The Fancy Food Show is back! This annual trade show put on by the Specialty Food Association resumed last month after a two-year Covid hiatus. When I lived in New Jersey, attending the show was an easy day trip to Manhattan. Now that I live in Cincinnati, I worried that I might not be able to get there this year, so I was ecstatic when I realized the Show coincided with an already planned trip back east. I was lucky to spend two busy days tasting new and favorite old products, taking notes for stories, and meeting interesting people who love to talk about food as much as I do.
The Specialty Food Association doesn’t actually designate a flavor of the year, but there always seems to be one ingredient that shows up in everything.
I’m not sure how this happens, but I have a theory.
The unexpected Flavor of the Year is the epitome of fancy food: Truffles!
They are hard to find, imported, and expensive. . . . . . . . So how do they become Flavor of the Year?
What is Truffle?
It’s a fungus that grows underground under a host tree, often oak or hazelnut. There are many types – black and white are most common; and they are seasonal - autumn and winter are most common. They grow naturally in Italy and France, where they are harvested with the help of pigs or dogs who are specially trained both to find truffles and to not eat them. These days truffles are also cultivated elsewhere, including the US, but they are a finicky crop that takes a long time to grow, so even farmed truffles are expensive. In their natural form they are extremely perishable, which also affects price.