Foodie types spent the last three days sampling olive-oil ice cream, sidestepping chipotle-stuffed chocolates, and swigging eyeball-sized cups of Peruvian pisco at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, where tomorrow's taste trends were revealed.
Presented in Moscone Center every year by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade and open only to food-industry professionals, the FFS features 1,300 companies, promoters, and exhibitors from over fifty different countries, all vying to control the lips, tongues, and teeth of America. Every year, a few major themes and flavors dominate, so you know you'll spend the next phase of your life eating cupcakes, say, or assailed by açaí.
As for 2011's Next Big Edible Things, here are a few predictions (with shout-outs to East Bay companies that are — as always — among the avant-est of the avant-garde):
• Wine-infused Whatever: From cheese to chips to chocolate, it's a vino invasion. Concord-based Café Classico Foods offers a blackberry cabernet sorbet. Berkeley-based Vignette Wine Country Sodas are lightly carbonated non-alcoholic pops sweetened only with California varietal wine-grape juice. Pinot, Chardonnay, and Rosé are all yummy, but Rosé gets my vote for prettiest-in-pink.
• Seeds: Armies of sesame, flax, and grape seeds are marching into your mouth. Packed with protein and Omega-3 fatty acids, zillions of these little fellers are making their way into baked goods, spreads, butters, and oils. Berkeley-based Living Tree Community Foods makes a sleek black chia-seed butter. San Ramon-based Laxmi's Delights offers organic flaxseed spreads.
• Extreme Green: Innovative companies attract an ethical demographic while doing their part to save the planet. El Cerrito-based Lotus Foods offers Forbidden Rice and other exotic rices grown via the System of Rice Intensification, a new program that revolutionizes rice-growing by using much less water than is traditionally required. And Ito En, a Japanese bottled-green-tea company with offices in Sonoma, recycles its own used tea leaves to make cardboard shipping boxes, staff uniforms, and even vending machines!
• Fake Meat: Great news for flesh-flouters everywhere! The fake-meat market is expanding exponentially. The Fancy Food Show featured many companies with many clever versions, including Singapore-based Kawan's Soyeat. Known outside the USA as Veat, it comes in authentic flavors including satay, pandan, and Thai. And among the many award-winning chef-created frozen meals offered by Hayward-based Sukhi's is an irresistible vegan-chili chicken, based on a traditional Indian-Chinese fusion dish.
In other news, those chipotle/habanero-infused candies and jams aren't going away anytime soon.