What was this, my 125th Fancy Food Show? I exaggerate, but after attending this annual gourmet trade show at Manhattan’s Jacob K. Javits Convention for 10 years or so, it does feel like I’ve been coming here forever.
Experience has bestowed wisdom and I’ve developed some tried and true strategies for navigating the thousands of exhibitors:
1. Don’t eat breakfast.
2. Start in the Italian pavilion. There’s never anything new here—just an endless battery of prosciutto and Parmesan and pasta. But I find it helpful to lay down a good ballast of ham and cheese before I really get down to work. You can also always find a great espresso here as I did this morning at a booth devoted to Caffe Sant’Eustachio, Rome’s great coffee maker.
3. Don’t plan in advance what booths you want to visit. I am vigilant about walking up and down every aisle in both exhibition halls. If a given product’s display doesn’t grab me, so be it. It’s survival of the fittest at the Fancy Food Show.
4. Look out for celebrities. Today I saw Lidia Bastianich (pictured above) hawking her new line of “Nonna” sauces and pastas, Ina Garten hawking her Barefoot Contessa products, Rick Bayless hawking his Frontera products and Paul Prudhomme hawking his products.
5. Limit your cheese intake. Actually, this is the one rule I always break. I know of no other venue in the country where you can sample as wide a range of great international cheeses. Today I tried two brand-new cheeses—Brescianella from Lombardy, Italy and double-cream Cremont from Vermont Butter and Cheese in Websterville—plus dozens of other old favorites.
The show, which is closed to the public, started on Sunday and wraps up on Tuesday night. The organizers are expecting 24,000 attendees and 2,500 exhibitors from 81 countries.