twistedAlthough this is a three day event, I’m leaving town tomorrow so I only had one day to power-taste my way through 80,000 specialty food and drink products. I started at 10:00 am and waddled out seven hours later with my stomach as full as Nadya Suleman’s right before she gave birth to octuplets.

Some general trends this year are: gluten-free products were on the rise (the most delicious example was the line of The No Bake Cookies that were loaded with chewy oats, peanut butter and chocolaty chew,) superb cheeses from everywhere– but the USA is now holding its own with the best of them. Bacon is the new culinary black, with the flavor popping up in popcorn, mayonnaise, and dessert (Vosage Chocolates highlight the piggy not only in its Applewood bacon + milk chocolate candy bar but also in its Bacon-toffee ice cream.) Superfoods are just getting super-er, with antioxidants, probiotics and larger amounts of vitamins and minerals added to all sorts of nonsensical products.

Here are some standouts from todays marathon:

* Hot Lips Soda -made from freshly picked fruits and berries. All the flavor and pulp without the seeds. Tastes like berry pie in a bottle.

* Activate Drinks The patented cap on top of this line of vitamin and energy drinks keeps the vitamins “hid in the lid”. For full potency, simply twist, shake and activate.

*One “don’t knock it till you try it” newbie came from charcuterie king, Fabrique Delices, who introduced us to the latest rage in Europe: Savoury Macarons–sweet almond confectionery shells that are filled with either goat cheese, porcini or truffles.

* There’s never a shortage of chili condiments on show but one standout was Chili Colonial’s unique Chili Crunch Condiment loaded with crunchy garlic, onion and the slightly smoky heat of chile de arbol.

*Salts were sprinkled throughout the show but the most exciting ones were offered by Secret Stash Sea Salts. Developed by Chef Joseph Conrad, this one-of-a-kind line includes flavorful infusions such as Almond Cardamom, Coconut Garam Masala and an intense Chorizo salt.

*Winner for the “Why didn’t I think of it” award goes to Northern California’s, smokedThe Smoked Olive ‘s naturally wood-smoked extra-virgin olive oils. These versatile oils would dress up grilled veggies, steak, or even a plebeian deviled egg.

Other tasty treats from the Bay Area were:

* Twisted Vine Gourmet may be a brand new wine-country company but they’re already producing a line of classics with their wine-based marinades and sauces. The Chardonnay Chipotle Lime Marinade will magically turn you into a grill-master guru.

* Did you know that fava beans aren’t really beans? They actually belong to the pea family. And under the guidance of a new San Francisco company, Fava, they also make a deliciously healthy line of hummus and hearty dips. Try the Kalamata Olive Hummus on a baked potato or for making quicky bruschetta.

* California introduced “happy cows” to the rest of the world but local newbie,the Happy Goat Caramel company might have something to add. They proudly point out that “using only premium goat dairy and organic sugar give their caramels the incredibly unique and “udderly” irresistible flavor that makes Happy Goat stand out from the crowd.” and after happily chewing on a handful of them, who am I to quibble?