I’ve just come from the Fancy Food Show in New York, or the closest an adult can come to being locked overnight in a candy store. Next time I’ll know to bring my own toothpick, so I can move more quickly from booth to booth, spearing whatever sample is being featured. The choices fill a huge swath of the city’s main convention hall, the Jacob Javits Center.
Cheese was by far the most common product featured. But I tried everything from a Pisco Sour to velvet cake to a juice-infused gummy candy, wholewheat pancakes, all kinds of cured meats, and, perhaps best of all, real licorice.
The trends that were evident:
--Healthful snacks were definitely in abundance. What made them healthful varied widely. There was a ginger snap, touted as a hangover aid because it had triple the usual amount of ginger; any number of teas ascribed with healthful qualities or ingredients, like a mangosteen additive; confections loaded with nuts; plain old nuts; dairy-based drinks, like kefirs, marketed as snack options; and new types of yogurts, like the more-pudding-like Greek variety. Other examples were familiar products, like vegetable chips, packaged in what were hailed as “smart portions.”
--A number of cheese purveyors tried to put some fruit into their products. I tried a cranberry-studded mild cheese, and I could’ve had any number of selections that were recommended to be served with fruit jams, as they are in Italy. I also saw cheeses that were topped with fruit compotes or stewed fruits, sort of like cheesecakes.
--Aggressively showcased were teas, teas, and more teas. Sold loose-leafed, in tea bags, in cans, in bottles, in concentrates.
--There were probably a half-dozen small-batch soft drink specialists, featuring drinks in traditional (cola, orange) and unusual (espresso, pomegranite, carbonated lemonade) flavors.
--Consistent with the recent surge in foodservice licensing, several restaurants were on hand to promote products they hope to sell through supermarkets or other eateries. Included were Peanut, Butter & Jelly, the New York restaurant that features nothing but variations on the PBJ, touting its peanut butter; Patsy’s, the New York landmark that can boast of being Frank Sinatra’s favorite restaurant, promoting its pastas and sauces; Rao’s, doing the same; and Sarabeth’s, the bakery institution, looking to sell more baked goods through alternative channels.
--At least two booths featured speck, from regions a long plane ride from Italy. One purveyor cured the pork-leg meat in Iowa. The other hailed from Asia.
Almost as telling was the lack of attention to products that were in the spotlight just a year or two ago: Coffees, unusual breads, craft beers, and alternative proteins, like ostrich or beefalo. There was some of each, but not as much as a sharp-eyed shopper might encounter at the National Restaurant Association show.
Okay, time to work off everything I ate during my three hours on the show floor. A 12-mile run should do it. Maybe.