Ever wonder where food trends such as salted caramel, açai and kale chips take off? Many of them get their big break at the Fancy Food Show, a culinary convention of sorts where retail store buyers and trend watchers come to see what creative food artisans and companies have cooked up.
We tasted our way through the recent winter show in San Francisco, where chef Thomas Keller coolly hawked his new Cup4Cup gluten-free pizza crust mix while Chris Cosentino of Food Network fame raved about fancy Spanish pork. Probably the most unusual launch we spotted was Numi’s savory organic vegetable teas in flavors such as carrot-curry and spinach-chive. Time will tell if tomato mint tea catches on, but we do know eight other trends you’ll see at a neighborhood gourmet grocer very soon:
1. Yogurt everything. You’ve seen the John Stamos commercials for Oikos, and the influx of yogurt products — Greek and otherwise — isn’t slowing down. We’ll be looking for Straus Family Creamery’s organic Greek yogurt — extra straining gives it the creamy texture and higher protein content. It shows up in lower-calorie desserts such as Ciao Bella’s Adonia frozen Greek yogurt bars, Foxy’s Pash mango and passion fruit smoothie dessert and dreamily tart-sweet lemon and pink grapefruit yogurts by Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream.
2. Fancy popcorn. Sure you could make it at home, but do you really have time to season your popcorn with salted caramel, cumin or toasted coconut? We thought not. Angie’s Popcorn creates an addictive riff on sweet and spicy by adding garlic and cumin to the mix. And organic 479° Popcorn makes air popped corn appealing with flavors such as toasted coconut caramel and black truffle and white cheddar.
3. Black truffles. We’ve always preferred French black truffles’ earthy, sexy scent to that of their Italian cousins. Sabatino & Co., one of the largest U.S. importers of the tubers, is mixing black truffle into fragrant honey. Epicurean Butter suggests a dollop of Black Truffle Butter on steak while Nuovo Pasta offers decadent ravioli filled with black truffle cream.
4. Posh pork. Baconmania is alive and well, but now connoisseurs are looking for something a cut above. Enter Fermin’s jamon Ibérico de Bellota from Spain, a specialty swine from black-hoofed pigs descended from wild boars who live on acorns and wild herbs. Chefs Cosentino and José Andrés love it as cured ham and fresh pork. Chef Paul Bertolli’s Fra’ Mani is doing a smoked uncured pancetta made by rolling two pork bellies together. It’s so good that it just might make you forget the American stuff.
5. Exotic salt. It’s not just the stuff in a white shaker next to the pepper anymore; salt has gone global and picked up some flavor along the way. Spice Lab’s citrus lime chili salt is great on fruit; it also saves you a step on the tequila shot ritual. Caravel Gourmet’s winning flavors include Smoked Bacon Chipotle and a Chocolate Fleur de Sel that would be delicious on chocolate chip cookies or brownies.
6. Coconut. This fruit started showing up in teas a couple years ago. Now, you’ll be seeing this wonder food that’s high in fiber and beneficial in oils in W & M coconut snack chips coming in flavors such as teriyaki and barbecue, Kelapo virgin coconut oil cooking spray and Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss, a surprisingly yummy organic alternative to ice cream.
7. Goat. Smaller fat molecules mean goat milk is easier for many people with dairy issues to digest, and the tangy flavor is a bonus. We sampled Happy Goat Caramels, Montchevre goat Brie and a very addictive goat cheddar and kefir from family-owned Redwood Hill Farm.
8. Sweet vinegar. Balsamic brought this flavor profile to the U.S. in the ’80s; now it’s expanding with De Nigris Pear Balsamic and chef Cat Cora’s Thyme Honey vinegar. The most remarkable though is the Slide Ridge Honey Wine Vinegar made by a family in Utah that could make a wicked cocktail or salad dressing.
Photo Courtesy of The Spice Lab