The more time I spend at the Winter Fancy Foods Show at the Moscone Center, the more callous I become. In a convention center full of hard-working sales reps and people who've broken through their fear of failure and sunk their life savings into a passion project, I find myself triangulating between samples of cheese, looking for the line of least resistance. Because "taking it all in" exposes you to the possibility of too many unwanted sales pitches, it's easy to miss stuff.
Even though I was largely covering the same ground I did on Sunday, I found tons of wonderful stuff that didn't catch me eye the first time around, including the That's It Fruit Bar
astronaut. (The company tested its products at NASA
and managed to get some to the International Space Station.)
I'm slightly wary of my own reaction to Revive Kombucha
because not only was the booth among the handful that play music, it also had the most seductive, bass-heavy beats. But damn, the Up Beat coffee kombucha (created with Blue Bottle Coffee and housemade cacao bitters) was quite possibly the best thing I tasted at the entire show. Down the row from Revive was some raw camel milk kefir
from Desert Farms
, the only time I can safely say I had to push out of my comfort zone.
Another taste sensation was B. G. Reynolds
' line of syrups. I must confess I've noticed how impressed people are at parties when you inform them that you made the ginger-mint simple syrup in the cocktail they're drinking — as if boiling sugar and water were some dazzling work of alchemy — but that doesn't mean I'm about to concoct my own falernum or orgeat, either. Compared to the quantities you typically find in store-bought syrups, the $11.99 MSRP is respectable, too. And bonus points for being one of the rare booths to give out free booze, too (bourbon, in this case).
I love German food for its unabashed heartiness and mild antipathy towards fresh vegetables. And I love that the German Pavilion had men and women in suits talking shop over a beer before noon. But Deutschland really needs to work on its lighting, because it was full of tall white walls and harsh bulbs, possibly conveying a Teutonic emphasis on matter-of-factness over aesthetics. (Are incandescents verboten
in the E.U.?) In comparison, the Japanese Pavilion was much more colorful and welcoming, even if signs advertising the National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations
and the All Japan Association of Confectionary Manufacturers
sound like the opposite of a good time.
The Biggest Queue and Best Presentation Awards go to this pile of seared foie gras with truffles, two kinds of sauce, and parsley. It took two people, working very swiftly to feed the massing crowds, most of whom have little idea of what they're putting in their mouths. I snatched mine after waiting almost five whole minutes and before I could inquire about the sauces, I felt the unpleasant sensation of someone's hot breath upon the nape of my neck, full of impatience that I'd overstayed my welcome.
I had some crappy cheese and some good cheese and some excellent cheese. (Pretty much anything from Wales was outstanding.) If I may display my hometown bias, the most inviting cheese display belonged to none other than Cypress Grove's Humboldt Fog.
There's no such thing as a free lunch — unless you're a food writer and you don't mind getting most the day's caloric content in tiny cups or attached to little toothpicks, that is.