This January brought the 35th annual Winter Fancy Food Show to San Francisco. Held each year at the Moscone Center in SF, the enormous event highlights just about anything you could put in your mouth. It's like Comic-Con for foodies, the kind of place where the makers of the "world's best salt water taffy" rub shoulders with guys who try to reinvent the snack chip in their garage. Here are a few things that stuck out at this year's show.
1. SlowCow Smooth Drink
The fizzy, bubblegum-flavored drink features a comatose looking cow on its label and seems to be marketing itself as an antidote to energy drinks like Red Bull. The makers claim that it's like an acupuncture session in each can. I don't know about you, but I'm not crazy about picturing myriad sharp needles when I'm putting something into my mouth.
2. Bacon, Bacon and More Bacon
Who doesn't like bacon? Featured at the show this year were smoky treats like Sir Francis Bacon's Peanut Brittle, bacon flavored pretzels, and, get this, bacon envelopes.
That's right, J&D's Foods, maker of Bacon Salt and Baconnaise, brings you bacon flavored envelopes. Called "mmmvelopes," the things actually do taste like bacon when you lick them, and feature a fanciful pink and white exterior reminiscent of a nice marbling of fat.
3. Fartless Chili
The Fartless Factory in Idaho claims that their chili lacks most of the gaseous output of regular chili. Do they have any empirical evidence? No, but the owner casually refers to himself as "The Old Fart," and whether his chili makin's deliver on his gasless promise or not, you've got to like a business owner with a sense of humor.
4. Watermelon Wheat Beer
Brewed by 21st Amendment Brewery in San Francisco and called "Hell or High Watermelon Wheat Beer," this brew is just flat-out bizarre: fruity and yeasty and hoppy and watermelony. It may be a good gateway beer for light beer drinkers, or fruity drink lovers, but a bit of a departure for those who would rather sip on IPAs and stouts.
5. Quirky Combinations
Earth & Vine Provisions, a small jam and sauce maker from Loomis, CA, figures that if you like bananas and oranges and jalapenos and mustard and garlic, you'll like them all at the same time. And, for the most part, they're right. Their apricot-pineapple-tangerine jam is delicious, and so is their blueberry-lemon-ginger. Their chipotle-honey-lime mustard is great on pretzels, and their banana-rum-pineapple jam is killer on ice cream.Â However, I'm not sold on the spicy apple garlic jam.
6. Funni Bonz Barbeque Sauce
Classic Marketing. With over 80,000 products at the Fancy Food Show, you'll try anything to get noticed. Funni Bonz goes for the old "crazy spelling trick," which probably isn't even necessary since their ridiculously good sauces speak for themselves.
7. Hippie Chips
Hippie Chips, however, goes for the other classic: "sex sells." While they claim that the "hippie" label refers to their all-natural baked potato and hemp seed chips, it equally applies to the impossibly hourglassed ladies on their bags of chips. These girls make Barbie look as curvy as a fencepost.
8. Cheese Honey
The Savannah Bee Co. markets its honey not by variety—wildflower, orange blossom, etc.—but by what they think goes well with it. Hence, Cheese Honey, Grill Honey, and Tea Honey. Sure, they sell regular honey too, but the pairing idea is rather genius when you think about it. The one thing to look out for is a consumer expecting a big chunk of Roquefort floating in his honey pot.
9. The Jelly Belly Motorcycle
OK, this one isn't edible, but I had to include it. Jelly Belly is one of the most popular candy brands in the country. I'm sure they're comfortable putting their logo on just about anything. But I fail to see what audience they're going after with the Jelly Belly low-rider motorcycle. I just can't picture myself putting on my leathers and pulling out with the local Harley gang on my candy orange hog.
10. "The Food and Drink of Scotland"
Not exactly famous for their culinary prowess, the Scottish are trying to remake their image somewhat. A Scottish trade group had a large, sleek booth at the FFS and was telling anyone who would listen about their edible bounty. While no one is claiming that the Scottish are nipping at the gastronomic heels of the French—Gordon Ramsey be damned—a case can be made for the really fantastic ingredients that come out of Scotland: angus beef, salmon, shellfish, and, lest we forget, Scotch whiskey. Now pardon me while I go deep-fry a Snickers bar and watch Trainspotting.