Where do the "cool hunters"the professionals who seek out what's hipgo to find food trends? Not to stores. Not to clubs. But to somewhere much less groovytrade shows. When I want to find out what's going to be flying out of shops in six months, I submit to the fluorescent lights and extra-long aisles of the Fancy Food Show, where I find more kinds of salsa than I ever knew existed, as well as new syrups, sausages, teas and hundreds of other items. I also check out the Housewares Show, where I get to see, touch and experiment with all kinds of high-tech prototypesprogrammable blenders, high-speed ovens, kitchen-friendly computers (the keyboards are immersible in water)some of which will make it to market, some of which won't. Here, the innovations you'll soon be coveting.
Pears, trendy? Apparently so, since they showed up all over the Fancy Food Show. F&W's Test Kitchen staff loved King's Cupboard Pear Cinnamon Caramel Sauce, especially served warm over vanilla ice cream or with apple slices ($7; 800-962-6555). Cinnabar's Pear Cardamom Chutney takes pear in a savory direction; try it with roasted meats ($6; 800-824-4563). Aunt Sue's Ginger Pear Salad Dressing, made in small batches using Bartlett pears, is a natural marinade for pork chops as well as a topping for greens ($6; 800-553-5753). Even our most finicky editors raved over the fresh flavor of Cuisine Perel's D'Anjou Pear Vinegar ($9; 800-887-3735); add it to pungent greens like dandelion.
Hitting The Sauce
Tequila has evolved from a rough-around-the-edges spirit into a pricey boutique one. Now it's even showing up in...chocolate sauce. Café Tequila's Dessert Sauce mixes El Tesoro with white chocolate ($12; 415-674-1772). F&W editors loved the spiciness of Rick Bayless's seasonal Spring Break Salsa, which has a splash of tequila as well as a hit of habanero pepper ($4; 800-509-4441). Cuisine Perel's Tequila Lime Vinegar is perfect for seafood marinades and vinaigrettes ($8; 800-887-3735). The Fancy Food Show was also awash in products that add restaurant quality to homemade tequila drinks, such as Nantucket Off-Shore Seasoning's Margarita Rimmer, a cilantro- and mint-infused French sea salt ($6; 508-994-1300).
With $10,000 stainless-steel grills barely raising an eyebrow, All-Clad's barbecue tools, the first Rolls-Roycequality ones on the market, seem long overdue. Easily the priciest set you can buy (it's $119), the tools are long-stemmed to avoid mussing a manicure and made of highly polished, stain-resistant 18/10 stainless steel. This substantially weighty quartet includes a marinade brush with a replaceable head, a two-pronged fork, locking tongs and a slotted turner. Forget about polishing the silver; you may need extra help polishing fingerprints off these mirrorlike surfaces (800-ALL-CLAD).
A Daily Grind
We have all been taught that spices are best if they're ground right before they are used. That meant having a spice mill or a mortar and pestle sitting on the counter next to the coffee grinderuntil now. Three companies have devised grinder attachments for spice jars as well as dedicated grinders that work with a whole new range of ingredients. Oxo's Grind It mills come as pop-off tops to its spice bottles. (You can buy additional spice bottles separately.) There are grinders for each of three herb and spice "families," color-coded so you don't end up mixing, say, lemongrass with piquin chiles ($20 for one grinder-bottle, $5 for refills; 800-545-4411). Melissa's "My Grinder" line features grinder caps on bottles of whole spices, which include sea salt with herbs and mixed peppercorns (set of three, $18; 800-588-0151). William Bounds grinders are made for chocolate, cinnamon and nutmeg, so you can garnish cappuccino or latte at home ($17 to $25; 800-473-0504).
The newest microwave ovens are too smart, too fast and too well-designed to just heat up leftovers. Sharp's Platinum Line R630DK has a space-saving, door-mounted control panel and a "vapor sensor" that knows when 16 different foods are done ($189; 800-BE-SHARP). Whirlpool's Jet Defrost GH8155X thaws a pound of hamburger in two minutes without hot spots or brown edges ($449; 800-253-1301). The memory box on Samsung's Smart Cook downloads Web recipes, and an LED display tells you when to add ingredients or stir ($299; 800-SAMSUNG).
A Plum Job
Condiment producers are discovering the many varieties of plums, that oh-so-seasonal, delectable fruit. Pazzi Spicy Plum Chutney, made with California Angelino plums, dresses up pork ($9; 323-874-4659). The elephant heart plums that chef Jody Denton of LuLu in San Francisco is using in his LuLu Red Plum & Roasted Onion Conserve have deep red flesh and a lovely balance of sweet and tart flavors ($9; 888-693-5800). And here's a minitrend: Portugal seems to be the next food frontier, and the moist, delicious Da Morgada Preserved Greengage Plums are a find. Try them with port or sharp cheeses like serra, also from Portugal ($30; 973-962-1202).