Thursday, July 8, 2010

Scenes from a Food Show

Ortiz, the great Spanish tuna firm, got this display idea for the Fancy Food Show display from Brooklyn's Diner,  one of the founding members of the Unfancy Food Show

The Fancy Food Show has almost no competition. If you run an American specialty food shop or website you're essentially obligated to go. If for no other reason than there's no place else you can find as many decent foods as this. If you're located on the west coast you might skip the summer show in New York. If you're east coast you might skip the winter show in San Francisco. But more often than not you go to one of them.

That's not to say that all the food here is decent. Some of it dips below that bar,  not qualifying as "Fancy Food" at all, a word which makes nearly no sense to me but sounds delightful in the twenty-first century, doesn't it? 

Every food trend comes here to roost and, eventually, die. Hot sauces. Low fat. No fat. High fiber. Energy drinks. Flavored water (still going strong!). No carb (dead as a doornail). This year, welcome to Gluten Free America. And several other food sensitivities I didn't know existed. "Local" has even come to the Fancy Food Show, albeit in the form of a competing show in Brooklyn called the Unfancy Food Show. It featured local NYC food makers, including Rick's Picks. Appropriately, it was held at a bar.

It's at the Fancy Food Show that the fantasy and the reality of the retail food business come to one of their most spectacular collisions. The fantasy people have about the food biz — that we find our treasures by roving the world, eating fabulous dinners, meeting earthy yet sophisticated farmers — butts up against the reality: we  go to trade shows. We don't find all of what we offer at trade shows, but we find some. 

In New York I walked the trade show for three days, tasting and talking. Afterwards, samples will come for more tasting. Working as a team we will cull, curate, make a lot of decisions. about which products we'll sell, which products we won't. (More on that idea — that our job is to make decisions like these — in my next post.) In the end if all this results in a couple dozen new foods I consider it a good show.

On the other hand we do find some new foods by traveling. Just not all of them. So keep your fantasy  alive. The fantasy of renting gleaming silver Fiats, of wearing extravagant scarves, of touring the European countryside, of eating five hour meals under Cypress trees. That does sound fun, doesn't it? I have to do that some time.

This year's food show happened during the World Cup. There were giant TV's in the Javits Center. This meant, for hours at a time, you couldn't find a European working anywhere.

Acres of luggage checked on the final day of the show.

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