Nino’s at the Fancy Food Show 2012

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One of the GREAT “perks” of being the Director of Culinary Development at Nino’s is getting the opportunity to see, smell, and yes, taste all the new products being introduced into the marketplace by virtually thousands of different companies.

If you love food, (and we do), there was only one place we wanted to be on June 17th – 19th of this year, and that was the 2012 National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT), otherwise known as The Fancy Food Show held for the 2nd year in a row in the nation’s capital.

What’s it all about?

The Fancy Food Show is North America’s largest collection of manufacturers and distributors from over 80 different countries, all vying for the attention of food buyers, and eventually, space in your pantry, refrigerator, freezer and (hopefully) your palate.

Acres of booths and displays showcasing 260,000 unique and innovative items compete for the attention of the over 60 thousand attendees with colorful displays, tempting samples, and occasionally, some pretty outlandish theatrics.

What goes down…(hopefully).

To survive the mayhem of a large food show, you’ve got to have a strategy, and Fred Rayle, Nino’s Director of Operations, and I know the rules, and the ropes.

This CERTAINLY isn’t our first culinary rodeo.

Skip breakfast (you’ll be eating all day), wear comfortable shoes (a MUST), take copious notes or you’ll NEVER remember where you sampled that Balsamic Fig Spread yesterday, and avoid the temptation of eating everything that looks good at, let’s say, Booth # 126. In other words, you have to budget your available appetite or else you might not have any room left for something really worthwhile at Booth # 5,641.

To get an idea of what our day was like, follow @ninoschefpete where I live tweeted our progress.

The “sofi”™ Awards

One of the highlights of each year’s show is the announcement of each year’s winners of the coveted sofi Awards (specialty outstanding food innovation). Each fortunate winner within the various categories proudly shows off his or her Gold or Silver “sofi” statue reminiscent of an Academy “Oscar” at his or her display.

At Nino’s, we give out our own Fancy Food Show awards,  and although we don’t really have a name for them (yet), the eventual winners are awarded something more important  than a statue: like space on our shelves…

So what did we find this year?

The list is long, so we’ll give you just a “taste” of some of this year’s great finds.

  • Crio Bru Brewed cocoa — just like coffee!
  • Sukhi’s Indian Cuisine Fabulous Indian-prepared dishes available in convenient frozen packaging.
  • Starbuck’s New, Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate.
  • Got Milk? Flavored drink straws for milk (yes, everything eventually comes back around again.).
  • The Modern Cocktail Miniature bottles of your favorite cocktail mixers…and yes, we have to admit, the packaging was pretty slick.
  • Real Beanz Ok, here you have it! Lifestyle Ice Coffee drinks…c’mon now, you know you’ve been waiting for this.
  • Chimichurri from Gaucho Ranch Nice to find a quality Chimichurri sauce that’s “shelf stable”….yum!
  • Hancock Gourmet Lobster Co. A Lobster Risotto and Mac & Cheese you’ve got to taste to believe. Maine Lobster never tasted SO good!
  • Pistachio Butter!! If you love pistachios, you’ll love this organic, small batch pistachio butter!
  • Seaweed Snacks?? They’re coming!
  • Corkcicle…what the??  Think of it as a bottle cork with an unmeltable/ re-freezable icicle that is attached to the underside and immerses into your wine to keep it just the right temperature…never warm, never drips….never mind.
  • J-Burger Chili A terrific meal starter. Just add meat and you’re pretty much good to go to your own culinary rodeo….

Nino’s is always on the lookout, fork in hand, (at some of America’s great food events just like this year’s Fancy Food Show) to bring you the newest, the tastiest, and yes, the “Fanciest” foods and gourmet products from around the corner and around the world.

We promise that once we “digest” this year’s show, you can look forward to seeing some pretty tasty results.