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Mini pies from a grandmother's recipe were a find at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. 

Submitted photos

I’m constantly on the lookout for something truly new, interesting, innovative and just plain fun, but for mostly products that the average family might actually use.

The annual Fancy Food Show in San Francisco is always a good place to investigate. The Moscone Center is filled with rows and rows of products that creators are hoping will make a hit.

This year, trends included plant-based protein, alternative sweeteners, like monk fruit, collage- infused foods, moringa and mushrooms, plus unending expensive innovations in specialty waters.

Packaged and frozen Indian food products were everywhere. Brooklyn Delhi products was voted the “Front Burner Foodservice Champ” by the show’s judging panel, who felt this new company had the most potential for success — especially their Tomato Achaar, which is available at Oakville Grocery.

I wish I had recommendations from the list of trends. None that I tasted left me wanting more; some left me wanting less. Trends are just that: they come and they go. The last couple of years the trend was gluten-free, which is one trend that has hung on and definitely has a large marketplace.

Collagen-infused foods — implying that one could skip the plastic surgeon and boost collagen “naturally” — confused me. If collagen is infused into a food item, it does not seem to me to be natural. Now, if you were to eat collagen rich beef tendons, that would be naturally occurring. Beef tendons are not typically on my grocery list.

Moringa is a food supplement made from many parts of the Moringa tree, native to the foothills of the Himalayas in India. Moringa was marketed mostly as a powder additive or tea. Murky teas made from mushrooms didn’t call to me either.

With more than 1,400 purveyors and 22,000 square feet of displays, it’s actually a success if I find just three or four new products I can get excited about.

One of my favorites finds — something I’d definitely buy — was a marinated fresh cheese from the Meredith Dairy, out of Australia. A combo of sheep and goat cheeses marinated in garlic infused olive oil, herbs and peppercorns. Sheep cheeses are some of my favorites when I’m on European travel. The cheese is luxuriously soft, spreadable, versatile and a little addictive. Smoothed on crackers, warm crusty bread, topping a salad or as part of an antipasti presentation, it pairs wonderfully with a crisp white wine. Meredith Dairy cheese is available at Whole Foods.

Runamok Maple Syrups were another happy discovery. Based in Vermont, it has a plentiful assortment of options, both for enjoyment on your pancakes, crepes or waffles, but also savory versions that were amazing drizzled over a variety of cheeses, as you might do with honey.

I especially enjoyed their bourbon, whisky and rum barrel-aged syrups. Aged in emptied liquor barrels, the syrups present subtle essences without any alcohol tastes. It’s perfect over any number of desserts, ice cream or fruit.

A great barbecue sauce could be created using the Pecan Wood Smoked Syrup. Runamok even suggests using it in place of a simple syrup in a savory cocktail because of the smokey caramel notes. A little schmeer over warm brie was something I’d do again.

One of my fellow tasters plans to add the Merquen Smoked Chile Pepper infused syrup to his catsup for dipping fries. I enjoyed this one drizzled over cheddar cheese and would include it on cheese platters for entertaining.

Over blue cheese I’d put a few drops of the Elderberry, but then again it loved being on a waffle.

Syrups with Makrut lime, cardamom, hibiscus, ginger or vanilla and cinnamon were all really good. There was not one that I didn’t like.

According to the makers, the best of their best is their Sugarmakers Cut, make from the best maples of each season. It’s not blended or homogenized but offered as Mother Nature intended. While not in Napa Valley yet, these certified organic syrups can be ordered on and on Amazon.

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If you are a small household and have a craving for pie, but it doesn’t make sense to buy a whole pie, fear no more. Mamie’s Pies might be the answer for you. Using recipes from her grandmother, the founder created single serving pies that can be handheld.

Unlike the mass-produced individual pies we have known in the past, these are frozen, so that when you want to enjoy, they are freshly baked. All natural ingredients are used in their apple, cherry, strawberry, blueberry and pumpkin. Cherry pies are super tart, as cherries should be, and the pumpkin is more savory than your average holiday pumpkin pie. They use brown sugar and molasses in the pumpkin, which definitely upped the savory quotient. One of our tasters thought it could actually be used as a side dish in addition to dessert.

They’ve already made Oprah’s list, sold out on QVC last year, and William Sonoma offered them during the holidays, so they are making a nice name for themselves.

My only suggestion is that you follow their recommendation to brush liberally with milk before baking so that you get a more golden crust. I brushed with milk more heavily on my second experiment and this gave me the best results. Baked “as is” they appear rather pale. Egg wash could also be used. I found that dusting the pies with a bit of sugar and cinnamon pumped up the flavors as well, or you can dust the cherry and strawberry with powdered sugar dust after baking and cool down.

One thing to consider is pricing, at $3.99 per mini pie. If you’re a larger family, it might make more sense cost-wise to purchase a whole pie from your local market’s onsite bakery, but if the family can’t agree on one favorite, these assortments would be perfect to make everybody happy. These are available locally at Vallergas, Sunshine Market and Cal Mart.

Although not a new company, I want to give a mention to Chukar Cherries. I’ve used their products all the way back to my B & B days. They’ve introduced a new line of organic products. Their box of assorted dark chocolate-covered cherries included ultra-dark pepper chocolate chipotle cherries, ultra-dark vanilla Ranier cherries and ultra dark tart cherries. Their dried Columbia River tart cherries will be perfect in my cream scones — dried but still tender bits. I’m so glad they’re still around. Look for Chucker products at Sunshine and Cal Mart.

Marie Antoinette said, “Let them eat cake.” Yes, but also let them eat — the candles. This discovery was just plain fun. Edible, hand-crafted dark chocolate and milk chocolate candles for all occasions. You could light up your next celebration by selecting one of the several colorful patterns or go for a custom design. Holiday designs also available. I think it’s a perfect hostess gift. Simply light the 4-inch candles, make a wish, remove the wick (easy) and nibble. Plus, no dripping candle wax to ruin the look of your baked goods. Order online at

Diane De Filipi lives in the Napa Valley and leads cooking tours to Italy and Burgundy, France. Visit or for more information.