What a whirlwind week last week! The Fancy Food Show invaded San Francisco last weekend, and I was lucky enough to attend, albeit briefly. On Monday evening, a local accounting firm held a Food Show-related event, and I got to meet some really great people in the food industry. There were folks from Caribou Coffee, one of my law school classmates’ favorite study time draughts, the owner of Mollie Stone’s Markets, a local upscale grocery store, the owner of Cactus Candy in Arizona, and more. However, there was one meeting that was truly serendipitous. I had met reputable Napa caterer Melissa Teaff and her son Burt during a brief visit to the Oxbow Cheese Merchant in Napa, way back in May. Well, there they were again on Monday evening, and although we haven’t seen each other in months, we struck up conversation easily, again. I have heard so many wonderful things about Melissa’s catering company. When I used to plan events at my old job, I received many glowing recommendations about Melissa’s company. She is certainly THE caterer to use!
Well, when I met her and her son back in May, they had recently launched a new company, the Napa Cookie Company. They make these biscuits called wine snaps, available in both red and white wine versions. They’re savory cookies, great with cheese. I know because I tasted! I am not sure what their distribution is like now, but I know that the Oxbow Cheese Merchant in Napa does carry them. With the Teaffs was Kristin Thompson, head of sales & marketing at Oakville Ranch Vineyards in Napa. She also carries the wine snaps in her tasting room!
I only managed to go to the show on Tuesday, thanks to Melissa’s generously sharing a pass with me! Hers was the first booth I visited, and she immediately directed me across the aisle to check out FOMZ, a fruit-flavored foam product that you can use like whipped cream. I tasted the strawberry lemonade. How wonderful. Frothy, fruity, and so versatile. You could use it as a drink topper, but also a dessert topper. I had to remind myself that there were literally thousands of other items to taste, and little time.
I made my way to where most of the cheeses were. There, I met Jerry Heimerl, owner of Saxon Homestead Creamery in Wisconsin. After one taste of his Saxony cheese, whose production is based on Comte, I was hooked. Saxony may be based on Comte, but it sure doesn’t taste like it. It tastes like a Comte that’s been infused with peaches and plums. There’s something very fresh, lush, and fruity in this cheese. I can see how chefs would flock to it, and be able to use it in many different ways in the kitchen. Jerry was very warm and welcoming, even though we were in the last hours of the food show, and he was probably tired! He told me about his cows, his farm, and his cheeses. All of Saxon Creamery’s cheeses are harder, aged cheeses, which I thought unusual for a new creamery. A lot of times, because makers need to earn some money as soon as they open their doors, they sell fresh cheeses like ricotta, or soft-ripened cheeses. Not Jerry! He’s going for the gold with all aged cheeses! I wish him all the best , and I hope to see his cheeses in more places soon. I want more Saxony!
Another delightful cheese discovery was of the cheeses of the Fine Cheese Company, based in the UK. Strangely, the only items I was familiar with before were their crackers. Taking samples from their rep (named Flo, like my sister!), I discovered their Ticklemore, Sharpham Rustic, and Lord of the Hundreds. I was loving the names. Maybe because I love goat cheeses more than anything, the Ticklemore stood out in my mind. It was creamy, yet slightly sandy, with a very smooth, muted goat flavor. I loved the form—one wheel is almost shaped like a flying saucer, with tapered edges. This comes from the curd being pressed into colanders during the make. I do hope I’ll see more of this company’s cheeses available.
I caught up very briefly with Paula Lambert of the Mozzarella Company in Texas (I love her bright red glasses!). She was kind enough to share with me a sample of Grassias, a cow/goat milk cheese wrapped in lemongrass. She told me she likes serving them on ginger snaps. It was a refreshing mouthful, a little creamy, a little tangy, and slightly spicy. I would definitely serve that up on a salad, but you know me, I’m a purist. I just eat this stuff plain.
The most giddiness-inducing meeting was with the reps of the Caves of Faribault, from Minnesota. I recognized their St. Mary as a cheese I had first tasted when lunching at Google recently, and told one of the reps about the experience. “What? Huh? THAT Google?” Was the basic response I got. And then, she told me to tell her colleague what I had just told her. “When having lunch at Google one day, I saw that they served your cheese.” By this time, both reps were practically jumping up and down and laughing. I guess you don’t actually know where your cheese goes as a maker. Someone has to tell you! I’m glad they got some great exposure, and are making headway, because the St. Mary was my favorite cheese that day at Google.
Unfortunately, my time at the show was very short! I had to attend another conference that day, so was there during the morning. I breezed past a host of other delicious displays—Japan had a very strong showing, and I tasted my way through some wonderful German chocolates. I tasted some fabulous smoked salmon from Washington state, and finished off with some terrine de foie gras from Hudson Valley Foie Gras. It goes without saying that I was super full!
Thank you, Fancy Food Show! Until next year!
Sorry, guys and gals, I didn’t have time to take pictures. I was too busy stuffing my face. You’ll have to use your imagination: Imagine 206,000 square feet of food displays, and over 17,000 vendors offering samples! The floor is crammed with trade affiliates, producers, and celebrity foodies. The din of dozens of languages and cooking food fill the air. Heaven must look very much like this.