Attending the Winter Fancy Food Show at San Francisco's Moscone Center offers a good peek into up and coming new specialty food and beverages. Department Store, supermarket, and specialty food store reps receive the most attention from exhibitors at the Fancy Food Show. These reps typically place orders of multiple product lines, which equals major sales for an exhibitor.
Other attendees such as cooking school students will likely get the cold shoulder, as I did my first year. It matters little if one is looking to learn more about the specialty food world, to network, or even sample from the endless array of hot sauces, cheese, crackers, chocolate, sauces, coffee, tea, fizzy waters, international and ethnic food, charcuterie, or wine and booze. I quickly learned that a seasoned attendee won't gobble each and every sample he or she sees, but instead limit sample intake to something truly delicious, remarkable, and different. Even so, exhibitors that offer espresso, gelato, and chocolate remain favorites for attendees of all stripes.
My second year (and several years following) at the Fancy Food Show was spent working for one of the exhibitors. I was supposed to prepare and pass out samples, swipe attendee badges (for those potential sales), and generally make nice with the swarms of attendees. Food knowledge and more importantly patience was critical for this work. On opening day, some attendees seem to have been raised in a cave, and find it perfectly okay to grab and touch pate, cheese, smoked duck breast, or unfilled pastry shells with their hands, rather than picking up the sample plates or cups that we set out.
That first year yielded a suitcase packed full of ham, salami, cheeses, pate, jellies, candy, chocolate, Nueske's beef sticks, truffle oil, olive oil, wasabi nuts, duck breast, and more. I couldn't even lift the suitcase out of the taxi when I arrived home, and tipped the cabbie with ample cash and a jar of jelly. Oscar and I parked the suitcase at the bottom of the apartment stairs and took turns guarding the bounty and running up and down the stairs, arms full of food goodies. I was overjoyed and announced it was "better than any day, ever!!" as I re-arranged the fridge to accommodate everything.
Further sharing the bounty with friends seemed like the right thing to do. However, having people over the night the show ended left me in a panicked, hopped up state. Any worries about further tidying up our place were lost in the frenzy of getting food set up for guests arriving in little over an hour. That first year, I ordered departing guests to take home at least one doggie bag of food, to help us out. One reporter known to be a sarcastic guy asked, "What will I do with all this ham on BART?" to which I responded, "Make a frittata. If that's too hard, how 'bout soup? Or sandwiches? If you don't want it, give it to someone who does!" By taking some of the fancy food goodies home, he was doing us a favor. Oscar and I shouldn't attempt to eat all that fancy food alone. Even if it would be tasty, filling, fatty, and wonderful.
NASFT Winter Fancy Food Show, January 22-24, 2006. Moscone Center, San Francisco. Register online at: www.fancyfoodshows.com