There's almost nothing new under the sun -- or the bright fluorescent bulbs of the Winter Fancy Food Show. There are, however, seemingly infinite ways to reformulate, repackage and rebrand the same food that already exists.
The biannual food trade show set up camp in San Francisco earlier this week with over a thousand vendors eager to display their "fancy" wares. How fancy was it? Not scallops and lobster foam fancy. More like bacon-infused chipotle sauce and high-end chocolate fancy, though we did visit one caviar vendor. A trip through the Fancy Food Show is like wandering around inside the world's biggest gift basket. One could easily spend an entire afternoon grazing upon nothing but flavored popcorns or miniature biscotti or cheese. Lots and lots of cheese. [Photo gallery after the jump.]
Some of the food is good (a surprisingly tasty vegan pudding made from quinoa and coconut). Some of it is bad (red velvet-flavored cocktail mix). Some of it is baffling (flavor-infused cocktail foams). Most of it you've already seen before. Is anyone producing a game-changing chutney or a revolutionary marinara? How many flavored salts does the average home need? Are we the only one who thinks "Rim Dippers" is kind of a filthy name for an innocent product?
In addition to the individual vendor booths, the Fancy Food Show features country pavilions. Chile would really, really, really like you to taste its olive oil. So would Spain. China and India urge you to drink their teas. Come to France for the cheese; Canada, for the maple syrup.
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There's also a "What's New, What's Hot!" showcase devoted to products that don't yet have widespread distribution. Apparently, very salty seasoned fries are "new" and colorful rice paper (emphasis on paper, since that's how it tastes) is "hot."
Most surprising wasn't what we saw, it was what we didn't. After years of bacon-addled everything, it was a treat to not see row upon row of dubious bacon products. Sure, there were a handful of gratuitous bacon items but nothing so absurd it made us want to turn vegan.
Elina Shatkin is a staff writer at LA Weekly. Follow her at @elinashatkin or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.