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Event Review: The 2014 Summer Fancy Food Show

We’ve all been eating salad since the 2014 Summer Fancy Food Show the other week, and as usual, the sampling of foods was impressive and delightful. Well, not everything was delightful, but most qualified! Teas, spices, condiments, and more in a rainbow of colors greeted us at the Fancy Food Show 2014

The dominant trends this year? Popcorn (not surprising) and dulce de leche (where’d that one come from?).

With three-quarters of the ETR team in attendance, we were able to cover quite a lot of foodstuff(s) in all three of the Jacob Javits Center areas: The upper floor, lower floor, and North Hall. From Argentinean grains to traditional Italian prosciutto and buffalo mozzarella, and Alaskan smoked salmon to Long Island honey, there was more than the stomach could hold. 

Popcorns were oversaturating the FFS market, though flavors like truffled pecorino, buffalo ranch, and cookies ‘n’ cream made it all okay. Most of the caramels and dulce de leches were just too sickly sweet, and had little to no depth. We also saw a lot of cookie spreads—even Dave’s Gourmet [hot sauce] company had one—and so many types of lackluster brownies. On the other hand, brownies are one of those treats that is so delicious whether homemade or from a 99-cent package, that maybe they shouldn’t even be tampered with. We never thought we'd say this, but there was way too much dulce de leche and caramel at the show. Most was too sickly sweet
But quite a few foods did impress us, either with taste or with clever brand partnering.

-Gelato Fiasco from Maine had the best frozen treat we’ve had in a while. Smooth, creamy, decadent, flavorful, unique, and at times even velvety. They sell from two stores in Maine as well as in specialty grocery stores. Delicious!

-Cascina Pizzavacca - Pisaroni Mauro e Bruno, a very small husband-and-wife company from Italy, had me sample all of their hand-packaged nectars (Nettare di Mirtillo, tropical, pera William, etc.) from their own orchard. Fresh? That’s an understatement, since the just-bottled jars had visible fruit from the orchard sticking to the bottle tops. Bold natural colors, flavors, and down-home real goodness came right through. Plus, they were as nice as could be. White peach, cherry, plum, and more…plus their own variety of lightly pickled vegetables. I couldn’t ask for more! Pasta being properly twirled and served hot, fresh, and al dente

-Swiss Colony, a company known for holiday gifts like petit fours, recently created new flavors in their efforts to attract a younger audience. Introducing ICEE- and Jelly Belly-flavored petite fours, with flavors like raspberry or blueberry lemonade. They tasted true to themselves. I barely swallowed my bite.

-Liquids in caviar form. With a lot of free time for molecular gastronomy floating around (apparently), companies seem big on putting regular liquid condiments into little-ball form—like Sapore Italiano Oils and Vinegars. Case in point: Olive oils, balsamics, vinegars, and more. The texture is not pleasant, unfortunately. What’s next—Knorr chicken stock caviar? Maui Fruit Jewels--basically candy on a stick. Yum!

-Honeys were big again this year, but one company that stood out was Cloister Honey. They packed a punch in their offerings, making for sweet and savory spoonfuls using ghost peppers, bourbon, and more, all packed in clean, simple, and classy glass bottles.

There were plenty of quinoa/almond/seed milks, waters made from fruits and nuts, and bean/seed/nut crackers and chips. The innovation was either sorely lacking, or else everyone else who thought they were being innovative had a dozen competitors who were doing the exact same thing. Thus, innovation was lacking. And cheese straws…really, who eats those things?!

The sofi Awards rushed by this year, with a lot of time spent honoring longtime NASFT members and grandmaster tastemakers, and less time on award winners (no speeches). The after-party featured fewer restaurants and more actual show products.

Mr. Ansel hosting the sofi Awards. Eh. The Eat This Review team had a great time at the show, and one of our favorite parts was actually the Taste NY pavilion and press eatery. As proud New Yorkers (that means state, not just city!), we were quite happy to see cheeses, cookies, wines, and so much more featured in the aisles. In addition, a lovely breakfast and lunch was served every day of the Fancy Food Show 2014, and it featured NYS dressings, produce, meats, and more. Reubens were grilled by chefs, and delicious varieties of salad and cheeses (burrata!) made lunch quite delicious indeed. Taste NY spread the word about this little-known press eatery, and I’m greatly looking forward to taking them up on possible press trip and event collaborations. With a Taste NY rest stop opening right in the town where I grew up (near Poughkeepsie, NY, on the Taconic State Parkway), I’m interested in learning more about amazing foods sourced right nearby. It’s all part of a $60 million dollar tourism campaign that makes me dislike Governor Cuomo a bit less.

See you next year, Fancy Food Show!