At This Trade Show, a Taste of Craft Food from Across the Country

Good Food Mercantile’s a trade show intended to celebrate and support the Good Food Awards, its esteemed flagship program.

crown finish caves

Brooklyn’s own Crown Finish Caves exhibited at this year’s Good Food Mercantile.

Last month, like every summer, the mammoth Fancy Food Show descended on the Jacob Javits Center. Its scope is as broad as the term “fancy” allows, with as many products from multinational food brands as emerging small businesses. For various reasons, over the years it’s inspired a string of offshoot trade shows. Many of these “other” shows bill themselves as anti-establishment and happen simultaneously in hopes of attracting media and buyers who are already on the prowl for new products.

From 2008 to 2010, there was Brooklyn Based’s obvious antithesis, the “Unfancy” Food Show, which featured many of what we now might call Brooklyn’s first-generation craft food brands, like Mast Brothers Chocolate, Fine & Raw and Liddabit Sweets. There’s also the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce’s ongoing Brooklyn Eats event. 

West Coast transplant Good Food Mercantile is the latest on the scene, and in its second year, it seems to have found its place. It’s essentially a trade show created to celebrate and support the Good Food Awards, its esteemed flagship program. Vendors only include past Good Food Award winners and finalists as well as Good Food Guild members. The event’s organized by a coalition of independent food shops around the country like Williamsburg’s The Brooklyn Kitchen.

This year’s Good Food Mercantile show—which took place on June 25, the same day as the Fancy Food Show’s launch—included products from 22 states, making it a good way to compare and contrast trends from across the country. It was a cheese and charcute-lover’s paradise this year, with five charcuterie makers (all from different states) and seven cheesemakers. They were incredibly good: Attendees sampled fine, fluffy rolls of mortadella mousse studded with pistachios from Minneapolis-based Red Table Meat Co; tasted tangy, intensely red, spreadable pork salumi nduja from Chicago-based Nduja Artisans Co.; and nibbled on dry-cured chorizo and salami picante from Queens’s Charlito’s Cocina. It’s like we’d been transported to Europe.

As for the cheeses, mercantile featured a slew of both established and up-and-coming makers. They also focused on old-world techniques, including Brooklyn’s own Crown Finish Caves, which ages European-style cheeses in what was once a lagering tunnel of a long-defunct brewery in Crown Heights.   

There were quite a lot of olive oil producers, too—six in total, and all from California. As the Good Food Mercantile’s board would know well, olive oil is important cash flow to any small, specialty grocery focusing on craftsmanship. It’s a bonus that the oils seen at the mercantile, like Petaluma’s McEvoy Ranch, happen to have handsome, perfume-like bottles.

A burst of international inspiration was also on display at Good Food Mercantile this year, too. Many vendors moved away from Europe to share pantry additions like New York’s own Masala Mama and One Culture Foods—both are ready-to-use condiments that help you create, respectively, your favorite Indian or Chinese dishes at home.

Where pickles and chocolates once prevailed—and still do, to a large extent—the sphere of small food broadens each year. We’ll find out next summer if this trend prevails, but in the meantime you can see a full list of retailers here, and find their products online or at specialty grocers across the city.

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Cathy Erway is a home cook, local/sustainable foodie, author of The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove and www.lunchatsixpoint.com.