The Specialty Food Association’s Fancy Food Show lands in Las Vegas this weekend for the first time since the 1970s, bringing with it an almost endless array of snackable, drinkable, edible treats. The trade show is a twice-annual event aimed at the $170.4 billion specialty food industry, which includes everything from high-end butter to the latest and greatest weird snacks you can find on the shelves of your local grocery store: think mushroom jerky, plant-based cookie dough made for snacking, and more.
The show will also highlight a handful of local businesses, including Artisanal Foods, a wholesale and direct-to-consumer retailer that sells hard-to-find ingredients like truffles, caviar, and imported cheeses. Jon and Jingle Batista bought the company from the founders in 2021, and have transitioned it into a retail space that will serve home cooks as well as restaurants and consumers (find it at 4860 South Eastern Avenue). A handful of other Vegas- and Nevada-based companies will be showing at the event, including Lucky Jack Cold Brew Coffee, Curly Top Bakery, a cookie company based in Henderson, and Chef’s Choice LLC, a food import company aimed at chefs.
While the Fancy Food Show is a trade-only event — meaning it’s focused on building businesses rather than raising awareness in the public — it often influences what the people will be eating for years to come. Ahead of each Fancy Food Show (the event runs two shows a year, one on the East Coast, typically in New York, and one on the West Coast), the Trendspotter’s Panel releases a trends list, outlining the emerging shifts in our most fanciful eating habits. Here are a few trend highlights from this year’s list, as well as where to find them in Vegas restaurants.
According to the Association’s trend report, pasta consumption has slowed in recent years (surprising data, considering the use-what’s-in-your-pantry rhetoric of the pandemic). Apparently, though, COVID brought a resurgence in comfort foods, and that includes pasta. Consumers are loving new pasta shapes, as well as gluten-free and colorful noodle varieties that are ideal for Instagram.
Find it in Vegas: Vegas hot-spots like Osteria Fiorella, newly opened Superfrico and Eater favorite La Strega are all ahead of the curve on this trend, serving up house-made pastas that will remind you that pasta never really went out of style.
“Healthy” comfort foods.
Plant-based chicken nuggets, healthified pizza rolls, protein bars masquerading as cookies, the list goes on. “Functional foods” will be a major part of the conversation this year, even as consumers grow increasingly tired of vegan and plant-based marketing attempts that are thinly veiled diet culture reinforcements.
Find it in Vegas: The best vegan restaurants in town range from Nacho Daddy, which has a dedicated vegan menu of comforting bar foods, to Chef Kenny’s Vegan Dim Sum, and even China Poblano, which offers a vegan tasting menu of its Chinese and Mexican-influenced dishes.
This year’s Fancy Food Show will play host to food based on traditions of countries around the world — turmeric-chili peanuts inspired by street hawkers in Bangkok, an ice cream company influenced by flavors from Mexico, Turkey, and Morocco, and even a whole pavilion dedicated to bringing specialty Spanish ingredients to the U.S.
Find it in Vegas: Vegas’s food scene has always been heavily international, and a restaurant crawl is often the best way to experience it: grab an onigiri to tide you over from O.Onigiri, an ice cream-filled taiyaki from SomiSomi, or a quesadilla con carne from La Cruda by El Compa to start your snacking journey.