By Dane Feldman
The Fancy Food Show is currently North America’s largest specialty food and beverage event and has been since 1955. I was granted the opportunity to explore this year’s Summer Fancy Food Show, which took place from June 29 to July 1 in the Jacob Javits Center in New York, NY. Of course, I couldn’t see it all (there were 2,400 exhibitors in attendance from all over the globe), but here are my takeaways:
After wandering around aimlessly for quite some time, I found myself standing amongst a small gathering of people tasting simple syrups. Forrest Butler, co-founder of small batch simple syrup company Royal Rose took a moment to chat with me. I told him I’ve been meaning to make some of my own simple syrups at home and asked him how exactly he got to the Fancy Food Show.
As it turns out, Butler and his wife started Royal Rose in 2010 after he found himself out of work as an architect two years prior. Butler’s wife was canning peaches from the Park Slope Co-op and he asked if he could use some for a trial run at making simple syrup.
“She elbowed me out of the way and added basil, black pepper, and vanilla bean,” Butler says. He took it with him to Tandem, a restaurant in Bushwick, Brooklyn where he was working, and the jar was empty faster than he imagined.
Butler remembers he received a call from a distributor less than 24 hours later who said she just wanted to know more. “Six months later, we were in 180 William Sonoma [stores],” Butler says of their whirlwind success back in 2011.
After tasting a few of the syrups, I recommend the lavender lemon as it seems nearly perfect for boosting a gin fizz into the ultimate summer cocktail.
But Butler wasn’t the only one who was after my own heart. I then met with Alex Abbott Boyd, founder of Cocktail Crate. Boyd’s company specializes in craft cocktail mixers and his varieties include Spiced Old Fashioned, Ginger Bee, Sriracha Margarita, and Lavender Bloom.
I had the opportunity to try the Spiced Old Fashioned (with rye, of course), as well as the Sriracha Margarita (with tequila). The mixers themselves don’t contain the alcohol, which is exactly the point of mixers, but Boyd’s team came prepared.
I felt the Spiced Old Fashioned truly tasted like the perfect old fashioned, which amazes me that he could do so with just a mixer. No garnish or muddled fruit necessary here, though it wouldn’t hurt. I’ll be ordering a bottle of this immediately.
After walking around some more, tasting some delicious mushroom soup from Hale and Hearty, and having pumpkin seeds—also delicious—dumped into my hand by a woman whose face I didn’t even see, I found myself being summoned by Kate Dowdle of the Savannah Bee Company. The charming Dowdle–with a southern drawl as sweet as the honey she sells–offered me a taste of their $100 bottle of tupelo honey.
I don’t know what I’ve been doing all my life without honey like this; it’s perfectly sweet (read: not overpowering) and smooth. Following the honey taste, Dowdle poured me a mimosa, which includes the Savannah Bee Company’s orange blossom honey. Any mimosa I have from now on will be lacking without this boost of flavor.
I had the opportunity to check out a few other vendors before leaving the Fancy Food Show. It quickly became clear to me that cocktail crafting is hot again this year because I also stumbled across Sonoma Syrup, a company that specializes in infused simple syrups (meyer lemon, lavender, and mint, to name a few), as well as Bloody Olive Mary Mix.
Some other highlights include Pop Gourmet Popcorn launching Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce Popcorn, Yancey’s Fancy offering grilled bacon cheeseburger artisan cheddar cheese, and Rice Select, which is my favorite brand of Arborio rice, is launching an Arborio blend with mushrooms as well an Arborio blend with jalapeno.
All in all, attending the Summer Fancy Food Show was a great success. It certainly gave me plenty of ideas, so keep an eye out for future Dish + Drink posts (especially on Thirsty Thursday).