From a Huffington Post reviewer who dutifully trudged every aisle at The Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, I learned that the old-fashioned granola bar is giving way to The Journey Bar, with salty-savory flavors like rosemary and hickory BBQ. Also, we can now eat our alcohol in the form of a tequila cake. Food and Drink Digital raves about coconut (think tea and jam), nutty drinks (think almond water) and pickling (think weird, raisins and such). Every trend spotter confirms that gluten free marches on.
With only a few hours–not three days–to spend at The Fancy Food Show, I headed straight for the Italian pavilion. Not in search of overarching trends, but products that are new and interesting or that I’ve missed before. Here we go.
Table olives from Puglia bobbed in tomato sauce at the Manicaretti booth. The variety is tremiti di Bitetto, from a producer called Crudo, and they are delicious. These lightly brined olives range in color from dusky grey to, uh, olive green. The gentleman stirring the olives pointed out that the variable colors indicate the absence of preservatives, adding, “We are all different, why shouldn’t olives be the same?”
Pane Carasatu from Sardegna is a translucent, crisp flatbread that also goes by the name carta di musica. Despite a one-year shelf life, it contains no preservatives. A representative of the producer, Giulio Bulloni, earnestly advised making a small meal by adding spreads and a small salad, crumbling the flatbread into yogurt, or substituting it for lasagne sheets. Me, I just wanted to nibble pane carasatu all day long.
Mr. Espresso sells oak-roasted coffee beans as well as espresso makers. I wondered whether a California chardonnay technique had spread to coffee beans. Fortunately, there were no oaky notes in my espresso. Wood is just a heat source that roasts beans more slowly than gas. I’m not sure whether my espresso tasted more artisanal, as my espresso maker (human) suggested, but it certainly was a good afternoon pick-me-up.
Crema pariani is for the Nutella lover who’s put off by the presence of palm oil in that beloved spread. This one is a purist’s dream of hazelnuts (certified IGP Piemonte), sugar, cocoa and vanilla. Hmmm–maybe crema paraiani should get together with pane carasatu?
Creminelli salumi is cured in Salt Lake City but its founder is Italian. I liked the free-range dried sausage made with some of the wild boar that’s messing up Texas landscapes. Varzi and finocchiona are larger in circumference, meant for a slicer, and are good options because neither variety is currently imported. Creminelli prosciutto is aged just 10 months, compared to imported prosciutto di Parma’s 400 days. It’s redder and not as delicate as Parma ham but probably sells at a tastier price point.
Robiola tre latte is just one of the yummy cheeses I tasted at the Fresca Italia booth. The “three milks” in the name are cow, goat and sheep, with the make-up changing throughout the year according to the availability and quality of milk from each animal. Two other choice cheeses were Blu pian rosa, a blue that is daringly produced outside the Gorgonzola district and, in the funky category, a semi-soft cheese with a beer-washed rind.
Outside Moscone Center, my trip was virtually free of Italian eating. I had a fabulous Vietnamese-on-steroids dinner at The Slanted Door and a terrific chicken enchilada at a no-frills place called The Grove. But the foods I’ll remember forever were Dungeness crabs and meaty artichokes, savored slowly with aioli on the houseboat of friends who rise every day to the sight of pelicans and seals on San Francisco Bay.