Friday, January 24, 2014

2014 Winter Fancy Food Show





    France Pavillon



Italy Pavillon



Jose Andres

Locatelli Cheese

Mama Sita's


                         Mexico  Pavillon

Pearl River Chef

Principe Foods

                                                              The Republic of Tea

    Toby with Duff Goldman of Charm City Cakes

                                                   Wagyu Beef from Japan

Hello friends, and Happy New Year!

You are probably wondering why I haven’t written in over a month.  No, I didn’t fall off the earth.  I have been busy.  Busy doing research.  In my last blog I told you about the debut of Hummingbird Hill Artisanal Jams.  Since everyone’s response was very positive, we (Ray, Toby and I) have been looking into the possibility of turning this into a serious business.  As with any endeavor, a lot of research, testing and refining is necessary.  My sister-in-law Jeanne suggested that we attend the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, CA.  And so we did.

I registered the three of us under our company name: Hummingbird Hill Kitchen, last month.  The cost was reasonable at $45 per person.  Registration and confirmation were both online and was quite easy.  We were receiving emails from the organizers and exhibitors prior to the event.  Jeanne and the website both advised us to wear comfortable shoes as there will be over 320,000 square feet of space to cover.  We dressed business casual as this was a convention after all, and not a county fair.

We were giddy with anticipation on the morning of Sunday, January 19 as we walked towards Moscone Center in San Francisco, CA.  People wearing Show badges were walking to and from the Center.  As we entered the lobby area, there was a sea of people checking in to get their badges.  The air was palpable with excitement!  We presented our credentials and were given our “Manufacturer/Producer” badges.  We were official conventioneers.  We descended to the exhibit area where security scanned our badges.  As we walked through the doors we were awed and mesmerized!  There were aisles and aisles of exhibitors, and booth after booth of all kinds of specialty food.  There were about 1300 exhibitors showcasing the latest and best in specialty foods and beverages representing 35 states and countries.  Over two aisles were dedicated to cheese alone!   How I wished the convention were at least a week long.  How else would one be able to sample the 80,000 products on offer?  Yes, you read right – eighty thousand!

Our game plan for the first day was to just look at everything and scope out exhibitors we would want to speak with.  Well you can’t just “look” and walk by all that yummy food.  Exhibitors were literally calling our name to try their products.  I never thought I’d say no to cheese and salumi but after about a hundred bites, I sadly declined offers but promised I’d come back.  The variety of these specialty foods was staggering!  There were new exhibitors who proudly showed their single product, and there were large established companies who beckoned you with over twenty products.  Very interesting to see were the pavilions from Italy, Spain, Philippines, Argentina, Turkey,  Japan, Greece, Ecuador, UK and Peru.  There were over twenty product categories such as baby food, baked goods, beverages, condiments, confectionary, dairy & eggs, food services, frozen, grain/cereal/pasta, sauces/seasonings, oils, seafood, snacks, soups, spreads & syrups, vegetables/fruits, vinegars, etc.  Needless to say, our game plan to see everything that first day didn’t work out.  There were simply too many things to see…and sample!  Unlike your typical Las Vegas buffet where you stuff yourself within an hour, this was an eating marathon that stretched from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM.  Some samples were dainty little morsels of cheese chiseled from a 2 foot wheel of Italian parmesan or pecorino romano, others were sauces or salsas on spoons or chips, others were miniature tarts/quiches/ pastries, and others were full sized bottles of beverages or ice cream bars.  The most opulent sample someone handed me was a small plate of San Daniele prosciutto (14 months and 16 months), mortadella, bresaola and speck which I walked around with savoring the different flavors.  Speaking of prosciutto, I’ve never been surrounded by so many artisanal hams both from Parma and San Daniele.   The meat had an even red color and was rich in flavor without too much salt, while the fat was creamy and luscious!  A fellow attendee commented that I’d better eat the samples or the plate might get snatched from my hand. 

The second day was more of the same: looking and sampling.  We visited with members of the Philippine delegation and I remarked how pleased I was with their presence.  We were proud of some of their new innovative products and are considering how to partner with them.  We visited suppliers of jars, boxes and labels.  On the third day we spoke to two co-packers and learned a little bit of how we would relate to them.

We went to San Francisco with many questions about the jam business.  We came back with more questions about other avenues we would like to explore.  The show filled our tummies with exceptionally made food, and planted seeds of new ideas in our brains.  We have a lot to digest.