the “J” of J & D Foods of Bacon Salt fame.  He’s been at the shows for the past three years and every time, he’s a true food marketeer.  Friendly and engaging, he told me that Denny’s Restaurants just bought their bacon hickory salt for every table.  Score!  And, he gave me a tube o’ bacon lip balm.  Score!

  • Meeting Paul Prudhomme.  He was such a charming gentleman.  When I asked if I could take his picture, he said yes as long as I was in the photo too.  After I told him that K-Paul was in my bucket list of restaurants to go to, he said, “What are you waiting for?”  I need to get me to New Orleans.  Stat.
  • Melinda’s Naga Jolokia Ghost Pepper Sauce.  I had to work up to this sauce.  First by sampling all the chili pepper-infused cheeses then moving on to the habanero hot sauces.  When the rep at Melinda’s saw that I could handle their Ass in the Tub hot sauce, he brought out the big guns – this ghost chili sauce.  It burned, boy did it burn, but it was also the tastiest hot sauce I tried today.
  • Shanley Farms Finger Limes. Up until today, the finger lime had been a mythical fruit to me.  It was just as beautiful and delicious as I had imagined it to be.
  • Multiple Organics.  Best name of a company of what I could only imagine their nickname could be.
  • Mona Lisa and Starry Night by Jelly Belly artist, Kristen Cummings.




The Misses:

  • Cypress Grove:  Not sure if this is a *true* miss, but I was disappointed that they didn’t have anything new this year.
  • Royal Blue Tea.  Dressing it up in a wine bottle and pairing it with meats did not elevate their teas to fine dining establishment status for me.
  • Marble Pop.  A sugary novelty knock-off of the Japanese “Ramune” soda.
  • Takumi White Shoyu. I expected a cleaner taste, but it was no different then regular shoyu.  Maybe even a little saltier.
  • Jelly Belly‘s Peas and Carrots.  I was deeply saddened when I found out the peas were really green apple flavored and the carrots were orange sherbet flavored.  Go figure my disappointment.
  • Man Bait Bacon Lollipop.  While I appreciate the no corn syrup but real bacon and maple syrup, I just didn’t get any bacon or smokiness in the taste.

So that’s all the news from the Food Show so far.  May go back tomorrow if I’m hungry for more.  Oh, and Hickory Farms was there.  Summer sausage and all.


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