The Specialty Food Association’s Winter confab tests the very limits of how many free samples a man can eat in a day.
It’s another display filled with smoked
meats. Another tray of salami placed
in front of me on the counter. There’s a
special, new Molinari salami there with
fennel. I kind of want to try it but pause for
a second. “Can I possibly eat another bite?”
I ask myself.
I’ve been at the Specialty Food Association’s Winter Fancy Food Show at Moscone
Center in San Francisco all day. I’ve eaten a
lot of free samples; little bites of chips, pork
rinds, pasta, frosting and heirloom popcorn. Everything is sprinkled with a bit of
sea salt. Sea salt is big at the Winter Fancy
Food Show in 2017. Even the desserts are
spiked with it.
I spear the fine salami with the tooth-
pick and eat it. The salami is good. I think
this might be my last sample for the day,
but then the ravioli has just come out of
the boiling water. Can I resist? No. Look
at me. I cannot. I harpoon the ravioli. The
ricotta runs down my face. Fortunately,
every booth keeps a stack of paper napkins
Ghost pepper is also big at this year’s
Fancy Food Show. I sample some Ingle-hoffer mustard infused with ghost pepper.
Beaverton Foods Inc. of Hillsboro, Ore.,
claims it’s “America’s HOTTEST MUSTARD.” They aren’t lying. It nearly burns
the roof off my mouth. Their new srira-cha mustard is almost a soothing palette
cleanser after the ghost pepper.
Mrs. Renfro’s, the jarred salsa makers out
of Fort Worth, Texas, has a ghost pepper
nacho cheese sauce that has me running
for the water cooler. Their new pumpkin
salsa is a lot gentler. Hell, the habanero was
a lot gentler.
“Things that are here are going to be
edgier,” Doug Renfro, president of Renfro
Foods, said of coming to San Francisco
every year for the Fancy Foods Show.
“I check out the funky stores and see
what’s out there,” he continued. “Maybe
there’s a fire-roasted Kumquat salsa.”
Renfro has been coming to the Winter
Fancy Food Show for 15 years now. The
first time that Joe Papiri of Snak King, the
makers of El Sabroso Pork Cracklins, came
to the Fancy Food Show 27 years ago his
company set up a pigpen filled with toy
“All we really made was pork rinds at
the time,” Papiri recalled. “We also had pig
By the end of the day, I take a quick
tour of the international food companies
in Moscone’s south hall. The green olives
stuffed with garlic and the paper-thin slices
of Serrano ham beckon to me, but I can’t
eat another bite. I find myself in the Mexico
section where the tequila pours freely. I
take a shot of “100% artisanal” Oro de Oax-
aca Mezcal, and follow that up by sampling
every variety of Origen Sagrado tequila.
And so I top off my day of burning my
mouth off with ghost peppers by pouring
gasoline on the fire.
Bob Calhoun is the author of Shattering
Conventions: Commerce, Cosplay and
Conflict on the Expo Floor. You can follow
him on Twitter at @bob_calhoun.
HOW MUCH Is TOO MUNCH? IN EACH INSTALLMENT OF SHATTERING CONVENTIONS, AUTHOR BOB CALHOUN CRASHES A NEW TRADESHOW, CONVENTION OR CONFERENCE LOOKING FOR A WAY TO FIT IN—EVEN WHERE
HE DOESN’T ALWAYS
SHATTERING CON VENT IONS
A feat of endurance at the Winter Fancy Food Show
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