The Winter Fancy Food Show 2016 boasted record-breaking attendance with nearly 20,000 attendees, 1,500 exhibitors, and more than 1,000 new products. Held in San Francisco, this is the largest specialty food trade show on the West Coast.

The purpose of the show is to unveil the next new things in the culinary world, both edibles and tangibles. Attendees hope to unearth the best new mouth-watering kitchen staple and fun new widgets and gadgets.

An interesting year for my tasting panel and our taste buds. With 1,000 “new” products this year, we might assume that the products being added to the grocery shopping list would be long. It’s not. “New” doesn’t necessarily mean a product is something we’ve never seen on a shelf before. It may simply mean a new company is now producing carbon copies of comparable products we’ve seen for years. Another brand with new packaging and marketing buzz phrases. “New” to me means I’ve never tasted it, experienced it in a new composition or it’s a new and improved way of re-creating a familiar product. These are the things I look for and get excited about passing on to you.

In previous years, it’s been difficult to narrow down the favorites of the tasting panel to just a few for my column on what’s new. This year, there were so many “been there and done that” offerings that the items that stood out really got our focus.

There were items we tasted that also left us wondering. Instant coffee and hot chocolate made from mushrooms. Why?

At Sonoma Brinery, “fresh” is their guarantee. They’ve been around for a while, but I hadn’t discovered them because their pickles are in the refrigerator section of markets and not always in the same place. I discovered this because I had to stock back up after the samples were gone. It’s now my favorite pickle. First bite took me back to the kosher delis near where I lived as a kid. Flavor flashback. Fresh, crispy crunchy on the outside and juicy inside.

Barrel-fermented, half-sour Manhattan-style are considered the “King of Pickles.” Flavored with nine spices, fresh garlic and sea salt. No fats, less than 1 carb, not over-salted. A live culture fermented food. Their probiotics offer many health benefits. The Wild West Dills were an interesting zesty switch-up.

Bread and Butter Pickles come in “Outrageous” Southwestern style and “Spicy” with chili heat. Not grandma’s recipe but really good in or next to your favorite sandwich.

All their sauerkrauts had a great crunch factor because these are raw cabbages, not pasteurized. Very pleasant tartness. The flavor profiles of the Smoky Chipotle, Dill & Garlic and Cortido didn’t overtake the natural cabbage flavor. Great as a condiment or a side dish.

Whatever you do, don’t throw away the pickle juice. I’ve dropped thinly sliced veggies into the brine for a few days and ended up with crispy, flavorful crudite. Add a few spoonfuls to stew or casserole where you want a tart note. Use in place of vinegar or maybe in a bloody mary. It’s just too good to toss out.

Their koshers and sauerkrauts have been certified by the non-GMO Project. You can find Sonoma Brinery products at Nob Hill, Whole Foods, Browns Valley Market, Raley’s, Sunshine and Safeway.

“Way Better Snacks” has revisited tortilla chips with their “A Nacho Above.” The large majority of us felt they really were. It’s what you get when you add sprouted seeds, bean and ancient grains to a tortilla chip. Don’t fret. None of these simple natural ingredients takes away from the fun of a chip snack. Certified gluten-free, non-GMO, certified kosher, 100 percent whole-grain and no trans fats. You won’t even realize it’s better for you. No orange-colored fingers because there’s no artificial coloring. Great crunch and savory spice balance. Holds up to salsa and even for making fully loaded nachos. I recently used them in my taco salad recipe and was really happy with the results. Being gluten-free, they’re something all the family could enjoy together.

Finding something in the gluten-free category that everyone likes can often be a challenge. These chips won’t be. Available locally at Whole Foods, Target, Nob Hill and Raley’s.

They were also an all-natural, preservative-free, gluten-free, non-GMO and kosher offering.

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Dried fruits are certainly not new, but the folks at Stoneridge Orchards know how to take advantage of the knowledge that comes with three generations of farming orchards in Washington state where warm days and cool nights create the ideal environment for so many fruits, especially cherries. Once they are hand-picked, the fruits are dried to preserve the natural flavors, and carefully packaged.

Stoneridge Dried Sliced Peaches begin as tree-ripened summer peaches, picked when perfectly juicy and sweet. Sliced into ample wedges, instead of rings, you can see the difference as well as tasting it.

This year’s new product line includes Chili Lime Cherries with Tajin seasoning, cherries and berries dipped in Greek yogurt and several varieties of dried fruits dipped in dark chocolate. Dried fruits dipped in chocolate is, again, not new. What was new was the fact that the shell of the chocolate was delicate and not heavy and waxy as often is the case, so the fruit flavors really shown through.

After the tasting, I had exactly 2 cups of various berries and cherries left and decided to bake a batch of oatmeal cookies substituting the traditional raisins with these mixed berries. Best darn oatmeal cookies I’ve ever made. The dried fruits have just enough natural moisture remaining in them that they did not draw moisture from the cookies in the baking process. The cookies were slightly crispy on the outside and tender in the middle.

Got milk? Available at Whole Foods, Vallergas and Browns Valley Market. Lots of interesting recipes on their website,

Mangia Bene!

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