Floor show


An artist uses Stubbs BBQ Sauce to create portraits of the company's founder at the Fancy Food Show.

I’m in San Francisco for the Winter Fancy Food Show, a trade shindig for producers and retailers put on by National Association for the Specialty Food Trade. (Check out their fun consumer site, Foodspring.) It’s a bustling show, with lavish displays filling Moscone Center’s vast exhibit halls.

“Recession? What recession?” I wondered. 

“Oh, they must have paid for all that by September,” my sister-in-law later told me.

cimg0834The show is slightly scaled back this year, but not that a rube like me would notice (it has been some time since I’ve attended this particular trade show). “It’s a little bit smaller,” said an Oakland, CA-based caterer who attends every year. “Maybe.”

Here’s a quick rundown of just a few highlights:

Infusion. Expect to see even more flavor-infused salts, oils, vinegars, and other products on store shelves. Sometimes this leads to flavor confusion because infusion is a tricky proposition. One flavor shouldn’t overwhelm the other. Sometimes the flavors marry well; others, it’s not so successful. I sampled an orange-infused olive oil from Sicily and all I could taste was orange.  And I do not want raspberry-cheddar cheese under any circumstances.

Tea products of every kind. From rare tea leaves to biodegradable tea bags to nutrient-enhanced iced tea beverages, we’ll have more opportunities to sip than ever.

Artisinal chocolate. The chocolate wave is still going strong, though there are so many players–each claiming to have the rarest, fairest-trade, single-origin bar–that it’s hard for consumers (well, me, anyway) to distinguish them.

One of my favorite finds thus far: Golden Star Jasmine Sparkling Tea. This stuff tastes amazing–crisp, refreshing, an elegant warm-weather sipper. You can find it at Whole Foods.

Warm fuzzies in a cup


A hot cup of joe generates warm fuzzy feelings.

A hot cup of joe generates warm fuzzy feelings.

Starbucks was onto something when they handed out free cups of java on election day. The outcome certainly generated a worldwide wave of bonhomie.

In a small way, coffee may have had something to do with it. Yale University psychologists reporting in the journal Science say that just holding a hot cup of coffee is enough to generate goodwill towards others.

The researchers randomly assigned undergrads to hold either a cup of hot coffee or iced coffee and then review a packet of information about an individual to assess that person’s personality traits. Students who had clutched a warm cup of joe deemed the individual “warm”  (i.e., more generous and caring) while those who had held iced coffee were less magnanimous. 

In a follow-up study to gauge the effect of temperature on behavior, the researchers asked volunteers to hold either a hot or cold therapeutic pack and then choose between a gift certificate for a friend or a token for themselves. Sure enough, volunteers who had cuddled up to a heated pad were far more likely to opt for the gift certificate.

Hmmm…I know a cup (or three) of Peets Arabian Mocha-Java (sorry, Starbucks, it’s my fave) sets me up for a good day. Of course, if tea is your brew, you’ll still reap the feel-good benefits of holding a hot cup as opposed to the iced version.