Foods You Probably Don’t Need, But Want

Exotic citrus. Whole grains. Ultra-spicy chocolate. These were some of the trends at this year's Winter Fancy Food Show held last Sunday through Tuesday at San Francisco's Moscone Center. At the convention, which happens twice yearly (the summer version takes place in New York), specialty producers of foods as varied as chocolates, barbecue sauce, flavored waters, and imported cheeses, show off their wares to potential retailers and partners. There were plenty of products jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon (like Pamela's cheesecake) and exotic citrus flavors (yuzu, lime, grapefruit) had a strong showing, appearing in things like Siggi's Icelandic-style yogurt. Coconut was popular, not just in the now ubiquitous coconut water–type products, but in unusual forms like Kitchen Naturals' coconut flour.

Good-for-You Foods

truRoots

Several producers were doing instant whole grains and legumes, like truRoots par-cooked sprouted lentils. Adults were encouraged to snack "guilt free" (a phrase echoed over and over) with products like Hippie Chips baked potato chips (50 percent less fat than a regular potato chip), and Figamajigs dark chocolate, fig-filled candy. Flavored—but unsweetened—water was everywhere, some of it tasting suspiciously like that fluoride stuff they give you at the dentist to swish with. The best of the bunch I tried was Icio's cucumber lemongrass flavor.

Top "good for you" picks:

Food Should Taste Good's sweet potato chips
Field Roast's vegan "meatloaf"

Chocolate with Crunch

A hot wave in chocolate appears to be adding crunchy, light textures. Chuao chocolates had a panko bar that they described as like "an improved Kit Kat," as well as a bar with honeycomb. Dufflet crackle, a Toronto-based company that took home the gold medal for best confection at last year's show, makes an addictive product that combines a thin, almost wafer-like layer of quality chocolate with crunchy chopped nuts. It's like a Florentine, but with more chocolate.

Happy GoatGoat's Milk

Products based on goat's milk, rather than cow's, seemed to be on the rise. There was a delicious goat's milk butter, but I unfortunately neglected to note the name of the producer (email me!) Happy Goat's caramel was a really interesting new candy, with just the right amount of goatiness.

Rose

I've been hoping that rose would become the hot new flavor, but I've sure been waiting a long time. Now, I think my dreams are finally coming true. Sence Rare European Rose Nectar was being mixed with Hendrick's gin to produce a lovely cocktail. And Fentimans, the naturally-fermented soda company from the UK, has a new rose lemonade.

Other Cool Stuff

Bissingers

Bissinger's gummy pandas in apricot and green tea: I didn't care much for their "kick of antioxidants" marketing spiel, but loved the not-too-sweet candy.
Fra'Mani Salame Rosa: The famous Berkeley-based handcrafted charcuterie outfit makes some smooth, tasty cold cuts from sustainably-raised pigs.
Sub Rosa Saffron Vodka: This Portland, OR distillery was pouring at Food Fete, an afterparty for media, on Sunday night. They had a Tarragon flavored one too, but the saffron had a spicy kick that rocked.
Cyprus Grove's Midnight Moon cheese: Nutty, ivory-colored six-month aged firm cheese from this esteemed Arcata, California goat cheesemaker stood out amid a sea of excellent cheeses.
Rogue Morimoto Soba Ale: It was nice to rediscover Rogue Brewery at the Fancy Food beer pavilion. For some reason it isn't as trendy as Dogfish Head or other newer outfits. This beer, a collaboration with Mr. Iron Chef himself, is a refreshing quaff made with buckwheat.
Chicken Armagnac Pâté from Marcel et Henri: Some of the best parts of the show are the ultra-lux French pâtés, Italian cheeses, and Spanish Ibérico ham legs. This was my favorite pâté, sweet but balanced.
Herb pastes from Les Fine Herbes de Chez Nous: This unassuming family business from Quebec is riffing on the pesto-in-a-tube concept. Different herb pastes included dill and cilantro. What a great idea for mixing into soups, putting on sandwiches, etc.
No Bake Cookies: Essentially oats mixed with cocoa and peanut butter, you probably made no-bake cookies (an American classic) on camping trips, or maybe ate them at Dead shows, laced with pot butter. It was nice to rediscover how tasty they can be thanks to the No Bake Cookie Company from Bend, OR.