In Photos: The Fancy Foods Show @ Moscone Center, San Francisco

The last time I had been to the Moscone Center was about 20 years ago, back when it was the site of one of the biggest sportscard conventions in the world. In those days, I was real heavy into baseball, and Moscone had it all; there were even a few tables that offered the infamous 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle rookie card, which was worth about $50,000 back then (not sure what it could fetch now). At the same time, you could also buy a Jose Canseco rookie card for a cool $80 (that same card is worth about $10 these days, according to eBay). Anyhow, the look of the building itself was vaguely familiar two decades later.

The Fancy Food Show is beyond massive. It’s kind of like what I tell people about wine tasting here in the Napa Valley: You’ll never be able to sample everything, but it’s still fun to try. The international section was by far the best area to troll, with all of the cured meats and aged cheeses on hand. The photo above shows just two of the fifty-some-odd rows in the South Wing. And there were just as many booths in the North Wing.

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Most people might not realize that dried mushrooms are expensive, so when you see this many in one place, it’s kind of eye-catching. Plus, these were just beautiful specimens of funghi.

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Speaking of expensive, I don’t care who you are or where you may have cooked, one particular booth in the Italian section displayed an absurd amount of truffles, by anyone’s standards. It was by far the most tartufi I had ever seen in one place in my entire life. I came back later in the day and many of them had actually sold. Even from an arm’s distance, this display irradiated an unbelievable earthy funk.

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While I’m on the subject, here is an ungodly amount of salt water taffy. I hadn’t been on a sugar bender like this since Halloween 1985. There was another salt water taffy purveyor as well, but the other display had dozens of different flavors sorted neatly into bins (I can appreciate either approach). Just being in that type of environment, there is such a culture of giddy sampling that many people seem to eat with abandon, myself included.

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A top-of-the-line Berkel slicer is truly a thing of beauty: Ferrari-red finish, mirror-polished circular blade, so elegant even at rest. But its greatest attribute is its masterful engineering. Watching the Berkel in motion is like watching the inner workings of an old-fashioned pocket watch (search “berkel slicer” on YouTube). Plus, it produces slices of prosciutto that are tissue-thin. All surface area. The taste has nowhere to hide. I remember back at the CIA, they wouldn’t let anyone touch the Berkel that they displayed in the campus’s Ristorante Caterina de’ Medici. That was probably a good idea though, since some kids were still injuring themselves with electric mixers.

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