February 7, 2022 - 9:49 am
Updated February 8, 2022 - 6:34 am
Quite possibly the biggest smorgasbord of the year, the Specialty Food Association’s 2022 Winter Fancy Food Show is filling the Las Vegas Convention Center’s South Hall through Tuesday with a globe-spanning array of upscale edible treats. Some 800 purveyors of epicurean wares are presenting their goods to buyers from grocery chains, restaurant management groups and other gastronomic enterprises.
What’s displayed at the Fancy Food Show might wind up on Southern Nevada’s retail shelves in the months to come.
As in previous years, fine cured meats like Australian lamb pastrami, pastry-wrapped brie cheeses and Bourbon barrel-aged hot sauces galore are on display — but we found a handful of unexpected selections that take the notion of fancy to the level of cool.
Kelp-infused pasta sauce
Seaweed is a natural on a platter of sushi — but what about on a plate of spaghetti? Foraged & Found of Ketchikan, Alaska, is adding the green bounty of Pacific Ocean bull kelp forests to the sunny tomato base of its Spicy Arrabbiata sauce.
“The bull kelp lends this really lovely umami, salty back note,” says company founder Jenn Brown.
It’s definitely a red sauce, with the kelp visually blending into the traditional tomatoey background, leaving just a hint of iodine-forward minerality in the taste.
Adventurous fish & chips
Leave it to an Icelander to take fish and chips to a strange new level.
Runar Omarsson of Viking Icelandic created his company’s signature bags of flash-dried whitefish mixed with fried potato chips to balance proteins and carbohydrates after years as an outdoor guide in his home country of Iceland.
“It’s mountain bike food,” said Omarsson, noting its on-the-go appeal to bikers, hikers and beyond, not to mention seafarers.
And just what does flash-dried fish taste like? Imagine — if you can — a concentrated fish stick with the texture of a dehydrated banana chip. They are not subtle on the palate, to be sure.
The Fancy Food Show highlights where food trends intersect. Over the past decade, Korean cuisine has become increasingly popular in the U.S., including mandu, Korean-style dumplings usually filled with ground pork. At the same time, more consumers have embraced meat substitutes (think Impossible Whoppers and Chipotle chorizo bowls).
To meet both markets, Korean company O’Food brought its plant-based mandu to Las Vegas, spiced with trendy gochujang sauce and kimchi.
“What we discovered in this process is that plant-based meat works really well with dumplings,” said spokesperson Scot Choi. “Texture-wise, flavor-wise, they really taste like any Korean mandu.”
Sparkling maple syrup
Vermont-based Runamok Maple is looking to bring some visual bling to your short stack with its Sparkle Syrup — maple sweetness combined with edible pearlescent mica. The mineral lends an enchanting, shimmering quality to the syrup.
“We launched this during the pandemic for no other reason than just fun,” said company president Curt Alpeter, noting that it has become the leader of his company’s product line. The syrup is versatile and can be added to cocktails, too.
Edible birthday candles
In the eyes of Loree Sandler, old-school wax birthday candles are yesterday’s party.
Trained as an architect, Chicago-based Sandler created Let Them Eat Candles, a company that makes edible birthday candles, after a waxy meltdown at a birthday celebration for her youngest child.
“It was bittersweet, watching the wax candles ruin his cake,” Sandler said. “I was like, here’s the last product that hasn’t been tweaked or optimized.”
Now, after multiple tweaks and optimizations, her sweet invention comes in milk and dark chocolate flavors.
She notes that her candles, which are larger than the usual wax luminaries, don’t have much wick so there’s no worry about eating string.
Note: A previous version of this story misattributed the quote by Runar Omarsson of Viking Icelandic.