Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Coming In From the Rain for a Food Fete

In San Francisco’s SOMA area, tons of people pushing specialty foods and many more playing the role of taste testers have been keeping busy the last few days as part of the 35th Winter Fancy Food Show.

It’s one of the largest food shows in San Francisco, but the crowds are a bit too much for me. So instead, last night I dropped by an invitation-only side show called Food Fête, which is a more manageable food show for me.

I went around checking out some of the selected specialty food items from producers across the country. Everyone is always trying to come up with the latest food craze – from flavored coconut milk to the next best apple.

A few companies tried to offer up new flavors, such as Sub Rosa Spirits. This Oregon micro distillery had a couple of its infused vodka at the bar, including this saffron vodka. I love the idea of saffron, and the color made for a nice bottle. But I have to say the flavor was really subtle. And when you add orange juice to it (like they did at the bar), then really the whole saffron flavor gets overpowered. Still, it’s a mighty strong vodka.

Someone that traveled far for the show was Sonny & Joe’s Hummus – coming all the way from Williamsburg, Brooklyn. They offered up some interesting flavors like buffalo (a play on buffalo wings) that had a subtle spiciness to it. I even tried the babaganoush even though I’m not a fan of eggplant, and I liked it. It helps that Sonny & Joe’s hummus have this creamy texture, almost like a mousse.

One of the more unusual things I tried was these faux meat from Field Roast Grain Meat Co. Everything made by this Seattle company is vegan, using a wheat grain. They had sausages and meatloaf, and I tried the holiday log that actually tasted a lot like turkey and stuffing combined.

From faux meat to faux potato chips, I visited the San Francisco-based Pop Chips, which I have to say was my favorite tastes of the night. Most of you know I’m not a snacker and I avoid most deep-fried foods, which is why I don’t eat most potato chips or French fries. But I’ve heard about Pop Chips and how they make their crunchy chips without frying or baking them. It’s some air popping technique that makes them crunchy but light. I tried the sour cream and chives because that’s one of my favorite flavors, but I realized that the most addictive flavor is probably the salt and vinegar. I can finally snack on something with no saturated or trans fat. The question is can I stop at one bag?

Of course, you can’t have a food event without chocolates. A couple of tables I visited included Eclipse Chocolat from San Diego and met the chocolatier William Gustwiller, who makes and package all the chocolate bars by hand. This is his white chocolate bars with bits of pretzels, marshmallow and sea salt. It’s the whole sweet and savory thing going on.

One person sticking with the sweet is Amella Caramels from Los Angeles. Problem with trying their caramels (I tried the passion fruit flavor) is that the flavor stays with you because you get bits stuck all over your teeth.

My last stop before I headed home was at Scott Sapire’s table. Sapire owns Sweetwater Spice Co. from Austin, Texas, and he was sampling what he calls “BBQ Bath” because he soaks various meats in his special marinades like a brine. The flavors were subtle, but I was totally captivated by the tenderness of his BBQ that he was sampling. This guy knows how to cook meat.

I loved how walking around with my Single Guy tag, people kept trying to convince me that their products would be perfect for singles (like this one company pushing fully cooked brown rice – it’s like they’re reading my mind). You know what I want someone to invent? Pork chop in a bag. Now that’s Single Guy food.


Hungry Dog said...

Sounds fun. I have a friend who attended this, I'll send her a link to your post. I just tried popchips for the first time this weekend--parmesan and garlic. They were good but I think I'd like salt and vinegar better.

Kim said...

More importantly, did you talk to any strangers?

Cookie said...

I've been a fan of Pop Chips for a while now but never knew they were based out of SF! My favorite flavor is the Parmesan and I love how they have them in single serving bags now so I don't have to feel bad about eating the whole thing!

Mark Scarbrough said...

Got to get those Pop Chips. Got to. I love chips. And anything new like that sounds crazy-good.

Wendy said...

I have to find that hummus - looks terrific! Maybe with Pop Chips :)
Thanks for posting the photo of our cheese - I hope you got to try it, too!

I've posted a link to your post on our facebook page: www.facebook.com/cabot - Glad to have found you - your blog is beautiful!

Single Guy Ben said...

Kim, I did talk to strangers, but they were mostly PR people who wanted me to promote their products! Ha! Not that kind of networking event.

Wendy, I did like your company's cheese. Cabot had a 2-year-old white cheddar that had a cheddar flavor but nice and creamy. :)

Mike Sherwood said...

In the Saffron vodka, the bass notes are cumin and coriander followed by ginger, black peppercorn and cayenne, orange peel and the saffron is the grace note at the end. Used like it is in food, as a grace note and perfume. At 90 proof, this thing is intense. I'm glad you liked it. You'll have to try another cocktail using the Saffron vodka. The bartender unfortunately made some of the drinks a bit watered down. I like to use mango juice instead of orange juice.

Carolyn Jung said...

I love Popchips. And yeah, you can't just stop at one bag. When I have any in the house it's so, so dangerous. ;)

Wendy said...


Anonymous said...

Trader Joe sells Pop Chips under their own brand...just as good.

PatVittles said...

We're glad you agree that precooked, pourable rice meets the simplicity standards for a single guy. Village Harvest makes quinoa too.

Anonymous said...

I bought the Sweetwater Spice Brine at Whole Foods. We got an inexpensive cut of meat, followed the directions on the Brine, grilled the meat, and it was incredible!!! We actually reused the Brine on more meat another night. The meat comes out tasting so moist and flavorful. We can't wait until Whole Foods gets more Brine in!!