2005 Winter Fancy Food Show
Bottled waters flood food show
- Karola Saekel
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
The cavernous underground halls of Moscone Center were turned into a giant watering hole these past few days as the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT) trotted out what's new and cool, along with many cherished oldies.
If the innovations that highlighted the 30th annual Winter Fancy Food Show, which concluded its three-day run yesterday, find favor with the thousands of buyers that attend these trade shows, consumers will find them on store shelves in the months to come.
First and foremost, that means a deluge of bottled beverages, many with zero or near-zero calories but all manner of promised benefits.
In plain words, water is going upscale like never before.
Beverages. There is Cool Blue from New Zealand springs, presumably as pure as H2O can get; there are mineral-rich waters from the Americas and from Europe, including gently sparkling Sanfaustino (pictured right) from Umbria, presented in wine-bottle-handsome green glass. Promotional material shows it with a rakish skeleton, because "make no bones about it," it is said to contain more natural calcium than other bottled waters -- one glass supplies 10 percent of an adult's daily requirement.
Along with the actual waters, there are purportedly healthful tea drinks of all stripes, many Fair-Trade certified. Delicate white tea is the starred new kid on the block. One has to wonder where all this white tea is suddenly coming from, since these minimally processed tea buds are generally described as rare. But here it is, in the Bay Area's own Republic of Tea unsweetened white iced tea in flavors from orange blossom to vanilla coconut and honeydew melon, all sans calories but said to be loaded with antioxidants. Similar claims attach to Revolution (pictured right), presented in opaque white plastic bottles that depict the added fruit flavors: raspberry, blackberry, tangerine and Key lime. These mild-mannered beverages may have a hard time beating out traditional American carbonated drinks, but, reportedly, sales are growing by leaps and bounds.
More good news for the calorie-conscious: The popular French Lorina sparkling lemonades have been introduced in a Splenda-sweetened version.
Flavor du jour. Mango madness was exhibited in everything from gelato to salsas. There were exceptionally flavored sliced fruit, canned pulp and juices made by Vijay (pictured right) of India from the luscious Alphonso mango. Bronco Bob's masculine grilling sauce gets a softer edge in a roasted mango chipotle sauce that offers a nice interplay of heat and sweet. Bentley's tea has been on the mango bandwagon (another white tea sighting), and mango has become a staple in salsas from mild to super-heated.
Oil glut. Crude oil may be a volatile commodity, but oils for cooking are flooding the market. Northern California's own McEvoy olive oil and Republic of Tea's tea oil vied with dozens upon dozens of oils from Italy, many offered in the United States for the first time. Olivado (pictured right) avocado oil from New Zealand claims a higher smoke point than almost any other cooking oil. It comes in lemon, basil and chile/bell pepper versions and is said to hold its added flavor well, even with cooking.
Sweet news. Lovers of the cacao bean could find much to swoon over at the Fancy Food Show. Along with some new offerings by local stalwarts Guittard and Scharffen Berger, there were confections from around the globe. Among our favorites: Schokinag (pictured right), a German chocolate maker whose candy bars are available at Berkeley Bowl, introduced European drinking chocolate in four flavors, plus a sugar-free version. The mix contains micro chips of high- grade chocolates and can be fixed, with milk, in the microwave. Dulce de Leche flavor is for those who like their cocoa sweet, but our favorite is the deep, dark and chocolaty Triple Chocolate.
Scharffen Berger chocolate -- plain and paired with Sonoma Cabernet -- is also high on the flavor list of brand-new goat's milk ice cream from Laloo's (pictured right) of Petaluma, which has a smooth mouthfeel and a tangy flavor.
Literally pig heaven for chocoholics: Hagensborg of British Columbia's Truffle Pig peanut butter bars (pictured above).
Lip-smacking tidbits. Mission fig syrup from Sonoma county's The Girl and the Fig -- douse pancakes with it, mix it with sparkling wine or try a fig martini. The oh-so-French foie gras and such from Hayward's Fabrique Delices includes lovely organic pates for people who don't eat pork -- the salmon and spinach version is a winner. LuLu Gourmet Products -- from San Francisco's Restaurant LuLu -- is loquacious about loquats, with a zippy white balsamic vinegar, a grilling glaze that wakes up a timid chicken breast and a loquat mint jam with currants that happily spreads from hors d'oeuvres to main courses and desserts. Walkers of Scottish shortbread fame, has added wee mincemeat tarts fortified with Glenfiddich whisky.