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Monday, January 27, 2014

Top Trends from the Winter 2014 Fancy Food Show

One of the reasons I attend the Fancy Food Show is to see what’s trending. Some flavors and categories just seem to be everywhere. This year was no exception. The top trends I spotted were vinegar-based drinks, coconut in everything, popped corn and peanut butters

One of the most exciting trends I saw this year was vinegar-based drinks. Years ago we saw more sophisticated “dry” sodas being introduced, and I think this is a continuation of that, as they are less sweet but generally still fruity and fizzy.  The last couple of years making your own shrubs has been covered in publications like Imbibe: Homemade Drinking VinegarsSerious Eats: How to Make Shrub Syrups and The Kitchn: The Tale of the ShrubHere are the ones I saw at the show: 
Silk Road Soda is based near Sacramento. They make three varieties based on a Middle Eastern recipe, cucumber and mint, pomegranate mint and original mint, which also has pear. They are each refreshing and light. 

Pok Pok restaurant in Portland has been serving drinking vinegar since 2005. Their line of drinking vinegars Som drinking vinegars was a big hit with many different flavors including Thai basil, ginger and tamarind. 

The Japanese pavilion had a booth serving Mikkabi Tangerine Vinegar drink. It was mildly sour but had a very true flavor of tangerine. 
Napa Valley Vinegar Co is introducing fruit and wine flavors like raspberry or chardonnay peach that can be used for a variety of purposes, including alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.  

Meanwhile Sonoma Spirits Cocktail & Shrub mixer was a new product that came in cocktail flavors like pomegranate cosmo and peach bellini. These came from Sonoma Harvest Foods

Kombucha Wonder Drink is not vinegar based, but it is raw fermented tea so I’d put it in the broader "fermented drink" category too. 

Last year there was lots of coconut water at the show, this year coconut was in EVERYTHING from tea to ketchup to chocolate. I counted 13 different products with coconut, but I’m sure there were tons more. 
There were at least 5 different companies selling coconut chips, Dang, Creative Snacks Co. CocoFreshGo Raw and Blue Monkey. Some had flavored chips like lime, salt and vinegar or chocolate covered. 
Some favorite coconut products I tried included Thai Coconut Pumpkin ketchup from Skillet which is rich, sweet and spicy, from Bali, Big Tree Farms Coconut nectar which like coconut sugar is made from coconut blossoms (I much prefer it to agave), Indonesian style Hey Boo coconut jams, and coconut teas from Harney & Sons and Tea Forte. There was also a lot of coconut flavored popcorn, speaking of which...

Popcorn is back! Not that it ever went away, but there just seemed to be more of it than ever. Plus there were popped treats made from corn that were not actually popped corn—like popped kernels and snacks from puffed corn meal. I counted 14 popped corn booths this year. Wild flavors included sriracha, dill pickle, lots of Indian spices and artisanal cheeses like farmhouse cheddar and blue
Some of my favorite popcorn for their seasonings were Pop! Rogue Blue Cheese popcorn, Pop Art  popcorn in Rosemary Truffle (and White Cheddar JalapeƱo) 479° Farmer's Market Herbs and Cobra Corn Bombay Seasoning which was bold and spicy as well as Boomchicka pop which make a version off Chicago mix, caramel and cheddar
For texture I was crazy about the very crunchy Pop’d Kerns and Half Pops in Aged White Cheddar as well as the unbelievably fluffy baked Cosmos Creations popped corn which miraculously has no kernels or hulls. 
Also notable was Quinn popcorn, which make microwaveable popcorn with no PFOA’s, diacetyl or hydrogenated oil. Like some of the packaged popcorn, Quinn is GMO-free.
Another trending product seemed to be peanut butter and similar seed and nut butters. Maybe I was just noticing them more this year? Different peanut butters are made with different types of peanuts and the flavor and texture can vary greatly. I’m not a fan of some of the very flavored and sticky peanut butters with added oil and sugar like PB Crave which I tried earlier this year. Stand out products for me were Sweet Ella’s natural (not the organic) peanut butter, Pacific Beach peanut butter (made from Valencia peanuts), and Super Butter, hand's down the best sunflower and sesame based spread that had great texture and toasty flavor. 
Another trend I didn’t really focus on was artisanal jerky. I tried and liked Ruby Bay Orange ginger king salmon jerky and Vermont Smoke & Cure real sticks, but there were many more I didn’t get a chance to try. 

The last big trend I saw was dessert tea. I’m going to talk more about that in my next post, all about chocolate….