Monday, July 11, 2011

Fancy Food Show, Tired Feet

Thanks to Daphne, the mastermind behind Go Gastronomy, I had the opportunity to spend Sunday working the Skillet Bacon Spread booth at the National Fancy Food Show.  This massive annual trade event brings the nuts and bolts of the food industry together to see the latest and greatest 180,000+ fine food products.  Ranging from meat and cheeses to gelato to bacon spread (of course), the term fancy is a loose one.  But a chance encounter at this event is how Ben and Jerry's reached the masses.  Normally held in New York City, DC got lucky this year and next due to construction at NYC's Javits Center.

The scale of this conference is enormous. I was overwhelmed by the number of products and volume of people.  But, I had a job to do.  Along with bacon spread creator, Seattle street-food pioneer and burgeoning Food/Cooking Network celeb chef Josh Hendersen, fellow DC food blogger Bindesh of DesiGrub and I prepared bacon spread for thousands.  I quickly got up to speed on the Seattle foodie scene (perhaps my next food field trip?!) as well as all things bacon spread.  And soon I was busy preparing samples consisting of a cracker topped with a dollop of the spread capped off with brie and an arugula leaf.

This unique concoction, originally conceived as an indulgent spread for a burger, starts with non-cured Neiman Ranch bacon rendered down for hours with brown sugar, onions, and spices. The result is “spreadable bacony goodness.”  The spread is an ingenious yet simple mix of both savory and sweet.  It was incredibly exciting to watch people take a sample and begin to walk away from the booth; then the bacon spread hit their tongue.  Hundreds of people turned around and exclaimed their love of the product.  My short employment at the booth may have made me biased, but I think the Skillet Bacon Spread was the most unique item at this year's show.  And that is even after sampling hundreds of offerings and of course, preparing samples for hours. I think I may even still smell of bacon!

My foray into the industry taught me such key terms as "shelf stable" (a product that does not require refrigeration to ship or display) and the contrast between retail and wholesale sizing and pricing.  It also taught me that while my day job taxes my mind, it is nothing compared to standing up for eight hours doing food service work.  Picture something akin to the I Love Lucy episode where she is frantically wrapping chocolates.  It took me (Bindesh was much more adept) a while to get into the swing of things, and just like in I Love Lucy, it was so hard to keep from sampling (er, ensuring quality control).  

So alert the masses, Bacon Spread is here to stay!

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