What can I say that would be new and exciting about the Fancy Food Show? I have probably written pretty much the same entry about it every year for a decade. The best bits (that I am willing to publish) are already in my book. One can only write about desperation capitalism, food safety no-nos, the hip-marketing of peasants, and vanity projects of the rich and famous so many times, eh?
“We are Specialty Food” indeed
I know, I know. There is more to it than that. There is cheese, which skirts these issues more delicately than many other food products. And it is, one assumes, why you are reading this post anyway.
I like the show because it brings in cheese friends from out of town. I like it because it’s one of two big chances a year for me to talk to cheesemakers from around the country and the world. I like it because the Cheese School Master Classes are pretty awesome. I like it because every couple of years I taste something amazing that rocks my cheese world.*
I don’t like it because… trade show. If you’ve been to one, you know what I mean. I do feel for all the folks who had to set up the show on Saturday and work through their weekends. I’m still exhausted from the food holidays myself. Glad I don’t need to do any behind the scenes work.
But that’s where I was for the greater part of last week… in the Moscone Center with the Fancy Food, the unfancy food, and all the food people. Tasted some great cheese and saw some awesome folks. Now that I can catch a breath, I’ll be writing it up this week.
*BTW, great news about the 2014 ACS conference location. The conference chair told me to spread the word but the ACS people said, “Wait until the contracts are signed” so I will keep it to myself for now. (It’s not SF)
I went to a trade show yesterday at the Arco Arena.This was the kind of trade show that a lot of pretentious foodie folks would look down on – perhaps even going as far as questioning my credentials as a serious cheese person because I even went myself. I mean, let’s face it… if one is welcomed to a trade show (at the home of an NBA team!) by the (not) Foster Farms chickens, one can reasonably assume that the focus is not on small, family farm cheeses.
Let me pause for a moment and mention that Sac was over 100 degrees yesterday. The Arco Arena — built for tens of thousands – has a large parking lot. So large, that they employ people to drive golf carts around the lot carrying cold water in case someone gets heat stroke on their way to and from the arena. I had a bag of ice in a cooler in the back of my car (as I almost always do) and I rubbed about half the bag on my head before I drove home.
For the simple reason that trade shows have to have a theme , this show (sponsored by one large distributor) had a pirate theme. I am bad at trade shows. I never play by the rules that are set up. I think I was supposed to collect dubloons at every table then turn them in to win prizes at the end, but no way was I going to go to schmooze at every Cowshwitz-supporting, cheap lunch meat booth just to get a chance to win a cruise to Disneyland. That is the definition of a lose-lose situation.
Luckily the fancy cheese was segregated to a little area on the basketball floor. Once I made my way down there I started to run into folks from our little cheese community. It really is a small world once you’ve been involved for a decade and a half. The people working the tables were mostly brokers and sales reps – I think that the only actual producers I talked to were Sadie Kendall and Franklin Peluso — but we had things to discuss and deals to make. And just life to catch up on. I do like seeing these folks every few months. I got to see new baby pics, discuss the health of a dear friend, and help connect job seekers and employers. As well as tasting cheese and setting up a few pre-orders and demos.
Check out the pageantry:
The economy sure has taken its toll on producers making new products it seems. Even though the event included the opportunity to pre-order and lock in prices through the holiday season, there was almost nothing I hadn’t already been offered. That’s certainly not necessarily a bad thing – the cheese god knows we don’t need anymore cheese-with-stuff-in-it – but it was noteworthy since companies usually use shows like this to launch their new products.
The only other thing of note was that the Beemster cow now seems to be an ubiquitous trade show presence. The cheese ad campaign still seems largely to be a Dutch thing but who knows where it will lead. I blame you Uniekaas! You had to market Parrano under the slogans: “The Dutch cheese that thinks it’s Italian”, “Sort of Italian”, and “Move over Parmesan”. Beemster one-upped you with an inflatable cow. Whatcha gonna do about it? I suggest a giant Parrano robot.
By the way, does the Beemster cow have a name? I keep thinking it should be “Babe” like Paul Bunyan’s buddy, the Big Blue Ox.