Tag Archives: fancy food show

I Know What You Ate Last Summer: Fancy Food Show NYC

Remember those old Crazy Eddie commercials they used to show in New York where Eddie would shout “It’s Christmas in July!!!” and then he’d try to sell you a cheap TV?  Well, for a few days in June, and one in July, it really was Christmas for foodies and food industry professionals right here in New York City at the Summer Fancy Food Show.

Held at the gargantuan Javits Center, it encompassed three massive floors; that’s 10 miles of food stands, to you and me, folks. A veritable Food Walk-a-Thon, a Food-a-Thon, if you will.  I used to do the 20 mile March of Dimes Walk-a-Thon annually, so I can tell you that I was just as achy and sore and unable to walk after this.

Oh, but it hurt so good.

One room full of miscellaneous goodies.  One of regional cuisine and one of International delights.

Our fearless leader, Lin Randolph treated her Alecia Bakery NYC crew to day passes for this most awesome of foodie spectacles, which began at 10 am.  No need for breakfast. Hell, I didn’t even have coffee before I got there.  We dove right in, and there was coffee — oh, there was coffee.  There was tea. I got caffeinated up like a college student with one day to study for every exam.

My first foray into food heaven was the most creamy, decadent chocolate truffle I have ever had, followed by pastry, followed by gelato, then a Korean salad, seaweed chips, more chocolate, more chocolate and, well…you get the idea.  It was a breakfast-lunch-dinner-and-various-assorted-snacks smorgasbord that, while leaving the stomach in a bit of a what-the-hell stupor, was wondrous all the same.

You know those glorious supermarket salad/olive bars you only wish you could sidle up to with a tooth pick and an empty stomach? Well, you can here!  Massive displays filled with assorted stuffed olives, grape leaves, artichoke hearts, cheeses, and peppers – also stuffed with cheese.

Did someone say cheese? Oh, lordy yes! Oh, there was cheese.  If you were Kramer from Seinfeld, you’d be saying “Oh there was cheese, Jerry!”  I said to my husband Kevin “I haven’t seen goat cheese yet.” Literally 10 seconds later, I was savoring goat cheese on a toasted round.  There was enough cheese to choke a Wisconsonian.  Is that what you call them?

Chocolate. I overheard one guy say “Okay. I’m done with the chocolate.”  And usually I wouldn’t be able to understand that concept. But I found myself having to take short (key word: short) chocolate breaks in order to conserve my considerable eating abilities so I wouldn’t peak too early.  It’s all about pacing, people.  This is an Olympic Sport.  The chocolate was insanely good and came in all forms: truffles, chocolate bark, brownies, cookies, cupcakes, nutella on bananas, chocolate chips, baking chocolate, gelato, ice cream, coffee, hot chocolate.

Heaven.

“Oh, but I wish I had a beer to wash it all down”, lamented my husband.  Not a problem. Indian Pale Ale was being served in the India section of the International floor.

Pasta, quesadillas, gourmet lollipops, kimchee, beer jerky, whiskey fudge!!!, what one man proclaimed were “The World’s Best Gummy Bears” (though I dunno…the texture had a little too much give to it. I like my gummy bears to put up a little more of a fight. I like ’em to scream for mercy.), why, there was even a guy dressed as an elf handing out sparkling water as Santa himself looked on. What did I tell ya’ ’bout Christmas?

Suffice it to say, this was one for the ages. I will tell my grandchildren about it. And if I don’t succumb to Type 2 Diabetes, I’ll tell my children’s children about the time Grandma & Grandpa ate their way through three floors of the Javits center; one of the best things they’d done — like ever.  Oh yeah kids, you can have your Disney World.  This was my Disney World.  And if there has to be a rodent involved ala Mickey, then I appoint Ratatouille.  

But if I go next year, I’ll train first. Does anybody have the number of that guy who won this year’s Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest?

We went! We saw! We ate! We were inspired! We passed out in food comas!

So, here’s the thing. I’ve been in the food industry for 17 years. Retail. Wholesale. Corporate. Private labeling. Specialty buying. You name it, I’ve probably had a hand in it directly or indirectly at one time or another. In fact, if you include all the years I worked in a grocery store deli, bakery, waited tables and managed an espresso bar (before there was a “coffee culture”), I’ve been in the industry for almost 25 years now.

Two weeks ago, was the opening day of my absolute favori
te trade show — the Summer Fancy Food Show. It would have been my 17th consecutive year attending, but I missed the 2011 show due to the event temporarily relocating to D.C. while the Javits Center was being remodeled as well as personal scheduling conflicts. I hauled my tuchus down to D.C. the following year, however!

This year was my 16th show. Sixteen years attending the Fancy Food Show and I was as excited on opening day (June 30) as I was back in ’97 when I first walked into the Javits for my very first show.

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The Summer Fancy Food Show is North America’s Largest Specialty Food & Beverage Event. Over 24,000 buyers from across the U.S. and around the world are prime to discover 180,000 products including confections, cheese, coffee, snacks, spices, ethnic, natural, organic and more, from 2,400 exhibitors spanning 80+ countries. The trade only event (not open to the general public) is hosted by the Specialty Food Association.

The Specialty Food Association is the preeminent not-for-profit business trade association established in 1952 to foster trade, commerce and interest in the $86 billion specialty food industry. The Association is an international organization composed of more than 3,000 member companies including domestic and foreign manufacturers, importers, distributors, brokers, retailers, restaurateurs, caterers and other specialty food businesses.

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You probably think I would be tired of it all by now, but I still love it! I find new and exciting things every year. Quite honestly, anyone who is faced with over 350,000 sq. ft. of specialty food exhibitors and walks away with

The BEST team in NYC! (l-r: Dan, Kevin, Liz, Lin, Jerome & Suzanne)
The BEST team in NYC!
(l-r: Dan, Kevin, Liz, Lin, Jerome & Suzanne)

no new ideas and nothing to be excited about should hang up their hat. They don’t belong in the industry anymore.

Yes, there are people like this. To them, this show is drudgery and they dread walking the aisles and expect to not find anything new. They return to their shops and continue to fill their shelves with the same lines, the same products, week after week, year after year. And, sadly, their customers end up with the short end of the stick. Their customers never have the opportunity to see or taste all of the amazing things available. Someone else made that decision for them. The shop owners chose not to take a risk, to think outside of their proverbial box. They chose to remain safe and staid. But, we must all remember that with great risk comes the opportunity for greater reward.

This year I was doubly excited because I had the unique opportunity of having a virgin Fancy Food Show crew. My team members had never before heard of, let alone been part of such an experience. We six food lovers, covered the gamut from vegan, vegetarian, dairy sensitive, gluten sensitive, alcohol allergic, diabetic to “if-it’s-on-my-plate-i’ll-eat-it”! Just as the title to this blog entry states, we went, we saw, we ate, we were inspired and at the end of the day we returned to our homes and passed out…happily.

WE CAN’T WAIT FOR NEXT YEAR!

Our team divided itself into Instagrammers and bloggers during and post-show. Here is a bit about our experience…

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Well I walked my first Fancy Food Show Marathon and after much anticipation must say I had a blast!

Weaving through the crowded aisles of serious foodies from all over the world was a breeze.  Chatting with whoever in our own group of 6 was nearby, I felt like a kid at summer camp.   And booth after booth of delicious samples…hard to put into words.  WOW!  Luckily for us our General (as we called Lin) prepared us with veteran tips on pacing ourselves.  Lobster pizza, East Indian cuisine, barbecue, dumplings, tacos, spreads, dips, chips, juices, coffees, and more varieties of cheeses, olives, cookies, and crackers than I could have imagined.

Our joke….. this must have been what a party at Caligula’s house was like.

– Suzanne

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Looking back at the  Summer Fancy Food Show over a week later, I still mostly picture the cheeses and olives. I guess it’s because they’re my dietary Achilles heels. Other foods, I can eat in moderation … or with some reasonable semblance of same. Offered a taco (there were some great samples), pastries (check) or cold desserts like ice cream or gelato (check again) I can form the words, “No thanks” after tasting a few samples. I can exert some self-control. Not so with the cheeses, or those olives—and honest to God, I’d never seen so many, and so many varieties, and in many cases varieties  I’d never known about of before, in one place.

 

It was one thing to hear about the billion miles and gazillion aisles of food at this event, another to be there and experience it for myself. I can only compare it to the World’s Fair or something like that. It’s kind of indescribable, which is one reason I waited awhile—way too long— to take a stab these few paragraphs. I don’t remember all the stuff I ate. I just remember eating stuff constantly for hours and hours. Delicious stuff, gourmet stuff, real fancy food.

 

So I’m keeping it short, sweet and simple, sticking to those central images: The trays of cheeses. The cases of multihued olives. And also the distributors and buyers from around the world haggling at the international booths, sizing each other up across tables, looking at each other eye-to-eye, exchanging business cards, taking notes and making calculations with pads and pencils along with, or instead of, laptops and tablets …

 

There was, I guess, an element of the Old World bazaar to this incredible event that added another layer of fascination for me as I roamed the place with Team Alecia Bakery NYC, snatching olives and cheese from anyplace within reach … and gobbling down a whole lot of other food too.

 

NEXT TIME, Lin … I repeat, NEXT TIME, I’ll try to remember  everything I ate so I can write about it here.

– Jerome

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(Photos by our Instagrammers: Liz, Kevin & Dan)

To the victor goes the spoils (aka some of the samples our crew snagged)…

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 Even our precious pugs got treats from the show when we returned home…

And a very special family of 7 children ranging in ages from 1 month to 11 years received a very generous gift from the ladies at the Happy Family booth!

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 WE’LL BE BACK NEXT YEAR!

SEE EVERYONE JUNE 29-JULY 1, 2014!