The show is worth visiting for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is just plain gluttony. There are only so many shards of porchetta, robiola cheese and designer chocolates a man can ingest, for instance. I stunned my colleagues with a brave display of capacity, prompting my editor to ask me if I was related to Hoover of the vacuum cleaner company. It’s not by accident I do this for a living. All I have done, really, is follow the advice of Joseph Campbell. People, follow your bliss.
But the show isn’t just for gluttons; it is also compelling for its cultural implications. America, land of privilege and excess, is in a state of flux. The once ubiquitous foie gras and smoked fish purveyors are gradually being squeezed out by producers of gourmet popcorns, gummy bears and pre-made cakes and cookies. A once grown up country is being dominated by adolescents. Just look at the movie industry.
Oh, the shame, the deprivation. There were still, I might note, many delicious things to write about, in an elbow-to-elbow series of halls lined with booths. The doors open at 10 a.m., and with almost a thousand different places to sample, one can easily eat oneself into oblivion by 10:30. Pace yourselves.
By the way, it helps, at these shows, to be six-two, two fifty. Whenever it looked as if some comely, middle aged Korean lady was about to beat me over to the display of black garlic samples, I just used sandlot tactics, lowering my shoulder, and well, you know.
So here is a brief description of a few items that really impressed me, with pictures to illustrate them. Cheeses are everywhere at the show, imported cheeses covered with herbs, washed rind cheeses such as the addictively smelly Red Hawk-perhaps the greatest American-made cheese, and countless cubes of goat, sheep and cow.
Olive oils and balsamic vinegars have particular cache at these shows. One called Lucero, an olive oil from California’s remote Tehama County, was especially fruity and intense, with a really nice price point and catchy labeling.
And there are a mind numbing variety of confections, chocolates, toffees, petit fours, chocolate bars and hand crafted candies from all over the globe. One could go into a diabetic coma just thinking about it.
I could go on and on, but compassion overcomes me. Suffice it to say that all the things that are great about this country, initiative, creativity and entrepreneurship to name just three, are in residence here. And that our most egregious faults, such as waste and excess, are lurking around every corner here as well.
In spite of consuming what I’ll conservatively estimate as 10,000 calories in seven hours of walking the floor at this show, your intrepid reporter felt that he would have been remiss in hitting San Francisco without visiting a few of her celebrated restaurants. So it was off to dinner at Zuni Café, which you can read about, along with an account of Taylor’s Original Refresher and Slanted Door, in the next post.
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