Fancy That - Fancy Food Show in San Francisco

January 18 to 20, 2009 - I thought I was in heaven. I attended the Winter Fancy Food Show in Moscone Center in San Francisco. Attending the Fancy Food Show was one of the most amazing and memorable experiences of my life! I love food and I love sampling food from around the globe. I ate my way through, Japan, Spain, France, Germany, Mexico, and Australia till I absolutely could not fit another morsel in my mouth.

Each January, specialty food retailers, gift store buyers, food writers pilgrimage to San Francisco in search of the newest products with which to tempt consumers. The Winter Fancy Food Show is the “smaller” of the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, NASFT’s* two main food shows: “only” 80,000 products and 50 long rows at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.

The Fancy Food Show is the testing lab for the mainstream supermarkets and warehouse clubs. The products that are exhibited here, if they pass the test of the discriminating food buyers can wind up setting the trends; but all too often it can take two even three years from the time we see and taste a product at this show until it’s on every supermarket shelf in every city.

The National Association for the Specialty Food Trade ( is the professional association for specialty food producers. Its 2,390 members produce nearly 180,000 specialty food products.

The “miles of aisles” were lined mostly with entrepreneurs who have risked everything to bring their recipes and great ideas to market, with the hope that gourmet food buyers from across the globe will stop, taste and choose their products to adorn the shelves of their stores. It was a pleasure to talk with the vendors and find out the background on their food products and their stories behind creating the recipes. Some were retired old folks who decided to venture into marketing a family favorite recipe, others were high Tech engineers, who were laid off from work and decided to switch careers.

Over the span of three days, I may have eaten at least 50 pounds of Biscotti, Chocolate, cheese, chips, salsa, cookies, crackers, pasta sauces, gourmet mustards, salts from different part of the world, popcorn, Olive oil, and honey. Luckily there was an assortment of teas, coffees, and healthy drinks, probiotic drinks to interlace the sampling spree.

I wish I could have stretched my stomach capacity to sample all the foods displayed, but from thousands of samples that I tasted, here are some that stuck in my memory. I will be on the look out for these ‘Fancy foods’ on my grocery shelves.

Nonii’s Biscotti are as good as baking them in your own kitchen:

Original OJC Hawaiian chocolates. The flower shaped chocolates are a delight for your eyes as well as taste buds.

Carazonas Chips make a hefty health claims to lower your cholesterol, but the irony is that it tastes delicious too. The combination of healthy and tasty is rare.

Teatulia came up with Neem nectar Tea, which makes the healthy but bitter ‘Neem’ palatable.

San Angel’s Mole sauce, for meat or beans, which had the unique blend of spices, chocolate and bananas, was simply divine:

Hot dog and Burger sauce had a nice zing and traveled all the way from Three threes company in Australia. I am sure they will rename it as ketchup instead of sauce:

Artisian salt, you need to taste it to understand what good salt is. A good salt makes a big difference in the final taste with the added bonus that a little goes a long way.

Ooba Hibiscus drink, normally I would pass on even trying anything with hibiscus but I was thirsty and somewhat curious. Hibiscus is really high in tannins and antioxidants, but I don’t like the way it tastes. The folks at Ooba have found a way of making a hibiscus extract - using the whole flower that actually tastes good.

I recommend to all those who love to eat and sample new foods, to mark your calendar for The next Fancy Food show in San Francisco from 17 to 20 Jan 2010. For more information, please visit

Here are my suggestions before you embark on this tasty adventure

Do remember to skip breakfast before you head for the event, or maybe just grab a banana, as that will be the only normal food you will eat in the entire day

Do wear super comfortable shoes, you will be walking nonstop from the moment the show opens until the moment it closes,

Do not waste your valuable stomach space with products that you are familiar with.

Do aim for quality not quantity, you do not have to accept all the crackers, cookies that are offered on fancy trays with smiling faces

Do not take children under 18, as they are not allowed at the event

Some of the products will be odd, others unfortunate, but many that will be just plain good.