Notes from the Fancy Food Show, Day 1

Each year when the NASFT Winter Fancy Food Show rolls into San Francisco, CHOW heads over to the massive, three-day sample-fest of more than 1,300 exhibitors of products ranging from chocolates to cheese to weird packaged soup mixes. If you can avoid getting crushed by the kind of mobs that descend on Walmart for Black Friday—like the frenzy of people rushing the Jelly Belly booth to load up on free sample packs of Snapple-flavored and Harry Potter-themed beans (I admit a fondness for the latter's extreme novelty factor), there's a lot to discover about where packaged food is heading. Or trying to.

For sheer deliciousness, it's all about the goat products this year. It's nice to see Arcata, California's Cypress Grove Chevre (of Humboldt Fog fame) roll out two new flavors of fresh goat cheese: Sgt. Pepper, which is loaded with black pepper, chile threads, and a handful of other pepper types; and PsycheDillic, flavored with dill and dill pollen. Here in the Bay Area, Happy Goat Caramel (pictured, with "chief executive goat" Michael Winnike) is making a Scotch-flavored goat's milk caramel sauce that can't be beat.

A trend that does not surprise me given the ever-growing awareness of healthy food is how many companies are making fruit—already the world's most naturally portable snack—more portable. Whether it was Buddy Fruits and GoGo squeeZ pureeing and selling fruit in squeezable packets or FruitziO/Crispy Green's freeze-dried hunks of Asian pear nicely delivered in a silver bag, fruit snacks (and not of the blue raspberry Gushers variety) appear to be turning into big business. I say if the fun factor of sucking applesauce out of a tube gets more people to eat fruit, then more power to to the squeeze pack, especially since the stuff in them that I tasted wasn't half bad.

Other predictions fueled by a wander through the rows: It sounds crazy, but I'm thinking Greek yogurt might soon get a run for its money from all the other options out there right now. Likely candidates include a creamy pink grapefruit-flavored Swiss-style yogurt (made by Emmi-Roth Käse) and killer blackberry-flavored sheep's milk yogurt from Bellwether Farms.

See also: Day 2 at the Fancy Food Show.

Image source: Roxanne Webber