Fancy Food Fatigue
February 14, 2006

Amy has long been trying to convince me that as "press," I don't have to pay for anything any more. Well, after getting into last month's NASFT Fancy Food Show on a press pass and then sipping slow at the Qi liquor launch earlier this week, I think I'm finally starting to believe her. Plus, check out all the free loot up there! Press pass, baby!

Over the two days (I'll work myself up to three next year) I dragged my food-fatigued ass down the Mascone Center aisles, one eye was looking out for new products from favorite brands -- Clif Bars, the Ginger People, O Olive Oil -- and the other eye was looking for brand new stuff. Like microwavable donuts and flavored skewers.

These are the preliminary notes I tried to take on this, my first venture to the Fancy Food Show:

Day 1: So tired. All I can really remember is tea, salt, and microwave donuts. Seriously wrong but scarily good. Sensory overload. Going back tomorrow.

Day 2: Finally tried Metromint water. I see people sucking on those silver bottles all over the Ferry Building, but never really have much of a desire to try it. However, when stuff is free, I'll usually try it. It didn't taste as much like mouthwash as I thought it would, but I'm not convinced it is truly thirst-quenching. (Sorry, Fatemah -- I know you love it.)

The people in the fancier booths are unapproachable and, as such, no one approaches. They all look rather bored. Head Cheese called the FF Show "Disneyland for foodies" and it is just as overwhelming. Luckily, except for the bathrooms, the lines aren't as long. No pregnant woman could go to this thing, and I don't just mean because she'd have delivered her baby before she could take a pee. Standing at the top of the escalator, your nose is immediately slapped with a smell of...sausage? Yeah, I think that's sausage. Maybe it's cheese. Wait, it could be smoked fish. No, it's smoked fish and hot chocolate? See what I mean?

More and more kinds, shapes, and styles of tea, including instant powdered tea Crystal Light-style; Bottle upon bottle of retro-packaged cocktail mixers and cocktail glass rimmers; Thick, rich, Old World "drinking chocolate."; Wasabi in everything. Cassis and black currant is the new ginger; Piles of flavored salts Lot's wife would kill for.

Here's a quick round up of my favorite and funky things (*Amy was my foodie escort the second day, and a few of these finds were things she led me to):

Bedtime for Bongo Microwaveable Donuts
Glazed. Hot. Donuts. Did you ever want to have hot Krispy Kremes at your fingertips at any time of the day or night? Bongo makes it so. They are a new "convenient" product that will be sold frozen in 2, 6, and 30-packs. I really don't think I can have a 30-pack of microwavable donuts in my freezer. Can I?

Cook Softly and Carry a Seasoned Stick: Seasoned Skewers*
So, they are fat free, sodium free, and all natural. Sound scary? If by "scary" you mean, "my god, there's so much flavor in this hunk of shrimp, it's scary!" then, yes, they are scary. Scary like a fox! The deal is, the wooden skewers are infused with natural essential oils and herbal extracts, and all you do is shove 'em in your unmarinated, unseasoned, unadulterated, unfussedwith piece of meat, fish, or vegetable, and grill, bake, or roast it up. Now eat it. Do you taste that amazing flavor of the Citrus Rosemary/Mexican Fiesta/Honey Bourbon/Garlic Herb/Thai Coconut Lime/Indian Mango Curry variety? That's all from the piece of wood stabbed through the heart of your food.

I admit, I was a disbeliever until I tried it myself. Okay, so the citrus and rosemary flavors totally penetrated the entire shrimp, fine and diddly-dandy. I wasn't completely convinced until I saw the piles of clearly unseasoned shrimp. All that big flavor really was coming from that little twig! The sad thing is, Seasoned Skeweres are looking for distribution and aren't currently available in stores.

Petit Four Play: Divine Delights
These people are behind the gorgeous petit fours that Nessa dithered over at Lovejoy's. Check out their stuff -- they do the most beautiful, adorable things! I think I love them so much because I had a dollhouse/miniature obsession as a kid and these would fit right in. They're so cute! The catalog I picked up showcased animal petit fours (shaped like pigs, frogs, goldfish, and a "chocolate moose") and another batch frosted with with retro daisies. Love them.

All-Weather Chocolate: Backcpackers' Weatherproof Gourmet Chocolate*
I wasn't overly thrilled with this product. I mean, it's an excellent idea -- the wax seal protects the chocolate from heat and water, so you don't end up with a mess in your bag, but I didn't really like the consistency of the chocolate. It was sort of like block cheddar cheese from Albertson's. It definitely tasted like chocolate, but I couldn't get past the consistency. I think it's a very clever idea, though, and would recommend it to avid hikers.

Add Spice to Your Life: The Ginger People's Ginger Soother
I grabbed a shot of this on my way to the train station at the end of my first day at the show. I had only been there for about three hours but I was seriously flagging. The spicy-sweet beverage perked me up no end, and the next day I sought out bottles of the stuff at our corner organic store. Because I was fending off a cold, I poured the contents of one 12-oz bottle into a mug and zapped it for 3-5 minutes in the microwave. It was even better that way.

Pour Some Sugar On Me: Sonoma Syrup Co.
Amy introduced these syrups to me at a Bay Area Bites get-together, and they've become a permanent fixture in my party pantry ever since. I even invented a cocktail using the Meyer Lemon syrup on premiere night of Martha Stewart: Apprentice. Now not only are they coming out with their own vanilla extracts, they've got a bunch of new flavors: pomegranate orange, pomegranate chocolate, black currant, cinnamon, vanilla almond, and vanilla hazelnut. I love the packaging so much, I want to set up a Sonoma Syrup shelf in my kitchen dedicated to showing off the artistry on all the bottles.

P.S. Is it just me or do the "Cocktail Essences" from Stirrings look a little familiar? Well, imitation is the sincerest form of great minds thinking alike, I guess.

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