Fancy Food Show
I got back from spending two days at the show. I agree with Jim that a great deal of it is endless red pepper jellies, spice rubs and cheese straws.
However, I must say that it is an enjoyable time and would encourage people to go next time if you have a spare afternoon.
If you're in the business you're going there to examine products and network, of course. If you're not in the business, you can have fun noshing and exploring, finding a new gem among the slag, or learning something new. You don't go there to eat a meal or taste prepared dishes.
Be prepared to contort your palate. As you walk down an aisle you might eat a garlic-stuffed olive, then a chocolate truffle, then a piece of fried catfish, then a taste of pomegranite vinegar, then a morsel of key lime shortcake, then some chai tea, then a shrimp dumpling, then some belgian waffle, then some gruyere, etc. It's an unusal and amusing torture. Keep water handy.
The international sections had some interesting stuff. A couple dozen countries were represented; most of W. Europe, Argentina, Brazil, Cyprus, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and many more. Much of it was their mass market and government-sponsored junk, but there's a few interesting finds.
Skipping the sauces, chutneys, mixes, etc, - there's some very tasty things to be found. I don't have most merchants' names offhand, but in general I enjoyed...
Many excellent chocolatiers. I was very impressed with perhaps a half dozen or more.
A few outstanding cheese merchants. Neal's Yard was there from England -- amazing stuff. Their cheddar and stilton may be the best I've tasted. Some sheep cheese I tasted from Ireland was also incredible.
Some good charcutterie and meats. Had a few good salamis, smoked salmon and shellfish, kippered beef - no good pates not surprisingly.
Many interesting tea merchants. This is a nice trend in the US.
Tasting unusual ingredients. A rice importer gave a terrific tasting and education on several exotic varieties. An exotic fruit importer had fresh lychees and longon fruit. There were myriad sea salts, flavored sugars - well, you get the idea.
Some very good local bakeries that supply the trade. Sarabeth's was among them - she's got good stuff.
The Fancy Food Show *is* supposed to be for the trade. Although you must wear a badge while in the auditorium, you can buy admission at the Center. Pre-registration saves you 50% ($25 instead of $50 admission). It probably wouldn't be too hard to gain admission if you weren't in the trade, this would involve lying on the application.
Uncle Dave, i enjoyed your comments immensely. I thought you had to be in the food biz to go to the Fancy Food show. Am i wrong? Have you ever done the Chocolate Show (Dec.)? You will think you have died and gone to (chocolate) heaven. I went last year and even volunteered, which enhanced the experience 1000%. Where else can you score free Lindt truffles or see a chocolate Statue of Liberty or watch celeb pastry chefs do their thing (and then get free samples)? The best $12 i ever spent.... Go, go, go!!!