Let’s start with cheese, where all things good begin.
1. Buttermilk Bleu Affinée, Roth Kase
The cheese aisles of the Fancy Food Show are legendary. Booth after booth of master cheese makers showcasing their best; wheels upon wheels of creamy bliss in all forms imaginable – aged, fresh, sharp, mellow – it’s a cheese-lover’s paradise. I have my favorites that I really love, and look forward to tasting again every year at the show, so it takes something special to steal my attention.
The Buttermilk Bleu Affinée from Roth Kase succeeded in doing just that. Insanely creamy with an easy sweet finish, this blue stopped me in my tracks and had me coming back for seconds and thirds, dragging friends with me each time so they could experience this magnificent cheese for themselves. As my friend, Michael observed, “It looks intimidating, but it’s really approachable.”
To make the Buttermilk Bleu Affinée, select wheels of Roth Kase’s standard (very good) Buttermilk Blue are identified as having the potential to be obscenely good. Those special wheels are hand-picked to be the true creme de la creme, the all-stars, the special ops team of blue cheese. Where the Buttermilk Blue is aged 60 days, the Bleu Affinée is cured for a minimum of six months. If I had some right now, I’d make some crazy good mashed potatoes, or stir it into risotto, or melt it on a steak, or simply spread it on a slab of hot bread with some sliced pears…
2. Vintage Van Gough, Roth Kase
Roth Kase is doing something so very right with their happy cows in Wisconsin because the second cheese to totally woo me was their Vintage Van Gough. Crafted from fresh full-cream milk, making it creamer than most Goudas, Vintage Van Gough is aged at least 6 months to create that amazingly buttery, golden flavor. Smooth and creamy with an undertone of caramel, this cheese is incredibly snackable. It would also be divine melted on eggs, grits, burgers, sandwiches, yeah, pretty much anything.
3. Bacon Jam, Skillet Food Products
Dear Skillet Bacon Jam, sweet Baby Jesus, are you delicious! Tangy, smoky, savory and sweet, this bacon jam from Seattle-based Skillet starts with high quality bacon, and renders it down to crispy bits cloaked in caramelized onion, balsamic, and spices. In Seattle, the Skillet food truck serves the bacon jam over their signature burger with cambozola cheese and arugula. Substitute the burger for crackers and you have yourself a tasty and easy hors d’oeuvre. At the booth, I even overheard whisperings of morning sticky buns made with bacon jam rolled up inside. Now that would be a good morning.
4. Hummus Chips, Simply 7
Healthy snacks were all the rage at the Fancy Food Show this year, and these Hummus Chips from Simply 7 were among my favorites. Made from chickpea flour, these baked and flash-fried chips contain no trans fat, cholesterol, or artificial flavors, plus they are gluten free and are made with non-GMO ingredients. With so many healthy attributes, you’d think they’d taste like cardboard, but au contraire, mon frere. These Hummus Chips have a cravable crunch and savory flavor that had me reaching for more. Especially the Creamy Dill – I could eat a whole bag of those…and not feel even an ounce of guilt.
5. Raw Kale Chips, Pachamama Raw
While we’re on guilt-free snacks, let’s talk kale. I’m a fan of homemade kale chips so when I came across these Raw Kale Chips from Pachamama Raw I was game. Unlike the homemade version, which leaves the kale light and crispy, Pachamama’s kale chips were heartier and crunchier, and impressively, full of satisfying savory flavor. The kale is coated in an organic cashew sauce before it is slowly dehydrated for hours. Because the kale is never brought to over 120 degrees Fahrenheit, it is considered “raw” and 95 percent of the superfood’s antioxidant nutrients are kept intact. I was also super excited to learn that Pena Pachamama, the restaurant, is right around the corner from where I live! I can’t wait to check out their interesting mix of Bolivian cuisine, raw organic food, and live music.
6. Pear Ginger Wasabi Balsamic, Chaparral Gardens
This is not your average balsamic. Far from it. Chaparral Gardens’ latest batch of limited run balsamic vinegars come in flavors I’d never dream of…like Pear Ginger Wasabi Balsamic for example. A shot of this will wake up any boring salad and give it new life. Owners Craig and Cari Clark craft their artisan vinegars using fruits, herbs, and vegetables grown on their 20-acre organic farm.
7. Spiced Ketchup, Sir Kensington’s
Sir Kensington’s Gourmet Scooping Ketchup is as fancy as it sounds. Made with vine-ripened tomatoes, not from concentrate; sweetened with agave nectar, honey, and raw brown sugar; and sassed up with apple cider vinegar, diced onions, cilantro, lime juice, and coriander. I favored the Spiced version to the Classic. The kick of chipotle and jalapeno peppers had the perfect amount of heat, and played nicely with the other flavors at hand. The fun packaging is also well done – gotta love a monocled mascot.
Fancy Food Show, Winter 2012
January 15-17, 2012
San Francisco, CA
Check out coverage from past Fancy Food Shows: