This weekend, the annual NASFT Fancy Food Show occupies the Moscone Convention Center -- practically all of it -- bringing thousands of chocolatiers, cracker manufacturers, and C-list food celebs together with potential customers. The show is only open to trade, but it's not hard to garner/manufacture an official affiliation with a restaurant or store. For $45 (that's the pre-registration price) you gain access to a bewildering, chaotic world of free samples and overwhelmed gourmet-store owners visiting from Lompoc or Las Vegas.
Having attended the Fancy Food show even or eight times, I have come up with a list of rules for making the most of your visit. Remember: It's never much fun when you go alone, even if you're there for professional reasons.
2. Scoring samples at a crowded table is a little like eviscerating a chicken. Clamp down on your distaste, shove your arm into the first gap you see, and yank it back out quickly.
3. Hit the cheese table early. It doesn't take long for the crowd there to get big -- and a little mean.
4. Memorize where the espresso stands are, and hit them 30 minutes after walking down the candy aisles. Repeat as often as necessary.
5. Take camera photos of products you like, because your note-taking facilities will drop off sharply after the first hour, and you will be too overwhelmed to remember most of what you see.
6. Be nice to the chocolate people. The Fancy Food Show is especially hard on them.
7. Avoid the temptation to try all the bizarre stuff. You have limited belly space here. Unless, of course, that's what you're there for.
8. Avoid the Italian and Spanish olive oil guys, recognizable by their immaculate suits and their aura of desperation.
9. The later in the afternoon, the bigger the pours at the wine stands.
10. If you really want to get your ticket's worth, go back late in the afternoon on Monday, when the reps are foisting fistfuls of samples onto anyone who passes by. Bring a backpack.