2017 Fancy Food Show Review

I spent three days wandering around the winter fancy food show in San Francisco this week! Saw lots of the same old same old (popcorn, chocolate, olive oil, cheese, Italian imports) but like every show, there are always a few unique items and up and coming trends that we hope will make it and hit mainstream!

Wellness Tonics
Tonics are beverages or syrups that are based on traditional or ancient methods for natural self healing. Some interesting products at the show included Apple Cider Vinegar Drinks like Sonoma Syrup, Tuber Tonics and African Bronz Honey Tonic.

DIY Kits 

Why buy something ready to eat when you can sort of put it together yourself. Lots of DIY (do it yourself) kits at the show for both adults and kids! My favorite was HummisStir– a package containing three shelf stable sterilized packs of chic peas, tahini and dry seasoning- that you blend together with a cute wooden spoon. The hummus wasn’t bad– although it needed some fresh lemon juice in there.  Home Cranked Ice Cream Mix eliminates one having to combine their own sugar, cream and milk–the base is right in the box so you can be like professional and dump the mixture into your ice cream machine– press go- and impress everyone with your secret non-blending skills! In the health and wellness DIY space, there are now companies that will sell you their special Kefir starter cultures to make your own Kefir at home! You can also go to Berkeley and just ask around town and someone will probably “gift” you some of theirs but its nice to know there is a reliable clean workable version on the market.  And of course Bagels–the company Everything Bagel and Cream Cheese DIY instructs you on how to make both the bagel and the cream cheese.

An Apple Every Day

Apples are showing up more than ever in products from syrups to freeze dried snacks to BBQ sauce. Some examples I saw at Fancy Food show included Gia Russa Buttered Apple Barbecue Sauce  and Apple Butter Syrup from Blackberry Patch. Stonewall kitchen was also demo’ing their Apple Cider Syrup.

Better For You Snacks-Naturally

Lots of snacks out there made from ingredients that are “healthy” for you. The definition of healthy of course varies, but according to those who are selling it– includes Chickpeas (Chick Bean Crisps), ProTato Crisps, which combines potato with rice protein to make a protein rich crunchy snack. Ticky Rice Chips which  they make by steaming thai sticky rice, soaking it in watermelon (??!!) and then crisping it up so it tastes like the brown bottom of the pan rice that is scraped up. They have 30% less fat than regular potato chips. Also saw Chia Cassava Chips. These products combine both our desire to crunch and snack, but provide us with fiber and protein from the ingredients used.

Decadence Never Dies 

The Fancy Food Show would not be what it is without the usual slew of olive oil, chocolate, cheese and other rich not necessarily good for you but tastes great selection! Chocolate products will always be there for us- and this year was no exception. Some unique items included Torn Ranch Chocolate Covered Banana Chips– that are truly “taste inspired”. The chocolate pate from Guthries— AKA “Sin In A Tin”.

The Products We Still Need To Get Used To

Crickets are hot now but we still need to get used to eating bugs as a protein source. Don Bugito has been around for a few years now– helping to increase awareness about bugs– as a protein source.

The Weirdest Product I saw at the 2017 Fancy Food Show

The strangest thing I saw was a beverage called Eggurt– made from fermented egg white. I don’t quite understand the history of this idea (it is not something that is done in other countries, nor is it something that existed in the past) but it tasted good– like a yogurt drink.  I did find the masters thesis of a food scientist who developed a very similar beverage in 1978, I wonder if there is a connection!

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In early 2012 the International Maple Syrup institute (IMSI) put out a  recommendation to unify the maple syrup grades among maple syrup producing jurisdictions. Currently the USDA, CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency), and the Agencies of Agricultures have adopted rules based on the recommendation of IMSI. Most States and Provinces are transitioning to the new system over the course of 2015. The USDA standards are available online and have been official since March 2, 2015.

Just so everyone is clear, what is maple syrup? It is the liquid food derived by concentrating and heat-treating sap from the maple tree (Acer) as defined in the U.S. FDA standard of Identity for Maple Syrup (they used to spell it Sirup but now it has been officially changed to Sirup!) The solids content of the finished maple syrup shall not be less than 66 percent by weight (Brix) (21 CFR 168.140)

All maple syrup is now Grade A. U.S. Grade A is the quality of maple syrup that has not more than 69.9% solids (brix) content by weight, has a good uniform color, has good flavor and odor, and intensity of flavor (maple taste) normally associated with the color class. It is free from off flavors and odors considered as damage and is free from cloudiness, turbidity, sediment and it is clean. No deviants for damage shall be allowed in Grade A. (USDA Section 52.5962)

Grade A is now divided into several categories. There is a Grade A- Light Amber that has a buttery vanilla taste, light flavor and is often perceived as sweeter due to lack of the strong maple flavor profile. Grade A Amber should be used on ice cream, crepes or other foods that you may not want the maple flavor to overpower but just be subtly there. Then there is Grade A-Amber Rich, which has a solid base maple flavor- this is good for all around usage on pancakes, French toast and in beverages. Next in line is the Grade A-Dark Robust which has stronger maple, caramel and brown sugar flavor notes. This is a good grade to use for oatmeal, formulated into beer, brownies and cakes.

There is no longer really a Grade B- it is referred to as “Processing Grade” now. Processing grade means (by USDA definition) that it does not meet Grade A requirements but meets the requirements of Processing Grade for use in the manufacturing of other products. Maple Syrup for processing can be packed in containers of 5 gallons or 20 liters or larger. It cannot be packed into consumer size containers for retail sale. Obviously if someone were buying a 5 gallon container that is ok since it would typically be used in a processing scenario at that minimum volume. The Processing Grade can’t have more than 68.9% brix, it can contain some off flavors and odors and it can have a very strong taste.

What does this mean for you (the consumer and the artisan food maker?) Don’t disregard commercial or processing grade maple syrup just because you may perceive it as a lower value. A Grade A Light Amber may not work well at all in your maple syrup oatmeal cookies- the flavor may not come through. Alternatively don’t use the commercial grade if you have a delicate tasting product that you plan to add it on to.

Talk to your maple syrup provider/manufacturer and set up a tasting so you can see for yourself how the different versions of “A” will taste and which is the best version for the best price to incorporate into your food product.

For more information on Maple Syrup- here are a few links