The massive annual Winter Fancy Food Show kicked off today in San Francisco, and I spent the whole day walking the aisles of two exhibition halls at the Moscone Center perusing one fancy product after another, nibbling on cheese, all-sorts-of-flavored crackers and cookies, and coconut cream-based ice cream from across the country along the way.

The trade show is like my Super Bowl. It’s so huge I can’t do it every year (which is why I skipped last year and only decided to come back this year). Nearly 1,400 exhibitors convene to show off more than 80,000 products over three days. The stakes are quite high for many of the exhibitors, who hope to find a distributor or buyer who will get their products into consumers’ mouths.

I say that I took a bite out of the Winter Fancy Food Show, but really I just probably took a very small bite, almost a taste, because I’m sure there are so many interesting things I missed. While some of the same vendors were promoting the same things I saw two years ago, there were several new items. The obvious trend was definitely a boom in gluten-free products from snacks to ready-made-meals.

But despite the overwhelming feeling you get when walking around the countless booths at the show, I always enjoy discovering new products, especially small artisan makers. Ironically, some of the ones I discovered are based in Oakland, where I live, such as Lafaza Foods, which imports Madagascar vanilla beans from farms the owners have personally visited and inspected, or Nona Lim, which makes healthy Asian broths and ramen noodles.

The show runs through Tuesday. Here’s just a snippet of some of what I experienced on this first day.

Cypress Grove Chevre in Arcata, Calif., had some of the most beautiful displays. They had a wedding theme in their booth, and wedding cakes were made of entire cheese rounds.

Cypress Grove Chevre in Arcata, Calif., had some of the most beautiful displays. They had a wedding theme in their booth, and wedding cakes were made of entire cheese rounds.

Olympic Provisions from Portland were sampling its various cured meats.

Olympic Provisions from Portland was sampling its various cured meats.

The Food Match display had a huge sampling station where you can try a variety of its Mediterranean foods.

The Food Match display had a huge smorgasbord of a sampling station where you can try a variety of its Mediterranean foods.

The team from Di Pauli making fresh buffalo mozzarella for the crowds.

The team from Di Stefano Cheese making fresh burrata for the crowds.

I really liked the color of this maple syrup from Crown Maple from New York state. This particular syrup was aged in bourbon barrels so it picks up a bit of that smooth liquor flavor.

I really liked the color of this maple syrup from Crown Maple from New York state. This particular syrup was aged in bourbon barrels so it picks up a bit of that smooth liquor flavor.

Some people were offering substantial samples, such as Organic Valley's booth, which was sampling its grassmilk yogurt with the help of local chef Nick Balla of Bar Tartine. The chef used the yogurt to make this rye bread topped with kale salad, seeds and yogurt.

Some people were offering substantial samples, such as Organic Valley’s booth, which was sampling its grassmilk yogurt with the help of local chef Nick Balla of Bar Tartine. The chef used the yogurt to make this rye bread topped with kale salad, seeds and yogurt.

This was one of my favorite bites from Regal Salmon of New Zealand. They were testing to see if Americans would want salmon from New Zealand. After trying this, I would say YES!

This was one of my favorite bites from Regal Salmon of New Zealand. They were testing to see if Americans would want smoked salmon from New Zealand. After trying this, I would say YES!

Local celebrity chef Tyler Florence created quite a buzz in the new products section. He was helping to promote Chiridos, a new product made with cricket flour by Bitty, a company where he's the culinary director.

Local celebrity chef Tyler Florence created quite a buzz in the new products section. He was helping to promote Chiridos, a new product made with cricket flour by Bitty, a company where he’s the culinary director.

Here's the assortment of chips from Chiridos made from cricket flour. They were like puffs. Cricket flour provides more protein.

Here’s the assortment of chips from Chiridos made from cricket flour. They were like puffs. Cricket flour is high in protein and can be used as a substitute for gluten-free cooking.

Other chefs lent their names to products such as this olive oil line from Spain that's part of Chef Jose Andres' family of products.

Other chefs lent their names to products such as this olive oil line from Spain that’s part of Chef Jose Andres’ family of products.

There were some unusual products such as this company from Spain selling salt water. That's right, they purified salt water but it still has that salty taste, and they're promoting people use this instead of regular salt. You can spray flavored salt on your vegetables or buy their line of soups made with salt water.

There were some unusual products such as this company from Spain selling sea water. That’s right, they purified salt water but it still has that salty taste, and they’re promoting people use this instead of regular salt. You can spray flavored sea water on your vegetables or buy their line of soups made with salt water.

Of course, there were a lot of sweets such as chocolates. These are hot chocolate bars on a stick from Ticket Chocolate from the Sacramento area. You dip the chocolate into a cup of hot milk and you get your hot chocolate.

Of course, there were a lot of sweets such as chocolates. These are hot chocolate bars on a stick from Ticket Chocolate from the Sacramento area. You dip the chocolate into a cup of hot milk and you get hot chocolate.

This was one of the few booths selling dog treats. They used Alaska fish such as salmon to create treats for your buddy.

This was one of the few booths selling dog treats. They used a variety of fish from such as salmon to create treats for your buddy.

An importer from Thailand was trying to convince people to distribute their cooked corn on the cobb in vacumn packs. This was one product I really didn't understand. Is it that hard to cook fresh corn?

An importer from Thailand was trying to convince people to distribute their cooked corn on the cobb in vacumn packs. This was one product I really didn’t understand. Is it that hard to cook fresh corn?

Beehive Cheese from Utah make its cheese unique by rubbing different flavors on the rind, so you're encourage to eat the rind to get the unique flavoring. This is a lavender and espresso rubbed cheese, and you really get that espresso flavor.

Beehive Cheese from Utah make its cheese unique by rubbing different flavors on the rind, so you’re encourage to eat the rind to get the unique flavoring. This is a lavender and espresso rubbed cheese, and you really get that espresso flavor from the black colored rind.

I discovered this booth by Cat Spring Yaupon Tea from Texas and learned that there were tea leaves being grown in Texas. They're the yaupon family of tea leaves, which isn't as widely known than the variety coming from China. It provides a light flavor but interesting to know tea can be made domestically.

I discovered this booth by Cat Spring Yaupon Tea from Texas and learned that there were tea leaves being grown in Texas. They’re the yaupon family of tea leaves, which isn’t as widely known than the commonly used camellia sinensis variety coming from China. It provides a light flavor but interesting to know tea is grown domestically.

Vanilla beans from Madagascar and extract are sold by Lafaza, which is based in Oakland.

Vanilla beans from Madagascar and extract are sold by Lafaza, which is based in Oakland.

Primo Kitchen of Malibu tasted their mayo made from avocado oil. I love avocado and its healthy benefits so I would try the regular avocado mayo. The chipotle flavored avocado mayor was also good (with a real spicy flavor).

Primal Kitchen of Malibu tasted their mayo made from avocado oil. I love avocado and its healthy benefits so I would try the regular avocado mayo. The chipotle lime flavored avocado mayo was also good (with a real spicy flavor).

Dahlicioius Lassi from Portland sells flavored lassi, which is the popular drink from India.

Dahlicioius Lassi from Portland sells flavored lassi, which is the popular yogurt drink from India.

2 Responses to Taking a Bite Out of the 2016 Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco

  1. Jealous that you got to go!

  2. Carolyn Jung says:

    The corn from Thailand is a stretch, I’d say. For one thing, we have so much fresh local corn in summer, why would any California market carry that? The sea water spray was novel. I wonder if that will catch on. And I’d be happy to eat anything by Nick Balla. Anytime, anywhere! 😉