2012 Southwest Foodservice Expo Report: Mushrooms, Mushy Meat, and Shoes

FreshPoint displayed the varieties of mushrooms they sell.

The Southwest Foodservice Expo 2012 at the Dallas Convention Center began yesterday and continues through today. The massive trade show is must-go  for restaurants, institutions, chefs,  retailers or anyone whose life revolves around food service. I attended the first day to look for trends and new or interesting things. The miles of aisles were filled with vendors displaying cooking equipment, restaurant furniture, and cleaning equipment, along with food and liquor samples.  Jump to read about some food items you may see on local menus soon.

Fake: Do Not Eat!
Fake: Do Not Eat!

First, fancy the fries, sushi and cake pictured to the right? They are fake food created by Fax Foods Inc. for such things as movie sets and displays. In this instance, they were being used to ‘model’ a line of take out food containers.  This indicates the scope of the show: it wasn’t just about  gourmet food, the whole ecosystem around food was represented. In between food items, I found cooking equipment, restaurant furniture, and cleaning equipment in abundance. And the food I found wasn’t just  foie gras (from a State where the biggest city that won’t let you choose a large soda!), artisanal cheese, and other gourmet items. The gamut of pre-prepared food is also represented. I saw one vendor of Chinese food offering microwaveable dim sum dishes. All the restaurant would have to do is nuke and serve.

Fake: Do Not Eat!

Some vendors appeared to have wandered into the wrong hall. Why were there shoe vendors there? Maybe on the pretext that people in the business have to wear comfortable shoes when preparing food. Astute insight that.

Borden brought Elsie, a real cow (who doesn’t wear shoes) and sold out of all their milk before I got there. Another dairy, Oak Farms had boxes of chocolate milk that were sweet relief from the thirst that seems to afflict all trade shows.

Ben E. Keith, a distributor of food and drink, had a large space dedicated to small brewers. The representative from Deschutes Brewery put Dallas’ recent success with craft beers in  in perspective when she told me that Bend, Oregon has over 10 craft breweries. If just the City of Dallas had the same brewer density, the town would have over 150 breweries. Imagine how many shoes the brewers would need!

To sell honey, dress like a bee

Some vendors added a touch of the bizarre. Want to sell your honey? Dress like a bee.

Many vendors went to great trouble to display their products to best effect. Take a look at the mushrooms available from FreshPoint. The display reminded me of the show ‘n tell performed by steak houses that let you see the meat before you order. I wonder why restaurants don’t do a mushroom basket like this and let customers choose the mushrooms to go with their meat? It beats the perfunctory button mushrooms for sure.

Other vendors’ presentations baffled me. Take Ole Mexican Foods for example. They make tortillas that taste great. But to market them at the show they served under-seasoned beef wrapped in full-sized tortillas. The beef taco was huge, not  one-hand friendly. There was no salsa.I couldn’t tell if they were hawking their meat or the tortilla. If it was the tortilla, I think a tortilla making machine in the booth would have been more enticing. Especially if they’d handed out small packages of them to attendees.

There were also guest chef appearances, cooking demos, and a barista competition. My colleagues on SideDish will report on some of these today.

All in all, the show (while still a minnow compared with some national events) is a monster. By the time I left, I was worn out but well  informed. Next time I think I’ll reconsider the importance of that vendor selling comfortable shoes.