by Julie Lindow
My fancy future breakfast includes sheep-milk yogurt, farm-direct and organic coffee with mushroom creamer, breakfast chocolate, pasta, California honey, and a Moringa green shake. That is exactly what I ate at the 2020 Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, California. As I ate, I learned that in the future, food will be sustainable, organic, fair trade, or rather farm direct, and nutrient dense.
And I gathered recipes for our readers.
Due to the COVID19 Crisis and the closure of restaurants, many of our local food producers are struggling. You can help by ordering online directly or buying at your local store the products mentioned in the piece below. Also, please buy from local dairies, bakeries, farms, coffee and chocolate producers, and order take out from your favorite restaurants as much as possible. When possible try to pick up yourself as many of the delivery companies can charge the restaurants or providers as much as 30%. Thank you!
Every year the Winter Fancy Food Show includes about 1500 vendor booths from around the world presenting thousands of fancy products at the Moscone Convention Center. Down each aisle, one will find a cornucopia of exotic barbecue sauces, mustards, cotton candy, chocolates, ice creams, crackers, cheese. Food is a hot commodity!
Of course, food is our common denominator, no matter what our politics, ethnicity, nationality— we all have to eat. I was struck by how the Fancy Food show is mostly about relationships. The food vendors were all meeting and greeting each other, looking for distributors, and standing nervously at attention when a ribbon of black-suited judges would march by their booth.
I wandered through the international section and sampled delicious grassy fresh olive oil from Greece, nutty cheese from Italy, and semi-sweet chocolate cookies from France. Certainly, there were plenty of delicious and interesting vendors to explore. I needed a way to narrow my scope, so I focused on fair trade and organic food producers which, against my intentions, led me back to the West Coast.
Fair-trade and organic food producers tend to be small in scale, and so they generally cannot afford to travel to trade shows in the United States. That meant that most of the vendors from other countries were large commercial producers.
I found my fancy future breakfast among the California vendors and discovered that California is more of a haven of local, organic, fair-trade (or farm-direct) food vendors than I had realized.
Bellwether Farm’s Sheep-milk Yogurt
My grand adventure began with Bellwether Farms low-sugar, blackberry sheep yogurt. Bellwether owner Liam Callahan explained to me that humans have been cultivating sheep for milk for thousands of years in the Mediterranean, and particularly in Bulgaria where the average lifespan is extraordinarily long. Sheep’s milk is more nutrient dense than cow’s milk and easier for most people to digest. Also, raising sheep is easier on the environment than raising cows. The Bellwether sheep roam the Sonoma hills of California. An added bonus is that their wool is sheered twice a year and used by a wool cooperative for carpets, mostly.
Another cool fact about Bellwether Farm is that Liam’s mother Cindy Callahan left her career as a nurse and founded Bellwether Farm in 1986, when she was in her fifties. The farm is now primarily operated by Liam and his wife Diane, and they make all of their products by hand, which is impressive.
You may wonder what sheep’s milk tastes like. It has more of a tangy flavor than cow’s milk, which makes it pair well with honey, or fruit such as strawberries or blackberries. Yum! Another favorite of mine is their whole-fat cow’s milk vanilla yogurt. Also, try their famous cheeses—Carmody, fromage blanc, ricotta, or crème fraiche.
On their website, Bellwether offers nutritional information about the benefits of sheep milk versus cow milk. To summarize, sheep milk has 60% more protein than cow milk, and all ten essential amino acids making it a complete protein. Also, sheep milk has more good fats, mono- and poly-unsaturated, including omega 3 and 6. It is also higher in naturally occurring vitamins and minerals—A, B, B1, B6, B12, C, E and calcium (also more magnesium, phosphorous and zinc, which may help combat allergies and eczema).
Bellwether has won many awards for their yogurts and cheeses .
See our recipe article for “My Fancy Future Breakfast.”
Peerless Coffee & Tea
Next I was attracted by the charm of Peerless Coffee & Tea’s new modern deco, yet old fashioned, bag designs. Their new designs better reflect their mission and award-winning coffee. I enjoyed a cup of their Ethiopian Mystic Lion that was perfectly balanced with notes of honey, berries, a sweet lemony tang (not acrid like some light roasts!) and a spiced finish. My favorite though is their Balthazar Blend from Sumatra and Peru. Its rich cocoa, molasses and caramel flavors are more my style. Peerless has so many varieties to explore, I am glad they offer a monthly coffee club membership with free shipping. For a special occasion, or to help you finish that novel, try one of their highly selective coffees, the Jamaican Blue Mountain Fancy or Panama La Esmeralda Geisha.
Little did I know that my cup of coffee would also satisfy my thirst for local history. Peerless is a family-owned, Oakland-based business that was founded in 1924 by Yugoslavian immigrant John Vukasin. In 2019, Mr. Vukasin’s grandchildren won Roaster Magazine’s Roaster of the Year award. The family has preserved this rich history in a museum at their site on 260 Oak Street in Oakland, California.
The museum houses a collection of the family’s personal coffee and tea artifacts as well as a carefully curated collection of rare and antique coffee memorabilia from around the world. Read more about it.
When I asked them if they included fair-trade and organic coffees, they showed me their fair-trade and organic options and then explained that fair-trade certification is not all that it is cracked up to be. Unfortunately, certifiers of fair trade are sometimes bribed, and sometimes the farmers do not receive the pay they are due. It was eye-opening for me to learn from several vendors that fair trade is unreliable and the process is too often corrupted. This leaves producers in a difficult spot. Most of the vendors I spoke to explained that instead of buying fair-trade certified products, they developed their own relationships with farmers and track their supply chains carefully. For example, Peerless is actively engaged in eighteen farm-direct relationships from Ethiopia to South and Central America.
Laird Superfood Mushroom Creamer
I would never use powered creamer in my coffee, and I certainly wouldn’t put mushrooms into my coffee!
So, when I walked by the Laird Superfood booth I didn’t even glance at them, until a young man handed me a cup of mushroom creamer. He seemed nice and I am adventurous, so I tried it. Wow! This creamer is made from coconut oil and coconut sugar, and most importantly, four kinds of powered mushrooms, Chaga, Cordyceps, Lion’s Mane, and Maitake.
The mushrooms give your brain and body a nutritional supercharge. Mix this creamer with your coffee in the morning and you can do anything! The company was founded by athletes who wanted to share their nutritional secrets for achieving more stamina with their coffee-gulping, office-worker friends.
As I continued to explore the hall, with my Peerless Ethiopian coffee in hand, I wandered upstairs to the Dandelion Chocolate stall. A dear friend told me she eats chocolate in the morning because it is delicious with coffee, and if she eats it too late in the day, it keeps her awake at night. What a great idea! Also, for all of you who write or create in any way, high-quality chocolate provides a more steady and mood-enhancing lift than an afternoon cup of coffee. I always keep a bar of Dandelion Chocolate from Madagascar or Belize at my desk, in case of writing emergencies.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Greg D’Alesandre, Dandelion’s vice president of research and development/chocolate sourcerer (haha!). Greg told me that he grew up with little means, so he forged a career in tech that enabled him to follow his childhood dream of becoming a chocolate maker. Greg’s joy and passion is contagious. He explained to me that Dandelion only uses two ingredients to make their chocolate—cocoa beans and organic cane sugar. Therefore, the flavor of the beans is critical.
Dandelion Chocolate stands out from other chocolate makers in many ways but most importantly, they source their chocolate from single origins. So, I asked Greg about the fair-trade issues that other vendors had told to me. He explained that fair-trade certification is insufficient. Dandelion is dedicated to going beyond fair trade—they practice radical transparency. They are dedicated to supporting farmers and paying fair prices (sometimes more than three times the normal price). By carefully tracking their supply chain and every step of the chocolate process with custom-crafted software, Dandelion is able to provide comprehensive sourcing reports online to the public.
Also, unlike traditional chocolate makers, Dandelion does not have one diva chocolatier but rather about thirty chocolate makers who work collaboratively. And instead of secret recipes, Dandelion is pro-open source—they wrote the Making Chocolate cookbook in 2017, to share their chocolate-making process with the world. In short, Dandelion does not just want to make chocolate—they want to change the world of chocolate.
Greg acknowledged with humility that businesses (especially white people) from the United States need to be sensitive when speaking about how much their business can benefit people in another country. U.S. businesses need to ask farmers what they need and try to build supportive partnerships rather than hierarchical imperial relationships. He explained that by visiting the farms and fermenters every year, he builds trusting partnerships. Chocolate, like wine, is different with each crop depending on the weather and other growing conditions. One crop may require a different drying and fermenting process than last year’s crop. Working collaboratively with buyers, the farmers and fermenters have more agency over their products and thus more dignity and pride in their work. Everyone ends up with a higher quality product and everyone wins.
Visiting Dandelion chocolate is not just a treat, it’s an experience. Evidence shows that experiences bring more pleasure than just a treat. Visit their café on Valencia Street in San Francisco and watch the sorting of beans through a window in the back.
Or visit their factory and take a tour, a class, and eat at their Parisian-style chocolate salon, Bloom, that offers savory dishes as well as many chocolate pastries and chocolate drinks. You can even take chocolate tours to Dominican Republic, Tanzania, Belize, or Colombia.
Dandelion Chocolate Factory
Check to find out when they will have visits to their new chocolate factory and Bloom Salon at 16th and Alabama streets in San Francisco.
A wonderful series of photo albums.
Pasta for breakfast?
As I continued to search for the organic and fair-trade vendors, I soon became hungry for something more than yogurt, coffee, and chocolate. To my surprise, I saw the Italian farro penne that I ate at home the night before, Monograno Felicetti from Italy.
Their representative gave me some penne with a pancetta sauce that rounded out my fancy breakfast perfectly. Also, I learned that Cotogna, that must-go-to authentic Italian restaurant in North Beach San Francisco, uses their pastas.
On a hunt for a healthier pasta, I had tried many whole wheat, legume, rice, etc. pastas. Finally, I found Monograno farro penne at the Fatted Calf in Hayes Valley. It stands up to sauces and has a somewhat heavier chew which makes it very satisfying. The grains are all grown on organic farms in the Italian mountains. I was talking to their sales rep about how important that is to me because glyphosate (Roundup) use is extremely restricted in Europe. Here in the United States organic grains are too often contaminated with glyphosate that drifts on the wind from neighboring non-organic farms.
True Gold Honey
A lady next to me chimed in that glyphosate is killing our bee populations in the United States and that we need to stop using it before the crisis becomes irreversible. She explained that she is an apiarist. To learn more about the dangers of glyphosate read the Environmental Working Group’s report and NPR’s “Roundup Weed Killer Could Be Linked To Widespread Bee Deaths.”
I asked her if I could come talk with her at their True Gold Honey booth. True Gold is based just outside of Fresno because being in the middle of the state allows them to more easily move their bee hives from location to location. The adorable mother and son team, Sarah and Tyler Sample, explained to me that their bees are moved to an orchard or crop area before any pesticides are sprayed. This is both the law and the only way to keep the bees healthy. Also, they harvest the honey by hand and use sustainable practices to reduce waste and their impact on the earth.
I tried every flavor of their award-winning raw honeys, and I was surprised by how distinct each honey was from the other. The Wild Buckwheat honey is amazingly complex with rich and tangy notes. The Avocado is lusciously rich and buttery. The Coastal Mountain Sage is sweet and delicate, perfect with cheese. The Orange Blossom smelled of citrus and the flavor is both zesty and floral. Try True Gold honey on sheep-milk yogurt or in your Peerless coffee. It is heavenly!
Enjoy this video report on the True Gold family and work.
Finally, I ended my breakfast with a delicious and nutrient-dense, Moringa green shake from Kuli Kuli! Click here to read the story and recipes I wrote about Kuli Kuli for Eat Drink Films.
What an adventure! I was thrilled to discover that my perfect future breakfast is NOW and it comes from transparency, collaboration, sustainable practices, dedication and love. And I hope that you will enjoy trying the recipes we share with you here.
Thank you to all the vendors above who kindly shared their stories, products and passion with me.
Julie Lindow (aka Jules Lind) is a writer and editor. She is currently working on a series of detective novels set in 1940s San Francisco. Living in and creating a continuum from past to present makes for many a foggy evening walking through time, up and down hills, from libraries, to downtown, to the grand Pacific Ocean. As editor of Left in the Dark: Portraits of San Francisco Movie Theatres she wishes she were spending more time in San Francisco’s historic movie houses, what is left of them, but there has been a lot of work to do lately.
Julie has written for EatDrinkFilms about the birthplace of outdoor cinemas,, Greek Inspiration: Democracy and Deliciousness in Action at Souvla, a new restaurant in Athens called The Fabrika tou Efrosinos, Orson’s Belly,, Cocktails Recipes, Secret Horrors at the Castro Theater and Stookey’s Club Moderne.
Her writing has been making regular appearances on Medium.
A couple of video tours of the Fancy Food Show will give you a sense of the place.
And the Fancy Food Show You Tube channel features their own reports, interviews and panels.