The best way to describe the Fancy Food Show to book people might be to call it a BEA for food. But that doesn’t do the event justice. The fair, held last week at the Javits Center in New York City, has more exhibitors than Book Expo: about 2,300, compared to BEA’s 1,500. And while BEA exhibitors sometimes give out samples, nearly every exhibitor at the Fancy Food Show gives out freebies. BEA may be a feast for the brain, but the Fancy Food Show is a straight-up feast.
I entered the show floor near the Colavita booth, where cubes of bread were available for dipping into various olive oils. I walked past it, also bypassing Twinings (tea), Patsy’s (pastas with various sauces) and Kristian Regale (nonalcoholic sparkling cider). I finally jumped in at Plocky’s Fine Snacks, tasting a Louisiana Peppa Organic Corn Tortilla Dip Stick (spicy, salty, crispy), while a woman behind the table urged me to taste their new Roasted Red Pepper Hummus chips. I realized I needed a game plan, and decided I should approach my wanderings as a meal, from appetizers to main course to dessert. So next up were pretzels and mustards (a sign read “Double Dippers Will Be Prosecuted!”) and dates from Bard Valley Date Growers. I got momentarily sidelined with two breakfast-y items: Buddy Fruits, which presents “squeezable fruit to go” (because eating a whole strawberry is such a chore); and rhubarb and ginger jam at Rosebud Farm.
Continuing my appetizer run, I stopped at Rogue Creamery for lavender cheddar cheese (pretty tasty), and then Raincoast Crisps for a fig and olive cracker. And then it was time for the main course. First, a Maxtop French bread pizza (topped with cheese, olives and… ketchup: not so good). Then, more pizza, at Conte’s (a little better, but not great). Figuring appetizers were a safer bet, I tasted corn tortillas and salsa at Delicias, in the Mexico pavilion, and then took what I thought was a barbecued potato chip from Blair’s Sauces and Snacks. I should’ve looked more closely at the faux flames shooting up out of the booth and at the company’s other products, e.g., a hot sauce called Blair’s Mega Death Sauce. But I didn’t, and within moments my mouth was painfully on fire. Coincidentally (or not) the next booth over was Cool Blue New Zealand Artesian Spring Water. I took three cups.
I was ready for dessert. A chocolate from Niederegger (Russell Stover-like), organic ginger and pomegranate hard candies from Hillside Candy (not bad), dark chocolate covered fig candy from Figamajigs (Raisinette-esque) and a Donsuemor madeleine (“the one you remember,” the company boasted—I’ll definitely remember them). I also picked up a Maple Bacon lollipop from Das Lolli, which I am saving for a rainy day.
Elsewhere on the show floor, hand sanitizer stations alternate with Poland Spring water coolers. Words like “artisanal,” “premium,” “organic” and “origin” seemed to be everywhere, and I noticed a lot of salty sweets and bacon. Cookbooks don’t get much representation (although Chronicle had a booth), which meant all the more room for aloe water, vegan baking mixes, kosher pastries and pickled vegetables.