Attending the opening day of the Summer Fancy Food Show in Washington, D.C., is a little bit like being given a bottomless plate at a never-ending, take-one-taste-of-everything buffet dreamed up by Chef Ferran Adrià — a phantasmagorian “bite-mare.”
Where to start? When to stop?
This year, there were 2,400 exhibitors from around the world at the three-day show, almost all of them purveyors of consumer or institutional food and drink and most of them offering at least a half-dozen tasting possibilities. You do the math — tens of thousands of possible nibbles, sips, and slurps.
As I’m not a buyer trying to anticipate customer interest, I set out to do some creative grazing.
The first thing I saw was caviar, but you can’t start grazing with caviar — everything would be downhill from there. So instead I tried skillet bacon jam (bacon, balsamic, brown sugar, onions) from Skillet Street Food, a good choice to get the gastric and creative juices flowing.
A small block of chocolate seemed the logical next choice, and I sampled a “single origin” Morobe from Amano with flavors of dark cherry and citrus. Continuing with the basic food groups, I had some grilled halloumi cheese from Cyprus (“you can grill it, you can bake it, you can fry it — kebabs are good”) before going back to porking, with a crunchy bacon crouton from J&D’s.
OK, next, something vegetarian and Asian to show that I have a broad palate — how about a healthy, crispy, dark-green seaweed snack (it almost tasted like bacon) from Godbawee? Then it was time for something sweet again, so a bite of white chocolate cranberry with orange peel bark from the New England Cranberry Company.
At this point I'm at the seventh mini-course of my roaming buffet, and I spy the booth of Comté, the eastern French gourmet cheese, one of whose members I visited a couple of years ago — bite you back! And what’s cheese without a chip — crunchy white Cheddar and toasted sesame from Food Should Taste Good. Then sweet again, with a Dancing Deer cranberry and orange cookie.
Bite #10: “This is 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, so you have to be an adult,” someone tells me. I try to be most of the time, and the chocolate cabernet ice cream from Mercer’s Dairy may grow some much-needed hair on my chest. Over there’s Trident Seafoods — love their flaky smoked salmon from the Pacific Northwest much more than the gravlax style.
Sweet again, as I hit on Jer’s peanut butter candy ball with ground-up pretzels. And could I help it if a jumbo Granny Smith apple with a coating of white chocolate and macadamia nut (“it retails for about $22.95”) from Mrs. Prindables caught my eye?
Change of pace again. I think the last time I ate a crêpe might have been 1975, so the chicken crêpe from Crepini sent me awash in nostalgia. Next, off to the halal products of packaged meals and snacks from Saffron Road. “I tell the layman that halal is the Muslim equivalent of kosher,” I am told, “but the prayer is different.” Say one for the very dry chicken nuggets.
Perhaps what the chicken needs is a dab of East Shore Specialty’s refreshing Key lime (“we use no salt”) mustard. Also refreshing were Clearbrook Farms’ tarts with separate sweets — “just fill it and serve it.” The tart-sweet tart of rhubarb and strawberry is quite nice.
Oh, my god — at the next booth is wine! No one told me there would be alcohol here. I’ve stumbled across Vignoble Guillaume’s Pinot Noir from Franche-Comté, nothing that would put Burgundians over a barrel, but it does hit the spot. And even more so does the Forget-Brimont Champagne (must remember to do something about that first name), which is very crisp and tart and quite delicious and, by the way, is looking for an American importer. Also from the Champagne region is a very-tangy, very-tasty sauerkraut (“cooked with pork fat, bacon, juniper berry, carrots, onion”) from André Laurent that I fork up.
By now, my palate is beginning to flag, and I’m thinking about popping out for a cigarette, even though I’ve never smoked.
Before I can get to the door, two more products are yelling “bite me, bite me.” First is dry-cured ham from the Surryano (wink, wink, pun, pun) brand from Surry Farms, which is quite well done even considering the groaner. Finally, a drink of cool, white wine to finish off my mini-meal — a spicy, dry, refreshing, and thoroughly unusual blend of white Grenache, Albarino, and Muscato from Clos Pons made in Spain’s Catalunya region.
But before I leave, maybe I really should grab another glass of “Unforgettable-Brimont” Champagne and sneak back to the caviar booth.