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Top Ten Favorites from the Winter Fancy Food Show 2008 in San Diego, California

by Susan Matthews

2008 must be my lucky year.  Why?  Because the Winter Fancy Food Show, which is normally held in the winter in San Francisco and in the summer in New York City, was finally held in my home town of San Diego.  The food gods were shining down upon me this year as I heeded the call of the 1000+ exhibitors and 80,000+ specialty food and beverages.  Sorting through the items, which came from over 40 countries, was no small task.  But with you, the Sally’s Place reader in mind, I consumed for hours on end.  My work weighed heavily on my stomach (literally), but I am proud to bring you my Top 10 list (in no particular order).  From foods that made my taste buds dance to delicacies I’m declaring “must-haves” for my upcoming dinner parties, these are all items I hope to have in my home in 2008. 

1) Purple Haze cheese from Cypress Grove Chevre

From award-winning cheese maker Mary Keehn comes my new cheese obsession.  The first items I bought after the show were two rounds of the Cypress Grove Chevre Purple Haze, a delectable mix of goat cheese with lavender and fennel pollen.  For me, goat cheese is like what pizza is to my husband.  Even when it’s not so good, it’s still pretty good.  But Mary may have ruined my palate forever! I’m not sure I can go back to the days of eating just any old goat cheese.  Not surprisingly, after the Fancy Food Show I dined at one of San Diego’s finest restaurants and found Purple Haze on the menu. 
www.cypressgrovechevre.com, 707-825-1100

2) Mint Tea Shortbread from Biscottea

Tea Lovers, be jealous no more of those coffee drinkers and their biscotti.  Now you can enjoy Biscottea shortbread with your cup of tea.  The mint version is made with organic peppermint and spearmint leaves.  The taste of this shortbread, which perfectly pairs a buttery richness with just the right amount of mint, caught my attention in an instant, and I knew it was destined to make my Top 10 list.  The all-natural cookies, which are made with real tea baked into them, are delicious.
www.biscottea.net, 425-313-1993

3) Fluted Liqueur Cups from Bissinger’s

So beautiful and so delicate, the cups are show stoppers when it comes time to serve dessert.  Although made for sipping liqueur, I found them to be ideal holders for all sorts of small desserts normally served at high tea or a fancy dinner party.
www.bissingers.com, 800-325-8881

4) Winter White Honey from The Savannah Bee Company

Just as the gentleman at the booth told me it would, the Winter White Honey melted in my mouth like snow.  It was so smooth and creamy.  This special honey is made from wildflowers that grow near the North Pole, and it’s ideal for hot chocolate or just about everything you’d ever want to put honey on or into. Winnie the Pooh would approve..  
www.savannahbee.com, 912-234-0688

5) Wild Hibiscus from the Wild Hibiscus Flower Company 

The perfect addition to your next soiree!  Place one edible Australian hibiscus flower and some of the crimson syrup, with which it is canned, into your fluted champagne glass before pouring in the champagne.  The bubbles slowly open the flower which brings a special beauty to your party.  Visit their website for other cocktail and food recipes.
www.wildhibiscus.com, +61 (0) 2 888 33 955 (Sydney, Australia)

6) Olive Oil from Bariani Olive Oil

This limited quantity, top shelf olive oil hails from a family owned and operated business.  Originally from the Lombardy region of Italy, the Barianis have created an olive oil with a flavor better than any olive oil I’ve tasted in the US, Italy, Greece, or beyond.  Manzilla and mission olives are picked by hand at the family grove on the outskirts of Sacramento.  The olives are then 100% cold-pressed, but they are not filtered.  Because of this the olive oil is a bit cloudy, but I learned quickly that it is not a bad way for olive oil to be!  Fresh and organic – you can’t beat Bariani.
www.barianioliveoil.com, 916-689-9059

7) Wild Albacore Tuna from Wild Planet

Wild Planet takes the environment as seriously as they take seafood.  Working only with fisheries that are sustainable and free of wasteful by-catch, they have high standards that keep contaminants out of their fish. Wild Planet takes no shortcuts, and it shows in their product.
www.1wildplanet.com, 707-839-3270

8) White Jasmine Sparkling Tea from Golden Star Tea Co. 

The biggest surprise I had all day at the show was when I sipped this concoction.  To be honest, I picked up my cup with little expectation of being impressed.  Boy, was I wrong!  The sparkling tea was light, refreshing, and delightful.  My mind immediately thought of all the times I would have loved to have this drink available.  It’s perfect for special events where children and non-alcohol drinking adults want to join in a toast.  We all know that bubbly makes an occasion that much more special, but now you can get your sparkling drink without the alcohol.  Though perfect for special events, it’s also a great drink for any day of the year.
www.goldenstartea.com, 415-386-4444

9) Pickle Chips from Texas Sassy

I’ve found a new staple for my backyard barbecues.  If you think all pickle slices are created equal, think again.  Texas Sassy pickle chips start off sweet, turn the perfect amount of sour, and finish by leaving a pleasing spice in your mouth.  In no time you’ll find new uses for the chips – from adorning hot dogs to topping appetizers.  Or, in my case, I’ll eat them plain and enjoy them just the way they came. 
www.texas-sassy.com, 512-215-4022

10) Just Add Avocados Guacamole Starter from Fischer & Wieser

On my way out of the show I came upon the Fischer & Wieser booth, and I am ever so grateful I did.  You see, my home is where avocados come to die.  When we have people over for a big sports event or a barbecue, I have delusions of making homemade guacamole.  But inevitably I run out of time to chop the onions, mince the garlic, and squeeze the lemons, and soon thereafter the avocados just go bad.  No more!  With the Just Add Avocados Guacamole Starter, my life is simplified (and tastier!).  I think they should call it the “my parties just got easier” guacamole starter. 
www.jelly.com, 830-997-7194


Honorable Mentions – The following items didn’t quite make my top 10 list, but they impressed me nonetheless.  I felt they deserved at least a brief mention.  I recommend you check out these items as well. 

  • Pasamontes’ Manchego cheese from The Rogers’ Collection

      www.rogersintl.com, 207-828-2000

  • Cinnamon Sugar Multigrain Chips from Natural Nectar

      www.natural-nectar.com, 631-367-7280

  • African Nectar tea from Mighty Leaf Tea

      www.mightyleaf.com, 877-MY T LEAF

  • Wild Smoked Sockeye from Alaska Seafood Co.

      www.alaskacannery.com, 907-780-5111

  • Balsamic Vinegar from Sparrow Lane

      www.sparrowlane.com, 707-815-1813

Can’t find the items I’ve mentioned at your local grocery or specialty stores?  You can order most of them from the websites I’ve listed.  Don’t want to pay shipping charges?  Then it’s time to speak up the next time you go shopping.  Ask your local stores to carry these items.  Who knows?  You just might start a new “fancy food” trend in your neighborhood.




Susan Matthews resides in San Diego, CA.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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