Memories of the Fancy Food Show

The brie cheese should be baked until it is golden brown.

The brie cheese should be baked until it is golden brown. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

The chipotle sauce combines elements of sweet and hot flavors.

The chipotle sauce combines elements of sweet and hot flavors. CONTRIBUTED


Published: 12-19-2023 3:43 PM

In decades past, when my mother lived in the New York area and I consequently had a home base there, I used to attend the Fancy Food Show.

Sponsored by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, this enormous trade show took up (and still takes up, I gather) several floors of New York City’s Jacob Javits Convention Center.

Manufacturers of food products including preserves, sauces, pastries and confections gave out samples of their wares in the hope of luring buyers to purchase them in quantity.

I started going when I became a food writer. Journalists were admitted for free. The show provided a handy, delicious way to research food trends.

It wasn’t always easy. Absorbing hundreds of nibbles in a day or two took physical fortitude. My feet always needed soaking after walking miles of aisles at the Javits Center. My digestive system was even more overwhelmed.

Attendees were not in general allowed to take samples away from the show. Fortunately, the organizers looked the other way when members of the press walked out with bulging tote bags.

They realized that our taste buds could go on strike halfway through the Javits Center and might need to wait to absorb further samples.

Each year there seemed to be one or two flavors that dominated the wares on display. In recent years, I gather, matcha was one of them. In the mid-2010s, this ground Japanese tea powder started appearing in baked goods, pasta and ice cream, as well as beverages.

Right now, black garlic (aged, heated garlic) and ponzu sauce (a citrus-soy combination) seem poised to take over chic pantries.

I am old enough to recall the year in the 1990s when key lime was the show’s star flavor.

I was familiar, of course, with key lime pie. That year, I found the flavor of this not-too-tart citrus in many new products: marinades, salad dressings, cookies, sauces, and soaps. I wish I could find the soap today; it was made with glycerin and smelled and felt wonderful.

After the terrorist bombings of 2001 in New York, the trend at the show wasn’t one flavor, but rather lots of flavors in products that evoked a feeling of home. Comfort food was the watchword of the year as the city tried to recover from tragedy.

One of my favorite Fancy Food Shows was the one in which everything suddenly seemed to be infused with chipotle and smoked jalapeño.

Chipotle wasn’t new then, as black garlic isn’t new now. Mesoamericans had been smoking jalapeños for centuries, even before the Aztecs came along and named them ”chilpoctli,” or “smoked chiles.” Nevertheless, chipotles were new to most U.S. eaters and shoppers.

I had eaten a few chipotle-inspired dishes during my time at school in Texas, but even in Texas they hadn’t gone mainstream at that point. Suddenly, at the Fancy Food Show, they were everywhere—in cheeses, in stews, in sauces, in jellies.

The chipotle has a couple of advantages over the plainjalapeño. The smoking dries it out and helps it last longer, which is handy. Its real asset, however, is its flavor. The smoking tones down the heat of the pepper and gives it extra dimension.

I like to add it to all sorts of stews, and particularly to soups like a meatless corn chowder. I generally start my corn chowder with a little bacon, but if I’m serving vegetarians I can obtain smoky flavor from chipotle.

I also love combining chipotle with fruits of all sorts. I’m a big proponent of marrying sweet and hot.

At this time of year, I like to add this flavor to cranberry sauce. (Yes, I’m finally getting to a recipe.) The smoke and the mild heat of the chipotles really pop when combined with tart cranberries and sweet sugar. And the color is downright gorgeous.

I often serve my Cranberry Chipotle Sauce on simple crackers with cream cheese or soft goat cheese. I recommend it that way.

If you want to be a little fancier as you entertain in this holiday season, I recommend serving it in a Brie en Croûte—brie baked in puff pastry. It’s just a little showy and very delicious.

Here is that recipe. Merry Chipotle Christmas to all!

Baked Brie en Croûte with Cranberry Chipotle Sauce

Please note that you don’t need a fancy imported French brie for this recipe. It would be too goopy (I love goopy cheese, but if you’re baking this it will be goopy enough) and would also be a bit of a waste; French brie comes in larger rounds.

A standard five-inch domestic brie wheel is perfect. You can’t really save or reheat this, so small is ideal.

This recipe uses chipotles in adobo, which can be found in small cans in the Latin section of larger supermarkets. Most recipes don’t use the whole can; feel free to freeze leftover chipotles in adobo for future use.

Ingredients for the chipotle sauce:

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

3 cups cranberries

1 to 2 chipotles in adobo (plus a little of the adobo sauce)

Ingredients for the baked brie:

1 egg

1 tablespoon cold water

1 thawed puff pastry sheet (I used Pepperidge Farm; feel free to make your own if you like, but that is beyond my skill set)

1 5-inch round of brie (keep the rind)

1/4 to 1/3 cup cranberry chipotle sauce, plus additional sauce for serving


First, make the chipotle sauce. In a saucepan, combine the water and the sugar and bring them to a boil. Add the cranberries and the chipotle, and return the mixture to the boil. Reduce the heat and boil until the cranberries pop, 5-10 minutes. (If the sauce starts to get too fuzzy, add a tiny amount of butter.)

Let the sauce cool while you assemble the brie. (It works even better if you refrigerate it for several hours or overnight to let it thicken.)

To make the baked brie, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and water.

On a floured board, roll the puff pastry sheet out until there is enough of it to wrap around the brie. Cut off the corners to make assembly easier. If you like, use cookie cutters to cut the corners to make small decorative pieces of pastry to lay on top of the brie. (Snowflakes are pretty and seasonal.)

Slice the brie in half horizontally. Lay the first round half on the puff pastry, rind-side down.

Spread the 1/4 to 1/3 cup of sauce on the cheese. Top with the other half of the cheese, rind side up.

Wrap the pastry around the cheese, sealing the creases with the egg wash. Place the cheese, seam side down, on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat. Lay the decorative bits of pastry on top if you’re using them, and brush the whole thing with egg wash.

Bake the brie until it turns golden brown (about 15 to 20 minutes). Let it cool for a few minutes before serving.

Serve with crackers and/or fruit, with additional chipotle sauce in a side dish. Serves 6 to 8 as an appetizer.

Tinky Weisblat is an award-winning cookbook author and singer known as the Diva of Deliciousness. Visit her website,