Friday, January 29, 2010

A Review of the Winter 2010 "Fancy Foods Show" in San Francisco


Earlier this month Round Rock Honey took a road trip to the Fancy Foods Show in San Francisco.  Owners Konrad and Elizabeth Bouffard (with Round Rock Honey-Dallas owner William Branstetter) flew in, while long-time employees Emily Winkler and Nathan McCormick drove the "honey-mobile", a 2008 Toyota Prius wrapped in company advertising.  For the past 50+ years the Fancy Foods Show has served as a launching pad of sorts for some of America's best known gourmet food brands - Perrier Water and Grey Poupon among them.  It is the place to be for up-and-coming food companies that seek to meet deep-pocket buyers and key members of the food media.


For Round Rock Honey, the purpose of attending this year's show was the same as for everyone else: to point out to anyone else who will listen how our product is unique compared to all the others on the market.  This year it wasn't hard to tell our story and compare ourselves to others...we were the only ones at the show who actually make all of our own honey!

Even though the Fancy Food Show is clearly about the business of food, a wonderful side benefit is that exhibitors and attendees alike are allowed, even encouraged, to sample.  With approximately 1,300 booths to see (promoting a mind-blowing variety of foods - everything from fine wine, whiskey, and chocolate to pasta and marshmallows) one must be careful to choose what to taste carefully.  Failure to do so can result in a seriously sour stomach by day's end!  


This blog entry is a recounting of the top ten foods I encountered at the show.  If you decide you want to try any of the items I'm recommending to you below, just look them up online.  Please let them know I introduced you.  I don't get anything from it, but good karma goes a long way!


For fun, I've also included a short recounting of people and places we visited outside the show. I hope you can use this info the next time you visit San Francisco! 


KONRAD'S 10 FAVORITES

VerMints
VerMints, our all-natural breath mints and pastilles made with organic and natural ingredients, provide a refreshing alternative to other “not so natural” mints. Inspired by the purity of the Green Mountain State, VerMints are tasty, uniquely shaped lozenges that come in six pure, full-bodied flavors, and colorful contemporary tins.
Aged Puerh Tea Brick - NEW!
Puerh is an ancient healing tea known for its medicinal properties and rich taste. Numi's Organic Puerh comes from 500-year-old, wild, organic tea trees grown in China's pristine Yunnan Mountains. The maturity of these trees yields a superior tasting tea compared to younger, pruned bushes. Unlike traditional teas that are oxidized for an 8 hour period, Puerh undergoes a unique 60-day fermentation process resulting in a bold, earthy flavor with hints of malt and elevated levels of antioxidants.

Plush Puffs
We’re devoted to the artisan marshmallow product. And because of this, we have had to be quite creative about the process of getting these made right. Downright innovative sometimes. But nobody cares about the process behind the scenes, because what makes our marshmallows so special is how they taste. Even after all these years of making marshmallows, we still love to eat Plush Puffs ourselves and share them with our friends and family because we think they just taste so darn good. We've tried all the other marshmallows out there - and there are some good ones. But we consistently come away feeling confident that ours are best gourmet marshmallow product available.


Bella Luna Truffle Infused Olive Oil
We take our Tan Label Sardinian EVOO and infuse it with the finest Truffles from Alba. The White Truffle and Black Truffle infused oils are packaged as a boxed set in a handmade wooden display case. Limited production yields less than 600 bottles of each annually.

Secret Stash Sea Salts
This salt comes from Seattle, and is remarkable for the intensity of the salt, and the flavors adorning it.  It is made with cumin, pineapple juice, and pacific sea salt.
These densely-coiled pasta spirals absorb remarkable amounts of sauce without compromising their structure. Casina Rossa "Don Antonio" Pannocchie are an inspiring Ritrovo Selection, adaptable by serving whole or breaking into smaller bits, ranging from elegant pasta dishes to broths and minestrone, from baked pasta to cold salads.






Sence Rose Nectar
SENCE Rare European Rose Nectar is a beverage made from Kazanlak rose petals harvested during a three-week period from the end of May and early June in central Bulgaria. The concentrate of pink rose petals, natural preservative sugar and water is pasteurized at the peak of aroma and flavor, virtually the same way it has been produced for hundreds of years.  Leonardo Da Vinci drank Kazanlak rose nectar from Bulgaria regularly – both hot, as a tea and chilled.  There are two product versions: SENCEH Traditional and SENCEH Silver (33% reduced sugar).

Eduardo's Pasta
The secret to Eduardo's success has always been his devotion and dedication to quality. Today, the family continues to produce Eduardo's pasta with the same unaltered original recipe.

Eduardo's pasta was the overwhelming favorite in the 2001 San Francisco Chronicle's Taster's Choice, and scored high enough to be inducted into the Chronicle’s Hall of Fame. Panelists commented on the exceptional texture, and many could also detect the egg flavor. It was described as tasting like fresh pasta, even though it is dried.

Brownie Pops
Browniepops™, the perfect combination of gooey brownie interior with a crisp chocolate exterior, available in 11 unique flavors. Browniepops are great for corporate events, holiday parties, and gift-giving, and are even available in personalized holiday and event designs! There has never been a better time to be a chocolate lover…

Baby Blue and Rumble Whiskys (Scottish Spelling)
Baby Blue is not only Texas’ first whisky, but so far we know the only blue corn whisky made anywhere. It pays homage to the American whisky tradition and while adding something we think is new and innovative.








PEOPLE AND PLACES WE VISITED OUTSIDE THE SHOW

Four Barrel Coffee Shop
Before the show each day I would go for a jog. Four Barrel was located at my half-way point, so I stopped in to give it a try. The coffee blew me away. It is the best coffee I've ever had, hands down. You've got to try it when you are next in San Francisco. Don't believe me? Here's another recent review:
"Just finished off my coffee and vanilla bean donut. They were both delicious and I will definitely be back. I love the industrial space at Four Barrell. Its so wide open that there's not really any bumping into people that commonly stagger around like zombies waiting for their coffee. The barista who made a cappuccino for my girlfriend also capped it with a nice milky heart.
They also have a bunch of different beans that you can pick-up for brewing at home. I saw at least 3 people stocking up this morning, which looks pretty funny when you see someone with 3-6 bags at ~$12 a bag. Regardless, its pretty clear why they might crave these beans. The coffee really is just that good." - Ed B

Muddy Waters Coffee Shop

Muddy Waters is the low-price alternative to Four Barrel.  They have an excellent breakfast menu, great for warming up after a run in the chilly morning rain.  Excellent coffee, but atmosphere wasn't so great.  The local homeless folks hang out here a lot and talk to themselves.  At least their conversations are compelling.
Here's another review:
"Muddy's was the first coffee shop I ever went to in San Francisco almost 14 years ago, and coming from points east, and in a pre-Starbuck era, I was floored by how strong the coffee was. FLOORED.
I still use Muddy's coffee as the yardstick by which to measure all others. Brewed fresh frequently, using solid-quality beans, by people who love coffee. Strong and tasty. And Muddy's is also a yardstick for coffee shops. All kinds of people hang out here, and I mean ALL kinds, including both people who talk to themselves because they're crazy and people who talk to themselves because they're wearing Bluetooth implants.
It's unpretentious, with good light and multiple tables and chairs that are just the right height for reading and writing. They have all the beverages. They have all the cafe snacks. They have the only yummy vegan cookies in existence. And their flyer wall is a pretty good way to get the Zeitgeist of SF.
Also, Joel, the angry young man with excellent taste in music who works several nights a week, has worked here longer even than that. He will make you the *BEST* mocha in SF. Hands down. People who don't drink mochas, don't get mochas, and can't make them, so they can be hit or miss in this town. But Joel's mochas (and Americanos) FTW. If he seems grumpy to you, it is because he has to handle the hassle of the madding crowds.
I'm always amused by people who go to the Mission for coffee and say, "ew, gross, it's got character." I suppose that shows my "age," in terms of believing I live in the pre-dot-com Mission instead of the Tablecloth Mission. If you don't want to be hassled by street people on 16th and Valencia, don't hang out on 16th and Valencia. They've been on that corner probably longer than Joel.
Regarding the bathroom, Muddy's has recently installed a brand-new toilet and one of those most excellent high-powered Xcelerator hand dryers, and it's generally cleaner, although as with most coffee shops, YMMV. Your attitude toward bathroom graffiti, I cannot help you with. You are in fact in the Mission.
(My personal coffeeshop checklist. Doesn't really impact the score.)
Outside seating? Yes, four seats.
Bathroom OK? YMMV
Nutmeg? Yes.
Splenda? Yes."  -Tarin T.

Delfino's Pizzeria
On our last day in San Francisco, we visited Delfino's.  I was impressed with their made-from-scratch pizza, and their hand-pulled mozzarella.  I was also impressed to see on the wall a post-card indicating that the restaurant was one of Alice Water's favorite places.If you're going to eat here at night, expect 4 hour wait times.  We went at 11am, and the line to get in was already forming.

House of Nanking
The House of Nanking serves Chinese unlike what most Americans have ever had.  For example, instead of just offering hot tea, they offer "hot flower infused tea".  The tea blooms in the hot water as it is served to you in a giant glass mug.  Try the onion bread appetizer, and be prepaered for the food to stay with you a while.  Unlike strip mall Chinese, you will be satisfied for hours after eating here.  

Harvey's Bar
Will, Nathan, Emily, and I decided to celebrate Emily's 21st birthday in the Castro, at Harvey's.  I was curious to see the neighborhood Mr. Milk made famous, and it was only a short walk from our house. When we were there, a group of completely nude people walked by on the sidewalk.  Such is San Francisco.

Wineries in Napa



The last time I visited Napa was twelve years ago.  Back then, most wineries did not charge to taste their wines.  All that has now changed, but because it was Emily’s 21st birthday, we got away with several free bottles of wine, and even a few free tastings! Of all the wineries we visited - Opus One, Gallo, Cakebread, Sequoia Grove - the one I liked the best was Grgich.  Violetta Grgich, the current VP of Operations was an acquaintance of mine in graduate school, and her wines today are as good as they were then. 






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